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Update On Omicron COVID Variant Around The World; Netherlands: Omicron Was In Country Days Before Variant First Identified; GOP Feud: Bigotry, Name Calling, And Poo Emojis; Pilot Confirms Famous Passengers On Epstein's Jet During Ghislaine Maxwell Trial. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 30, 2021 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: CNN is monitoring developments on the Omicron variant across the globe. Let's take you to our reporters, starting in Asia.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And today, we learned that all three cases of the Omicron variant in the city are imported.
Hong Kong has also strengthened its already tight border restrictions, banning non-residents from a growing list of countries. Today, four additional countries have been added to that list, Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia.
Despite having three confirmed cases in this Chinese territory, China remains confident. Chinese spokesman says the winter Olympics will continue as planned despite the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The Chinese are relying on a zero-COVID policy but it's hard to guarantee success, given all the uncertainty about this new variant.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, as Germany has four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant. Now this is a major concern for Germany as the country is in the midst of a massive wave of new coronavirus infections anyway.
Meanwhile, next door in the Netherlands, the authorities there say that the Omicron variant arrived there at least a week earlier than previously thought. In fact, the authorities say that they detected Omicron in a sample from November 19th.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Johannesburg. Officials around the world are urging people not to panic as more and more countries are observing confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Including the Netherlands, which might have some evidence of community transmission. Now, more and more countries are locking off southern Africa. We were at a lab where they started to see evidence of this variant
possibly as early as late October, which indicates that this variant could have been circulating for some time.
CABRERA: Our thanks to all of those reporters, David McKenzie, Kristie Lu Stout and Fred Pleitgen.
Right now, at least 19 countries and territories have confirmed cases of this coronavirus variant.
And one of those countries, the Netherlands, has learned that Omicron was there one week than previously known, meaning days before South African officials first alerted the world to the variant's existence.
Let's discuss with the director of Yale Institute for Global Health, Dr. Saad Omer.
Doctor, thank you for being with us.
As of today, there's been several countries and territories that have imposed travel restrictions to try to slow down Omicron.
But now we have this reporting of November 19th in the Netherlands, a case discovered there. We also learned of a case of this variant in Germany not linked to travel, so indicating community spread.
And in that case, what do you think the travel bans will accomplish?
DR. SAAD OMER, DIRECTOR, YALE INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL HEALTH: Unfortunately, when it comes to containing this variant in a single country or two countries, the horse has left the barn.
We know that not only is the virus widespread, but this variant is widespread, not just in southern Africa, where the bans mainly focus on Southern Africa.
It may have been circulating in Europe before that. Circulating in Europe before South Africa Even. So that possibility is there.
So therefore, the way these bans are being implemented don't make sense.
CABRERA: President Biden says the restrictions aren't meant to be a firewall but to buy some time. Is that a valid argument?
OMER: Look, we know that travel bans can be helpful in delaying the arrival of a virus in the country.
But even to do that, the evidence suggests the effectivity of the virus has to be a little bit lower, substantially lower than what we anticipate for the virus.
The second thing is, when you have to shut down 90 percent to 95 percent travel in your country. So a country as large as U.S. and with the policy of allowing citizens to come back and only focusing on southern Africa, and not most of the world where the virus is, and not in countries where we have more travel connections.
That's the reason why most of us are skeptical of the utility of the ban even in terms of substantially slowing the virus.
CABRERA: So if travel bans aren't the answer, some have suggested mandating vaccines to travel. What do you think of that idea?
OMER: There are a few things, like ensuring that everyone is traveling is adequately vaccinated. Pre-departure and post-arrival, strengthening that, enforcing that can be helpful as a short-term measure.
When people arrive, in certain cases, quarantine has some values in certain situation.
And on top of that, ensuring that countries where these travelers are arriving, or even otherwise, setting aside travelers, there's community transmission in a lot of countries.
And they are already dealing with substantial Delta and making sure indoor masking is there when you don't know who is vaccinated or not. But on the other hand, increasing vaccination coverage is also helpful.
On the other hand, the long-term solution is to make sure that there's global access to vaccines so the likelihood of these variants emerging goes down.
CABRERA: On that issue of vaccinating the world, I want to highlight what we heard from White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, yesterday about the challenges beyond just supplying the vaccine to developing nations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have sent close to eight million doses to South Africa. Thirteen million to southern Africa and over 93 million to Africa and 275 million to the world.
This is not a criticism. It's meant to give people understand of what the challenges are in a lot of countries. It's not just about having vaccine doses. It's about ensuring there's operational capacity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So she says, in some cases, they haven't actually accepted all of the vaccines that have been made available to them. So what is best way to tackle that? OMER: Well, there are two ways of thinking about it.
If the obvious goal that the U.S. has to be less ineffective than say Europe that has delivered -- promised half the U.S. doses and only delivered 14 percent of its promise, where the U.S. has promised a fifth the WHO target and delivered less than 20 percent of the doses.
So certainly the U.S. is doing better than a lot of countries in providing.
And if you -- (INAUDIBLE).
So if the goal is to say that you're less ineffective in terms of global equity and more generous than the Europeans, fine, that's one way of looking at it.
But I would submit that since a global or domestic success in controlling this virus depends in what happens around the world, so our goal should be to protect Americans and perhaps the rest of the world as well.
But even if you focus on Americans, the path to that is leadership not just donating the vaccines but also ensuring that they get delivered and ensuring that there's enough resources, both technical and financial for vaccine education and so on and so forth.
If, in this country, we needed a pretty substantial lift to educate people around the vaccine so why do we expect that, you know, someone in South Africa will just run to the airport the moment a U.S. shipment arrives and get themselves vaccinate.
So working with UNICEF and working with WHO in making sure that our mutual interest is safeguarded not just in terms of supplying doses, not just donating, but an end-to-end leadership.
And the U.S. has the technical capacity and history of doing so for smallpox and Ebola, and so on and so forth.
CABRERA: I really appreciate the discussion and a very important discussion and your insights are really valuable in there.
Thanks so much, Dr. Saad Omer. I appreciate you.
Things just got real middle school between some GOP congresswomen. Marjorie Taylor Greene now in the mix, rushing to defend one colleague's bigoted colleagues while unleashing on another. Now the clown and pooh emojis are flying. It is a mess. And it's next.
CABRERA: Well, a new school-yard-style Republican-on-Republican feud erupting in the wake of Congresswoman Lauren Boebert's beef with Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Stick with me here. GOP Representative Nancy Mace and Marjorie Taylor Greene are now exchanging digital blows after Mace blasted Boebert as a bigot on CNN for her anti-Muslim attack on Omar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I didn't come to Congress to throw bombs on Twitter, to take advantage of people by saying crazy things to raise money or to be a comedian.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Again, she is a Republican.
After that, her Republican colleague, Marjorie Taylor Greene, decided to come to Boebert's defense and attack Mace.
In a tweet, I quote, "Nancy Mace is the trash in the GOP conference. Never attacked by Democrats or RINOs -- same thing because she's not conservative. She's pro-abortion."
"Mace, you can back up off of Lauren Boebert or just go hang with your real gal pals, the jihad squad. You're out of your league."
Well, Rep. Nancy Mace did not appreciate that, initially tweeting this in response. Yes. That is a bat emoji, poo emoji and a clown emoji. I'll let you figure out the message on your own.
But Mace wasn't finish there. She also tweeted, quote, "Your, instead of you're. And while I'm correcting you, I'm a pro-life fiscal conservative who was attacked by the left all weekend, as I often, am I defied China while in Taiwan."
"What I'm not is a religious bigot or racist. You might want to try that over there in your little league."
This all started, remember, with Boebert suggesting her Democratic colleague, Representative Ilhan Omar, could be a suicide bomber.
And Boebert refused to apologize for that in a call with Omar where Boebert claimed she was a, quote, "strong Christian woman."
OK. Let's unravel all of this. I'm joined now by CNN chief pollical analyst --
CABRERA: -- Gloria Borger.
Where are the adults in Congress, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know. I think they are hiding in the basement. But they are certainly not out front in the Republican Party.
And the person I'm talking about is Kevin McCarthy, who happens to be the leader of the Republicans. And I know that he has talked to -- to these women privately. He certainly talked to Boebert privately.
Let me say that, and, you know, expected that perhaps there would be an apology, et cetera, et cetera, to Ilhan Omar in a phone call that disintegrated. And then they went at each other again.
Look, this is a problem for McCarthy because he's not doing what a leader should do, which is he should say, we will not tolerate this in the Republican Party. This is not what we stand for. This is not who we are.
And if you cannot behave, you won't be on your committees. You will be ostracized by the Republican Party. We have more important things to talk about than you're fighting with your fellow colleagues.
I mean, it's interesting to me to recall that when the Democrats were fighting with each other, it was whether, gee, should we put family and medical leave in this bill or that bill?
It was over substance. It wasn't a bunch of name-calling like this.
CABRERA: And Kevin McCarthy, so far, hasn't said much of anything about this.
BORGER: No, no.
CABRERA: And yet, we've discovered, our "KFILE" team has discovered that this is becoming a bad habit of Boebert to make these specific types of comments.
That she has apparently said stuff like this before, suggesting Omar is a terrorist, going all the way back to September.
So does that make this even worse?
BORGER: It does. Look, it does make it worse. It's clear to me, from watching that video, that she thinks she's got a great line she can use with her audiences and get a rise out of them, which she does.
The audiences she is speaking to respond to these racist and Islamophobic remarks with laughter. So she said it once and she said it again, and maybe she will say it some more.
But, you know, she thought that this was a great one-liner to use. And what does that tell you about her?
It's remarkable that this is a sitting member of Congress.
CABRERA: So where does this go from here? What should the Democrats even do about this?
BORGER: Well, I think it's interesting. The Democrats have a problem because they -- they want to step aside and let the Republicans fight their own fight.
But they have already censured Gosar, Congressman Gosar, for example. They don't want to get in that fight and get down to that level.
The old Michelle Obama, when they go low we go high.
I was talking to a Democrat the other day about this and the question is, why get in the middle of that? Let's just -- let's play in our lane and talk about what we need to talk about, which is Build Back Better, et cetera.
Nancy Pelosi and the leaders sent out a note over Thanksgiving about Boebert and said that they call upon the Republican leadership to address this with the congresswoman.
And that's kind of where they are on this right now. I think that they need to -- they need to take care of business and push McCarthy to take care of his own problems.
CABRERA: Where is the floor here though? It just seems like the code of conduct standard is getting lower and lower.
BORGER: Lower and lower.
CABRERA: Gloria Borger, I appreciate you. Thanks for being here.
BORGER: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: The former pilot for convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, is testifying today in the Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial, revealing details about what happened on Epstein's jet and with high- profile celebrity passengers.
CABRERA: This just in. Some dramatic revelations from Jean Casarez's Jeffery Epstein's former personal pilot in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's former companion.
The pilot is placing several high-profile figures on Epstein's planes over the years.
CNN's Kara Scannell is following all of this for us.
So, Kara, who is this pilot singling out?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: So, this is Jeffrey Epstein's pilot of 28 years. He's back on the stand today under cross-examination and he was asked about some of these famous people that have flown on Epstein's plane over the years.
He says that includes Prince Andrew, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Senator George Mitchell and John Glenn and actor, Kevin Spacey. [13:55:02]
Now none of these have been accused of wrongdoing in connection with the issues at trial.
But it goes to the defense attorney's point to show there were lots of people on these planes and lots of people that were on these trips.
They also had the pilot acknowledge under cross-examination that he never witnessed any sexual activity on the plane.
But the pilot did say that he did know and recognize one of the alleged victims in this case. He recalled that she was a mature woman who had piercing blue eyes.
Now the prosecutors say that this individual was 14 years old at the time that she was involved with Jeffrey Epstein.
Remember, also that Ghislaine Maxwell has been accused of six criminal counts, including one of the transportation of minors to engage in illegal sex acts.
The pilot has testified, both on direct yesterday and on cross today, that he was shuttling people, including Epstein and his friends, between multiples of his properties, the mansion in New York and the villa in Palm Beach.
That's where prosecutors say a lot of this alleged assault took place -- Ana?
CABRERA: OK, Kara Scannell, that is an interesting update. And we continue to learn more. Expecting this trial to last over the course of about six weeks. And you'll be on top of it for us.
Thank you all at home for being with us today. That's going to do it for now. We'll be back tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, as always, please join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.
And the news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.
A short time ago, the White House laid out its plan for the Omicron variant. The president's message is that Omicron is a cause for concern but not for panic.