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Clergy Expected to March in Elizabeth City, North Carolina over the Killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by Police; Police Allow Family of Andrew Brown Jr. to View Small Portion of Body Camera Footage of Police Shooting but Will Not Release Full Video Footage Publicly; Remnants of Chinese Rocket to Crash Land on Earth; Coronavirus Infection Rates in U.S. Lowest in Seven Months; Pfizer Applying for Full FDA Approval of COVID-19 Vaccine. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 8, 2021 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the Newsroom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Release the tape!

CROWD: Release the tape!


CROWD: The real tape!


PAUL: New developments in the police killing of Andrew Brown. We are live in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, as the city prepares for another day of protests.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pfizer has announced that it has initiated its application for full approval.


PAUL: Pfizer is putting up its vaccine for full approval by the FDA. This as more than 111 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our wartime effort is mobilized to meet the president's goal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just imagine a Greyhound bus falling out of the sky.


PAUL: A 22 ton out of control rocket hurtling toward earth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Space Command is tracking, literally tracking this rocket debris.


PAUL: With just hours until it reenters earth's atmosphere, the big question on everybody's mind, where is this going to land?

Newsroom starts right now.

Good morning, and we are so grateful to have you here on this Saturday, May 8th. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you as always, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez. You are live in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: So, this hour, clergy are expected to rally and March in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. They're demanding transparency and justice over the killing of Andrew Brown Jr.

SANCHEZ: Yes, protests have engulfed the small, predominantly black city after sheriff's deputies fatally shot Brown two weeks ago with few details about what led to his death.

PAUL: The bodycam footage of the incident hasn't been released to the public, but the Brown family is going to get to view more video of the encounter Tuesday. This is after a North Carolina judge issued a written ruling allowing specific parts of the more than two hours of footage to be seen.

SANCHEZ: More than two hours of footage, but you might recall, Brown's family was able to view only a short 20-second snippet of bodycam footage last month. Ben Crump, the family's attorney, says there is still hope for justice to be served.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY: They're grateful they finally get to see the video, but what they are troubled by, as we all are, is this lack of transparency. They wouldn't show the videos, and they tried to sweep it under the rug. That's why what with the Justice Department did today with the George Floyd killing, holding these officers federally responsible, it gives hope for families like Andrew Brown.


PAUL: CNN's Natasha Chen is live in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, for us this morning. Natasha, what are you seeing so far? And good morning.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Boris. The clergy here and the community are prepared for a rally and a march that's beginning within the hour behind us here, and it's really a continuation for those cries for transparency that we've been seeing with daily peaceful protests really since Andrew Brown was killed by sheriff's deputies on April 21st. They shot and killed him as they were attempting to serve a warrant related to felony drug charges.

Now, that issue of transparency, the sheriff here actually addressed that yesterday in a statement after it was known that the judge would be ordering them to show the family some more video. Here's the statement that he released yesterday. He said, "We've carefully read the order from the judge and we will certainly comply with it. Because we're continuing to be as transparent as we can under state law, we will be allowing the family members identified in the judge's order to view the specified videos much sooner than the judge's deadline requires."

As you mentioned, that's going to happen on Tuesday. The judge's order had stated that that had to happen within 10 days, so that's a bit sooner than that. And the specified individuals are Khalil Ferebee, the son of Andrew Brown, his immediate family members, and one lawyer licensed to practice in North Carolina. So it's not going to be the entire family, it's not going to be the entire legal team either. But it is at least happening on Tuesday.

And as you mentioned, there are about two hours' worth of videos to show from five different angles. One point that we want to make is that the judge's order actually says one of the videos shall be released to the family. Not clear, though, if that was meant to say disclosure. At this point it's the county's understanding they're just showing the family the videos, but the family believes one of the videos may be given to them. In the same order it does say that the family is not allowed to take copies or make recordings of the video. So they will be just sharing with the public and describing what they see after they see it. Christi and Boris, back to you.


SANCHEZ: Natasha Chen reporting from Elizabeth City.

Let's discuss further with one of the leaders of today's clergy march for Andrew Brown Jr. Bishop William Barber joins us now. He's the president of Repairers of the Breach and the co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign. Bishop Barber, always a pleasure to have you on. This interfaith march today, it's a call for transparency and accountability for the killing of Andrew Brown. What is your message to local officials, not only in Elizabeth City, but in North Carolina and across the country, and to the federal government as well?

BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, REPAIRERS OF THE BREACH: Well, the clergy from all over North Carolina are coming here today. We're supporting the local, because this is a strong community, this is where Elizabeth City State University is. This is where Alex Haley once went to school. This is a strong activist community.

And what people want is full transparency, truth, and accountability. Today has been 17 days since this killing, since this young man was shot in the back. And I want people to know, we already know he was shot in the back because the audio told us that and the autopsy told us that. Four times in the arm, one time in the back. The back was the kill shot. And 17 days and the family has only seen 20 seconds. Now they're talking about a portion of the two hours. That is not good. The community has not seen anything. These tapes should be public record, just like the audio is public record. We want truth, we want transparency, we want full release of the tape.

We have already said that in this case there must be accountability. We're calling for a federal patterns and practice, and we believe it needs to include not only the sheriff's office, but the D.A.'s office, because when the D.A. went to court, he sounded more like the defense lawyer for the deputies rather than the district attorney for the people. We're deeply concerned about the judge, who he is, what's his background, what's his support. We know the D.A. here once was a Democrat, now he's Republican. Not that that is necessarily an issue, but the fact that many Republicans are anti these body camera films being turned over.

There's a lot of stuff going on here in this southern area in eastern North Carolina. That's why clergy, black and white and Brown and Jewish and Muslim and Christian have decided to come from across the state to support the clergy here, saying we want full accountability, transparency, trust. And if it's shown that these police murdered or executed this young man, there must be arrests, there must be prosecutions, state and federal, there must be payment, and there must be a full pattern and practice review. Not only of this county, but all of the counties involved, and the whole area this D.A. covers, I think he covers about six or seven counties in this area.

SANCHEZ: Bishop Barber, according to the "Washington Post," the home addresses of deputies and county officials have been made public, and apparently unknown individuals are reportedly being seen outside of their homes. The judge in this case is raising safety concerns as the reason why there is no transparency with the bodycam footage, why it should not be released. Are you concerned that releasing the footage could cause violence?

BARBER: No. This has been the most peaceful protest that we've seen anywhere in the world. The people here know how to protest nonviolently. This is eastern North Carolina, first congressional district. We've fought for years down here. That is always an attempt to try to cloud the issue.

The violence here is a young man, 42 years old, seven children, shot in the back. He was unarmed. He did not have any drugs on him. That's what they claimed they went there for. He had no gun on him. He was driving away. And your audience should know the Supreme Court in a case called Terrence (ph) versus Garner in 1985, actually ruled that a person that's being served a warrant fleeing is not rationale or reason for officers to shoot and kill them and use deadly force. The violence here has been the violence that's been perpetrated by the cops, and the violence that we don't know all that happened because they've been playing the shell game with these tapes for 17 days. Think about that, 17 days, and the family has only seen 20 seconds. That's cruel and unusual punishment. And all they have asked for is full transparency. That's the violence we need to be worried about.

And holding these tapes is what creates problems. But this community is extraordinarily disciplined. They're not going anywhere. They're deeply rooted in the soil here. We know how to protest here. Let's get these tapes out.

And we need to know the background of these officers. We need to know the background of these officers. We need to know the background of the judge, the background of the D.A. Who do they really support? What is their political philosophy? Because what we have is a 42-year-old man, father, son, nephew, grandson, shot in the back. They had a warrant. A warrant is not a license to kill. And he had no gun, he had no drugs. All of that is known right now. What we have not seen are the tapes.


SANCHEZ: Bishop Barber, I want you to expand on something that you alluded to here. There have been reports that local officials haven't exactly treated Brown's family and their legal team with decency, and you sort of speculated that perhaps they don't have the family's best interest in mind. Have the Brown family's dealings with officials remained contentious? What are your thoughts?

BARBER: Yes, it's contentious, because they haven't seen but 20 seconds of tape. Their son, their brother, their nephew is buried, in the grave, and they still have not seen the fullness of these tapes. But they know from the audio he was shot in the back. We heard reports from one of the attorneys that he was cursed at by the officials here. Crump, Bakari, and Daniels, those three attorneys are working, are doing a tremendous job. But what we have seen is stall tactic after stall tactic.

Understand, this could have been dealt with very quickly. Within a minute or two minutes they could have asked the judge. There's no law saying they couldn't have done this. At first the sheriff lied and said it was the FBI that said he couldn't turn the tapes over. Then the FBI said, no, that's not the case. So we have a situation here where what we really need is a special prosecutor. This D.A., they have shown themselves inept, incapable, and incompetent for handling this case. We need a special prosecutor. But in North Carolina the D.A. has to ask for a special prosecutor. He will not do that.

The greatest insult to me was when he went into court and argued that the tape shouldn't be released because, in his mind, he had looked at it and it was a good shot. That is not the role of a D.A. That is not the role of a D.A. There has been no evaluation or cross-examination or any of that. He is the D.A. for the people, not the D.A. for the officers. And so that's why we need a special prosecutor, and we need full release.

The media hasn't seen it, the community hasn't seen it. And in North Carolina, think about this, the audio tapes are public. The audio tapes are public. That's how we first knew he was shot in the back. Why are the audio tapes public but the videotapes are not public? First, they said they had to block out faces. That doesn't take 17 days to do that. It doesn't take that long. This has been a game, and that's the harshness that this family has had to go through.

It's wrong, it's undemocratic, it does not meet our standard of establishing justice that's called for by the community. And we believe as clergy it's immoral, because it's not rooted in truth. And in this situation, like any of them, only the truth can set us free. That's all folk have wanted, truth, accountability. You don't have people here who hate police who protect and serve. They're concerned about police who claim to be for law and order, but they give unlawful disorder.

And we need to know what happened in this college town. We need to know what happened in this town. We need to know what happened. And if it shows that there was murder or execution, we need arrests, we need prosecution, we need payment, we need federal patterns and practice everywhere around here.

I'm from eastern North Carolina. Let me give your audience a sense of this. I can name for you right now five men in eastern North Carolina that were prosecuted for murder, black men, who we later got exonerated for not even having committed the murder. That's what has gone on in eastern North Carolina, and that's why people are so concerned and will not take this shell game. We need to see the transparency and truth.

SANCHEZ: Yes, you would imagine that police and officials would want to get the video out there to show the public that the case that they're making is legitimate, that these officers acted correctly, but they're not releasing the tape so we don't know. Bishop William Barber, we have to leave it there. Thanks so much.

BARBER: The governor has called for it, the attorney general has called for it, legislators have called for it, preachers have called for it. The only people that are stalling are the judge, the D.A., and the sheriff. That's not right. They need to do what's right by this family.

SANCHEZ: We'll see how much longer they can keep that up. Bishop William Barber, thank you again.

PAUL: All right, we're going to keep you posted on what happens there today, obviously, as well.

Also, the United States is making really strong strides in the fight against the coronavirus right now. Cases, hospitalizations are dropping to new lows. But experts say there is a warning they need to give us. We'll talk about that in a moment.

SANCHEZ: Plus, debris from a Chinese rocket expected to fall back to earth this weekend, crash landing. No one knows quite where or when it's going to happen. We'll talk about it next.



PAUL: So coronavirus infection rates in the U.S. at their lowest in seven months. That's a sign the country's aggressive vaccination strategy is working. Vaccine hesitancy and the possibility of new, more contagious variants are what's worrying experts right now.

SANCHEZ: Take a look at this. For the first time since the beginning of October, the United States has a seven-day average of 45,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. That's actually really good news. Hospitalizations are also falling across the country as well. Experts predict that 185 million people will be vaccinated in the U.S. by September. But the CDC says it's now monitoring a new coronavirus variant, and vaccine makers are reworking their formulas to combat some of the more troubling strains.

PAUL: CNN's Alison Kosik is with us now. I know there are so many signs that the worst is behind us, but talk to us about what experts are saying we need to be on guard for.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and those variants that you just talked about, the variants spreading around the world, that's reason enough not to let our guard down. And the good news is that there is movement on the vaccine front that could help here. So we know that Pfizer is -- has its COVID-19 vaccine under emergency use authorization.


Well, now it's asked the government, the FDA, to approve it, to give it full approval. And if the FDA does go ahead and give its full approval, which could happen anywhere from one to two months, that means it may help get people who are hesitant to actually go ahead and get vaccinated.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: For a lot of people who are on the fence, who are worried about, well, this is emergency use, should I get vaccinated, it will give them confidence. And then there are a lot of businesses who want to require that their employees be vaccinated but have been waiting for this full approval. And I think for those businesses it will also make them feel better about moving forward with that.


KOSIK: Data from the CDC on Friday show that 111 million people have been vaccinated in the U.S., and that's more than 33 percent of the U.S. population. And the expectation is that the U.S. will likely reach its COVID-19 vaccination goals by this summer. But vaccine hesitancy, these variants, that could still cause a surge in the winter. That's according to an influential model from Thursday.

Now, the CDC, knowing that, is preparing for seasonal COVID-19 vaccine boosters in case they are needed. So there is this push for Americans to go ahead and get vaccinated, and one more approval could help in that realm. There is one more approval that could happen next week. The government is expected to grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer next week to administer their COVID vaccine to 12 to 15-year- olds, which could be super helpful, especially with the expectation that kids may go back to school in the fall.

SANCHEZ: Certainly. Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

At this hour, we're monitoring a Chinese rocket that is out of control. It is expected to crash into earth, but nobody knows where. Be sure to stay with CNN as we follow this story for new developments.



SANCHEZ: Within the next few hours, debris from a used Chinese rocket could soon begin raining down on earth. Here's what we know. It's the Long March 5B rocket. China launched it last week as part of its effort to build an independent space station. It weighs more than 20 tons, it's about 100 feet long, and it is barreling toward earth at about 18,000 miles an hour.

PAUL: Here's the thing no one knows, and everybody is waiting for, where is this thing going to land? What you're looking at is video captured by a curator for a museum in Japan. The man who shot it says he believes this was that Chinese rocket. He said he filmed it around 2:54 a.m. local time.

I want to go to CNN's David Culver. He is in Beijing and he's been trying to walk us through exactly what's going on this morning. David?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Christi, officials here in Beijing say the chances of this rocket's reentry causing any harm or damage are extremely low, but they stop short of guaranteeing a safe reentry. Meantime, U.S. officials are increasingly concerned of the growing amount of congestion in space, and they are following this rocket launched by China very closely.


CULVER: What goes up, must come down. The question is, where? Scientists say they will not know the exact entry point of the 22-ton Chinese rocket until it's so close it's only hours away from reentry. Experts say don't panic. This is not like the Hollywood blockbusters where the impact of something from outer space threatens to end the world. But uncontrolled space junk crashing back to earth is a growing concern. What's expected to hit earth this weekend is the empty core of a rocket that's been losing orbit since its launch, much of which should burn up in the atmosphere. But some pieces could get through, like last year, when the largest piece of space debris in 30 years landed in the Atlantic Ocean and over parts of Africa, remnants of a similar Chinese rocket.

JONATHAN MCDOWELL, ASTROPHYSICIST, HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: The Chinese have this new type of rocket called the Long March 5B, and unlike other big rockets, it litters space by leaving its big 20-ton core stage in orbit. American rockets, Russian rockets, European rockets don't do that.

CULVER: Chinese state media says the risk of it hitting a populated area are low and suggests it may fall in international waters or burn up on reentry, A fair guess since more than 70 percent of the planet is covered in water. The United States is tracking its course and says right now it has no plans to shoot it down. But with a cloud of 9,000 tons of rocket boosters, dead satellites, and other hardware floating above, there are growing calls for more regulation of what gets sent up to space and how it returns.

GEN. WILLIAM SHELTON (RET), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. SPACE COMMAND: As we think about launching thousands of objects into low-earth orbit here, we need norms of behavior so that everybody is playing off the same sheet of music and everybody is focused on safety of flight. We just don't have that sort of thing right now.

CULVER: Until then, all eyes are on the skies this weekend, with the questions of where, when, and how much debris will fall still up in the air.


CULVER (on camera): It is worth noting that Chinese state media is considering this all to be western media hype. But, again, they stop short of guaranteeing a safe reentry of this rocket.

Meantime, the Chinese government moving forward with ambitious plans for their space program. They have in the coming weeks expectations to land a rover on Mars, in the coming year or so they hope to have completed construction for an international space station, and by the 2030s, they hope to have a person on the moon.


They are pouring billions of dollars into this program. Christi and Boris?

PAUL: David, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Joining us now to discuss what we know is Jonathan McDowell. He's an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a space historian. He was in David's piece. We appreciate you joining us, sir.

I want to ask you about Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He said, in part, quote, "the probability of causing harm to aviation activities and the ground is extremely low." But the odds are not zero, and last year we saw a previous Chinese vessel crash into a village in Africa. Would you trust the Chinese with this? Do you believe them?

JONATHAN MCDOWELL, ASTROPHYSICIST, HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: Well, yes, clearly the evidence from last year, right, is that the probability is not that low, because they tried once, and it happened once. So, they're playing the odds, right? And as you said earlier in the piece, probably it will come down in the Pacific and then they'll go, see, we told you so. But there's clearly a significant chance that it's going to come down on land. I've just been looking at the latest reentry predictions, and we can now say that there are no reentry tracks in the window that are going over the western United States, but there are some going over the east. And so we're starting to narrow down now where this thing might come down.

SANCHEZ: Now, Jonathan, it's not just this specific launch, it's really the broader picture. This launch is actually one of the first steps toward the Chinese establishing their own space station. As you heard there from David, the Chinese space agency planning to land a rover on Mars over the course of the next few weeks, planning to land a person on the moon. Should China's push toward space and apparent recklessness concern the United States from a national security perspective?

MCDOWELL: Well, it's certainly true that China is not only doing all of these ambitious scientific projects with the space station, the Mars probe. They also have one of the most extensive military satellite constellations, not weapons or anything, right, but spy satellites and navigation satellites and so forth. And so certainly China is positioning itself as a rival to the U.S. The U.S. is still technologically ahead, but in terms of quantity of space activity, China is really gearing up now, and we have to see them as almost a peer in these activities.

SANCHEZ: One of the really fascinating things I learned about going through this story and reading it is that there are no real rules of the road for space. So is this an opportunity for the United States to align with the international community, the space agencies of Europe, Japan, and Russia, to create stronger rules regarding space travel and commerce that could ultimately pressure China, or would that be a bad idea because then it might stifle innovation?

MCDOWELL: No, I really think that the level of space activity right now really requires a new set of regulations. And you're right, there's a worry about stifling innovation, so we're seeing an explosion of commercial activity in space. And we don't want to stop that, but we do have to manage it. And so I think that, yes, this is a great opportunity for the international community to come together.

And I think China will come on board. I think that they're slowly getting with the program in terms of the international norms, they're just a bit behind with this Long March 5B booster, which I think they're going to be embarrassed about in retrospect.

SANCHEZ: One final quick question, Jonathan. If this thing lands on a balcony of my apartment or something and kills my plants, do I get to keep it? What are the rules? What happens to the debris once it lands?

MCDOWELL: There's an international treaty that says you have to give it back to China, but they have to compensate you.

SANCHEZ: I would get new plants out of it.

MCDOWELL: At least that. That's right.

SANCHEZ: Let's hope it doesn't hurt anybody. Jonathan McDowell, thank you so much. We appreciate your time, sir.

MCDOWELL: You're welcome.

PAUL: Boris, I'm wishing you safe plants today.


PAUL: All right, Representative Elise Stefanik is poised to replace Representative Liz Cheney as the number three House Republican. It's signaling that there would be a limit, though, to her leadership. We have the latest from Capitol Hill next.



PAUL: It's 38 minutes past the hour this morning. And House Republicans are poised to replace Representative Liz Cheney as chair of the GOP House conference with Representative Elise Stefanik, and that could happen as soon as next week. It does appear now that Stefanik wouldn't keep that role for long.

SANCHEZ: The Republican from New York has signaled to some of her colleagues that she plans to stay in leadership only through next year. CNN congressional reporter Daniella Diaz joins us now. Daniella, Republicans are saying that this step is about maintaining unity within the party, but Liz Cheney's voting record is much more conservative than Stefanik's. This shakeup has more to do with Donald Trump, doesn't it?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Boris, it's about whether a Republican member of the conference stands with Donald Trump or doesn't. In the last couple of days, Cheney has lost a lot of allies in her party who stood behind her for this GOP conference chair position because she is telling the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. She refuses to spread this so-called big lie that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump.

She is a huge critic of the former president and she has stood by being vocal about how she sees his role in the party. And because of this, she is now going to be ousted from this leadership position she has. The goal is to have someone who actually spreads the message that Trump is part of this party, and that is -- she's going to be replaced by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, the congresswoman from New York who is more moderate than Cheney but is a supporter of Trump.


She's really rebranded herself the last couple of years as a supporter of the former president, even though at first she was a critic of his. And she has reiterated her support for the former president in an interview yesterday where she said if she has this position, she will spread the message he has in the party. Take a listen.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK, (R-NY): We need fighters, President Trump is a fighter on behalf of the American people, and voters want fighters to stand up for them. And that's what I'm committed to doing, to unify the message, to earn the support of my Republican colleagues and fight for hardworking American families.


DIAZ: Even though she has a more moderate voting record than Congresswoman Liz Cheney, she has broken -- Stefanik has broken with Trump on tax cuts, on the environment, on the border wall. She is a vocal supporter of the former president, and that's why she wants this position. But look, as you guys said, she has signaled that she only plans to have this role until 2022, because after that in the next Congress, she's interested in the top Republican job on the House Labor and Education Committee. So we might be having this conversation again, depending on how that meeting with Republicans to oust Cheney goes. It's likely to happen as soon as next week.

PAUL: Daniella Diaz, thank you so much. Great wrap up for us there.

Evan McMullin is with us now, former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and executive director of Stand Up Republic. Evan, it's good to have you with us. I want to talk singularly about Representative Cheney before we get into the bigger picture of the GOP. But the expectation, as we said, is that she's going to lose her leadership this week. What is her future at that point with the Republicans?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CHIEF POLICY DIRECTOR, HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE: Well, it's unclear. I hope that she'll maintain her seat and her role in the party, if not in leadership. I think the party needs voices like hers, whether it's in leadership or not. Obviously, that's very difficult. And I'm not sure what her interests will be if this happens, and it seems likely to happen. She'll face a difficult reelection bid in 2022. It will depend on how the field, the primary field and her opposition develops against her. Will it be many candidates or just one or two? I'm sure president, or former President Trump will play a role in that race.

So it's very difficult. Wyoming is a very, very Republican state. There aren't many Democrats or independents, so it would be difficult for her to do what, for example, Lisa Murkowski did, which was to lose a primary to a far-right candidate and then run as an independent. I think that's more difficult for Liz Cheney. But I do think that there's a role for her, regardless, in helping to create a new direction, a new home for Republicans like her who would like to turn the page and recommit to American democracy and offer solutions to the American people going forward, rather than its current path.

PAUL: Critics say that Liz Cheney is being pushed out because she's just spent way too much time talking about what happened, the insurrection on January 6th. At the same time, they say they want to move forward and focus on 2022. President Trump is focusing on the 2020 election that he calls fraud, which is not true. How do they make that argument? How does that even have legs?

MCMULLIN: Well, you see Republican leaders pushing the big lie because it takes the pressure off them, right? The Republican Party has lost two cycles of elections, it's regularly losing popular votes in the presidential election. And if Republican leaders can convince their base that the election was stolen, then the base doesn't put pressure on them to make changes that are necessary for the Republican Party to compete again.

And the Republican Party is just -- it's on the verge of effectively becoming a third party in American politics. Of course, it's one of the two major parties, and so it has structural advantages because of that and will remain powerful for some time to come. But by party affiliation, by voter party affiliation, it effectively already is on the road to becoming a third party -- 41 percent of Americans consider themselves independents, 32 percent Democrats, and 25 percent Republicans.

So the big lie helps Republican leadership shield themselves from accountability for these election losses, and so that's why you see them pushing this. Liz Cheney knows that the Republican Party has to cope with reality, has to accept reality, so that it can make the changes it needs to make and then start to build a larger sustainable majority in the future. But that's hard work. It's risky in the short- term. And I think you've got a lot of self-interested Republican leaders in Washington who just don't want to take that risk, don't want to do that work, and are therefore putting the party at great risk.

PAUL: You've mentioned something that I've heard several people talk about, is a potential split in the Republican Party for a third party.


If that would happen, which side of these Republicans would maintain the Republican moniker, and what happens to the other party, the other half?

MCMULLIN: Look, I wish I could say it would be the principled Republicans, principled conservatives who would retain control of the existing Republican structure, because it's a huge advantage, but that's just not the case now. I think a majority of the party is very much aligned in its current direction. I think about a fourth of the party desires something new, wants to turn the page on the last four years.

So if there is some kind of split, and I don't know what that split exactly would look like, whether it would be a new party or sort of a movement at first that would develop into something else, I'm not sure. But it seems very clear at this point that the party is aligned behind the former president and behind -- and along an extremist path. And I think that is going to be its future.

Now, I do think that it's time, especially if Republicans oust Liz Cheney, it says to the party and to principled conservatives and Republicans that there isn't a home for them in the party. And I do think it's time for those of us who are in that minority portion of the party, although it's grown over the last several months, it's still in the minority, it's time for us to start building something new. I think it starts with a movement, it starts with organizing around the country, it starts with impacting elections, competitive elections, which we've learned how to do in the last four or five years. Those discussions are happening now, they're gaining momentum, and organizing is happening. And I think that is the necessary future, and I hope Liz Cheney will be a part of that.

PAUL: Evan McMullin, it's so good to have you here and hear your voice and your thoughts on all of this. We appreciate it. Thank you.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Threats against members of Congress are up more than 107 percent this year, and that number is expected to keep climbing. But what is being done about it? We'll discuss next on NEW DAY.



SANCHEZ: This is a stunning statistic, but it really shouldn't be all that surprising. U.S. Capitol police say they are seeing a 107 percent increase in threats against members of Congress this year compared to last.

PAUL: And the department says they're confident, they are confident that that number is going to keep rising. CNN's Marshall Cohen is following this for us. Do we know what kind of threats they're talking about, Marshall?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, guys. Christi, I'm assuming they're talking about everything there, right? People calling in threats, posting things online. The chatter online was a huge part of what they missed before January 6th. But you mentioned that eye- popping figure, 107 percent increase. That means things more than doubled from last year in terms of threats to lawmakers. And we're not just talking about Washington, D.C. when you think about these threats. Think about what happens when these lawmakers go home to their districts. It's a totally different security situation out there with those intimate meets-and greets with constituents.

So they're trying to deal with this. Lawmakers have been working on a bipartisan basis. They're eyeing about $2 billion in additional security. The Capitol police say they need that money to expand the force to double down on surveillance and trying to make sure that they can get ahead of these threats so that nothing like January 6th ever happens again.

SANCHEZ: Marshall, there's obviously an epidemic of misinformation out there, and I got a chuckle out of this, and it would be really funny if it weren't so sad. There are now some new terms for this level of misinformation thanks to a lawyer for one of the alleged Capitol rioters. What can you tell us about that?

COHEN: Yes, Boris, it is sad. This country has just been overwhelmed by this epidemic of disinformation, and one lawyer for one of the Capitol rioters, the defendant's name is Anthony Antonio. His lawyer argued in court this week that his client was suffering from FOX-itis, or FOX-mania. He actually coined that term and said, look, my client lost his job last year, all he did was watch FOX News, and he believed what they were feeding to him about the election. He believed what they were feeding about 2020, what Trump was claiming about how it was stolen. Obviously, that's a complete lie. He's not the first defendant to try to blame Trump, to try to blame the disinformation on the right. It hasn't worked so far in court, but it's just a reminder that disinformation is everywhere.

PAUL: Marshall Cohen, so appreciate it. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Marshall.

PAUL: And thank you so much for being with us. We hope you make good memories today, whatever you're doing.

SANCHEZ: We'll see you tomorrow, Christi. There's still much more ahead in the next hour of the CNN Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.

But before we go, we want to remind you about the new CNN special, taking a look at the groundbreaking, transcendent album, "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye.

PAUL: Fifty years after its release, this has become an anthem for a new generation. Here's a preview for you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marvin Gaye's groundbreaking "What's Going On."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the first time that I understood poetry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And picket signs don't punish me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the greatest albums ever made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His melody was like a voice of pride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He created something that will last.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty years later.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it an anthem for a new generation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was prophecy, man. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think Marvin would think about what's

going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN's special report "What's Going On, Marvin Gaye's Anthem for the Ages" tomorrow at 8:00.