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Hala Gorani Tonight

First U.S. Omicron Case Confirmed In California; Anthony Fauci: California Omicron Patient Recently Traveled From South Africa And Was Vaccinated; Blinken: U.S. Is Preparing New Sanctions Against Belarus For Using Migrants As Political Weapons; U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken Says Putin Is Prepared To Invade Ukraine; Supreme Court Hears Arguments Challenging Roe v. Wade; Women's Tennis Association Suspends All China Tournaments; Iran Continues With Uranium Enrichment During Vienna Talks; China Battles To Contain New COVID-19 Outbreak. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 01, 2021 - 14:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the team, you're his chief medical adviser, do you think it's about time the country should adopt?

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, I'm not so sure we should say that. That would be a requirement. I

would say what I've been saying all along, that we have 60 million people in this country who are not vaccinated, who are eligible to be vaccinated.

Let's get them vaccinated, let's get the people who are vaccinated boosted. Let's get the children vaccinated. That's where we want to go as opposed to

a requirement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn't some people say that, you know, you have extinguished many of your options to, you know, get those people

vaccinated, and this is one of the ways, guys, OSHA mandate is held up in court, this would maybe be a way to push more people to get vaccinated --

FACUI: You know, that's a possibility. That I think for the people who are listening to this, we again talk about why it's important to get

vaccinated. I think what's happening now is another example of why it's important for people to get vaccinated who have not been vaccinated, but

also boosting. Boosting is really very important because the data that we get on boosting, if you look at the level, for example of an antibody, a

neutralizing antibody, peak following the second dose of a two-dose MRNA, it's like at this level.

If you look at the peak following the third shot boost, it goes way up here, and people ask, why is that important? Because our experience with

variants such as the Delta variant is that, even though the vaccine isn't specifically targeted to the Delta variant, when you get a high enough

level of an immune response, you get spillover protection even against a variant that the vaccine wasn't specifically directed at.

And that's the reason why we feel, even though we don't have a lot of data on it, there's every reason to believe that, that kind of increase that

you get with the boost would be helpful, at least, in preventing severe disease of a variant like Omicron.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Dr. Fauci, as you know, a lot of Americans right now are shopping for the best sort of booster or whatever they can get. Given

the fact that manufacturers and scientists are racing to learn more about this variant, and then to modify that vaccine that would more directly

combat it right now, first, for those who already received their boost, how long would it be for them before conceivably they could have a new modified

booster that would more directly target this?

And is there any reason those individuals should wait, given the White House has said there will be a couple of months perhaps before we have a

more modified vaccine and more directly targeted?

FAUCI: Great question because we get asked it a lot and it's a relevant question. So, right now, I would not be waiting. People say, well, if we're

going to have a booster-specific vaccine, should we wait? If you're eligible, namely six months with a double MRNA dose or two months with the

J&J, get boosted now. We may not need a variant-specific boost. We are preparing for the possibility that we need a variant-specific boost, and

that's what the companies are doing.

We have been -- the administration has been in contact with the pharmaceutical companies to go ahead and take the steps in case we need it.

But the mistake people would make is to say, let me wait and see if we get one. If you're eligible for boosting, get boosted right now.

PSAKI: Sabrina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Dr. Fauci. Follow-up to Tyler's question, because there is screening in place for international travel, but we've

seen how quickly variants can spread once they reach our shores. Is there - - there's a science, would there be a testing requirement for domestic air travel, and if not, why not?

FAUCI: Well, again, that's a -- these kinds of things we always talk about and consider, but right now, I'm not so sure we need a testing for an air

travel in this country. I always get back to the fact, is that people should wind up getting vaccinated and boosted if they're eligible for a

boost. I keep coming back to that because that's really the solution to this problem.

PSAKI: Jenny(ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two quick ones. A Moderna executive have said in the past couple of days that this variant appears threatening and may demand

new vaccines. What do you make of those remarks that seem a lot more alarmist than the administration's view or other vaccine makers?

FAUCI: Well, I think -- I think, I know that we don't have enough information right now. As you know, and we've said this, that the profile

of the molecular profile of the kinds of mutations that you see would suggest, A, that it might be more transmissible, and that it might elude

some of the protection of vaccines, but we don't know that now. We don't know what the constellation of mutations are actually going to be. We have

to be prepared that there's going to be a diminution in protection.

Which is the reason why I keep getting back over and over again, and say why it's so important to get boosted. But I think any declaration of what

will or will not happen with this variant, it is too early to say. And I think we need to be careful because I know you're going to be reading a lot

of tweets and a lot of comments about this. We're really very early in the process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say though this is more -- this proves more transmissible, but less virulent than Delta.


Will there be any public health benefit to furthering its spread by lifting travel restrictions, for example, so it can out-compete the Delta variant?

FAUCI: You're talking about something really dangerous. You are talking about, let a lot of people get infected to see if, in fact, you could

protect them. That's something that I think almost all infectious disease people with any knowledge about infectious disease would not say that's a

good idea.

PSAKI: Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Fauci, we are firmly in the holiday season, and a lot of Americans are wondering whether it's safe, even if they've been

vaccinated, to go to a cocktail party without a mask, with a glass of eggnog in their hand?

FAUCI: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your advice to them?

FAUCI: Well, the advice is what I follow myself and what I tell people to do, is that get vaccinated -- I'm going to get to your question -- get

vaccinated, number one. If you need -- if you're eligible for boost, get boosted. And in a situation with the holiday season, indoor-type settings

with family that you know is vaccinated, people that you know -- you could feel safe with not wearing a mask and having a dinner, having a reception.

But when you are in a public congregate setting in which you do not know the status of the vaccination of the people involved, it is very prudent

to wear a mask. And that's what I do.

PSAKI: Peter --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite the eggnog?


FAUCI: Well, you know, obviously, I mean, unless you have a special kind of mask that I don't know about, the fact is, sure, when you're eating and

when you're drinking, take the mask down. But to the extent possible, keep it on when you're in an indoor congregate setting.

PSAKI: Peter.

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS: Dr. Fauci, as you advised the president about the possibility of new testing requirements for people coming into this

country, does that include everybody?

FAUCI: The answer is yes, because you know that the new -- the new regulation, if you want to call it that, is that anybody and everybody who

is coming into the country needs to get a test within 24 hours of getting on the plane to come here.

DOOCY: Oh, what about people who don't take the plane and just these border crossers coming in, in huge numbers?

FAUCI: That's a different issue. For example, when you talk -- we still have Title 42 with regard to protection at the border. So, there are

protections at the border that you don't have the capability, as you know, of somebody getting on a plane, getting checked, looking at a passport, we

don't have that there, but we can get some degree of mitigation.


DOOCY: Is there something to do to test these people somewhere else before they get here?

FAUCI: No, there is testing at the border under certain circumstances as you know.

PSAKI: Michael.

DOOCY: You test --


PSAKI: Michael --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor, two questions. First, for folks in California, I know this is only one case, but what's your message to them? Should they

be particularly concerned? And secondly, with your emphasis on boosters, why not make a determination that it's in the interest of public health for

the definition of fully-vaccinated to include that additional dose?

FAUCI: OK, so, for the people in California, we've been in contact with the public health officials in California. I'm not sure exactly what

they're going to say, but I'm pretty sure they're going to say just do all of the mitigation, all of the things that we have been talking about up to

now. For those who have not been doing that, start doing that. For those who have been, continue doing that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then in terms of making a determination that --

FAUCI: Yes, I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are vaccinated --

FAUCI: Again, there's the official determination of what something is for a variety of reasons. For example, employment and getting vaccinated, what

is the definition? That will stay that way. For optimal protection, I'm talking about with your personal effort to be optimally protected, that's

why I say we should all get boosters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what about in terms of the mandate? You have a vaccine mandate.

FAUCI: Right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point does the booster become part of the mandate?

FAUCI: You know, I can't answer that right now, but I know that for the time being, the official definition of fully vaccinated is two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you see that changing? We keep having these variants, we're concerned about them --

FAUCI: It could change --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're concerned.

FAUCI: It could change. It could change, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you recommend a change?

FAUCI: Well, I don't know, let's see what rolls out now. I mean, I know if I say it's going to change, it's going to get spread out that that's it. We

don't know right now whether it should change, but it might.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, a quarantine for international visitors, what -- do you think international visitors when they arrive, they should

quarantine for seven days regardless of vaccination status?

FAUCI: Well, you know, there were certain requirements for people who are -- you're talking about foreign visitors?


FAUCI: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, on foreign --


FAUCI: Yes, obviously, if they are, they have to -- they have to get tested within 24 hours, and when they come back, if they're not vaccinated,

they have to be in -- they are recommended for quarantine and recommended to get a test within three days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if they are vaccinated --

FAUCI: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. If they are vaccinated --

FAUCI: No, well --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should they quarantine?

FAUCI: Again, we're going to get confused here. You're talking about United States citizens or you're talking about anybody that comes into the


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody from anywhere.

FAUCI: I'm not sure what that's going to be. I think we'll have to just check with the CDC.

PSAKI: Karen(ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Fauci, there are reports that in a new book, former President Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows says that the

president -- then president, tested positive for COVID three days before the debate with President Biden.


Were you aware of that positive test at the time, and do you think, given what Meadows says, that he put a candidate Biden at risk at that debate?

FAUCI: Well, I certainly was not aware of his test positivity or negativity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And do you think he put President Biden --

FAUCI: I'm not going to specifically talk about who put who at risk. But I would say as I have said, not only for any individual, but for everybody,

that if you test positive, you should be quarantining yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Fauci, just to follow on that quickly if I may. President Trump's doctor who you worked with at the time, Dr. Sean Conley

was aware of that, according to Mark Meadows, who you also worked with during that time, and yet, former President Trump continued to go to public

events. Based on your medical advice, is that something that you would have recommended if he had tested positive?

FAUCI: Well, I would recommend to anyone, whether it's the president or any of my patients or any of the people that I deal with, that if you test

positive, you should be prudent and quarantine yourself.

PSAKI: Christian(ph).


PSAKI: Christian(ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Fauci, with all due respect, the zero case of COVID -- of Omicron case in Zimbabwe, in Namibia, in Lesotho, in Mozambique. What

justified -- what justified imposing a travel ban on countries that have zero cases of the Omicron variant?

FAUCI: You know, that's a very good question, an important question. And we did struggle with that, but we wanted to see if we could buy time

temporarily. So, I do hope that this gets sorted out and lifted before it has any significant impact on your country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, buy time from countries that have zero case --

PSAKI: I think that we have to keep going, so we got more people --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Dr. Fauci --

PSAKI: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last week, the governor of New York signed an executive order to postpone elective hospital surgeries to prepare for the Omicron

variant. I know that you and your team are being proactive as we try to learn more about this. But do you believe that some states might be going

too far, too quickly before we know too much?

FAUCI: You know, I really don't want to comment on situations in individual states because there are so many factors from state to state

that are different. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment whether a state should or should not postpone elective surgeries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the president said that we will defeat this variant of the coronavirus not with lockdowns or shutdowns, but based off

of, you know, the tools that we have now, is there anything that we are, you know, taking into this new variant experience based off of some of the

adverse effects of some of those lockdowns? I mean, we just passed, I think, a 100,000 overdose deaths for the first time ever.

FAUCI: Yes, I mean, first of all, we always discuss things that we might do to better our preparation, better our response. That's something we

discuss every single day. But right now, what I've always said and I will continue to say, let's utilize and implement the tools that we have,

because if we had done that, if we had the overwhelming majority of people in this country vaccinated and those who needed to be boosted, boosted, our

vulnerability would be much less than it is right now.

PSAKI: Brian(ph), last one and then we got to let him go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Fauci, what do you see as an end game? The 17 -- 1917-1918 flu pandemic, you know, eventually, evolved until it was less

lethal. But there are those who are saying that we're never going to get that far with this virus because we need more people vaccinated. What do

you see as the end game?

FAUCI: I mean, the end game which we hope and I think will occur is that, as we get more people vaccinated, not only in this country, but globally,

we will see a situation where viruses will not have the opportunity what they have right now, is to essentially freely distribute and freely

circulate in society, both domestic society and global society. The more protection you get with vaccines, the less likelihood a virus has to do

that, the less likelihood a virus has to mutate, the less likely you're going to get a variant.

So, one of the things that we need to do about our long end game is to do the things we've been saying every single day, not only for ourselves, but

internationally. And you know, we have done a lot and we'll continue to do a lot to get low and middle income countries vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will evolve into something less lethal?

FAUCI: Oh, absolutely. I mean, yes, I mean, there's no doubt that this will end, I promise you that. This will end.

PSAKI: Thank you, Dr. Fauci. Sorry, we have to let Dr. Fauci go, I appreciate you --

FAUCI: Thank you --

PSAKI: Thank you for coming, I appreciate it.


PSAKI: Not additional details, but they're going to be doing a press conference in California where they may have additional details to share --

VICTOR BLACKWELL, NEWSROOM: Right, you've been listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci there at the White House answering questions after the --

HALA GORANI, HOST, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: All right, Dr. Anthony Fauci there, who is the chief medical adviser to the president of the United

States and also the director of the National Institute of Health -- of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The U.S. has now identified its first case

of the Omicron variant. Dr. Anthony just speaking about that, Fauci, also, the importance of getting vaccinated.


We've heard that over and over again, and the importance of getting a booster shot because the protection Dr. Fauci was explaining after that

third dose higher than after a course of two vaccines. Omicron, really a wait-and-see mode, and it's what we've been hearing from all the experts

we've been speaking to over the last week. Are vaccines effective against this particular variant? That is the big question.

What kind of symptoms will we see in people not just who are young and presenting with symptoms infected with this variant, but also older,

perhaps and more vulnerable people. Jacqueline Howard joins me now. She is our health reporter. So, Dr. Fauci basically repeating what we're hearing

from all the experts that we've been interviewing, the importance of getting vaccinated because most probably, a vaccine, and specifically a

booster, will provide some protection.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's right, Hala. The main takeaway here is that message to get vaccinated if you're unvaccinated, get

your booster dose if you're eligible because we really want to build up protection against the Omicron variant, but also the Delta variant. And we

really want to build that immunity. Now, this message or this announcement, I should say, of the first case identified in the United States,

specifically in California, it's an announcement that has been expected.

Here in the United States, our CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, she said just yesterday that we've been sequencing 80,000 samples per week to

identify variants. And lo and behold, we now have identified the Omicron variant. So this announcement is not for people to panic. It's really for

awareness, for the world to be aware that we have now identified the variant in the U.S. And again, the main message is to build up our

protection and get vaccinated as we heard from Dr. Fauci, Hala.

GORANI: All right, just one moment, I'm hearing something in my ear that I don't think it's supposed to be there, but we're back. Let me ask you,

Jacqueline, the case in California, we're expecting officials there to update us, but we know that in South Africa, the doctor, the general

practitioner who first raised the alarm, Dr. Jacqueline Coetzee, I spoke with her, and she said by and large, the symptoms were different to Delta

and mild, that no patient infected with the Omicron variant had required hospitalization.

Do we have any information on California yet? And if it is the case that this Omicron variant is causing milder symptoms, is that at least some

level of comfort for officials?

HOWARD: Well, I will say, Hala, that we don't have much detail yet on this case that has been identified in California. But, as you mentioned, we have

heard from physicians in South Africa saying that anecdotally, they've noticed that their patients there have experienced more mild symptoms. Now,

we still need more data, specifically on this variant, as to whether -- what kind of illness it causes, how sick people get. Those anecdotal

reports from South Africa are reassuring, so to speak, that symptoms haven't been severe.

And that means that if that is in fact the case as the variant spreads, there's less likelihood that it could overwhelm our hospital systems and

overwhelm health systems across the globe. But we still need that data. We still need the research behind this. So far, all reports have been

anecdotal. We still need to get more data on this variant, and we are expecting to hear from scientists and researchers in the coming weeks.

But, again, Hala, there are still a lot we have left to learn. And here in the United States, we do expect to hear more from the state of California

later today regarding that case that has been identified here. But overall, Hala, research is still under way. We still need more data. Hala --

GORANI: All right, Jacqueline, thanks very much. Jacqueline Howard reporting from Atlanta. And meanwhile, we may be getting closer to getting

answers about Omicron, getting closer to those answers than we expected. The World Health Organization says they should have more information about

a transmissibility, quote, "within days rather than weeks", and really, we are on tenterhooks. We all want to know how contagious, whether or not our

vaccinations and our boosters protect us against Omicron.

But the W.H.O.'s chief scientist says the agency believes existing vaccines should provide some protection for the variant and beyond. According to the

W.H.O. chief, a toxic mix of low vaccination and testing rates is creating a fertile ground for new variants. Meanwhile, the president of the EU

Commission says it's time to think about mandatory vaccines for the bloc. A controversial topic. Salma Abdelaziz joins me from London with more on

today's developments. Salma.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Hala, more cases being identified across the globe. You just heard, of course, of the one in the United States. And

as that's happening, as we wait for these scientists as you said to find out more about this mutation, furious preparations taking place across the

globe, governments trying to get the unvaccinated vaccinated, putting more restrictions in place, trying to roll out these booster programs as quickly

as possible and create that layer of protection. Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Another day and more confirmed Omicron cases globally. Norway, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria all now say they too have

detected cases of the mutation.

TEDROS ADHANOM, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: It should not surprise us. This is what viruses do. And it's what this virus will

continue to do as long as we allow it to continue spreading.

ABDELAZIZ: While scientists await data, South African doctors still say that most cases they see are mild and among younger patients and the

unvaccinated. The CDC says it will tighten testing requirements for international arrivals in the U.S. from southern Africa. They may soon have

to provide proof of a negative test taken just one day before departure, and will share names of passengers entering the U.S. on flights from

southern Africa with state and local health departments.

It comes as FDA advisors voted to recommend authorizing use of a pill made by Merck to treat people who already have COVID-19. India had been due to

restart international flights in two weeks, the government has called that off because of Omicron. Japan already banned foreigners Tuesday, now

they're telling airlines not to take any new international arrival reservations, even for Japanese citizens.

Due to host a major United Nations Peacekeeping Summit next week with visitors from 155 countries, South Korea now says it will now be held

entirely online as the country detects its first cases of Omicron variant. Cases are surging in the country regardless of the variant. And a top

European Union official said today that they're preparing for a 100-day sprint to tweak the vaccines even as they hope it's not needed. The EU is

considering even broader vaccine mandates.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EU COMMISSION: It is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now, how we can encourage and

potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union.

ABDELAZIZ: The World Health Organization is again scolding countries for blanket travel bans.

ADHANOM: Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

ABDELAZIZ: South Africa's president agrees.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: This is a global pandemic, and overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a


ABDELAZIZ: Research suggests that quarantines are more effective than blanket bans, which only had an impact when implemented at the very

beginning of the pandemic.


ABDELAZIZ: What we're seeing here, Hala, is individual states take action, blocs like the EU take action, places in the privilege world where we are

begin to roll out those booster shots, use their good governance to put restrictions in place. But I keep wondering what does it mean for those who

don't have access to booster shots, who don't have the governance to put in travel restrictions? What does it mean for countries like South Africa that

flagged this new variant are now suffering travel restrictions due to it? We're still looking at a country-by-country approach when really, Hala,

this is a global problem.

We've heard this over and over again from the World Health Organization, no one is safe until everyone is safe It does not seem that that seeped in

yet. Hala.

GORANI: All right, thank you, Salma Abdelaziz. We'll take a quick break on CNN, we'll be right back.



GORANI: Breaking news. The Women's Tennis Association says it is suspending all tournaments in China. This is tied to the case of Peng

Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who leveled accusations of sexual assault against a retired senior communist leader there, then vanished from the

public eye for quite a while, prompting international concern about her welfare. She then popped back up in various events. We'll have more on this

coming up shortly.

In the meantime, let's talk to you about the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to Stockholm. The U.S. is preparing new sanctions against Belarus.

The Secretary of State Antony Blinken says this is in response to using migrants as political weapons by luring them to the EU border. Blinken was

at a NATO summit in Latvia in Riga which neighbors Belarus -- with neighbors Belarus earlier today and has just arrived in Sweden.

He'll be meeting with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts there on Thursday. Our senior U.S. security correspondent Alex Marquardt is

traveling with Blinken and joins us now from Stockholm. Let's first talk about these new sanctions against Belarus.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, as you mentioned there, Blinken just arrived here in Stockholm, and that was

following two days of meetings with other NATO foreign ministers. And Blinken did announce at the conclusion of those meetings that the U.S.

alongside the European Union and other allies and partners would be developing a set of sanctions in response to what he called the

destabilizing actions of the Lukashenko regime when it comes to these migrants, which as you mentioned, Blinken said Lukashenko has been using as

political weapons.

Blinken went on to call on the regime to immediately stop using those migrants as political weapons, and said that they will hold the regime

accountable for its ongoing disregard to democracy. Now, while this crisis between the Ukraine -- between Ukraine and Russia heats up, Belarus has

announced that it will carry out joint military exercises with Russia near the Ukrainian border, Hala.

GORANI: And the meeting -- a preview of the meeting between Sergey Lavrov and Antony Blinken tomorrow. I mean, we can expect these conversations to

be tense, can't we?

MARQUARDT: Absolutely. And not only tense, but rather short and direct. What Blinken wants to make clear is that there will be what he calls severe

consequences should Russia choose to invade Ukraine. Blinken said today, it's not clear whether Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine or

not, but that he has put the capacity in place to make that order -- to make that -- to give that in short order, to make that invasion happen very


Now, of course, we pressed Secretary Blinken on what these economic sanctions would look like, Blinken would not give any sort of details. He

just said that there would be high-impact economic sanctions that have not been used before. I followed up and asked Blinken whether he would give

those details, lay it all out for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in their meeting tomorrow morning. Here is what he had to say.



ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: Should Russia follow the path of confrontation when it comes to Ukraine, we've made clear that

we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past.


MARQUARDT: So he went on to say that they would lay it out for Moscow at the appropriate time. Whether that is tomorrow, we just don't know.

But Blinken did say that what we're seeing now from Russia is identical to what we saw from them just before the invasion of Ukraine, of Crimea in

2014. That's a massive number of troops along the borders, a spike in disinformation campaign.

Blinken said that in the past 24 hours, there has been a 10-fold increase in social media accounts pushing anti-Ukrainian propaganda. The point that

Blinken wanted to make today was that there is still a diplomatic off-ramp to de-escalate this situation -- Hala.

GORANI: Alex Marquardt in Stockholm. Thanks very much.

We will be right back.




GORANI: The U.S. Supreme Court is considering its most important abortion case in a generation. It all revolves around a 2018 Mississippi law,

banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Lower courts have blocked it until now, saying that it violates Roe v. Wade, which generally allows abortions

up to 24 weeks.

The stakes couldn't be higher. The case could result in the repeal of Roe v. Wade, potentially gutting abortion rights for tens of millions of women

across America. Take a listen to what Justice Sonia Sotomayor said today.


JUSTICE SONYA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception, that the

Constitution and its reading are just political acts?


GORANI: Let's bring in CNN's legal analyst Paul Callan. He's in New Jersey and joining us live.


GORANI: So if the court upholds this 2018 Mississippi law, does this mean necessarily that Roe v. Wade will be thrown out?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it would not necessarily throw out Roe versus Wade because the Mississippi law does not ban abortion. It says,

however, that women seeking abortions must have those abortions before 15 weeks. After that, abortion would become illegal in Mississippi.

Now that's a big change from Roe versus Wade, because, as you mentioned in the intro, Roe versus Wade allows women to have abortions up until 24 weeks

without being questioned about it. They can even have abortions after that if there's a compelling reason for the abortion.

So this would restrict abortions tremendously. To give you an example, they say over 70,000 women a year have abortions after the 15-week mark. So --

and a lot of women don't even know they're pregnant by 15 weeks. This would have a big impact on abortion in the United States.

GORANI: Let's listen to what Brett Kavanaugh, conservative justice, had to say today about these discussions and deliberations going on right now in

the Supreme Court.

"If we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong, if that, why then doesn't the history of this court's practice with respect to those

cases tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality?"

What does that mean, Paul?

CALLAN: Well, the legal system in the United States depends heavily on something we call stare decisis and that is, once a court has reached a

firm decision about a matter of public policy, other courts will respect that decision. Otherwise, the law is changing from court to court.

So the courts try to very, very rarely overturn established precedent. And this Roe versus Wade case, which came down in 1973, has generally been

considered to be an established precedent. And the court should not set it aside unless there's a very, very good reason for that.

Matter of fact, Kavanaugh said that very same thing in his own appointment hearings, that he thought Roe versus Wade was a settled precedent. It

sounds now like he is taking a second look at it, now that he is on the Supreme Court.

GORANI: All right. So if there's -- which way then, because with a majority of conservative justices, just scouring the U.S. newspaper

headlines, it seems as though the consensus here is that the court might be leaning toward upholding this very restrictive Mississippi law.

CALLAN: The -- I don't necessarily agree with that analysis. Now there is, by the way, the split is six conservatives and three liberals on the court

now. So presumably the conservatives who would be opposed to abortion have an overwhelming advantage numerically.

But the Roe versus Wade decision has been such an important decision in the United States that, if the Supreme Court were to overturn it, it would be a

really, really major event for the court.

And it might even trigger the Democrats into moving into their proposal to pack the Supreme Court with more judges, so they could turn it into a

liberal court from a conservative court.

And I would also mention to you that the Roe versus Wade decision itself was handed down and written by Harry Blackmun, who was appointed by Richard

Nixon, a Republican and a conservative.

So a lot of times the court looks to its role as an institution rather than a purveyor of policies, conservative or liberal. So I don't know. I'm on

the fence about where the Supreme Court is going to go on this.

I don't think they're going to throw out Roe versus Wade. They might push back that first trimester rule to a little bit earlier point in time,

because they might -- they may say science and technology indicates the fetus becomes viable before 24 weeks. It was thought to be 24 weeks back in


So I could see them moving that line a little bit. But I don't see them banning abortion in the United States.

GORANI: What happens then at the state level?

I mean, regardless of -- even if -- if they restrict, if the ruling is too -- ends up restricting access to abortion rights more than Roe v. Wade

permits today, then what do we see at the state level?

CALLAN: Here is how that plays off. Approximately 22 states in the United States have indicated, through forms of legislation that have passed, that

if Roe versus Wade were overruled by the Supreme Court, those 22 states probably would ban abortion completely.


CALLAN: Except maybe where the life of the mother is involved. The remaining states probably would continue with whatever abortion policies

they have in place. So it probably would affect 22 states. But that's a huge number of people and located in places that would be very difficult to

get abortion services and women's health services.

GORANI: Thank you very much. Paul Callan, joining us live.

CALLAN: Thank you, Hala.

GORANI: Still to come tonight, a Saudi prince and former intelligence director joins us to discuss Iran's nuclear program, COVID and the

country's relations with the U.S. under President Biden. He has a new book out as well. We will be right back with more.




GORANI: Well, breaking news. The Women's Tennis Association says it is suspending all tournaments in China, tied, of course, to the case of Peng

Shuai, the Chinese tennis star, who leveled accusations of sexual assault against a former Communist leader.

Then for a period of weeks, you will remember, she vanished completely from the public eye and that prompted international concern about her welfare.

Don Riddell is in Atlanta with more.

This has huge business implications. We are talking a lot of money tied to these tournaments.

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely Hala. We don't know exactly how many tournaments they would have been playing in China next

year but it could have been I think as many as 10, including the highly lucrative end-of-season WTA finals, which became, a few years ago, a 10-

year deal between China and the WTA.

It was worth an absolute fortune, I think $140 million over the 10 years, $14 million per tournament. That was an absolutely mega deal for the WTA

and, of course, its players, dwarfing what the men make in their equivalent tournament, the ATP finals at the end of their season.

Of course, the WTA has been celebrated and applauded in many circles for their stance on this issue ever since Peng Shuai made that very serious

allegation on November the 2nd.

And the head of the tour, Steve Simon, said recently that he felt that they were at a crossroads in their relationship with China. This was a massive

test case effectively, because, for many years, many sports -- for example, the NBA in the United States -- have been pursuing lucrative markets in



RIDDELL: And it was really the big question, would any of these sports, would any of these sports governing bodies actually stand up to China when

push came to shove?

Well, the WTA have. In a lengthy statement released by the WTA in the last few minutes, Steve Simon said, "In good conscience I don't see how I can

ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her

allegation of sexual assault.

"The WTA has serious concerns about China's lack of transparency in this issue."

They are concerned that her accusation has not been taken seriously. They're very concerned about the way she has been censored. If you type in

"Peng Shuai" on the equivalent of Google in China, you won't find any mention of anybody by that name, which is quite extraordinary, given all

her success as an athlete on the world stage.

And it does, I would say, throw into a harsher spotlight the International Olympic Committee's relationship with China, which, of course, is going to

be hosting the Winter Olympics in just a couple of months' time in Beijing.

The IOC infamously, within the last few weeks, did manage to get Peng Shuai in a video conference call. The IOC was assured and seemed to be

comfortable with the fact that Peng Shuai was OK. And they said they were going to respect her calls for privacy. But the WTA has taken a very

different stance on this matter.

GORANI: Yes, absolutely. It couldn't be -- couldn't be more different from the way the IOC is approaching this. Thanks very much, Don Riddell.

Amid ongoing nuclear talks, Iran is moving ahead with further uranium enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the company has

started feeding more uranium into advanced centrifuges at its Fordo nuclear facility.

It comes as Iran is holding indirect talks with the United States over its nuclear program and that's just one of the regional developments I want to

discuss with my next guest, Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud is a member of the Saudi royal family. He led the country's intelligence for many years.

He's now the chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Prince Turki has just authored a book titled, "The Afghanistan


Thank you for joining us.


GORANI: Well, thank you. And let's talk about Afghanistan because you write about some very crucial early years in Afghanistan, unfolding crisis

from the Soviet presence to the Americans.

And today we are several months after the withdrawal that was quite chaotic over the summer and the Taliban are now in charge.

What are your thoughts about where we have ended up in Afghanistan after all of these decades?

PRINCE TURKI: The Taliban, as you said, are now in charge. And they've made promises to the world community that they're going to do certain

things. And they should be held to those promises, whether it is on issues of women's rights, on issues of inclusiveness, et cetera, and dealing with

all of the myriad compositions of the Afghan society.

So I think the world community is obliged to take them to task and tell them, show us instead of just telling us.


PRINCE TURKI: And just a couple of days ago, Saudi Arabia, through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, has called for a conference to look at

the situation in Afghanistan from the humanitarian efforts, because the people who are paying the price now are the people of Afghanistan.

And I think the kingdom and the rest of us in the Islamic world would like to see some way of reaching out to the humanitarian problems that are

facing the people of Afghanistan and finding ways to get humanitarian aid to them.

GORANI: I want to pivot to the Iran talks. And the Biden administration clearly making efforts to rejoin that agreement that was torn up by Donald

Trump, just as Iran is acting in ways that the IAEA director-general described perhaps as not entirely helpful, that no progress was made in

terms of gaining access to certain nuclear sites.

Do you think that it is in the interest of your region for Iran to rejoin that agreement fully with the U.S. on board?

PRINCE TURKI: I think it would be more of an interest to the region if all of the region is obliged to give up any nuclear weapons that they have or

nuclear ambitions that they have.

That is why, if there is ever going to be an agreement, a return to the JCPOA, I think it should be a first step to getting the whole region, from

Iran to Mauritania on the Atlantic, to be enclosed in a zone free weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons.

That is the only sure way that we can make sure that nobody gets the nuclear weapons.


GORANI: But just -- right now, Iran is really the discussion on the table. And I wonder -- I mean, you know Israel obviously doesn't think that this

was an agreement that was reining Iran in enough.

Do you think that it is in the best interest of your region, the rivalry that has defined the Middle East, between your side and the Iranian side,

for Iran to rejoin some sort of control mechanism of its nuclear facilities?

PRINCE TURKI: The problem with the JCPOA, first of all, is it has a time limit. It has sunset clauses that allow Iran to wait out those sunset

clauses and then do whatever it wants.

It also opened the way for nuclear enrichment. This was never the case before that. Nuclear enrichment was always considered, as members of the

MPT, that they would not approach nuclear enrichment until they were fully under the supervision of the MPT treaty.


PRINCE TURKI: But Iran has gone beyond that. As you said in your reporting, they're increasing the enrichment levels now up to 60 percent,

which it is a matter of blackmail now, that Iran is using to the rest of the world and not just the 5+1.

GORANI: And that happened after -- after the U.S. withdrew, of course.

Let me ask you about Joe Biden. He's not at all been as friendly toward Mohammed bin Salman as Donald Trump. In fact, they have not met. During the

campaign, Joe Biden vowed to make MBS, as he is known by his initials, a pariah over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

And he released oil reserves to counter the influence of OPEC on oil prices.

This relationship doesn't seem to be a very warm and friendly one between the two leaders, does it?

PRINCE TURKI: Well, our crown prince was asked about the relationship with the United States two months ago. And his words were that we agree with the

United States on 90 percent of our relationship. The 10 percent we talk about. And I'm sure the 10 percent includes all of these things that you


You know, the United States is there with or without Mr. Biden. And Saudi Arabia is here with or without the crown prince. So it is really the two

countries have to come together because we share many things.

We share a fight against terrorism. We share the issue of Middle East peace. We share on issues of economic cooperation. The oil issue that you

mentioned, Saudi Arabia and the United States should be together on that issue and not act as opponents, because it is of interest of us to have

that issue treated in a sane and cooperative manner, rather than as a rivalry.

So these are things that bind us together. And I think we will go forward on those things.

GORANI: Well, we will see when there is a meeting, what happens when it does take place, if it does take place. Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud,

thank you so much for joining us, live from Riyadh, author of a new book, "The Afghanistan File."

We will be right back.





GORANI: China hasn't confirmed any cases of the Omicron variant but in a remote part of the country, on the border with Russia, COVID cases are

soaring. And as CNN's Will Ripley reports, the government is responding by shutting down an entire city.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Northern China COVID-19 is flaring up again, hundreds of thousands on lockdown, confirmed cases rising

more than 130 percent Sunday, most in Inner Mongolia, a crucial gateway to Russia.

CUI GANG, CHINESE NATIONAL HEALTH COMMISSION: The risk of community transmission is relatively high in there and the tracing and screening work

and personnel at risk is in progress.

RIPLEY (voice-over): This normally bustling border city paralyzed, 300,000 people banned from leaving mass testing underway, public transport

suspended, schools and businesses closed. Authorities racing to rein in the outbreak, banning imports of non-container goods believed to be the source

of the first local infection.

This is what it's like living under China's zero COVID strategy. The Beijing Winter Olympics right around the corner. Officials say the games

will go on, despite the risk from a new coronavirus variant.

ZAHO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: I believe it will definitely pose some challenge to our efforts to prevent and control the

virus. But as China has experience in preventing and controlling the coronavirus, I fully believe that China will be able to host the Winter

Olympics as scheduled smoothly and successfully.

RIPLEY (voice-over): China has yet to report a single case of the Omicron variant with cases rising in the north, the nation boosting its defenses.

XU WENBO, CHINESE NATIONAL HEALTH COMMISSION: China has already made the technological preparations to adapt our vaccines.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Just weeks after containing China's biggest Delta outbreak, Inner Mongolia now on the front lines, as China fights to keep

Omicron out -- Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: All right. Just to repeat our breaking news this hour, the Women's Tennis Association has cancelled all tournaments in China, linked, of

course, to the case of the Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, who publicly accused a former Communist leader of sexual assault and then subsequently

disappeared from the public eye for many weeks.

The WTA there taking a very strong stand on that case.

Thanks for watching this evening. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next. I will see you next time.