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Israeli Media: Israeli Security Cabinet Voted to Agree to Ceasefire; Mental Health Experts Warn Pandemic Could Have Lasting Effects; New York Times "1619 Project" Writer Denied Post at UNC; New York Attorney General Investigation Trump Organization CFO's Taxes. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 20, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hi, breaking news. Welcome back. The security cabinet -- Israel's security cabinet has just wrapped up a meeting, and international press is building for the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Let's now get to former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, up next with us. First, you have received confirmation that this vote happened? That the security cabinet has agreed to the cease-fire.

MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: No confirmation, no. And frankly if you would have told me so hours ago, I would have been skeptical. Because the polls in this country are running decisively against a cease-fire. Something of close to 80 percent of Israelis are against the cease-fire, believe it or not. Because they don't want to go back to the statis quo, which enables Hamas to rebuild its military infrastructure, to replenish its missile arsenal. And to have to go through this again every couple of years.

So this is clearly -- if it is true then it's a result of immense international pressure. We had the foreign ministers of Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic here today. Calls with the Biden administration from the president, the secretary of state on down. A lot of pressure, and it's going to be politically risky for Netanyahu if he indeed he goes for a fifth round of elections.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Well we have -- CNN has just confirmed that this is true. That there is a cease-fire agreement according to our source. And so -- I mean, but what you're saying, ambassador, is really interesting. Why would Netanyahu go against public polling and take a political risk? I mean in other words, why isn't public polling outweighing for him the international pressure?

OREN: I get the sense that the information from Washington was that President Biden had gone out on a great limb for Prime Minister Netanyahu, was facing rising pressures from within the Democratic Party. Even from now the center of the party, not just the left-wing of the party. With both, you know, the Speaker of the House Pelosi, Senate Majority

Leader Schumer coming out and strongly urging for a cease-fire. Netanyahu, I think, values his relationship with President Biden, was thankful that president gave him the support that he did during the course of 11 days of fighting. And I think that, you know, time had come.

I think also the IDF was saying to the Prime Minister, that its so- called bank of targets was running low, that the IDF had achieved what they could possibly have achieved from the air without going in on the ground.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed your reaction to now CNN's confirmation that the Israeli cabinet has voted to agree to this cease-fire.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think the point the ambassador is making at the end is exactly the right one. Israel has largely achieved its objectives. There's only so much you can degrade. Remember, Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth. Hamas is a reasonably ragtag military organization. It's not as though you have some kind of first-world army that you are trying to grind down. They had taken out what targets they could, what was left was going to be extremely messy, and extremely low value.


So as far as I can tell it's not so much that Israel yielded to international pressure, it resisted international pressure until it felt it had done what it wanted to do, it achieved its objectives.

BLACKWELL: All right, we of course, will be checking in with Kaitlan Collins at the White House to see if there's any response from President Biden. And thanks to Michael Oren, Fareed Zakaria, thank you both. A quick break. We'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: Fully vaccinated Americans are ready to get back to what they do best, enjoying the summertime.


And with the CDC expanding mask-free living for people who are vaccinated, museums and entertainment venues across the country, they're preparing. Summer concert tours and places like the famous Hollywood Bowl are booked. Theme parks are open, anticipating solid return crowds and families are locking in long-delayed vacations. But for some all of this is just coming too quickly, bringing some stress.

So let's discuss that with Catherine Ettman from Boston University School of Public Health. Catherine, thanks for being with us. Let's start here. For people who think it's a little too soon to go into a restaurant, to shake a hand, to sit in a coffee shop. If they want to get back to normalcy how do they deal with anxiety? CATHERINE ETTMAN, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, we

know -- first of all, thank you for having me. We know from our research over the last year that mental health is sensitive, and it's sensitive to the context around us, the world around us. And even small shifts can affect our mental health.

So small changes to routines can exchange our mental health and potentially cause anxiety or depression. And with that in mind, we all know the challenges that came from changing our routines when the COVID-19 pandemic started. So it's no surprised that we would continue to see some levels of anxiety and depression as our routines are changing again.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's OK to take it slow. You don't have to rush back into everything. Let's talk about some of your research. You found that as compared to pre-pandemic levels, depression, rates of it more than tripled during the pandemic. Talk to me about that. What are people feeling? And who is feeling the worst of it?

ETTMAN: Yes, so our team at Boston University School of Public Health conducted an original study at the start of COVID-19 and we compared the rates of depression relative to the national averages before COVID-19. And what we found is that adults were reporting three times the rate of depression, so almost a quarter -- more than a quarter of U.S. adults, 27.8 percent were reporting symptoms of probable depression.

And as I mentioned earlier, depression is sensitive. It's sensitive to our context, to our community, to our environment. And it's responsive to the social and economic context around us. What our research found was that those with low resources, low income and low family savings or stressors such as job loss were most likely to report symptoms of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BLACKWELL: Should we expect the, you know, as the transmission rates come down, as the number of deaths per day, those to decrease, do we expect there to be some correlation with the instances of depression or anxiety, as things get better, people get better?

ETTMAN: So there have been some data from the CDC that suggests that depression levels have stayed the same. However, we are hopeful that as stressors reduce, mental illness will improve with it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you know, you talk about the people who are feeling this where those with low resources, as you said. I read from the study are those that under $5,000 in savings, which a lot of people are in that category, we really lauded those folks in the worst of the pandemic, the essential workers, and there were commercials for them and applause in public, but what do we need to do now to make sure they get the mental health support that they need?

ETTMAN: Well first, we want to ensure that people have access to the resources that we know create help. So that means having access to housing, to stable employment, to a livable wage. We know that these are important. This was important before COVID-19 and it came out during COVID-19. We found what was called the double jeopardy, where the people who had

lower assets going into COVID-19 were the very people who were more likely to experience stressors, such as job loss and difficulty paying rent. So first and foremost we want to make sure people have the social determines of health, as we call them, or the core factors that allow us to live healthy lives.

Now on top of that now that we know that certain populations are at higher risks for depression, we want to first create awareness. And second, we want to create opportunities for screening so that we can identify those who need help. And third, we want to ensure that we can provide resources and support for people in need.

BLACKWELL: Yes, absolutely. Fascinating research. I read much of the report today. Catherine Ettman, thank you so much for your time.

ETTMAN: Thank you for having me.


CAMEROTA: OK, now to this story. Nicole Hanna Jones, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer from the "New York Times Magazine" and author of the acclaimed "1619 Project" that examines the history of slavery in America, was denied tenure in the University of North Carolina. Even though the school's journalism department recommended her for it. UNC's Board of Trustees to the highly unusual step and they took the highly unusual step of not approving it. Why?


Joining us now with more on this story and others, CNN's political commentator Ashley Alisyn. Ashley, great to see you. So Nicole Hanna Jones, she's a UNC graduate, by the way, and she has the support of dozens of faculty members, why did the board refuse to grant her tenure?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well we're hearing that criticism from conservative groups was the one reason why she didn't receive tenure. But you know, Nicole is a national treasure. She did some of the best reporting we've seen in a really long time with the "1619 Project." And it just continues to call into question of who gets to tell the story of America's history.

Is it always going to be through the lens of a white male dominated tone, or do black people, do indigenous people, do people of color, do queer people, get to tell their own story? And so I think she's facing backlash from telling a very, very candid story of slavery when it was introduced to this country. And the horrors that it really had on the black community.

CAMEROTA: That story is certainly not going away. I also want to ask you about the story of this 107-year-old woman. Viola Fletcher, she's a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. And she went to Washington, D.C. yesterday for the first time in her life and she testified to the House Judiciary Committee about how -- what happened on that day 100 years ago, still haunts her. So I'm going to play this for you.


VIOLA FLETCHER, OLDEST LIVING SURVIVOR OF TULSA RACE MASSACRE: I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we lived in our home. I still see black men, seeing being shot, black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day.

We lost everything that day. Our homes, our churches, our newspapers, our theaters, our lives. Greenwood represented all the best of what was possible for black people in America and for all the people. Nobody cared about us for almost 100 years. We and our history have been forgotten, washed away. This Congress must recognize us and our history for black America, for the white Americans and for all Americans.


CAMEROTA: I mean, what happened that day is sickening, it's infuriating and you know, having her, this 107-year-old woman just remind everybody of what she lived through. And by the way, her brother is a 100-year-old World War II veteran talking about it as well. And so does Tulsa owe these survivors reparations now?

ALLISON: Well, I think this country has to acknowledge definitely what happened in Tulsa and the conversation around reparations should be focused on Tulsa, but in a broader context around black America and the attributions, the contributions they really had for America. But I mean, what an honor and a privilege it is for our country to be able to have a firsthand account of what happened that day.

And I just hope that -- she has so much courage. You know, she said in her testimony that she lost everything that day, but the thing she didn't lose was her voice. And she spoke truth to power to the Congress the other day, and we must see that. We can't take another 100 years of reparations. We can't take another 100 years to tell these stories because it is part of our country's history, and what an honor it was to be able to hear from her.

CAMEROTA: Agreed, but I mean what happened to that Greenwood neighborhood? You know, she talks about how she went to sleep that night in a big, beautiful house, in a vibrant neighborhood with all sorts of culture and success and businesspeople, and black families around her, and she woke up and it was in flames.

And 300 people -- black people, we believe, were killed. I mean obviously, the facts of that date are still scant because it was so whitewashed. And 10,000 people homeless, I mean it's just -- it's still shocking what happened. Yes, I mean, I hear you, and I agree it was an honor to be able to hear from her and that she is such a survivor. But what happens next?

ALLISON: You know, we call Tulsa -- when we tell the story of Tulsa it's called "Black Wall Street." Because it was an opportunity and place for black people to thrive. And there were other population centers around this country that also were able to do that, but because of our story past with racism, you know, their communities were destroyed and torn apart.

And so in this moment what do we do next? Well, there are many opportunities for the Congress to act, for states to act to bring economic wealth and power back to black communities.


You know, we built this country for free and so we deserve to have reparations. We deserve to have policies that are racially equitable that help repair some of the past. How do you repair the harm of killing people and massacring people because of the color of their skin?

Because they were doing the very thing that America is supposed to be about. And one way to do that is through policy. Is to make sure there is economic opportunity for blacks to have that beautiful home -- not just 100 years ago, but today, to make sure blacks folks have access to equitable education and job opportunities especially on the back end of this pandemic.

CAMEROTA: Ashley Allison, great to talk to you. Thank you so much for being here.

ALLISON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: In a reminder, a new CNN film about the burning of "Black Wall Street" airs Monday May 31st at 9:00 Eastern. Do not miss that.

We want to let you know about a newsletter that dives into the intersection of race, and culture, and politics, and history and current events. You can sign up to receive Race Deconstructed at

BLACKWELL: Next, new details about the criminal investigation of The Trump Organization, and the chief financial officer's taxes now being looked into. How will the Trump team fight back? We'll talk about that. Plus more on the breaking news.

Israel's security cabinet has agreed to a cease-fire. We're expecting a response from President Biden soon.



BLACKWELL: More legal trouble now for former President Trump. CNN has learned that the New York Attorney General's office has launched a criminal tax investigation into Allen Weisselberg. Now, he's a longtime CFO of The Trump Organization. Now this investigation has been going on for months and according to people familiar with the investigation there's one central goal, to find enough leverage to convince Weisselberg to cooperate with authorities and then build a case against those even higher up in the organization. Daniel Alonso is former federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of

New York. Daniel, great to have you here. What does this mean for Donald Trump?

DANIEL ALONSO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, we don't know. Remember that we were all kind of speculating as to what's going on. That said, we can read breadcrumbs.

So the fact that the Attorney General has teamed up with the district attorney is a good development for law enforcement because it's better that they be coordinating than be working at across purposes. And the Attorney General has gathered a lot of really useful information in its civil investigation about The Trump Organization. It's deposed witnesses, it's gathered tons of documents. So hearing that with the DA and doing the case together is a very, you know, good thing and makes obvious sense.

BLACKWELL: And remind us of just how critical Weisselberg's cooperation could be, maybe outside the family the person closest to the center of the organization.

ALONSO: Yes, in criminal cases, particularly fraud cases like this one, and an accounting fraud are the most complicated. You want somebody who is an insider testifying or cooperating. And particularly if you want the executives, you know, the operational executives like Donald Trump, like other executives, perhaps members of his family.

If you want to prove that they have the knowledge that's required and the intent to commit fraud, you can only really do that by conversations or communications. Donald Trump famously doesn't use email. So I think that Allen Weisselberg, if he were cooperating, and assuming he had such conversations with Donald trump of information against Donald Trump, that would be huge piece of evidence for the DA.

CAMEROTA: But obviously they want him to cooperate, as you point out. So now that the New York Attorney General has opened a criminal tax investigation into Allen Weisselberg, I mean that sounds like they're applying the screws.

ALONSO: Yes, I don't the Attorney General to have opened a criminal tax investigation. What happened here was the Attorney General has joined the district attorney's investigation, and two of her lawyers have been what's called cross designated as special assistant DAs.

So what had been her purely civil, purely an attorney general investigation has now morphed into part of the existing criminal investigation. So it means that the Attorney General, at some point, believed that it's more than just civil. Whether that happened recently, whether that happened, you know, months ago, we just don't know.

CAMEROTA: Well, but I guess my point is that it sounds like the pressure is coming down on Allen Weisselberg more now.

ALONSO: Absolutely. He is -- he must be sweating right now. And I think actually, you know, given that state law is, you know, it's difficult for prosecutors. It's not as good, not as broad as federal law. So sometimes that's not enough to make people cooperate or flip as prosecutors call it.

But one thing that often does put the screws on people, as you put it Alisyn, is targeting members of their family, right. So now we know that his ex-daughter-in-law is cooperating. So if one or both of his sons are being pressured or being target by the criminal investigation, that could be an incentive for Weisselberg to cooperate in order to try to get them a benefit.

BLACKWELL: What's this cooperation and this announcement tell us about the potential timing of this investigation, how far along Attorney General James is?

ALONSO: I don't think it tells us anything different than we already knew for a while, which is that the DA, Cy Vance, is highly likely to be pushing toward an end-of-the-year decision on whether to charge, whom to charge and what to charge. So, I mean he's leaving office. I cannot imagine he would leave office without making a decision here. The Attorney General joining makes it more streamlined, makes the team, you know adds experts to the team. So it's a good thing.

All right, Daniel Alonso, thank you.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.