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Former NJ Governor and Former EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, discusses Republicans Set to Vote to Oust Cheney as Soon as Wednesday, Ron Johnson Pushing COVID Vaccine Conspiracy Theories; Hamas Fires Multiple Rockets into Israel, Sirens in Jerusalem; 9 Mass Shootings over Mother's Day Weekend; WSJ: Gates Divorce Talks Began in 2019 Amid Epstein Revelations. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 10, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00]

FMR. GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (D-NJ) & FMR. EPA ADMINISTRATOR: There's now just a fealty in the Republican Party that has nothing to do with public policy or issues. It's all about how loyal you are to Donald Trump.

That means a 100 percent buy-in to this fake story about the election was stolen.

There were over 60 lawsuits that proved it was not stolen. No fraud enough to change the outcome of any election results was found.

And it's dangerous for the country to keep perpetuating this because it is undermining people's confidence in our electoral system.

That's what stands us apart from so many countries is how well we've been able to carry these out.

This last election was one of the best in the midst of a pandemic and with a president who had been saying early on that somehow it was going to be stolen.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Absolutely. And every secretary of state, Republicans included, all reinforced that.

I understand fear of the base. What I don't understand is the math. Donald Trump was a one-term president. He lost the presidency by seven million votes. During his tenure, he lost the House and the Senate for Republicans.

Now we have this new information from the Republican congressional, National Republican Congressional Committee, as reported by "The Washington Post," that they had to bury their own polling recently about Donald Trump.

What they actually found was that Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ratings. And that twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of him as strongly favorable.

I mean, talk about a junkie horse to bet on, as he would say. Why is this the horse they're betting on?

WHITMAN: You know, it makes no sense to me because if you also look at those numbers when you quote the base, it is shrinking. Right now, Republicans are third behind Independents and then Democrats. This is not a long-term winning solution.

I wrote a book in 2005 and there's no feeling of satisfaction in saying I told you so but I was concerned about this trend I saw back then of the party. Of course, there was no Donald Trump on the horizon.

But this extreme moving further and further to a position where there are these absolute litmus tests and you believe a thousand percent or you don't.

Look at Liz Cheney, who voted for Republican legislative priorities 80 percent to 90 percent of the time. Then you are replacing her with someone, Stefanik, who voted only 60 percent to 70 percent of the time with the Republicans.

That tells you that it has nothing to do with policy. It is all to do about one issue, and that is the big lie and you have to believe a thousand percent in Trump and that the election was stolen, even though you know it wasn't.

And that's not the base for a party. That's a personality cult. And that is dangerous for the country.

CAMEROTA: How would you define the Republican Party today?

WHITMAN: Right now, it's defined by Donald Trump. There are those of us that are going to be working actively within the Republican Party, or if we have to start a new one, we will.

But we really believe and I believe very strongly that the country does better with two parties, two major parties, center right and center left.

And I want to get the Republicans back to being that center right.

Democrats have to be pretty careful because they are going pretty far to the left now. The same thing could happen to them, being captured by the more extreme part of their party.

This country, the people as you can see by again those numbers of independents, growing number of independents and unaffiliated voters, the country is smack dab in the middle.

CAMEROTA: They really are. And they want to get back to solving problems, addressing issues, not these partisan political fights and making every issue a partisan issue, up and down vote, you're with us or against us.

Are you considering starting another party?

WHITMAN: Not right now. I am considering what I can do to try to help get the Republican Party back. And if that proves to be impossible, well then we'll have to think about something else.

CAMEROTA: While I have you I want to ask you about something that Senator Ron Johnson said on a right-wing radio show. Basically, he continues to spread misinformation on so many levels.

He seems, frankly, to be somebody who is quite susceptible to misinformation. The latest one he is spreading is that he seems to think from something that he's read that the vaccines may be actually dangerous and possibly causing deaths.

There's no evidence of this. This is an un-vetted site that he is referring to.

What is happening to Senator Ron Johnson?

WHITMAN: Again, it has to do with this belief that you can't trust government. That is what makes it so dangerous as we look at our constitutional republic.

First of all, what he is saying is dangerous because it is going to convince more people they shouldn't get the vaccine.

I mean, it is legitimate to have questions about the safety of it. It is legitimate to be concerned if you have underlying health conditions. I get all that.

[14:35:08]

But every single thing that we've seen with the millions of people who have been vaccinated now flies in the face of what Ron Johnson is saying.

People are not dying from the vaccine. They are dying from COVID. They're finding they're having knock on problems after they've been on ventilators, after they've had the disease, far worse than anything they see from any of the vaccines.

I mean, I know there was the problem with the Johnson & Johnson and the concern about blood clots.

It was literally one in a million in this country when they stopped production for a while because it was seven people who had died and over seven million of the vaccines administered.

But more people got blood clots from the COVID.

CAMEROTA: Right.

WHITMAN: Way more, than from the vaccines.

CAMEROTA: And somehow Senator Ron Johnson and other people, who are elected to represent the people -- you know, people, and give them real information, have stopped doing that.

But, former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, we appreciate your take on all of this and your perspective. Thanks so much for joining us. WHITMAN: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Be sure to join Fareed Zakaria for an in-depth look at the changing Republican Party. How did it morph into what we see today? "A RADICAL REBELLION, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE GOP," begins Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

All right. We also have breaking news out of Jerusalem. More unrest and violence in the streets. And now, Hamas firing rockets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:45]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: To Israel now, where violence and unrest are escalating in Jerusalem.

Today, just after warning sirens sounded in Jerusalem and really places across central Israel, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza toward Israel.

CAMEROTA: Hundreds of Palestinian protesters injured as fighting broke out with Israeli police inside and around a mosque in Jerusalem.

The violent clashes forced Israeli officials to temporarily halt visits by non-Muslims to the holy site the Temple Mount.

CNN's Hadas Gold joins us now from Jerusalem.

What is the situation on the ground, Hadas?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, all evening long, we have been hearing these red-alert sirens. This is when there's potentially incoming rocket attacks.

Most of them have been concentrated in the southern part of Israel. But just a few hours ago, we were actually live on air when the sirens went off in Jerusalem and we heard seven explosions while we were reporting out on the street.

Jerusalem has not been targeted with rockets from Gaza for several years now. This was really a new escalation in what is happening.

The Israeli military called this a blatant attack against Israel and said their intention is to hold Hamas accountable.

There have been dozens of rockets fired from Gaza in the last few hours. And they continue -- we continue to get the red-alert sirens all evening long.

Now, the Israeli military has confirmed they did carry out a strike on Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza says nine people have been killed in Gaza, including three children, in the north of the Gaza Strip. The ministry says the deaths were caused by an Israeli airstrike. But

the Israeli Army is saying they are still investigating the incident.

Gaza militants have taken responsibility for firing these rockets as we continue to see them this evening. And they say they are direct retaliation for the tensions and the unrest ongoing in Jerusalem, as mentioned.

Earlier today, more than 300 Palestinians were injured and nine Israeli police officers injured in clashes around the al Aqsa compound and mosque. Three days of violent clashes.

And without a doubt, the tensest period Jerusalem has seen in several years. Tensions have been rising here for several weeks now.

Without a doubt, the latest flash point has been the situation in the neighborhood of east Jerusalem where several Palestinian families, some living there for generations, face a possible eviction.

They were supposed to have a hearing, appeal hearing at the Supreme Court on the evictions today but it was postponed at the request of the attorney general.

And today also happened to be Jerusalem Day, the day when Israel marks when they took control of the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem.

There's typically a march of tens of thousands of Israelis through the old city.

At the last minute, that route that was going to take them through the Muslim parts of the old city, that route was changed.

But then, at 6:00 p.m., we started hearing the sirens and we heard the rockets targeting Jerusalem. Police decided to cancel the march and send people home.

The question now is: Where will the markets target next, Tel Aviv? And what will the Israeli military response be after that.

CAMEROTA: Hadas Gold, thank you very much for all of that reporting. Stay safe.

Now to the horrifying attack on schoolgirls in Afghanistan. This is sparking worry about U.S. troops pulling out of the country by September 11th.

At least 85 people were killed when car bombs exploded outside a school in Kabul on Saturday. And 147 other people suffered injuries.

Most of the victims were students who had just finished their classes and were heading home for the day.

CAMEROTA: No one has claimed responsibility. The Taliban insists it is not responsible for these explosions.

But a lot of the members of an ethnic minority who have been targeted by the Taliban and ISIS militants live in that neighborhood.

Although the Taliban has announced a three-day cease-fire for the end of Ramadan there has been a surge in fighting between militants and Afghan security forces.

[14:44:48]

CAMEROTA: Well, in the last 72 hours in America, more than 400 people have been shot or killed, Victor. The other epidemic that's happening in the U.S. right now, of course, is gun violence. We will talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Listen to these numbers: 15 people killed, 30 injured in nine mass shootings this weekend alone. Look at this map. This is happening all over the country.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Alexandra Field and Lucy Kafanov are following this.

Two of those shootings.

Alexandra, Let's start with you. You're in New York where there's this manhunt -- as I understand, it's still under way - following a shooting in Times Square. So what's the latest?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly unnerving, Alisyn. The shooting happening in broad daylight in the middle of a weekend afternoon.

[14:50:00]

Police releasing new video, part of it taken by body camera that show the chaos that ensued after the shots rang out.

In one video, you see an officer sprinting down the street, holding onto a 4-year-old girl who had been struck by a bullet.

At another point, people rushing to assist a woman who was shot in the leg, applying a tourniquet for her.

In total, three people shot. The 4-year-old girl, two other women, all of them injured.

Police are now, according to law enforcement sources, focusing on a 31-year-old man, who they believe was trying to shoot his own brother when three victims were unintentionally hit.

Mayor Bill De Blasio is saying the victims are now recovering from those gunshot wounds. He says he's adding extra police presence to Times Square, a tourist center of the city.

He believes that presence is important to show the public, just as the city is working so hard to build up the tourism industry, so critical to the economy here, an industry that's been decimated during the pandemic year. The challenge, while the city is trying to do that, trying to lure

people back here, is this surge in crime we've been witnessing.

The NYPD releasing data that shootings are up more than 80 percent this year compared to the same time period just last year -- Victor, Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Lucy now.

Lucy, you're in Denver, I believe it is. A family's birthday party happened in Colorado springs. Six people killed there. What do you know about that one?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT; Six people killed, seven, including the shooter. He died from a self-inflicted wound.

This appears to be a domestic dispute, another devastating shooting here in Colorado. This one taking place on mother's day at a birthday party at a mobile home park in the early hours of Sunday morning just after midnight.

Now, the house was full of adults and children. Police say a man who was the boyfriend of one of the victims drove up to the residence. He walked inside and began shooting at people in the party before taking his own life.

Police are still investigating the motive. They have not specified the weapon used.

My producer did manage to speak to one of the survivors, Freddie Marquez, a relative at the party Saturday night. He left about two hours before the shooter arrived.

He told CNN that the six victims were all part of the same extended family. The seventh was the shooter, as I mentioned.

The birthday party was for Marquez's wife, who had just turned 29 years old. She and her older brother, who would have turned 31, were celebrating.

She ended up leaving the party early but lost her two brothers and mother in this shooting.

The suspect said the boyfriend went by the name Junior. He had no idea what the motive might have been.

Another person who survived that shooting said it happened in the blink of an eye. The shooter went in there. There was no commotion. He said he did what he had to do. That's a quote.

There were three children inside that home. They all survived and are now with relatives -- Victor, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

Lucy Kafanov, Alexandra Field, thank you both very much for all this reporting.

Victor, you and I have talked about this. Even if you survive this, even if you're not one of the people who has the physical wounds, the trauma for all of those people who witnessed it, who rushed to the scene, the people in Times Square who were just walking by, that lasts. That lasts maybe a lifetime.

BLACKWELL: And the families. You think about six people killed there at one birthday party. All of the relatives, all of the neighbors, and how that impact it is the rest of their lives.

But something that Juliette Kayyem, our national security analyst, said back in March, after the shooting in Boulder, Colorado, coincidently another one in Colorado, she said, prepare for a long, hot, violent summer.

As we return to these mass groups after a year away from each other. Every time I see this, I just think of those words, prepare for that long, hot, violent summer.

Hopefully, it doesn't happen but we've seen a trend that's unfortunate and tragic.

CAMEROTA: You're right. That's such a great point. This isn't what we were hoping for when we finally came out of the pandemic.

[14:54:15]

OK, meanwhile, we're also learning more about the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce. There's this new report about the timing and how long this may have been in the works.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: New revelations in the split between Bill and Melinda Gates. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Melinda Gates had been meeting with divorce attorneys as early as 2019.

She reportedly began exploring divorce options after her husband's ties to accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, became public.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is with us.

You're following this. What have you learned?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, their divorce announcement last week really surprised the business world. Now we're getting new details from "The Wall Street Journal" about what may have contributed to the end of their 27-year marriage.

[14:59:56]

So, according to "The Wall Street Journal," who spoke to former employees of the Gates charity and people familiar, they say Melinda Gates had been discussing divorce with her lawyers since the past two years. "The Journal" reports that Melinda Gates was concerned about her

husband's relationship with convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.