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Trump Supporters Still Contesting 2020 Election; Kazakhstan's President Gave Order to Law Enforcement to Open Fire to Kill Without Warning; Nations Around the World Grapple with Soaring Covid-19 Cases; Growing Outcry Over Mishandling of Xi'an Lockdown; 9,202 Classrooms Shut Down Across France in Past Month. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 07, 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.

A fast-moving winter storm is expected to cause widespread disruptions today and tomorrow right across the northeast of the United States. More than 60 million people are under winter weather alerts.

Plus, President Biden didn't hold back on calling Donald Trump out on his lies and inciting the January the 6 insurrection, speaking from the very place rioters stormed a year earlier. Biden directly challenged the, quote, defeated Trump and the lies he spread are putting American democracy on the brink.

Well, across the United States, Trump supporters are still pressuring local election officials to recount the 2020 vote. Many are running for office, and they want to make it easier to overturn future election victories they don't like. CNN's Sara Murray has the story for you.


RON HANKS, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Ron Hanks and I approve this message.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): U.S. Senate hopeful, Ron Hanks is shooting at fake Dominion voting machines, and calling for an audit in Colorado, a state Joe Biden won in 2020 by more than 13 points.

In liberal Washington state, a local Republican Party is knocking on doors trying to uncover voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're canvassing now in about a dozen counties.

MURRAY (voice-over): In Crowing, Minnesota a bright red county in a state that's gone blue since 1976, residents are pressing the Board of Commissioners for an audit based on false and misleading pretenses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That log will tell us if that thing went on to the internet and switched any votes.

MURRAY (voice-over): And in Alabama which former president Trump carried by 25 points, Republican secretary of state John Merrill is still batting back unfounded claims of fraud.

JOHN MERRILL (R), ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: I think a lot of that is people listening to people who have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. It's almost as if they will claim that a murder was committed, and yet they cannot prove that the person ever lived, let alone a body or a weapon.

MURRAY (voice-over): In the year since rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, convinced the 2020 election was stolen, many Republicans are still lapping up Trump's election lies. They're pressuring local officials to revisit 2020. Some are even running for higher office. Others are passing legislation making it easier to meddle in election administration.

JESS MARSDEN, COUNSEL, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: 32 of those bills have become law in 17 states which is a really unprecedented amount of legislative interest and of the mechanics of election administration.

MURRAY (voice-over): Efforts to undermine confidence in election results began in hotly contested battleground states. But has since ballooned into a nationwide crusade.

In Colorado, election officials like Justin Grantham are aware of Hanks' ad.

JUSTIN GRANTHAM, COLORADO CLERK AND RECORDER: With his copy machine that he blew up with the rifle? Yes, I have seen that.

MURRAY (voice-over): But State Representative Hanks rebuffed offers to learn about the voting systems firsthand.

GRANTHAM: I've extended multiple offers for him to come into my office and talk to me about the election and he's not responded and not come in.

MURRAY (voice-over): Hanks told CNN he appreciates the offers but he did his own research.

HANKS: I didn't really need it. I was at other locations. And so that made it rather redundant.

MURRAY (voice-over): Asked why he's still spreading debunked conspiracies, Hanks says, nothing has been debunked.

HANKS: I think that is a false argument. We have found evidence and it is compounding daily.


MURRAY (voice-over): Back in Alabama, when Merrill met with election deniers including My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: The whole technology was attacked.

MURRAY (voice-over): He easily debunked their claims.

MERRILL: The information that they had been sharing with us could have been cleared up by doing a simple Google search of that addresses it.

MURRAY (voice-over): Other officials though are aiming to appease their constituents. When CNN asked a Crowing commissioner, who previously said he's confident in the county's election for an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got an email last night. I'm going to read it.

MURRAY (voice-over): He declined, instead reading our interview request to audit supporters in a county meeting.


MURRAY (voice-over): This week, he and other board members voted to ask Minnesota secretary of state to launch an audit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion passes.

MURRAY: Now, democracy advocates are already worrying that the swirl of disinformation could lead to more violence surrounding future elections. Even Dominion warned that violent ads like the one that Ron Hanks is running in Colorado could potentially endanger their employees as well as their customers.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Now, we have some breaking news to bring you from Kazakhstan. The president of Kazakhstan, President Tokayev, addressed the country in the last 30 minutes or so where he authorized forces to fire without warning, and he had a very bullish speech. Our Nina dos Santos has been monitoring it. She joins me now. Nina, what else did he say?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, really worrying stuff here. It's the type of autocratic talk that thankfully we don't hear all that often, but it stuff that will really be raising eyebrows in places like Washington, London, Paris, and many western diplomats in Kazakhstan will be eagerly picking out exactly what this speech means. It sounds extremely worrying for any of those protesters who have been taking to the streets across Kazakhstan, Isa.

For the last several days, the flash points of violence happening since Wednesday. And all of this has gathered the pace since fuel prices spiked significantly over the course of the weekend after the government removed one of the key subsidies on the type of fuel that people fuel their cars with in Kazakhstan.

Remember, this is a huge energy-rich economy. But irony -- ironically, corruption and inequalities and unemployment and issues like that have dogged this economy for many, many years. President Tokayev said that anybody who is taking to the streets to protest about those sorts of issues, well, they could expect authorities to open fire without warning. He said now my troops will be shooting to kill, and that any people who wouldn't surrender as he put it would be destroyed.

In this speech he continues to say -- which is a claim that he's made over the last several days -- without, I should say, any evidence to back it up thus far, that he believed that these protesters were, quote, unquote, bandits who are backed by international factions. And he thanked the Russian President Vladimir Putin for helping to lend troops as part of this post-Soviet security collective that is now in the streets since yesterday to help to impose law and order.

Now, supposedly the troops are there in a peace-keeping capacity. The real concern for international watchers here in Kazakhstan is exactly what methods they will use to restore peace and how long they will be staying. Remember that the backdrop to all of this, Isa, is that, you know, Vladimir Putin has made it very clear over the last few weeks, months and days that he wants to re-establish a Russian sphere of influence. For that reason, we've seen these troops backing up in places like the border with Ukraine, which is obviously on the other side of the -- other side of Russia, Russia's borders from Kazakhstan.

But now we've got this flash point over on the eastern side, which is neighboring China. And so obviously this is extremely concerning to see this violence and the methods that might be used to quash it from here -- Isa.

SOARES: Very worrying indeed. And the fact that he's authorizing -- giving the orders for shoot to kill order. And Nina, you know, for our viewers right around the world, what you said was very striking. What started as a fuel protest has kind of morphed into an expression of discontent. And I'm sure the eyes of the world, and leaders internationally are looking at this and worried. What have we heard from the United Nations, from the U.S., from France, the U.K. and others?

DOS SANTOS: Well, we've heard various different comments so far, rather guarded ones. Because remember that Kazakhstan is crucially important. Because it's not just the ninth largest country in the world. It's also bordering -- as I pointed out -- Russia which obviously, the west has fractious relationship with especially at the moment over issues like Ukraine. And also, China, that the West is getting increasingly concerned about the autocratic tendencies over there.

So, the types of expressions we've heard from places like France and the U.K., has been obviously they condemn the violence and they're monitoring it. Obviously, in the White House yesterday there were comments that were made to express how concerned they were about what exactly the mission of this supposed post-Soviet peace keeping force would be.

Further down the line there's a real question mark over how long those types of troops will stay and whether or not all of this might really affect Kazakhstan's sovereignty.


What I should also point out, Isa, is that taking to the streets is probably the only method for many people in Kazakhstan to protest. This is a country that has been called an autocracy ever since it emerged as an independent nation after the dissolution of the USSR.

SOARES: Yes, and for so many, getting their message out has been so difficult because of obviously internet blackouts. Nina dos Santos, I know you'll keep us posted. Thank you very much.

Now these protests that, Nina was saying, really started over a hike fuel prices, but tensions have been simmering in Kazakhstan for years. Earlier CNN spoke to Paul Stronski, a senior fellow in Carnegie's Russia and Eurasia program, about what led really to such violent unrest. Have a listen.


PAUL STRONSKI, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAM: What really is the cause and that's caused this to spread around the entire country was a tremendous disconnect between the governing elites and the political elite in the country, and the everyday life that people are experiencing. This is a country that has tremendous hydrocarbon oil and gas wealth, but that money -- that wealth is not distributed evenly among the population.

So, you have tremendous wealth, and people who spend their time in places like Dubai and London. And then you have also people who are really struggling to get by on a daily basis. So, what this is, this is largely about a disconnect between a government that has promised its people a better future but has not yet delivered that future on a socioeconomic -- in an equitably economic way.


SOARES: That's why we are seeing these protests. Stronski also says that Kazakhstan's government needs to address corruption and poverty and improve democratic institutions. Of course, we'll stay on top of this breaking news story for you.

Coming up meanwhile on the show, authorities in Xi'an punished after reports hospitals turning away patients during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown. We'll have the latest from China ahead.

And while some countries in Europe are opening up to vaccinated international travelers, others are tightening restrictions as the Omicron variant spreads. We'll have a live report for you from Paris next.



SOARES: Now, the Omicron variant sending cases soaring right across the globe. Austria says it's imposing tougher restrictions in hopes of avoiding a lockdown. And that includes stepping up inspections to ensure businesses are limiting access to those who are vaccinated or recovered from COVID.

In the U.K. where I am, fully vaccinated arrivals and those under the age of 18 no longer need to submit a pre-departure negative PCR test. Instead, they have to take a rapid lateral flow test within two days of entering the country and then isolate if they test positive.

And the British ministry of defense has deployed 200 military personnel to London area hospitals. They will assist staff and patient care and help fill some of the shortages, of course, due to COVID.

Meanwhile in India is reporting another sharp increase in daily COVID cases. New infections topped 117,000 today. That is the highest figure in about seven months.

And over in China, the city of Xi'an is now entering its third week of lockdowns. There is growing outcry over the harsh measures with many unable really to secure even the most basic of necessities. And we're talking about even food here.

Let's get the latest from the global COVID-19 pandemic. I'm joined now by Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And Jim Bittermann joins us from Paris. Kristie, let me start with you. You know, the measures we have been seeing in some of the cities including Xi'an incredibly stringent. And I can understand why this is taking a toll on the population. Is the government doing anything given this growing outcry or are they stick, you think, to their policy?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For over two weeks now, 13 million residents in the northern Chinese metropolis Xi'an have been living under this hard lockdown. They are forbidden from leaving their homes unless it's for a COVID-19 test. And they continue to say online, quite vocally, that they are struggling to get food, to get basic essentials, even access to lifesaving medical care.

Officials there, in Xi'an, have apologized. They have been punished. We know at least two local health officials have been suspended from their posts. The head of the Xi'an CDC in a press conference stood up and bowed to apologize to an eight-month pregnant woman who had a miscarriage because she was not able to get help at the hospital. They claimed that she didn't have a valid COVID-19 test.

But despite the punishment, despite the apologies to many angry citizens across China, they say it's not enough. It's too little too late. In fact, one comment that has gone viral in the last couple of days, a commoner and seen on Weibo said, quote, this COVID-19 might not kill you, but bureaucrats can, unquote.

And, Isa, sadly we have learned that a second pregnant woman in Xi'an has suffered a miscarriage because of delayed medical care. The central government is now weighing in. We've heard from a vice premiere in China telling hospitals in Xi'an that they must not turn away patients for any reasons whatsoever.

But want to remind our viewers it was a staff member in the Xi'an Gaocheng hospital who told CNN earlier that the reason why they turned away that first pregnant -- eight-month pregnant patient was because they were merely following government COVID-19 regulations. Back to you.

SOARES: Just truly heartbreaking, Kristie, what these women have to go through. Because like you said, the protocol and regulations. Stay with us, Kristie. Let me go to Jim in Paris. And, Jim, we're seeing cases rise quite dramatically in France. And now were seeing schools, a number of schools closing. This must be all very stressful, not only for students, but also for parents.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Isa. The fact is that the parents -- the burden on the parents to get their students tested after they have discovery of any positive cases in the classroom. And just to give you an idea, school started here on Monday after the Christmas holiday and since then, just this week, 47,000 students have tested positive and more than 5,600 school personnel have tested positive. So, it's a big problem for the government.

The education minister was on television this morning saying it's an absolute priority to keep the schools open, so that's where the priority is. But the burden is falling onto the parents to keep testing their students. In one case, you have to have three negative tests in a four-day period. So, it's a lot of testing that has to go on here if you want to keep the schools open.

And the young people, in fact, that's one of the crucial areas for the government here. They've seen the cases among young people just skyrocket.


There is, for example, 61 children under the age of 9 in ICUs will across the country. That's four times the number just a month ago. And they've started vaccinating children as young as five here, including -- they have included a center just for young people here in Paris because they're really worried about the Omicron spread among the young -- Isa.

Jim Bittermann for us in Paris and Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, thank you very much.

Now, parts of Colorado still reeling from a massive blaze last week. After the break, details of the destruction the fire Marshal left behind.


SOARES: Now, the Marshall fire that ripped through Boulder County, Colorado last week, if you remember, destroyed more than a thousand residential structures. And that is according to the Boulder Office of Emergency management. They say seven commercial structures were destroyed and 30 more were damaged. But add, commercial losses are being calculated. The blaze scorched more than 6,000 acres -- as you can see on the screen. Two people remain missing.

[04:55:00] And of course, the impact here, world team has verified ways viewers can provide help for Colorado wildfire victims. Visit if you can help.

Now, Los Angeles County is reporting its highest numbers of new COVID infections since the pandemic began. They still expect to host Super Bowl LVI next month. Local health officials say they are working with the National Football League and stadium authorities to ensure safety precautions are in place for the football championship on February 13th.

And subscription services are mainly used for streaming. But now Taco Bell has now launched one of its own. For $10 a month, subscribers can get one taco a day for 30 days in a row, I kid you not. There are a variety of tacos to choose from including soft, crunchy and spicy potato. The most redeem is the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme -- that sounds great. The hope is that this subscription will lure in customers who will then add more to their order of course and increase the amount they spend.

And the coronavirus pandemic, of course, is no joke. But for late night TV host James Corden, he has canceled his show for next few days after testing positive for COVID-19. Corden said he's fully vaccinated and boosted and feels completely fine.

NBC Late Night host Seth Meyers has been off the air this week after testing positive. And Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon revealed he has recovered after testing positive before Christmas. Wishing them all a speedy recovery.

And that does it for me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares in London. You can follow me on Twitter @IsaCNN at Instagram @IsaSoaresCNN. Our coverage of course continues on "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. I shall see you on Monday. Have a wonderful weekend. Bye-bye.