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Tonga Government: Eruption Sparked Unprecedented Disaster; Ex- Top Aide Says U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Lied About Lockdown Party; Greece Implements Vaccine Mandate for Ages 60+; Arizona Trump Rally and Voting Rights March Over MLK Holiday Weekend Underscore the Fight for Democracy; Oil Prices Climb to Fresh Seven-Year Highs; Remembering Legendary CNN Stage Manager Jay Conroy. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Recovery and relief efforts continue in Tonga after that deadly underwater volcanic eruption slammed the island with 49-foot waves. At least three people have died.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN has correspondents covering this and all of the latest headlines from around the globe.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Hancocks in Melbourne, Tonga has declared a state of emergency following last weekend's volcanic eruption and tsunami. Images from the air show communities blanketed in thick ash. Eight agencies say now the priority will be clean drinking water followed by shelter for those who've lost homes destroyed by the tsunami.

The Prime Minister says that they are currently trying to repair and clean up runways so humanitarian aid can be flown in as soon as possible.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I'm Salma Abdelaziz in London, more denials and more trouble for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The latest accusation coming from one of his former top aides. Dominic Cummings accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of not knowing an event on May 20, 202 was a party, he also alleges that the Prime Minister was urged to cancel it but brushed those concerns away.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outright denied this claim saying he categorically believed that the event was a work function. Still, there is a whole string of allegations of partying at Downing Street stretching from the first lock down in May of 2020 in to spring of last year. All of this is under investigation.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: I'm Nina dos Santos in London. Authorities in Greece have become the latest to introduce mandatory vaccination strategies for elderly their citizens to protect them against COVID-19. Well, as of this week it is compulsory for those 60 years and above to get COVID shots, otherwise they'll be facing monthly fines of $114. [15:35:00]

With the equivalent there of in euros until they decide to do so. Their strategy is designed to try and close the immunity gap for a vulnerable part of the population, and it follows on what's happened in other parts of southern Europe. Like in Italy where it's now obligatory for those 50 years and above to get their COVID shots too.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to all of our correspondents.

Meanwhile, a tale of two rallies, some of Martin Luther King Jr.'s children marked his birthday in Arizona, while Donald Trump's supporters gathered to see the former president. We'll tell you how people in one state have two very different views of reality, next.



CAMEROTA: Two events in Arizona over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, with two very different views of what democracy is and its future in American.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Donie O'Sullivan spoke with people at both the Trump rally in Florence, Arizona, where the former president reiterated the baseless lies about the 2020 election. And at a march for voting rights in Phoenix, attended by members of the King family.


CROWD CHANTS: No celebration without legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all have a voice in this country in which we live, and voting is that opportunity that we have.

CROWD CHANTS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, the filibuster has got to go.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in Arizona, a battle for the future of American democracy.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS: We wanted to come on this day because there's also a Senator, Senator Sinema, who seems to be blocking democracy instead of being on the side of advancing democracy.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): The King family here calling on Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema to stand up for voters' rights.

KING: She says she wants voting rights but how do you want voting rights without creating a path for that to happen. That is inconsistent and that is unacceptable.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Sinema and fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia are blocking the passage of a pair of voting rights bills, aimed at countering some of restrictive voting measures enacted by Republicans at the state level. Sinema says she is supportive of the bills but not in favor of changing Senate rules to get them past.

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): That stands music to the ears of some Trump supporters this weekend on hand on a rally for Trump in Sinema's home state.

ROBBIE KIMSEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: God bless Kyrsten Sinema and what she's doing, you know. Kyrsten Sinema, good for her. You know, she's our representative. She represents the state. She's not along party lines. She's what's good for the country.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you like Kyrsten Sinema.

JACKIE LEWIS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes, absolutely. And Manchin, in fact, I have sent e-mails to them encouraging them to stand up and do what's right for the people of Arizona.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Those supporters in line for Trump's rally Saturday, also in attendance, a hodgepodge of election deniers like Mike Pelosi or Mike Lindell. Congressman Paul Gosar. And even Ali Alexander one of the main organizers of "Stop the Steal" who went into hiding after the insurrection and was recently called in front of the January 6th House Select Committee.

O'SULLIVAN: Hey, Ali, are you worried that you might get indicted?


TRUMP: Thank you, Arizona. Thank you. Thank you.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Trump giving his support to two election deniers who are running to control elections in the state. Kari Lake is running for governor.

KARI LAKE (R), TRUMP SUPPORTED CANDIDATE FOR ARIZONA GOVERNOR: There's a few other people I would like to send right down to the prison down here in Florence. Anybody who was involved in that corrupt, shady, shoddy election of 2020. Lock them up.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): And Mark Fincham who previously said he was an Oath Keeper and is now running for Secretary of State.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Fincham has echoed QAnon-type conspiracy theories about elected officials.

FINCHAM: There's a lot of people involved in a pedophile network in the distribution of children, and unfortunately there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): And he continues to falsely attack the legitimacy of the 2020 election here in Arizona.

FINCHAM: I look forward to the day that we set aside an irredeemably flawed election. That's the election of 2020. With all the evidence we have, the Arizona election should decertified with cause by the legislature.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): That's part of a national trend. A "Washington Post" tally finding 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump's false claims are running for statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections. Arizona's current Secretary of State, Katie Hobbes now running for governor.

KATIE HOBBS, (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE, NOW RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR: I think we are really at a defining moment. I mean, in 2020 democracy prevailed, and 2020 and after 2020, democracy prevailed because people on both sides of the aisle did their jobs. And what we're seeing now is this just multipronged attack, and one of those prongs is Trump trying to instill his loyalists into key positions that have some level of determination over how elections are certified and conducted. And that's pretty scary.

CROWD CHANTS: We will pass this bill.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): And on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, his 13-year-old granddaughter following in her grandfather's footsteps with a warning for today.

YOLANDA RENEE KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S GRANDDAUGHTER: I think it's so important to vote, and it's so important to have the right to vote. Because right now our country is at stake.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


CAMEROTA: Victor, it's so disturbing. It's so disturbing to hear the delusional thinking that is still going on at these rallies, the ones of the Trump supporters.

BLACKWELL: And now these are people who want to have some control over elections. That's the scary part is that they're taking that conspiracy theory and going to apply it to these elections across some really crucial states.

CAMEROTA: We will continue to cover it every single day as well as try to find solutions.

All right, now to this about the economy. We have the latest item to put a squeeze on your wallet -- get it. Matt Egan is going to tell us what I'm alluding to if you haven't figured it out. BLACKWELL: I feel like we get it. I feel like we get it.



BLACKWELL: Well, after some relief at the end of last year, gas prices are rising again. U.S. crude oil just finished at its highest close since 2014. And there's a prediction that oil prices could hit $100 a barrel before the end of this year.

CAMEROTA: CNN business reporter Matt Egan is with us now. So Matt, how is the White House responding?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Alisyn and Victor, that energy price relief certainly, was short lived. You mentioned oil prices closing at the highest level since 2014. That means the oil market has completely recovered from that one, two punch last year of the Biden administration's intervention in the energy markets and Omicron coronavirus variant.

U.S. crude is up 30 percent since tumbling to $65 a barrel on December 1. That is quite the move in just seven weeks. You can see it there on your screen. Goldman Sachs is warning the energy rally is just getting started. They're calling for $100 oil by September.

Now all of this is dealing a blow to the president's efforts to contain prices at the pump which are starting to tick higher. The -- you know, that move by the president right before Thanksgiving to release a record amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it was made with a lot of fanfare but it really hasn't lived up to the hype.

The national average is standing at $3.31 a gallon. It's only down 14 cents from the peak. And it's only -- it's up about three pennies from late December. So, all of this is going to add pressure on the White House to do something here, Alisyn and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, got to do something. Let's turn to this squeeze pun we heard from Alisyn before the break.

CAMEROTA: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: She was talking about oranges. And we know that the country's orange crop is expected to be the smallest in decades. So why? And what does that mean for orange juice prices?

EGAN: Right, well, definitely some bad news for orange juice drinkers. The USDA is now calling for the smallest Florida orange harvest since World War II. Now experts are blaming a disease known as citrus graining which is really hurting the harvest and they're also blaming bad weather overseas. And you put it together and you have this supply crunch.

So orange juice futures they are at three-year highs. That's going to trickle down to consumers at grocery stores. Alisyn and Victor, this is just one more example of how the cost of living is going up right now.

CAMEROTA: OK, Matt Egan, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The White House website is ready to take orders for free home COVID tests. We'll tell you how to sign up, next.




CAMEROTA: I also want to thank Jay, our fantastic floor director who brings me in fake papers to pretend that he's really important during commercial break.


CAMEROTA: To get on TV.

It's awesome. See how many times you can spot Jay during a show. Yes, I'll take those now, sir.


CAMEROTA. Thank you, this is very important hot off the presses.

CONROY: Sometimes they're from a month ago.

CAMEROTA: I know they make no sense. Thank you.

CONROY: Your welcome and thank you. I love working with you. You're a charm.


CAMEROTA: So, something very sad happened in our NEWSROOM family this weekend. Our wonderful floor director Jay Conroy passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

Jay was a big warm presence on our set. He would welcome Victor and me every day with a boyish smile, fresh cups of water and for some reason, the exact same audio clip of Paul Stanley from Kiss screaming, how you doing, everybody? Every single day.

The daily routine of TV news never got old for Jay. In his free time, Jay was known far and wide as an Aerosmith superfan. He'd seen more than 120 of their shows and when Jay discovered that my first concert ever was in 1978 Aerosmith show -- which, of course, he was also at. Well, that earned me Jay's enduring respect which I treasure.

BLACKWELL: You know, you've known Jay a long -- or you knew Jay a lot longer than I. But coming to New York in June, he was immediately welcoming. Right? Sometimes when you do a job for a long time you can become a little jaded and newcomers are outside of the box. But he immediately was welcoming. And you know, you talk about him walking up onto the set with that

sheet of paper. I saw him doing that, coming up with the same paper and one day I looked at it. It was a press release from April of 2020 that he kept tucked away just for this.


CAMEROTA: And so last night, I was on a three-hour drive home, still trying to process the news of Jay's death, and of course, as I pulled off the highway, a few miles from home, an Aerosmith song came on the radio. It was "Living on the Edge" and I knew immediately it was a message from Jay that he is OK and he is still rocking out at that everlasting Aerosmith concert in the sky. But we're sure going to miss him down here.

BLACKWELL: We will miss you, Jay.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.