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New Day Saturday

Biden "Convinced" Putin Will Invade Ukraine, Target Kyiv; NATO Chief: Russia Trying To Control "Fate Of Free Nations"; McCarthy, Stefanik Back Primary Challenger To Rep. Liz Cheney; More States To End Masking As Many Ready To Move On; Health Officials Say Ending Indoor Mask Mandates "Risky" As New Variant Emerges; Asian-American Woman Stabbed More Than 40 Times In New York; Killing Of 35-Year-Old New York Woman Raises Fears Inside Asian-American Community. Aired 8- 9a ET

Aired February 19, 2022 - 08:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you and welcome to your "New Day." I'm Amara Walker, in for Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning Amara. I'm Boris Sanchez.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are near a boiling point. Now, the United States has given Vladimir Putin an ultimatum over a possible invasion, choose diplomacy or face swift and severe consequences.

WALKER: Plus, a simmering feud and a rare endorsement. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy throws his support behind Congresswoman Liz Cheney's challenger. Could his support backfire?

SANCHEZ: And trying to turn a page away from COVID for list of states easing restrictions is getting longer. But not everyone agrees it's time to drop mask mandates.

WALKER: Plus, Americans might be getting hit with risky rising prices and sky-high inflation, but that's not stopping them from reaching into their wallets. Why many aren't just spending they're splurging?

SANCHEZ: Buenos Dias, good morning and welcome to your "New Day." We're thrilled to have you this Saturday, February 19th. Appreciate you waking up with us.

WALKER: Yes, thanks for being with us, everyone. Good morning.

Russia is now uncoiling. And poised to strike. That is how defense secretary Lloyd Austin described the dire situation between Russia and Ukraine. Just a short time ago, Secretary Austin echoing President Joe Biden's comment that he is convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made up his mind to attack Ukraine. Biden says the attack is expected in the coming days. But he says the door is still open for diplomacy.

SANCHEZ: We heard Vice President Kamala Harris addressing the crisis in Ukraine. During a speech at the Munich Security Conference just a short time ago, she warned of severe consequences of Russia does invade Ukraine. And she said the U.S. and its NATO allies stand united.

Here's more of her speech.


KAMALA HARRIS (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Today, the United States, our allies and our partners are closer together. Today, we are clear in our purpose. And today we are even more confident in our vision. Our strength must not be underestimated, because after all, it lies in our unity. And as we have always shown, it takes a lot more strength to build something up than it takes to tear something down.


SANCHEZ: Here's where things stand right now. The United States says that Russia is spreading disinformation as a pretext to launching an invasion so-called false flag operations. Officials point to increase tension in the Donbas region, an area that's controlled by Russian backed separatists. Fighting there between the separatists and Ukrainian forces has intensified with some of the worst shelling in years.

We want to get an update now on the situation in Ukraine on the ground with CNN Alex Marquardt. He joins us live. Alex, what is playing out in that region right now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning Boris. Amara. We are really reaching a crescendo to borrow word from the Pentagon. We are seeing new highs and spikes in a number of different areas. The Russian build up first of all on three different fronts. Overnight new satellite imagery showing that more helicopters, troops tanks, just on the other side of the border from eastern Ukraine. We are seeing the violence increase, the violations of the ceasefire along that line of contact not too far from here, reaching highs that we have not seen in almost four years. In the first half of today, there were almost 40 ceasefire violations. A Ukrainian service member was killed when they were hit by shrapnel.

And then we are seeing this disinformation campaign by Russia and its supporters really ratchet up into a higher gear. The two leaders of these two breakaway enclaves here in eastern Ukraine, calling on their citizens to evacuate and head to Russia because of what they say is an imminent Ukrainian offensive against their territory calling on their male citizens to take up arms. Of course, there is no sense that there's anything planned on the Ukrainian side. Ukraine has this has denied that.

[08:05:19] And we also saw in these videos by those two Russian backed separatists leaders, calling for these evacuations that were posted on Friday, we've now analyzed those videos and seeing that they were actually created on Wednesday. So that just gives you a sense of the choreography of the pre planning of just this element of the disinformation campaign, just one part of it, that has really been growing from the Russian side over the course of the past few weeks.

And then we've also heard the U.S. and others warn of false flag operations. Just yesterday, the leader of Donetsk saying that there was an explosion of a vehicle inside their territory near their government building. The State Department immediately labeling that a false flag operation. We have long thought that, that a Russian invasion might be preceded by some kind of pretext, excuse some kind of situation that would give President Putin a reason to come into Ukraine to say, defend ethnic Russians or Russian speaker.

So all of these different elements, Amara and Boris really contributing to what has become a very combustible situation. We are watching very carefully what happens here in the East because that is what could very quickly lead to Russian military action.

Boris, Amara.

WALKER: Yes, things are changing so quickly. We're watching this carefully with you. Alex Marquardt, thank you.

Let's go now to CNN International diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson in Moscow. And Nic, what really struck me moments ago was these words from the defense secretary of the United States, Lloyd Austin, who was just in Lithuania, Lithuania, a NATO member state and the stark warning was there uncoiling and poised to strike. We know the playbook by the Russians is denial and downplaying. What's the view from there this morning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it's been a continued denial that Russia is about to invade. And at the same time, we're seeing this significant military buildup around Ukraine that gets to the Secretary of Defense's point about Russia's military uncoiling we've had the most powerful demonstration of all the military training exercises, executed just in the past few hours, Vladimir Putin and the command and control room at the Kremlin with the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko at his side, testing their strategic defenses, firing off Kinzhal Mach 10 hypersonic weapon caliber cruise missile, another hypersonic weapon Mach 6 Zircon was fired some of those from ships and from submarines. There was a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile fired from the north of Russia all the way to Russia's far east. There was a cruise missile launched from a military aircraft there was another missile launcher silver missile launched from one of Russia's nuclear submarines.

Now, no one is believing or thinking that any of these weapon systems would be used in the context of Ukraine. But this is the biggest flex of Russia's military muscle that is put on global display, perhaps the pinnacle of its training exercises, perhaps just signaling that there's going to be a longer continuation. But what we've heard from the NATO Secretary General today his concerns about that buildup, and also his concerns about what he calls Russia's new normal, the fact that it is willing to threaten to get what it wants. This is how he framed it.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: They have demanded that we should leave our enshrined a commitment to open door. And they have demanded that we should remove all NATO troops and forces from almost half of the member states. And then -- and then they have said that if we don't meet those demands, they have repeatedly said they will be what they call military technical consequences.

So the danger is now the combination of this massive military buildup with the very threatening rhetoric putting forward a monster, no, we cannot meet and say if we don't meet them, they will be military consequences.


ROBERSTON: And the message coming from that Munich Security Summit, of course, that there is unity among NATO Allies, unity among European nations, unity across the Transatlantic Alliance, an important message. So they of course, all hope that President Putin will listen to, understanding what that means for Russia's economic development if he does decide against what the Kremlin is saying at the moment if he does decide to go into Ukraine.


WALKER: It's remarkable how one man Vladimir Putin has gotten the world to stop, watch, and just nervously wait for his next move. Nic Robertson, appreciate you. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Let's bring in Anastasia Edel, she joins us now to share her personal experience. She's the author of Russia, Putin's Playground, Empire Revolution And The New Tsar.

Anastasia, we're really grateful that you're joining us this morning. I do want to give you a heads up we're awaiting a meeting between Vice President Kamala Harris and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, so we may have to cut away to that at any moment.

But I want to share with our viewers you grew up in Southern Russia, you have family in Ukraine. I'm wondering how you and they feel about this. How's your family doing?

ANASTASIA EDEL, RUSSIAN-BORN WRITER: You know, I think what is happening right now, we've been watching it for quite some time. And this is really a tragedy. I want to say that Russia and Ukraine are two separate nations. They're sovereign nations with legally defined borders. But there's really no nation that is closer to Russia than Ukraine, we have centuries of shared past. We have common demographic. I mean, look at my family alone between my husband and I, we probably have a dozen of Ukrainian relatives. And it goes back to from 19th century onwards, I have relatives right now, in Kyiv, I have relatives in Odessa. And literally, the two nations are so close, our blood flows in each other's veins.

So, the idea of war between the two of them strikes me as absurd. And really, it's not just a tragedy. It's you know, it's really fratricide.

SANCHEZ: And help our viewers --


SANCHEZ: -- help our viewers understand the context of what we're seeing, you've obviously written about Vladimir Putin. Why is it that what is happening in Ukraine right now should alarm the world?

EDEL: Well, of course, what's happening in Ukraine is not a local tragedy. This is something that has a very strong global ramifications if, if this, you know, the worst scenario happens, and Russia does invade Ukraine, this will embolden authoritarians all over the world to do the same thing. So, we here in America can't really wait this one out. It is extremely important right now and what you know, President Biden is doing is correct, because he is responding strongly and call us and the allies to respond to what is such essentially is a, you know, geopolitical bullying and nuclear bullying by the Russian government.

So, we have to pay very close attention. It's a precarious moment in history. And I'm hoping we can continue the diplomatic and get engagement because really, you know, the alternative is war. And as somebody who grew up in Russia, on, you know, we had all these sayings about how anything is better than war that, you know, the Russians do not want war, there are songs with that title. So the sort of Russian tanks potentially being in Kyiv really still shocks me.

SANCHEZ: I want to get your perspective Anastasia on the false flag operations that President Biden and other Western allies have accused Russia, Vladimir Putin of trying to conduct. How effective are these operations in trying to sway the Russian people in justifying war with Ukraine?

EDEL: You know, I think that there are Russian people and there are Russian people. It's a big country with, you know, millions of people, so there are definitely there is a contingency that watches the Russian TV and the propaganda that's been punted them 24 by seven for now, several years ever since anti-Ukrainian propaganda ever since Russia annexed Crimea. And that group, that segment is really buying into what they're being fed.

But I also believe that there is a large group of Russians that feel just like me that they are horrified to see that a nation that has been always built as the closest nation to them linguistically, culturally, ethnically, is now being portrayed not only portrayed as an enemy but is actually the war becomes real. But that group of that that part of Russia is just afraid to speak about it because of the general repressive climate in the country. I mean, look what's happening there on the domestic front.

[08:15:36] So, I think that, you know, Russian people are a diverse body. And you know, I'm here in America, so I have an opportunity to speak, but not a lot of people out there can voice what's on their mind. But like I mentioned before, we were all brought up back in Soviet Union with the idea that anything is better than war that Russians are a peace-loving nation that, you know, we only protect our borders. But this looks increasingly this is an expansionist war if it comes to war. So what happened?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Anastasia Edel, we appreciate you sharing your story with us and lending your voice to a righteous cause peace. Thank you so much.

EDEL: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

WALKER: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy couldn't help himself, he had to weigh in on the Wyoming primary race endorsing Liz Cheney's opponents. Will it help or hurt her reelection campaign?



WALKER: The primary race to defeat Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney is heating up.

SANCHEZ: This week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorse Cheney's challenger. CNN's Evan McKend joins us now. Eva, leadership rarely endorses a candidate. And -- but this is the divisive GOP primary fight that many were kind of expecting.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right Boris, what we're seeing unfold right now on Capitol Hill is really the battle over the future of the Republican Party ever since Liz Cheney last year, voted to impeach former President Donald Trump called for robust investigation of the insurrection and really said that Trump should no longer be representative of the Republican Party. She herself has become a pariah in the party.

Now, McCarthy endorsing her primary opponent, Harriet Hageman, really cements this divorce. And what is remarkable is what a difference a year makes. You know, just last year, Cheney was number three in the party as conference chair, one of the most powerful Republican women to walk these halls and now not only booted from that powerful post eventually replaced with New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, but now party leadership looking to boost her altogether from Congress.

WALKER: And Eva, I mean, could this backfire on McCarthy? What if Liz Cheney is able to hold on to her seat?

MCKEND: You know, that's a really key question. And it's clear that McCarthy has made the calculation that this -- he thinks that this is politically prudent. Yes, she could very well get reelected. But he is thinking if Republicans take back the house in 2022. He is going to need those Trump allies in Congress in order to elect him speaker. So this is a gamble that he is willing to take. I will say this though, this is significant. Cheney can't count her out. She is still a remarkable fundraiser. She has raised more than $2 million compared to her primary opponent, Hageman, who has raised at just over $400,000 last quarter. So this will be certainly a race to watch.

SANCHEZ: And she may run as an outsider, ironically, the daughter of a vice president running as an outsider in the current GOP.

Eva McKend from Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

WALKER: All right. Well, Vice President Kamala Harris is meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky right now.

SANCHEZ: Yes, let's get to CNN's Natasha Bertrand in Munich. Natasha, at the start of that meeting, Vice President Harris reiterated that the United States would punish Russia with sanctions if it invaded Ukraine. What did you see and that bilateral meeting?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Boris, as she reiterated that there'll be severe consequences. She was speaking to Zelensky in a very formal way, reflecting the severity of the situation. Obviously, the situation was very tense. But the conversation seemed to flow pretty well. She opened with her remarks, saying that the U.S. stands with Ukraine and its territorial sovereignty. And she said obviously, that the U.S. and the West would prefer a diplomatic solution to this conflict, but they're prepared to impose severe consequences if it does not pan out that way.

Volodymyr Zelensky also giving his opening remarks and saying that he is grateful for the U.S. support in the face of this Russian aggression, but also saying something kind of interesting, saying that he appreciates the United States understanding that sanctions which have not been imposed by the United States on Russia just yet, that sanctions could help bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict suggesting there that if the U.S. were to impose sanctions now on Russia preemptively, which Ukraine has been calling for, for weeks and months now, then that could help to bring about an end to the tensions.

We obviously weren't able to see the Vice President's response to there. But clearly, that is going to be a main topic of conversation between the Ukrainian and the American delegations there. What the Ukrainians have been asking for more weapons from the Americans and from the West and they've also been asking for financial support as well as again asking U.S. to impose those preemptive sanctions thinking that that could actually serve as a deterrent against Russia, if they are, in fact strong enough.


Kamala Harris laid out this morning in detail what those financial penalties might look like, export controls, severe financial penalties on Russia's major banks, on people who are complicit in that potential invasion. But many people saying including the Ukrainians that those sanctions might be ineffective, but they come after an invasion. So clearly, there's going to be some points of contention here, in the meeting there are disagreements about the best approach the best way forward. President Zelensky has, in the past expressed disagreement with U.S. assessment that a Russian invasion is imminent. But as tensions on the eastern side of Ukraine start flaring up a lot, and they have been over the last few days, it seems as though the Ukrainians are now prepared for every possible scenario, including one that President Biden laid out yesterday, which is that Russia could actually target he Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

SANCHEZ: Natasha Bertrand, keeping track of the latest from the Munich Security Conference. Thank you so much.

So the National Archives says it's discussed with the Justice Department declassified records that were found in boxes at Mar-a-Lago after former President Trump left office.

WALKER: It was the latest development and what was a very bad week for the former president.

CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The National Archives says it's still combing through these 15 boxes of materials that it received from former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago residents last month. Now, among the items that the former president took with him when he moved to Florida are items that are marked classified national security information. The Archive said it has shared this discovery with the Justice Department, but it's not clear if they have made a referral.

Now the Archives says it hopes to be done with this inventory process next week. But in this letter, the Archives says it has had concerns about Trump destroying documents for years. In their letter to the House Oversight Committee Friday, the Archives says that it reached out to the Trump White House in 2018 and spoke with a deputy counsel about this habit that they had read about in the media that the former president had of tearing up documents. Deputy Counsel said it would be addressed, but the Archives said based on what they received, it was clearly not. And the former President continued to destroy documents that he had an obligation to preserve under the Presidential Records Act.

The Archives said that members of Trumps team have been tasked with trying to find other records that may not have been turned over. These are pieces of history that are currently not in the Archives where they should be under law.

And more bad legal news for the former president, a judge on Friday ruling that plaintiffs in three civil suits can move forward and try to seek information from the former President about his role in the attack on the Capitol. Now, the suits accused former President Trump of conspiring with people like Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, Jr. and even extremist groups like the OathKeepers and the Proud Boys to undermine confidence in the 2020 election, of course, culminated in the violence at the Capitol. This is an effort to hold him accountable.

And Trump's lawyers have previously tried to argue that he's immune from suits like this. They argue that when he spoke at the rally that preceded the Capitol, that he was acting in his official capacity and should be protected. But the judge in this case rejected that argument. And that is no small thing to say that a former president could potentially be liable here.

Now the biggest consequence, the immediate consequence for the former president and the civil suits is that he may have to provide documents and even a deposition in these lawsuits. And that, of course, comes just a day after a judge ruled that he will have to sit for a deposition along with two of his children for the New York Attorney General's civil investigation into his business practices. A difficult legal week for the former president.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


WALKER: Paula, thank you. Did you know that only four states still have indoor mask mandates? As COVID cases continue to drop across the U.S. is the time to ask, have we turned the corner in this pandemic? That's next.



SANCHEZ: As of now, only four states, Puerto Rico and D.C. still require wearing a mask indoors as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to fall nationwide.

WALKER: But as more states go from red to green, health officials say relaxing coronavirus restrictions so quickly it could be a risky move as many people still haven't received their booster shots yet. CNN's Camila Bernal has the latest.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Living with the virus turning the page endemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm tired of it. I'm tired. I think I'm COVID tired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fatigue is real.

BERNAL (voice-over): No matter what you call it, many wanting to move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just kind of it was exhausting and very tiring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's over. Let's move on. BERNAL (voice-over): This week, more than Democrat run states moving to end mask mandates. New Mexico announcing an immediate end to its indoor mask mandate. Washington State too but starting March 21st.


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): We will no longer have a state mandate for wearing masks in indoor spaces. We think that's a very important step in the next part of our journey to normalcy.

BERNAL (voice-over): North Carolina's governor encouraging local governments and schools to end mass mandates.

GOV. ROY COOPER (R-NC): Now we take a positive step on mask requirements to help us move safely toward a more normal day to day life.

BERNAL (voice-over): And California's Governor Gavin Newsom, focusing on the next phase of living with the virus.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We have all come to understand what was not understood at the beginning of this crisis, that there is no end date, that there is not a moment where we declare victory.

BERNAL (voice-over): Newsom's plan includes the ability and resources to continue testing and vaccinating, and the expansion of school-based vaccine sites. Local governments can impose their own mandates, but the state's mask mandate for indoor businesses expired this week. Opinions and emotions on this still high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you feel more comfortable, you should wear your -- wear the mask. And if you don't want it, you don't wear it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people going to sick, a lot of people died. We could have done a lot of things better. But at this point, I feel like we should still kind of be trying our best.

BERNAL (voice-over): Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that getting rid of masks is risky. And there's another concern, the Omicron sub variant BA.2. One preprint lab study showing it may spread faster and may cause more severe disease.

DR. F. PERRY WILSON, ASSOC. PROFESSOR, YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The good news is, though, we're not seeing much BA.2 in the United States at all.

BERNAL (voice-over): Instead, COVID hospitalizations have dropped to near pre-Omicron levels, a welcome sign for the future.

WILSON: If we're going to live with this thing, let's live with it as safely as we possibly can.

BERNAL (voice-over): Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALKER: Many Asian Americans across the country are on edge after yet another Asian American woman murdered in a savage attack in New York. What can be done to stop the rise in anti-Asian attacks? We'll discuss next.



WALKER: New York Mayor Eric Adams is rolling out a new plan to tackle homelessness on the city's subway system. The plan involves sending teams of police and homeless services and mental health workers to reach out to the homeless people on the subway. Now this plan was announced after the high-profile death of a woman of Asian descent, 35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee. The suspected killer was arraigned this week for her vicious murder after he allegedly followed her into her apartment stabbing her to death.

The suspect was out on supervised release on three open cases, including one where he allegedly punched a stranger on the subway. Investigators have not said if race was a factor in this case. But this is the latest in a string of attacks against Asian Americans leaving the community on edge.

And joining me now is New York City Council member Julie Won. Julie, thank you so much for joining me this morning. It's obviously a very tough topic for both of us as Asian American women. And I want to start with this because I know a lot of people and publications have been so fixated on whether or not that this was a hate crime and it's not being investigated as a hate crime right now. That misses the point because the fact remains, Asian Americans are under siege.

It's been this way for a long time. But it's been amplified, right, since the pandemic began. Can you just talk to me about the fear especially you as an Asian American woman in New York City are feeling?

JULIE WON, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I can't even imagine what -- it's unfathomable at this point. The fact that as a 30 something year old woman seeing case after case of Michelle Go was, in her 40s, I was pushed off the train track to other hate crimes that have happened or attacks as well as the latest one, Christina Yuna Lee. I can't even walk on the subway platform without feeling scared and I consciously have to look over my shoulder to wonder, are the footsteps that are behind me way too close to me?

Or when I walk into my apartment, as I opened my keys, I can't seem to turn around to check is anyone following me? And there is no way to be living for any citizen of the United States?

WALKER: No, absolutely not. That's not freedom, right? And I share the same, you know, fears as you do. And, again, you know, it's Asian American women who are uniquely vulnerable to this. And you know, it goes back to a lot of factors but one of them being stereotypes and how we have been painted as, you know, meek and docile and also hyper sexualized which, you know, a lot of experts say has made us Asian American women, you know, easy targets for a lot of people.

Let's talk about Christina Yuna Lee, this 35-year-old Korean American. You know, because she is human. She has a family. She is a daughter. She worked at this leading music production platform called Splice. What do we know about her as a member of the community?


WON: We know that she was very beloved. As soon as the murder became public, there were so many heartbreaking stories about her personal story. And that's -- but it's really disappointing that it took more than 24 hours for us to see her face in the news. It was more than 24 hours before we knew her name, that we knew that she was a creative producer, that she was Korean American not just Asian American.

And as a fellow Korean American, it cuts me even deeper, and that there were so many personal stories that humanized who she was. But instead in the media, what we saw for the first 12 to 24 hours was only the perpetrators name and the perpetrators face and his own story. And we have to, like you said, humanize who these victims are, especially because we've seen a two-thirds of the cases that are targeting Asian Americans have been towards women, especially because they're seen as vulnerable or defenseless. And we know that we cannot erase the gender or the race.

And when you continue to allow yourself to or the media or the public to continue to dehumanize the victim, that's when we will continue to see violent cases because no man or a woman can stab you 40 times mercilessly if they thought of you as their equal.

WALKER: Absolutely.

WON: But if they have seen you as a threat or commodity or just something that was hyper sexualized the media, then they will have no issue treating you like you're any less than of a human being.

WALKER: Yes, when you see yourself reflected in these victims, right, it just cuts deeper, and it really brings it home. And what really moved me was reading some of these social media posts about Christina Yuna Lee, how she was really moved by the Atlanta spa massacre and even created, I believe, it was a support group with her for -- former Asian American colleagues. And then for her to go this way is just heartbreaking and also ironic.

Lastly, let me just ask you this because I was reading that she lives next to the subway, but deliberately chose to take an Uber because she thought it was safer when she came home that night?

WON: Yes. She lives right off with Chrystie Street. So, on her very block within a few steps, she lives on the subway, right next to the subway, but conscientiously because it's been less than a month since Michelle Go was pushed on the subway, she just like, I don't feel safe being on the subway. I know that she made a conscious decision to ride a cab and think that it will be safer. And that still was not enough.

WALKER: The takeaway before we go is Asian Americans in this country, especially Asian American women, we don't feel safe right now. How do we combat this?

WON: One, making sure that we center Asian American women's voices the way that you are right now to hear directly from women and Asian American descent hear their stories here or what they're going through, and make sure that you center them as well as making sure that we are investing in social services and human services.

Right now, in New York City, we're only going to see an influx of homelessness because the eviction moratorium for the state has ended. And due to COVID, we know that there is going to be repercussions or consequences or the aftereffects of COVID and the financial crisis.

So with that in hand, I know that the mayor and government is currently working to combat homelessness, but there's so much more to that from mental illness as well as homelessness and the social services overall --


WON: -- especially for communities remembering we need mental health resources as well as Asian Americans --

WALKER: That's right.

WON: -- who are struggling, traumatized from the last year.

WALKER: Absolutely traumatized. Homelessness is an issue mental health. We're facing a crisis and of course hate is also an epidemic right now. Julie Won, thank you so much for your time.

WON: Thank you.

WALKER: We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: Inflation may be on the rise but that didn't stop U.S. consumers from spending big last month. CNN's Alison Kosik has more.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Amara and Boris, we're not just spending, we're splurging. As we emerge from the pandemic, companies are reporting there's a lot of pent-up demand to get out and spend. In fact, Marriott reported it's seeing a strong preference for its luxury properties. The hotel chain says customers are saying they want to spend big with a desire for the full complement of services and amenities.

And its earnings call this week. Wynn Resorts' Chief Executive Craig Billings also notes that premium customers who've been cooped up for 2020 and the first part of 2021 are traveling and spending again with a vengeance. Americans are also going out to eat more. Pepsi says its business at restaurants is ramping up and Coca-Cola says restaurant sales in its most recent quarter surpassed 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic started. People are also heading back to amusement parks. Disney Parks had a stellar fourth quarter, revenue hit $7.2 billion. That's more than double a year ago. This is a big comeback for Disney's parks, which suffered the most in 2020 and parts of 2021 because of the pandemic.

Customers are also hitting the seas. Royal Caribbean says bookings are on the rise. Bookings in the last three months of 2021 were higher than the previous three months. And despite an Omicron dip at the end of the year, the cruise line says it's started to see an increase each week since then. Well, Caribbean says bookings should get back to normal by the second half of this year, even as it charges customers more to sale.

But will it last? There's evidence Americans could ease up on spending in the coming months. The University of Michigan's February consumer sentiment index hit its lowest level in a decade. That's as inflation runs red hot, sending prices higher and that could deter big spending. Amara and Boris?

SANCHEZ: Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

So Amara and I are going to step aside for an hour. Let's Smerconish take the reins and then we'll be back after that.


WALKER: A quick reminder tune in to CNN's new original series on the life and Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Here is a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LBJ was intensely aware that he came into the office under the cloak of tragedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It drove him to try to do things no one else had ever achieved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said to his aides, what the hell's the presidency for? If you're not going to do something bold, why be here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Lyndon Johnson would be seen today is one of our greatest presidents because of all that he did. But he made one bad mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vietnam really pulled him apart. He couldn't make a win out of this, no matter how hard he tried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LBJ said, I wish they knew that I want peace as much as they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is important to reflect and look back and see what has been done. Because there's no better way to judge the future than by the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "LBJ: Triumph and Tragedy" premieres tomorrow night at 9:00 on CNN. (END VIDEO CLIP)