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Maskless Reunions Across The Country As America Reopens; Around 800,000 People In Gaza Without Regular Access To Water; Matt Gaetz's Ex-Girlfriend Now Cooperating With Feds; Expert Slams CDC Summer Camp Guidelines As "Draconian"; Evangelical Pastors Push Back On QAnon Lies; Volcano Erupts In The Democratic Republic Of Congo. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 22, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:14]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: The bombing is over but the agony is just beginning. Tonight 800,000 people in Gaza are without access to water after days of bloody infighting -- fighting rather.

As Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz battles a sex trafficking investigation, federal investigators have a new witness talking, his ex-girlfriend.

And the QAnon conspiracy spreading into American churches and the pastors who are trying to stop it.

I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday. Great to have you along with us.

Well, after more than a year in lockdown, America is finally reopening. According to the CDC, 38 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated against coronavirus. And we have more good news. The number of cases week over week is falling in at least 37 states.

People are thrilled to leave pandemic limbo, aren't you? And they've returned to their schools or workplaces, out of the house not to mention their long lost favorite hang outs.

And as Memorial Day approaches signaling the unofficial start of summer, many of us cannot wait to hit the road for vacation.

CNN's Natasha Chen has more as Americans emerge from isolation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some's out, masks off. All across America, more and more people are seeing each others faces for the first time in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a long time coming.

CHEN: More than 45 percent of people in the U.S. age 12 or older are now fully vaccinated and three states, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have fully vaccinated at least half of their total population.

For the first time since March of 2020, San Francisco General Hospital reported zero COVID patients. The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. is below 30,000 for the first time in almost a year.

With this progress comes relaxation of rules. New York venues are expanding capacity limits just in time for the Knicks to start their first playoff game with 15,000 seats already sold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what we've been waiting for, New York, to bring the culture back, to bring the spirit back to New York.

CHEN: And California will drop capacity limits and social distancing requirements when the state fully reopens on June 15th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's about time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I think we've been ready for it for a while.

CHEN: Entertainers are preparing for in-person events even if there will be a few adjustments.

NELLY, RAPPER: Yeah, I've been vaccinated. Obviously you would like for everybody to go and get vaccinated. Yeah, I think it's going to be a little different, you know, because we're used to reaching out and touching so many people. I think that will be a little bit scarce if not fist bumped. But, I mean, you know, we'll find other ways to feed off the energy of the crowd.

CHEN: But some people aren't ready to bounce back to pre-COVID habits. This personal trainer David Nassick has seen a lasting shift in how he sees some of his clients.

DAVID NASSICK, PERSONAL TRAINER: They don't want to go back into the gym environment. You know, they feel more comfortable being one-on-one in their own homes. It's been actually good for me in with my in-home business.

CHEN: On a sunny day in Atlanta, these stunt performers were practicing in a group after more than a year of training alone.

JESSICA WILLIAMS, STUNT PERFORMER: Honestly, I feel kind of iffy about it, like I still sketch out about being out here. But, yeah, I can't, let's say, stay at home all the time.

CHEN: Health experts worry about what happens when hot weather drives people indoors this summer, especially in some states where vaccination rates are lower.

BILLY SNYDER, FULLY VACCINATED: I'd still wear a mask at work just because I work with public, so even though I'm fully vaccinated. I feel like I don't know if they are or not. So, I feel like it's still good to have it on like I just --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your whole store got hit too. SNYDER: Yeah. We -- my whole work caught it back in December, so that was great. It was a terrible experience having it.

CHEN: And he's not able to ask customers if they've been vaccinated. Even with an honors system far from foolproof, there's a sense the country has turned a corner.

DYLAN WINTERSTEEN, FULLY VACCINATED: It's like a helpful moment in a year -- like past couple of years it's been like a lot of really bad news.

CHEN: Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We're entering a third day of a cease-fire between Gaza and Israel signaling an end to some of the worst violence there in years.

In London, thousands of people marched in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and one of the largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations ever seen in the U.K.

The truce appears to be holding for now. But tensions continue to flare. In Jerusalem, Israeli police were seen clashing with Palestinians at the Al Aksa mosque, Al Aqsa rather. Twenty people were injured according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

[20:05:03]

In Gaza, people celebrated the announcement of a cease-fire by rallying in the streets, but now comes the work of burying the dead and surveying the damage.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Gaza city and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Depending on where you are in Gaza, life seems to be getting back to normal. Here in Gaza City's main square, children play in the evening pool. But just one block away, the extent of the damage from the hostilities becomes clear.

Hundreds of housing units have been destroyed, and Israeli air strikes have pushed the already creaking infrastructure to the brink. The U.N. says that around 800,000 people now lack access to running water, and that's out of a population of around 2 million people.

The U.N. also says more than 50 schools were damaged, impacting the education of around 600,000 children. On top of that, 17 hospitals have been damaged including Gaza's only COVID testing center.

And then there's unemployment running at almost 50 percent. Life here after the cease-fire is getting back to normal, but there's nothing normal about life here.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Gaza City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And our thanks to Ben Wedeman.

And for more on this and for perspective, let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller. He was a Middle East negotiator at the State Department.

Thanks so much for coming on.

I want to get your view on this. Break down the cease-fire for us. Do you think it will last? Or do you think it will backslide inevitably, sadly?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, Pam, I try not to make predictions in this business because usually I end up being wrong. I think you had a cessation of hostilities largely because both Hamas and the Israelis believe they've accomplished more or less what they set out to do. And any further continuation of the conflict risks jeopardizing the gains they had made. I also don't want to minimize the importance of the Biden administration's intercession.

I think this easily could have gone on another two weeks had the administration not made clear, A, to the Israelis, and work with the Egyptians to create the circumstances that allowed the cease-fire to be taking place. The longer this went on, the greater of a danger of a mass casualty event even as a consequence of a Hamas rocket or air Israeli artillery shells.

So, Biden played an important role. The question now is how to deal with the post-conflict situation.

BROWN: Yeah, It was interesting listening to him yesterday. He was trying to choose his words carefully, and it seemed like at one point, he started to take credit for the cease-fire ending as early as it did, and then kind of backtracked and made it more general.

But it's interesting here on your perspective the role the administration played. On the ground there, both sides are claiming victory, but did either really achieve anything here?

MILLER: You know, I think that's the real poignancy and tragedy in all this. The death, the destruction largely in Gaza although the fact a million Israelis were in shelters, 12 Israelis were killed. And the rocket attack which Hamas basically deployed in order to exploit a number of very careless and reckless Israeli actions in Jerusalem created this situation.

I think both sides are exaggerating what, in fact, they achieved. Ob on Hamas' side they weakened the Palestinian Authority. They now present themselves as the defender of Jerusalem. Mr. Trump said he took Jerusalem off the table. Well, the reality is, the issue of Jerusalem has now become the table. And Hamas is trying to set that table. For the Israelis, they did considerable destruction to Hamas' production facilities and rockets, their tunnel infrastructure, command and control. They killed 100 plus maybe more Hamas operatives, a few commanders. But at the end of the day, the reality is the balance of power remains the same. Hamas will rebuild and the Israelis will in essence with Hamas be forced to consider it's a year, two, three, four or as it was since 2014, the last time they went at it, seven years.

I don't think the fundamental trajectory of this particular conflict has changed as a consequence of what's happened over the past 10 or 11 days.

BROWN: So, on that point, then, what more can the U.S. do to make some progress on this issue?

MILLER: Well, it's going to be very tough. Secretary of State Blinken is going to the region largely to talk to Israelis and Palestinians.

[20:10:00]

I mean, I heard a lot in 2014 in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed. They went on for 50 days, 67 Israeli soldiers, six Israeli civilians and a degree of destruction in Gaza that went beyond this. And I heard all of these stories about the prospects of disarming Hamas, Gaza reconstruction, some sort of peace process. It's going to be extremely difficult.

The Biden administration I think needs to facilitate to the extent they can some reconstruction in Gaza without giving Hamas an advantage or victory. They need to press Israelis in my judgment on issues that triggered this particular round -- housing demolitions in Jerusalem, evictions of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, high level building projects.

But in the end, Pam, the reality is we're farther and farther away than ever from anything you and I would describe as a conflict-ending solution where an Israeli prime minister and a Palestinian president could stand before their respective legislative bodies and say we don't have peace but on all the major issues, Jerusalem, refugees, border security, our conflict is over.

It's very difficult to envision that. That requires leadership, Pam. And there is no leadership on either side of the line.

BROWN: So, you know, you look at Biden, how he responded this last go around. He's taking flack from two sides. Progressives in his party are calling him out for not calling out Israel enough, and from Israel supporters in the U.S. for not being supportive enough.

How should he navigate this?

MILLER: I think it's really -- it's growing increasingly more difficult. I mean, I worked on this issue for 25 years and have been involved in other capacities over the last 20 since leaving government. I don't think I've ever seen a time where the domestic politics of this for an American president is more fraught.

He does not want to give the Republicans an issue by appearing to be too tough on the Israelis and yet he has to hold his own party together.

Remember, Biden's priority is not making peace in the Middle East. It's confronting the greatest challenge of national recovery probably of any president since Franklin Roosevelt. And that means as his infrastructure bill is increasingly fraught, it means holding his own party together and not getting distracted from the business that concerns most of the American public, which is fixing America's broken house -- fighting COVID, repairing the economy, fighting the polarization along racial and political lines that have so divided this country.

But there are things he can do. It's going to be a tough line to walk domestically but I suspect if there's anybody who can do it, it may be this guy.

BROWN: All right. Aaron David Miller, thank you so much for sharing your perspective and wisdom on this issue with us.

MILLER: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Well, meantime, the U.S. is seeing more anti-Semitic attacks following the clash in the Middle East. A 29-year-old man wearing a yarmulke attacked in Times Square in broad daylight.

We have to warn you this video you're about to see is disturbing. It shows the 29-year-old Joseph Borgen being punched, kicked and pepper sprayed by a mob of five or six men shouting anti-Semitic slurs. It's just one in a string of recent attacks against Jews in America amid this latest flare up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Here's Borgen talking about the attack with CNN's Don Lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BORGEN, ATTACK VICTIM: Out of the corner of my eyes, I see someone chasing me from behind before I could react. I was surrounded by a crowd of people who, as you saw in the video, proceeded to beat me down and after the fact pepper spray and mace me.

As soon as they were on top of me and attacking me, I literally fell to the ground protecting my head, protecting my face, doing what I could to ensure that, honestly my main thought was to survive at that point, make it out alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Well, the NYPD says it has arrested one suspect and is asking for the public's help finding four others. The Anti-Defamation League reports a spike in anti-Semitic attacks in the week since the crisis began.

Well, there is a message spreading inside many Christian churches that has nothing it do with Jesus. It's QAnon.

Our Donie O'Sullivan speaks to two pastors on different ends of the country about how they're trying to stop the lies.

And the heated debate over COVID rules at summer camp. I speak to a pediatrician who thinks they're unfairly draconian. I'm going to ask him what the alternative is there.

But, first, we're learning Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz's ex- girlfriend is Cooperating with the feds in a sex trafficking investigation. The details on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:57]

BROWN: Well, another former member of Congressman Matt Gaetz's inner circle has flipped. The Florida congressman's ex-girlfriend will now cooperate with authorities in a federal sex trafficking probe. The unnamed woman is a former Capitol Hill staffer, and sources tell CNN she could help investigators make sense of transactions, hundreds of transactions that involve alleged payments for sex.

Now, Gaetz has denied the allegations of the probe saying he never had sex with a minor or paid for sex.

Former federal prosecutor Jeff Tsai joins us now to discuss this.

Good to see you, Jeff.

This woman has been linked back to Gaetz, as far back as the summer of 2017. That is we know is a critical time period for investigators. Her cooperation comes to light just a few days after Gaetz's former friend Joel Greenberg, struck a deal with the DOJ to cooperate.

How worried should Gaetz be about this latest development?

JEFF TSAI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Pamela, it's good to be with you, first of all.

A lot of these investigations you see especially the federal investigations operate in many ways like a pyramid starting from the bottom and working their way up.

[20:20:03]

And what federal investigators and prosecutors are often doing is looking for the most significant player in any kind of case, in any kind of investigation. I think that's what you're seeing right now, especially as it relates to probably the most important work as it comes to these kind of investigations and that is cooperators. They need people who can tell the facts about the who, the what, the when and the where. That's the whole concept of being there in the room.

And I think that's what they're focused on right now, and in particular in looking at the possibility of getting much bigger fish in these investigations.

BROWN: And especially when you look at the credibility issues another one of cooperators has, of course that is Greenberg. How much more important does that make the cooperation of the ex-girlfriend in this case?

TSAI: Well, corroboration is key. With cooperators in particular there's no better person who can tell you about a crime than a criminal. So you take the good with the bad in these kinds of things.

And prosecutors are always prepared and sequined with this kind of thing. They always know when they have a cooperator who can talk about what happened, it also means almost by definition with a lot of these kinds of cases that that cooperator frequently was a person who engaged in wrongdoing himself or herself.

So corroboration is going to be very important in thinking about, is there an additional person or documents or other communications that can go to prove and show what was happening?

BROWN: Yeah, it's interesting because a couple weeks ago, I was told by a source it looked as though the investigation was wrapping up, that they were pretty much done. And now it appears that the timeline has been elongated until the end of the summer.

So, it does make you think perhaps they have found other people in talking to these other cooperators they want to talk to in the investigation. But based on what we know in this case will it all come down to follow the money in your view?

TSAI: It always does. It always does and in addition to looking at the money and looking at the different witnesses who can talk about these things, they're also going to look for documents and records, and these things can come in the form of e-mails, they can come in written notes, maybe on napkins, on scraps of paper. They can be in text messages, it can be even in encrypted text messages.

And investigators are looking at all of these pieces because each one of these things singularly may not prove a case but together can be pretty devastating.

BROWN: And we should note that Gaetz has denied all the allegations against him.

Jeff Tsai, thank you so much for coming back on the show. Good to see you.

TSAI: It's great seeing you. Thanks so much, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, a crazy year of COVID. School is out for summer and the things are heading to camp finally. Next on CNN, I'm going to ask a doctor about the CDC's recommendations and why he thinks telling kids to distance and wear masks outside is, quote, draconian.

And also ahead, we're following a volcano erupting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has forced an entire city to evacuate. More of these incredible pictures to share with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:27:53]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUREN RUTKOWSKI, DIRECTOR, CAMP IHC: There's a lot of excitement. I think that camp is the light at the end of a very long tunnel. Camp is going to serve as an incredible elixir for kids, like they need this recovery space.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Well, it is that time of year. Summer camp time is right around the corner, but as kids begin to pack their bags some worry the CDC's camp guidelines may drown out any chance of fun. Currently, the CDC says masks must be worn at all times by everyone, including children as young as two years old. It adds campers should avoid all close contact sports and stay three feet apart at all times even outdoors.

Dr. Anthony Fauci offered this halfhearted defense of the rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I wouldn't call them excessive, Savannah, but they certainly are conservative. The CDC makes decisions based on science. They will continually reevaluate that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So our next guest is an outspoken critic of the guidelines. Dr. Dimitri Christakis is a pediatrician and the director of Seattle Children's Center for Child Health. He joins me now.

Doctor, thanks for coming on.

These are your words in "New York Magazine". You said the combination of masking and social distancing children outdoors is unfairly draconian and that keeping children masked for activities like baseball and tennis is ridiculous.

Why do you say that?

DR. DIMITRI CHRISTAKIS, DIRECTOR, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S CENTER FOR CHILD HEALTH: Well, let me -- thanks for having me, Pamela, first of all.

And let me start by saying that for too long children have been an aforethought during this pandemic. And it's high time we bring them front of mind.

The camp in 2021 looks too much like camp in 2020. It's neglecting all that we've learned and all that we've developed in the past year, right? So, we have testing now when we didn't have testing a year ago. The

background prevalence in many communities is lower than it was a year ago.

[20:30:03]

And most communities, virtually all of them, it's trending downwards very aggressively. We have immunizations, huge, so that all adults can be protected. All children over 12 can be vaccinated. And we also now know that the outdoor transmission risk is really, really low even without masks, especially in young children. All of those things should be used to inform decision making.

In my mind, it's time that we do everything we can to try to normalize children's lives. We should start with the premise that children should have as normal a camp experience as they can, and reason backwards with actionable strategies that would allow that to happen.

BROWN: It's interesting --

CHRISTAKIS: -- before patients were available at Seattle Children's, we partnered with the CDC and local schools and put together a regular testing program that allows kids to return to outdoor sports, and then to classrooms safely. There are many ways we can do this. It just has to be a priority for us. And it feels like an afterthought.

BROWN: And when you look at summer camp, I mean almost by its nature, it's sort of a natural quarantine, right? I mean, you test -- you can test kids on the way in, you close the gates behind them, everyone stays there until it's over and some ways wouldn't a summer camp like this be almost safer than being out and about in the public?

CHRISTAKIS: Absolutely. So, you're right, we're actually conflating day camps and overnight camps. So overnight camps are an incredible opportunity to make it completely normal. I mean, the NBA taught us this, even before we had vaccines, right? They created the bubble, people tested into the bubble, and they had virtually no transmissions, the ones they have were these people were violating the bubble, which kids won't be able to do.

So, it's really disappointing, especially for overnight camps, that we don't develop a protocol that you test before you go in, vaccination could be required. Most other vaccines are required, and then go to the camp. Everyone's vaccinated if you're over 12 and have a totally normal experience. We owe that to our children. They need it for their mental health and it's totally achievable.

BROWN: Do you think that there should be different measures for kids who aren't vaccinated versus kids who are vaccinated? How do you think that camp should handle that?

CHRISTAKIS: It's a really good question. So, most camps are segregated by age kids over the age of 12. Assuming they pursue immunizations as soon as possible, should be fully vaccinated by the time camp star or could be. I think for children younger than that, who could not -- who as of now cannot be vaccinated, camps should be able to develop guidelines that are sensitive to the local situation based on the prevalence in a particular community.

And I would suggest that based on the prevalence in most -- in the vast majority of situations, children should be able to be outdoors without masks, even if their unvaccinated, staff should clearly be vaccinated. Indoors, they shouldn't have to wear masks if they're with known vaccinated people. But in many cases, that won't be the case.

And if they're indoors, without the ability to maintain social distance, which should be the case, they should wear masks like they currently are doing in school, it won't be an unusual experience for them. And, of course, regular testing could be part of all of this. There are cheap rapid tests that are available that could add an additional layer of safety.

BROWN: Yes, testing has come a long way, that's for sure. We got to wrap it up. Leave it there. Dr. Dimitri Christakis, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your opinion on this matter that a lot of parents are talking about and a lot of kids too for that matter. Thank you.

CHRISTAKIS: My pleasure. Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, right here in the U.S. Thirty-seven states are seeing a welcome drop in COVID case counts but elsewhere in the world, the pandemic has not loosened its grip. CNN reporters are tracking the latest developments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Cyril Vanier in London. Spain is reopening its borders to British tourists. In two days time on Monday, U.K. travelers will be able to enter without any health controls, no COVID tests, no quarantine required, like the pandemic never happened.

Non-essential travel from the U.K. to Spain was forbidden until now, but the U.K. has had a strong immunization campaign, 70 percent of adults have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine. Plus, Spain is trying to revive its battered tourism industry and it has strong competition from European neighbors Greece and Portugal who were also looking to attract British tourists.

One major caveat though, Spain is not on the U.K.'s list of green countries, meaning, that British travelers will have to quarantine for up to 10 days when they return from their Iberian getaway.

[20:35:02]

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Selina Wang in Tokyo. Olympic organizers insist that the games can be held safely this summer even if Japan is still under a state of emergency. Japan has been struggling to contain a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases with less than two percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Tokyo and large swathes of the country are still under a state of emergency with the government adding yet another Prefecture Okinawa to the declaration. At a virtual press conference, the IOC also said that it's working with Japan to bring medical personnel from abroad to help with COVID-19 countermeasures at the games.

Organizers have been pushing back against growing criticism. According to local polls, more than 80 percent of the people in Japan think that the game should not be held this summer. While those who oppose the Olympics tell me that the games are putting politics and money ahead of people's health. Official say that it is now clear than ever that these Olympics will be safe for everyone.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers in Mexico City. New restrictions are now in place in Argentina as a result of what that country's president is calling Argentina's worst moment of this pandemic so far. Multiple single-day records for new infections have been set within the last week.

And if you look at this graph, you can see that the average new infections recorded each day in both the United States and Argentina are at similar levels despite the fact that the U.S. has a population roughly seven times greater than that of Argentina.

New restrictions include the closures of all non-essential businesses, schools will also be closed and only essential workers are allowed out from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day. The restrictions will run through at least the end of the month.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Thank you to all of our correspondents across the globe for bringing us the very latest.

Well, QAnon conspiracies are now infiltrating churches. When we come back, we meet two pastors trying to protect their flocks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:03]

BROWN: More than four months after the big lie exploded into writing and death at the U.S. Capitol, the battle to debunk QAanon's outrageous conspiracy theories has an ally, evangelical pastors. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan talked to church leaders about trying to convince some of their own flock that there is nothing to believe in when it comes to the virtual cult.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PASTOR BEN MARSH, FIRST ALLIANCE CHURCH, WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA: This was the flag that went into the Senate when the doors were broken. The Christian flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the name of Jesus, Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

MARSH: They thought they were doing the work of God because pastors and leaders have lied to them.

Nothing in scripture leads us to claim a political system, in the name of Christ through force.

JAMES KENDALL, GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH, MADERA, CALIFORNIA: I don't like to get off track and off the Bible, but as a pastor, I do have to guard the flock. And so, the one that I wanted to speak to as far as conspiracies is the QAnon conspiracy.

O'SULLIVAN: Is QAnon compatible with Christianity?

KENDALL: No, because it's a false belief system almost a religion, but it's not true Christianity, because true Christianity is that Jesus Christ is our ultimate hope, not Q, not Donald Trump, not any other person.

O'SULLIVAN: Months after the January 6 insurrection, QAnon lives on, and it's more popular among evangelicals than people of other religions.

Do you think particularly for people of faith that there is a specific appeal?

KENDALL: The biblical worldview is that there's a God who's in control of the whole world, and one day, Jesus is going to come back, he's going to judge the wicked, then you look at my understanding of QAnon's belief is that there's a Q that knows everything and Donald Trump is going to come back and judge the wicked. It's easier for Christians who already have that belief system to make that jump over into believing that worldview.

O'SULLIVAN: Pastors Ben Marsh and James Kendall are sounding the alarm, but other pastors are preaching conspiracy theories from the pulpit. When patriots took back key branches of the U.S. government in 2016, the life was turned on to the vast corruption network that had infiltrated into the highest positions of power across every state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a demonic hedge of protection around Joe Biden.

GREG LOCKE, PASTOR: Joe Biden is a fake president.

O'SULLIVAN: Have you had conversations with any of your flock who have bought into QAnon?

KENDALL: I've tried to talk with some of them about some of the issues but it doesn't go very far. They don't hear it. A lot of times, they're not really open to hearing my side of things or explanations.

O'SULLIVAN: QAnon ties in with what is known as Christian nationalism.

JERUSHAH DUFORD, GRANDDAUGHTER OF BILLY GRAHAM: The term Christian nationalism in and of itself is ironic, because there's nothing Christian about nationalism. But what it is turned into is basically just Christians believing that their nation is, you know, kind of up with Scripture and which with the Bible. And the tenants of our nation are up there with the tenants of our faith.

Jerushah Duford is the granddaughter of famed evangelical preacher, Billy Graham, and niece of Trump supporting pastor, Franklin Graham. She along with 200 other prominent evangelicals signed a letter denouncing Christian nationalism and the role it played in the Capitol attack.

You know, for some of these folks QAnon is a religion.

DUFORD: I think what you're finding from a lot of these people who are, you know, hardcore QAnon believers the system where would they fit in.

O'SULLIVAN: Is there not enough sense of community in churches? What do you think is this appeal?

DUFORD: I think that churches were absolutely designed to be about community, and I don't think that that's what a lot of people find. I think churches have become extremely exclusive. I'm not sure Jesus would be welcomed in an American Church today.

[20:45:01]

O'SULLIVAN: Are you concerned, at all, that by speaking out that you could be alienating some of your congregation? Or do you think it's just the right thing to do?

KENDALL: Well, there's always a risk. But as a pastor, my role is to protect my people and teach them to place their hope in Jesus, to obey God's word and so that's something that when I have to do it, I have to do it and I take the consequences that come, but fortunately, I've received a lot of support from my people for speaking out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And our bigs to Donie O'Sullivan for that report.

Still ahead right here at the CNN NEWSROOM on the Saturday evening, more terrifying images coming in from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a massive volcano is erupting as we speak. When we come back, I'm going to talk with Khaliah Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali about the humanitarian crisis unfolding there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:20]

BROWN: A volcanic eruption triggers panic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has ordered people to evacuated near the city of Goma after one of the world's most active volcanoes exploded, launching a giant fireball into the sky and potentially endangering a million people. The volcano last erupted in 2002 killing 250 people and displacing thousands more.

Khaliah Ali joins me now. She is the daughter of the late legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, and she has made a number of humanitarian visits to Congo in the past. Khaliah, thank you so much for joining me. First of all, tell us -- tell our viewers who may be watching this unfold without much context about the country, what they should know about the Congo and why it is so near and dear to your heart.

KHALIAH ALI, DAUGHTER OF MUHAMMAD ALI: My father had his fight, the Rumble in the Jungle many years ago in some of the same fight that he was there for still exist today. Issues ranging from war to hunger, insecurity, to diamond mining to environmental issues.

So, when you have a population whose ecosystems, whose community, in general, at large, is so fragile, and they undergo such a traumatic event, one has to be concerned 2002. I believe there was a volcano killing 250 people, but it also left 120,000 homeless.

BROWN: It's just -- it's beyond tragic. And to think that this volcano erupted, again, surprisingly, you know, as you pointed out, erupted in 2002, killing hundreds, leaving more than 1,000 people homeless by some counts.

I'm wondering, when you went to visit this country, you've been several times, my understanding is, did you see any evidence of that when you were there, sort of, the ripple effect, the consequences of that volcano eruption back in 2002?

I did not, but similar systemic issues were painfully clear to myself and my son and my husband as we traveled through the country. And I think once again, what's so important is that you're dealing with a community that's so fragile on any given day, that anything of this magnitude, then thrust them into a whole other litany of unforeseen problems.

And it's very important that we take a look at this. And we made sure that we're able to issue the proper aid, I don't even know if this will call for me to be there at some point in how involved I can get with this.

But, you know, in the memory and legacy of my father, and my son, Jacob, as well, we do everything in anything that we can, and certainly look to be paying close attention to this as things develop.

BROWN: What would you like to see the international community do in response to this and just the expectation of the kind of damage and havoc this will wreak?

ALI: I think I -- you know, I want to see the issue of homelessness addressed, the ongoing issue of food insecurity that's ever present and clearly not going to be made better by the circumstances and would ever be to repair and get back up again.

BROWN: All right. Khaliah Ali, thank you for sharing --

ALI: Thank you.

BROWN: -- some time with us to talk about this volcano erupting and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We appreciate you coming on the show. ALI: My pleasure. Have a good evening.

BROWN: You too. Well, if you're ready to start traveling again, how about planning to go to space? Why not? Virgin Galactic's rocket powered space plane VSS Unity with two pilots aboard, made it more than 55 miles into the upper atmosphere this morning above New Mexico. That means Virgin one giant leap closer to its goal of launching paying customers into space within the next year.

Virgin founder, Richard Branson, was there for this third successful spaceflight and he spoke with CNN.

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RICHARD BRANSON, VIRGIN GALACTIC FOUNDER: This flight was exactly as predicted. Everything just worked like a dream and they're analyzing the data. But the initial feedback from our chief engineer has been incredibly positive. And so, yes, it will not be very long now before -- and before I get my flight in and before we have, you know -- we open it up to the many people who've signed up to go to space with us.

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BROWN: The many people who have a lot of money more than 600 people have already paid up to a quarter million dollars each for a seat. But Virgins rival, Blue Origin, plans to put the winner of an online auction into space in July. How about that?

[20:55:06]

Well, thank you so much for joining me this evening. I'm Pamela Brown. I'm going to see you again tomorrow night starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And be sure to join Fareed Zakaria for an in depth look at the changing Republican Party. How did it become what it is today, "A Radical Rebellion: The Transformation of the GOP," that airs next on CNN. Have a great night.

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