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Hala Gorani Tonight
Omicron Variant Detected In At Least 19 Countries; Barbados Cuts Ties To British Monarchy; Russian Troops Now Number Into Tens Of Thousands Near Ukraine Border After Drills; Russian Troop Buildup At Border With Ukraine; Ghislaine Maxwell And Jeffrey Epstein's "Pyramid Scheme Of Abuse"; First ISIS Member To Be Tried On Genocide Jailed For Life; Hunger In Latin America And Caribbean Highest In Decades; Police Ramping Up In Response To Smash And Grabs. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 30, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Governments around the world scramble to
react to the Omicron variant as the number of countries it has spread to increases. I'll be speaking with the Health Minister of the Czech Republic
who has tested positive himself, about how his country is coping.
Then Barbados officially cuts ties with the British monarchy. We'll show you the grand ceremony. And later, Russia's military build-up near Ukraine
is causing some escalating concern. I'll be speaking with Latvia's foreign minister following his meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State. There is a
big NATO meeting going on in Riga, we will be live there for you.
The world is waiting for a concrete information about this Omicron coronavirus variant, but for now, many countries including the U.S. and
U.K. are urging people to get their vaccinations, including in many cases booster shots. Drug companies say they are racing to find out whether the
current vaccines will protect against Omicron. Moderna's president says the COVID vaccines that are out now are, quote, "unlikely to be as effective
against Omicron as they've been against previous strains".
And right now, the variant has been recorded in at least 19 countries and territories. Officials say it was already in Europe a week before it was
announced by South Africa, identified by South Africa as a new variant. David McKenzie breaks down all of today's developments.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A coronavirus testing center in Johannesburg. The Omicron variant is already dominant here just
weeks after it was first detected. A doctor who is treating Omicron patients is expressing cautious optimism.
ANGELIQUE COETZEE, CHAIRWOMAN, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: But the majority of what we are presenting to primary health care practitioners are
extremely mild cases, so it's mild to moderate.
MCKENZIE: The White House says there aren't enough cases yet to evaluate the variant's danger, but that they are prepared.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: Our variant surveillance system had demonstrated we can reliably detect new
variants, from Alpha in the start of 2021 to Delta over this past Summer.
MCKENZIE: The CDC is strengthening its booster recommendations for Americans, saying all adults should get another dose six months after their
second Pfizer or Moderna shot or after just two months if they had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It's a similar story abroad where the U.K.
government says it will now make boosters available to everyone over 18.
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: What we're doing is taking some proportionate precautionary measures while our scientists crack the
MCKENZIE: In England on Tuesday, face masks became mandatory again in stores and on public transportation. Israel confirmed its first cases of
Omicron community spread. The Sheba Medical Center said a doctor who travelled abroad and then infected a colleague. In the Netherlands where
some are already isolating in this airport hotel, the government said the Omicron variant was in the country a full week earlier than it originally
thought, found in test samples from November 19th that were just sequenced.
Japan found its first Omicron variant case, a man who traveled from Namibia, its borders closed to all foreigners on Tuesday. South African
leaders are slamming those global travel bans as ineffective and punitive.
XOLISA MABHONGO, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA TO THE U.N.: We feel that the travel ban is very unfair. South African science
should be commended for discovering this new variant and sharing the information with the world. We have played our role very responsibly.
GORANI: And that was David McKenzie reporting. Let's go now live to Ben Wedeman, he's in Rome. So, European countries have seen some pretty
dreadful numbers in terms of cases, especially in eastern Europe. How are they modifying their approach or strategizing in the face of this new
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sort of every -- typical of how the world is dealing with. There is no global approach. It's
country by country. So, we heard Boris Johnson say, for instance, that they're going to try to vaccinate -- rather give booster vaccinations to
all adults by the end of January. He said temporary vaccination tents will be popping up like Christmas trees around the U.K.
Other countries, for instance, Austria, making mandatory vaccines. Greece, for instance, after the 16th of January is going to require everyone over
the age of 60 who doesn't get vaccinated, well, they're going to be fined 100 euro a month until they do get vaccinated. So increasingly, it looks
like with the impetus of this newest variant of COVID-19, that the more draconian measures that were being considered may go into effect.
Germany, for instance, is considering basically a lockdown for the unvaccinated, barring them from all public places except essential shops if
they don't get the vaccine. So, it does appear that this new variant is providing the needed impetus to bring harsher measures into effect to try
to bring this pandemic under control, taking into consideration, for instance, in some parts of Europe, Hala, the number -- the infection rate
is double what it was last Winter, although deaths are down where vaccination rates are high. Hala.
GORANI: And we're seeing some resistance in some countries because we are almost two years into this, especially among business owners, small
business owners, Christmas markets in countries like Austria, Germany and elsewhere, who say, look, we just cannot survive if you keep shutting us
down. How are politicians navigating this popular resistance that may not be the majority, but it is there?
WEDEMAN: Yes, the resistance is there. There's weariness. The economies have suffered as a result of this pandemic, but they're increasingly trying
to differentiate between those who have been vaccinated, who will have more leeway in terms of where they can go, what they can do. For instance, here
in Italy, the green pass, this went into effect in the middle of October, whereby if you do not -- are not vaccinated, you will not be able to go to
work unless you show that you have been tested negative.
And there are financial penalties to pay if you don't follow this. So they're trying to walk a fine line between bringing the pandemic under
control and not crashing the economy, much along the lines of what we saw in the early phases of the pandemic last year. Hala.
GORANI: Ben Wedeman live in Rome. Thanks very much. The Czech Republic has reported its first Omicron case as it fights its worst-ever wave of COVID
infections and hospitalizations. Last week, the Czech Health Minister declared a 30-day state of emergency, you can see on the graph there, the
giant spike there toward the beginning of November. Now, the 30-day state of emergency involves closing down Christmas markets, putting curfews on
bars and restaurants, I believe it's until 10:00 p.m. that people are allowed to go out.
And COVID restrictions have made for some very weird matters of state. During the weekend, the Czech President Milos Zeman swore in the new prime
minister from inside an acrylic glass box. Mr. Zeman had tested positive for COVID earlier in the week after a stay in the hospital. Let's talk more
about the state of the pandemic in the country, Adam Vojtech is the Czech Health Minister and he joins me now live from Prague. First, minister, you
announced you had tested positive for COVID. Are you still positive and how are you doing?
ADAM VOJTECH, HEALTH MINISTER, CZECH REPUBLIC: Good evening. I am still positive, but I'm doing pretty fine. I'm just coughing a little bit, but I
have very mild symptoms, so I can work online and it's not a problem.
GORANI: And we appreciate that you are joining us despite the fact that you are COVID positive, but one of the things I read that you said, that
you were quoted as saying is that you believe having been vaccinated meant that your symptoms ultimately were milder than they would have been.
VOJTECH: I'm pretty sure because if only my -- my colleague from the Ministry of Health, also positive, and they have almost no symptoms,
everyone is vaccinated. So I think really it makes sense if people get vaccinated because then the chance that they have a serious condition of
COVID and they end up in the hospital are much lower.
GORANI: How many Omicron cases do you have in the Czech Republic? I know you reported one. Do you have more so far?
VOJTECH: No, until now, we have only one confirmed case of Omicron in the Czech Republic.
GORANI: OK, let's talk a little bit about vaccination rates. You attribute potentially the fact that your -- that your symptoms are mild to the fact
that you were vaccinated, but in your country, latest statistics are less than 60 percent vaccinated compared to Portugal, compared to the U.K.,
that's very low. Why is that do you think?
VOJTECH: Now, it's over 60 percent of the whole population, and more than 70 percent of adults, but, still, it's below average of the European Union.
Well, I think there are many reasons. One reason is this information, you know, it's very strong, people are influenced by social networks, by --
there is that side which tried to influence them that the vaccines are dangerous and experimental and so on. So this is one of the reasons.
And, of course, people in especially Summer, if there were almost no cases, they were quite relaxed. You know, they didn't get the vaccination because
they thought that --
GORANI: So --
VOJTECH: COVID disappeared, but now the demand is much higher.
GORANI: So, now you're not taking any -- I mean, it seems like you're really taking some pretty -- not drastic measures, but measures that
certainly are more restrictive to your population than you had before. So, you have a 30-day state of emergency. Bars and pubs and night clubs and all
that, close at 10:00 p.m. Those types of Christmas markets are closing, but this is really going to have an impact economically on people who have --
some of them have protested in the streets of Prague and the Czech Republic. How do you balance that?
VOJTECH: Well, it's -- definitely, it's true, as was mentioned before. It's been almost two years, so with COVID, and all these measures are here
again. So, we need to vaccinate. That's the main way how we can deal with this crisis. Of course, now we had to take all these measures you've
mentioned, but on the other hand, we also try with these measures to motivate people to get the vaccine. For example, people who are not
vaccinated or are not recovered from COVID are not allowed to access some services, restaurants, mass events, cultural events and so on.
So, it's not only about these epidemiological measures, but it's also about the motivation for people --
GORANI: So --
VOJTECH: To get vaccinated.
GORANI: So, you're going down the route of, say, France and Germany where they say, Euro, you can participate in public life on any level ultimately,
but if you're not vaccinated, you can't do that. Is that --
VOJTECH: Yes --
GORANI: Motivating? What are you seeing in terms of vaccination numbers now? Is the uptake increasing as a result of this?
VOJTECH: Definitely. Comparing, for example, to August or September, after these --
GORANI: Yes --
VOJTECH: Measures were taken, the demand is much higher, and that's the only way how to deal with this situation. But still, we are below the
average of the European Union, so --
GORANI: Yes --
VOJTECH: We need to work on it.
GORANI: Great. Do you know how you caught the virus, by the way, and when? Were you able to pinpoint that?
VOJTECH: I don't know exactly. Right now, you know, it's very easy to catch the virus. We have around 15,000 or 20,000 cases per day, so --
GORANI: Yes --
VOJTECH: That's very easy to catch the virus. But, hopefully, I will have only mild symptoms.
GORANI: Well, I hope so too. Thank you so much for joining us, and we hope you recover quickly. Adam Vojtech; the Czech Health Minister joining us
live from Prague from isolation --
VOJTECH: Thank you.
GORANI: As he mentioned, he got that dreaded positive COVID test result. In Germany, Omicron is now spreading at the community level, which means
that it was imported from abroad. Leipzig's health director says the fourth confirmed case of the new variant is a man who had not traveled outside the
country or been in contact with anyone who had recently traveled. The new spread comes at a time when Germany is already struggling under the weight
of Delta variant cases.
All of this is taking place as Chancellor Angela Merkel is about to hand over the reins to Olaf Scholz, they are meeting today to discuss the next
steps. Our Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin with more. And Fred, you were able to visit an ICU unit filled with COVID patients. What did you see?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're absolutely right, Hala, and one of the things that we're seeing is that
really this latest wave of the pandemic has hit Germany exceptionally hard. And it really came as a surprise, not just to the people here, but I think
internationally as well because Germany for a very long time was seen as such a role model in dealing with this pandemic.
But the big problem this country continues to have is that vaccination rates here in Germany are very low. And that's one of the reasons why you
have this massive outbreak now, which is really hitting ICUs hard. Here is what we saw.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Another tragic day in this ICU near Germany's capital, Berlin. This 82-year-old woman's husband just died of COVID here.
Now doctors and nurses are fighting for her life. But we asked if she's surprised that she got the virus. She shakes her head, no, she says. That's
because Germany is currently suffering through the worst COVID outbreak since the pandemic began, and most of those who end up in ICUs are
unvaccinated or might have waning immunity because they're in need of a booster.
This ICU's head says she fears things will deteriorate even more with the Omicron variant already detected in Germany. "We are extremely concerned",
she says. "We fear December, January and February, and believe things will become a lot more difficult." The State Department has warned U.S. citizens
against traveling to Germany as the country struggles to contain the latest wave of infections.
(on camera): Germany has seen massive COVID-19 infection rates for weeks now, and a lot of those patients are now winding up in ICUs like this one,
and it's driving Germany's otherwise very robust health care system to the brink.
(voice-over): So bad that the German military has been called up to fly patients out of hard-hit areas. One reason for the disastrous numbers,
experts say, despite having scientist Angela Merkel as its leader, Germany has some of the lowest vaccination rates in all of western Europe. Anti-
vaxx groups are extremely strong here, and a recent study found that infection rates are high in strongholds of Germany's ultra right-wing AFD
party, which opposes measures to combat the pandemic.
While the government has now made booster shots widely available, medical professionals are calling for more drastic measures.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid we have to go into lockdown, hopefully a hard, short lockdown with a clear vision of what to do after.
PLEITGEN: And Hala, you mentioned that meeting that took place between the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, the incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz and
also state leaders here in Germany. And the final decisions of what exactly is going to happen next, those are going to be made on Thursday, however,
it does look as though Germany is set to put some pretty tough measures in place, especially for people who are unvaccinated, for instance, new
But one of the interesting things tonight, it's very fast-moving situation actually here in Germany, is that the designated Chancellor, Olaf Scholz,
he was just on the "Bilt(ph) TV Network" just a couple of minutes ago. And there he said that he was also in favor of mandatory vaccinations. Now,
that's something that the German parliament would have to approve, but it certainly seems as though the incoming government is said to be quite tough
as far as trying to combat this pandemic, Hala --
GORANI: All right. Well, the Austrians next door are doing it, maybe the Germans will as well.
PLEITGEN: Yes --
GORANI: Thank you very much for that, Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Well, markets are reacting very poorly to all of these developments on these
Omicron fears. The CEOs of vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer both said they're not sure how effective the current vaccines will be against the new
variant, and that has sent all three major indices tumbling, the Dow Jones, the Nasdaq and the wider S&P 500 index all down about 1.30 percent. Still
to come tonight, at the stroke of midnight, the world's newest republic was born. It cut ties of almost 400 years with the British monarchy. We have
And signs of aggression mount as politicians trade words of warning in eastern Europe. I'll speak with Latvia's foreign minister about what's
causing the tensions. He is hosting a NATO meeting in Riga. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Almost four centuries after the first English ships landed in Barbados, the Caribbean nation has severed the last remaining vestiges of
its colonial past. It became at the stroke of midnight, the world's newest republic as the clock struck midnight, removing Britain's Queen Elizabeth
as head of state. CNN's Max Foster is in Barbados with more. Max.
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, just yesterday, this beach was part of a royal realm with the queen as head of state. All the way over in England,
today is part of a Barbadian Republic with a Barbadian head of state as president.
SANDRA MASON, PRESIDENT, BARBADOS: I, Sandra Prunella Mason, do swear that I will love and truly serve Barbados.
FOSTER (voice-over): Fifty five years after gaining independence from the U.K., Barbados cuts its last formal tie to its former colonizer. The royal
standard flag lowered and replaced by the presidential standard, marking the end of the queen's reign on this island and a new future under a
Barbadian-born head of state appointed by the Barbadian parliament.
MASON: Our country and our people must dream big dreams and fight to realize them.
FOSTER: Prince Charles invited as a guest of honor amongst the likes of pop star, Rihanna. He used the moment to acknowledge Britain's role in the
CHARLES PHILIP ARTHUR GEORGE, PRINCE OF WALES: From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocities of slavery which forever stains our
history. The people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.
FOSTER: It was unusually stark language from the U.K., but disappointed those holding out for a formal apology.
DAVID DENNY, CARIBBEAN MOVEMENT FOR PEACE & INTEGRATION: Prince Charles is part of the royal family. The royal family contributed to slavery. The
royal family benefitted from slavery financially. And many of our African brothers and sisters died in battle, OK, for change.
FOSTER (on camera): It was in the 1620s that British settlers arrived in this paradise, and they went on to build vast fortunes from the sugar and
the slave trades. Calls for compensation for that dark period in British history grew louder during the Black Lives Matter protests as did the push
to a republic.
SCOTT FURSSEDONN-WOOD, BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER TO BARBADOS: Clearly, people in Africa, in this region and parts of the world still feel that
profound sense of injustice, and it's quite right that we recognize that, that we are determined that such a thing could never happen again.
FOSTER: There are 15 nations around the world with the queen still as head of state including the U.K. And republican movements in those countries
will be hoping what happened here in Barbados will add momentum to their own campaigns, Hala.
GORANI: Well, thanks very much, Max. And you saw Rihanna briefly there on hand to witness history. Well, one of the first acts of Barbados as a
republic was honoring her. She made history herself by becoming just the eleventh person ever to be named a national hero in her native Barbados.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIA MOTTLEY, PRIME MINISTER, BARBADOS: On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for
national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty, may you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation - by your words, by
your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go. God bless you, my dear.
ROBYN RIHANNA FENTY, MUSICIAN: Thank you.
MOTTLEY: Thank you.
FENTY: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And that was the prime minister of Barbados with a reference to the Grammy Award winner's hit song "Diamonds". The Prime Minister Mia
Mottley says Rihanna has commanded the imagination of the world through her pursuit of excellence, praising above all else her extraordinary commitment
to the land of her birth.
History made in Paris as well, Josephine Baker has become the first black woman to be inducted into the Pantheon, the Pantheon Mausoleum in Paris. It
is one of the highest honors in France. The legendary American entertainer died in 1975, and she joins just five other women including French
holocaust survivor Simone Veil and scientist Marie Curie.
Baker was not just an immensely popular performer, she also became a spy for the French military during World War II. Baker was also outspoken
against racism especially in the United States. And this comes as France wrestles with its conflicting views on racism both in the past, and it has
to be said today as well.
Still to come, the number of Russian troops at the border is rising and so is the tension level between Russia and Ukraine. We'll see where things
stand after a day of discussions at a NATO meeting in Riga. Plus, Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial is now in its second day and Jeffrey
Epstein's former pilot is testifying about the people who flew on his plane, and there's some big names. We'll go live to New York.
HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: So there is more tension in Eastern Europe. There has been some unusual Russian troop movement at the Russian-Ukrainian
border. And that is causing increasing concern among some countries.
The U.S. is warning president Vladimir Putin of Russia that his country will face consequences if there is any aggression in the region. And Latvia
is urging the U.S. to station troops on its soil permanently.
Russia is denying it has any plans to invade anyone but says U.S. missiles in Ukraine would be a red line. So it is a battle of words and warnings; at
least, right now. Latvia's minister of foreign affairs met with the American secretary of state, Antony Blinken, earlier today and he joins me
via Skype from Riga, Latvia.
Thank you very much for joining us, Edgars Rinkevics, from Latvia, where you are hosting a NATO summit.
You said earlier to journalists, when you walked into the venue, that this time you are hoping for some real, concrete decisions to be taken regarding
Russia, its positioning of troops on the border with Ukraine, that you don't want basically a repeat of 2014, where you yourself said the world
dropped the ball before Russia annexed Crimea.
What do you think will come out of this round of discussions?
EDGARS RINKEVICS, LATVIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Well, good evening from Riga. Actually, we are in the midst of discussions right now at NATO
foreign ministers' meeting. Tomorrow we are meeting also with the foreign minister of Ukraine and Georgia.
But indeed, I feel that the ghost of 2014 is in there and probably some people are not taking seriously the occupation of Crimea before it happened
or invasion into east of Ukraine.
This time I think that we need to repeat what we did in spring, that very strong diplomatic effort. That was also something I discussed with
Secretary Blinken when we had our bilateral meeting but also we are urging our NATO friends and allies to prepare also for more deterrence measures if
Russia really crosses this red line.
GORANI: So what is on the table right now?
RINKEVICS: Well, on the table there are some options. And I'm not at liberty to comment at this point, as there is ongoing discussion. I think
that, tomorrow, in the afternoon, secretary general, when he is going to sum up the meeting and also Secretary Blinken, will outline that in a
But indeed, I think that what we are hearing from Moscow always is that they need to respond to movements of NATO, movements of NATO where possibly
here in this region, in the Baltic region only after 2014, after occupation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine.
I think that one thing that Russia needs to understand, there are going to be consequences also, because countries in the region will be asking for
more NATO engagement --
GORANI: Presumably --
RINKEVICS: -- and protection.
GORANI: -- presumably the options on the table, I know you are not going to go into details because you are still in the middle of discussions, but
they're diplomatic but they're also military.
And the Russian president Vladimir Putin says he has his own red line if NATO countries start, you know, themselves positioning missiles or sending
more troops to Ukraine, that he will see this as aggression.
I mean how concerned are you that there's going to be some big misunderstanding in that border area and you could really end up with a
very difficult situation?
RINKEVICS: Yes, but you know, the problem here is that actual escalation in Ukraine was started by Russia. And Ukraine is not the same country it
used to be let's say, seven years ago. This country has all the right to exercise self-defense.
What we are really considering, it's diplomatic actions and in no way we want to break any channels of communication with Moscow. I think that those
channels of communication are very important at this point in order to avoid any misunderstandings, as you said.
But also we need to find a way how to assist Ukrainian forces, through training; maybe also there are already countries that are sending some
equipment. But also what we want to do, tomorrow, in the morning, we want to hear from Ukrainian foreign minister, his assessment, the latest
RINKEVICS: And also, his understanding where this is going and how we can help. We are talking a lot about NATO but let's not also forget that the
E.U. has a role to play, also economic sanctions. I think that here we need to have a very coordinated approach, both by European Union, by NATO
countries and also in close coordination with these like-minded nations, U.S., Canada, U.K. That's what we have on the table.
GORANI: But I get the sense there's a lot of nervousness this year that wasn't there, I mean just a few months ago. You yourself, your country, is
asking America for a permanent military base.
Will you get that?
Did you get any kind of assurance from the secretary of state that this was in the cards?
RINKEVICS: Well, to be more precise, indeed, we are talking about more persistent presence of U.S. troops. That's actually happening through a
series of exercises and, yes, indeed, we discussed with Secretary Blinken ways how to increase the Baltic security.
I think that he has heard the message. I think also that what we are hearing from current administration -- and also from previous
administrations through very concrete actions -- leaves me with a sense of assurance that we are going to work to increase security of the Baltic
region, both with the United States but also with NATO.
GORANI: Is that a yes on the more permanent military presence in your country or a maybe?
RINKEVICS: That's not yes; maybe or no. That's already happening.
RINKEVICS: I am avoiding a little bit game of words, "permanent, persistent, flirtational (ph)." I know how sensitive it is. I am concerned
about one thing, that NATO article 5 is efficient, that our allies are here and that is something that I got very strongly as the message from
secretary and also from all other NATO foreign ministers, who have gathered here in Riga for a two-day meeting.
GORANI: Now I know as a diplomat, you know, obviously, you speak diplomatically and don't want to be pinned down with yeses and nos and the
rest of it. But you must have a position on whether or not you believe Russia is planning an incursion into Ukraine.
Are you worried about this genuinely?
RINKEVICS: I am worried about the latest reports. A couple of weeks ago, there was some gap of intelligence assessment in many NATO and E.U.
capitals. Now this gap of assessment is narrowing.
And that shows that, so far, as we understand, there are very serious preparations, even more serious than we saw in the spring.
However, we also see that there are no -- how to say?
Red lines crossed by any.
RINKEVICS: And I think that what we need to do, we need to ensure that there are high-level diplomatic contacts between U.S. and Russia, between
European capitals and Russia, trying to dissuade this step that could have consequences.
So I will not rush with the kind of conclusion that this is already predetermined, that something bad has happened.
RINKEVICS: But, yes, we are concerned, not only in Riga; I am hearing that concern from almost all of my colleagues around the NATO table. And that is
something that is not happening very often in this alliance.
RINKEVICS: There are sometimes broad discussions before we get an agreement. This time, I think we are all equally sharing the same concern
and trying to find the best way how to address it.
GORANI: Edgars Rinkevics, thank you very much, the Latvian foreign minister.
RINKEVICS: Thank you.
GORANI: Joining us live from Riga, yes, where this NATO foreign ministers meeting is taking place. Thank you.
Let's move on to a very highly anticipated and watched trial. Jeffrey Epstein's former pilot is testifying for the second day as the government's
first witness in Ghislaine Maxwell's trial.
During their opening statements, prosecutors and Maxwell, along with her long-time companion, Jeffrey Epstein, created a pyramid scheme of abuse
that lured poor, underage girls into sexual exploitation.
Epstein was a convicted sex offender and was arrested in 2019. He was later found dead in his prison cell.
Maxwell's sex trafficking trial is expected to last about six weeks. CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson joins me now, live from New York.
We are hearing today from Epstein's pilot about whether he recalled transporting some of the accusers, the Epstein and Maxwell accusers on his
GORANI: Yesterday the prosecution alleged that Maxwell basically procured minors in the '90s under the ruse of a massage. And the defense is saying
she is being made a scapegoat.
Where are we in the trial so far?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Hala, good to be with you. That is an excellent summary, by the way. So you have competing narratives. From
the prosecution's perspective, where we are is they're arguing, as they did yesterday, is she was an enabler.
What she did was she went out, Ms. Maxwell, the defendant on trial and essentially went to find these young girls, to otherwise gain their
confidence and trust, to groom them, to bring them to Mr. Epstein. And Mr. Epstein would thereby violate them after that fact.
Their indication, the prosecution's, Hala, is that she is as very much as guilty as he is for ultimately engaging in this. We are talking about
victims who are now women and were then young girls, who were being flown around, as we see the photographs there, from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
We are talking about being flown to London, flown to Florida, flown to New York City. And that she enabled and made that happen. For her part, she is
saying, listen, I was very much misled, just like everyone else was as it relates to Mr. Epstein. Don't make me a scapegoat for his bad behavior.
He was a person who was very savvy, who was very knowledgeable and who ultimately was very charming. And he gained a lot of people's trust,
They're also saying, the defense, Maxwell's team, that she, in essence, Ms. Maxwell, you know, you can't rely upon the memories of these individuals,
who were then little girls, because it has been such a long time. And you can't convict her based upon the lack of reliability of their testimony.
So that's where we are. Finally, the pilot testifying, very much a foundational witness, indicating he had a plane -- that is Mr. Epstein --
that, yes, there was a relationship that Mr. Epstein had with Ms. Maxwell, that they would fly around the country.
But no real damning evidence that the pilot provided, although he was a pilot for 30 years, as to anything that he saw that was inappropriate or
GORANI: And you mentioned some big names, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell. But the defense is also saying she can't really -- I mean,
one of their arguments in their defense strategy is Maxwell can't really defend herself.
Epstein's death means that it is more difficult for her and that, therefore, she is the one that is going to be made to carry the
responsibility or to bear all the responsibility for the crimes of a dead man, essentially.
Do you think that strategy is an effective one in this case?
JACKSON: You know, it could be, because obviously, to be clear, that's who they want. They being the government, which is they wanted to hold Jeffrey
Epstein accountable. He's not here and so she is the byproduct of that. So that could be very effective.
The problem is that you are going to have these girls, now women, who are going to testify and be very explicit, Hala, as to what they recall, very
explicit as to what her conduct was, Ms. Maxwell, how much she took them shopping, how she gained their trust, what specifically she did with them,
the massages she gave.
So it will be compelling testimony by these young girls, now again women, who are going to implicate her very thoroughly. So no matter how much you
point fingers at Jeffrey Epstein and his conduct, unless you can get out from under that, if you are Ms. Maxwell as we look at the charges she is
facing there, and go against the compelling testimony they give about, is it reliable, are their memories being served properly, I think she is in a
very tight spot and a very difficult place.
The open question for me, Hala, is whether she ultimately testifies. She certainly has the wherewithal to do that. I think she could be compelling
and convincing. The question will be whether she can withstand the questioning that the prosecutors would have for her, should she choose to
GORANI: Right. And no cameras or audio in the courtroom because these are federal charges, right?
JACKSON: That's right. So there will be no cameras in the courtroom. They're about 50 percent capacity in terms of people who are actually
allowed in the courtroom to witness this. But it is being covered thoroughly by the press. You are getting blow by blow with regard to what
is going on.
But a picture is worth 100 words, video is worth more words than that. Unfortunately, we are not in the courtroom to see on a blow-by-blow moment
what is going on.
GORANI: All right, Joey Jackson, thank you for your analysis as always.
Now to another landmark court case, this one in Germany. And it is a first. A former ISIS fighter has been jailed for life after being convicted of
involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity.
It is first conviction of an ISIS member that involves genocide charges. The Iraqi national was found guilty of taking part in the slaughter of some
3,000 people from the Yazidi minority and enslaving 7,000 women and girls.
GORANI: His crimes included killing a 5-year-old girl, whom he chained to a window and left to die in scorching heat. He will die in prison.
Still to come tonight, hunger across Latin America and the Caribbean is at its highest level in decades. We will find out why straight ahead.
GORANI: The United Nations says Latin America and the Caribbean are facing a critical situation when it comes to food insecurity. A new report finds
almost 60 million people are living in hunger across the region, the highest in decade.
The U.N. says the COVID pandemic made a preexisting malnutrition crisis even worse. The number of people going hungry jumped 30 percent from 2019
to 2020 alone. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is live for us in Caracas with more.
What is behind these worrying and concerning numbers?
STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Hala. What is behind is the dramatic impact that COVID-19 and the lockdowns, that were imposed to
contain the spread of COVID-19 across the region, have resulted, for millions of people here in Latin America. There have been millions of jobs
And in a region where informality of employment, that means not having a contract, is the rule, for many people, not being able to work on any given
day means that they're not able to find food to buy, to purchase food on any given day.
It is right, the report highlights that these trends were already occurring before the virus struck but that the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated,
made a very bad situation that was already present even worse.
In order to understand how this is impacting everyday lives and politics across the region, I want to bring to your attention three countries that
are particularly raising the concern of the people.
The analyst that brought the report, that are the three countries that make up the so-called Northern Triangle. I am talking about Guatemala, El
Salvador and Honduras, where, in any of these three countries, more than 40 percent of the local population there experience food insecurity.
POZZEBON: And that is not a coincidence that those are the same countries that are seeing new caravans of migrants every -- almost every month,
leaving those countries and heading north to find better solution for their livelihoods, a better luck for their livelihoods in Mexico and the United
So when we hear U.S. politicians such as the vice president Kamala Harris talking about addressing the root causes of migration, this is what they're
talking about, hunger and malnutrition -- Hala.
GORANI: Stefano, thank very much.
Still to come, a CNN exclusive report: what this top Trump ally says he is ready to give lawmakers looking into the January 6th attack on the U.S.
Capitol after initially refusing. There's been a bit of a reversal for Mark Meadows.
We'll explore after the break.
GORANI: The FBI says it is closely monitoring the sharp spike in smash- and-grab retail robberies. A spokesperson tells CNN the bureau is in close contact with local law enforcement and ready to take a more active role if
it is determined a federal crime has occurred.
The brazen thefts are happening in a number of cities, as CNN's Brian Todd now reports.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police in Chicago today warning thieves they are ramping up efforts to stop so-called smash- and-
grab robberies, often involving large gangs of perpetrators who swarm into stores, terrifying employees and customers.
DAVID BROWN, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: We are particularly focused on this type of crime here in Chicago, both, prevention and enforcement.
Over the weekend, we arrested two 16-year-old juvenile female offenders.
TODD (voice-over): Suspects, who the Chicago police superintendent said took part in the burglary of an Ulta Beauty store in Chicago and stole
about $8,500 worth of merchandise. At two Best Buy stores in suburban Minnesota, the pattern continued in recent days. At one of those locations,
police say at least 30 perpetrators stormed into the store and stole electronics. Local shoppers are uneasy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't feel good if I were here and that were happening as I'm there, seeing people run out with stuff.
TODD (voice-over): From thieves violently smashing the glass case at a jewelry counter near San Francisco, to the mass ransacking of a Louis
Vuitton store outside Chicago, law enforcement agencies are scrambling to respond to smash and grabs involving multiple suspects at a time.
ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They are definitely looking at the targets. They are doing reconnaissance. They know when they
are going to hit. This is organized at this point and police have a serious pattern here that they have to deal with.
TODD (voice-over): The targets have ranged from high-end stores, like Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton, to an Apple Store in California, hits where
tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise was taken. To a Home Depot near Los Angeles where the sheriff's department says up to ten people stole
tools that thieves might use in robberies like these -- hammers, sledge hammers, crowbars. Four men were arrested in connection to that case.
STEPHANIE MARTZ, CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: This is a trend that we have been seeing gradually increase, I would say,
over the last year, 1.5 years. It, I would say, started mainly in the pharmaceutical and drugstore area and has spread to department stores and
TODD (voice-over): Now a top concern among law enforcement analysts, that the thieves could become even more emboldened and violent.
BARKSDALE: What if someone has a gun?
It is totally possible that this could become even more violent, even more dangerous for those that work in these stores, the customers.
TODD: So far, at least one security guard has been pepper sprayed by robbers and in Oakland, California, a security guard was killed while
trying to protect a TV crew that was covering a smash and grab robbery.
That incident did not seem to be directly tied to a mob burglary, rather one individual trying to steal the crew's camera -- Brian Todd, CNN,
GORANI: Well, a key witness is changing his mind in the investigation into the January 6th insurrection. The House Select Committee, in the end, will
hear testimony from Trump's former chief of staff after all.
The panel has reached an agreement with Mark Meadows after floating the prospect of holding him in contempt. Meadows is now providing records and
has agreed to sit down for an initial deposition.
Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the select committee through his attorney, according to the Democratic representative, Bennie Thompson of
Mississippi. This, of course, comes off the back of having been subpoenaed, along with other Trump close associates just a few weeks ago.
You will remember Steve Bannon, who was not in office on January 6th, did not respond to a subpoena and was held in contempt for that. So Mark
Meadows, so far, seems -- it seems, the highest ranking former Trump official to agree to cooperate with the January 6th committee.
I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.