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Panic Buying Drains Gas Pumps Across The Southeast; 100-Plus Republicans Slam GOP, Threaten To Form Third Party; Secretary Of State Blinken Sends Top Official To Meet With Israeli And Palestinian Leaders. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 12, 2021 - 14:30   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: This of course, was all triggered by that ransomware attack on a critical pipeline, reportedly by a criminal organization in Russia. Even U.S. Postal office, trucks are lined up for gas in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As of noon Eastern Today, nearly 65 percent of all gas stations in North Carolina are without gas, 40 percent of gas stations in Georgia and Virginia are in the same predicament. That's according to GasBuddy, an app that tracks fuel prices and outages.

So let's bring in CNN's Nick Valencia, he's at a gas station in Atlanta. Nick, let's start there. What are you seeing and hearing from people in gas lines?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the great irony, Alisyn is that, and people preparing for the worst, they may be very well contributing to that scenario. This is the definition here of panic buying. It's what we're seeing here in Georgia, all throughout the Atlanta metro area and suburbs. We were at one gas station early this morning. It only took a couple of hours for them to run out of gas.

Here in Brookhaven, which is another Atlanta suburb, or Atlanta area suburb, it isn't so much the shortage of gas. In fact, Costco says that before they get to what they call their safety stacks, they are cutting off some pumps. They did, though, get dangerously low on their levels of premium. But it was a short time ago that we saw a tanker come through here deliver more regular gas, more premium gas. They are however pumping more 1000s of gallons per hour than they typically do on a normal day.

I'm going to get out of the way here. So you can see just a little bit about what the lines look like here. A lot longer of a wait, it looks like then actually is the case about 10 minutes to get in and out of here. And they have things pretty run -- run pretty efficiently here. Again, it's not so much survival mode.

According to the managers here, they did see that yesterday, some frustrated people at the pump. Most people though, that you're seeing in that line there are topping off and, you know, just like we saw the great rush on toilet paper in 2020. You're now seeing that rush here for gasoline, not so much because of the shortage but because of the prospects of there being a shortage. Alisyn.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yeah, Nick, I am -- I was out searching yesterday, not because it was a rush. I genuinely needed fuel. And I had to get to four stations before I paid 359 a gallon for mid grade. So the struggle is really in around Atlanta.

Let's go to North Carolina now. Dianne, you're there in Charlotte, what are you seeing?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, so the city of Charlotte, we talked about the state of North Carolina as a whole, just sort of skyrocketing to the 65 percent of gas stations that are out of fuel at this point across the state, according to GasBuddy in the state, in the city of Charlotte, North of us in Raleigh, more than 70 percent of gas stations.

And if you do find gas, well, again, you can take a look behind me here at this Costco here. We have long lines going through each of those pumps. And it works all the way down to the highway, these lines here. Now, in speaking with people, not just who are getting gas, but those who are working at these gas stations.

It's the same thing we're seeing across the southeast. It's those who are trying to top off their tanks, those who are afraid what if the pipeline doesn't come back on as they're being told it will and those who simply don't trust the fact that things are going to work themselves out.

Now I spoke with one gas station attendant who kind of to give us an example of how quickly this is moving here. She said they had 3000 gallons of gas at 10:45 a.m., when they shut the pumps off at 1:15 p.m. they had to, because they had gone through more than 2000 gallons and they didn't know when their next delivery was going to come.

Again, everybody who is here, the experts who are working on this AAA, the government is telling people that what we're seeing behind us is actually what is perpetuating this into what seems like a crisis that there isn't a supply problem. There was an exponential demand problem and it appears to be for no reason except fear here.

BLACKWELL: Well, we're seeing a lot of that across the East Coast. Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. Nick Valencia, thanks to you too.

So after the vote to remove Liz Cheney from Republican leadership, there are some Republicans who are now considering forming a new party.



BLACKWELL: So about 100 Republicans plan to issue a letter tomorrow threatening to form a third party if changes are not made in the GOP, at least a portion of those signatories. The group is named in the effort a call for American renewal, members say they are outraged at the ouster of conservative Liz Cheney, today's chairwoman of the House Republican conference, because she repudiated Donald Trump and his lies that he won the 2020 election.

Joining me now is one of the Republicans who signed that letter, Barbara Comstock. She was a Congresswoman for Northern Virginia but lost her seat in 2018. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us. Let's start here with the 16 minutes this morning, yeas and nays quick meeting Cheney's out. What did we learn? What did you take away from that 16-minute meeting about the Republican Party?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think Liz's made herself, you know, a moment in history here where she stood up to the big lie and said she was willing to take the consequences for it. So I think it was a sign of leadership. I think it was a sign of integrity and character. And I think she will, you know, continue to be, you know, history will still do well in history.

And the effort that we're having here is we understand if we want to have Republicans govern again, it has to be a center right coalition that includes Republicans. And I am still a Republican. I'm not leaving the party. I'm staying and fighting for having, you know, for people like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, but a lot of others, not necessarily people who voted for impeachment, but people who I think are good, strong Republicans have character, but then we also need to get independence and some of those former Republicans who've left the party.


So this coalition is designed to bring people back to that center, right governing coalition. We don't -- if we're going to -- first of all, when you're at 46.9 percent, which is what Trump got, you kick out anybody, you're just shrinking your minority. So we want to expand what is a governing center right coalition? And I certainly hope we can do that within the Republican Party.

And that's what, you know, if you look at who I've written checks to -- who I've supported, it's been an array of Republicans. But I but I think this is certainly I think it's bad for the party that they did this with Liz Cheney, the Senate, none of the people in Senate leadership voted to decertify the election, and now you will have a House leadership that does and I think we need to obviously be a lot bigger tent.

And we have to stop telling the American people and Republicans that this election was stolen when we know it was not.

BLACKWELL: So that's an important point. First, thank you for clarifying that not all signatories of this letter are calling for. If you don't make these changes, we're now going to start a third party. But I want to stay on Liz Cheney for a moment and get back -- and then get back to the changes.

You say that she's out. And she is out of leadership. But has she lost influence? Because there could be some argument made that now being out of leadership in this public rift and the vote, that she now has a louder, more influential voice? COMSTOCK: Yes, well, I think she speaks to that center, right governing coalition, who realizes we've got to stand up for constitutional principles. You know, we -- a lot of Republicans said they liked Donald Trump because of the judges he nominated. And I certainly liked a lot of those judges that were really put forward by conservative groups and in people who we trusted.

But all those -- most of those judges said no to Donald Trump's big lie. So if we want to say the judiciary is important, then let's respect the judiciary. Let's respect people like Bill Barr, who said the same thing that Liz Cheney said. So I think this is going to -- you're right, I think it enhances her role as being a leader speaking to that sensible center right coalition, because I don't like what Democrats are doing.

You know, I have the same red line on, I don't want to be raising taxes on a lot of the issues that I fought for when I was in Congress, I still believe in those. But I think you, you have to believe in those and also not lie to your constituents or pander to them. And unfortunately, the six months of lying to them and saying the election was stolen, is creating, you know, I don't blame the people for believing their leaders.

It's the leaders that need to -- because then people come back and say, oh, well, they're -- all that my constituents are saying it was stolen. I have to represent them.

BLACKWELL: And that's what we heard from Josh Hawley.

COMSTOCK: Because that's what the leaders have told them.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes, we've heard that from leaders.

COMSTOCK: Yes. And we have to stop that and say -- yeah, yeah, and that's -- and it's that -- they didn't come up with this on their own. It was Donald Trump, and his people feeding them that lie. And Donald Trump represents a shrinking minority of the country. And he divided the country, and now he's dividing our party, and he is not the path back to a center right majority.

BLACKWELL: So you say, a shrinking minority of the country, but is that a striking portion of the party for those people who signed on to this letter that we expect to see tomorrow, who say that if you don't make these changes, if you don't move back to a center right party, then we're out.

Let me give you a response from potentially the recipients of this letter, the intended recipients that the money, the passion, the people of the base of the party are with Trump, if you want to go, go. To them, you say what?

COMSTOCK: Well, I think you look at -- remember, there was the CPAC conference, the Conservative Political Action Committee back in February, only 55 percent of them even wanted Donald Trump to be the nominee. So even among the hardest of the hardcore, he barely gets a majority. So what I'm pointing out -- BLACKWELL: Put the majority, nonetheless.

COMSTOCK: -- winning here, well, yes, a majority to lose again, you know, so you can win the nomination. But if that's getting a ticket on the Titanic, what good does that, do you? So we need to have people who can bring us together, turn the page in a post Trump post pandemic world and come up with the innovative solutions that I know, Republicans are good.

But we have a lot of voices out there who could give voice to these new ideas. If we get Donald Trump off the stage, and doing what they did today has only enhanced Trump at a time when we know his personal numbers continue to sink, even if they are still the majority of Republicans. They are a minority of the country, and that's not going to change.

BLACKWELL: So talking about -- looking toward the future and new voices that takes me back to where we started and this is Congresswoman Cheney after the vote this morning.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.



BLACKWELL: Now she has not ruled out a run for the presidency. If she decides to get into that race, would you support her?

COMSTOCK: Well, I'm a big supporter of Liz. And I think we're a long way from the presidential race. And I think what we need to do is get Trump off the stage. And that's what she's focused on. And that is hurting our party. He's a divisive figure, both for the country and within the party.

And so, you know, let's -- we heard from Tim Scott on the night of the State of the Union address, and wasn't that refreshing to hear from somebody who was talking about ideas, people -- somebody who people could unite around. I know, we've heard from people like Young Kim and Michelle Steele, about anti-Asian hate crimes and how we're going to fight back about that. That was refreshing. We have voices out there who can change this dynamic and turn the page, and also people who did not embrace the big lie.

BLACKWELL: And we'll see --

COMSTOCK: So I think that's, you know -- yeah.

BLACKWELL: I apologize for the delay that from where I am in Atlanta to where you are in Virginia and I hate to cut you off for that. But we'll see if those voices are heard from the leader of the party says there's a big tent, and if there's a place for free thought and debate, but we watched that vote this morning, former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, thank you so much.

COMSTOCK: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, still ahead. A warning from the United Nations that violence between Israelis and Palestinians could develop into a full-scale war.



BLACKWELL: Hamas is continuing to fire rockets into Israel today. And as a result of Israeli airstrikes, 65 people are dead in Gaza. The tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, according to one Middle East envoy could reach full scale war.

Now, this has been called the worst violence since the 2014 war.

CAMEROTA: So let's get right to CNN's Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem. Ben, of course, you've covered that region for a long time. And you've seen a lot of violence. Why has this violence escalated faster than others?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, it's just the turn of events that happened. You know, it's just a few days ago, we were reporting on protests here in Jerusalem. And it's quickly expanded not only to hostilities between Israel and the militant groups in Gaza, but what we're seeing increasingly is communal violence between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis within Israel proper itself.

Now, if you go back over the last few decades, there have been repeated outbreaks of violence going back many years starting the First Intifada, the Second Intifada, the 208, 209 Gaza War, the 2012 Gaza War, the 2014 Gaza War. And these things happen on a fairly cyclical basis, essentially, because of the inability of the parties involved ended the United States and the other powers to actually resolve the problem here.

The problem here, according to many Palestinians, and some Israelis is the fact that there are millions of Palestinians living under effective Israeli rule without the same civil rights, and that Israelis enjoy and therefore, it's inevitable on a regular basis, you will have this sort of outbreak. And we can predict probably confidently that this will pass.

There will be a period of relative calm, and it will happen again. But what we're seeing is certainly in the last 72 hours, a level of violence that as you said, we have not seen in the last seven years. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Ben, yes. I mean, if there's one thing that we can expect, it's the cyclical nature of this and it's just, you know, so intractable, and that therein lies the tragedy. But thank you very much for explaining all that us.

So Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today and is sending a senior U.S. diplomat to meet with leaders from both sides of this conflict to try to urge de- escalation.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department. Kylie, tells about these meetings, these conversations?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well today, Secretary of State Tony Blinken's main message was that of de- escalation. That's what we have heard from the Biden ministration repeatedly over the last few days.

And as you said, Secretary Blinken said that he has asked a senior diplomat here at the State Department to immediately go to the region to meet with both Palestinian and Israeli officials. He said both the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to live peacefully and securely.

But one thing that I asked him about is if he believes that the Israeli response here has been proportionate, given that dozens have been killed in Gaza, including children in recent days, and he spoke about there being an absolute, "distinction" between what Hamas is doing in indiscriminately firing rockets against civilians, and what Israel is doing in defending its civilians, but he also spoke about the need to protect affect the lives of civilians that I want to listen to that.



TONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: But whenever we see civilian casualties, and particularly when we see children caught in the crossfire losing their lives that has a powerful impact. And I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people.


ATWOOD: A major question right now, what more can the United States do beyond calling for escalation, beyond engagement? Secretary Blinken told me they're doing precisely what they should be doing. Engagement and these calls for de-escalation, and he said that he hopes that U.S. engagement and activity here this diplomat traveling will have some impact. Clearly, we'll wait and see if that happens.

BLACKWELL: Kylie Atwood for us at the State Department. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We are at a turning point in American history today. It is a historic day on Capitol Hill. The country is struggling still with the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, and lawmakers continue to choose former President Trump over the truth.