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The Situation Room

Source: Investigators Trying To Determine Suspect's Connection To Grocery Store Location; Interview With State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D- CO); Source: FBI Examining Suspect's Online Activity, Interviewing Friends & Relatives; First Images As W.H. Allows Media Access To Border Facility; Interview With Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO); New Video Shows Bear Spray Assault On Capitol Police Officer Who Died After Riot; Study Shows Significantly Lower Infection Rates Among Partially Vaccinated & Fully Vaccinated People; Israeli Election Too Close To Call. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 24, 2021 - 17:00   ET



MEGAN RAPINOE, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: -- boys and your girls and your little trans kids, we have that. You want us to be respectful. You want us to perform on the world stage. And simply, there's no reason why we're underpaid for the exception of gender.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Pamela Brown in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And you were looking at live pictures from Boulder, Colorado, where our sources now telling CNN that investigators are trying to determine the suspect's connection to the grocery store where 10 people were shot and killed. The store is 30 minutes from his home.

And we're also told the FBI is examining his online activity and interviewing friends and relatives and the search for a motive. Meanwhile, there is new video published by the "New York Times" showing Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, being attacked with bear spray during the January 6 insurrection. Sicknick later died. Although the cause of death has not been released.

And we are following Vice President Harris who has been assigned by President Biden to lead diplomatic efforts to stem the surge of migrants at the southern border. The crisis has put 1000s of unaccompanied minors in U.S. government hands.

And we began in Boulder, Colorado. CNN's Lucy Kafanov is there for us. So, Lucy, we're learning new details of the investigation tonight. What can you tell us?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are Pam. And I met the side of this road because at any minute now we're expecting the start of a funeral procession in honor of that fallen Boulder Police Department officer. But FBI officials are telling CNN or sources at least are telling CNN that the FBI is looking at everything, from the suspect's online activity to interview with friends and relatives to try to get a better understanding of his motivation.

A senior law enforcement official also says that federal investigators are aware of friends who say he had grievances about his perception of how Muslims were treated, but they caution it is a complicated picture.


LOGAN SMITH, STORE EMPLOYEE, SURVIVED COLORADO SHOOTING: My heart has been racing every time I try and lay down. It just keeps me up at night

KAFANOV (voice-over): Tonight, as survivors of Monday's mass shooting struggled to come to grips with the violence, new details are emerging about possible directions of the investigation. A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation tells CNN that officials are examining possible mental health questions.

Investigators believed the attack was planned given the timing of Ahmad Alissa's is March 16 purchase of the Ruger AR-556 pistol. The official added they are also taking note that there were no wounded survivors, which is uncommon in mass shootings.

PHIL WEISER, COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defense has to basically say that someone didn't understand the impact of what they were doing. And in this case, given the number of different killings, it does appear that someone was acting deliberately.

KAFANOV: Alissa was living with his brother at this Arvada home, some 20 miles from the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder. A senior law enforcement source tells CNN that a surge of the suspects home turn up other weapons.

His only known previous charge was for a third degree assault, which Alissa pleaded guilty to that took place in 2017. According to a police report, he got up in a classroom, walked over to the victim and cold cocked him in the head. He then got on top of the victim and punched him in the head several more times. Alissa told police the victim had made fun of him and called him racial names weeks earlier.

The crime scene now a makeshift memorial. This morning, several survivors of the shooting return to pay their respects.

SMITH: It's been hard

KAFANOV: Logan Smith, a barista who was working at King Soopers that Monday afternoon escaped with his life. His three best friends lost theirs, including 20-year-old Denny Stong.

SMITH: I kind of accepted that something was up, but to have the words come out of his father's mouth that he was dead, I broke down crying.

KAFANOV: His other best friend, 25 year old Rikki Olds mourned by her family today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a hole, there's a hole in our family that won't be filled. I mean, we try to fill it with memories. You know, it's tough. It's tough.

KAFANOV: In Colorado grief and anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are sad, but we are outraged. You know we are -- we are crying, but we're angry.


KAFANOV: Denver Nuggets coach, Mike Malone tearing up during his tribute to the victims.

MALONE: I think about Eric Talley and his seven kids, that's what I think about. I'm just heartbroken for them and everybody else.


KAFANOV: And the community is gathering along this road to show their support for fallen Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley as his body is transported from the coroner's office to the funeral home. We understand his coffin is covered with a flag inside a hearse. One of nine people, 10 people total who were so tragically gunned down in Monday's massacre. Pam.


BROWN: He's truly a hero. CNN's Lucy Kafanov, thank you.

And joining us now, Colorado State Representative Tom Sullivan. Thank you for coming on.

This is so personal for you. You lost your son Alex, and the Aurora Movie Theater shooting and 2012. What went through your mind when you first heard about this Boulder attack?

STATE REP. TOM SULLIVAN (D-CO): Well, I was actually watching basketball games and that -- and it did -- it took a little while and I was heading home and the news started coming in. And I was glued to the T.V. to the reports that were coming in to see what was going to happen.

And I do that each time something like this happens because I know that when it was happening to us that people were watching and listening, you know, to find, out you know, who Alex was who his friends were. And that (INAUDIBLE).

BROWN: In a way, does it almost re traumatize you having to see something like this happen again, in the community and Colorado?

SULLIVAN: Well, I'm not sure the traumatize. I mean, we're, I mean, and I'm not numb to it either. But I, you know, I have accepted, you know, what happened. But I know what is going on. I knew what that night was going to play out like for the victims and the survivors. I knew what it was like to wake up the next morning, you know, knowing

that your son or daughter had been murdered the day before? And you know, I know what the preparations are for that, you know, in the days, you know, from now.

BROWN: The mayor of Boulder says that an assault weapons ban probably would have helped prevent a shooting like this one. Do you agree with that? Is that the link between these lethal mass shootings?

SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, you know, I mean, the assault weapons are what put the mass in the shootings. I mean, if they didn't have the ability to get off as many rounds as they could as quickly as they could, I mean, that's what -- that's what those weapons are built and manufactured for is to kill humans, as many as they can as quickly as they can. And they're very effective at it.

I'm not sure that, you know, there's so many of them that were out there, that are still out there. I'm not sure that, you know, a ban would have stopped that individual from getting one and bringing them in there.

You know, our hope is, you know, in this case, I'm hearing some of the reports. What would have helped is if parents had been able to speak out about, you know, maybe some, you know, emotional problems that their sons were having, the friends and neighbors could have spoke out against that. Because, you know, we have an extreme risk protection order bill here that passed in the state of Colorado where they could go to law enforcement and tell them about their concerns, and law enforcement then could have gone to, you know, check on that person that would have had to go in front of a judge.

And if they had any firearms, they could have been temporarily removed from him. I mean, that's the kind of things that could work. And that's the kind of things that we've enacted here in the state of Colorado.

BROWN: Last month, you were speaking about your son Alex and gun control. And one of your Republican colleagues told you that, "you have to let it go." And let a comments like that, how hard is it to find common ground with Republicans on this issue?

SULLIVAN: It's difficult. It certainly is difficult, you know, to find common ground. I mean, that's not the first time, you know, I've heard that. You know, we hear that not often, but you know, we've heard it before. My wife and daughter have also, you know, heard that.

We're going to hear it again, because people don't understand. They try to, you know, connect their life experiences with ours. Death and grief are very individual things. How I choose to grieve for my son is different than from what anybody else's. And even people who were in the same situation as me, who were in gateway High School waiting to hear, you know, the confirmation of whether our sons and daughters were alive are not treated differently.

That doesn't mean that either of us are wrong. It just means that we're handling it differently. Yes, we have differences between the two parties and we're certainly working to try to bridge that divide. That's why we're coming up with a loss lost and stolen firearms that 87 percent of Coloradans are in favor, 81 percent of Republicans are in favor of.


We have already, you know, and the public has already come together on this. It's just to get the actual elected officials to join in with us. They need to begin listening to the people in their community, because the the people in our community wants us to do this of legislation.

BROWN: All right, Colorado State Representative Tom Sullivan, thank you so much for joining us.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

BROWN: And let's get more on all of this. CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, the former Washington D.C. Police chief and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner, and former Aurora Colorado Police Chief Daniel Oates. Thank you both for coming on.

Chief Ramsey, let's start with you. I want to start with what the Boulder police department is facing right now. Dealing with the loss of one of their own while also now investigating arguably the most high profile case in the country, or at least one of them, how does the department manage those factors?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's a very difficult situation to be in, there's no question about that. You certainly want to pay all honors to the fallen officer at the same time you have a job to do in terms of dealing with the mass shooting that took place. As far as the officer goes, there is protocol in place by departments that have full honors funeral where -- which is what you're seeing take place.

If there are a procession that's about to begin, that's all part of that. And it's the pay honor to that officer, and that officer's family for the service and for the sacrifice. But it's also a way of -- for the department to grieve because those officers are grieving as well. And going through that process is a way in which they can start to begin to heal, in addition to the family.

So, it does serve a purpose. It's something that unfortunately, I've had to be a part of on many, many occasions. But it is something that is, I think, is appropriate.

BROWN: You just have to think about those investigators grieving the loss of their colleague having to go through this, under so much attention and spotlight.

Chief Daniel Oates, we are now more than 48 hours into this investigation, walk us through what detectives are looking for, what evidence they're coming through, as they build this case. You know, from our reporting, they're trying to figure out this -- the gunman's connection to this grocery store right now. DANIEL OATES, FORMER POLICE CHIEF, AURORA, COLORADO: Yes. And they're trying to figure out a lot more about the gunman. You know, the first 48 hours after an event like this can be a bit chaotic, but by now, they're well on their way as investigators. And their goal is to find out absolutely everything they can about this defendant, all his contacts, anything he's done in writing, in social media, in diaries, they may have recovered during search warrants, conversations with persons in his life, all of that will become really, really important down the road for the prosecution.

Almost certainly there's overwhelming physical and circumstantial evidence against him, and his best defense will probably be as in the Aurora Theater shooting, that he was not responsible for his actions, some sort of insanity defense. And the way that's going to be defeated is to put evidence in front of the jury about pre planning, determination about he understood the consequences of his actions and knew right from wrong, all of those things will become critical to the jury.

So for now, the role of the investigators is to suck up every bit of information they can and provide it to the prosecutors. And I'm sure the entire investigative force of Boulder PD is fanning out to do that. And they're being assisted by their federal partners, the FBI probably, probably some work being done by ATF and support as well.

BROWN: Right now, Chief Ramsey, what we know about the investigation, what has been revealed, is there anything to you that does support that this was premeditated?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, he lived, I believe you said, 30 minutes from the store. There's no doubt he's been there before. When they comb through all of the evidence that they're collecting now, digital evidence from computers, from cell phones, interviewing witnesses, relatives, and so forth, they'll start to piece together a lot of different things about him as an individual.

Again, you know, this isn't something that he just woke up one day and decided he was going to do. I mean he purchased the firearm maybe a week before. You know, what was the purpose of that? I mean, obviously you can start to put the pieces together to show some level of premeditation on his part.


And as Dan mentioned, it goes a long way toward defeating that whole notion that he was unaware of his actions, and therefore not responsible for the crime that he committed. So, they're really going to put together a very strong case, because in most active shooter cases, they either commit suicide or they're killed by police. You have an actual suspect who's still alive. So, they're going to be very meticulous in putting together the evidence they need for a solid prosecution.

BROWN: OK, Chief Ramsey, Chief Oates, thank you so much.

RAMSEY: Thank you. BROWN: And up next on this Wednesday, Vice President Harris takes on a high profile job, as President Biden assigns her to a key role in the migrant crisis on the southern border.

Plus, the chili new video showing the chemical attack on a Capitol Police officer who died after the January 6 riot.


BROWN: Tonight, we have new video from one of the facilities coping with the influx of young migrants along the U.S. Mexican border. And it comes as President Biden is under increasing pressure to take action on the border situation.


CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is at the White House, and our Rosa Flores is in Donna, Texas.

So Rosa, what are you learning?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You know, Pamela, it's important to note that this video is pool video. In essence, the White House selected a network, allowed that network to go into this facility.

We have requested, CNN has repeated requests to enter this facility as well. And our requests were denied. So, this video was released to all of the media outlets. We've obtained this video from this media outlet. And now we're able to report on this.

According to the report that was on that pool, this reporter was not allowed to speak to any of the children there at that facility. Now that is a facility that is in essence run by Health and Human Services. That is one step beyond the bottleneck that we're seeing here on the border where I am.

These are the facilities. The facility that you see behind me are the facilities that we have been repeatedly requesting access to, because we know that this is where the problems are based on information that we've obtained from attorneys that represent the children that are in facilities that you see behind me.

Now, here's what the Biden administration has not allowed us to see. We have video of this only because we obtained access through the Texas Department of Public Safety. These are state troopers that, in essence, that what they described as they fill in the gaps for border patrol, whenever Border Patrol is processing individuals. And we were able to shoot video from our moving vehicle.

Now, we can't get any closer to the bridge that we're showing you right now, because we don't have access because Border Patrol has not given us access. But from those images, you're able to see lines and lines of migrants under a bridge. That is the processing facility where immigration processing is starting in the United States of America. Now, beyond that bridge, we were also able to see how migrants are crossing the border. And there are posted signs with arrows leading them to that open air makeshift immigration processing center.

Pamela, those are the areas where the Biden administration has not given us access. Again, we were only able to obtain those images, because we were on a ride along with the state of Texas, with Texas troopers. But we couldn't get closer. We couldn't ask questions to these individuals to learn how long they have been under this bridge. Are they provided water, are they provided food? Any of the conditions under that bridge.

Again, the access provided by the by the Biden administration today, Pamela, was a pool access to a facility run by HHS, which is different, it is different than the processing facilities that you see behind me. This is step one here along the border. This is where the bottleneck is. And this is where the Biden administration still has not given us access. Pamela.

BROWN: And that is where the conditions have been described as jail like.

All right, thank you so much, Rosa Flores.

Let's bring in Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, what is the White House saying about all of this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, the White House is saying that because of the pandemic, because of COVID and privacy restrictions, they are limiting some access there. They're promising more in the days ahead.

But we are getting our first look of one of these facilities, which is really aspirational. It is, you know, sanitized, if you will, but that is the place where this administration is intending to take children after they are at the intake facility where Rosa was at right there.

So, as we look through this videos, it's coming in right now. And you know, we're seeing some children and a dining hall and some other spots there where they have been a taken after coming in this processing center. So, all this is coming as the Biden administration is scrambling to really deal with what is a surge of migrants at the southern border coming up from Central America.

And the President made a pretty big step today in appointing Vice President Kamala Harris to take the lead on overseeing all of these efforts at the border, particularly the diplomatic efforts with leaders of the Central American countries. Of course, that is where this is coming from. So, the Vice President said that, you know, she's going to look into the root causes of this. And she said that, you know, following the U.S. law is important, but looking at root causes also important.

So this, of course, is very reminiscent and similar to what Vice President Biden vended during the Obama administration when he was sent down to these Central American countries, the northern triangle, if you will, to work on solutions. But again, Pamela, this is a cyclical issue here, but the Biden ministration is trying to get its hands on. So, now the Vice President is tasked with being the point person to the administration. Pamela.

BROWN: All right, CNN's Jeff Zeleny from the White House.


And with us now in THE SITUATION ROOM is Colorado Democratic Representative Jason Crow. Thank you for coming on the show. I first want to get your reaction to this new video of a facility for migrant children we were just seeing. The White House is only allowing access to this site run by HHS, not any Border Patrol facilities facing the issue of severe overcrowding. How can the White House think this limited access is sufficient to give people a full picture of the situation?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Hi, Pamela, thanks for having me on. First off, I mean, you know, I think we all want to make sure that we're addressing this issue at the border. The current administration, President Biden inherited a terrible mess from the past administration that not only was not dealing with this, have always throwing money in the wrong places, and was actually punitive to these migrants in tearing kids away from their parents.

Obviously, a much different orientation with this administration that is working very hard to try to get their arms around it, to dedicate resources to the issue by having Vice President Harris go down and address this with a level of bigger.

So, that's what needs to happen. I'm going to be keeping a close eye on it, as well.

And with respect to the access issues, I mean, we have to make sure that we aren't creating a bigger problem with COVID. Of course, if there's a COVID outbreak at these facilities, and it becomes a much more dire situation. So, I know they're balancing the public health concerns and the COVID concerns with the valid concerns around access, because it is important that we have access and transparency as well.

BROWN: Right. But they have let lawmakers into those facilities as we know, and they let a pool for a -- pool reporter or reporters, I should say, into the HSS facilities today. But do you think, and it is true, you know, you can make the argument about the Trump administration and so forth, as we have heard from the Biden administration, but do you think in hindsight, the Biden administration should have been better prepared with the capacity issue?

They should have made sure that when they undid some of the Trump policies that they had enough capacity for what would be a rise in unaccompanied children in particular?

CROW: Well, with respect to lawmaker access, that's actually a federal law. And I know that because that's a bill that I asked as a matter of fact. BROWN: It is.

CROW: They got enacted of my Public Oversight of Detention Centers Act that actually makes it a federal legal requirement that members of Congress and their staff have immediate access to CBP, ICE and HHS facilities. And I actually enacted that law, because I have a private detention center and ICE facility in my district, and they wouldn't let me in for a month after three attempts.

So, I enacted a law and change that. So, that's a very different legal situation with respect to lawmaker access, that's actually required under the law. But this is a challenge. There's no doubt about it. We are about two months into this administration, they are working hard to get their arms around it.

We have to make sure that we're addressing both the push factors in the pull factors. And the push factors is why Vice President Harris is going to make sure that we're working with the Central American countries, the northern triangle countries and Mexico, to make it very clear that they have to address this at the first instance there to make sure that these migrants never make a very dangerous journey in the first instance.

BROWN: I would turn to gun control efforts in the aftermath of this mass shooting in your state of Colorado. Senator Chris Murphy says, after seeing an action from Congress a year after year, he has come to the conclusion that, "Congress has become complicit in these crimes." Do you agree, is Congress complicit?

CROW: Well, I agree that the Senate needs to act. The House has acted repeatedly. We actually just a couple of weeks ago passed bills that would go a very long way to saving 1000s of lives in America. We did that last Congress.

We have led on this time and time again. This time for the Senate back. So, we have President Biden who said he will sign these common sense laws. You have over 98 percent of America that says they want this stuff. And you have the House that has delivered it to the Senate.

And listen, I represent a district that has been disproportionately impacted from this. You had just a few minutes ago, Tom Sullivan, my dear friend and a state legislator in the district that I represent, who lost his son in the Aurora shooting, we had Aurora happen in my community, Columbine, the Stem School shooting, and now Boulder just to the north of us. We know this tragedy. Our hearts are breaking. We're grieving right now.

And then every time this happens, our community gets re traumatized. That's why enough is enough. We need to do what America knows we need to do and get this done.

BROWN: So, you mentioned you want the Senate to pass these two House bills. But the bottom line is that Democrats aren't even on the same page when it comes to gun control. Specifically, Senator Joe Manchin. Is it worth compromising making changes to the house bills to get him on board and get something done?

CROW: Well, you know, we have to do what America wants us to do, right? And what we know we needed -- this is not rocket science here. We're not asking for anything very unusual.


This is stuff that is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. These are actually bipartisan bills, by the way. H.R.8 Universal Background Checks Bill. We've done this stuff in Colorado. It has proven it to over 2,000 people in the state of Colorado who lawfully shouldn't have a firearm, who are a danger to themselves and others from obtaining firearms.

We know this stuff works. And I think we need to keep the pressure on. And some of this has to do with the filibuster, of course. I think it's long past time that we end the filibuster so we can start doing these important things for the country.

BROWN: All right, Representative Jason Crow, thank you very much.

CROW: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: And coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, new video of the Capitol siege shows the brutal chemical attack on a Capitol Police officer who later died. Plus, new signs that vaccines are slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.



BROWN: Well, there is disturbing new video out tonight showing Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick being attacked with bear spray during the January 6th insurrection. Sicknick later died although the cause of death has not been released. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the story for us. So Jessica, this video is disturbing and hard to watch.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is Pamela, but it's new video that gives us a new look at those moments before and after Officer Brian Sicknick and two other officers were hit with a searing chemical spray that official say left all three temporarily blinded. Now we don't know yet what ultimately killed Officer Sicknick but this is new video and it sheds new light on one of the men who allegedly assaulted him.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, we are getting our first glimpse of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick in the hours before he died on the frontlines guarding the west side of the Capitol January 6th. In new video from the New York Times the moments before and after Sicknick was hit with a chemical spray play out.

You can see one of the two men accused of assaulting Officer Sicknick and two other officers Julian Khater standing nearby in the crowd. In another angle, you can see the proximity of Khater and Officer Sicknick, then Khater seen raising with the times identifies as a spray can and shoots the chemicals in Officer Sicknick's direction. You can see Officer Sicknick suddenly turn away after being struck by the spray and start to move away from the crowd.

Prosecutors previously released these pictures of the officers huddled together and hunched over. They say three were hit and all were temporarily blinded. Officer Sicknick later collapsed in an office and died at the hospital the next day. The medical examiner has not yet released the cause of his death. And the role the chemical spray played is still in question.

But Michael Sherwin, the former Acting U.S. Attorney in D.C., who led the riot investigation for the past two months said it is possible that Khater and George Tanios, though only charged with assault now, could eventually be charged with murder.

MICHAEL SHERWIN, FORMER ACTING D.C. U.S. ATTORNEY: If evidence directly relates that chemical to his death, yes, we have causation. We have a link, yes, in that scenario, correct. That's a murder case.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Meanwhile, the possible coordination between far-right groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in advance of January 6th, is being exposed by federal prosecutors. A new court filing lays out the Facebook messages from alleged Oath Keeper leader Kelly Meggs saying he orchestrated a plan with the Proud Boys. It's the first time prosecutors have publicly linked the allegedly violent efforts of the two right-wing extremist groups and documented their alleged preplanning.

In one message, Meggs allegedly writes at the Proud Boys, "I've been communicating with the leader. We are going to march with them for a while then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the Proud Boys get in front of them. We will come in behind Antifa and beat the hell out of them".

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This is very powerful evidence that indicates conversations, contact and not just that but agreement between the two groups on things like tactics and positioning.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In a Facebook message from December 22nd, two weeks before the insurrection, prosecutors say Meggs' plan for 50 to 100 Oath Keeper members to travel to Washington and then wrote, "Plus we have made contact with P.B. and they always have a big group, force multiplier". Three days later on Christmas, Meggs allegedly laid out the gear members should bring. "D.C. is no guns. So mace and gas masks, some batons. If you have armor, that's good".


SCHNEIDER: So while prosecutors are laying out this evidence of coordination between the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, they're still not alleging a full-fledged conspiracy here. Instead, several members of each group, they are facing their own conspiracy charges, but that's for the actions that they allegedly took within their own groups. Pamela?

BROWN: It's interesting. CNN Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

So let's get more in all of this. We have former FBI Assistant Director Joshua Skule, a Senior Vice President in Allied Universal and former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Elizabeth Neumann and advisor to Defending Democracy Together.

Great to have you both on. You just listened to Jessica's report, saw this disturbing video. Let's begin with your reaction, Joshua, to this new video showing the bear spray assault on Officer Sicknick, how significant is this piece of evidence in the case against these two men?

JOSHUA SKULE, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: So I think the evidence is significant. I think you also have to look to see whether or not those men are tied to the actual attack on the officer. The pepper spray clearly disabled them. You can see that in the video.


Having been sprayed with pepper spray myself, it is disabling, it disorients and there's a reason for it. And so I will be anxious to see what the -- how the prosecutor links that pepper spray to the actual physical assault that ultimately killed the officer.

BROWN: Right. And we're still waiting to find out the cause of death. But Elizabeth, do you think this makes potential murder charges more likely?

ELIZABETH NEUMANN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I certainly hope so. I think justice needs to be done and he was killed by insurrectionists. It very much looks like they might be the cause. As Joshua mentioned, we do have to wait for the results of the medical examiner and the prosecutors to build that case.

But we really need to see justice done. It sends a chilling effect, it forces people to think twice before they join a riotous group under, you know, what they thought was a protest that clearly, you know, spilled over into violence but violence that some premeditated. And in those that premeditated, they need to be held accountable at a more serious level than those that just kind of follow it along.

BROWN: Yes, we're seeing -- we're starting to see this picture, this both, right? Some people there were just following along, others it was premeditated. We now have this new evidence presented by prosecutors who allege that Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers coordinated with one another while planning the January 6th Capitol attack. Joshua, does this level of coordination make these groups more dangerous than they would be if they were acting individually?

SKULE: I think it does make them more dangerous. I think that we anticipated with the video we had seen right after the attack on the Capitol that there had been some premeditation to this. Folks do not show up with flex cuffs and a tactical vest for a peaceful protest. We anticipated that we'd start to see communications on social media

and it looks like the prosecution and the men and women that are working this from the FBI, the state and locals Capitol Police are linking this together. And I would anticipate that there are going to be more conspiratorial charges coming for those that preplanned this.

BROWN: So what do you think, Elizabeth? Do you worry that this is a sign that domestic extremists will work together more closely in the future?

NEUMANN: I'm hoping that these indictments and more evidence coming out will have a chilling effect. But sadly, January 6 was an emboldening moment for many of these violent extremist groups. For those that haven't been indicted and locked up, waiting their trials, they're still actively encouraging one another online.

They're engaging with one another, they're trying to recruit people that aren't part of an organized militia or organized extremist group into those organized groups. We still have a long road ahead of us to try to untangle what was that spark that was lit on January 6th.

BROWN: All right, Joshua and Elizabeth, thank you for joining us and offering your perspectives.

NEUMANN: Thanks for having me.

SKULE: Thank you.

BROWN: And coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, AstraZeneca addresses concerns about old data and its coronavirus vaccine trial. Plus, details of a new study showing the impact of vaccines on the spread of COVID in the U.S. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Well drugmaker AstraZeneca is promising new data on its coronavirus vaccine trials after U.S. officials raised concern it was outdated. And tonight, the World Health Organization is saying the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any rare reactions at the reports of a small number of people developing blood clots.

Let's get more on the pandemic with CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, great to see you. Let's start with some good news, shall we? The WHO -- actually we're going to start with AstraZeneca here, and then we'll get to the good news.

So the WHO might have confidence in this vaccine, as we just heard, but it's also clear that AstraZeneca has had trouble communicating with regulators and explaining their clinical trial results to the public. What does the company needs to do to regain trust do you think?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: AstraZeneca needs to recognize that they need to commit to total transparency, because there is so much public scrutiny on vaccines. They really need to be honest and totally transparent about what happened. Why do they report different data supposedly, then federal officials said that they should be reporting.

And so we need to see exactly what happened, we need to see the full data. And then we will look to the FDA because the FDA is the regulatory authority that just -- if they don't just take the company's word, they're going to be poring over all the analyses and doing their own analysis. And we should be assured that the FDA will do their job to protect the American people.

BROWN: All right. So let's talk about that good news. This new study, Dr. Fauci says it's from the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Texas and it shows that the vaccine works in the real world, not just in a clinical trial setting. Take a look, the results show an infection rate of 2.61 percent among unvaccinated employees, 1.82 percent among the partially vaccinated, and just 0.05 percent among the fully vaccinated. So put this in perspective for us, how encouraging are those results?

WEN: This is fantastic news. Yesterday in the New England Journal, they published three studies. This is one of those three that showed basically the real world evidence that vaccination is so effective at protecting the individual and also in reducing transmission, which is key.

And so in this particular study in Texas, they found that fully vaccinated people have a 50 fold less likely chance of contracting COVID-19 than people who are not vaccinated. And they also found that vaccinating the healthcare workforce reduced the need for quarantine by 90 percent, which also has a lot of implications on employers, on who can come back to work.


BROWN: So that -- there's another incentive to take the vaccine. There are multiple states, as we know, that are actually now expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults who want one. How is that going to change our vaccination strategy in the coming weeks?

WEN: Yes. So I actually think it's a really good thing that these companies or that these states rather are opening their eligibility criteria, because the last thing that we want is for there to be a substantial mismatch between supply and demand. I would not want for there to be lots of doses city and freezers and then lots of people also wanting to take the vaccine, but they're not yet eligible.

And so, I think this is good but I also think that the strategy needs to change too to accommodate those individuals who may want to get the vaccine, but just find them to be difficult to access. And so we really should be increasing vaccination sites, not just relying on these mass sites that are difficult to sign up for but also every doctor's office, every pharmacy should have the vaccine.

Essentially, people should be able to go no more than half a mile. In order to get the vaccine, we need to make vaccination the easy and convenient choice to increase uptake.

BROWN: So let's also talk about the current trends. You have CDC Director Walensky saying that she is worried about some of the trends that we're seeing in the data. As we see more Americans resumed travel and states are rolling back restrictions, you're urging the public health community to stop insisting people take no risks, and instead help them manage risks. What does that look like?

WEN: There's a concept in public health called harm reduction. So we know that we can't get to zero risk. And frankly, people are not going to be listening to us. If we say, don't go and see your friends, don't go and travel, clearly, that's not happening. Just look at spring break, people are going. So harm reduction recognizes that people are taking risks, but that it's our job in public health in order to try to reduce that risk as much as possible.

So we say if you want to see your friends and family, see them outdoors, if you really want to travel, try to wait until you're fully vaccinated. If you have to travel and for whatever reason, you're already exposed to high risk. For example, if you did go on that spring break trip, when you return, quarantine and get tested to prevent spreading the virus to other people. Those are all harm reduction strategies, and I think we need to pivot to that strategy as we recognize them. A lot of people have returned to normal, even if we don't think it's quite ready for them to yet.

BROWN: I want to talk to you before we let you go about this new report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Staff at U.S. hospitals are suffering from horrible rates of burnout. As a health care worker yourself, what support do these staff members need to start recovering from the trauma of this last year that so many of you probably don't even realize what the trauma is?

WEN: That's right. I think part of it is the recognition that this has happened and that this is normal, as in this has happened to all these health care workers and essential workers around the country. I do think that offering mental health support is going to be important and also take into account the unmet health needs of many patients who have not had health care during this crisis.

BROWN: I think that that makes a lot of sense. You know, there needs to be focus on mental health aspects. And the fallout of that too from this more than year of being in a pandemic and what that can do to you. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much for all the work you've done and for joining us on the show.

WEN: Thank you.

BROWN: And now to a headline that sounds all too familiar, a day after polls close things are still too close to call but this time, we're talking about Israel's national election. CNN Reporter Hadas Gold joins us from Jerusalem. What does this mean for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: Well, Pamela, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is definitely not in a position he would have wanting to be 24 hours after the polls closed. Netanyahu had pinned his campaigns this fourth election campaign and under two years.

On the successful rollout of the coronavirus vaccines here in Israel, which has brought a sense of normalcy back to the streets of Israel, a form (ph) of his campaign slogans was back to life and he was hoping that the success of these vaccines would overshadow his ongoing corruption trial for corruption and bribery charges.

But as of right now, it doesn't seem as though anybody has a clear path to the 61 seats, they need to have a majority in parliament. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his opposition parties find themselves sort of in this political stalemate with 97 percent of the votes counted. When we look at the breakdown of the numbers, you can see how close both sides are.

And in a sort of ironic twist, a maybe a very small Islamist party, that is the United Arab List, that could be the kingmakers in the situation if they choose to sit with Netanyahu. That would obviously be a bit of an unusual marriage considering Netanyahu and his party's past history with Israeli Arab society.

But not only because of that, but because part of Netanyahu's right- wing coalition includes some extremely right-wing parties, and it would be hard to imagine them agreeing to sit within Islamist party.

But of course, the opposition faces a similar situation where they have a wide range of parties that they would need to sit together in order to form a government. But the votes are still being counted. And in a situation where one or two seats could call the difference, we may be in a completely different situation tomorrow. Pamela?


BROWN: All right, Hadas Gold, thanks so much.

And stay with us, we were sitting by to speak with the mayor of Boulder, Colorado, and we'll ask him about his conversation with President Biden. We're also getting new details about what investigators are learning about the suspected killer and his motive.


BROWN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Pamela Brown in THE SITUATION ROOM with new insight into the investigation of the Colorado shooting massacre.