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Scenes Of Horror In Gaza As Conflict Sees Bloodiest Day Yet; CDC Director Defends New Mask Guidelines For Those Vaccinated; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Says Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) Complicit In Trump's Election Lies; Liz Cheney Unleashes On GOP After Losing Leadership Post; Rep. Matt Gaetz Compares Allegations Against Him To Earmarks; "A Radical Rebellion: The Transformation Of The GOP"; Fact-Checking Senator Ted Cruz. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 18:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Everyone, I'm Jessica Dean in for Pamela Brown tonight. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

In Gaza, predawn Israeli airstrike have killed 52 people including children, and a warning here, this video we are about to show you from the aftermath is disturbing.

It Is the single deadliest day since this new wave of violence began last week. And the Gaza health ministry says that they expect today's death toll to rise.

Meantime, Amnesty International is calling for war crimes investigations after Israeli strikes on a refugee camp along with the attack that leveled that high rise building in Gaza housing media outlets. Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu is dismissing criticism specifically defending the airstrike on the Associated Press and Al Jazeera building.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Here's the intelligence we have it's about Palestinian terrorists, an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorists organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians, so it's a perfectly legitimate target.


DEAN: CNN's Nic Robertson joins me now from Ashdod, Israel, and CNN Arlette Saenz is at the White House with the Biden administration's response.

I want to start first, Nic, with you. Rockets fired from Gaza continue to land in Tel Aviv and other cities, but it seems Israeli airstrikes are doing more damage. What is your sense of the situation being on the ground there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there are still airstrikes, still rockets being fired from Gaza late into the evening. An hour ago, we saw some flying towards Central Israel. We know in the last few minutes, the last 15 minutes, the sirens had gone off in communities, Israeli communities just outside of Gaza. So rockets are still being fired.

But it does feel to us here in Ashdod and from what we have heard about Tel Aviv as well that there have been less rockets coming over here than there were yesterday, than there were in the previous days. So there's a sense here at least that the intensity is going down.

But the Israeli defense sources say that in the past week of this conflict so far, Hamas and other groups have fired 3,100 missiles. And now they're saying that this is the greatest frequency of rockets rather, greatest frequency of rockets that have been fired at them in any conflict so far. So that gives you a sense of the proportionality of what is happening.

But as you said, the highest death toll so far in Gaza on Sunday, and that also gets an indication that this conflict isn't coming to an end yet, and that's what we heard from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who say that he thought there were still -- that this would continue for while, that he hoped it would end soon but he expects it to continue for a while. He didn't indicate how long.

And also it's sort of a political message if you will sent by the prime minister to Hamas's Political leader, Yahya Sinwar, his house targeted, which really is a strong political message. But I think you're going to look at this at the moment, there's a lot of international pressure for that ceasefire but it's not happened yet in Gaza.

DEAN: All right so that end, let's go to now from Nic in Israel, let's go to Arlette Saenz in Washington, D.C. at the White House.


Arlette, on separate calls President Biden has been urging leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to avoid these additional deaths of children and other civilians. What are you hearing about the diplomatic efforts on that point?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, the White House has a real sense of urgency to address these issues. And you are seeing that reflected in the outreach that is being made at the highest ranks of the administration, from President Biden on down.

The president has spent the day back at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, but yesterday here at the White House, he held a flurry of meetings, and also those two important phone calls, a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian authority, the first time Biden had spoken with him since taking office. Now, in addition to the president you are seeing other top officials trying to reach out to partners in the region, Hady Amr, who is a top state department official, is actually on the ground in Israel trying to address these tensions that have been arising.

We also have learned that Secretary of State Tony Blinken, while he was en route to Copenhagen, reached out to his counterparts in Qatar, France, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and specifically talked about the need to calm this tension in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Now, one thing the administration is really leaning on is partners in the region, to try to help to deescalate and help reach a cease-fire in this situation as tensions remain high.

DEAN: Yes. We'll see what that international pressure can do. Nic Robertson and Arlette Saenz for us tonight, thanks to both of you.

And joining me now, with more on this, Political Scientist Ian Bremmer, who is the President of Eurasia and GZERO Media. Ian, great to see you.

I want to start with a couple of your Tweets from earlier today. I'll read them for everyone at home. Israel has the right to self-defense. Hamas indiscriminate missile strikes are terrorism. Palestinians have the right to live without fear. Death of Palestinian civilians and loss of their homes at hands of IDF is unacceptable. So that was one tweet.

The second one, there are way too many members of the media unwilling to condemn Hamas terrorism and way too few U.S. government officials who care about what's happening to the Palestinians.

So, Ian, is there a way out of this impasse and what do you believe the Biden administration should be focused on diplomatically? We just heard a little bit from Arlette and Nic about what they are trying to do.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP & GZERO MEDIA: In near term, there is way out of impasse. The Israeli Defense Force just came out earlier today and basically gave a report talking about how much they already degraded Hamas leadership and military capacity.

You do that if you are Israel when you are planning to wind down a military operation. In other words, I don't think this is weeks at this point, I think it's probably days and it's very unlikely that you are going to see a ground incursion and massive escalation of what we have already seen.

Having said that, there's a lot of violence now between extremist Jews and extremist Arabs against the general population in Israel proper, which, of course, is a highly integrated population. And I don't think you're going to get that genie back into the bottle. We were nowhere close. In Tuesday's explosion, no one even talks about it anymore.

Israel's position in the Middle East is so much stronger than it was five years ago, ten years ago. The prioritization of the Israel- Palestinian peace process, not only for the Americans but even from Gulf Arabs, is nowhere close to what it used to be.

And I think, I mean, as you pointed out the tweet, I mean, obviously, anyone is tweeting about the Israel and Palestine is going to get a lot of inbound, right? I mean, there's no win in that either. But I do think that when President Biden spoke with Netanyahu while it is true that Israel has been, is and will be the most important U.S. ally in the Middle East and Biden as bona fides are just fine on that issue.

His public -- the readout of his call, Netanyahu, wasn't really about pushing a ceasefire. The readout was about, you know, you have the right to self defense. And the initial days, the Americans refused to allow a security council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

And I think they could have pushed a little harder on this earlier. I think that Netanyahu definitely feels a greater sense of impunity as a consequence of all that, and as you mentioned in the outset, the international pressure, including from the U.S., is starting to increase now.

DEAN: And today, CNN's Brian Stelter quizzed a spokesman for the Israeli defense forces about that strike that targeted the building that housed the two major media outposts, the Al Jazeera and the A.P. And Brian ask him what kind of evidence he has of Hamas using that building. The spokesperson refused to share it.

So my question to you is, should Israel have to provide proof Hamas was set up in that building and if they can do you think they did the correct thing in destroying that building?


BREMMER: I think that the story, I wish, was not about this building. I wish the story, if you want to focus on what is happening on the ground in Gaza, it should be so much more about the dozens of kids, about the hundreds of civilians that have been killed as collateral damage.

I mean, at least the strike against this building, which the Israelis claims have Hamas offices in it, there was advance warning being provided. Everyone got out, no was killed. And it was, not -- it wasn't a residential building. People are not homeless as a consequence. So, absolutely, if I am A.P., I'm really angry.

But this reminded me, I mean of the fact that you have thousands of Yemenis' getting killed from bombs from Saudi Arabia for example, no one paying attention to it for years, but then one journalist gets killed, Kashoggi, and it's a massive story because the media is covering itself.

So I think that it is obviously, it's a part of the story, but let's not kid ourselves, it's nowhere close to the importance of what is happening on the ground with thousands of Hamas missiles making all of the Israelis, you know, sort of cower in bomb shelters on a regular basis, and the Israelis hitting back, much more military capabilities, much more targeted but a lot more Palestinians dying.

DEAN: Yes. All right, Ian Bremmer, thanks so much for your perspective on this. We appreciate it.


DEAN: Standing her ground, Liz Cheney rips her fellow Republicans for being complicit in Donald Trump's big election lie.

Also this hour, Matthew McConaughey, and then looking for donors with deep pockets as he weighs a run for Texas Governor.

But, first, tonight, the CDC says its new guidance does not mean everybody can throw away their masks and is calling on unvaccinated Americans to get their shots.



DEAN: This week, the CDC announced fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks or socially distance in most setting, and it didn't take long for that guidance to trigger changes all across the country. State leaders announcing were dropping mask requirements for fully vaccinated residents. Some major retailers and other business also announce changes to their mask in policies. But all of these nuance changes are also sparking some confusion.

Here to help make sense of some of this, CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. And, Evan, the CDC is speaking out again today. Anything to make that new guidance more clear?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, it's actually pretty simple. The idea is if you are fully vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask in most places. The problem is lot of Americans don't want to be asked if they are fully vaccinated, which leads to this confusion, right, like people wearing them, should they be wearing them, can they be wearing them. It's a lot to think about.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Reopening excitement is powerful (ph). But with the CDC's new guidance out last week that vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks in most situations, there's also confusion. Where is it okay to take off a mask and how do we know if people taking off their masks are vaccinated?

There's one thing Americans need to know, says the CDC.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: In terms of the honor system, people need to be honest with themselves. You're protected if you're vaccinated.

SANTORO: A celebratory moment muddied by continuing vaccine hesitancy.

With less than 45 percent of illegible Americans fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, lifting mask mandates comes with caveats. Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday more clarity would come within the next few weeks about work places and other situations. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Yes, I would imagine within a period of a couple weeks you will start to see significant clarification of some of the actually understandable and reasonable questions that people are asking.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But in the meantime, states and local governments are left sorting out the new guidance. In Rhode Island, the governor emphasized vaccines are the key to lifting those regulations.

GOV. DANIEL MCKEE (D-RI): People who are vaccinated can enjoy the freedom of not wearing a mask inside and those who are not vaccinated -- we're not giving people in the state of Rhode Island a pass in terms of not becoming vaccinated, and because it's safe, it saves lives. And right now everybody should be getting vaccinated in our state and around the country.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The science around vaccinations has not change. Experts say more American need to get their shots if the country has a chance at herd immunity. That process is slow but maybe it will get a boost with new guidance allowing younger people to get doses.

Those new rules mean all school should reopen for full time in person learning this fall says the leader of the nation's second teachers' union. But the new roles don't mean America is ready to fully abandon the mask, she says.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We can't have mask shaming. If people want to wear a mask for their protection they should be able to.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, Jessica, we essentially entered the honor system phase of the pandemic, because the rules are pretty simple. If you are fully vaccinated, you can take your mask off in most places. But most places aren't demanding that you prove if you're wearing them. So officials are hoping people do the safe thing, get fully vaccinated before they take their mask off. Jessica?

DEAN: All on your honor. All right Evan McMorris-Santoro for us. Thank you so much.

Well, not every health and medical expert sees the rapid change in mask guidance as a positive including my next guest. CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen joins me now. She's the former Baltimore Health Commissioner. And, Dr. Wen, great to see you.

You have been critical of the CDC first for being too cautious in their guidance vaccinated people, and now, as you've written in The Washington Post, you think the latest CDC guidelines could delay the eventual goal of herd immunity.


So do you think the CDC messed up here? Where exactly are you coming down on this?

DR. LEANA WEN. CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's whiplash. We went from the CDC being way overly cautious including to the point of not being clear about whether a vaccinated people can be safe outdoors without mask to all the way on the other extreme, to now essentially eliminate masking requirements even for unvaccinated people.

Now, look, I think this was unintentional. I think the CDC meant to say something really good, which is these vaccine are really protective, they're really effective at protecting you from getting sick and from spreading the disease.

The thing is though there were unintended consequences of their actions, which is that they should have thought through what they say has a real and direct application on policy. And as a result, we have seen governors and mayors and business owners drop mask mandates. And as a result of that, we've now made life much less safe for people who are unvaccinated, for compromised individuals and for young children who cannot yet be vaccinated.

DEAN: And you talk about what state and local governments are doing. I want to -- that goes nicely into what I wanted to ask you next, which is this morning on State of the Union, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Dana Bash that community vaccination rates should be factored in to local mask policies. So let's listen to what she said.


WALENSKY: Yes. So, first, I'd want to convey, that we are not saying that everybody has to take off their mask if they're vaccinated. And it's been 16 months that we've been telling people to mask and this is going to be a slow process.

The other thing is that every community is not the same. Not all communities have vaccination rates that are high and some communities still have case rates that are high. So these decisions have to be made at the community level.


DEAN: Dr. Wen, do you think that's how these cities and states interpreted the CDC messaging from last week?

WEN: No, because it's not what Dr. Walensky said last week, on Thursday, when she released the guidance she also laid out a roadmap. So, for example, if she said, at the point that you reach 50 percent of people who are fully vaccinated, you can lift this restriction, and when you get to 70 percent, you can lift another one. That was not what was conveyed on Thursday. And as a result we've seen a rapid removal of mask restrictions.

If you look at my state here in Maryland, our governor had previously said that indoor mask restrictions would go at the time that 70 percent of adults get their first shot of the vaccine. Actually, now that the new guidance came out from the CDC, he immediately reversed course. And as of Friday, we have no mask mandates in Maryland. And that's repeated across the country.

DEAN: Yes. And it sounds like you're really advocating for something in the middle. As you said, it's whiplash. You really wanted something more focused from the CDC.

WEN: That's right. And I also wanted to see a road map. This was really sudden. Why not say, this is what we are going to be aiming for. Here are the metrics that we need along the way, and once we hit these metrics we're able to do that.

I think also the CDC and the White House can do a lot more when it comes to helping with some kind of verification of vaccinations, that something that schools and businesses and employers and so many others are looking for assistance as well. They've already been working on this. Why not release those requirements now?

DEAN: And so there has been confusion, as we kind of alluded to, and we've asked viewers to submit their questions. So I did want to get to at least one of those. This is from a viewer. They said the CDC website says we still don't know how long vaccines protect against COVID. What is the guidance for six months after being vaccinated? Do we need to put the mask back on? What do you think?

WEN: It's a great question. So the science, as we have now, showed that the vaccines that we have worked very, very well for at least six months. There's no reason for us to believe that at the six-month mark that somehow you're going to get a decline in the protection. It probably will last for years. We just can't say that for certain.

And so as of now, consider yourself to be very well protected and also that includes against the variants that we know of. The vaccines that we have right now protect very well against the variants that we know of, not to say we can't get new variants that emerge in the future or that immunity way wane in the future, but there's no reason for us to believe that now.

So you can keep your mask off if you are fully vaccinated,, but remember that if you are not vaccinated, actually life is even more unsafe for you right now with potentially other unvaccinated people running around without masks or distancing.

DEAN: Yes. Bottom line get vaccinated. All right, Dr. Leana Wen, always great to see you. Thank you so much for making time for us.

WEN: Up next, Matthew McConaughey for Governor? A movie star is reportedly calling up generous donors for a potential run in his home state of Texas. We'll be right back.



DEAN: After losing her leadership post, Congresswoman Liz Cheney promise to fight for what she says is the soul of the Republican Party, and this morning, she called out her colleagues by names.


REPORTER: And I ask this about both McCarthy and Elise Stefanik, are they being complicit in what you consider the Trump lies?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): They are, and I'm not willing to do that. You know, I think that there are some things that have to be bigger than party, that have to be bigger than partisanship. Our oath to the constitution is one of those. I have seen countries, I've worked in countries around the world where you don't have a peaceful transition in power.

What's happening right now, with Donald Trump and his continued attacks on the Constitution and the rule of law is dangerous.


And we all have an obligation to stand up against that.


DEAN: CNN political commentator and assistant editor at the "Washington Post," David Swerdlick joins me now.

David, great to see you. I'm curious.


DEAN: Hi. I'm curious what you make of Cheney's media blitz lately because if the conference chair removal was meant to really kind of silence her anti-Trump perspective or push it to the side, she's been everywhere in the last few days.

SWERDLICK: She has, and I think it shows a few things. One, it's that she has cajones, right? She's not afraid of former President Trump. She's not enthralled to former President Trump, and that's rare among Republicans on Capitol Hill. And that's come out in recent weeks.

The other thing that's going on is that now that she's not in leadership she doesn't have to tow the line with House leadership and can even speak her mind further.

And lastly, it's showing that she's emerging as a leader of what is left of the ever-shrinking sort of Reaganite wing of the Republican Party. You know, she still stands for that traditional conservatism as we had defined it throughout our lifetimes, and the Republican Party is going in a different direction.

Call it populism, call it nationalism, call it grievance, but the Republican Party is sort of cleaving away from conservatism, and she's there, sort of towing the line for a more traditional conservative model that is rare now in her party.

DEAN: Right, I mean, she's calling on her party to reckon with Trump's election lies and the Capitol attack. I think, to your point, is how successful do you think her crusade will be? Because she's a very much a minority within her own party? SWERDLICK: So I don't think she's going to sway the party away from

Trump. President Trump is and was popular among Republican voters. Polls showed it when he was president.

Polls show it now and it's demonstrated by the fact that Leader McCarthy and other Republicans in Congress have mostly stuck with the president and stuck with his crusade to portray the 2020 election as stolen instead of what it actually was, which was rightfully, freely and fairly won by President Biden.

So I don't think she's going to succeed on that level. She's already been ousted from leadership and she might even lose her House seat next time around if she gets a strong primary challenger. Where she's winning is that she's now freed up to speak her mind and I don't have any prediction about whether she'll run for president, but there's a wide open lane in a Republican primary for an anti-Trump Republican and right now she's it.

DEAN: She's owning that lane. Yes. Quickly before I let you, actor Matthew McConaughey may be weighing a run for Texas' governor. That's according to a "Politico" report, that he's been calling political players in the state, maybe checking in on donors. How serious do you think this is?

SWERDLICK: So I guess this is where I say the obligatory, all right, all right, all right.

DEAN: You have to.

SWERDLICK: But McConaughey is popular as a movie star. He's popular in his home state of Texas. And if none of the other marquee Democrats jump into the race, I don't see why he wouldn't at least give it a serious consideration.

If Beto O'Rourke, Wendy Davis, the Castro brothers don't jump in, or Lena Hidalgo, the county executive of Harris County, Texas, who I think is basically the future of Democrats in Texas -- you know, Harris County is bigger than most states.

If none of them gets in, why wouldn't he? The problem he faces is that Governor Abbott is not an easy out, Jessica. He was elected a couple of times to the Texas Supreme Court, a couple of times as attorney general, and he's running for his third term as governor. Texas voters know him, they appear to like him, and so anybody who challenges him is going to have to really eat their Wheaties.

This is someone who knows Texas and Texans know him and they'd have to have a good reason to vote for anyone else including someone as popular as Matthew McConaughey.

DEAN: All right. But that name recognition may help there. All right, David Swerdlick, thanks so much. Great to see you.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Jessica. You too.

DEAN: Embattled Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz is not exactly keeping a low profile after his former associate agreed to cooperate with the feds. Joel Greenberg was facing 33 federal counts, now he's going to plead guilty to six in exchange for his cooperation on the investigation into accusations Gaetz was involved in sex trafficking and had sex with a minor. Gaetz has denied all wrongdoing and yesterday he addressed the allegations.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): And just imagine the irony here. I am being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors, yet Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors through your votes.



DEAN: CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara is joining me now.

Preet, lovely to see you. Thanks for being with us on a Sunday.


DEAN: That does not sound like a man who is worried. I'm curious realistically, how serious you think it is now that Greenberg has appeared to flip?

BHARARA: I don't know that that means he's worried or not worried. I think, you know, people in his position need to care about their PR. They need to appear like they're not sweating but often in my experience there's lot of perspiration going on. And that's probably true with Matt Gaetz. And it is very serious.

Again, Matt Gaetz has not been charged with anything yet. If he is charged with something, he's presumed innocent until he's convicted at trial or pleads guilty. But the signs are, given this guilty plea by Joel Greenberg, his agreement, I mean, which will happen tomorrow, Monday, his agreement to cooperate against others and all the reporting that we have that one of the people he's cooperating against is Matt Gaetz.

The reporting about how much corroborating evidence there might be with respect to the 17-year-old and some of the other things that have been going on, the fact that the prosecutors have to have proffered, interviewed, debriefed Joel Greenberg at some length over weeks and weeks if not months, and came to the conclusion that this person can exchange in substantial assistance with prosecutors against someone else, likely Matt Gaetz, it's not a good thing for Matt Gaetz.

I think the likelihood of his being charged, not everyone agrees with this in legal circles, I think is fairly high, and I think probably fairly soon.

DEAN: Now as you mentioned, and we've mentioned he hasn't been charged, he also isn't mentioned in the 86 pages of the plea deal documents. Read between the lines there for us. Does that tell you anything at all at this stage?

BHARARA: No, it doesn't. There's a policy against not mentioning people against whom someone might cooperate. There may be a whole bunch of other folks, or maybe other significant figures that we're not aware of. That happens all the time. Only the prosecutors and the investigators know what the, you know, the proffers have yielded what information he -- Joel Greenberg has.

So the fact that he's not named in any direct way in that document means absolutely nothing. It's never the case, you know, we've -- in the Southern District of New York that I used to lead, we entered into cooperation agreements all the time and there was no specificity about who those people would cooperate against, and so that means nothing.

DEAN: Right. That sounds very normal based on what you're saying. All right.


DEAN: Well, let's turn to a still ongoing battle between former President Trump and Congress. We know a deal has been reached to allow Trump's former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify behind closed doors about his role in the Russia probe. Can former President Trump still block that at this point? What happens next?

BHARARA: Well, so this is really uncharted territory. The agreement between the current White House and a congressional committee, that should sort of settle the matter. There is this issue that the parties made very clear to the court that the former president is not a party to it.

Can the former president still assert some deliberative process privilege or executive privilege? I guess he can and we'd have to see how that gets litigated.

There's not a lot of precedent for it. There was a case involving Richard Nixon post-presidency, where he attempted to block the release of some information. He was granted some accommodation. This is not like that. This is not testimony from a former official. That was documents. This is something different.

There was another case like this involving George Bush's former White House counsel, Harriet Miers, in the matter that I had some connection to when I was in the Senate. That resolved itself as well. Donald Trump I think can be expected to lodge some kind of objection. Don't know if it will fare well, though.

DEAN: All right, Preet Bharara for us. Thanks so much for your insight on that.

BHARARA: Thank you.

DEAN: Later tonight, CNN delves into the transformation of the GOP and its embrace of Donald Trump and his big election lie. Fareed Zakaria joins us next with a preview of his new CNN Special "A RADICAL REBELLION." We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN: If you want to understand the Republican Party today and how shocking and bizarre conspiracy theories have moved from its fringe smackdab to its center, you need to explore the roots of where that kind of thinking came from, and those roots run deep. That's what CNN's Fareed Zakaria is exploring in his new documentary, "A Radical Rebellion: The Transformation of the GOP." It airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern. Here's a preview.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Let me give you some snapshots of the Republican electorate today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to stop watching the media and start getting the facts.

ZAKARIA: In a CNN poll conducted after January 6th, 70 percent of Republicans said they did not believe that Joe Biden won the election legitimately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's too much evidence of fraud.

ZAKARIA: Over 40 percent believe Bill Gates is planning to use the COVID-19 vaccine as a pretext to implant microchips in peoples' brains in order to track them. And roughly 1 in 4 Republicans agree with the key tenant of the QAnon conspiracy, that a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our media and politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden is the biggest pedophile on the face of the planet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a conspiracy. It's fact.

ZAKARIA: It becomes impossible to deny the Republican Party today has been infected by a series of crazy conspiracy theories. Why?


DEAN: And joining me now is the man behind that documentary, CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Good evening to you. Fareed, I'm just watching that clip and it is remarkable to hear people say things that are just truly outright conspiracy -- wild conspiracy theories that are not true, that they deeply believe are true.


How was it for you sorting through all of this that -- did you ever stop being surprised by it or were you surprised by it?

ZAKARIA: I was stunned by the numbers. You know, we had to cut out for time and space a number of other ones, you know. Something in the range of 30 percent to 40 percent of Republicans still believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was not an American -- you know, not an American by birth.

What we found was that this kind of thinking -- I mean, there's a long history in America of paranoid thinking, of conspiracy theories, fear of centralized power, but this kind of thinking used to be on the extremes. It used to be on the margins and it was often denounced because it was kind of ruled out by the party leaders.

What began to change was that party leaders decided to wink, encourage it. You know, they would denounce the conspiracy itself but they would encourage the conspiracy theorists, so this kind of playing footsie with conspiracy theories allowed this kind of thinking to grow and grow and grow, and now of course what happened in the last four years was Trump was himself a conspiracy theorist-in-chief.

He was promulgating many of these conspiracy theories, and of course that's when they go from really the fringe to a smackdab the center of the Republican Party.

DEAN: And how much did you find that social media and the internet played into all of this? I know you just said, like, you know, we've had conspiracy theories in America for a while but they certainly have just become front and center especially within the Republican Party. Did you find that the internet and social media had played into that in a significant way?

ZAKARIA: Sure. Look, you know, part of what's happened is the disaggregation in media in general. It used to be that you got your news from three networks. You know, they had to provide a kind of centrist perspective because they knew their audience comprise all kinds of people. Now it's much more narrow casting. FOX has turned itself into almost an arm of the Republican Party, an arm of an extreme wing of the Republican Party.

And then social media which really allows you to select and reinforce, so that also is part of a trend that has just accelerated and accelerated over time. But I think, again, you have to come back to the responsibility of Republican leaders because I wonder whether these same conspiracy theories would have the value and the weight they do if Republican Party leaders had consistently denounced this kind of fear mongering, denounced this kind of conspiracy theorists rather than actually trafficking in it and encouraging it.

DEAN: Yes. Well, it is all very stunning. Fareed Zakaria, thanks so much for being on with us tonight.

And we want to remind everyone that Fareed's special report, "A RADICAL REBELLION: THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE GOP" airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Up next, setting the record straight. Our Daniel Dale separates fact from fiction after Senator Ted Cruz claims Democrats are plotting to register millions of undocumented immigrants to vote. Spoiler alert here, they're not. We'll be right back.


DEAN: From Congresswoman Elise Stefanik making false claims about the jobs report to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy distorting the truth about where his party stands on the legitimacy of the 2020 election, it was a busy week for CNN's factcheckers. One inaccurate GOP claim in recent days, though, really stands out, and it came from Senator Ted Cruz.

Daniel Dale is here to debunk it.


DANIEL DALE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Cruz falsely claimed this week that Democrats have made a proposal that is, quote, "intended to register millions of undocumented immigrants to vote." Listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This bill right now automatically registers to vote anyone who interacts with the government. So if you get a welfare check, if you get an unemployment check, if you get a driver's license, you attend a public college or university, you're automatically registered to vote. Millions of illegal immigrants fall into those categories. It explicitly sets up a process to register those millions of illegal immigrants.


DALE: None of what you just heard is correct. The Democrats' proposed election legislation explicitly says over and over that only American citizens would be eligible to get registered, just like under current law. Automatic voter registration does not mean literally everyone gets registered regardless of their immigration status.

Here's how it does work. When a U.S. citizen has dealings with a government agency from the DMV to a Medicaid office, they would automatically have their info sent to elections officials to get signed up to vote unless they decided to opt out. Under the Democratic bill the info sent to elections officials would have to include information showing this person is a citizen.

Now Senator Cruz notes that the bill doesn't require people to provide hard proof that they are a citizen. That they're allowed to simply declare that they are.


Well, here's some critical context. Only a declaration of citizenship is required today under existing federal law, and the declaration system works. Noncitizens face prison time and deportation if they lie about this and fraud is extremely rare. Similarly, it is true that noncitizens sometimes mistakenly get registered under automatic voter registration. But such mistakes also happen sometimes without automatic voter registration.

And we know that mistakes aren't a widespread problem under so-called AVR systems. More than a third of U.S. states from Georgia to Oregon already have AVR, and there's no sign that undocumented immigrants are being registered in large numbers in those states.

In summary, again, Senator Cruz's claims are just plain incorrect.


DEAN: Our thanks to Daniel Dale for that fact check. And our thanks to you for being with us. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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