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Chief: Progress Being Made at Improving Capitol Police; Djokovic's Visa Appeal Hearing Adjourned Until Monday; Kazakhstan's Government Resigns as Fuel Protests Rage; Japan Asks U.S. to Impose Restrictions on Military Bases. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 06, 2022 - 04:30   ET



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

Officials in Australia are waiting until Monday to decide whether world number one tennis star Novak Djokovic can enter the country. Djokovic was denied entry and had his visa canceled for not having proper vaccination documents. We'll have more of course ahead on CNN NEWSROOM on that story.

And U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection on Capitol Hill. Mr. Biden is expected to highlight the singularly responsibility former president Donald Trump had on the assault.

While U.S. Capitol Police say there's sharp rise in violent rhetoric against lawmakers since last January's riot, but no specific threat tied to today's anniversary. The man now in charge of the Capitol Police admits his department is still badly under staffed, but says it is better prepared to handle potential violence than it was a year ago. CNN's Brian Todd has more for you.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A year after U.S. Capitol police battled insurrectionists at the Capitol, the new chief of that force, Tom Manger, aims to reassure an anxious city.

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Today, I'm confident that the U.S. Capitol Police Department has made significant progress addressing the deficiencies that impacted the department's response on January 6th.

TODD (voice-over): Critics have said that's a low bar for a force that was overrun that day. Chief Manger telling lawmakers and reporters the weakest links in the Capitol police leading to the breakdowns on January 6th were his top priorities since he took command in July.

MANGER: We are sharing information better. We are assigning responsibilities. People know what their responsibilities are. And we have backups to each one of the different commanders. TODD (voice-over): But a government watchdog is calling for more progress, saying last month, only 30 of his 104 recommendations had been implemented so far.

MICHAEL BOLTON, INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Much work still needs to be addressed in relation to training, intelligence, cultural change and operational planning.

TODD (voice-over): Manger counters that a vast majority of those recommendations have at least been addressed in some form. One challenge, staffing. The chief telling CNN they are about 450 officers short of the number they need.

MANGER: I think it is going to take us at least two to three years to get up to our staffing in terms of hiring new officers.

TODD (voice-over): At least 130 officers have retired or left the department since January 6th, according to the force.


TERRANCE GAINER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, if you want a well- trained officer, it probably takes six to eight months to background and get the right person into the queue and then another six months to get them into training.

TODD (voice-over): The chief also reporting that 2021 was a disturbing year, with about 9,600 threats recorded against lawmakers, threats he says that are continuing.

MANGER: The biggest challenge I think we have is keeping up with the number of threats. I mean, we -- we have -- we've doubled the number of officers that investigate these threats.

TODD (voice-over): Manger says many of the threats come in the form of emails, phone calls, social media posts, but some over the past year were more direct. Democratic Congresswoman Norma Torres told us last summer after she had a political dispute over Twitter with the President of El Salvador, she received multiple threats, then an anonymous video, a man's voice narrating it.

REP. NORMA TORRES (D-CA): He stated that he was following me and he panned out to a blue vehicle, which I had. I owned a blue SUV. And he said that he was following me and then panned down to his gun and said that he had something for me.

TODD: Congresswoman Torres's office now tells us the direct threats against her like that one have ramped down since last summer, but they say she's still getting near constant online harassment related to her work on immigration.

Now, as for any possible threats to the Capitol this coming Thursday, the anniversary of the attack, Chief Manger says there are no major red flags at the moment. He says they are keeping an eye on a protest expected at the nearby D.C. jail that day.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Thanks, Brian.

Well, fourth president of the well-known Florida retirement community The Villages is facing felony voter fraud charges, 64-year-old Charles Franklin Barnes was arrested on Tuesday, but released pending arraignment next month. Court records show Barnes is charged with casting more than one ballot, although it is not clear in what election. Three other residents of The Village were charged with the same crime last November.

Now, tennis star Novak Djokovic is waiting to learn if he can in the Australian Open, or he'll be deported. And Australian federal court has adjourned the decision until next Monday. Djokovic's lawyers are challenging Australia's move to cancel his visa over vaccine rules. The top tennis player came under fire after receiving a medical exemption for COVID vaccine to play in the grand slam tournament.

Joining me now is Stuart Fraser, a tennis correspondent for "The Times." And Stuart, great to have you back on the show. Give me a sense of the mood within the tennis community. I mean, how much sympathy is there for Djokovic?

STUART FRASER, TENNIS CORRESPONDENT, THE TIMES: Yes, good morning. I think there's a shock at what's played out in the last few days, but also not a lot of sympathy. Players were told, you know, months ago that to compete in the Australian Open they had to be fully vaccinated. This meant that the vaccination rate on the men's and women's tours shot up suddenly. A lot of players getting their vaccines in time to travel to Melbourne.

There wasn't an exemption process in place for those with medical reasons. Novak Djokovic decided to go through this process. But you know, some feel that perhaps and, in their eyes, he was exploiting a loophole. And you know, we've seen what's played out in the last 48 hours that's created this issue at the border in Australia for Djokovic, something that could have easily been resolved if he had, for example, taken one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

SOARES: But we do know, I think we've known all along, his position on vaccines. I think, I believe and you can correct me here, he is very much against mandates. And then we have, you know, approval, exemption approved by two panel of medical experts. Yet the government has come out and said, you know, it's been very clear where it stood on non- vaccinated players. Do you think perhaps mixed messaging or like you said, he exploited a loophole here?

FRASER: Well, I think if there is any sympathy for him at all, it's perhaps in the way that this has been handled in terms of the paperwork on the Australian side to, you know, to receive -- to be told that you've been approved for an exemption. We saw that sort of triumphant and torn in that social media post he put up two days ago now. Announcing he was on his way down under. And to then, you know, discover when he arrives at passport control, he can go no further. He's being detained while his paperwork is checked again.

And now he's in a quarantine hotel in the local Melbourne area. I think there has to be some sympathy for that. But again, some players will feel this could easily have been the result as regular old -- he wouldn't had have to gone through this had he received the vaccine.

SOARES: Or perhaps, do you think should he have been more transparent from the beginning, do you think this could have been avoided?


FRASER: I do think that this saga has been ongoing for so long, he decided not to disclose his vaccination status for some time, that PR wise this has been a disaster for him. And even if the court decides Monday, he can enter Australia and he is able to play the tournament, I think we can all, you know, guess what the reaction will be like from some members of the crowd in Melbourne when he walks out for his first-round match. So, yes, listen, it's a very interesting situation, very come complex. You have to remember in Australia those complexities in terms of the federal and state government has been from opposite political spectrums. So, yes, it's a very complex --


SOARES: But putting politics aside for a moment, what does this mean, taking part in the Australian Open do you think means for Djokovic? And do you worry that we'll see other similar restrictions in other championships, in other tournaments, other grand slams here?

FRASER: Yes, this is just the start. There's going to be more of this in the tour. We know that some tournaments in America are talking about imposing, you know, similar requirements. The French Open, there's been rumors about that in recent days. So, the easiest way to get round that is to get vaccinated. You know, Djokovic has clearly -- he has his beliefs, and that's something he may not necessarily do, even after going through all this in the last few days.

But this is going to be a very, perhaps the toughest experience of his life. It's ironic in a way. The Australian Open is his best grand slam tournament. He's won there nine times. But Melbourne is also going to be host of one of the roughest few days of his life.

SOARES: And he wants that tenth win, doesn't he? Thank you very much, Stuart Fraser, tennis correspondent for The Times. Thanks Stuart, appreciate it.

FRASER: Thank you.

SOARES: Still to come right here in the show, a neighborhood in Philadelphia is reeling from a deadly fire. Coming up, we'll hear from a neighbor who was within earshot of the desperate residents while the fire was burning. That is next.


[04:45:00] SOARES: Now, officials in Philadelphia are investigating a fire in a public housing unit that killed 12 people, including eight children. Fire officials say 26 people lived in the three-story row house which was converted into two apartments. Word of the tragedy even reached the White House with first lady Jill Biden sending condolences on Twitter. One neighbor says that he heard the victims screaming as the flames tore through the building early on Wednesday.


BILL RICHARDS, NEIGHBOR: About quarter of 7:00, I heard a woman scream. Oh, my god, oh, my god! And I went to the window, I couldn't see anything because it was on my side of the street. And I got dressed, and by the time I got downstairs, the fire trucks were turning the corner. I was a teacher all my life. And I just can't even -- can't wrap my head around the tragedy of these relatives that are going to have to pick up their lives after this.


SOARES: CNN obtained the cell phone video from the scene. Firefighters say once the building was engulfed, there wasn't much they could do to slow the fire down.

Now, right now Russian forces are in Kazakhstan helping to bring back order after massive anti-government protests. That is according to a statement from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of former Soviet states.

Well, Kazakhstan's government resigned Wednesday after protests such as those swept across the country. And a journalist tells CNN, authorities in Almaty are warning residents to stay home out while an anti-terrorist operation is underway.

CNN's Nic Robertson is monitoring these developments for us and he joins us now, from Moscow. And Nic, give us a sense of what you're hearing from your sources on the ground. Because as we've just shown our viewers, the violence and the protests are ongoing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, there is still a great deal of uncertainty on the ground, according to residents in Almaty about what's happening. They described the situation on the streets in the center of the city as being scary quiet. That the authorities, as you say, have warned them to stay indoors because in certain areas, there are what the authorities describe as antiterrorist operations going on.

People have been out on the streets. A few venturing out this morning to try to get basic essentials, grocery stores, a few are open. But some stores have been looted. People trying to find, you know, pharmacies that are open. So, people -- a few people braving the conditions, trying to see if they can get the essentials for their daily needs.

But the bigger picture at the moment remains very murky and clouded. A police official has been on television in Almaty saying that eight police and National Guardsmen have been killed overnight in fighting. But also describing in very chilling language that dozens -- and this is quoting this police person speaking on television in Almaty -- dozens of protesters were liquidated. That's the language being used, an indication that they have killed dozens of protesters. They say they are verifying the identities of those protesters.

At this time the police spokesman, again without offering evidence said, that they were storming government buildings. What happened last night in Almaty is still far from clear. The internet remains very patchy, down most of the times. The president speaking to the country last night in Kazakhstan said that the people, the protests were terrorists and they were getting outside help. And as you say, Russian paratroopers now arriving in Kazakhstan as peace keepers for a, quote, limited period.

SOARES: Yes, very worrying situation developing in Kazakhstan. I know you'll stay on top of that. Nic Robertson for us there in Moscow. Thanks, Nic.

And still ahead right here on the show, COVID-19 cases have spiked in Okinawa, Japan, forcing leaders to consider emergency steps to curb the spread of infections. We have a live report on that is next.



SOARES: Now, COVID-19 cases in Japan have topped 2,000 for the first time in months. Those numbers come as the country's foreign minister calls on the U.S. to impose COVID restrictions on American military bases in Japan. Early this week, the Governor of Okinawa blasted U.S. military for not containing the virus spread. Government data show more than 800 American personnel have tested positive in the prefecture. CNN's Blake Essig joins us from Tokyo. And Blake, clearly Japan believes U.S. forces have been unable to contain the virus. Not enough clearly being done on the military bases. What kind of restrictions do they want to see and what has been the reaction here from the United States?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Isa, as you said, cases involving U.S. military personnel are being reported at several different American installations across Japan. And because of that, a call was held early this morning Japan local time, between Japan's Foreign Minister and the U.S. Secretary of State. It lasted about 35 minutes, and one of the reasons for the call was for Japan to request stricter measures be put in place at U.S. military bases.

That includes restricting all service members from leaving their base. Now Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture has been one of the most hardest hit areas during this recent surge in cases. And Okinawa's local governor, as you had mentioned, is blaming the U.S. military for spreading the Omicron variant to local communities.

What the U.S. Forces Japan say they have acted promptly to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to local communities. A more stringent mitigation measures have been put into place following the recent rise in cases. Those measures include a mask mandate while on and off base regardless of vaccination status, and increased testing for new arrivals.


Now, across the rest of Japan, the case count is nearly doubled every day this week. As the 6th leg of infection seems inevitable. To prevent the rapid spread of cases in certain parts of the country, public broadcaster NHK reports the Japanese government is considering authorizing a quasi-state of emergency order for three prefectures. They include Yamaguchi, Hiroshima and the prefecture we been talking about, Okinawa. Now, if a quasi-state of emergency is enacted that means that the local government will be able to limit the hours of operation of bars and restaurants and potentially impose fines on those bars and restaurants -- Isa.

SOARES: So potentially more restrictions coming their way. Blake Essig for us in Tokyo. Thank you very much, Blake.

The NFL is looking at the contingency plans for the upcoming Super Bowl. The league says it's standard procedure for any game, but they want back up venues in place in case of weather issues or what they call unforeseen circumstances. Jimmy The NFL still expects the title game to go on as scheduled on February 13th in Inglewood, California.

Now, holders of two lucky Powerball tickets in California and Wisconsin have just hit the jackpot. The owners of the tickets will split the $632 million top prize. One of the tickets was sold at this 7-Eleven -- we'll show you in Sacramento. The tickets matched all six numbers in the Powerball drawing in Wednesday. It is the 7th largest total in the lottery's history. Congrats to the winners who, of course, may now have to pay taxes on their good fortune.

And that does it for me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares in London. Our coverage of the January 6 anniversary continues on "EARLY START" with my colleagues Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. Have a wonderful day. I shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.