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DOJ Removes 11 Sets Of Classified Documents From Mar-a-Lago; FBI Investigating Unprecedented Number Of Threats Against Bureau; Salman Rushdie Remains Hospitalized After Being Stabbed At Least Twice; Trump And Allies Flood The Zone With Falsehoods After FBI Raid; Dems' Economic And Climate Bill Passes Along Party Lines; Consumers Rack Up A Record Amount Of Credit Card Debt; U.S. Inflation Slows In July But Still High; CDC Ends COVID Social Distancing, Quarantine Recommendations. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 13, 2022 - 11:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with that unprecedented FBI search of a former president's home. Court documents unsealed on Friday are giving new details about what the Department of Justice removed from former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago, Florida home and what potential crimes are being investigated.

Agents say they recovered 11 sets of classified documents, at least one was marked as Top Secret/SCI which is one of the highest levels of classification. The warrant also reveals some of the potential crimes officials are looking at including violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. At this point, no charges have been filed.

CNN's Evan Perez is live for us with details on this. so Evan, what more are you learning about what was seized by the FBI?


I think you're highlighting the most important part of this and what the FBI found when they went into Mar-a-Lago to retrieve these 20 boxes. The top item, obviously, are these documents that were labeled as TS/SCI. This is among the most tightly guarded secrets of the U.S. government. These are things that in order to view them you have to go to special rooms that are designed to evade surveillance, not the kind of thing that you keep in a box in a basement at your beach house in Palm Beach. That's not the way these types of things are stored.

And according to the government, these are the documents that, of course, they found in the search on Monday, which of course came as a culmination of almost 18 months of back and forth between various agencies in the U.S. government, beginning with the National Archives which was trying to retrieve the documents, and then you have fast forward to June when there is a subpoena issued, at which time prosecutors were able to get some documents. And then of course the search that happens on Monday.

It gives us a sense that these documents that the government believes are so sensitive that they needed to take this extraordinary step, these documents have been there at Mar-a-Lago for all of this time, despite the fact that they've been trying to retrieve them, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And then, Evan, in the search warrant, the DOJ identified three possible federal crimes that they're looking into. What more do we know about that and the status of them?

PEREZ: Yes. Look, I mean those are the most interesting -- that's the most interesting part of this. and that's where we first went to look at, when we saw the documents that were unsealed yesterday.

The interesting one that gets a lot of attention of course is the Espionage Act, it's U.S. Code 793. And it has to do with mishandling of national defense information. This is the kind of stuff that could be harmful if it gets into the hands of U.S. adversaries.

The second one is an obstruction statute which the version of the obstruction statute that they're using in this is one that could apply to not just this possible crime that they're investigating but perhaps any other.

That leads the possibility that there could be other things that the FBI is looking at that we still don't know yet.

What's interesting about this, Fredricka, is that we are beginning to see the former president's defense, right? They are saying that -- with various things -- they're saying, first of all, that these things were declassified. Some of his allies are now saying that just by virtue of him asking for documents to be sent from other parts of the White House to the residence, it was declassified.

That doesn't matter, under these statutes that were cited in this search warrant. What prosecutors seem to be saying is that, you know, this is information. We can prosecute you for violating the law even if the documents are no longer classified.

And of course, we know if it is national defense information, it is -- would be classified. Again, it doesn't normally work that way that you just -- the president says it's declassified and it happens. There's a whole process that usually goes into that, Fredricka.


WHITFIELD: All right. Evan Perez, I will check back with you. Thank you so much.

PEREZ: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Meantime there has been a chilling uptick in threats following the Mar-a-Lago search. The FBI now says they are investigating, in their words, an unprecedented number of threats against the bureau including against agents listed in the court records as being involved in the search at Trump's home.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI are also warning of violent threats against federal law enforcement, courts and government personnel and facilities.

On Thursday, a man believed armed with an AR-15 rifle and nail gun tried to breach the FBI's Cincinnati field office. He was killed hours later after a standoff with authorities.

And in a letter, FBI director Chris Wray urged each of the bureau's more than 38,000 employees to stay vigilant and to adjust security posture accordingly.

All right. Let's talk more about all of this. I want to bring in former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. Good to see both of you.

Michael, you first. Let's zero in on the potential federal crimes here, violations of the Espionage Act, certainly makes people think, right away, spying? But it's not quite that simple, right?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's not at all that simple. It's a very complicated statute. And it would seem to me in reading the statute, the provision that most applies to the Trump situation is one who has national defense information and negligently -- they call it in the statute gross negligence -- negligently handles that material. It doesn't require that the material be transmitted to an enemy or anything of that sort. It's just the mishandling -- the gross mishandling of that information.

And that is what appears to have been the trigger for the department to go in with a search warrant. And that seems perfectly appropriate to what the former president is accused of doing in this warrant.

WHITFIELD: And David, I mean, the former president has been saying on his social media platform that he declassified documents prior to leaving office and he rightfully, you know, has them.

So number one, he's admitting that yes, I do have these materials, but specifics about what might be in the boxes, you know, we still don't know. But according to the search warrant, things marked "Top Secret" and "Classified" are among those seized.

So how will investigators try to determine what these materials are and who may have handled them, sorted them, packed them, and all the people involved in declassifying documents?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Fredricka, there are a couple of different elements to your question. So first is the question is did the president declassify these before he left office at noon on January 20th, 2021. And we simply don't know. I mean, he could simply declare something to be declassified, but there's nothing in the markings, as far as we can tell from the inventory the FBI left us, to indicate that they were declassified.

And you've seen what these documents look like when they are declassified. They, you know, come out fairly routinely. And the classification is crossed out, there's usually a date stamped on it for when it was declassified and under whose authority. As far as we understand, none of that exists on these documents.

The second question is what is the content of the documents and we don't know yet. If it is Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information, which is what (INAUDIBLE) seemed to indicate that would suggest a high level of secrecy that's usually surrounding covert operations, nuclear information, and so forth.

It doesn't necessarily mean that it's nuclear weapons related but it could be related to a country that was trying to obtain nuclear enrichment capability. It could be about secret operations that the U.S. had.

And as you heard from Michael, even if they were declassified by the president, it wouldn't necessarily help him under the three statutes that they've been looking at including the Espionage Act. We worry about the Espionage Act when it's turned against reporters, of course. It hasn't been used all that often.

But there are sections of it that just refer to the removal of data or handling classified data in a sloppy way. That would certainly seem to define what's happened over the last 18 months.

WHITFIELD: And on the issue of declassification, while the president might declare something declassified, the president isn't going to be the one who is actually going to do the redacting, the marking of those documents, right?

SANGER: That's absolutely right. And usually he would hand it to someone. President Trump was known to do this fairly rapidly. Remember that Saturday afternoon, when he saw the photograph of a destroyed missile on an Iranian launch pad, it wasn't a U.S. operation. It looks like it was and accident (ph) and he declassified it, and immediately shot a photograph of it and put it on his Twitter account.


WHITFIELD: And so Michael, another possible federal crime here is possible mishandling of government records. Are all White House documents supposed to be archived or catalogued in a routine way? And traditionally by whom?

ZELDIN: Yes. Anything that's an official document, something that's in the course of the president's official duties, is covered by a law that was put into place after Richard Nixon tried to withhold the Watergate tapes. Remember, Nixon tries to withhold these tapes, they sue for the tapes, he says they're personal property. The government says they belong to us. The government wins. And then they pass a statute which becomes effective in 1981 which says all documents which are official documents of the president's official duties are to belong to the National Archives.

And so there's a whole process, there's a whole office in the executive branch that handles all of those things. This is why the National Archives had such a clear sense that there was stuff missing because they had other parts of it. It's like a phone call where it's a group call, I don't have your number but I have all the other people on the number and they were telling me that you were on the call.

So they have a lot of information that they were triangulating to figure out what was missing.

WHITFIELD: And as part of the investigation now that these documents, many documents have been seized, is it your view, Michael, that there would be fingerprints, I mean maybe literally, maybe just figuratively, about all the people who may have handled or been a party to removing documents, classified or otherwise, from the White House to the former president's Mar-a-Lago?

ZELDIN: Well, it's a great question, because what we have to be clear of, and I think I misspoke a little bit in the beginning is this warrant doesn't say who is under investigation for these crimes. It just says these crimes were implicated, and we therefore have the right, law enforcement, to take these documents back.

It doesn't say who it was that was the target of the espionage or the concealment. It just says those statutes were implicated and we must get the documents. Then the job of the prosecutors will be to say, all right, to your point, who all is possible violators of these statutes and then let's figure out what liability they have.

One thing I want to also add, Fred, is that at the very bottom of this, besides the three statutes which are listed at the very top, at the bottom it also says they are -- the law enforcement agents, are entitled to take anything that involves the Presidential Records Act.

So that's exactly what we were talking about -- all the official conduct of the president. This warrant authorizes the agents to take that stuff too.

WHITFIELD: David, we're also learning that the department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out bulletins that they are investigating violent credible threats against federal law enforcement, courts, government personnel, following this Mar-a-Lago search. And they say these threats are being made across multiple platforms. So how potentially dangerous is this for the country?

SANGER: I think the concern all along is that events like this, just as January 6th was the case, people who are at the extreme ends of views on these things take up arms themselves, conduct violent acts. You saw one, of course, against that FBI office.

And that's part of the difficulty of the period of time we're in in our democracy which is, you know, in a previous era, people would assume the Justice Department and the FBI were pursuing reasonable leads, as in this case they got a judge to sign off on the search warrant, and that they would let the process work out.

And that's not what's going on right now. What's going on right now is a sense that the whole system needs to be short-circuited. And that's where the real danger to our democracy I think stands. WHITFIELD: All right. David Sanger, Michael Zeldin, we'll leave it

there for now. Thanks so much.

All right. Coming up, new details about the condition of acclaimed author Salman Rushdie after he was violently attacked onstage yesterday.

Plus a major shift from the CDC. The agency easing COVID guidelines. We'll tell you about the new recommendations, straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

Salman Rushdie's agent tells the "New York Times" the renowned author is on a ventilator and unable to speak after being stabbed at least twice onstage during an event in western New York. The agent said, quote, "The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye, the nerves in his arm were severed, his liver was stabbed and damaged."

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has more on the attack and the investigation.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Famed author Salman Rushdie was scheduled to speak at a lecture series at the Chautauqua Institution when witnesses say a man jumped onto the stage just as the event was getting under way and began punching and stabbing Rushdie.

One witness tells CNN she counted roughly seven to ten stabbing motions before fleeing for her own safety. Rushdie suffered stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, according to New York state police, and was airlifted to an area hospital.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): It was a state police officer who stood up and saved his life, protected him, as well as the moderator who was attacked as well.


PROKUPECZ: The suspect was quickly taken into custody. New York state police identified him as 24-year-old Hadi Matar.

JOYCE LUSSIER, WITNESS TO ATTACK: There was a lot of screaming and crying and everything. People rushing from the audience up on the stage.

PROKUPECZ: The 75-year-old author was born in Mumbai and later moved to the U.K. Rushdie is accustomed to living under threat. His controversial fourth novel "The Satanic Verses" published in 1988 sparked public demonstrations all over the world. Some Muslims considered the book sacrilegious.

In 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwah, a religious decree on Rushdie calling for his death.

Rushdie lived under British protection for nearly 10 years before the Iranian government announced it would no longer enforce the fatwah.

Rushdie wrote a memoir about that era of his life called "Joseph Anton", the name he used while in hiding. He has been outspoken over the years about living through that time.

SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: The best way that I can -- what I can do to fight this is to show that, you know, in the way that the child shows a bully in the playground, I'm not scared of you.

And the best thing I can do is to go on being the best writer I can be and to lead as open a professional and personal life as I can. And that is just a way of saying that there may be this danger and it's a terrible thing and it's an ugly thing and we need to fight it and we need to defeat it. But we don't have to hide under the bed.

PROKUPECZ: And the FBI is now part of this investigation as investigators try to figure out motive here and learn more about the suspect in this.

Also the suspect left behind some electronics, investigators say, and a backpack that they were trying to get access to, they're waiting for a search warrant. But ultimately what investigators are trying to figure out is exactly what the motivation was, who this individual is, and was this part of some bigger plot to kill him.


WHITFIELD: Now we're wishing him a speedy recovery. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.

All right. The son of actress Anne Heche is paying tribute to his mom, saying in a statement he had lost a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother and a loyal friend. And he and his brother were, I'm quoting now, "left with a deep, wordless sadness".

One week after Heche's fiery car crash in Los Angeles, her family says she is brain dead but remains on life-support to determine if she is a match for organ donation.

Still ahead, former President Trump and his allies have made a lot of claims about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. We'll fact check them, next.



WHITFIELD: A CNN fact check finds that former President Trump, his allies in Congress and in the right wing media, are turning to a familiar strategy following the FBI search of his Florida home. They're putting out a flurry of falsehoods in an attempt to discredit the FBI's actions, including floating a variety of conspiracy theories and lies designed to confuse Americans. CNN's Daniel Dale joining us now. So Daniel, you have a new piece out

today where you talk about these baseless conspiracy theories. What can you tell us?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, a couple of things stand out to me. One is the variety of conspiracy theories that we're hearing. They're just throwing stuff at the wall at once and trying to see what sticks.

So it's things like FBI agents went rogue. No, they didn't, they were executing a search warrant.

It was Joe Biden who sent these people out there. There's no evidence of that.

There is of course from former President Trump and others, evidence may have been planted. There's no evidence of that.

And then the other thing that stands out is the number of people who are involved in spreading these conspiracy theories. So it's not just former President Trump as usual. It's not just his s allies and places like Fox News. It's also prominent Republicans in Congress. Listen to some of what they had to say.


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I actually don't think they went in looking for documents. I think that was probably their -- their excuse.


SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KY): Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago, that they won't put things in those boxes to entrap him? How do we know that they're going to be honest with us?

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: We know they doctor evidence, we know they plant evidence, we know they hide evidence, we know they lie, we know they leak.

RUBIO: They found some Obama donor judge to write -- not even a judge, a magistrate -- to write and give them the search warrant. I think they went in there looking to see whatever they could find.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT (R-FL): This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens. It's like what we thought about the Gestapo, people like that. So they just go after people.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): This is Gestapo crap. And it will not stand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to defund and make cuts in the Department of Justice.

BOEBERT: The Department of Injustice needs to be cleaned out if they're going to start pretending we're some sort of Banana Republic.


DALE: We talk a lot about President Trump lying and spreading conspiracy theories but I think it's also important to note that as usual, he has a whole lot of eager defenders.

WHITFIELD: And then you also explore how Trump uses whataboutism, you know, to try to defend himself, but there really is no comparison to what has happened here.

DALE: No. So for the unfamiliar, whataboutism is basically saying, what about this and what about that, anything other than the topic at hand. As usual, Trump's whataboutism is about Democrats. So this time it's been pointing to former President Obama.


DALE: And former President Trump has said well, former President Obama took 30 million or sometimes 33 million documents from his own presidency, he took them to Chicago and many of them were classified.

Well, that prompted the National Archives and Records Administration to come out with a statement completely debunking those claims. The statement said that the Archives maintain exclusive legal and physical custody of the Obama era records.

This said that they, the Records Administration, were the ones that took them to Chicago. They took them to their own facility, not like Obama's house in Chicago. And they said that all of those 30 million records were unclassified. They took the classified ones to a different government facility in the Washington area.

So this "what about Obama" thing is completely made up, but we've heard it over and over again from former President Trump and again those allies.

WHITFIELD: All right. Daniel Dale, thank you so much.

DALE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Historic inflation may be driving Americans to rack up a record amount of credit card debt. We've got financial guru Suze Orman, there she is, she's got advice. So you want to get pad and paper or a pen because you want to take notes, copious notes on how to save money and how to get yourself out of debt. Suze Orman is coming up next.



WHITFIELD: The Democrats' landmark health care and climate bill is now headed to President Biden's desk for signature. Congress passed the $750 billion bill along party lines on Friday. The legislation targets the climate crisis, health care, and spending.

CNN's Jessica Dean joining us with more details on this. JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats and President

Biden scoring a big win as we saw their massive package focused on climate, taxes, and health care passing out of the house. It is now headed to President Biden's desk for his signature.

We spent the day hearing debate from both sides but it was very clear from the beginning that this had full Democratic support in the House. This is something that passed along party lines just like it did in the Senate.

The reason behind that, they're using a budget process that requires them only to have Democratic support so they can pass this out of Congress with just their Democratic majorities. And that's exactly what happened.

Just a reminder to everyone a little bit what's in this. There are three different planks. There's the climate plank, that's the largest investment in climate that we've ever seen come out of Congress, some $369 billion in climate initiative.

There's also health care provisions in there. They're extending the Affordable Care Act subsidies by 3 years. They're capping out of pocket Medicare expenses at $2,000. It's also allowing Medicare for the very first time to negotiate the price of certain drug prices.

Additionally there are tax provisions in there, namely among them a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent that's going to go toward -- that's going to be for the country's largest businesses. They will pay that 15 percent minimum tax.

But again, lawmakers are headed out on August recess. They're going back to their districts, back to their states. And for those who are running for reelection, it was very important for Democrats to be able to talk about this when they went home and say that it had passed and be able to discuss what had been put in there. They're now going to be able to do that.

For their part Republicans continue to criticize this legislation, saying that it will only add to inflation, not bring it down. That it will actually harm businesses, not help them.

And you can expect to hear more from them on that as we head into November. They're certainly going to be talking very much about inflation and the economy.

But the big picture here, as the House makes this very historic vote, is that it is a win for Democrats and it's one they certainly, even about a month ago, didn't think that they would be seeing.

Jessica Dean, CNN -- Capitol Hill.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Jessica.

All right. So we're finally seeing a little relief on inflation. Recent data showing that consumer and producer prices are falling, and prices for online goods dropped for the first time in 25 months. But we're still paying more for some of the basics. The cost of eggs, flour, chicken, and milk are significantly higher than a year ago. And consumers are still putting a lot of that on credit, hitting a record high $16 trillion during the second quarter of this year. And in the last year alone, credit card debt rose by $100 billion, the most in 20 years.

So now would be a good time to bring in Suze Orman. She's a financial expert and host of the podcast "Women and Money", and the author of several books including "The Ultimate Retirement Guide For 50 Plus", that's become my financial bible as I plan for those seasoned, I guess, you know, fall years, autumn years as they say. And she's also the co-founder of the Web site Always good to see you, Suze.


WHITFIELD: So let's begin with the whole credit card debt, a big problem for many Americans. It is mind-boggling, the numbers are. So why are people racking up so much consumer debt?

ORMAN: They're racking up consumer debt because they actually don't have the money, the cash, to be able to pay for the things that they want or that they think they need.

And why is that? Because every day items that they do need -- food, transportation -- all of that is costing them so much more, they don't have the money for it. So what do they do? They put it on their credit cards.

Just that simple, really.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And then it accumulates. And while there don't seem to be, you know, high numbers in default, it doesn't necessarily mean that people, you know, are paying off the full amount each time they get the bill.

So what's your advice to people about how they manage? I mean things are expensive. They don't have the cash, they use the credit card, but then how do they manage after the fact?


ORMAN: Yes, I think they really don't understand the danger that they're about to get in. And if you have credit card debt where all you can do is pay the minimum payment every month when it comes in, you're not paying it off in full, you need to understand that as the Feds continue to raise interest rates, and they are going to, the interest rate that is on your credit card is going to go up and up, making it that much harder for you to get out.

So you have got to stop using your credit cards. You have got to stop charging. And it's really just that simple. If you have credit card debt today and it's at a high interest rate, you still may have a good FICO score. For those of you out there that are like that, if I were you, I would try to do a balance transfer to a credit card that will lock in zero percent for you for like 21 months. That way, as the Feds continue to raise interest rates, you're paying it off but it is zero percent interest rate.

If you can't do that because your FICO score isn't good enough, you might really want to consider going to a debt counselor, somebody like from NFCC which is the National Foundation of Credit Counselors, and they will help you pay off your debt by lowering your interest rates, paying the credit cards for you, you pay them, they pay the credit cards, it does not hurt your credit score. And that way, in a few years you will be out of debt.

But you really have to take this seriously. But those are a few things, Fredricka, that one can do.

WHITFIELD: And of course you've got to really adhere to that window, you talked about the 21-month example, because if you go over that then interest rates can be very high and you're back to square one and being, you know, in deep trouble.


WHITFIELD: So we're also seeing interest rates go up as the Federal Reserve tries to cool inflation. But some worry that we could be headed into, you know, the days of a recession. Who do folks need -- you know, what do folks need to do to get ready for a possible economic downturn?

ORMAN: Yes. You have to understand that if a recession comes, that means that many places that you are working for very probably will be laying you off. And so you can't just assume that you're always going to be able to get a job, everything's going to be fine.

have to go, what happens if all of a sudden I don't have any money coming in. All of you, every one of you should obviously get out of debt now. You should have an eight to 12-month emergency fund or at least start building towards that. The worst thing you could do at this period of time is to take a loan from your 401(k) to either pay off your credit card debt or to keep being able to pay your bills.

You don't want to do that because if you lose your job, your loan that you took out is due and payable almost right away. And if you don't have the money to pay them, number one, it's taxable, and you could have a 10 percent penalty.

And the last thing you want to do or you don't want to do is don't take out a home equity line of credit, because as interest rates continue to go up here, so will the interest rates on your HELOC and if you can't pay it, they'll take your home away from you.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Ok. Dire situation. Pay attention, folks. Suze Orman has the greatest advice right there. All right. So we are charged with paying down that credit card debt.

Suze Orman, good to see you. Thanks so much.

All right. No more social distancing for Americans and no more tests to stay for kids -- no more tests that are required for kids to stay in school. It's all part of dramatic revisions to the CDC's COVID guidelines. We'll go through the major changes next.

And this quick programming note. Whose land is it? Kamau Bell heads to the Black Hills of South Dakota to meet with indigenous leaders of the land that campaign and see how they're fighting to reclaim their ancestral lands.


KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: What do you feel are the most harmful stereotypes that tourism creates and supports about indigenous folks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been villainized. We've been objectified. We've been fetishized, man. Like, I've got to get out there and dance. I've got to get out there and play the flute. You know, we've been lied about.

The idea that indigenous nations are primitive, that we didn't manage this whole continent, that's the stereotype is that we need somebody from outside of us to save us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are our sacred lands. We need to make a move here in the Black Hills. But we fell for a trick there. That doesn't mean that we stop there.

BELL: As a black American, I know we've fallen for some tricks too. So I say it, I say again, you've been had, you've been took, you've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck. This is what he does.

Some people call this hate teaching. All right, I'll stop. That's my Malcolm X speech --



WHITFIELD: Catch the all new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with W. Kamau Bell which airs tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.



WHITFIELD: All right. In a sign of just how much has changed since the height of the pandemic, the CDC is making a major shift and easing COVID-19 guidelines. The agency says the nation can move away from restrictive measures such as quarantines after exposure, COVID screening and even social distancing. The focus will now move to reducing severe illness from COVID-19. CNN's Nadia Romero is following the changes for us. So, what is behind the move?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, really the CDC says we have come such a long way since the start of this pandemic in March 2020 -- April 2020. And they're getting rid of social distancing. I mean it has been with us and such a fabric of our mitigation efforts for so long now. That is a big one that is now off the list.

So as you look at the list of no social distancing, no more screening in most circumstances, no more quarantine after exposure. That is one that has kept a lot of people out of church, out of work, out of schools.

Those are being removed from those strict COVID-19 guidelines that we've had in the works for about two years or so now. And that is also impacting what we're seeing in our schools. Many of our nation's kids are back in the classrooms and the new CDC guidelines are loosening there as well saying that there no longer needs to be an isolation of individual classrooms, which is huge for a lot of educators who said that they wanted their kids to be able to mingle with other classrooms as part of their social development.

It was also important for resources. We know that many of our school districts and our teachers are just strapped for funding, so not being able to share those resources over the past couple of school years has really been detrimental to those kids and their development.

And so I want to you hear from the White House coronavirus response coordinator in a Q&A session with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders talking about the vaccine and why the vaccine has been such a game- changer, even since last year. The eligibility of more people and kids to get the vaccine and the fact that we know that it is highly effective against all of our variants.


DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Whatever the virus does, whatever Mother Nature throws at us, the good we could respond to it and we can respond to it in a way that could keep kids in school, and let people get back to work, or to let them go to church safely, or do all the things that really matter to people. That is our goal.


ROMERO: That has been the goal for so many people getting back to that new sense of normalcy.

As we reached out to the Atlanta public schools just to see, you know, what the changes you're planning on making now that we have these new CDC guidelines.

And the response was, well it is so new. This just happened a few days ago so there are still some measures that need to happen before we could make any changes. Saying the Atlanta public schools are currently reviewing the newly released CDC guidance for K through 12 schools. In addition we are awaiting updated guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

So this can't happen overnight. Fred, they want to make changes. They're considering those changes but there have to be some check marks that happen first.

WHITFIELD: All right. Step by step.

All right. Nadia Romero, thank you so much.

I wondered, Nadia, what would be your reaction if you were to find out that your son is headed for the major leagues?

ROMERO: Oh, I would be so proud. Proud mama.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Proud and I would just be a basket case crying. Well, this is the reaction of one mom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going, momma. I'm going. I promise.

I promise, mom, I'm going.




WHITFIELD: For the first time Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson apologizes to the dozens of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.


DESHAUN WATSON, CLEVELAND BROWNS QUARTERBACK: I want to say that I'm truly sorry to all the women that I've impacted in this situation. My decisions that I made and my life that put me in this position, you know, I would definitely like to have back.

But I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that, you know, I am a true person of character and I want to keep pushing forward.


WHITFIELD: Last week the NFL announced that it would appeal a six-game suspension handed down by an independent judge for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Watson settled 23 of the civil cases against him and has denied any wrongdoing.

Pre-season games do not count towards suspension. So, Watson was back on the field last night for the first time since the 2020 season. And he was greeted with boos and struggled in his debut. Completing just one of his five passes for 7 yards in a 24-13 win over the Jaguars.

And a rare honor for a basketball legend. The NBA announced Thursday that it will permanently retire Bill Russell's number 6 jersey throughout the league. Those currently wearing that number including the Lakers Lebron James, he'll be able to continue wearing it. But the number 6 not be handed out to any new players.

Russell, who died last month at the age of 88, won 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. He will become the first player to have his number retired across all 30 teams. The Celtics icon was a five-time MVP and the first black head coach in the league.

And in a statement announcing the honor, the league commissioner said Bill Russell's unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way.


WHITFIELD: Only two other players in major sports have had their numbers retired league-wide. Jackie Robinson's number 42 in baseball and Wayne Gretzky's number 99 in hockey.

But there is one athlete whose dreams are just beginning. Thirty-one- year-old Winton Bernard spent a decade in the minors.