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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukrainian Official: "Bombs Falling Every 10 Minutes" In Mariupol; First Day Of Judge Jackson's Senate Confirmation Hearing Wraps Up; First Day Of Judge Jackson's Senate Confirmation Hearing Wraps Up; Airliner Carrying 132 People Crashes In Southern China; Fauci: Now Is The Time To Prepare, Not To "Declare Victory." Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired March 21, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right. Brigadier General Peter Zwack, we always appreciate your insight, sir. Thank you.

And THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Reports of bombs dropping every ten minutes.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Constant bombardment in one strategic Ukrainian city. An art school bombed. Hundreds possibly trapped. No access to food or water. And now the U.S. is warning Russian forces could be getting even more desperate.

And then history on the Hill. As the confirmation hearing begins for the first African American woman nominated to the Supreme Court. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson makes her opening statement.

And a Boeing 737 crashes into the mountains in China with 132 people aboard and no one knows why. Now the airline is grounding all of its 737 jets.


Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start with our world lead and what top U.S. officials say is growing desperation among Russian forces to gain any momentum in their unprovoked war on Ukraine. This is what that looks like on the ground. Take a look here, starting in the key port city of Mariupol. A Ukrainian official inside that city says bombs are dropping every ten minutes, and that includes striking civilian targets.

Ukraine's president says 400 people may be trapped after a Russian bomb hit an art school being used as a shelter. In the capital of Kyiv, surveillance video captured the moment a Russian attack hit a shopping center. Ukrainian officials say at least eight people were killed.

Kyiv's mayor has declared a new curfew forcing shops, pharmacies and gas stations to close tomorrow.

Let's get straight to CNN's Sam Kiley in Kyiv.

Sam, first of all, what can you tell us about these latest attacks on and around the Ukrainian capital?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, once again, Pamela, and this is a pattern we've seen now for pretty much a week. Kyiv has been hit with precision ordinance. And by that, I mean, targeted missiles, not the dumb bombs that have been used widely elsewhere in Kharkiv and Kyiv, indeed in the past, of course, in Mariupol, but something like a cruise missile in the American armory.

Now, this missile hit very close or on to a shopping center in the north of the city, not very far from the front line. The Russian ministry of defense claiming that they conducted this strike because there were weapons being stored in that area by the Ukrainian armed forces. But nonetheless, there were eight people killed in what would otherwise be a civilian area. The strike came during nightfall.

It is also an area mercifully where the local civilian population spends almost every night in bomb shelters, or rather, in metro stations and underground locations, because it is so close to the front line and it has been hit, although there are fears that it could have been hit in the past.

BROWN: And, Sam, you met up with this musician who has now taken up arms and is preparing to defend Kyiv from the Russians. Tell us about that.

KILEY: Yeah, we have here in Ukraine, we have the famous world class sportsmen, world class musicians, all forms, walks of life. Ukrainians have answered the call to arms in their president and joined the reserve units, sometimes combat units, all signing up to protect their nation.

And, of course, the artistic community is no different. The interesting thing about this, he was one of the major forces, one of the major artists who participated in the initial drive towards democratize this county. Here's his story.


KILEY (voice-over): Singing to protesters in Kyiv's independence square eight years ago was a rock star, he helped drive a pro-Russian president from power.

SERGIY FOMENKO, SINGER (singing): Oh in the field of early spring wheat, there's a golden furrow. Then began the Ukrainian riflemen to engage the enemy.

KILEY: Now the lead singer of the band, Sergiy Fomenko, is in uniform, fighting Vladimir Putin's invasion the old-fashioned way. FOMENKO: And we'll take the glory of the riflemen preserving it. Then

we our glorious Ukraine, shall hey -- hey -- cheer and rejoice.

(through translator): Frankly speaking, these days have been very hard. I have a guitar but I haven't been playing. Also the last two weeks have been really difficult because the enemy was trying to surround Kyiv so there was no music.


We evacuated people from Irpin and it was a very difficult mission. We also had tasks in and around the city to accomplish but I can't tell you everything.

KILEY: This though speaks loud. Civilian homes ripped open, 3 million Ukrainians, now refugees.

Putin said he sent troops to save Ukraine from fascism. This is the real result.

ALLA ROMANOVA, SURVIVED MISSILE STRIKE (through translator): Hate, hate. I am a person who grew up in Soviet Union. I grew up with the idea that we were brothers and sisters, and now there's nothing but hatred for them.

PETRO POROSHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Our latest volunteers is working extremely efficiently --

KILEY: The singer Fomenko joined a reserve battalion funded by former President Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire first president after Ukraine shook off Russian influence eight years ago. It's not just Putin he blames for the war.

POROSHENKO: We cannot wait until the Russian people under the sanction will not be happy with Putin. Because Russia have more than 50 percent of the support of the Putin aggression and Ukraine, that should be sanctioned against this Russian people.

KILEY: The location for the billionaire's 206th battalion is a military secret. But the militancy of the volunteers is not.

VOLODYMYR OMELYAN, FORMER MINISTER TURNED SOLDIER: Democracies will always win, maybe it will take longer than everybody expected. But Putin has chosen path of Hitler and we already know how Hitler ends.

KILEY: For now though, Ukraine is preparing to defend a birthplace of its modern democracy to the bitter end.


KILEY (on camera): Now, clearly there is a lot of resistance against the Russians. The Russians, British and American sources, military sources saying that the Russians' command and control system is now under pressure. But they still have an awful lot of weapons.

We are seeing across the country in addition to the bombardment of civilian areas with dumb bombs, the increased use of these very specifically targeted, very large weapons right across the country -- Pamela.

BROWN: Sam Kiley, live for us in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you, Sam, and be safe.

Well, President Biden held a call with key allies today about Putin's war on Ukraine, ahead of his trip to Europe later this week. Sources say the world leaders hope to finalize and unveil a new group of measures aimed at punishing Russia.

But as CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, that likely will not be enough to stop Putin's bloody and unprovoked siege.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president feels the way we need to avoid World War III is preventing the United States from having direct military involvement on the ground.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden staring down one of the most critical weeks of his presidency. As Russian strikes on Ukrainian civilians continue to escalate. Biden held a call with the leaders of key allies, Germany, France, and the U.K. while officials grapple with how to shift the dynamic in a crisis that shows no signs of abating.

PSAKI: Coming out of this, what the president is hoping to achieve is continued coordination and a unified response to the continued escalatory actions of President Putin.

MATTINGLY: Biden set to travel to Europe in the highest stakes of a president in a decades, at a moment when U.S. and NATO officials tell CNN Russian's invasion sits at a stalemate.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They're not being effective today in terms of their maneuver forces on the ground. They're essentially stalled.

MATTINGLY: In palpable fears that horrific Russian attacks are set to escalate.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Russian government continues its brutal war on Ukraine. Each day brings more harrowing attacks. More innocent men, women and children killed.

MATTINGLY: All as U.S. officials remain unable to determine if Russia has even designated a military commander responsible for leading the country's war in Ukraine. Biden will attend a hastily scheduled extraordinary summit of all 30 NATO-member country leaders. Then participate in meetings with the European Council and G-7 before traveling to NATO ally Poland which borders Ukraine and is now the home to hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by the Russian invasion.

PSAKI: We're finalizing the details as we speak. MATTINGLY: All as the White House continues to urgently prepare for

threats at home.

ANNE NEUBERGER, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR CYBER AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY: Today's broader and classified briefing is to erase that broader awareness and to raise that call to action.

MATTINGLY: An attempt to manage the economic fallout driving energy prices higher by the day. With top White House officials planning to meet privately with top business leaders, including CEOs from the largest U.S. banks, manufacturers, agricultural and energy producers.


MATTINGLY: And, Pamela, U.S. officials are in discussions about new sanctions. Humanitarian and military aid, but they recognize the only one who can truly change the dynamic, President Vladimir Putin.


For the U.S. and its allies, to make it a strategic failure as long as he continues on this path -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Phil Mattingly live at the White House, thank you, Phil.

Joining me now to discuss is Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander and the author of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War. Hi there, Admiral.

So, in our new CNN reporting, sources say the U.S. has not been able to figure out if Russia has even chosen a military commander responsible for leading the war in Ukraine. Why is that such a big deal?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: It is bad generalship, and, you know, admirals, we love to criticize generals, but it's bad generalship to conduct a huge nationwide operation without a single unitary commander. Example, Afghanistan. When I was supreme allied commander, working for me were individual four-star generals, Dave Petraeus, John Allen, who would have command of all the forces -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Russia at this moment does not have that. It creates real confusion. It is part of why they're stalled.

BROWN: And it is worth noting that this is a huge undertaking for Russia militarily compared to more recent activity from Russia. Syria and Crimea, right? So, you would think there would be someone at the top command and control but so far, U.S. officials have not been able to identify that.

A senior naval officer said there appears to be a stalemate in Ukraine right now with Russian ground forces stalled, Russian air forces unable to control the skies. Going to what we were talking about. Is that how you would describe the situation right now? A stalemate? STAVRIDIS: I would add one thought to it. I would say, yes, it

appears to be something of a stalemate on the ground. You can find pockets moving back and forth. But the differentiator, Pamela, is the use of long-range fires, bombers, cruise missiles, long-range attacks against Ukrainian cities.

And frankly, this is reminiscent of 15th century warfare. It is simply surrounding a city and pounding it into submission. This was the game plan often in Syria. Look at the ruins of the city of Aleppo. And I think Vladimir Putin is seeing his blitzkrieg failed, plan A, has gone to plan B, terrorize the populations and pummel these cities into submission.

BROWN: Yeah, that's exactly what we're seeing here in the video. That is showing the truth of what is on the ground. To your point, a senior Pentagon official said the Russians are near desperate to gain any momentum and that is why they have increased the long range missiles they are using.

Just how dangerous is this for the millions of civilians still trapped in Ukraine?

STAVRIDIS: Oh, it's deadly. And what you're seeing is the effect of the Alamo. Mariupol has become like the Alamo. It's a surrounded fortress just being bombed. And by the way, it's not just these long range fires that are taking effect. Putin is also bringing in Chechens and Syrians, very hardened, deadly urban fighters to create more terror with the population.

And he's abducting leaders, mayors. Imagine the mayor of Atlanta hauled away with a bag over her head. Or abducting normal Ukrainians and shipping them into Russia, into camps. What does that remind us of? This is getting worse by the day.

BROWN: You mentioned the Chechens. The Chechens are known for their brutal tactics. So that is an important point you're making there.

Admiral James Stavridis, thank you for your time.

STAVRIDIS: You bet, Pamela. Thank you.

BROWN: Well, they survived rounds of shelling in the basement of their apartment building in Mariupol, but the horror didn't end there. CNN talks with one family that just managed to escape.



BROWN: In our world lead, more than 7,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Sunday after heavy fighting broke out in the southern city.

CNN's Ivan Watson spoke to one family in a harrowing scene, dodging bombs, shelling and looting, not sure if they would make it out alive.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Children at play, frolicking in an arcade meant to host games of laser tag. These are not normal times. The owners here have turned their children's entertainment business into a makeshift shelter, a place to house dozens of Ukrainians who just fled the besieged port city of Mariupol.

DMYTRO SHVETS, FLED MARIUPOL: The last couple weeks have been like hell.

WATSON: Dmytro, his wife Tanya and their daughter Vlada escaped Mariupol on Thursday. They endured weeks of Russian bombardment from artillery and air strikes.

SHVETS: Each was 20 minutes. You can listen. It was like targeted, targeted.

WATSON: Tanya kept a journal. March 2nd, day 7 of the war. Nothing has changed, she writes. No electricity or heat. And there is no running water as well.

They lived in a basement. When they emerged, Tanya took photos and videos of their apartment building pock marked with bullet holes, unexploded shells in residential streets. Desperate people looting a bomb-damaged store for food.

SHVETS: The problem is looting (ph). There is no water to drink.

WATSON: They scavenged For drinking water.

SHVETS: We are waiting for the rain water, taking the rain, waiting for the rain water.

WATSON: Heavy shelling on nearby houses, Tanya wrote on, March 5th.


We all went to sleep with the thought, how to survive. One day a shell exploded near Dmytro as he stood in line for water.

SHVETS: The bomb fell down and killed three people in front of us. One guy was without head, who was like taking the water. Another one in the line was like a half a head. The last one was killed. With my own eyes, three people I saw killed and we were making a grave for them.

WATSON: You dug a grave.

SHVETS: Digging, yes.

WATSON: In your neighborhood.


WATSON: Finally, it was all too much. SHVETS: The last day, I saw my father, because my mother was

completely destroyed mentally. Depression, sitting in the cellar. She haven't left the cellar since the beginning of the war. Just staying inside, unfortunately.

And the last day, I saw my father. He begged me, please, leave, leave somewhere. I don't know where. Just escape this. And he was crying.

WATSON: Dmytro and his wife and daughter piled into a car with friends and spent 15 hours driving through Russian front lines to escape the siege of Mariupol. Their parents refused to leave.

SHVETS: I don't know if I'm going to see my parents or listen to my parents again. I don't know. It is like living from day to day. Today we are alive. Tomorrow, maybe not.

WATSON: In the relative safety of this arcade built to entertain children, the kids welcomed the escape from the conflict.


WATSON: I really want to say hello to other children, Tanya's 7-year- old daughter Vlada says, and I want the war to end quickly.

Her parents appear haunted, clearly traumatized. Tonya gets a call from her mother in Mariupol, weeping and saying goodbye, because she fears she will not survive the night.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Pamela, here's the thing about Mariupol. It is geographically close to Russia. It is a Russian-speaking city. And some residents say, they fell like they were first and foremost ethnic Russians, perhaps, ahead of Ukrainian national identity.

And there was just this inability to comprehend then why Russia would start trying to kill people like them in their own homes. Just -- they could not comprehend it. Or as Dmytro, the man we just heard from in that report said, he's like, we've been told that Russians and Ukrainians are brothers. I can't imagine a brother killing another brother. That is what is happening in that city right now.

Back to you.

BROWN: Yeah. I think a lot of Ukrainians are feeling that way. I think something like 10 million Russians have relatives in Ukraine. And what he said in your piece was so powerful saying, today we're alive, tomorrow, maybe not. I just can't imagine what it is like to be in their shoes right now.

Ivan Watson in Dnipro, Ukraine -- thank you.

Up next, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in her confirmation hearing to become the first black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.


BROWN: And topping our politics lead, a historic hearing kicks off on Capitol Hill. It is the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. The first black woman ever tapped for the nation's highest court.

As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports, Republicans used this hearing to hint at their lines of attack in the days to come.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Please raise your right hand.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An historic first for America's highest court, as confirmation hearings begin for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court.

JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I hope that you will see how much I love our country, and the Constitution and the rights that make us free.

SCHNEIDER: Senators made note of how monumental this moment is.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): You're showing so many little girls and little boys across the country that anything and everything is possible.

SCHNEIDER: Republican senators also referencing the historic moment.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I have said in the past, and I think it is good for the court to look like America. So count me in on the idea of making the court more diverse.

SCHNEIDER: But they also previewed lines of attack they'll roll out during the question and answer session that begins tomorrow. Senator Josh Hawley leading the charge, laying out several cases where Jackson, while a federal trial court judge in D.C., used her discretion to hand down lighter sentences for child pornography offenders than prosecutors have requested.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Prosecutors recommended 24 months in prison. Judge Jackson gave the defendant three months in prison.

SCHNEIDER: Judge Jackson will likely explain her reasoning for the lower sentence when she answers questions. The White House has already said her sentences were in line with what the U.S. Probation Office recommends.

But Senator Hawley preemptively rebutted her response Monday.

HAWLEY: Some have said the sentencing guidelines are too harsh on sex crimes, especially child pornography. I'll just be honest, I can't say that I agree with that.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans will likely look at her as soft on crime, pointing in particular to her defense of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I understand the importance of zealous advocacy, but it appears that sometimes this zealous advocacy has gone beyond the pale.

SCHNEIDER: But Republicans are also promising her confirmation will not turn to personal attacks. They repeatedly reference Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings when he faced days of tough questions about accusations he assaulted his child classmate Christine Blase Ford during a summer party before he was a senior.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Judge Jackson, I can assure you that your hearing will feature none of that disgraceful behavior. No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits. No one is going to ask you with mock severity, do you like beer?

SCHNEIDER: If Jackson is confirmed, the ideological split on the 6-3 court will remain the same because she is replacing liberal Justice Steven Breyer for whom she served as a law clerk more than 20 years ago.

JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I know that I could never fill his shoes. But if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Republicans are promising no personal attacks but things are definitely likely to get a lot more heated tomorrow. That's when the questioning begins. And Judge Jackson will have to explain her record as a public defender, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and her near-decade as a federal judge -- Pamela.

BROWN: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Joining me now live to discuss, CNN Plus anchor and correspondent, Audie Cornish, and Stanford law professor Nate Persily, who attended junior and senior high school with Judge Jackson.

Great to see you both.

Nate, let's start with you. You participated together in speech and debate with Judge Jackson. She actually talked about your teacher today in her statement about the positive influence the teacher had on her. Tell me your takeaway from today.

NATE PERSILY, ATTENDED SCHOOL WITH JUDGE JACKSON: Well, that's right. We did that debate together. There's been a lot of attention for that teacher and that team. And really, she was a formative influence in both of our lives and many of the other teammates there.

And you can see from Judge Jackson's speech today how she, why she won national competitions and oratory at the time. She was a star back then. She was elected mayor of our junior high school, which is like junior student president. She was president of our classes and everything. So, the excellence that we saw back then is reflected today as well, and will reflect well on her as a justice.

BROWN: Audie, does the tone of this tell you about what will happen in the days to come when Judge Jackson takes questions from the senators?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN+ ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I think the key description is lines of attack. There is no coordinated, cohesive line of attack from Republican lawmakers about this. It may be in part because they've already approved her three times for various positions including the sentencing commission.

So, this is her fourth time before these lawmakers. They've asked the same questions in the past and you're hearing some of those lines come back again. You could kind of describe it as soft on. Soft on, fill in the blank. And that is what you're going to be hearing most of tomorrow.

BROWN: You know, it is her fourth time, Nate, but it still obviously carries a lot of weight given the historic name of this confirmation.

PERSILY: Today's confirmation was in many ways not about Judge Jackson. It was about the Supreme Court confirmation process. I mean, Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the issues that came up in that, are not terribly relevant to what happened with Judge Jackson except that in this day and age, all the polarization we see in Congress is filtered through lens of a confirmation hearing like this.

But I should say, that, look, it's totally fair to look at her opinions and to ask her questions about those, just like any other judicial nominee. But I'm at least encouraged for the moment that we haven't seen any character assassination or really going after her personal life and the like. And that's appropriate because she has been just exemplary.

I can tell you the last 40 years of knowing her, she is so smart, so qualified, such a hard worker, and really, she'll bring an enormous amount to this work.

BROWN: Audie, you know, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham he's gaining a lot of attention because he also voted in her previously, airing some grievances that he has. Listen to this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): (AUDIO GAP) constant attack on you, (AUDIO GAP) other conservative judicial appointments. There won't be any questioning of where you go to church, what kind of groups you're in in church, how you decide to raise your kids, what you believe and how you believe in God.

Nobody is going to do that to you. And that's a good thing. So you're the beneficiary of a lot.


BROWN: The beneficiary of a lot. What did you make of that comment?


CORNISH: Well, the full quote is you're a beneficiary of Republican nominees having their lives turned upside down. So, you're seeing the tone is the culmination of the Gorsuch hearings, of Kavanaugh hearings, of the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, and Republicans saying, look, you treated our people terribly. No matter how nice this woman is, maybe turn about is fair play.

I also heard Senator Graham essentially giving the green light to Senator Hawley to pursue his line of questioning about her sort of thinking on the sentencing of pedophiles. This is a very like intense and Democrats line of questioning that they've been criticizing already. And you heard Graham say, look, I wouldn't do it, but Senator Hawley has some valid questions to ask.

So I think the tone here is the culmination of several years of very harsh battling over nominees.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, Nate Persily and Audie Cornish. And we should mention Audie will be debuting on CNN streaming network CNN+ next week.

A Boeing 737 with 132 people aboard plummets from the sky and crashes into a mountain in China. The search for answers is just beginning.



BROWN: In our world lead, China Eastern Airlines is grounding all of its Boeing 737s according to Chinese state media after the airline confirmed one of its flights carrying 132 passengers crashed in southern China on Monday. There are still no details on the number of casualties, but new flight tracking data shows the plane plunging more than 29,000 feet in less than two minutes.

Let's get right to CNN's Pete Muntean.

So, what happened here, Pete?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's simply too soon to say because the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder simply have been recovered yet so far as we know. What we do know is this flight made an incredibly fast descent before crashing. There are security images obtained by Chinese state TV that show China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735 in a near vertical dive.

This is all backed up from data, from flight radar 24. It shows this flight cruising at 29,000 feet. Then this rapid descent begins and all of that altitude lost in less than two minutes time. The bottom line here from pilots who have flown the 737 is that these planes simply do not fall out of the sky. Listen.


MARK WEISS, RETIRED AIRLINE CAPTAIN: It's probably one of the safest airplanes ever built. I mean, there -- like I said, there are over 10,000 of them built, over 4,600 flying right now. It was designed almost to be like the Model T of airplanes so anybody could apply it.


MUNTEAN: What we can say definitively is this was not caused by the system at the center of the 737 MAX crashes. This plane does not have that system, because even though it is a 737, it is not a MAX. This was a Boeing 737-800.

Even still, this is giving China lot of pause. The China Eastern Airlines has already grounded its fleet of 737-800s. The 737-800 8 is the second most popular airliner worldwide, 4,500 planes in service, nearly 800 here in the U.S., Pam.

BROWN: So most of us who have flown have probably been on one.

MUNTEAN: Very likely.

BROWN: All right, Pete, thank you so much for that report.

Let's discuss now with CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz.

You know, Peter, there are no details on the number of casualties. What do you expect to learn only front?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, given the video that we saw, there are likely no survivors whatsoever. In fact, it's going to be a very gruesome and difficult task even identifying the victims.

This accident, you know, the early evidence is very ominous. Because as Pete said, these planes don't fall out of the sky at cruise altitude. There apparently was no radar, radio contact, and the idea that the plane dove until about 8,000 feet, then climbed for a moment, up another 1,000 feet and then plunged at a 90-degree angle into the ground is very disturbing and reminiscent of other tragic accidents.

BROWN: What do you make of the speed? The plane plunging 25,000 feet in less than two minutes.

GOELZ: Well, the thing that is true on that, any pilot will tell you, to control a plane. In kind of dive at that kind of speed takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of skill. Somebody's hands were on the wheel making that plane go down like that. And that's what is disturbing.

There have been a number of crashes in the past where, you know, you zero in on pilot behavior. The German Wings accident, the Egypt Air accident, both of which I worked on, and the Silk Air accident. I'm afraid the early evidence on this accident points, that you will do a hard look at the flight crew. BROWN: Yeah. And of course right now, it is just speculation. We

don't have anything confirmed. We're waiting for more facts. There will be an investigation.

Tell me what investigators will be looking at and looking for, exactly.

GOELZ: Well, the first question that will be presented to the Chinese air carrier, and Chinese government is, are they going to conduct the investigation under the ICAO, which is the international aviation organization, under their investigative guidelines. If they are, then they would invite a representative from Boeing and a representative from the United States to sit in on the investigation and help the Chinese investigators identify the probable cause.

I mean, the biggest thing they could do right now is try to recover the flight data recorder and the voice recorder. But with that kind of impact, boy, those recorders could be damaged.

BROWN: All right. Peter Goelz, thank you so much. We'll continue to track this story. We appreciate it.

GOELZ: Thank you.

BROWN: Coming up, new warnings about the omicron subvariant here in the United States. Why some health officials say this may not cause another surge.



BROWN: In our health lead as the United States continues its crawl out of pandemic restrictions, Dr. Fauci warns now is the time to prepare, not to, quote, declare victory. A subvariant of the omicron variant called BA.2 is rapidly ascending to the top strain in Europe and the U.K., and Dr. Fauci told ABC we're going to see cases go up in the U.S., too.

CNN senior medical Elizabeth Cohen joins us live.

All right. So put this in perspective. Dr. Fauci said he doesn't expect this to become a full surge. Why is that?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, he didn't say, Pamela, exactly why he thinks this but there's a lot of hope that because so many Americans got the original omicron, the one that showed its head in the United States around early December, that so many people got that, there is hope that that may provide some protection against this cousin, this second version of omicron.

Let's take a look at a couple of the basics that we know about this omicron variant called BA.2. We know it is 50 to 60 percent more transmissible, based on U.K. data. They're seeing much more of this subvariant. There's no evidence that it is any more severe than the original omicron variant. And that's great news. We know the original was quite mild, compared to predecessors, and

there is no reason to think this will be any different. So that may play --

BROWN: Hey, I'm so sorry to interrupt. We're having some audio issues. We can't hear you very well. I'm sorry about that. You're giving us really important information. If we fix it, hopefully we'll get back to you.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Let's go back to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

So, Elizabeth, you were explaining why Dr. Fauci believes the omicron subvariant may not result in a surge here in the United States.

COHEN: Right. So, the hope is that there was so much omicron the first time around, Pamela, so many people -- we saw those huge case numbers. There's hope that will protect people now when the second wave is coming. Now, we don't know that it will but there's reason to be hopeful.

So, let's look at what we know about the BA.2 variant. We know it is 50 to 60 percent more transmissible than the original omicron variant. That's saying a lot because that was really transmissible. There is no evidence that it is any more severe than the original omicron variant. That's great news because we know that the original omicron, it wasn't nothing but it was so much more mild than delta or any of the predecessors.

So there is hope that this will remain mild, too. Now, as far as the vaccines, how much good will that do against this version of omicron? We don't know. We know the vaccines worked the some extent against the original omicron but not nearly as well as anyone would have liked -- Pamela.

BROWN: Let me ask but this new study just released today in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" finding that COVID while pregnant doubles or triples the risk of certain complications. So, how should pregnant people protect themselves and their baby with this latest information?

COHEN: You know what, Pamela, this one is easy. Pregnant women need to get vaccinated. And I know, having been pregnant several times, as have you, that you are always a little, I don't want the put anything in my body.

Let me tell you. If you don't get vaccinated against COVID-19, you're putting yourself and your baby at risk. Let's look at what this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found. They found that women who got COVID-19, pregnant women who got COVID-19, they were more than twice the risk of having a baby early, more than twice the risk, and more than three times the risk, the moms, more than three times the rick of having blood clots in their veins.

It is just not worth taking that risk. People who are pregnant should be getting vaccinated.

BROWN: Yeah, it is worth, besides that, we have actual data to back up the complications that pregnant women can have with COVID. And you're not seeing that kind of thing when it comes to the vaccine.

Let me ask about Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and a Pfizer board member, saying this on Sunday.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think this is really a six-month vaccine in terms of providing meaningful protection against symptomatic disease and infection, and this is likely to become an annualized vaccine for a majority of Americans.


BROWN: Why do we need to keep boosting our immunity?

COHEN: The reason why is that these mRNA vaccines that are out there are so good but antibodies do wane. And I will tell you, Pamela, when I hear we have to get it once a year, or even twice a year, or even three times a year, we should be so grateful these vaccines exist. What is the big deal if you have to go to CVS and buy your shampoo and your toothpaste and then roll up your sleeve twice a year to get a shot? What's the big deal? It will keep us from going to the hell that we've all been through in the past two years.

BROWN: Such a good point. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

And our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM."

See you tomorrow.