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QAnon Shaman Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison; Tensions Ease But Migrants' Future Uncertain; Germany Reports Record Amount of New Covid-19 Cases. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

The man charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery will take the stand for the second day of testimony in Georgia. A rally and march are planned outside of the courthouse in support of the Arbery family.

Chinese state media have released an email supposedly from the tennis star Peng Shuai. Which claim she is fine and that she's denies making these allegations of sexual assault. Peng hasn't been seen in public since making those accusations against a former Communist Party leader. Of course, we'll continue to follow both those stories throughout the day right here on CNN.

Now, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is expected to plead not guilty to contempt of Congress. An arraignment has been set for the coming hours though it may not happen. Bannon has defied a congressional subpoena to produce documents and to give a deposition in an investigation of the January 6th riots at the U.S. Capitol.

One of the most outlandish people to storm the Capitol that day was Jacob Chansley, who burst into the Capitol wearing a fur headdress and carrying a spear. Now known as the QAnon shaman, he pleaded in September to a felony charge. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison. CNN's Brian Todd has our report.



TODD (voice-over): Prosecutors call him the flag bearer among rioters at the Capitol on January 6th. Jacob Chansley stopping around the Senate chamber, carrying a flag mounted on a spear, wearing a headdress and face paint.

Chansley, also known as the QAnon shaman, has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for obstructing Congress's counting of the electoral votes that day. Chansley's lawyer says his client respects Judge Royce Lamberth's ruling.

ALBERT WATKINS, JACOB CHANSLEY'S LAWYER: He is absolutely embracing being held accountable for that.

TODD (voice-over): Legal analysts say Judge Lambert's sentencing of Chansley could be a shot across the bow to the more than 600 other accused rioters charged in the Capitol attack, and those who defend their actions.

PROF. KIM WEHLE, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE LAW SCHOOL: It's a message to those that still feel that the whole thing was OK to climb over the Capitol, to deface the Capitol, to instill violence. All those videos that we have seen, people trying to deny that this was a serious event. It's a message, no, it's not OK for this to happen in America.

TODD (voice-over): With his outlandish costume and brazenness, Chansley became the very symbol of the insurrection. He got to the podium in the Senate chamber just minutes after then-Vice President Mike Pence vacated that spot. Court documents say Chansley left a note for Pence.


Chansley's antics since the insurrection have also been controversial. He went on a hunger strike in jail until he was allowed to be served organic food behind bars. He asked for, and was granted, a transfer from one jail to another. His lawyer claimed he was suffering from mental-health vulnerabilities on the day of the attack.

JEFFREY JACOBOVITZ, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Certainly, he changed completely from the day of January 6th and if you look at the video on how he acted on January 6th, this is a different person.

TODD (voice-over): Chansley also angering Judge Lambert when he did an interview with 60 Minutes+ and made a comment that the judge later called out as a lie.

CHANSLEY: Police were waving people into the building.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Chansley's punishment could influence other judges in Capitol attack cases.

WEHLE: Maybe, this will give political cover for judges that might be sheepish about stronger sentences.

TODD: For his part Jacob Chansley spoke for about 30 minutes to the judge just before his sentencing. Chansley said he regretted entering the Capitol on January 6th. That he would do everything differently if he could do it all over again. Chansley said he's not a violent criminal or an insurrectionist and described wanting to live his life like Jesus Christ and Gandhi. Judge Lambert paid close attention but didn't seem to hesitate before leveling that sentence.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Now in the coming hours, two men convicted of killing American civil rights activist Malcolm X are expected to be exonerated 55 years they were after being found guilty. That were coming from the lawyers of Khalil Islam who died in 2009 and Muhammad A. Aziz who was released from prison in 1985. The 83-year-old released a statement saying he was victimized by the criminal justice system. And in a nearly two- year long investigation found new evidence of the men's innocence. The conviction of a third man still stands.

Now, an Oklahoma man is hours away from execution. And the state's governor still hasn't said whether he'll follow the recommendation from the parole board to commute the sentence. Julius Jones been on death row for nearly 20 years for murder. He has maintained his innocence. His supporters gathered outside of the governor's mansion for individual. As you can see there. A petition with 6 million signatures says Jones had inexperienced lawyers and alleged racial bias among jurors and prosecutorial misconduct. His family and friends are waiting for decision. Take a listen.


MADELINE DAVIS-JONES, JULIUS JONES MOTHER: I saw him, but I've been seeing him through a glass. A lot of people say I get to hug him. I don't get to hug him. And he's not this monster that people have portrayed him to be.

JIMMY LAWSON, JULIUS JONES' BEST FRIEND: We provided what the governor asked for, so after the first commutation we passed in September, he cable back and said well, I'm trying to decide, I want you guys to go through clemency, right? So, we did that. And guess what? The parole board voted in favor again, for the second time. So, we provided him not one time, but second time of proof. We provided the governor exactly what he asked for. Now, we're coming right down to the wire. When you know, the pure silence of this man.


SOARES: And the case has drawn widespread attention due partly to a 2018 documentary. We'll stay on top of that story for you.

Now, many of the migrants stranded at the Belarusian/Polish border still holding on to hope.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are waiting for a decision from Germany about whether there was some kind of humanitarian corridor that can be open.


SOARES: Coming up, the tensions have starting to ease. But there's still a lot of uncertainty about what happened next. We'll explain.



SOARES: Well, the atmosphere at the Belarusian/Polish border is somewhat calmer. But the future for thousands of migrants stranded there is still in question. Many have been placed in a makeshift processing center -- as you can see that there -- but deportation may be next. Many for the migrants are from Iraq and the country's air transportation ministry says that (INAUDIBLE) will leave Belarus in an evacuation flight today. CNN's Matthew Chance is there. Take a listen.


CHANCE: They're still being told there's a possibility that they could go to Germany, they could enter the European Union. But there's been no indication from either the Poles that they're going to open those so, then the Germans would have to open some kind of humanitarian corridor. The Belarusian officials are saying that decision in Germany has not yet been taken.

But the fact is, if these people are not given some kind of passage into the European Union, they will, most likely, be deported back to their country of origin. Which in the case of the vast majority here is Iraq, the majority of people say they're from Iraq and Kurdistan.


SOARES: Well, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the Belarusian president to allow the U.N. as well as the EU to provide aid for migrants and help the repatriation. And she says Germany stands firmly with Poland.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins me now with more. And, Salma, let me just pick up from what we heard there from Matthew Chance. Some of those people still there -- those families with children -- are still holding on, clinging on, to the believe that perhaps they'll get to Germany. Talk of human corridors. Is this going to happen? What are you hearing?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: This is absolutely unlikely at that stage. As you read there from Chancellor Angela Merkel, right now the focus is on aid and on repatriation, sending these families back to their home countries. In many cases that is Iraq Kurdistan there as you heard from our colleague Matthew Chance. A place of conflict, a place of war. These are families that survived ISIS, that survived brutal battles and have put everything on the line, Isa. All of their savings, all their life accounts, they've been brutalized. Being that they've made this journey along, come with their children, come with their hopes and dreams, absolutely turning them back right now is the worst-case scenario.

SOARES: And so, we're looking at deportation. The first I think 100 or so people are being deported today. I mean, this is not a long-term solution. Because you're deporting many people, more will come. Because we're in a standoff, really, here, between Belarus as well as Europe here.

ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely. And we have to go back to that language that we heard from the European Union that these were families that were lured, deceived, tricked, given false information that led them to believe that they should put all of their life savings, should put their own children at risk because they believed or were told to believe that there was an opportunity to get into the EU.

SOARES: So, diplomatically what can they do? What can Europe do? What can U.S. do?

ABDELAZIZ: I think every diplomat right now across the region is wringing their hands trying to answer that question. Because the fifth round -- and I will emphasize that -- the fifth round of sanctions went into place earlier this week from the EU against Belarus.


We're expecting more sanctions from United States. Of course, there have been very targeted sanctions against Russia, against President Putin, who is seen as backing Lukashenko. So far though, the actions that we see, these very aggressive steps to destabilize the border -- as the EU says -- to aggravate these geopolitical crises, that has not been stopped by these sanctions. What we have seen in the past and unfortunately, this then again falls on the global community where sometimes they're taken back to their home nations, back at their home states where they are already suffering.

SOARES: Salma Abdelaziz, thank you very much, appreciate it.

Now the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico will meet today at the White House. It is the first trilateral summit with America's closest neighbors since 2016. Anna chance really for President Biden to try to patch up relations that soured during the Trump administration. It also comes as the U.S. recently relaxed travel bands from both Canada and Mexico for visitors who are fully vaccinated.

Well, Mr. Biden is back in Washington after days of selling his massive agenda to the public. He traveled to Detroit, Michigan Wednesday to tout the electric vehicle provisions of the infrastructure bill he signed into law this week and to boost support for his social spending plan. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This infrastructure law, along with my Build Back Better Plan, we're going to kick-start new batteries, materials and parts production and recycling. Boosting the manufacturing of clean vehicles with new loans and new tax credits. Creating new purchase incentives for consumers to buy American-made, union-made clean vehicles.


SOARES: Well, he made his remarks at a General Motors factory that produces electric vehicle. GM says it hopes to make only zero emission vehicles by 2035.

Still to come right here on the show, Germany hits a pandemic record of new cases as Europe is caught in the clutches of COVID. The latest on the efforts to prevent new outbreaks is next.


SOARES: Now, new data shows America's drug epidemic is the deadliest it's ever been. More than 100,000 people in the U.S. people died from drug overdoses in a 12-month period ending this past April. That is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is up almost 30 percent compared to the previous year and nearly doubled what it was five years ago. The CDC says synthetic opioids like fentanyl which are strong and faster acting caused the majority of the deaths.

Well, America's top disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says the end of the pandemic has nothing to do with an arbitrary number. But about infections, deaths and hospitalizations as much as possible. And that is something at the forefront of many minds across the United States. At least 11 states have expanded eligibility for COVID booster shots in adults. Kansas and Louisiana are the latest to issue recommendations for the shot.

Drugmaker Moderna, it has announced it's filed for Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID vaccine booster for all adults 18 and older. Moderna already has authorization for booster to be for specific groups of individuals.

And what's the best gift you can give this holiday season? Well, according to the CDC, it's getting your COVID vaccine. Here's the CDC director giving her holiday gift advice.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: What's the best gift to give this year? Consider the difficult of health. It's priceless. As we head into the holiday and winter season, now is the time to think about protection for ourselves and our family. For those who are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose, go out now and get your extra booster dose to protect you.


SOARES: Dr. Rochelle Walensky there.

Well, the red lights are flashing once again over rising COVID infections here in Europe. Germany has just reported a record number of new COVID infections. More than 65,000 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours. Part of what Chancellor Angela Merkel calls a dreaded fourth wave of the virus.

Belgium is the latest European country to impose new COVID restrictions. New measures include an indoor mask mandate for anyone over the age of 10. Workers must now also work from home at least four days a week until mid-December.

Let's get more on this story. CNN's Cyril Vanier joins me now from Paris with more. And, Cyril, let's start with Germany, really, and those rising case numbers. I was just reading from the Robert Koch Institute -- who is like the equivalent of our Dr. Anthony Fauci. He says that the deadly infections likely to be twice or three times as many. That is incredibly worrying.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, especially when you're talking about two or three times the official number of 65,000 which is already staggeringly high. The country's chief medical officer is calling on public officials to do more. Take stricter measures. Currently in Germany, measures have been adopted state by state so it really depends on where you are in the country. Many states have adopted what is known as the 2G measure by now.

2G means that the unvaccinated are effectively being banned from many areas of public life because you have to show proof of vaccination to go to a restaurant. To go to a hotel, to go to a public venue. So, the Prime Minister of the state of Bavaria has called this this a kind of lockdown on the unvaccinated.

Germany also looking at the actual lockdown that has been decided this week in neighboring Austria where 2 million unvaccinated people are under a stay-at-home order. So, some in Germany think that should be the solution that should be implemented. The political parties that were more than likely forming Germany's next government, currently debating stricter measures to be implemented. They're debating that today -- Isa.

SOARES: Cyril Vanier for us in Paris, thank you very much. There's a lot happening in Europe, as of course, Europe sees that fourth wave of the virus. We'll stay on top of that.


Now Britain's Prince Charles says his mother is doing all right, he says. As Queen Elizabeth held her first engagement since spraining her back and missing the weekend. The 94-year-old monarch stood without any assistance -- as we can see there -- as she met General Sir Nicholas Carter at Windsor Castle on Wednesday. Buckingham Palace says the general has relinquished his role as chief of the defense staff in the U.K. The Queen telling him that his departure is rather sad. Wonderful to see the Queen again.

Now stargazers in North America are in for a treat. NASA says the longest partial lunar eclipse of the century will take place less than 24 hours from now on Friday morning when the moon moves through the southern part of the earth's shadow. It's all set, really, to start around 1:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast with the peak of the eclipse around 4:00 a.m., making it the longest partial eclipse in nearly 600 years. So, bring a blanket, some hot cocoa and try to stay awake. Do send me your pictures though if you take any, @IsaCNN.

And that does it for me. Thanks very much for joining. I'm Isa Soares. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is next. They'll have much more for us on the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial and the jury deliberations in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. Do stay right here with CNN. And I shall you tomorrow, bye-bye.