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The Situation Room
Andrew Brown Jr.'s Family Views Body Cam Video of Fatal Police Shooting; Children Ages 12 To 15 Can Receive Pfizer Vaccine; Middle East Crisis; Trump Official Says, No Voter Fraud; Fulton County Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty And Hate Crime Charges Against Atlanta Spa Shooting Suspect. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 11, 2021 - 18:00 ET
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Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
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, breaking news: a deadly escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza, the fiercest fighting the region has seen in years.
Also, the family of the Andrew Brown Jr. finally allowed to see almost 20 minutes of police body camera video of his fatal encounter with deputies. Their attorney saying it shows -- and I'm quoting now -- "an unjustified killing."
And, tonight, the head of the CDC is appealing directly and urgently to parents and young people to get teens vaccinated for COVID-19.
Let's start our coverage this hour CNN's Hadas Gold. She's in Jerusalem for us right now.
Hadas, the fighting and the rhetoric are both flaring tonight. Update our viewers on the very latest.
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we spent the day in Ashkelon, where it was just a nonstop barrage of rockets, of air raid sirens that would -- sending us running into bomb shelters.
Over the last 24 hours, we have had more than 500 rockets from Gaza launched into Israel. The Israeli military has responded with hundreds of strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip. But this is -- the last 24 hours has been a level of tensions, of violence and escalation that this region has not seen in many years.
GOLD: Guys, we have sirens. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go.
(voice-over): In Ashkelon and other neighborhoods near the Gaza border, the warning sounds filled the air all day long, and, as night fell, a new target, Tel Aviv, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad launch rocket after rocket against targets in Israel, with more than 600 fired so far.
A senior member of the Hamas political bureau, Dr. Maher Salah, saying in a written statement Tuesday that Hamas' response is to stop the Israeli occupation's violations and to halt the implementation of its aggressive schemes in Jerusalem, undeterred by Israel's crushing airstrikes in response, and vows of harsher retaliation.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): After a situational assessment, we have made the decision to further increase both the intensity of the attacks and the rate of attacks. Hamas will receive blows that it did not expect.
GOLD: Tensions have been building for weeks, a major flash point, protests over threatened evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at Islam's third holiest site, the Al- Aqsa Mosque, has broadened into a level of anger and deadly violence in the region not seen in years.
The all-too-familiar sight of this longstanding conflict's grief and anguish returning as mourners bury their dead in Gaza, not only Israel's intended militant targets, but also the young, at least 10 children among the dozens killed thus far in strikes. Israel says it's investigating any civilian casualties, with more than 200 injured.
And while Israel's air defense, or Iron Dome, has intercepted most of the incoming rockets from Gaza, direct hits in Ashkelon and on the outskirts of Tel Aviv left three Israelis dead and dozens more injured, stoking the very real fear of the growing scope and reach of these weapons on Israeli civilians.
And while protests pop up in various cities around the globe against the force of Israelis' air response on Gaza and against the possible evictions in Jerusalem, Western nations are uniformly condemning the rocket attacks and are calling for a de-escalation in tensions, a call that has thus far gone unheeded, and with Tuesday night's new rocket barrage of Tel Aviv and the retaliation all but certain to come, a death toll all but certain to rise.
GOLD: And, Wolf, a few hours ago, we saw dramatic video out of Gaza of a multi-story building being struck and coming down. We have heard from the Israeli military in the last hour or so
confirming that an Israeli airstrike struck a building. I think it's known as the Hanadi building. And they say, the Israeli military says that inside that building across multiple levels, there were offices for Hamas, including intelligence offices of its military wing, as well as research and development unit working on rockets.
And the IDF said that they provided advanced warning to civilians in the building. This is usually done by a sort of -- they call them knockers or rockets that are launched onto the building that gives advance warning.
And the IDF said that they provided sufficient time for them to evacuate the site. But we are seeing continued rockets being launched throughout the evening, as well as Israeli military strikes. It is -- there seems to be no indication, Wolf, that this is the escalating anytime soon.
BLITZER: Yes, it seems to be getting worse by the hour.
Hadas Gold, thank you so much for your excellent reporting. Stay safe over there. We saw you escaping to a bunker earlier in the day when you were in Ashkelon, not far from Gaza. Thanks very much.
Joining us now, the Israel Defense Forces' international spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus.
Lieutenant Colonel, thank you so much for joining us.
You know this better than I do, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying Israel is now in the midst of what he calls a significant operation that will take time.
What exactly does that mean? What is the scope of this operation?
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Well, good evening, Wolf.
What that means, in fact, is that the IDF is conducting operations right now, but also preparing to enhance and broaden the scope of operations in the future. We have been protecting Israeli civilians now for the last more than 24 hours against an almost unprecedented barrage of rockets against our civilians.
The Iron Dome system has been delivering and has saved countless Israeli lives. But, at the end of the day, the rocket fire that we saw towards Central Israel, towards Tel Aviv, and really the heart of Israel is, of course, totally unacceptable, something that the IDF will not stand for.
And we are planning and conducting operations to make Hamas pay the price for their aggression against Israel.
BLITZER: I know you're launching airstrikes. What about a ground assault into Gaza? Is that likely?
CONRICUS: I wouldn't get ahead of ourselves.
I'd say that there's an abundance of military targets and that we have planned, we have investigated and prepared ourselves to be able to strike them. All of those are pure classified military targets belonging to either the Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. And we have been attacking those targets over the last 24 hours.
And we have plans to continue and to broaden the scope of our attacks, just as the prime minister said and the chief of general staff also reiterated, that this isn't going to end tomorrow. And the fact that Hamas allowed itself such a blatant act of aggression against Israel will not go unanswered, and we are attacking their targets.
BLITZER: The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza says Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 32 people, including 10 children.
Can you confirm there have been civilian casualties?
CONRICUS: We're aware -- we are aware of the reports. I can say that. I can also say that we take every report of civilians and noncombatants that are killed or affected by fighting seriously.
And it is our specific interest to minimize that number to the lowest possible number. I can say that we will never reach zero. And in any military activity in a densely populated urban area, just like Gaza, and in an area where the terrorist enemy uses civilians as their human shields, and makes it virtually impossible to distinguish, totally distinguish between enemies and noncombatants, it's a very difficult situation.
But what we are doing is trying to abide by international law, trying to use the most precise ammunition at our disposal, so as to cause minimal collateral damage. And you spoke about it before. You had it in the story.
When we knock down large, significant infrastructure, then there's a process of warning and making sure that the target area is clear of noncombatants. And, as you saw, a large military -- or a large structure that served Hamas' military purposes was hit. And there are no reports of casualties, because we made sure that it was clear of civilians and noncombatants before we took it down.
That's the level of our commitment. Are we going to be 100 percent perfect on -- in this regard? I don't think that we will. But I can assure you and everybody watching that we take the issue seriously, and any reports of noncombatants involved in the killing, of course, is something that we want to avoid, which is, of course, totally different from how our enemies are operating, who are trying to cause civilian casualties in Israel.
And, unfortunately, we now have Israelis dead and wounded in the last hours of fighting.
BLITZER: The fighting continues.
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, thank you so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on.
CONRICUS: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to get right now immediately get to more on the breaking news that we're following.
CNN global affairs analyst, the former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller is joining us, along with CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann, who's reported extensively from the Middle East, including for CNN, over the past six years.
Aaron, how did this situation escalate so quickly? And how unprecedented is this barrage of rockets that we're eyewitnessing?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not unprecedented, Wolf.
In 2014, the conflict between Hamas and Israel Operation Protective Edge lasted 50 days. It was brought to an end by an Egyptian -- very messy Egyptian cease-fire. But that conflict claimed 67 Israeli soldiers, killed five civilians, and anywhere, depending on whose stats you believe, between 2,200 and 2,300 Palestinians in Gaza.
So, this has the potential, perhaps, to reach that level of gravity. The IDF appears to believe it's going to last -- the operation is going to last for several days. And I suspect Hamas will claim victory because they will survive. there will probably be no ground incursion, no occupation of Gaza.
And the Israelis will have -- whatever metrics they're using, they will have delivered a real blow.
One final point. Yahya Sinwar, the head of Gaza, Hamas in Gaza, basically said that this operation -- he predicted in February, I think, that we're going to launch more rockets in five minutes than we launched in 50 days in the 2014 mini-war.
So, it's the intensity of the barrage and the surprise to the Israelis that I think is new.
BLITZER: You know, Oren, how is the Biden administration responding to this surge in violence that we're seeing right now, effectively, a war going on?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We have seen that President Joe Biden is paying attention and getting briefings on what's happening there.
Generally, though, the Israeli-Palestinian issue has simply not been a priority for Biden. He has spoken with leaders here, as have members of his team. He has issued condemnation of rockets. And we have seen that condemnation from other countries. But that's not going to have a major impact here in terms of stopping the fighting.
This didn't start because of Biden or because of former President Donald Trump. And it's not ending there either. It was a key point that Aaron David Miller made about the 2014 fighting. It was Egyptian mediating that brought that to an end.
And in my time there, in probably a dozen rounds of fighting or so that lasted 24, 48 hours, it was behind-the-scenes Egyptian and U.N. moderation that brought that fighting to an end. Are those efforts ongoing now?
It's hard to believe at this point that they're not, but it certainly doesn't seem like they're about to be successful in finding an off- ramp to this violence any time in the immediate future.
The conventional wisdom was that it wasn't in Israel's interests or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interests or Hamas' interests to get into a much larger round of fighting. But that doesn't seem to be applying here. Hamas is trying to stake itself as the defender, as the protector of Jerusalem, willing to stand up to Israel.
And that perhaps partly explains why we're seeing a barrage of rocket fire on Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has a statement to make here. It certainly serves his right-wing coalition partners to make that statement.
But it's also worth noting he's not getting any pushback from the opposition, who are generally supporting this ongoing activity from the IDF.
BLITZER: Well, let's hope, if Egypt or anyone else is working to achieve some sort of cease-fire, they succeed, because, in the meantime, people are dying over there.
Oren Liebermann, Aaron David Miller, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead: Almost 17 million 12-to-15-year-olds could be eligible for the Pfizer COVID vaccine here in the United States as soon as Thursday. But health officials are concerned about how many will actually get the shots.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: President Biden is now promising what he calls a more aggressive effort to get new guidance for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, even as he's being pressed to do more to incentivize people still resistant to the vaccination process.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, there's real concern as the daily number of vaccinations here in the United States is dropping.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
And, obviously, the concern is, the White House wants to get more people vaccinated. But so do governors. And, Wolf, today, that has led to the president and his top health officials facing questions about whether or not federal guidance on vaccines and on the restrictions that still apply to those people who have been vaccinated is too conservative and too outdated and not going far enough to encourage people to get vaccinated.
K. COLLINS (voice-over): The White House facing new calls to lift restrictions for the fully vaccinated.
GOV. SPENCER COX (R-UT): We have fully vaccinated people. We should start acting like it.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Announcing additional steps.
K. COLLINS: Governors virtually lobbying President Biden to use the power of the federal government to incentivize people to get vaccinated.
COX: That's one area where we can use some help from -- through the White House and others, and that is modeling what a fully vaccinated person can do.
K. COLLINS: Biden promising updated guidance soon.
BIDEN: We have gone a little slower to make sure we're exactly right. You're going to see a more aggressive effort. Once vaccinated, it's not only you can hug your grandchildren. You can do a lot more.
K. COLLINS: The president also highlighting the FDA's decision to expand authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds, which now goes before a CDC advisory panel for a vote.
BIDEN: Parents who want to protect their children, younger teens who want to get vaccinated, we're a step closer to that goal now.
K. COLLINS: The last time the CDC updated its mask guidance, Director Rochelle Walensky touted this statistic:
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Less than 10 percent of documented transmission in many studies have occurred outdoors.
K. COLLINS: But "The New York Times" said today that 10 percent number is misleading.
According to "The Times," outdoor transmission appears to actually be below 1 percent and maybe even below 0.1 percent.
Lawmakers pressed Walensky to explain the deceiving number during a tense hearing on Capitol Hill today.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don't anymore.
Why it is exaggerating outdoor transmission?
WALENSKY: The top-line result of all collaborate -- all studies that were included in the systematic review said less than 10 percent of cases were transmitted outdoors.
K. COLLINS: The long running-feud between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Senator Rand Paul also on full display.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely -- entirely and completely incorrect.
K. COLLINS: Fauci advocating for an investigation into the origins of the virus, while pushing back on Paul's claim that U.S. government- funded research in China played a role in the outbreak.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): So, do you still support sending money to the Wuhan Virology Institute?
FAUCI: We do not send money now to Wuhan. Let me explain to you why that was done. It would have been irresponsible of us if we did not investigate the bat viruses.
PAUL: Government scientists like yourself, who favor gain of function research...
FAUCI: I don't favor gain of function research in China.
PAUL: ... maintain that the disease arose naturally.
FAUCI: You are saying things are not correct.
K. COLLINS: Now, Wolf, when it comes to that frustration with CDC guidance, the CDC director, Director Walensky, was telling lawmakers earlier today one of their struggles is that they are issuing blanket guidance for a nation where vaccination rates and case rates are different in different parts of the country.
And President Biden implied today that there could be new guidance coming soon. I'm told that that means, really, that they're just trying to constantly update it and look at where they can best improve it. That does not mean we should expect any new CDC guidance coming this week.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Kaitlan Collins reporting. Let's get some more on all of this.
CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and former Baltimore City health commissioner, is joining us.
Dr. Wen, thanks so much for joining us.
You just heard President Biden say something you have been calling for, for months, that there will be a more aggressive effort to lay out what vaccinated people can do.
What specifically, Dr. Wen, do you hope to see in the new CDC guidance?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Wolf, public health guidance has to make scientific sense and common sense.
And right now, the CDC guidelines make neither. So, here's what I think the CDC really needs to do urgently. First, they need to say outdoors is just fine. So relax all mask mandates outdoors.
The second is to say fully vaccinated people, even in formal settings like workplaces, can take off their mask and can be -- and don't need distancing around others who are also fully vaccinated. I think that would help employers a lot.
And third is, on a community-by-community level, the CDC should be laying out what level of vaccination is enough at which indoor mask mandates and other restrictions can be lifted. I think these would all be powerful incentives for vaccination.
BLITZER: Let's turn to the FDA's decision to allow 12-to-15-year-olds to start receiving the Pfizer vaccine within the next few days.
You say ability to vaccinate teens could be transformative. Explain why.
WEN: Well, first of all, we have 17 million people who are now eligible to be vaccinated. So that's important.
The other thing too is, this is early on in the spring and summer. So we're actually able to get high school students all vaccinated before the start of the school year. And so that allows all schools to be back, high schools to be back, extracurriculars to be back.
And I also think that we, as the public health community, frankly, have been doing a very bad job at communicating the extraordinary benefit of the vaccines. I would love to enlist the help of adolescents and teens in helping us to show that, once you're vaccinated, you can go to sleepovers, you can have parties, you can go shopping and travel.
I want our teens to be vaccine champions, post selfies and talk about how they weren't able to do any of these things before getting vaccinated. But now, once they are vaccinated, they are their friends are able to live a pre-pandemic life. That's the kind of messaging we need to really encourage vaccination.
BLITZER: Some parents, though, remain hesitant. What advice do you have for them?
WEN: I would say, first, talk to your teen and see what it is that they want to do. Some teens are just really eager to get the vaccine.
And then, second, I'd say talk to your pediatrician. We trust our pediatrician to make difficult decisions and to help us guide through these questions that we have. Every parent wants the best thing for our children. And we really need to have our questions answered and any concerns addressed as well.
BLITZER: Dr. Leana Wen, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.
WEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, breaking news: The family of Andrew Brown Jr. was just allowed to view a significant portion of the body camera footage showing his fatal shooting by police.
Stand by. We're getting new reaction, more information, when we come back.
BLITZER: Breaking news we're following.
The family Andrew Brown Jr. is speaking out after watching nearly 20 minutes of body camera footage showing his fatal shooting by sheriff's deputies.
CNN's Brian Todd on the ground for us in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Brian, tell us more. What's going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these protesters have gone from calling for accountability to being much more animated in their call for justice tonight, because, just a few minutes ago, Andrew Brown's family and their attorneys gave a completely different version of what's on that body camera footage from what the district attorney said.
HARRY DANIELS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR. (voice-over): Now we know why they didn't want to release the tape.
TODD (voice-over): Almost three weeks after he was fatally shot during an attempted arrest, tonight, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. describes what the body camera footage shows during the final moments of Brown's life.
JHA'ROD FEREBEE, SON OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: My father did not deserve to die at all. He did not deserve to be killed. In any way shape or form, he did not pose any threat at all. On court (ph), there's no way that this could be justified. There's no way possible.
TODD: A judge allowed them to view less than 20 minutes out of nearly two total hours of footage from sheriff's deputies' body cameras.
CHANCE LYNCH, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW BROWN'S FAMILY: When the first shot fired he was sitting in his car and then he began to back up. At no time did we see him go towards a sheriff's deputy at any time. The first shot was fired. And what we saw was after it was fired, he began to back up because he wanted to get out of there.
TODD: The district attorney has told a different story of what Brown did with his car.
ANDREW WOMBLE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, PASQUOTANK COUNTY: As it backs up, it does make contact with law enforcement officers. The next movement of the car is forward. It is in the direction of law enforcement and makes contact with law enforcement. It is then and only then that you hear shots.
LYNCH: At no point did we ever see Mr. Brown make contact with law enforcement.
TODD: CNN has obtained other critical images of that violent morning Elizabeth City. This street camera footage shows deputy racing toward Andrew Brown's house in the back of a pickup truck wearing tactical gear. They were serving search and arrest warrant for narcotics.
The footage shows the truck stopping at Brown's house. Deputies are heard screaming demands. But it does not show the actual shooting.
This footage captured by a neighbor just seconds after Brown was shot, shows deputies surrounding Brown's car after it crashed. Two neighbors told CNN deputies pulled Brown out of his car and attempted life saving measures.
KHALIL FEREBEE, SON OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: He's going to get his justice because it wasn't right.
HARRY DANIELS, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW BROWN'S FAMILY: The killers should be brought to justice, and they will be. They will be.
TODD (on camera): And tonight, the attorneys for the Brown family are repeating their call for the district attorney, Andrew Womble to recuse himself from the case, saying that Womble works way too closely with the sheriff department and it's deputies. Andrew Womble steadfastly refuses to recuse himself. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you, Brian Todd on the scene for us. Let's discuss. Joining us now, an attorney for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., Chantel Cherry-Lassiter. Chantel, thank you so much for joining us. How is Andrew Brown's family doing after seeing this nearly 20-minute video today?
CHANTEL CHERRY-LASSITER, BROWN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me, Wolf. The family is still devastated. The older son, Khalil, had to watch this video footage for a second time even though there was more footage this time. He sat in with me when I watched it back in April. So, again, they're very devastated.
They were crying. You could hear them crying in the background. This is very hard. They are dealing with the loss of their loved one and still dealing with the tragedy of them not having full transparency about what happened.
BLITZER: You called the shooting an execution after initially seeing that 20-second video, only 20-second video. Today, almost 20 minutes were shown to the family. Based on what you've heard from the family on the video they saw today, Chantel, do you stand by that characterization?
LASSITER: I do stand by that characterization, Wolf, because he was shot in the back of the head as he was leaving the area. He was trying to escape gunfire. He was trying to escape being targeted and attacked and he was trying to save his life and he was still shot in the back of his head as he was leaving.
BLITZER: So you still say it was an execution?
LASSITER: I stand by what I said and what I saw, yes.
BLITZER: Andrew Brown's family members were met by the district attorney today, as you know, but you're calling on the district attorney to recuse himself. Tell us why.
LASSITER: The district attorney works very closely with the sheriff's department. His office is located in the same building as the sheriff office. He's been working with them for years prosecuting cases. We feel it's a lot of close ties with both of their relationships and it's not appropriate for him to be on this case.
BLITZER: Do you expect the nearly 20-minute video that the family saw today will be eventually maybe soon or rather than later be made public? What are you hearing?
LASSITER: We haven't heard for sure, but we also would like for the family to see the entire video. The video that we saw was still redacted. It wasn't the full -- I think it's approximately two hours. So they showed them more than what was shown before, but it was still not the full video coverage. So the priority is still for the family to get closure and transparency and they have not been able to get that.
BLITZER: Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, thank you so much for joining us.
LASSITER: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: We'll stay on top of the story and obviously it's an important goal.
So coming up, the acting attorney general of the United States -- the acting attorney general under former President Trump is expected to testify that there's no evidence, repeat no evidence of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election here in the United States.
So how will Republicans react as they purge Trump critics from the party?
BLITZER: The former acting attorney general of the United States, Jeffrey Rosen, is expected to testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow to reaffirm the Justice Department's assessment that there's no evidence, I repeat, no evidence, of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election here in the U.S. Rosen served at the end of the Trump administration after the resignation of the former attorney general, William Barr.
For more on that, I want to bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and the State Attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, Dave Aronberg.
Dave, according to Rosen's prepared remarks, he plans to testify under oath that there is, in his words, and I'm quoting him now, no evidence of widespread voter fraud at a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election, end quote. That certainly, Dave, doesn't leave much room for interpretation, does it?
DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: No, it doesn't, Wolf. And good evening. Kudos to Jeffrey Rosen. When he was acting attorney general, he refused to go along with the attempts to overturn the election. He was even subject to a coup attempt by a Trump loyalist within the DOJ. And that was thwarted because Rosen was respected enough by his colleague who threaten to resign en masse, so Trump allowed him to stay.
He also refused to appoint special counsels to investigate all this craziness, like that Hugo Chavez is really behind Dominion Voting Systems. He refused to sign onto any of these crazy lawsuits around the country to overturn the elections, which is more than I could say for 17 state attorneys general who embarrassed themselves with it, who refuse the whole press conferences to try to claim there's voter fraud. So he is acting now the way he did then, so kudos to him.
It's not enough to save Liz Cheney tomorrow but it's important because the big lie continues. And as long as that continues, an event like January 6th could happen again.
BLITZER: How significant, Gloria, is this testimony we expect to hear from Rosen tomorrow?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's very important. It's very important for history and it's very important for the country to hear. Remember that former Attorney General Barr resigned in part because he disagreed with the administration about pushing this fake narrative, which is that there was voter fraud around the country.
And from what I've read of Rosen's testimony, he really wears this as a badge of honor. He says that no special prosecutors were appointed, whether for election fraud or otherwise. No public statements were made questioning the election. No letters were sent to state officials seeking to overturn the election. And then he goes on and on. So he wants to make it very clear that the Justice Department of the United States led by the attorney general thought this was all a lie.
BLITZER: It was a fair election, no evidence whatsoever of widespread voter fraud.
Dave, do you expect the testimony from the former acting attorney general of the United States, do you expect it will have any real impact whatsoever on those who continue to pedal former President Trump's big lie about the election?
ARONBERG: I don't think so, Wolf. On the other side, they have alternative facts and it doesn't matter what reality says. I'm also interested what he says when he gets questioned about the disparate treatment though from January 6th to the summer protests of Black Lives Matter. That's something I didn't see in his advanced statement.
I'd like to know why the federal government was reacting in such a passive way on January 6th. When it came to Black Lives Matter protests last summer, they had a full army there ready to do battle. They even had the Bill Barr secret police force without badges or (INAUDIBLE) identifiers who were activity involved in arresting and confronting these protesters. It was very different than January 6th.
So although I think it's important with Jeffrey Rosen says about the big lie, really important, I'd also like him to go further and confront the differences in the way the January 6th rioters were treated.
BLITZER: Well, we will see if that comes up during the testimony tomorrow.
Gloria, Rosen's testimony will be delivered, as you well know, on the same day house Republicans are set to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the Republican leadership after she refused to go along with that big lie. So give us your analysis of what we're about to see.
BORGER: What we're about to see tomorrow is -- we think, is Republicans probably voting in a secret ballot on the future of the head of their conference, who is a conservative woman who speaks very clearly and very loudly that she believes that democracy is more important than her place within the Republican hierarchy in the House. And she is going to probably be voted out of her conference chairmanship to be replaced by somebody who worships at the altar of Donald Trump, who, in fact, is a much more moderate Republican than Liz Cheney is.
And this is a Republican Party in the House that, as we see, is completely divided and has decided, I believe, that it's more important to win power and perhaps convince enough Republicans to come out and vote and win back control of the House than it is to have accountability for history.
BLITZER: Gloria Borger, Dave Aronberg, guys, thank you very much.
Coming up, prosecutors in Georgia are now say they will pursue the death penalty and hate crime charges against the suspect accused of killing eight people, many of them Asian women at spas across the Atlanta area.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, prosecutors in Georgia will seek the death penalty and hate crime charges against the suspect in a shooting spree that left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent at three spas across the Atlanta area.
CNN's Amara Walker is on the story for us right now.
Amara, this is a significant development.
Tell our viewers what more you are learning.
AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, you're right. This is hugely significant because a big question has been will these shootings be prosecuted as hate crimes? And the answer is yes, at least in Fulton County.
We just heard from the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, in a news conference about an hour ago, and she said that she and her team will be pursuing hate crime charges on the basis of gender and race in the two spa shootings in Atlanta, where four women were killed. There was a 3rd location in Cherokee County, and she also said that she and her team will be seeking the death penalty.
She also announced that a grand jury in Fulton County has indicted 21- year-old Robert Aaron Long, the suspect at the shootings. He is facing 19 counts, including 8 counts of murder, and one on domestic terrorism.
So again, just to refresh your memory, we're talking about three spas that were targeted, two in Atlanta, one in Cherokee County, eight people killed, six of Asian descent. This happened about two months ago. And as you imagine, Wolf, because we've been covering the story from
the very beginning, this is welcoming news for many in the Asian- American community who continue, many of them to feel terrorized by what continues to happen with this anti-Asian wave of attacks that we continue to see, and many leaders in the AAPI community have been pushing for these attacks, including this spot massacre, to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
In fact, I've been getting some reaction, I got a private message from U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, who told me that this was the right decision. Also, an AAPI leader in Georgia, State Representative Bee Nguyen, sending me the statement, saying: To acknowledge the victims were targeted because of the races that necessary measure that will help Asians living in this country to feel seen and heard. And this decision also recognizes we can't divorce gender from race.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Amara Walker with the very latest -- Amara, thank you very much.
Let's get some analysis from defense attorney Shan Wu and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams.
Shan, you publicly urge prosecutors to use the hate crime laws that are available to them. What's your reaction to learning the Fulton County plans to seek enhanced hate crime charges in this case?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm relieved, Wolf, and I hope Cherokee County does the same. I think prosecutors have been too reluctant to use this, and I think it comes at a particularly appropriate time, even though it's a bit overdue. This is Asian American heritage month, and I think it's a great relief to the community that they are doing this.
I hope Cherokee County will follow suit. It's so important that the prosecutors use the crimes that are on the books, because if you don't use a law that's on the books, you erase that law. And that's the same problem with the eraser of the history of violence in our country directed against people of color and other vulnerable communities, so this is a step in the right direction.
BLITZER: Well, Elliot, what do you think, as this comes, as the nearby county, Cherokee County, as opposed to Fulton County, opted not to charge the suspect with a hate crime? Does it make any sense to you that these counties arrived, apparently at very different decisions?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, as Shan has said, the right decision is to charge this as a crimes, but this is how the country works with different jurisdictions are run by different prosecutors have who have different priorities, who were elected with different constituents, and sometimes the more or less aggressive.
This will be interesting in Fulton County, because this is a very early test a bit of a quite new law in Georgia, a quite you hate crime statute, that hasn't really been tested before. The interesting thing here about these charges in Fulton County, as Amara had talked about, what you have is both gender and national origin and race. Any one of these independent of each other could stand at the basis of a hate crime charge.
So for instance if a juror is inclined to believe that the defendant killed these people because they were women, then that juror might be persuaded that he killed them because they were Asian, and so there's a few different bases, each of which triggers the hate crime penalties and conviction.
BLITZER: Yeah, Shan, Elliot, meets an important point. This will be the first test of the new hate crime law passed by the Georgia legislature last year. This is significant, right?
WILLIAMS: It is very significant, Wolf. And I hope there will be a sign of times to come that prosecutors will use these laws more often. And I hope also, speaking of different jurisdictions that DOJ will take a look at this as well.
They also -- there's also a federal crime statute, and take a look at this as well. And I think that would send an important message to the Asian community that the federal government, the Justice Department, have their backs, as well as to women in this country, that this type of murderous misogyny won't be tolerated.
BLITZER: Shan Wu, Elliot Williams, guys, thank you very, very much.
We'll have more news right after this.
BLITZER: Finally tonight, we share more stories of people who died from the coronavirus.
John Walter of New York was 80 years old, a National Guard veteran and an avid sports fan. After working on Wall Street, he started his own business doing genealogy and military research.
Delores Gould of Nevada was 87, a matriarch who took pride in her Italian heritage. Her son says she also was a trail blazer. As a female chief union steward for the United Auto Workers, two wonderful, wonderful people.
May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.