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The Situation Room

Will Republicans Remove Liz Cheney From Leadership Position?; Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci; Biden Launches New Vaccine Campaign; Derek Chauvin's Lawyers File Motion For New Trial; Growing Criticism Of India's Prime Minister As Country Reels From Second Wave Of COVID Pandemic; CNN Goes On Board A Small Ukrainian Patrol Boat Challenging Russian Naval Might; Justice Department Preparing Plea Deals For Rioters From Viral Video Of Police Trapped In Capitol Tunnel. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired May 04, 2021 - 18:00   ET




Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Biden launches an urgent new campaign to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 as demand goes down. He just set a new goal of getting at least one shot in the arms of 70 percent of adults by July 4. That's chose to 100 million vaccinations in just about 60 days.

I will break it all down with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser. As you can see, he's joining us. He's standing by live. We will discuss.

Also tonight, the House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, is declaring he's had it, he's had it with Representative Liz Cheney and her vocal criticism of former President Trump. This hour, you will hear McCarthy caught on a hot microphone venting his frustration with Cheney and declaring he's lost confidence in her.

As McCarthy is unloading, sources now tell CNN that it's over for Cheney in the GOP leadership, with a vote to oust her as the third- ranking House Republican expected as soon as next week.

Let's start our coverage this hour with our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She's got more than President Biden's vaccine strategy that he outlined today.

Kaitlan, the president says we're now entering what he describes as a new phase.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And a lot of this new phase has to do with the fact that vaccinations

are slowing in the U.S., something we were not seeing in previous months. And so now the Biden administration is unveiling this new federal strategy. They say part of that is going to include moving away from those mass vaccination sites that you saw to smaller settings, hoping to reach those people who have not yet gotten the shot.

Of course, the goal remains the same, get Americans vaccinated.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And let's try to hit that 70 percent mark.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden with a new vaccination goal for the nation.

BIDEN: We need you. We need you to bring it home. Get vaccinated.

COLLINS: The White House wants at least 70 percent of American adults to have received one dose by July 4 and 160 million to have completed their vaccinations.

At least 147 million adults in the U.S. have gotten one shot of the vaccine, and 105 million are now fully vaccinated.

BIDEN: That means giving close to 100 million shots -- some first shots, others second shots -- over the next 60 days.

COLLINS: With the pace of vaccination slowing nationwide, Biden's new goal could be a challenge.

BIDEN: There are a lot of younger people, especially those in their 20s and 30s, who believe they don't need it. Well, I want to be absolutely clear: You do need to get vaccinated.

COLLINS: The president leaned in and spoke directly to those who have waited.

BIDEN: Why take the risk, when you have a safe, free, and convenient way to prevent it?

COLLINS: Biden's COVID-19 team is now telling governors, if they don't order their full allocation of doses on a given week, the leftover supply can go to other states that need it.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They can still order. It's up to them. But it's really just an indication that we're in a different phase now that we were -- than we were even a couple of weeks ago.

COLLINS: Health experts say vaccinating children could help boost the population's immunity, and the FDA is poised to authorize Pfizer's vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds as soon as next week.

BIDEN: The FDA -- and the FDA alone -- will make that decision. But, today, I want American parents to know that, if that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately.

COLLINS: There is also another goal for July 4, sharing vaccines with the world. Biden confirmed today the U.S. will send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to other nations by that date.

BIDEN: We are going to, by the Fourth of July, have sent about 10 percent of what we have to other nations.

COLLINS: With health experts questioning whether the U.S. will reach herd immunity this year, the White House says they aren't making any predictions.

PSAKI: We try to leave the predictions of when we will reach any definition by medical and health experts of that term.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, the White House has been going through several different reasons why people haven't gotten the vaccine yet, how they can change that, making it more accessible, answering their questions, making it as easy as possible, basically to get this vaccine.

But President Biden told reporters today he thinks the ultimate motivation is going to be the fact that they could not get the vaccine that could cause other people to get sick and potentially die from COVID-19.

BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you.

Kaitlan Collins over at the White House.

Let's discuss all of this and more with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Biden.

Dr. Fauci, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all you do.


The president wants, as you heard, 70 percent of Americans to have at least one vaccine does by the Fourth of July. The number right now stands at about 56 percent. But the pace of vaccinations -- and this is pretty depressing -- is actually slowing down significantly. So, how do we reach this new goal?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Wolf, I think we're going to be able to do it, and I think it's by changing a little bit of the strategy, getting out of the mass vaccination approach, and really putting in walk-in capabilities in 40,000 or so pharmacies throughout the country, getting mobile units going, getting the local capability of accessibility, rather than these broad mass vaccination sites.

The important thing that people need to remember is that, when you have a large cohort of people to vaccinate, it's easy to get a larger number on a per day vaccination. We were between three and four million per day.

As the pool of people who are unvaccinated gets smaller, it gets a little bit more difficult. And that's the reason why you want to do a modification of strategy. I think we're going to be able to do it. I mean, it's a challenging goal, but I think it's a doable go.

And, as the president said, you want to get 100 million vaccinations in the next 60 days. I believe we can do that.

BLITZER: Yes, I think, right now, they're doing about maybe 2.5 million doses per day, which is a lot less than 3.5 million, obviously.

The White House did, Dr. Fauci, announce a shift in the vaccine strategy today. Now, if one state doesn't order all of its allocated doses, those vaccines will go to other states with higher demand. Where are you seeing the biggest problems with low demand right now? And how do you address that what we call vaccine hesitancy?

FAUCI: Well, what we have got to do is, we have got -- we have a number of strategies for that.

But we have really got to get the message to the people who are not wanting to get vaccinated -- and it's disproportionately younger people in certain of the states -- is to get them to realize that, even though they don't want to get vaccinated and feel, if I get infected, I'm a young person, I would -- very unlikely going to get a serious outcome -- first of all, you got to be careful. That's not necessarily so.

Statistically, it's less likely to get a serious outcome if you're younger, but you got to look at it in a different perspective. You may get infected. And even though you don't get any symptoms, you could inadvertently or innocently pass the infection to someone else who could get a serious outcome.

So we're really appealing to people to look at it from a personal standpoint to protect your own health, but also somewhat of a societal responsibility to not be part of the propagation of the outbreak, but to be part of the solution.

And we're trying to get messages to them through trusted messengers. They could be people in the community, they could be clergy, they could be sports figures, people who they trust, even, probably even more importantly, their local family physician to tell them the reason why it's so important for them to get vaccinated.


Let's get to the news, Dr. Fauci, that 12-to-15-year-olds now could become eligible for the Pfizer vaccine as soon as next week, with the FDA expected to grant emergency use authorization.

What do you say to the -- those parents who might be concerned about having their son and daughter at those ages vaccinated?

FAUCI: Well, I would tell the parents to look at the data.

The study was done. And it was really quite impressive, Wolf. The efficacy of the vaccine in 12 to 15 years old was essentially 100 percent. And it was really quite safe. So, it has a good safety profile. And it's highly efficacious.

I mean, that's something that you shouldn't walk away from. You have the capability of protecting yourself as a young person 12 to 15, but also knowing that you're not going to pass it on to someone else who might suffer because they either have an underlying condition or because they're elderly.

So, I even want to call upon the young people to say, I want to protect myself, but I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

BLITZER: If the FDA does grant authorization next week, how soon could we actually see the first vaccinations in this 12-to-15 age group?

FAUCI: Oh, essentially almost immediately after, Wolf.

We can implement that right away. Once you get that, it's sort of put onto the EUA of the original efficacy trial in adults. And it's something that can be done very expeditiously.

BLITZER: Pfizer also said today it expects to request emergency use authorization for kids ages 2 to 11 in September. Could this eventually become a safe, routine childhood vaccination?

FAUCI: Absolutely, Wolf. That's the ultimate goal.


You want to do what's called an age de-escalation. We now have it from 12 to 15. We have shown it was safe and effective. Then you work your way downward from 12 to 9 years old, 9 to 6 years old, 6 to 2 years old, and then 6 months to 2 years old.

So, we would hope, by the time we get to the end of calendar year 2021 and the beginning of the first quarter of 2022, we will be able to vaccinate children of any age.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, Dr. Fauci, you and I are Major League Baseball fans.

What inning are we in as far as this COVID pandemic is concerned?

FAUCI: Well, we're at least halfway through. I hope we're seeing -- and I do believe -- Wolf, I'm not trying to be overly enthusiastic about what's going on vis-a-vis the vaccine program, which is so successful, but we have really got to not declare victory prematurely.

So we're in the late innings. But it's not over. That's the thing we really got to get people to appreciate. We're going in the right direction. We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But now's not a time to declare victory. It's a time to get more and more people vaccinated, just the way the president said today.

We want to get to that goal. It's a doable goal. And I believe we will get there.

BLITZER: So, you think the seventh, the eighth inning, late innings? What inning are you talking about?

FAUCI: How about the bottom of the sixth? Try that one, Wolf.

BLITZER: Bottom of the sixth. All right, we will -- I will go with the bottom of the sixth. That's not too bad.

All right, Dr. Fauci, as usual.

We will go to a baseball game one of these days. Thanks so much for joining us.

FAUCI: Good to be with you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. And thanks for all you're doing.

Just ahead, you're going to hear the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, trashing Congresswoman Liz Cheney on a hot microphone, declaring he's had it, as she appears to be on the brink of losing her leadership post.

We're also getting breaking news on a new legal move related to Derek Chauvin's trial and conviction for the murder of George Floyd.



BLITZER: Tonight, we're truly getting an earful from the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, as he events his frustration with Representative Liz Cheney.

We have new audio of him actually trashing Cheney on a hot microphone, as Cheney's days in the House leadership clearly seem to be numbered.

CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles has details.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has had enough, the GOP House leader caught on a hot mic telling a FOX News host what he really thinks about Liz Cheney.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think she's got real problems. I have had it with -- I have had it with her. It's -- I have lost confidence.

NOBLES: The edited audio, which does not include the questions, a clear sign the Wyoming congresswoman's days in House leadership are numbered.

MCCARTHY: Well, someone just has to bring a motion. But I assume that will probably take place.

NOBLES: Just a few months ago, McCarthy defended Cheney from the backlash of conservative members angry over her vote to impeach former President Trump and her critique of his role in the January 6 insurrection.

QUESTION: Will you call for a vote to seek the removal of Liz Cheney from her leadership position?

MCCARTHY: The conference decides on that. We're here to talk about small business.

NOBLES: Now McCarthy seems content to let the conference's far right members take Cheney out of her role as the third-ranking House Republican.

MCCARTHY: I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message. We all need to be working as one if we're able to win the majority.

NOBLES: Cheney, meanwhile, seems prepared to go down swinging, refusing to lie about Trump.

"This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on January 6," Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a statement. "Liz will not do that. That is the issue."

As the pressure mounts, Cheney, in a closed-door meeting with donors, said that Trump's behavior on January 6 was just too much for her. "It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed."

The jockeying to replace Cheney is already under way. Sources tell CNN that New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is already making calls about the job. Some Republicans would like to replace Cheney with another woman. In addition to Stefanik, Jim Banks, who currently chairs the influential Republican Study Committee, is being considered, as well as Jackie Walorski of Indiana, and a dark horse, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a prominent member of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

Tonight, Democrats are seizing on the GOP drama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sending an e-mail accusing Republicans of looking for -- quote -- "a nonthreatening female seeking replacement for House Republican Conference chair."

And Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was recently booed on a stage at a state convention, in part because of his vote to convict Trump during his last impeachment trial...

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Aren't you embarrassed?

NOBLES: ... defending Cheney today, tweeting: "Liz Cheney refuses to lie. As one of my Republican Senate colleagues said to me following my impeachment vote, 'I wouldn't want to be a member of a group that punished someone for following their conscience.'"


NOBLES: And Cheney's future as the third-ranking House Republican could be coming to an end as soon as next Wednesday, multiple Republicans saying that the vote could come up the next time the Republican Conference meets, which is on May 12.

This all happening, Wolf, because Cheney refused to buy into Donald Trump's big lie that he actually won the election in 2020 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you very much.

Let's get some more in all of this.

Joining us now, our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN senior commentator John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, and CNN political commentator Mia Love, a former Republican member of Congress.

Jamie, you're hearing from your sources. I understand, that this could happen as early as next week. Tell us how this all might play out, what else you're learning.



I am told that majority -- that Kevin McCarthy thinks he has the votes, that it is a done deal, and that they expect the vote on Wednesday or as early as Wednesday, May 12.

I'm also told that Elise Stefanik, who Ryan mentioned in his piece, is the front-runner to replace Liz Cheney, that she is lobbying for votes and has other people lobbying on her behalf.

Wolf, a key point. Elise Stefanik is a Trump loyalist. And that's what this is about. Donald Trump got Kevin McCarthy to push Liz Cheney out.

Not too long ago, I spoke to a source familiar with what Liz Cheney is thinking about all of this. And I was told -- quote -- that Liz Cheney is -- "This is all not a surprise to her, that she knew this was coming, and that she is not afraid of the consequences. The stakes are too high," the source told me.

And finally, Wolf, I'm told Liz Cheney will not step aside. She will wait for the vote.

BLITZER: We will see what happens with that vote.

Governor Kasich, what do you make of this new reporting about this escalating rift within your party?


Well, first of all, being in the House leadership in the Republican Party is not exactly, Wolf, Wally -- Willy Wonka's golden ticket. It's just not that big of a deal if you're not going to be the number three person in the leadership.

And what they don't seem to calculate is, they create a martyr out of Liz Cheney. I will tell you what will happen. She will get her followers in the House. And I have always wondered when this was going to happen, when somebody was going to stand up and say, enough of this nonsense.

So they could take her out. They could swamp her down. They could remove her from this place. But she's not going to go away. And there are like-minded people in the House, Republicans, and she will get a following. And she could be more trouble for them than she's being right now by beginning to group -- get a group of people who say, we're not going along with your nonsense anymore.

So we got a long way to go before this all plays out. But be careful. Be careful when you take somebody out of a position like that, that you're not doing yourself, ultimately, more harm than good. She will have no constraints on what she will do going forward.

BLITZER: Mia Love, you're a former Republican congresswoman. What is your response to this growing tension within the House Republican leadership?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I would actually like to issue a warning.

I mean, removing Liz Cheney, who is the highest ranking female in the House of Representatives -- she actually is the only woman in leadership -- you're going to remove her. And then this idea that we want to replace her with another woman is actually quite offensive.

It's almost as if they're saying, you can only go so far. And if you don't agree with everything that we are saying, we're going to pick somebody else.

That is the message that the American people are getting. And let me tell you, it doesn't look good for the GOP. It doesn't look good for our party. They should, however, focus on the out-of-control spending and some of the other things that they have got a lot of ammunition for, but that's not what they're doing.

They're actually focusing on ousting each other.

BLITZER: She's the highest-ranking Republican woman in the Republican leadership.

Clearly, Nancy Pelosi is the highest ranking woman in the House of Representatives.

LOVE: Yes.

BLITZER: Jamie, do you see all this as proof that former President Trump has this firm grip right now in the Republican Party? GANGEL: One hundred percent. This is what Donald Trump wanted. He

targeted Liz Cheney for going after him. And he got Kevin McCarthy to do his bidding.

I think just -- it's important to point out that Kevin McCarthy would not remove Marjorie Taylor Greene, a fringe conspiracy theorist, from committee assignments, but he is pushing out Liz Cheney, one of the most conservative Republicans in the House.

BLITZER: What do you think, Governor?

KASICH: Well, Wolf, first of all, the Republican Party is shrinking. And the fact that she said that what happened on January 6 was horrible, she's got a lot of people in America who agree with her.

And I thought the point that Mia made, which is, hey, they got so much to talk about in terms of tax and spend, back to the old days of tax and spin, so, instead, they're fighting with one another, in an effort to have purity.

I mean, it's just a -- it's such a silly thing that's going on down there. And I think Jamie might agree though, despite all this, these Keystone Cops may end up winning the majority back, and then they will think they're on the right path, which, in and of itself, is just crazy.


KASICH: So, it's a weird time.

GANGEL: I do agree. I do agree with Governor Kasich.

BLITZER: All right.

GANGEL: I do think that they can win it back.

LOVE: Yes.

BLITZER: We're all going to continue this conversation.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

But there's breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Get this. Lawyers for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of murdering George Floyd, have just filed a motion for a new trial. We have details.


BLITZER: There's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lawyers for Derek Chauvin have just filed a motion for a new trial exactly two weeks after the former Minneapolis police officer was convicted of murdering George Floyd.


CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is working the story for us. Adrienne, so what are the reasons that Chauvin's lawyers are now giving for requesting a new trial?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are a number of reasons, and I want to get right to it and share this with you and our viewers. In this moment filed in court late today, it cites multiple factors including the interest of justice, abuse of discretion that deprived the defendant of a fair trial and jury misconduct. It also notes errors of law at trial and a verdict that is contrary to law.

And I'm reading through this motion right now. And in this motion, Eric Nelson said those allegations include errors made by the judge, misconduct by the prosecution, witness intimidation and the impact of publicity.

I want to read something to you that Eric Nelson, that was the attorney for Derek Chauvin, writes in this motion. He says, quote, the publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings. He also says, the court also abused its discretion in not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury.

You might remember prior to the trial attorneys for Derek Chauvin asked for a new venue. But in that case, and I'm paraphrasing here, Judge Cahill mentioned you could go anywhere and people would know about what happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

So this is breaking news at this hour. Attorneys for Derek Chauvin are requesting a new trial and also in this motion citing jury misconduct. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Adrienne, we're going to stay on top of this, obviously, a significant development. I want to discuss this with CNN Legal Analyst, the criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. Joey, what do you make of the defense's argument in this new motion? I've just read it. I assume you've read it as well.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, good evening to you, Wolf. I make that the defense is doing its job. It was certainly widely anticipated that they would be putting forth a motion. That's what we defense lawyers do, that motion predicated upon the failure of the judicial system to give their client a new trial.

Understand that appealable issues, we all appeal. They are usually rejected 90 percent of the time. Having said that, is there merit to the appeal? There is. And they're predicating it upon a number of things. Like what? As just explain, number one, I think we all knew that they would appeal the issue with respect to a settlement, right? Not only being reached but being announced right on the eve of trial. I mean, that would be somewhat problematic. They, of course, appealing the issue of whether the jury should have been sequestered, or not sequestered, that, of course, they ask the judge to change of venue, of course. They are talking about prosecutorial misconduct. What are they talking about? You're not allowed, Wolf, to disparage the prosecution. You would remember that the attorneys for the prosecutor described the defense's case as nonsense and did a number of other things or cases that say you can't do it.

And, of course, they go through a number of other issues, right, with regard to potentially a juror lying, which would suggest that particular juror lied to the judges -- not judges but the attorneys, as well as the judge in indicating that they didn't participate in any type of demonstration.

But I'd be careful on that, and here's why. You have to look at the specific questions that were asked. Have you participated in, for example, a demonstration involving police misconduct? Yes, he did appear in a march on Washington. That, of course, dealt with issues of racial justice, not necessarily dealing with the specific issue of police misconduct. So there's a lot here.

At the end of the day, Wolf, the issue is whether or not it's harmless. That is no matter what happen, no matter what juror was seated. Would they have reached an alternative conclusion? The evidence here was very compelling, as we know.

BLITZER: Yes. You're referring to the photo that has just emerged showing one of the jurors in the Chauvin trial wearing a shirt that said, get your knee off our necks, while participating in that march in Washington last year. So you think potentially that could lead to a new trial?

JACKSON: So, listen, the cornerstone of our judicial system is obviously relying upon jurors who are obviously going to give the indication to the judge and the jurors, as well as, of course, the attorneys that whatever they said on the questionnaire was fair, was proper, was right, was accurate, was thorough and, of course, assisted in their selection as a juror. In the event that you misled the court, you misled the attorneys, that presents an issue. And so, of course, you want a fair trial in each circumstance.

Having said that, I hasten to add that at the end of the day you have to look at the evidence, you have to look at the compelling nature of the evidence. You have to look at the underlying circumstances upon which that juror processed the information and the other jurors processed the information. So in the event that, that juror was excluded and was there another juror in that juror's place, would the jury have reached an alternative conclusion?


Then what we're seeing their, the second-degree murder charge, obviously that being the assault that lead to the untimely and tragic death of George Floyd, the third-degree murder charge, predicated upon, of course, the depraved indifference. And then, of course, the second-degree murder, predicated upon the negligence that lead to his death. So that's the underlying issue.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot is going on, we'll stay on top of it, of course, and you'll be joining us. Joey, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we'll have the latest on India's clearly worsening COVID catastrophe and growing blame falling on the country's prime minister.

And we're also learning about plea deals in the works for Capitol rioters, involve in that harrowing scene with police trapped in a tunnel.



BLITZER: With India now the world's worst COVID hot spot blamed for the country's skyrocketing number of cases and deaths is increasingly falling on the prime minister. CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is in New Delhi with all the late breaking development. Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, India's prime minister came into this crisis with sky high ratings, but he is facing some very harsh criticism about his government's handling of it, reports that his COVID-19 task force did not meet once for the first three months after this year as this devastating second wave was brewing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Modi. Modi. Modi. Modi.

WARD (voice over): As a raging pandemic tore across the country, thousands flocked to the streets for political rallies with hardly a mask in sight. At one gathering, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the turnout.

I've never seen such huge crowds at a rally.

On that same day, more than 260,000 new cases of COVID were recorded in India. Shortly after, millions of worshippers were allowed to congregate for the end of the week's long Hindu Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. After all Modi had already declared victory against COVID.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: In a country where 18 percent of the world population lives, we averted a major tragedy by effectively controlling the coronavirus. We saved mankind from a big disaster by saving our citizens from the pandemic.

WARD: As the second wave of coronavirus ravages this country, those words have come back to haunt Modi. Critics accuse him of putting his political interests ahead of the health of the nation.

YAMINI AIYAR, CENTRE FOR POLICY RESEARCH: We didn't even ask the question of what we needed to do based on learning from this last year in the event that we'd have a second wave. A second wave was never off the table. You just had to look around the world. You don't have to be a scientist to say that. We did nothing. Instead, we celebrated a bit too prematurely, Indian exceptionalism. WARD: Now, India's health care system is on the brink of collapse, with shortages of everything from doctors and drugs to beds and oxygen after years of neglect.

It was always going to be difficult to contain the spread of COVID here in India. This is a densely populated country of nearly 1.4 billion people. The Indian government is blaming the rapid spread on this new double mutant variant. And it says that it warns states to remain vigilant.

Still, many doctors agree that the devastating toll of this second wave could have been mitigated with better preparations and a coordinated response. Assured of victory against the virus, India began exporting the vaccines it was producing instead of inoculating its own population.

How much responsibility does Prime Minister Modi bear for this?

AIYAR: He's the prime minister of the country. He takes full responsibility for all that we do good and all that goes wrong.

WARD: Do you think this will have an impact on his popularity?

AIYAR: I think as of now, what we have seen especially over the last three weeks is complete policy abdication and certainly I hope that we hold our government accountable for what we are seeing today.


WARD (on camera): The government has announced a raft of measures, Wolf, to try to combat this crisis, including getting the Navy and the Air Force involved. It's not really clear yet what, if any, political fallout there will be for Prime Minister Modi. But one thing is clear. This problem is not going away, one state health minister warning that a third wave could be on the horizon. Wolf?

BLITZER: CNN's Clarissa Ward reporting from New Delhi. Thank you Clarissa very, very much.

Up next, an up close look at how tension between Ukraine and Russia is moving from land to sea. This is a CNN exclusive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't go any closer because if we do, there could be some interception by the Russians.



BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive, an up-close look at how tension between Ukraine and Russia is shifting from land to sea.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance takes us aboard a small Ukrainian patrol boat challenging Russia's naval might. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a first glimpse of Putin's latest armada, bristling with weapons in disputed waters between Russia and Ukraine. Kremlin says these are just naval exercises, but the missiles are real, and for Ukraine so is the threat.

Ukrainian vessels on the strategic Sea of Azov have been warned to steer clear.

Do I get on board?

But we gained rare access to a Ukrainian coastal patrol setting out on high seas to challenge what they say is Russia's illegal naval cordon. Something Moscow rejects.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian navy says its boats have been harassed by Russia, with Moscow shifting its military focus.


So, we've come out here to the very rough Sea of Azov. You can see as Russian forces pull back their troops from the border of Ukraine, they're redeploying naval forces here into this sea, quote, of Azov raising concerns in Ukraine and around the world that the military pressure they're applying on Ukraine from the land is now moved to the sea.

The commander of the patrol boat tells me how Russian forces are increasingly behaving aggressively. Blocking access, he says, to what should be shared waters, even stopping what are routine coastal patrols.

On cue, the Russians make radio contact.

This is boat 444, says the message, reminding you to keep a safe distance, confirm you're receiving the Russian voice command. We see you, a Ukrainian sailor responds, and we're proceeding according to plan.

So we've come to a stop now. You heard the captain say there's a Russia ship in the horizon. You can see it just over there. It's a Russian coast guard ship. We're about two nautical miles away, which is just over two regular miles.

And we can't go any closer, because if we do, there could be some interception by the Russians to us. And I think the Ukrainian coast guard wants to avoid that.

It wouldn't be the first naval clash in the region. This is the extraordinary moment the Russian coast guard rammed the Ukrainian tug boat in the area back in 2018. Russian ships also fired on Ukrainian naval vessels, seizing three and escalating tensions in the seas off Crimea annexed from Ukraine in 2014. American ships have been challenged, too. This by a Russian war plane

witnessed from the deck of a U.S. destroyer earlier this year. Now, tensions on the seas are ratcheting up once more.

There's heightened alert on dry land, too, at the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, we saw these marines on force protection drills. Naval officials say new Russian deployments at sea are forcing them to step up security and plan for a Russian attack.

CAPT. ROMAN GONCHARENKO, UKRAINIAN ARMY: In the last two weeks, it became more dangerous --

CHANCE: More dangerous?

GONCHARENKO: Yeah, because Russian Federation sent to the Black Sea several landing ships from Baltic Sea and North Sea.

CHANCE: So the Russians have sent landing ships into the Sea of Azov and to the Black Sea.


CHANCE: They're saying that that's for exercising, though?

GONCHARENKO: Officially, it's exercises. But this ship's still here in this area. And in our vision, it can be dangerous for this area.


Back on the coastal patrol boat, we change course safely away from the Russian fleet.

What happens if we don't turn?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have --

CHANCE: Not good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's maybe not good.

CHANCE: Not good at all when Ukraine feels so threatened on this turbulent sea of troubles.


BLITZER: That was CNN's Matthew Chance with truly excellent exclusive reporting for us.

Thank you, Matthew.

Up next, we're learning details of plea deals now in the works for some of the rioters involved in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.


BLITZER: Federal prosecutors have told a judge they're working on plea deals for four Capitol rioters involved in the January 6th attack.

Brian Todd is working the story for us.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this involves some of the most disturbing video of January 6th, video shot by Jon Farina of the group Status Coup. These four rioters are accused of working with the mob to trap police officers in a tunnel near the west side of the Capitol on January 6th and attack them with chemical sprays and firecrackers.

We'll roll a video now.

This is now a viral video of D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges being crushed between two door frames.


TODD: Now, one of the defendants, Patrick McCaughey of Connecticut, prosecutors say, pushed Officer Hodges against a door with a police riot shield. Prosecutors say McCaughey continued to pin the officer against the door while another rioter violently ripped off Officer Hodge's gas mask. So, Patrick McCaughey, one of the people, one of four people now who prosecutors are preparing to offer plea deals to in connection with the rioters.

Three other men also being offered plea deals, David Judd of Texas. Prosecutors say he lit an object on fire, and threw it at the officer. We see him joining the crowd pushing forward.

Also Christopher Quaglin of New Jersey, shoving officers and striking them. He was seen spraying a chemical irritant directly into the face of a D.C. metropolitan police officer.

Also, Tristan Stevens of Florida is offered a plea deal. Now a total of five people, Wolf, offered a plea deals out of 400 charged in Capitol riot.

BLITZER: Yeah, potentially very dramatic development.

Brian Todd, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.