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New Day Sunday

Today: Trump Takes CPAC Stage For First Speech As A Former President. FDA Authorizes Johnson & Johnson Vaccine For Emergency Use; NYT: Gov. Cuomo Accused Of Sexual Harassment By A Second Former Aide; California Governor Newsom Facing Real Chance Of Recall Vote; Senate To Take Up $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Package; Sen. Murkowski To Meet With OMB Nominee Neera Tanden On Monday; At Least Seven Killed In Deadliest Day Since Myanmar Coup. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 28, 2021 - 07:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We'll watch for it.

Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.


And NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just granted emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are one step closer to vaccinating the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I was actually, like, shaking like oh my gosh, I can get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am worried people are lifting restrictions saying this is over when the reality is we're not over yet.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Let me tell you this right now: Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Conservative Political Action Conference is underway.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): The left is telling you to submit or they will cancel you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to know, we are waiting to hear the next step. We're all looking for guidance.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

PAUL: Sun coming up there in Orlando where conservatives and former President Trump are gathering today for CPAC. We'll get to that in just a minute.

But we do want to tell you today that advisors to the CDC are meeting to vote on whether the agency should approve the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This is after the FDA granted it authorization for emergency use.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, that vote is expected to happen this afternoon. Once that is decided, the CDC director would give the final approval.

PAUL: Nearly 4 million doses of that shot could begin rolling out to vaccine centers across the country as early as tomorrow. This will be the third coronavirus shot, remember, allowed to be administered in the U.S. And so far, it's authorized for 18 years and up.

BLACKWELL: It's a single-dose shot. It's not requiring any special storage. Just ordinary refrigeration temperatures. That makes it easier to distribute across the country. The studies show that it offers 86 percent protection against severe symptoms.

PAUL: I want to begin with CNN's Polo Sandoval who is outside a mass vaccination center in New York.

We know the U.S. has fully vaccinated a little more than 7 percent of the population. What is the expectation this shot is really going to help elevate that number?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Putting it simple -- simply here, as experts have said, Christi and Victor, this is a big, big deal. The emergency use authorization that has been issued here for a single-dose vaccine, one that can be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures and has proven to be 100 percent effective in terms of preventing death and hospitalizations where it was tested, that has a potential to change the trajectory of the pandemic.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): As Johnson & Johnson's new single-dose vaccine is officially authorized by the FDA for emergency use, the nation's vaccination numbers are showing significant progress. The CDC reporting just over 75 percent of all distributed vaccine doses have been administered. The weekly average of shots going into arms, some 1.6 million a day.

With an estimated 4 million J&J doses ready to be sent out, the nation's vaccine supply likely to increase availability.

DR. ESTHER CHOO, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We're confidence we're should be able to tell people get the vaccine that you can of any of the three that are out there. They are all performing incredibly well.

SANDOVAL: However, there is more ground to cover now than ever before due in part to emerging virus variants as Dr. Peter Hotez, a Houston pediatrician says earlier goals of vaccinating 60 to 80 percent of the population in order to stop the spread of the virus may not be enough.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE RESEARCHER: We are probably going to have to 80, 90 percent of the population vaccinated. We're going to need all the adults vaccinated and we're going to have to start vaccinating adolescents and kids as well. So, the bar, unfortunately, is probably going to rise.

SANDOVAL: States, which are responsible for establishing vaccine eligibility now offering shots to more of the residents, to healthcare providers in Delaware now have their chance. Pre-K through 12 teachers in Connecticut will get their turn starting tomorrow.

CDC data shows 23 million Americans have already been fully vaccinated. Dr. Jonathan Reiner who spoke to CNN Saturday evening is among them. He is hopeful the CDC will soon roll out guidance for those who are fully immunized in order to protect those who aren't.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We are going to eat in a restaurant tonight. As more and more people become vaccinated and as we learn more about these vaccines and show that the protection is really robust and also protects against transmitting virus, you are going to see the economy open up.

SANDOVAL: As for the race to get more of the country protected, several states are easing off some of their protective measures. Tennessee lifts restrictions on visitors on long-term care facilities starting today. And tomorrow, South Carolina will lift restrictions on mass gatherings.



SANDOVAL (on camera): So the addition of this third vaccine is expected to increase vaccination capacity at multiple states by as much as 25 percent. Now, in terms of the timing, Victor and Christi, we can point to at least one example, and Governor Spencer Cox in Utah saying that he expects his state to receive thousands of these doses once the green light is issued, at least that last green light is issued, and he could potentially see some of those Johnson & Johnson shots going into arms as early as this Thursday.

BLACKWELL: Good news. Good news. Polo Sandoval for us there. Thanks.

Joining me to talk about this, emergency medicine physician, Dr. Richina Bicette. She is at -- the medical director, actually, at Baylor College of Medicine.

Good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So let's talk about the J&J and these concerns over efficacy. Before we get into it, I just want to remind people where we were before we had a single vaccine. Listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci. This is last summer. What he was hoping for six months ago.


FAUCI: We don't know yet what the efficacy might be. I believe we'll get an effective vaccine, but we don't know if it's going to be 50 percent, 60 percent. Hopefully, I'd like to see 75 percent or more.


BLACKWELL: So we've been fortunate to get Moderna and Pfizer at 94, 95 percent. But 72 percent efficacy overall and 100 percent in preventing hospitalizations, Doctor, and deaths, that's very good?

BICETTE: It's great, actually. The FDA set the bar much, much lower, and initially said at the beginning of the vaccine race that a vaccine only had to be 50 percent effective in order to be considered for emergency use authorization. This well surpasses that.

There are so many numbers floating around with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that it's sometimes hard to focus on which numbers are important. What we really need to note is that in the clinical trial, no one that received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was hospitalized and no one that received the vaccine died from COVID-19. That's what's really important and what we really need to look at.

BLACKWELL: Also important is the temperature at which this has to be stored. Tell me practically what a vaccine that could be stored at just ordinary refrigeration means for distribution, to avoid waste or spoiling. What does that mean to you?

BICETTE: So while we were so excited to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it required a huge logistical undertaking because of the subzero temperatures that required for storage. Now, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires regular refrigerated temps.

That's amazing for those who are in rural also and also considering our global efforts to vaccinate the entire world. It's definitely going to be helpful in third world countries that don't have the infrastructure to store the vaccine at these subzero temperatures.

So, definitely, a lot of great, great points about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We have mentioned that it's one shot. That in and of itself is going to help, you know, make here that people are taking their entire dosage because it's only one shot.

BLACKWELL: Daily new cases, deaths, hospitalizations are down from their peaks about a month ago. And now, some governors are looking at lifting some of the restrictions.

You are in Houston. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is looking at or considering lifting the mask mandate, other restrictions as well. Is now the time to consider those? And if not, what do the numbers need to look like to consider lifting some of the mandates?

BICETTE: Now is not the time, and that's actually a pretty frightening idea that the governor in Texas is considering lifting the mask mandate. When you look at Texas numbers, just yesterday we had 11,000 new cases, 12 percent of national hospitalizations are in the state of Texas. And while the national average is about 20 percent of patients who are hospitalized or in the ICU, here in Texas, 30 percent of our patients are in the ICU.

Now is not the time to be rolling back mandates. Furthermore, we only have five percent of the Texas population vaccinated. We are well below where we need to be to achieve herd immunity as a country or as a state. We need to make sure that we are still employing those same mitigation strategies so that our numbers aren't going back to early January.

BLACKWELL: Now, a week ago, when we were speaking to guests from Houston, it was about the storm, it was about a lack of water, and a lack of power.

How have those impacted the ability to continue testing, to continue vaccinations and where are things this weekend? Are you back on track?

BICETTE: I think we are back on track now. We did definitely have a bit of a lull that week because everything essentially stopped. There was no water. There was no power. And people were in survival mode literally just trying to make it through the storm.

After the storm, we did see a rapid influx of patients in emergency departments, but during that time we were unable to give any vaccines and we were unable to do any testing.


We haven't really doubled the pace of vaccinations or, you know, tried to make up for what we missed, but we are back with the pace that we were before the storm.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dr. Richina Bicette, thank you so much for your time and enjoy the week.

BICETTE: Thank you for having me.


PAUL: So, "The New York Times" is reporting a second former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has come forward, accusing him of sexual harassment. What we're learning about that and the governor's response to the allegation.

BLACKWELL: And more than a million people have signed a measure to force a recall election of California Governor Gavin Newsom. Why some voters are angry and why -- who, rather, might be looking at that seat next.

PAUL: And former President Trump is giving his first speech today since leaving the White House. What his CPAC appearance could mean for the future of the Republican Party. That's still ahead.



BLACKWELL: "The New York Times" is reporting a second former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo has now come forward accusing him of sexual harassment.

PAUL: The former aide's name is Charlotte Bennett, and she tells "The Times" the alleged incidents happened late last spring during the height of the state's fight against coronavirus.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is following the story.

Brynn, always good to see you.

So, tell us more about the allegations. And I understand you have a response from the governor now.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. Like you guys said, it's a second former aide to come forward this week in -- just this week in a string of hits that the governor has taken the last few weeks about his behavior in the executive office and also his decision-making during the pandemic. Now, this former aide as you mentioned, Christi, it's Charlotte Bennett.

She spoke to "The New York Times" and she talked about a lot of interactions with the governor saying at one point she thought he was acting as a mentor. But she recalled in particular to "The Times", one incident from last June where the 25-year-old said she ways loan with Governor Cuomo in his office and he asked her a number of perm questions like this. If she had been with an older man and that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s.

Now, Bennett told "The Times" she intercepted those questions as clear overtures to a sexual relationship. "The Times" says Bennett did provide text messages that she sent to friends and family about that exchange to corroborate her account. And Cuomo did release a statement immediately following the publication of that story.

Here's what it said: Ms. Bennett was hard working and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out. When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors I tried to be supportive and helpful.

Ms. Bennett's initial impression was right. I was trying to be a mentor to her. I never made advances towards Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was in inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.

This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press. I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review, and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort. I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgments and I'll have no further comment until that review is concluded.

Now, we did reach out to Bennett for further comment on her allegations but she did not respond. But again, this is the second person this week to accuse the governor of inappropriate behavior.

Former aide Lindsay Boylan, she said in a Medium post earlier this week that Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss on her lips when she worked with him in 2018. The governor also recently denied those allegations and also did months ago when Boylan came forward with her claims. And Boylan told CNN she was letting her post comment for itself and didn't really comment any further to CNN.

All of these bad headlines for the governor and his administration, both which are still facing the political fallout from his nursing home handling of death data during the pandemic, and we know he continues to face criticism from both sides of the aisle here in New York, calls for impeachment, particularly from state Republicans, and we also know that there is an open investigation by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office and FBI into the data issue. We are not sure the probe's infect focus, is it the governor, people in his administration, and we also know that that's preliminary.

But as far as that review, their investigation that Cuomo has called for, Christi, essentially, we are hearing from Congressman Jerry Nadler, other people saying, you know, the attorney general should hire someone independently to investigate this. This isn't the governor's call when it comes to this specific issue.

So, a lot of turmoil there, Christi.

PAUL: No doubt. Brynn Gingras, glad to have you here. Thank you.


BLACKWELL: CNN has learned that former acting director of national intelligence, Ric Grenell, may be considering a run for California governor, as efforts to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom move forward.

PAUL: Now, California's lieutenant governor says any Republican hopes to take the governor's office -- well, that's a fantasy.


LT. GOV. ELENI KOUNALAKIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe that he does not deserve to be recalled. But I am also very hopeful that Californians will recognize that this is a Republican driven effort built on a fantasy that they can slip a Republican governor into the bluest state in the country.


PAUL: Here's CNN's Kyung Lah with more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fuel for these mailers, for the volunteers trying to recall California's governor -- frustration.

STACY EDWARDS, VOLUNTEER, RECALL GAVIN NEWSOM 2020: I reached my final straw when I lost my job for the third time in November.

LAH: Stacy Edwards works in restaurants, an industry devastated in the pandemic. The object of her ire? Governor Gavin Newsom, who has mandated statewide restrictions on businesses to stop the spread of COVID.

What do you want to tell the governor about the kind of pain that you're in?


EDWARDS: Oh, gosh. Yeah. That's an interesting question. Yeah. It's been very hard. You're going to make me emotional. But we're talking about starting a family and buying a house, and those are all things that are having to wait because of this.

LAH: On the other side of the table --


LAH: Andrea Hedstrom. She says she's a life-long Democrat who so admired Newsom that she named her son Gavin.

Do you blame the governor for the condition that the state is in?

HEDSTROM: I do at this point. Newsom is the one that's running California right now with an iron fist.

LAH: These Californians seething after a year of shut downs have found a political outlet.

ORRIN HEATLIE, LEAD PROPONENT, RECALL GAVIN NEWSOM 2020: These look like three valid signatures on this one.

LAH: The recall petition.

This is just in one day.

HEATLIE: This is only part of one day.

LAH: Petitions sorted by county, then delivered to be officially counted.

Orrin Heatlie launched the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, the sixth recall attempt. The other five failed to qualify for the ballot, against the Democratic governor who won by a landslide in 2018.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your five-star spot for a smorgasbord of information.

LAH: Public records show this recall is dominated by conservative donors. Money that pays for this radio program broadcast from the heart of liberal Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Friday night at the French laundry.

LAH: That's a dig at Governor Newsom's blunder, caught dining maskless at this exclusive restaurant while telling his residents to stay home.

He since apologized but it is dinged his popularity.

But with California's COVID case numbers dropping, Newsom is pushing to reopen schools, easing restrictions on outdoor dining and opening the first joint state federal mass vaccination sites in the country.

And in a sign of Newsom's political strength -- Napa Valley restaurant owners like Cynthia Ariosta who says she lost half a million dollars in wage production and sued Newsom for the shutdown is not willing to sign on to the recall.

CYNTHIA ARIOSTA, NAPA VALLEY RESTAURANTA OWNER: What would take his place anyway? I would like to see this as a real wakeup call that I've got some things to fix.

LAH: The recall leader says his group hasn't backed a replacement. First up, getting enough signatures.

HEATLIE: We don't know who's going to take the seat. We feel very strongly that somebody more competent is going to take that position.


PAUL: Thank you, Kyung Lah, for that there.

So the next stop for the COVID relief bill, it's the Senate. We are going to take a look at what's likely to be kept in, what may be dropped by lawmakers. That's next.



BLACKWELL: The Senate will take up President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill this week now that it's passed the House.

PAUL: And the measure includes $1,400 stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, direct payments to state and local governments and more.

But the Senate is expected to strip out a provision, raising the minimum wage.

CNN's Daniella Diaz with us now.

Daniella, good to have you here. The clock we know is ticking for this Senate bill, and that's going to

be a prime provision of contention, I suppose. Daniella, what do you say?


Look, the House voted on this massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package yesterday. They passed it. No Republicans supported this legislation. I just want to note that.

And, look, I want to talk a little bit about what's going to be in the package. It's going to be $1,400 stimulus checks. It's this direct funding for state and local governments, it's also more funding for vaccine distribution.

But there is one thing that will be noticeably missing in the House version of this -- or this, excuse me, the smith Senate version of this legislation passed in the House and that is this $15 minimum wage increase.

This is a win for moderate Democrats, namely Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who didn't want to support this legislation with this provision in the legislation, and Chuck Schumer, who needed every single Democratic senator to sign on to support this legislation for it to pass in the Senate.

That is because they are trying to pass this using budget reconciliation, which means they need all 50 Democratic senators to support this with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote. So what happens now? Well, all eyes are on the Senate.

We are not exactly sure what the ked is going to look like the next couple of weeks as they manage this legislation, but what we do know is that there is this March 14th deadline looming over Congress. They want to pass this before March 14th when millions of Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits.

White House has been clear and is putting pressure on the Senate do this and that is why the clock is ticking and the Senate will take this up in the next couple of weeks -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Daniella Diaz, thank you.

PAUL: CNN's Jasmine Wright is with us from the White House right now.

So, Jasmine, talk to us about what the president is looking to do to push this over the line.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the president really adapted a negotiator in chief role during this process and it's safe to assume that he will continue in that role as the focus now turns to the Senate.

We heard from Mr. Biden yesterday in the Roosevelt room where he said that they were one step closer to passing this coronavirus relief bill, which means to him that they are one step closer to putting checks directly into the pockets of Americans to vaccinating more Americans as we know that there is money inside this bill for mass vaccinations, to doing the things that he believes is necessary to curtail this pandemic. What he has said is his number one priority while in office.


Now, the rest of President Biden's week outside of any movement on this coronavirus bill is going to be really forward thinking. We know that he and Vice President Harris are going to keynote that House Democrats retreat this week where they will lay out their major legislative priorities, and those are going to be things that they have already teed up like infrastructure and like immigration.

On Monday, we're going to see quite a bit of action. First, any more information on this Saudi issue, President Biden said that announcement would be forthcoming on Monday after his administration released that really damning intelligence report on journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Also on Monday, we will possibly know the fate of his Office Management and Budget nominee Neera Tanden as she meets with centrist Senator Lisa Murkowski looking for a lifeline on her rocky nomination.

Now, of course, we don't know how Senator Murkowski is going to vote, what she is going to decide to do. That is something we will be on the lookout for -- Christi.

PAUL: All right. Jasmine Wright, we appreciate it. Thank you.

Laura Barron-Lopez, White House correspondent from "Politico" with us now.

Laura, it's always good to see you as well. Thanks for being here.

So, let's talk about Neera Tanden first of all. She is having this meeting, as Jasmine said, with Senator Murkowski, who -- maybe the swing vote. We'll have to see how that happens.

But does the White House have a plan B here? Have you heard of other names that might be out there if it doesn't work with Tanden?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, we have heard of Shalanda Young, who used to work in Congress on the House side, on budget issues, and so she is potentially one of the frontrunners. She has a lot of support from black lawmakers in the House, as well as some Republicans in the Senate. Senator Shelby also threw his weight behind her, before all of the complications of Tanden arose.

And so -- but every time a name like Young's is brought up to the White House in press briefings the past week, the Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said the White House is behind Tanden, the only name for the White House right now is still Neera Tanden and they are going to continue to fight for her. And that's why you haven't seen them pull her nomination and they are

still, despite this delay that has gone over this weekend into next week, they are hoping that they can get more support for her, particularly with Lisa Murkowski.

PAUL: Also hoping for support for the minimum wage, which will be taken out of the Senate option of the stimulus bill. Of course, we already know that.

But Representative Pramila Jayapal, who's also the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said this about it. She said, we are going to have to figure out a way to get it through. If that means reforming the filibuster, then we should reform the filibuster.

What do you know about options that progressive Democrats are ruminating over to try -- to try to make this happen? Is a stand-alone bill in their sights?

BARRON-LOPEZ: A stand-alone bill is certainly something that House leadership has said that they want to pass whether or not a clean 15 minimum wage hike makes it through the COVID bill. But a lot of Democrats are -- have no illusions about the act of that to pass the Senate because there aren't 60 votes for a clean $15 wage hike.

So there is actually a bit of a split among progressives because progressives in the House have gone so far to say they want the administration to overrule the parliamentarian. The administration has outright just said, no, we are not going to do that, that they respect the rules of the Senate.

The next thing is that progressives in the house are also calling for abolishing the filibuster. There are a lot of progressives and Democrats in the Senate that also want to see that. But again, the administration has not said that they want it take that route.

So the option coming out right now is that Senator Bernie Sanders along with Ron Wyden and a majority leader Chuck Schumer are working on an amendment that they are hoping they can get into the COVID reconciliation bill, and what that would do is penalize bigger corporations who don't, like Walmart, like McDonald's, who don't pay their workers $15 an hour, and then it would provide some kind of tax credit incentives to smaller businesses.

So that's the workaround, and kind of contours that we know now, an amendment that they are trying to include in this current reconciliation.

PAUL: Before I let you go, I want to talk to you about what we learned this week about the Khashoggi killing, that it was approved by Mohammed bin Salman. Remember, Khashoggi was a U.S. citizen. He lived in Virginia. He was columnist for "The Washington Post."

The Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said this: Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable.

[07:35:00] The White House says President Biden is addressing this again tomorrow.

Listen to Fred Hiatt, he's editorial page director for "The Washington Post," what he said about this and why it's important.


FRED HIATT, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: And it matters not just because this was a terrible crime and there should be justice. But because dictators like MBS and like Xi Jinping in China, like Putin increasingly are reaching across their borders to do this kind of crime. They are going outside their own countries to harass, to kidnap and to assassinate people they perceive as enemies.


PAUL: Accountability is the big question here. We know that former President Trump didn't really address this at all. Do you see any actionable difference between what former President Trump is doing and what President Biden is doing to try to put some accountability on the table here?

BARRON-LOPEZ: You know, President Trump decided not to release the intel report that all of us just saw, and that the Biden administration did decide to release, and so that is a change from one administration to the next.

Also, the Treasury Department is putting sanctions on Saudi operatives, those who were alleged to have been involved in the murder. But as you said, the big difference, one of the big things that a lot of Democratic lawmakers, human rights activists aren't happy with in terms of the Biden administration is that they haven't said that they are going to penalize the crown prince directly.

And so that's what they still want to see. We have heard it from senators like Ron Wyden, Bob Menendez and Democrats across the house, they think that the administration needs to go that step further and provide -- and put direct sanctions on the crown prince.

PAUL: We'll see what President Biden says tomorrow.

Laura Barron-Lopez, it's always good to have you with us. Thank you, ma'am.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you.

PAUL: We'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: Police are cracking down on pro-democracy protests in Myanmar. Today has been the deadliest day since the military coup nearly a month ago. PAUL: Yeah, CNN's Will Ripley is with us from Hong Kong.

Will, good to see you again. We've learned several more people, though, were wounded here. What can you tell us about what's happening?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, it has been a devastating day for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. The country's Catholic cardinal tweeted overnight the country is like a battlefield.

And the images that are coming in as well as the number of dead ticking up over the past few hours continues to reaffirm that claim that in fact it is chaos in several cities and towns across Myanmar as protests come out in defiance against that coup on February 1st when the landslide victory was overturned by a military whose proxy party has a handful of votes. They declared a state of emergency and now the people have been fighting back, even though they are fearful not just for their lives, but for being pulled out of their beds in the middle of the night being arrested.

The number of killed since the start of the protest at least ten, and also one police officer, but seven deaths have happened today. The leader of the civilian government, Aung Suu Kyi is due in court virtually tomorrow. Tomorrow could be another flash point for this movement, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Will Ripley for us there in Hong Kong, thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Will.

In just a few hours, we're going to get our first real peek at the future of the Republican Party and former President Trump's role in it. His speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee or Conference, CPAC as it's called, happens this afternoon and it's going to be his first since leaving office.

BLACKWELL: Now, even after the GOP lost the House and the Senate and the White House on his watch, the politicians and party activists in attendance there have so far lined up behind the former president leading up to his headlining speech.

CNN political commentator and former congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent, is with us.

Congressman, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So, I understand that you and other like-minded Republicans want the party to break away from former President Trump, but the new poll from "USA Today" and Suffolk University found that the Republicans are more loyal to Trump than they are to the party by a 20-point margin. Also, if Trump were to start his own party, he would take 46 percent of Republican voters with him. Only 27 percent in this poll committed to staying with the party. What do you want the leaders of the party to do with that other than

stick with where the base of the party is?

DENT: Well, Victor, I think the party really needs to break from Trump. But there is that movement growing. There are a lot of Republicans out there who are very disaffected. They want a new direction.

Granted, this is a minority of the current party, but it is an impactful number of people. And we saw what happened in the 2020 election after all. I mean, where many Republicans and swing voting independents, they voted for Joe Biden and then voted straight Republican down ballot.

How else does one explain why down ballot Republicans did so well and Donald Trump was defeated? It was clearly a rejection of the president. So, I can't understand for the life of me why these folks at CPAC think that doubling down on defeat is the path forward. They are lacking backwards, not forwards, and they are hop honoring a man responsible for an insurrection that was responsible for five deaths.


PAUL: So, Congressman, you said that the support for Trump is always about fear. First of all, explain that. And, secondly, can you identify a moment perhaps where you saw that shift happen?

DENT: Well, sure. I served in the House when Donald Trump was president, and I saw what would happen. Many members were very concerned about being tweeted at. And they were just fearful that Donald Trump would incite their bases against them.

My argument at the time was, and still is, if more speak up, if more push back, he can't fight with everybody. He just can't.

And I got into fights with the president in the White House during the health care debates where he told me to my face I was going to destroy the Republican Party because I told him the problems with the health care bill at the time, which I voted against, and he didn't take it well.

But the point is, you have to stand up to him. Don't roll over. Look at what Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, I mean, they are saying all the right things and they are not afraid.

And it's liberating. So I encourage more of them to speak up. They'll sleep better at night.

PAUL: But it is -- it is trickling down from the federal level to state and local. I mean, Sasse is being censored is potentially being censured in Nebraska. So, how do you explain those -- how expansive this seems to be, and the fact that the president doesn't have Twitter anymore, former president.

DENT: Well, tell you what. Christi, what you are saying about the state and local Republican parties is really very true. Right here in Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, they had a meeting to censure Senator Pat Toomey for voting to convict Donald Trump.

By the way, we don't have an outcome. They had problems tabulating the votes. I am not saying it was voter fraud, but they can't even give us an outcome.

But many state and local committees have become so Trumpified that they are not representative of what's going on. And the county where I live, Lehigh County, the party just yesterday brought in Congressman Lauren Boebert to be their speaker at the Lincoln Day breakfast. This was a county that Joe Biden won by a comfortable margin. Why would you bring in somebody like that, who's such a polarizing figure?

The point is many folks at the county committee level, and the state committee level are really just pandering to the fringe and I think the Trump people have done a good job of implanting their people in these organizations.

BLACKWELL: Well, not just the organizations in the parties, but the legislation as it relates to voter restrictions and access to the ballot in state legislations across the country. We are seeing parts 4, 5, and 6 and 7 of the election series today at CPAC.

Let me ask you about this. They had their annual Ronald Reagan dinner last night. Former President Reagan spoke at CPAC 13 times. The party launched Reagan, not as much as they used to, but I want you to listen to former President Reagan, this is 40 years ago, at CPAC.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This reformation, this renaissance will not be achieved or will it be served by those who engage in political clap trap or false promises. It will not be achieved by those who set people against people, class against class or institution against institution.


BLACKWELL: Now, yes, he was a partisan. He was not always as sunny here. This was right after his inauguration in '81. But listening to that, and what we are expecting we will hear from President Trump, is this fundamentally a different party?

DENT: Oh, absolutely, victor. It's a different party indeed. Ronald Reagan was talking in an aspirational way about the future and I think trying to appeal to the better sides of all of us and what we have now, at CPAC -- I mean, it's become a, you know, it's become a gathering for much of the tinfoil hat brigades and black helicopter crowd. We now call them QAnon.

But they always had a fair number of people showing up. A guy like me who represented a swing district, I never showed up to CPAC, you know. I mean, I don't want to write ads, campaign ads for my opponents just by showing up. What's happened is that whole -- it's become a Trump fest where people are there to honor a man who has been defeated twice, impeached twice, and, you know, sicced a violent mob on the Capitol that resulted in insurrection and death. So, I mean, this is -- we have come a long way. This, sadly, that

event is for people to just pander to really base elements, fringe elements of the base, actually.

BLACKWELL: All right. As we head the top of the show, supporters saying they are waiting their guidance. They will hear it from President Trump, former President Trump later today.

Former Congressman Charlie Dent, thanks so much.

PAUL: Congressman, thank you.

DENT: Thanks a lot.

BLACKWELL: New episode of CNN'S original series "LINCOLN: DIVIDED WE STAND" airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. Here's a look ahead.



ERIC FONER, PHD, AUTHOR: In the 1860 census slaves as property were worth $3.8 billion. That's more than $100 billion today. More than all the banks, railroads and factories put together.

MICHAEL BURLINGAME, PHD, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: And let's remember, people in the North benefit from the cotton that is grown in the South. New York City was the banking center and an awful lot of banks lent money to Southern plantation owners. Shippers based in New York and New England shipped goods to the South and cotton to the rest of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And even though the North benefitted from slavery, it was never the cornerstone of their economy. It was always the cornerstone of the southern economy.


BLACKWELL: "LINCOLN: DIVIDED WE STAND" airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.



PAUL: So listen to this, an Iowa Girl Scout troop shattered its cookie sales goal for 2021, they sold 5,000 boxes in spite of one major obstacle, they are all homeless.

All of the girls, I'm going to give them kudos here, troop 64224 of Council Bluffs live in Mika's House, an emergency homeless shelter. They originally wanted 1,000 boxes sold, but people from the community and social media helped them out and they obviously surpassed that goal. Congratulations to them, and we'll look forward to seeing what they do.

And thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" with Abby Phillip is up next.