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Hala Gorani Tonight

E.U. Agrees On New Sanctions Against Belarus; Austria Begins Lockdown For The Unvaccinated; Police Name Suspect Killed In Liverpool Blast; Soon: U.S. & Chinese Presidents To Hold Critical Talks; U.S. Journalist Released From Myanmar Jail; 500 National Guard On Standby Awaiting Verdict In Wisconsin. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 15, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. An intensifying crisis on the Belarusian-

Polish border as migrants clash with a wall of Polish police and the EU slaps new sanctions on Belarus. We'll have the very latest. And things are

going to get tougher for the unvaccinated in Austria. A new lockdown has just come into effect for millions there who have not had their COVID


And Steve Bannon turns himself in. Why Donald Trump's former adviser surrendered at FBI headquarters earlier today. On a day migrants camping at

the Belarusian-Polish border were given a false hope they could cross, the EU has decided to further punish Belarus, they say is manufacturing this


The bloc's foreign minister have agreed a fifth round of sanctions, details will be confirmed in the coming days, but the EU Foreign Affairs chief says

they will target, quote, "everyone involved in facilitating the migrant crisis."

That came just hours after some 2,000 refugees on the Belarusian side of the border, many of them children, were wrongly informed that they would be

allowed into Poland. That didn't happen. Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance was there with them, among them, and he sent

this report.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Very dramatic scenes that have been playing out. I'm here right on the border-

crossing between Belarus and Poland. Take a look here, just to the left of your screen, you can see the Polish police, the border guards have come

here to prevent what could have been, what could be still a mass exodus of these refugees here behind me out of Belarus into Poland because that camp

that we reported from a couple of days ago, where there were 2,000 people that had gathered on that border in very bleak conditions, well, within the

last couple of hours, that camp has completely emptied.

Almost every one of those people gathered their things, packed up their tents, their sleeping bags, what little belongings they had, put them on

their backs and they've come en masse all the way down here through the forest right the way to this official border crossings.

There's been a rumor circulating for the past 24 hours inside the camp that the Polish side was prepared to open up their borders and open up a

humanitarian corridor through to Germany, which is what the vast majority of these people who are from Iraqi-Kurdistan for the most part say they


But the Poles have been absolutely clear that that's not happening. They've sent text message to everybody on telephones including to my phone, which

says, look, you know, don't listen to what you've been told. Don't be fooled is what they say in the text message. We are going to defend our

borders. We are not going to let you through.

And that message has been underlined by the fact they've deployed these police in force. This water cannon has just arrived in the past few minutes

as well, bringing to two the number of water cannons that have their sort of barrels pointed in our general direction, and general direction of these


This is a challenge, a challenge directly to the Polish authorities, to the European Union, to let these people through. And look at them, you know,

many of them are children, babes in arms, many of them families who have come here from various countries, mainly Iraqi-Kurdistan, in the hope of

getting across into the European Union for a better life.

Poland and Germany, wherever it is they want to go. Now, obviously, there's a blame game, the west, the United States blames Belarus from making this

happen, weaponizing these migrants in the words of U.S. officials in order to put pressure on the European Union and perhaps to distract from the

buildup of Russia forces in the east of Ukraine.

That's what Secretary of State Blinken has been saying. Well, what the Belarusians say and the Moscow authorities who are backing them is that the

Poles are not living up to their obligations under international law. There have been reports of refugees getting across these razor wire fences, but

they're being pushed back by the Poles, which would be illegal under international law.

And certainly, the appeal now directly from these refugees is to let them pass, let them go through. But as you can see from these determined police

officers on the Polish side, they're not prepared at this stage to let that happen.



GORANI: And that was Matthew Chance reporting from the Belarusian side of the border. Let's go to Fred Pleitgen who is on the Polish side of that

same border. And European foreign ministers are discussing fresh sanctions against Belarus. It would be the fifth round of sanctions. Why would they

believe this round would be effective when others have not?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they believe that even the threat of sanctions is already having some

effect. I mean, one of the things that we've seen over the past couple of days, Hala, is, for instance, the European Union has had some not-so-quiet

diplomacy actually with some countries in the Middle East, like for instance, Turkey, like for instance, the United Emirates as well, but Iraq

also for instance, and there has already been some things that the European Union believes that it has achieved so far.

The threat of sanctions for instance appears to have caused some airlines from the Middle East to stop flying people into Minsk. Also, for instance,

have now the Belarusian flagship carrier Belavia which over the past couple of days has announced that it will not only stop flying Iraqis, Syrians,

Yemenis and also Afghans from Istanbul to Minsk, but also has now announced that it will also no fly -- no longer fly people with those nationalities

from the UAE to Minsk or to other places in Belarus either.

So, certainly, the European Union believes that sanctions are a tool, the threat of which can already make a difference. But on the other hand also,

obviously wants to discourage or try and discourage this practice from continuing, and that's why I think one of the things that Josep Borrell

said was quite interesting, is that they said everybody would face sanctions, everybody that was involved in this. Obviously, you have these

sort of so-called travel agencies that were offering these package deals to go to Belarus and to go across the border --

GORANI: Yes --

PLEITGEN: You, obviously -- the European Union believes have officials from the Lukashenko regime involved as well. And it was quite interesting

because we've actually been able to speak this weekend to some people who did make it across the border, and they said they bought these package

deals and that people told them they would be able to go to Minsk and get across the border within three hours.

And obviously, that certainly wasn't true. So the Poles believe that this crisis was artificially manufactured and they did come out with a couple of

videos that did seem to underscore what they were saying. Like, for instance, a Belarusian military vehicle that seemed to be tearing down the

border fence and using a strobe life against Polish soldiers to try and stop them from essentially protecting that border, Hala.

GORANI: All right, indeed. I've heard similar stories, Syrians telling stories that they were promised safe and quick passage into the EU if they

bought these tourist deals. They were given visas to Belarus, the whole thing turned out obviously, as people can now see, to be --

PLEITGEN: Right --

GORANI: A scam. Thanks very much for that, Fred Pleitgen is at the border. Let's discuss the bigger picture with an expert on this region. Anne

Applebaum is a staff writer at "The Atlantic", a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University and the other of "Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive

Lure of Authoritarianism". Thanks for being with us. How much of a role is Vladimir Putin playing in all of this?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Very important to understand that Putin is the backer of Lukashenko, who is the dictator of Belarus.

Helps him economically, helps him ideologically, offers him police support.

I doubt very much whether Lukashenko could be doing this if it wasn't for his support and also for the support of the rest of the autocratic world.

Big investment in Belarus made by China, Cuba defends Belarus at the U.N. This is now a project. Autocracies work together in order to make these

kinds of events happen.

And just to add a piece of context to the -- to your report from Belarus, this was absolutely a manufactured crisis. There were not people, you know,

from the Middle East or anywhere on the Polish border three or four months ago. This has been created. It's been --the people have been lied to.

They've been manipulated. They've been -- as you heard, told to spend their money on what was a lie, and it's been deliberately designed as a kind of

provocation. And that's one of the reasons you're seeing the response that you have.

GORANI: And what options do EU countries have? Because it's 2,000 people on the EU's doorstep, almost ten people have frozen to death. I mean, it's

pretty grotesque when you think about it, that they're on the other side of barbed wire and tens of thousands of soldiers are preventing them from

entering. The EU, you could argue has -- I mean, what message is it sending by reacting in this way?

APPLEBAUM: So, first of all, it's mostly been Poland reacting and not the EU. Poland who was very clear for several months that it would not accept

any EU help or advice. It's really only in the last few days that the EU has been involved because Polish diplomats finally relented on that score.

So this was really a Polish decision. I mean, remember, this is a -- don't try and make any -- it's a very -- it's a very nuanced and difficult

situation because obviously the Poles feel that if they did let people in, then others would come.


And we know there have been dozens of flights coming from the Middle East in the last few weeks. It's not something that you can -- you know, you can

say, well, we'll take 2,000 and no more, because in the next day, there might be another 2,000.


APPLEBAUM: I've argued that what should be done, is they should set up an emergency processing system whereby people are questioned immediately as to

whether or not they qualify for asylum protection, and If not, they should be sent home. You know, I've argued that, you know, pressure on the

airlines and pressure on all those involved would help, and the EU is doing that already.

I mean, there are -- there were certainly better ways to do this, and there were also -- it was also unnecessary for the Polish government to use this

crisis which it is doing in domestic politics to, you know, to talk about the migrants as terrorists or as even sexual perverts --

GORANI: Yes --

APPLEBAUM: And to kind of create, well, hysteria about it. That was unnecessary. But this is a very difficult, nuanced problem, very similar to

the problems that have been faced in Greece and Italy and elsewhere on the European borders.

GORANI: Yes, and the Polish officials we've spoken to over the last few weeks have said, sure, they can -- they can apply for political asylum, but

they have to do it in Minsk. And we know these migrants are not allowed to backtrack and go back to Minsk by Belarusian police. So, where does this

crisis go though from here, do you think?

APPLEBAUM: I mean, I'm not going to do any predictions. I know the Iraqi government has already started offering its citizens return flights. What

we don't know -- and as you referred to, is whether the Belarusians will allow people to return to Minsk.

So, we've heard stories -- I was at the Polish border a few days ago and we hear stories from migrants who say they tell the guards, they want to go

back, they want to go back to Iraq, and they're not allowed to go. So, the question is whether at some point, the guards will say, OK, you can go


So that seems to be the most likely revolution, but you know, we'll see what happens in the next two or three days.

GORANI: Jens Stoltenberg; the NATO secretary-general is essentially saying that this is a way that this crisis is, as you said, manufactured crisis is

a way of distracting from troop movements by Russia. This is what he said.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO: In recent weeks, we have seen large and unusual concentrations of Russian forces close to Ukraine's

borders. Similar to Russia's build-up in Crimea and the Black Sea region earlier this year. NATO remains vigilant, we are monitoring the situation

very closely, and we continue to consult among allies and with partners such as Ukraine and the European Union. Any further provocation or

aggressive actions by Russia would be of serious concern.


GORANI: What do you -- what do you make of that? Do you think there's truth to that?

APPLEBAUM: It's certainly true that Russians are moving troops and armored vehicles towards Ukraine. My fear has been that there would be some kind of

armed incident on the Polish-Belarusian border, and that would be used as an excuse, you know, for Russian troops even to enter into that conflict.

But, obviously, you know, I don't want to push that line. It's just a -- it's just a fear, not a prediction. But I mean, yes, it's true that the

Russians and Belarusians have been ramping up their rhetoric.

The Russians have been -- there was an extraordinary letter from Vladimir Putin that appeared a few months ago that was sent to all Russian soldiers

essentially describing Ukraine as a fake country. Lukashenko's state television has been -- you know, running these attacks on Poland. You know,

Poland is liberal. Poles hate Belarusians and so on.

So the anti-Polish, anti-Ukrainian, anti-western rhetoric in that part of the world is as high as it's ever been. And that is the kind of language

you hear in advance of some kind of provocation. But, you know, let's hope that doesn't happen.

GORANI: Anne Applebaum, thanks so much for joining us, really appreciate having you on the program this evening.

APPLEBAUM: Thank you.

GORANI: A lot more to come tonight. Austria is trying out a new targeted lockdown in hopes of getting more people vaccinated and not alienating

those who already are. Plus, a fourth arrest in Liverpool and an elevated terror threat throughout the U.K. The latest on an explosion outside a

hospital on Sunday is coming up after the break.



GORANI: Austria is trying out a new kind of lockdown. Starting today, unvaccinated people, age 12 and older are under a stay-at-home order.

That's around 2 million people in a country of 9 million who now are not allowed into restaurants, cafes or entertainment venues. Other European

nations are watching this lockdown closely to see if it works. Barbie Nadeau tells us how it's going.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Protesters gather in Vienna ahead of a new restrictions now in effect in Austria and other parts of

Europe that target the unvaccinated. Officials from the World Health Organization say Europe is once again at the center of the pandemic, and

some governments are getting tough on those who have not been vaccinated by limiting what they can do and where they can go.

In Austria, anyone 12 and older who is not fully vaccinated is under a stay-at-home order. That means no going out unless it's for work, taking a

walk or other essential purposes. Though children ages 12 to 15 who are regularly tested under government standards can participate in some public


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's very discriminating because I'm allowed to go to work, but the rest of the day I have to stay at home.

NADEAU: With only 65 percent of Austria's population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe, millions of

people are now under lockdown again. Though, there are some exemptions for those who are recently recovered from the virus. Officials say the lockdown

will initially last ten days, and there will be stiff fines for those who don't comply, which will be enforced through spot checks.

KARL NEHAMMER, INTERIOR MINISTER, AUSTRIA (through translator): Every citizen, every person living in Austria must be aware that they could be

checked by the police at any time.

NADEAU: Germany's capital Berlin also singling out the unvaccinated who under new restrictions called 2G can no longer dine indoors at restaurants,

go to bars, cinemas and other venues. Those privileges are now only for the vaccinated and those who can show proof of recent recovery from COVID-19.

The targeted measures come as Germany has some of the highest daily numbers of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Not everyone is happy with the new tactics. Business owners must now turn away customers if they don't meet the criteria, but some who implemented

the rules while they were still optional say there is a sense of relief that come from them.

KASTEN DREES, BAR MANAGER (through translator): For me and my employees, it makes things easier at work. The customers are also more relaxed. We don't

always have to check if customers are wearing their masks when they get up.


NADEAU: Tough consequences for the unvaccinated, but with soaring new cases of COVID-19 in Europe, some governments are shifting their tone for those

who have not taken the vaccine. Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


GORANI: Eva Schernhammer joins me now, she's a professor of epidemiology at the University of Vienna. Thanks for being with us. Do you think this

partial lockdown will work for the unvaccinated? It's only ten days to begin with.

EVA SCHERNHAMMER, PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA: Well, that's the big question right now. I think it's definitely a need -- much-

needed measure to implement some form of restriction on movement of people to bring down the case numbers. But whether this particular measure will be

sufficient as Austria expanding on the -- basically on the limit of their intensive care unit capacity. So this has to be weighed and carefully

watched right now in the next few days.

GORANI: And one of the reasons could be that a much smaller proportion of Austrians and not just Austrians, but in German-speaking countries,

Germany, Switzerland as well, much smaller proportion is vaccinated than other western European countries. So, we look here at the graphic. Austria

is a little below 65 percent, Switzerland, below 66 percent, and other countries you're seeing close to 80 percent, 85 percent. Why is there

vaccine hesitancy in a country like Austria?

SCHERNHAMMER: Yes, it's a big question honestly. You know, you can only speculate for sure. We are somewhere in the middle geographically, so maybe

that sort of fits the trend. To the east of us, you have much lower vaccination rates. To the west, south and north, you have higher rates. So,

maybe it's this middle part of Austria.

But I also think that governments have been particularly successful in Europe if they have had governments who have stood together during the

pandemic and where there was no disagreement on the usefulness of vaccines, for example.

And that is not the case in Austria. In Austria, we do have one political party with a sizable enough votership where there is this notion that, you

know, maybe people don't need the vaccine. And that I think is really hurting Austria.

GORANI: But you've had COVID passes in Austria, right? Where people have to show proof --


GORANI: Of vaccination to go into restaurants and cafes. So, I mean, does that tell us that the COVID passes are not nearly as effective as high

vaccination rates really?

SCHERNHAMMER: No, not at all. But these measures were actually only introduced about a week ago. So previous Monday, and that means that the

impact on new case numbers will be seen in the next two days only.

GORANI: So the COVID passes in combination with this partial lockdown and hopefully increased vaccination, that's the strategy, the strategy to bring

these --


GORANI: Numbers down. Because, as you mentioned importantly, hospitals are under pressure right now in Austria, which has a knock-on effect to anybody

who needs medical care.

SCHERNHAMMER: Yes, absolutely. So in Austria, this is probably the steepest wave in terms of absolute case numbers that we have experienced in this

past pandemic years, and it also actually is leading now to a large number of people requiring hospitalization. Now, because of the vaccine still

having beneficial effect on the course of the disease, such as that people don't get quite as sick and --

GORANI: Yes --

SCHERNHAMMER: Don't necessarily need intensive care unit care, we don't see the same dramatic effect we would have seen a year ago. But, still, we are

reaching capacity with intensive care units very soon.

GORANI: All right, well, Professor Eva Schernhammer, thank you very much for joining us there with more on this new measures announced in Austria

today, hopefully, they'll bring the numbers down, especially before the Christmas period. Thank you. U.K. authorities are now calling Sunday's

deadly car explosion in Liverpool a terrorist incident. And we want to warn you we're about to show you some video that some of you might find


A taxi pulls up to the front of a hospital, and you can see barely coming to a stop, some kind of bomb goes off inside the car. Police believe a

passenger hailed the taxi and brought the explosives into the vehicle to detonate himself. And you see, there's a man running out of the car, that's

the taxi driver. So there have been some arrests, three arrests, a fourth man has now been arrested in connection with the incident. Scott McLean is

following this for us in Liverpool. What more do we know about what happened, Scott?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Hala, so we're just outside of a street that's been cordoned off by police. They have been here all day

searching a property.


This is the area that police believe the suspect in this case, who died after that explosion that you just showed, was picked up by that taxi. And

police have just released the name of the person that they believe was inside that taxi as a passenger.

They say that it is a 32-year-old man named Emad al-Swealmeen. This is a person they say was renting a -- or was living at a property about a --

about a mile or so to the north of the Liverpool Women's Hospital, but relatively, recently, had begun to rent this place.

Now, no arrests have been made at this particular property, but police say that they have made some progress and managed to find some significant

items inside. In fact, some of those items, either from this property or the other property where the arrests were made, were actually detonated

about three, three-and-a-half hours ago in a park not far from here.

In fact, Hala, it was an explosion that we heard from here, and we wondered what it was. A lot of people in this area were not warned about that

explosion, and so obviously, in a city that has just been told that there was a terror attack that took place, a lot of people certainly are on edge


Let me tell you a little bit about the neighborhood. This is not the kind of place that you might expect to find a terror cell, not by a long shot.

There are some really beautiful Victorian homes on this street. People in the area say that a lot of wealthy professionals own some of those homes.

Some others have been subdivided into apartments which have attracted students who attend the nearby university.

Police say that al-Swealmeen took a bomb that had been homemade into that taxi with him. The obvious questions that they're trying to figure out,

Hala, is who made that bomb, how they were able to make that bomb and exactly why? Also, another line of questioning that they are pursuing is

the fact that less than a mile from that hospital where this detonation took place was a remembrance day service. This bomb went off literally

moments before two minutes of silence to commemorate Britain's war dead took place on Sunday.

Police say that they don't have a firm connection between those two events at this time, but obviously they are looking to see if there is one or

whether it's just a totally odd coincidence. And the four people that you mentioned who were arrested, they are all men, they are all in their 20s,

and they were arrested under the Terrorism Act, which allows police to arrest them without a warrant if they suspect that they are terrorists.

They also have to release them within a relatively short amount of time, unless they can produce some evidence.

One other thing to mention, Hala, the driver of the taxi was actually released from hospital less than 24 hours after he was admitted, which is

pretty incredible to think after seeing that video.

GORANI: Indeed. Thanks very much, Scott McLean, reporting live from Liverpool. Just to repeat, the person suspected of having detonated those

explosiveness in that taxi outside a hospital in Liverpool has been named as Emad al-Swealmeen, a 32-year-old man, four others have been detained in

connection with what authorities are calling a terrorist incident. Thanks, Scott.

Still to come, some of the most critical talks of Joe Biden's presidency will soon get under way. We'll see why the stakes are so high for his

virtual summit with Xi Jinping. Plus, an American journalist who was facing an 11-year prison sentence in Myanmar is now unexpectedly freed. We'll take

a closer look at what happened.




GORANI: Just a few hours, the leaders of the world's two largest economies will sit down for a virtual summit. There are some very serious differences

between the two men over Taiwan, over human rights, trade and a lot more so the stakes are extremely high.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke previously twice by phone this year, most recently on September 9th, but this is the

first meeting between the two since Mr. Biden took office. CNN's David Culver has more.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The leaders of the world's reining and emerging superpowers heading into a much anticipated virtual summit, as

bilateral ties largely remain in deep freeze.


VICTOR SHIH, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: The summit is a preliminary sign that the relationship between the U.S. and China is

getting back on a more normal track.


CULVER: U.S. China relations have been growing more tense since 2018, when former President Trump launched his trade war over Beijing's alleged unfair

practices, slapping massive tariffs on Chinese goods. The downward spiral worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as Washington accused China of

covering up its mishandling of the virus that would quickly bring the world to its knees.

A transition to the Biden administration did little to ease tensions, an early meeting between senior U.S. and Chinese officials marred by fiery

exchanges. Recently though, signs of progress, a high profile Chinese tech executive detained on U.S. criminal charges in Canada was allowed to return

to China. And just last week, both countries coming together in a joint effort to fight climate change, the heated rhetoric at times, softening a



JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We welcome the competition. We're not looking for conflict.


CULVER: In a letter published last week, President Xi said China is willing to "enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board with the U.S."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What both sides needs is a stabilization of the relationship which would allow both powers to peacefully coexist in the

foreseeable future.


CULVER: But the two sides are still at odds over a wide range of thorny issues, from mounting military tensions across the Taiwan Strait and in the

South China Sea, to tech and cyber security, to human rights. But likely topping the agenda, experts say, is what plunged us China relations to a

historic low to begin with. An agreement on trade might just lead to a thaw in ties between the world's two biggest economies. David Culver, CNN,



GORANI: Let's talk more now about what's at stake at this summit. We're joined by our International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson.

And the U.S. President has made no secret of the fact that China is his main foreign policy concern. What do you think the Americans are hoping to

achieve here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think that there is no unfortunate incident between the military forces of China and the United

States. China has recently been flying a large number, an increasing number of military aircraft fighter jets bombers, over Taiwan's air defense space.


United States has been sailing along with its allies warships through the Taiwan Strait, that is in of itself sort of an opportunity for something to

go wrong when tensions are as high as they are. I mean, look what we've heard over the weekend. You know, Antony Blinken, Secretary of -- U.S.

Secretary of State talking with his Chinese counterpart and being warned, you know, not to not to take a wrong step about the independence of Taiwan.

It's a red line for China.

Last week, a U.S. congressional delegation in Taiwan, the message from the foreign ministry spokesman there is, don't collaborate with independence

movements, because this will lead, essentially, to conflict. So I think the biggest thing that the United States can ensure is that there isn't an

accident, that there isn't a misinterpretation of what either side is doing.

GORANI: And what about other thorny topics, human rights, the Uyghurs for instance, or climate change? We know China sent a delegation but its leader

did not attend COP26. Any of those you think on the table?

ROBERTSON: People believe that climate change is an opportunity for the two countries to work together. Secretary Kerry did with his Chinese

counterpart in Glasgow, you know, that was perhaps a little bit unexpected, but it shows that there's -- there is some common ground there.

The issue of trade, that -- that's an economic pain for both nations, can - - the trade conflict can, for example, you know, tariffs on aluminum steel be reduced. The United States did that with Europe recently. Perhaps

President Biden can come to that agreement with President Xi. And if they do, then that's probably going to help the economies of both countries,

even to help, you know, bring down some of the global inflation at the moment.

There's a deep lack of trust between these countries. There's a geopolitical fulcrum that we're seeing and the center point on that fulcrum

is shifting, and it's shifting in China's favor. And President Biden came to office putting, as you said, human rights at the center.

The treatment of the Uyghurs in China is an extreme point of contention between the two leaders. This is something Biden has sort of built his

presidency around. He can't walk away from that issue.

GORANI: And what's interesting is just as Biden is withdrawing from conflict, from the international stage, in some cases, I mean, obviously,

very minimal involvement in the Middle East, removing all the last remaining troops from Afghanistan, as Biden is doing this, China is very

much in an expansionary kind of phase right now where it's striking deals with governments, left, right, and center, sometimes unsavory governments.

So you have two different forces here at play, and two very distinct camps also emerging.

ROBERTSON: You do. I mean, this is what you're talking about. There is that fulcrum shifting, tipping towards China with a more expansionist foreign

policy than it's ever had before, a military buildup stronger than it's ever had before. The United States' sort of in retreat, but also so it can

focus on China and on that region.

You have here democratic countries. President Biden's been trying to align them behind him against China and other countries that are not democracies,

they're autocracies. And you have essentially an -- and President Biden has said this, is a pivot point in the world order for democracies, that they

must -- the values of democracy nations must -- democratic nations must stand up for at this time, they're under assault. And this is one case

where you can instinctively see that happening.

It is not easy for a President Biden, who President Xi has pointed out, you don't know what you're going to get next time there's a reelection in the

United States, you don't know what flavor of politics you'll get, what foreign policy you'll get, whereas with him, it's almost assured that he'll

get a third term next year.

And that's it for autocracies. This is what we see with President Putin in Russia and this is what democracy is struggling against. And it -- over the

issue of Taiwan, over the issue of trade, over the issue of human rights, we see this writ large with China, and it is the emergence of China as a

more dominant force, willing to flex its muscles preparing and building, by building a bigger navy, by building a stronger army and air force, building

those muscles for that moment.

GORANI: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks very much.

American journalist Danny Fenster has now been freed. He was detained in Myanmar for nearly six months. We don't have many details yet, but we do

know that a former U.S. diplomat played a role in his release. Ivan Watson is following this story for us.

IVAN WATSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just three days after the U.S. journalist Danny Fenster was handed an 11 year jail sentence by a

closed court in Milan, suddenly news emerged of his unexpected release.


That the former New Mexico governor and Ambassador Bill Richardson was flying out of Myanmar with Fenster to Qatar and then on their way home. The

Fenster family, he's originally from Detroit, put out a statement saying they're overjoyed that he's been released and they thanked Ambassador

Richardson and the public for their support and in helping negotiate this.

Now the government in Myanmar, it's a military regime that seized power and a coup on February 1st. It says that it has released Fenster on

humanitarian grounds. He was first detained in May. He was the Managing Editor of a local news outlet called Frontier Myanmar. He was trying to fly

out of the country when authorities seized him at Yangon airport and he's been behind bars ever since. He was facing the threat of lifetime in prison

for an additional charge of allegedly violating Myanmar's Counterterrorism Law.

Now, Bill Richardson, he has thanked the government of Norway and Qatar for helping secure Fenster's release. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony

Blinken, put out a statement, welcoming this development and also calling for the release of other journalists currently behind bars in Myanmar.

There's been a dramatic crackdown there since the February 1st military coup.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in fact says that more than a hundred journalists have been arrested since February 1st, and that

there's still more than -- journalists behind bars and that at least eight news organizations have lost their licenses, many more forced to suspend

their operations and many other journalists reportedly in hiding. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

GORANI: All right. One of Donald Trump's Senior Advisor, Steve Bannon, turned himself in earlier today and is speaking to reporters now. Let's

listen in.


DAVID SCHOEN, BANNON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There is nothing criminal about any conduct that occurred in this case. And when we respond to Merrick Garland,

we say apply the law equally. They don't have -- who else did they prosecute for invoking executive privilege in a criminal prosecution?

Read the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel letters, it's unconstitutional according to their own opinions, from some real

luminaries, including, by the way, read the Office of Legal Counsel opinion by Eric Holder for the Obama administration, the Fast and Furious case,

this is unheard of, to force a person to violate the invocation of executive privilege.

By the way, I mean, the court, of course, hasn't ruled yet in President Trump's case, in Trump versus Thompson, on whether executive privilege

applies. But even beyond that, the Office of Legal Counsel opinions make clear that it applies to discussions with former government officials.

And that makes sense, it makes sense because we often see former officials kept in the loop that the President needs to consult with and whatever you

happen to think the President Trump talked about at the time, that's what executive privilege exists for, so that people can speak freely with the

President, talk about strategy members -- matters, and talk about national security and other important matters.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: By the way, by the way, by the way, not just Trump people and not just conservatives, every progressive and every

liberal in this country that likes freedom of speech and liberty, OK? Should be fighting for this case. That's why I'm here today for everybody.

I'm never going to back down. And they took on the wrong guy this time. OK? They took on the wrong guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) question by question. Why did you (INAUDIBLE)

SCHOEN: Because he was instructed by his attorney not to show up in Congress, a layperson has to follow his attorney's advice. In my view, at

least, when he's faced with a subpoena, he doesn't know anything about legal process otherwise. He relies on a lawyer and the lawyer gave the

advice, and I must say, relies on the Office of Legal Counsel opinions would very clearly say that he need not show up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So did he get bad advice or what?

SCHOEN: No. I don't think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) executive privilege, and that's worked out?

SCHOEN: There's no other choice. Once the privilege is invoked, what would the choice be? Show up and testify. And by the way, they has to have

members -- if you were to testify, to have those people invoking the privilege a representative of the person invoking the privilege present,

just to be able to monitor it and make an objection if a privileged matter came up. They refused to allow that.

BANNON: By the way, by the way, if the administrative state wants to take me on, bring it, because we're here to fight this and we're going to go on

offense. You stand by. You see how we're going to go on offense. OK? Nancy Pelosi, Merrick Garland, Joe Biden, the whole -- all of them.

SCHOEN: What he means by offense is we're going to challenge this affirmatively. We're going to fight to defend his rights and to defend your

rights also.

BANNON: Your rights. All of you.

SCHOEN: Quite funny. I represented the American Civil Liberties Union for more than 20 years and all the litigation they had in Alabama. This is an

issue that the American Civil Liberties Union ought to be on our side with.

BANNON: OK, we got -- let's bounce. Let's go.

SCHOEN: All right. We got to go. Thank you very much.

BANNON: Guys, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, on January, you said that --



GORANI: And there you have it in Washington D.C., Steve Bannon, the Former Senior Advisor to Donald Trump turned himself in earlier today. He was

indicted on contempt of Congress charges for refusing to appear before a committee invested -- investigating the January 6th insurrection on Capitol


We heard a familiar refrain from Steve Bannon there that he is vowing to "continue to fight," to combat the administrative state. Earlier he

remained defiant. He said "he would take down the Biden regime." Again, he was indicted for refusing to appear before that congressional committee

investigating January 6th. He appeared briefly earlier today in federal court after surrendering to the FBI today.

And you heard a little bit earlier from David Schoen, who was standing next to him, that is his attorney. And he -- then he walked away saying he's got

to go and that they picked on the wrong guy this time. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll have a lot more of the day's news

for you. Stay with us.


GORANI: In Wisconsin in the United States, 500 National Guard troops are on standby awaiting a verdict in a trial that has divided the country. 18-

year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of killing two men, two white men, during Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, following the police

shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, closing arguments are underway right now, which means a verdict could be coming down soon. Shimon Prokupecz has

been following the trial for us in Kenosha with more. So closing arguments still going on right now, Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes, still going on. Prosecutor is probably well over an hour into it. He has about an hour

and 30 minutes he's going to do in two separate stints because you have -- he's doing it now then the defense is going to go then after that the

prosecutor is going to be able to have the last word. So we're about an hour or so into it.

And I have to say, you know, the prosecutor has taken some criticism over how he's conducted this trial, how he's presented some evidence, but seems

to be a pretty effective closing argument. I was in the courtroom. The jurors seem to be really paying close attention to what he's saying.

He's going through each incident by incident. So starting with the shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum, and then he goes into the other victims who were shot.

He's using a bullet point style type of the way he's doing his closing argument.


The jurors seem to be paying really close attention to him, you know, turning their heads from looking at some of the video that he's playing to

looking at him, you know, and really going after Kyle Rittenhouse, saying he had no business being there that night, you know, using his age as a

factor using his inexperience as an -- as a factor the fact that he was holding and using this AR-15 style rifle that he had no experience using.

But, of course, you know, there were some problems for the prosecution today after the judge dismissed one of the counts that has to do with that

AR-15 style rifle, dismissing the six-count, which said that Kyle Rittenhouse broke the law by possessing that AR-15 style rifle because he

was 17 at the time and the legal age was 18. The judge essentially dismissing that count, so the jury won't even be considering that. But as I

said, the prosecution is continuing their closing arguments and soon, soon, we will be hearing from the defense team.

GORANI: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much live in Kenosha. A 9- year-old boy who was injured at the Astroworld festival a little more than a week ago has sadly died. His family's attorney says he'd been in a

medically induced coma in an effort to treat his brain, liver, and kidney.

Some of the people at the festival got crushed and trampled on as the crowd surged toward the stage during rapper Travis Scott's performance. Now that

brings the total number of dead to 10, the youngest being this 9-year-old. Dozens of lawsuits have already been filed.

Still to come tonight, Cuba's government is shouting down dissent using its own protesters to drown out the opposition. That's next.


GORANI: Cuba's government is doing everything it can to silence protests. Today, it's targeting a planned opposition in March in Havana and officials

are going so far as to block activists inside their own homes. Patrick Oppmann shows us.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A bus blocks a street where a Cuban opposition activist lives. Cuban plainclothes police and government

supporters prevent him from leaving his apartment and journalists from going to talk with him.


The activist, a playwright named Yunior Garcia Aguilera, posted this video before supporters tell me his internet was cut off by the government.

"I woke up under siege," he says, "the whole block is surrounded by state security, dressed as civilians trying to pass themselves off as the

people." After widespread antigovernment protests in July, the largest since Fidel Castro's revolution to power, a group of activists led by

Garcia Aguilera called for a peaceful march to take place on Monday.

The activists say they are calling on the communist-run government to allow more liberties and release hundreds of people still in jail from the July

protests. Cuban officials denied permission for the March, claiming it is a pretext invented by Cuban exiles and the U.S. government who want to use

rising tensions inside Cuba as an excuse to invade the island.

The Cuban Government is taking buses like this one to close off the streets. There are police everywhere. And there in the distance, you can

see a group of men, government supporters, perhaps police themselves, hanging flags Yunior Garcia's window.

Apparently unable to leave his apartment or get online, Garcia Aguilera holds up his fist in defiance through his window until that final form of

communication is also cut off. A government supporter tells me he lives in the same neighborhood and that he is proud to have confined Garcia Aguilera

to his home.

"I was there when he opened the door," he says "I was close to him. He believes this is fascism to not let him out. And I said it's not fascism.

It's the people, the people in revolution." After blocking the activists from leaving, a group of government supporters even holds a party outside

to celebrate.

When we interviewed him at his apartment in October, Garcia Aguilera predicted the Cuban government would try to silence him, unintentionally

proving his point about what happens to those who call for greater openness. "They've shown there's no rule of law," he says. "There's no

possibility for citizens to legally, peacefully, and orderly show their dissent to those in power."

Other activists and government critics on Sunday said they were also being blocked from leaving their homes, but vowed that whatever the costs, they

would make their voices heard. Patrick Oppman, CNN, Havana.


GORANI: Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani in London. Stay with CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next.