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New Day

New White House COVID Coordinator On Uptick In U.S. Cases; Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) Discusses Lawmakers' Visit To Poland As Refugees Escape Russian Invasion; Ukraine's Biggest Rock Star Joins New Day On Russia's Invasion. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 11, 2022 - 07:30   ET



DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: And right now, that is showing an uptick but now showing substantial changes in what we should be doing. And I think the CDC policy is right on this, and that's what I've been following for months. And I think that's what we should be -- what we should be doing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are we getting a really accurate look, though, when we're talking about cases? And I know cases aren't hospitalizations but at this point, people are testing at home and never telling anybody. So, could the caseload actually be much higher than we're seeing?

JHA: Yes, it's a great question.

So first of all, I'm a huge fan of home tests. You know that. I've been saying that for two years. I continue to be. I think it's great that people have testing at home.

But you're absolutely right. One of the costs of that is we're not always able to identify how many people are getting infected.

This is why it's really important to also look at hospitalizations, right, because if we're seeing a huge spike in cases -- if we were to see a huge spike in cases, we'd also see that eventually trickle into hospitalizations. We're not seeing that. Hospitalizations, right now, at the lowest level since March of 2020. That's good news.

So, no doubt, home tests means we miss some cases. But that said, I think we have got other metrics we're tracking as well.

BERMAN: So, the transportation mask mandate expires soon. What's going to happen? Are we going to have to wear masks on airplanes 10 days from now?

JHA: A very good question.

This is a -- this is a decision that the CDC is looking, obviously, actively at. They are working on a scientific framework for how to think about this. I haven't seen that framework yet -- we will. That will become available to the American people and everybody will get to see that sometime this week. And the CDC -- Dr. Walensky will make a decision based on that scientific framework of what to do.

So, I'd say hold -- you know, hold tight. We'll know more I think hopefully, in the next couple of days.

BERMAN: You, of course, have vast experience in the realm of public health. How do you personally think about that as you approach this decision?

JHA: Yes. I think these decisions should always be guided by science and evidence, and a framework -- a scientific framework that helps us make smart decisions about these. That's why we have the CDC scientists working on that right now and we're going to see what they come up with. And based on that, I think we're going to want to make a decision based on kind of the facts on the ground and the science -- and the scientific framework that we have.

BERMAN: What's your current thinking on boosters -- the fourth potential shot? Right now, the FDA has given authorization -- or emergency use authorization for people 50 years and older, but at what point do you think that might be something for all ages?

JHA: Yes, really good question. So, a couple of things.

First and foremost, as you know, the most important thing is people need to get vaccinated and at least get that first booster, for anybody who has not gotten a first booster yet. So, everybody over 18. If you're more than five months out of your second shot you need to get that first booster.

Now, let's talk about that second booster -- the authorization from the FDA. You know, when that happened, the first thing I did was I called my elderly parents and said you need to go get your second shot.

So, I think people over 60 clearly benefit. The data from Israel, to me, is very strong. I think people over 60 should definitely be getting it. Fifty to 59, the data is less clear. I think it should be driven a bit more by risk factors -- talk to your doctor. That's important.

And people under 50 -- we just don't have any data right now. And so, I want to be guided by evidence and data on this. And therefore, for people under 50, I don't think we have any evidence. I don't think people need it right now. But look, if the evidence changes we're going to want to make a change to the recommendation.

BERMAN: We're talking about the waning -- some of the studies taken out of Israel talk about a waning immunity for that fourth shot. Like, it lasts a month in terms of protection against infection, and that's not very long.

JHA: Yes. There's no question that the vaccines -- they clearly do offer protection against infection but they -- that does not hold up for an extended period of time. This is why it's really essential to look at hospitalizations and deaths because, at the end of the day, that's what we care about most. And the Israeli data shows that fourth shot, especially for high-risk

people, reduces mortality. It leads to lower death levels. So, it's true. We may see some waning on infections but the thing that we care most about that really matters most -- severe illness -- the vaccines are doing a fabulous job protecting against that.

BERMAN: And I know the White House, along those lines, pointed to a study out today suggesting how many lives have been saved overall by the efforts to vaccinate people over the last two years.

JHA: Yes. This cannot be understated how important this is.

You know, when President Biden came into office 15 months ago, almost no one had gotten a vaccine. The vaccine rollout was a mess. The president made this a major priority of the administration. More than 200 million Americans have gotten vaccinated.

Let's be clear. The analysis -- the independent analysis from Yale and the Commonwealth Fund, very clear it has saved many, many lives. It has saved more than $900 billion in healthcare spending. It has been an extraordinary achievement -- one of the most important public health interventions and one of the most effective public health interventions we've had in generations.


BERMAN: I asked you -- when I started with you, I asked you about the rise in cases in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. One of the places it's acutely rising, it seems, is in the senior government circles -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the second gentleman. What's the latest news about how COVID is being passed around that building behind you?

JHA: Yes. So, there are very -- very good protocols -- very strong protocols for protecting people inside the White House, particularly protecting the president. When I saw -- when I met the president a few weeks ago, I had to get tested just before I saw him. Obviously, I had to be vaccinated and boosted.

Those protocols are absolutely essential. We've got to continue doing those things. We've got to -- just a reminder that this virus isn't gone. This pandemic isn't over. We have to continue to be careful and continue following the scientific guidelines on how to protect people.

BERMAN: All right. The new White House COVID response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

JHA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a bipartisan group of lawmakers visiting Poland to discuss the war in Ukraine. Democratic Congressman Jason Crow with us now. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is in Poland near the Ukrainian border.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us. Can you just tell us a little bit about what you're doing and what you're seeing?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Hi, Brianna.

Well, I've been here with fellow members of Congress conducting oversight of our defense and weapons assistance programs. I've actually spent today with the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army, along the border that's helping our NATO partners.

It's been an unbelievable effort by the U.S. military and the U.S. government -- seeing the people on the ground here, but we have to continue to ramp that assistance up. We have to continue to evolve that assistance.

But I have to say personally, it's been great to be back with my former unit, the All-American 82nd Airborne Division, as a paratrooper that started my career in public service with the 82nd Airborne Division. It's great to be here with my fellow paratroopers.

KEILAR: Yes, a very storied unit there in Poland right now.

I wonder how has the -- how have you seen the U.S. military posture change?

CROW: Well, Brianna, before the Russian invasion, we had about 80,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout the European Theater -- the European Command is what it's called. Right now, that number is about 105,000. So we have actually plussed up about 25,000 servicemembers. We've added strategic assets, tactical assets, weapons, and equipment.

And I think what we're going to see is a long-term shift as well from kind of a fewer number of large garrisons and bases to a larger number of smaller garrisons and bases throughout Eastern Europe. I think we're going to see distribution of the U.S. basing to more eastern- flanked countries. That's going to take years to do. But certainly, we're going to evolve as the Russian threat evolves.

KEILAR: Are we going to see you here in Ukraine? Do you want to come over to Ukraine?

CROW: I do want to come over and I've actually made some requests to do that. I think it's time to start showing American support on the ground in Ukraine, so I'm going to continue to push to do that. The Ukrainians certainly would love to see Americans in and around Ukraine. To have boots on the ground so to speak, in a non-military way but in a diplomatic way, in addition to the substantial military assistance that we've been providing.

KEILAR: So, you've requested -- you've requested to come over here with the U.S. government. Is that right?

CROW: Yes, that is correct.


So what we saw over the weekend was the U.K. prime minister in Kyiv. And to be clear, the situation in Kyiv is an entirely different situation over this past weekend than it was compared to the time that President Biden was in Poland. It was very dangerous when President Biden was in Poland, which isn't to say that it isn't dangerous now -- but it is not nearly as dangerous.

Do you think President Biden needs to make a trip to Ukraine -- needs to make a trip to Kyiv? Is that necessary? Is that essential?

All right. Unfortunately, I think we lost Congressman Crow so we're going to try to get that back up. I don't think we're going to be able to, unfortunately. But as you see -- oh, here he is. He is back with us.

Congressman, sorry. I think we reestablished our connection with you there.

Do you think it's essential that President Biden comes to Ukraine, or is that not essential?

CROW: I think as soon as it's safe. I mean, we have to be very careful about the security risks, making sure that the president and other high-elected officials are safe and secure. We don't want to make this more complicated than it already is. Obviously, the threat of escalation, if there was an incident involving an elected official from the United States. Certainly, it's not an easy assessment to make.


But that said, I think this is a time for us to lean in, as we say, and make sure that we're showing our support as well as delivering what we already have in terms of substantial weapons and equipment.

KEILAR: All right, sir. We appreciate you being with us. Congressman Jason Crow joining us live near the Ukrainian border in Poland. Thank you, sir.

CROW: Thank you.

KEILAR: Ukraine's biggest rock star turned social activist has seen firsthand the devastation done to his country, most recently at the Kramatorsk train station. And why John Lennon's son broke his vow and decided actually, he was going to play his father's peace anthem for the first time.






KEILAR: Ukraine's most famous rock star has been traveling the country, and I'm talking about all over the country, looking at the devastation that has been left behind by Russian forces, and he has a message for the Russian people.



TEXT: Life is not broken for you, life is broken for those who are lying today in Bucha, in Borodyanka, dead with their hands tied. The lives of those who tried to leave the train station in Kramatorsk and were killed today by Russian multiple rocket launcher missiles are broken.


KEILAR: Slava Vakarchuk is with us now to talk about what he has seen.


KEILAR: Slava, it is great to see you in person.

VAKARCHUK: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Thank you.

VAKARCHUK: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: When I look at everywhere you've been -- I mean, you have been all over the country, from outside Kyiv all the way towards the east -- really, towards the front and the east. What have you seen?

VAKARCHUK: I've seen, actually, everything that I think your viewers have seen with your help and other journalists' help. Because it's -- the station, it's a lot of destruction. But most importantly, it's millions of ruined lives. Some of them ruined for good because people have been killed.

Some of them are just in a very desperate situation because people need to leave their cities, their small towns. They go to the west of Ukraine. They go outside. They become refugees. You know, like five or more million people already left their homes in Ukraine, which is a big bulk of the country. It's probably more than -- it's 15% to 20%, so it's -- and it's not over.

And I've seen -- I've seen a lot of bad things. But I will tell you about one good thing that I've seen. It's the mood of people. Because wherever you go, you see people who are optimistic about the end of the war, especially they think Ukraine is going to win the war. They all have a very good respect and actually, hope for what Ukrainian military forces are doing.

And this is a sort of, you know -- everybody's united and that makes me, as well, optimistic. Every time I go to places like Bucha or Borodyanka or other places you've heard, every world -- every man in the world now knows, you first feel wow, it's horrible. It's unbelievable. Your heart is broken. But then you see people -- ordinary people. For example, I've seen one old lady and she was crying. She saw me -- she suddenly recognized me -- and I hugged her. And she started crying that they smashed her house and she has nothing left.

But then, finally, she said thank you for coming and God bless you, my son -- her words to me. And since you're here and since -- because you are here -- because people like you are here, I think we're going to win and everything will be fine. And we will rebuild our houses. But the most important thing is that you and your friends and your brothers and sisters are alive. You know, her words, and hey inspire a lot.

So, certainly, Ukrainians keep fighting.

KEILAR: It's -- the spirit is amazing.

This front in the east is -- it's seen as tougher than holding off Russian forces outside of Kyiv. And yet, we've seen people underestimate Ukrainian forces as well.

What is your expectation for what is going to happen, and what do Ukrainian forces need?

VAKARCHUK: Nobody knows what's going to happen except God. I trust in God and I hope God is on our side because we are fighting for our independence on our land.

And I think that is a very, very big part of our victory and motivation of Ukrainian soldiers. They are so ready to fight like hell until the end -- until a victorious end -- always we say. We are fighting until the end, but then they add victorious end.

And certainly, the Ukrainian army is motivated and on the ground. I think we beat Russians. And you see it -- everybody see it. Everybody was giving two days or three days to Ukraine and now, they are out of Kyiv and not only outskirts but they went away from the whole region.

But there's a different story in the -- in Donbas now in the east because I think Russians are -- first of all, they felt humiliated after everything that happened in the north and they want revenge. And that's why they bring a lot of forces there.


And second, Ukraine has won this advantage and this is their -- our air. And we -- that's why we keep saying and keep repeating to our American friends, to all our allies, to everybody who is caring about Ukraine, we need anti-missile defense systems, we need planes, and we need everything that we can that can match Ukrainian force -- that can match Russians in the air.

KEILAR: We've seen through your actions and the actions of many artists not just in Ukraine but around the world taking some responsibility for raising awareness about what's going on. That includes Julian Lennon performing his dad's song "Imagine." I want to listen to this.


LENNON: Singing "Imagine."


KEILAR: I wonder just what your initial reaction is to that?

VAKARCHUK: First of all, I'm a huge fan of the Beatles. If not for the Beatles, I probably wouldn't have become a musician. And for me, this song maybe, as a John Lennon song, is something very significant.

I have mixed emotions. Certainly, I love that Julian sang this song, as well as other musicians to bring some awareness to what's going on in Ukraine and raise some money. So this is a great deed and I fully support it.

And the other point of view -- I know the lyrics of this song and they say imagine all the people living in the world -- in a world of free, which is great. But the others -- the other verse says imagine there's no countries. So, it's a little Utopian for me. So I would add another verse to this song. Imagine all the countries live in the world of free and peace.

This is mostly the -- the most relevant thing because I believe that the nation has a right to exist. The Ukrainian nation now suffers a very simple -- the reason of this war is very simple. Another nation -- Russian federation -- does not resist the very existence of Ukrainian nation, so they don't allow us to exist as a nation.

And we fight for our independence and our freedom because we are different. Because we are free people and we don't want to have Putin, we don't want to have pyramid of tyranny and everything else. We want to be who we are.

We actually are following the -- frankly, we are following the ideas and the principles of Ukraine along 200-something years ago. Freedom, dignity -- you know, freedom of speech, freedom of entrepreneurship, and all these kinds of thing. So we are trying to build it here and they just don't allow us to do it because they're afraid of somebody of Slovak origin having genes of freedom there.

So, I don't know why but I just think this is the fundamental question. That's why I think that it's great to live in a world of free and in a world of peace, but let us have our own country and we'll be happy there.

KEILAR: Slava, it is great to see you in person.

VAKARCHUK: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

VAKARCHUK: And thank you for all you're having -- you're doing for us and the American people for your support. But still, we need some more practical steps --


VAKARCHUK: -- and I hope you tell that to your government.

KEILAR: We'll continue to tell the stories.

VAKARCHUK: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much.

We do have some more on our breaking news. Russia defaulting on its foreign debt. What a new report this morning is revealing about Russia's economic impact from sanctions.



BERMAN: An election with huge consequences for the entire world. French President Emmanuel Macron with just a small lead in the first round of voting there. He is poised for a runoff with far-right challenger Marine Le Pen who, in the past, has cozied up to Vladimir Putin.

John Avlon with a reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. It's been said that war is just politics by other means. And as Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion of Ukraine continues, his political allies in Europe have been walking a minefield of their own making.

Now, take France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen whose campaign reportedly decided to destroy more than a million preinvasion election pamphlets that featured her meeting with Putin. Yes -- it seems like the slaughter of innocent civilians makes that a bit inconvenient.

But it wasn't always that way. After all, in the last election, Le Pen directly connected herself with the policies of Putin and Trump while calling for a withdrawal from NATO and a dissolution of the EU -- all items high up on Russia's wish list.

But perhaps not coincidentally, back in 2014, her party received more than a $12 million loan from a shady Russian bank, which is still being paid off.

But this time around, Le Pen's anti-immigrant views were gaining traction with other candidates who spouted the great replacement theory -- that anxiety about demographic Armageddon. And she tried to softened her image and even brought herself to condemn the invasion of Ukraine while in the same breath seeming to excuse Putin.

Now, after a weekend of voting and quick timeout for what a civilized idea that is, French voters rendered their verdict, delivering Le Pen into a runoff election rematch with the centrist incumbent President Emmanuel Macron. Embrace of Putin was not a dealbreaker.

And so, the next two weeks are going to be an intense test of whether the center can hold in European politics, especially given Macron's stalwart defense of the EU.

Now, Putin's tool is to sow uncertainty in Europe. That's what the president of the European Parliament told CNN. For years, the Kremlin has used disinformation to exploit people and maximize divisions in society. And the fact is that the far-right and the far-left have been making gains, fueled by a backlash to globalization and its cultural resentments all pumped up by Putin and his troll army, all of which has been reflected in the rise of these artificially-amplified meme politics that aim to increase both anger and apathy.

But now, Europe's populists are starting to distance themselves from Putin. It's also a reminder of just how many self-start nationalists bought into his authoritarian coalition, admiring Putin's strongman postures and culture war crusades, leaving many of them to excuse his assaults on civil liberties are reflecting traditional conservatism. It's anything but.

For example, Hungary's far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban made some disapproving noises about Putin's invasion of Ukraine before his April election. But right after, he reverted to type, denouncing Ukrainian President Zelenskyy as an opponent. The victim cast as the villain.

Expect to see more of this because Putin's murderous army has blown a hole into his apologist arguments and now they're going to hope to deflect and protect and change the subject. But there's really no room for neutrality in the case of Ukraine and Russia. The stakes couldn't be clearer. And that's we're seeing even traditionally neutral countries like Finland and Sweden move toward NATO membership in reaction to Putin's aggression.

So, yes, even if the phrase "French Revolution" is enough to make your eyes glaze over a little bit, this one matters for America and its allies, and the world.