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Millions In U.S. In Path Of Severe Winter Weather; Australian Court Denies Novak Djokovic Visa Appeal; All Four Hostages In A Texas Synagogue Have Been Released Unharmed; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Under Pressure To Quit Over Lockdown Violations; Tsunami Made "Significant Impact" On Tonga. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 16, 2022 - 03:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Paula Newton at CNN Center. We begin with that breaking news.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has lost his bid to stay in Australia and defend his title in the Australian Open. He now faces deportation. The hearing was Djokovic's last attempt to stay in the country, despite having his visa revoked, now twice, over his COVID vaccination status.

But the court ultimately sided with Australia's immigration minister, who revoked the visa over concerns the unvaccinated star's presence could spur a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment.

CNN is covering every angle of this story around the globe. Scott McLean is standing by in Belgrade, Serbia, with reactions from Djokovic's home country. We also have reporters on the ground in Australia. We want to go first to our own Phil Black, who's been following all of this from Melbourne.

The judges a little while ago making that announcement. And I think beyond the actual decision, they really had some interesting things to say about what they were deciding in this case and what they weren't deciding in this case.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, a little over an hour ago, Novak Djokovic and everyone else around the world watching this closely, discovered his application to the court to overturn the cancelation of his visa was unsuccessful.

The judges, before making that point, said that they weren't -- it wasn't their job to essentially rule on the merits of the original decision; it was just they were asked to review that decision, based upon particular legal grounds that had been submitted by Djokovic's lawyers.

And as it turns out, those arguments, those grounds put forward by his lawyers, did not persuade any of the judges sitting at the bench to hear this case. It was a unanimous decision. His application was dismissed.

As I say, a little over an hour ago. But we already have a statement from Novak Djokovic that came through a few moments ago. We can look at some of the key points in which he says that, off the top, he's going to take some time to rest and recuperate.

He's extremely disappointed with the decision, which means he can't stay in Australia, can't participate in the Australian Open. But crucially he says -- and this is the specific reaction to what's happened, to what he's going to do next, "I respect the court's ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country."

He says he's uncomfortable with having been the focus of the past few weeks and he hopes that he can now return to the game and the tournament that he loves. I would like to thank -- I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers, fans all the best for the tournament.

He thanks his supporters, friends, team, fans and fellow Serbians for their continued support, saying, "You have all been a great source of strength to me."

So a gracious acceptance of what is now a legal reality. Novak Djokovic remains in mandatory detention in Australia; currently, he is still in his lawyer's office, which is just behind me here. You can see people, waiting here for a sign of his departure.

From here, we would expect that he would presumably go back to the detention center, where he slept last night and slept -- spent a few days in the previous week as well, in central Melbourne, as arrangements are made to facilitate his departure from the country.

So he says he's going to cooperate with officials here. That means they will work to get him on a flight that is convenient for him, that will return him either to his point of departure, Spain, or probably his homeland, Serbia, one or the other.

We'll wait to see how quickly that can happen. But Djokovic has now accepted, after such a long saga, such a long legal battle, really showing, you would have to say, incredible determination to try and take part in this Australian Open.

He now accepts that that cannot happen, that he will not be looking for a 10th Australian Open title this year.


BLACK: He will not be vying to claim the 21st grand slam record, which would make him statistically the greatest player of all time.

NEWTON: Yes, and no doubt, in his profound disappointment, as you point out, that statement does take the temperature down a little bit. It was, as you point out, quite gracious. I take it, your point, that right now he's not exactly a free man in

Australia. We'll wait to see what unfolds in the coming minutes and hours.

I want to point out, during the court, they had said it was not for the court to decide on the merits of the government's decision but, Phil, you following this so closely, this is your home as well.

In terms of the context here, it was untenable, wasn't it, for the government to do anything but try and deport him at this point?

BLACK: The government had -- politically, the government had few options, having initially shown such an uncompromising attitude toward his arrival here, having backed the initial decision by Australian border enforcement officers so strongly, when they first canceled his visa; the fact that he was able to overturn that in court last Monday, that was certainly an embarrassment to the government.

Given the minister's specific, very wide-ranging personal powers to cancel visas, politically, he was always going to look at doing that and probably follow through on that, if at all possible.

I think perhaps the surprise for some people was that he took so long to do it. He considered the matter for some four days. But that I think is widely accepted as a reflection of what was at stake politically for the government here.

They were dealing with someone, who clearly had the means, the determination and the resources to appeal a second cancelation, if and when it happened. And that's exactly what played out here.

So the decision to cancel it again was made very late on Friday evening. And Novak Djokovic's lawyers went to work very quickly.

A court hearing that evening set into play a legal process, which has continued over the weekend, into Sunday, today, where there were detailed arguments and a lengthy hearing about the merits of the -- about the legality, specifically a judicial review of the immigration minister's decision, whether or not he made that decision following Australian law in such a way.

Now we know that Djokovic's lawyers argued against that, specifically its worth, considering the grounds the immigration minister tried to make this happen. That was only on the basis he argued, his lawyers continue to argue here, that his presence here represented a threat through essentially firing up, galvanizing anti-vaccine sentiment in this country.

His lawyers tried hard to argue against that but failed to convince the three judges of the federal court that heard those arguments today.

NEWTON: Yes and, again, we have to think about what his lawyers raised. The fact that they feel that perhaps it might raise anti- vaccine sentiment now, now that he's being deported. I know you'll continue to stay on this story. I thank you for the thorough and detailed approach you've given us so far the last few days.

We'll wait and see where Mr. Djokovic goes to now.



NEWTON: We turn to Scott McLean in Belgrade, Serbia.

Djokovic said in a statement he respects the decision of the court.

I think the issue is, will his staunch supporters in his home country accept it?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just talked to a couple people here, this is the message we've been hearing, as we've been here the last few days. I can sum it up in three words.

"This is political."

That is what people think this was on the part of the Australian government. In fact, the state broadcaster summed it up even more succinctly.

Their headline simply read, "Disgrace."

This does not look good for the Australian government. When you heard the judge announce this ruling earlier today, he explained it, in part because of the way this was being framed in Serbia.

And his words might as well have been directed at the Serbian president, who put out a scathing statement on Friday, saying that, look, Australia likes to preach to Serbia about the rule of law.

But he finds it absolutely incredible that you could have a politician overruling the will of an Australian court. And oddly enough, actually, today is a day when Serbia will vote in a referendum to change the constitution, to make the judicial system more independent.

I'm getting news the president is actually voting in that referendum this morning. We're trying to get some idea of what he said. What we know so far that is he is supportive of Novak Djokovic and pretty much the whole country is here.

Again, Australia does not look good in this situation. If you ask people, they will say, look, it's not about whether Australia should or should not have let him in or whether Australia has the right to control its borders and make rules around vaccination.

The issue is they gave him a visa, allowed him to fly there, then ended up with this whole mess. That's been the president's message as well, framing this as a moral question.

A little bit more from what the president is saying this morning as he's voting. He said they were harassing him for 10 days, only to bring a decision they already had made for 10 days. It seems, even if you talk to Novak Djokovic's father, who said

earlier in November that he was planning to miss the Australian Open, because he wouldn't be able to comply with the vaccination entry requirement.

And so it seems like Novak Djokovic went to Australia with the idea, with the intention, that he would actually get to play. Certainly he could not have foreseen this. What I'm interested to see is where he goes back to.

Obviously, he has a home in Spain as well; probably in other places or whether he comes back here to Belgrade. The way that this is being framed in other places is that Novak Djokovic is this anti-vaxer. But that is not the way that people see it here.

Even from Novak Djokovic's statement that he just put out, he made clear that he is uncomfortable with the focus being on him. And perhaps, by extension, he is also uncomfortable with the fact that he's been framed in this way.

I spoke to one of his friends and former teammates the other day, who said, look, maybe Novak will get the vaccine in the future in order to get into other tournaments. But that's not what this is about today.

NEWTON: It will be interesting, as it's just in the morning there, almost 9:15 in Belgrade. No doubt you'll get more reaction you can bring to us, Scott.


NEWTON: Changing gears to our other breaking news story at CNN. A hostage standoff at a north Texas synagogue is now over, with all hostages rescued and the attacker dead.

The crisis began when the assailant stormed the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday. It was during a small service and four people were taken hostage. The event was being livestreamed, if you can believe it, as the attack began.

People were listening to this for about an hour. Here's how one synagogue member described what unfolded.


STACEY SILVERMAN, MEMBER, CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL: My mother called and told me there was a hostage situation going on in our synagogue, which is almost unbelievable.

So I dialed into the live stream and I heard the perpetrator speaking, alternating between English and his native tongue and very, you know, just hateful, hateful rhetoric; he hates the Jews. He talked about Israel and Palestine. He blamed the Jews, you know, for everything going on in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: Local and federal law enforcement surrounded the synagogue.

One hostage was released but three remained in harm's way. As night fell, officials made the decision, they had to go in.

A loud bang and gunfire was heard as the final hostages were rescued alive and safe. CNN's Ed Lavandera was there as all of this unfolded and filed this report a little earlier.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly 11 hours after a suspect entered the Beth Israel synagogue here in Colleyville, Texas, we have learned that the suspect is dead and that all four of the hostages are alive and well.

One of the hostages had been released earlier in the day around 5 o'clock Central time. But law enforcement officials say they have identified the suspect but they are not ready to announce who that person is, as they continue their investigation into the motives behind this attack on this synagogue.

It was a frightening and harrowing day for members of this synagogue, which is a small synagogue here in Colleyville, about 150 members. They were watching desperately and frantically throughout the day, waiting for and praying for this outcome that they saw unfold here this evening.

Many members of the congregation that we spoke with say that members had not been attending the services here at this synagogue because of COVID pandemic restrictions, that it was -- most people were at home, watching on the livestream.

And that is where they began to see all of this unfold just before 11 o'clock in the morning. And they heard what was described as the ranting and raving and harrowing screaming coming from the suspect inside the synagogue. But tonight, all of them celebrating the fact that four of their synagogue members are now alive and well -- back to you.


NEWTON: Our thanks to Ed Lavandera.

We're also hearing what may have been happening behind the scenes before that hostage rescue team moved to end the standoff. Earlier, we spoke with CNN security analyst Juliette Kayyem, who served as assistant secretary for Homeland Security. She said one big factor for investigators was time.


JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: For a hostage negotiator, in most instances, because it's not an active shooter situation -- those are two different situations -- in a hostage situation you're really trying to buy times.

We call it you're trying to extend the runway and give more time.

Why are you buying time?

The hostage taker may give up, he may release a hostage as we saw earlier today. He may tire or he may become more agitated.

But even if he becomes more agitated, that's giving the FBI -- basically they were on the ground for about 8 hours or 9 hours -- a lot of time to figure out how to get into the building and get the hostages out safely, because those are precision operations, right?

The boom, the entry and the protection of the hostages and, as we know now, the killing of the perpetrator, so that's basically what happened behind closed doors, rightfully so.

You have the continuing negotiation, the buying of a long period of time and then the entry. What triggers it may either be -- it's either the hostage has exposed a vulnerability and they're going to come in or they've lost contact with the hostage taker and want to get in relatively quickly.


NEWTON: Kayyem said the suspect did not seem to be sophisticated in carrying out his attack and did not seem to have an exit strategy.


NEWTON: Parts of the United States are being hit with heavy winter weather. Everything you need to know right now as this storm is about to approach.




NEWTON: Tens of millions of people in the eastern third of the U.S. are now bracing for potentially devastating snow, ice and freezing rain -- look at that map -- as a massive storm system hits the region.



NEWTON: Now Saturday's attack on Jewish worshippers in Texas is another painful reminder of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and beyond. We'll hear from the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League -- coming up.





NEWTON: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Paula Newton and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. More on our breaking news.

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic faces deportation after losing a last-ditch legal effort to stay in Australia. A short time ago, three federal judges upheld the decision by Australia's immigration minister to cancel the unvaccinated star's visa over concerns his presence could spur a rise in anti-vaxing sentiment.

The decision also ends Djokovic's hopes of defending his Australian Open title and winning a record 21st grand slam. In a statement, Djokovic says he is extremely disappointed with the court's ruling. He says he'll cooperate with authorities. And he says he hopes the focus is now on tennis.

Australia's immigration minister welcomed the ruling, saying strong border protection policies have kept the nation safe during this pandemic.

Just a few moments ago, the Australian prime minister released a statement, saying, quote, "The cancelation decision was made on the health, safety and good order grounds on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so."



NEWTON: Going to our other breaking news here in the last few hours, a hostage standoff at a Texas synagogue is over, with all hostages rescued and the attacker dead.

The assailant stormed the congregation of Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday during a small service. Four people were taken hostage. Local and federal law enforcement surrounded the synagogue. One hostage was released earlier in the day. Three were still trapped.

As night fell, law enforcement made the decision to go in. An elite FBI team was sent to breach the building. A loud bang and gunfire were heard as the final hostages were rescued alive and safe.

The leader of a major anti-hate group says the synagogue attack feels all too familiar to him. The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League told us earlier, Jewish houses of prayer have been targeted many times before.


JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: I feel like we have been here before. This is the first time that anyone at ADL at all can recall a hostage-taking at a synagogue.

But unfortunately, Jewish sites have been targeted again and again and again by extremists over the years. And unfortunately, this fits into that pattern very neatly. The reality is that there is a reason why synagogues as well as Jewish day schools, Jewish community centers, Jewish communal offices all have intense security because they face a series of threats.


NEWTON: Despite the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, pandemic-weary Europeans hit the streets over COVID restrictions this weekend. We'll have the story in a live report.





NEWTON: A scandal over COVID restrictions is putting the position of Britain's prime minister in question. A new poll for "The Observer" shows 63 percent of voters want prime minister Boris Johnson to quit.

That follows allegations that 10 Downing Street held a series of office parties during COVID-19 lockdowns and possibly broke the pandemic rules the rest of the country had to follow. Salma Abdelaziz reports now.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More allegations of partying and more problems for prime minister Boris Johnson. The latest coming from a British newspaper, reporting that "wine time Fridays" were held during coronavirus lockdown periods.

Essentially Downing Street staff were having drinking sessions despite lockdown rules being in place on a regular basis. It's the latest in a string of allegations, stretching from the summer of 2020 to the spring of 2021, that Downing Street staff, those in government, those in power, who were setting the rules, were not following the rules.

The allegation is coronavirus restrictions were being broken at 10 Downing Street itself. The latest "I'm sorry" came on Friday to the queen herself to Buckingham Palace after "The Telegraph" newspaper reported that two parties were held inside Downing Street the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

It really struck at the heart of the matter. There's this iconic image of the queen, sitting alone, in the chapel, following the rules, that really resonated with everyone at the time, with people who were making great sacrifices, even in their most tragic moments.

Apparently, those very rules were being broken by those who set them. Of course, the hypocrisy has caused outrage across the country and calls for the prime minister to resign. One Conservative lawmaker saying the prime minister's position is untenable.

And the nightmare isn't over yet for prime minister Boris Johnson. There is an investigation underway right now, looking into all of these allegations of partying by Downing Street.

And we expect the results of that in the coming days. But reputationally, the damage is done here. Overwhelmingly, critics of prime minister Boris Johnson feels like he's the party prime minister of Britain -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.



NEWTON: According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. crossed 65 million total coronavirus cases on Saturday. That number has been fueled in recent days by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

As you can see here, places like Arkansas, California, Oklahoma and Oregon have been especially hardhit. This comes as the U.S. crosses an even more chilling number: more than 850,000 people have died since the pandemic began.

Officials are hoping to combat the rising infections by making testing more available. As of Saturday, many Americans are going to be able to get reimbursed for home tests through their private insurance companies.

Now to Europe and a look at COVID headlines, not just in Europe but around the world.

In China, a neighborhood in Beijing was locked down after the city reported its first case of Omicron on Saturday. Authorities have begun mass testing people living there. This comes as Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics in less than three weeks.

The vaccine pass continues to be a lightning rod in France. Thousands marched in opposition to it Saturday in Paris.

And the French parliament began debating the bill that would require most people to be vaccinated in order to enter public spaces, such as bars, restaurants and long-distance public support (sic). For more on that I'm joined by CNN's Jim Bittermann in Paris.

Good to see you, Jim. This debate continues in France. I know this were several thousands there.

But in the majority, does it seem, despite COVID fatigue, people in France understand that perhaps these are measures they have to accept?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's kind of an understanding of that, Paula, if you can judge by the numbers that turn out at these demonstrations. Yesterday's demonstration here was, in fact, somewhat smaller, considerably smaller than the previous weeks.

What's more, I think there's an inevitability about all this. The COVID vaccination pass that you were talking about there has now passed both the assembly and the senate as of last night. They just have to reconcile some small differences between the two bills and then it goes to the constitutional court.

In all likelihood, the government's going to succeed in its wish to get that vaccination pass in play by the end of this week. As a consequence, that will mean that people will have to show vaccination -- proof of vaccinations in order to do the smallest of very public things, like go into a bar, cafe, restaurant, theater, cinemas, that sort of thing.

You're going to have to have a vaccination pass that shows you've been vaccinated. So there is going to be acceptance, one way or another, I think, as time rolls on here.

Elsewhere in Europe, I think the situation is somewhat similar to what we're seeing in France. There's a little glimmer of hope. In France, for example, the number of ICU cases over the last three days has dropped slightly.

We're also seeing some decline in numbers in Britain. It's the lowest level of new cases in a month in Britain. So there's a hope here that the peak may have been reached. It's too early to say that.

But there is at least a glimmer of hope as "Le Monde," the big daily newspaper here, put it that way last night.

NEWTON: Unfortunately, perhaps the numbers may not go down as quickly as they've risen. Jim Bittermann, thank you for that update, appreciate it.

Countries throughout the Pacific are assessing the impact after a massive volcanic eruption triggered multiple tsunami waves. We'll have the latest in a live report from the region straight ahead.





NEWTON: New Zealand's prime minister says tsunami waves from an underwater volcanic eruption made a significant impact on Tonga. Waves crashed ashore Saturday. You see some of it there, flooding coastal areas, damaging shops, even reaching the grounds of Tonga's royal palace.

Authorities are still working to assess the damage. The enormous eruption spewed ash and smoke more than 12 miles into the atmosphere and triggered tsunami waves that reached Japan and Hawaii. CNN's Blake Essig joins me from Tokyo.

It caught my attention, as the tsunami warning was so widespread, right?

Even reaching the United States and Canada.

Is it alarming that we still don't know, really, the damage involved with this?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know Paula, more than 24 hours after this underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga, still a lot of questions and answers we don't know; specifically, the damage that was done on the island of Tonga.

Here in Japan, tsunami advisories for several coastal communities across the country were only just lifted a few hours ago.

The alerts went out early Sunday morning local time, with emergency management officials asking hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate from eight coastal prefectures around Japan. Here's what people in Iwate heard early this morning.


JESS PHOENIX, VOLCANOLOGIST: They're pretty devastating to local populations, too, because they can collapse the roofs of buildings. They can stop jet engines from functioning and, of course, they'll smother crops and pollute water supplies.

So, yes, the folks nearby are going to be feeling the effects of this eruption for quite a few months, I would say, at the very minimum.


ESSIG: That was volcanologist Jess Phoenix talking to CNN earlier today.

Now in the hours that followed, several communities that reported 2- to 3-foot waves, including Iwate, reporting waves as high as 9 feet.

Take a look at these satellite images that captured the moment the volcano, located about 30 kilometers off the coast of Tonga, erupted. From above, you can see the plume of ash that reached about 20 kilometers into the air, sent shock waves that generated from this eruption, that resulted in tsunami waves all across the Pacific.

Here's a video posted to Twitter of the tsunami wave, crashing onto the shore of Tonga a short time later.


ESSIG: The video shows several small waves crossing the shoreline and flooding into the capital. But of course, a tsunami isn't the only environmental impact to result from the eruption, as volcanologist Jess Phoenix said earlier. A lot of impact to the local communities.

Now the impact of yesterday's volcanic eruption has been felt across the Pacific. Videos posted on social media from Chile, Peru and California show waves flooding coastal areas as a result of the eruption.

As you mentioned, according to New Zealand's prime minister, who addressed the ongoing situation in Tonga, as the country struggles to restore lines of communication, no injuries or deaths have been recorded so far. The prime minister says that, while the volcano does seem stable for now, further eruptions can't be ruled out.

NEWTON: That's a key point there, right?

The fact that this is still active and they still could have repercussions, again, from the eruption, again, listening that not all of those remote regions have been reached yet. Blake Essig, appreciate the update.

I want to thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. We continue to follow the breaking news out of Australia. Novak Djokovic is not a free man in Australia and will be deported in the coming hours. Be back with the top stories and more in just a moment.