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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Republicans Block Bipartisan Investigation Into Capitol Attack; One-on-One with Mother & Partner of Fallen Capitol Officer; CDC: Fully Vaccinated Kids Don't Need to Wear Masks or Socially Distance at Summer Camp; CNN Investigation Reveals Al Qaeda Still Thriving, May Be Able to Attack the West By Late Next Year; One in Ten Americans Expected to Travel for Holiday Weekend. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 28, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: OK. Well, also, close your cellphone.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER -- and we're on time -- starts right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Their workplace was attacked, their lives in danger. Somehow that wasn't enough for Senate Republicans.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Even the grieving mother of a fallen Capitol Hill police officer could not stop the Republican Party from fully embracing Donald Trump's big lie and blocking a bipartisan commission to investigate what went wrong on January 6th.

Late Officer Brian Sicknick's mother and his partner will join us to react in an interview you will only see on CNN.

Then, it's the CDC guidance parents across the country have been waiting for for months. Do kids need to wear masks at summer camp?

Plus, it's the first normal holiday weekend in more than a year, which means lots of planes, trains, and automobiles. But prepare for some stress as gas prices soar and masks remain a must on planes.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start today with our politics lead. And even though it was almost guaranteed to fail, it was still stunning to watch almost every Senate Republican this afternoon blocks a bill which would have created a bipartisan commission to investigate what went wrong and what caused the Capitol riot.

Only six Republicans sided with Democrats on today's vote. Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Ben Sasse, and, of course, Mitt Romney. Despite so many of today's nay votes having previously called for an investigation in the aftermath of January 6, of course, before Donald Trump made it clear he opposed any closer look on what may have caused the attack on the Capitol.

Eleven senators, we should point out, could not even have been bothered at all. Nine Republicans, two Democrats, a reminder that while Republicans insist this investigation is unnecessary, at least 450 people have been charged for their roles in the insurrection so far. And Capitol police officers are still trying to sound the alarm, warning that parts of the Capitol are still vulnerable for attack and security upgrades are needed right now, they say, to keep that from happening.

Those individual criminal pursuits, however, well, they're not going to together create a wider look at what went wrong, at the lies and the propaganda that led to the deadly day, and lest we forget, this is not just about an attack on democracy, as if that weren't important enough. There is also the human toll of this tragedy to consider. Four people died that day, two law enforcement officers died by suicide afterwards, and more than 100 police officers were injured, some very seriously and permanently.

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, of course, died in the aftermath of the attack. In just a few moments his mother and his partner will join me to share their reactions to today's stunning vote and how they are hoping to continue to honor his legacy.

As Republican Senator John Cornyn said back in February, quote, a 9/11-type investigation is called for to help prevent this from happening again, unquote. Cornyn, of course, voted no today.

CNN's Ryan Nobles starts our coverage from Capitol Hill.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may have taken a little bit longer than expected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.

NOBLES: But the outcome was never in doubt. Republicans successfully blocking an attempt to form an independent commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection. The final vote, 54-35. Sixty votes were needed to move the measure forward.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): But out of fear or fealty to Donald Trump, the Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about January 6th.

NOBLES: Six Republicans voted yes. Among them, Maine's Susan Collins who attempted to make changes to the bill to bring her fellow Republicans on board. It was not enough.

Louisiana's Bill Cassidy, who voted yes, and voted to impeach former President Trump, warned his colleagues they will now lose a voice in future investigations. The investigations will happen with or without Republicans, to ensure the investigations are fair, impartial, and focused on facts, Republicans need to be involved.

And Democrats are already hinting that is the direction they will go. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who made a number of concessions to get the bill over the finish line in the House, vowed she was not done investigating what happened on January 6th.


Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth. But some Democrats believe the failure to find a bipartisan consensus on an issue like this speaks to a bigger problem with the Senate in general. Despite Democrats controlling the House and Senate, requiring 60 votes on almost every piece of legislation, has bottled up a number of their priorities, leading senators like Ed Markey of Massachusetts to call on Democrats to blow up the system.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): They're not going to show up. And ultimately, we just have to come to the realization that that's going to require us to repeal the filibuster so that we can pass these bills with 51 votes, so the Republicans cannot engage in obstructionism.

NOBLES: Despite those growing calls for reform, moderate Democrats in the Senate like Joe Manchin remain unwilling to take that step.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm not ready to destroy our government. I'm not ready to destroy government, no.

NOBLES: Meaning issues like police reform, voting rights and potentially the big infrastructure bill will require significant GOP support in an environment where both sides are having a hard time finding common ground.


NOBLES (on camera): And despite the gravity of this legislation, 11 members of the Senate chose not to be here today to vote on the measure, nine Republicans and two Democrats just not showing up. And some of them issuing statements as to why they could not vote and how they would have voted had they been there. For instance, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania saying he would have voted yes. Despite that number being added to the number of Republicans voting yes today, that would not have been enough to change the outcomes.

TAPPER: It would not have. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, the mother and the partner of fallen Officer Brian Sicknick, Gladys Sicknick and Sandra Garza.

Thank you so much to both of you for being here. We really appreciate. We know it's not easy. You did not sign up for public speakers of this type.

I want to get to today's news in a minute. But let me just -- I want to check in, Gladys, how are you doing?


TAPPER: Are you doing all right today?


TAPPER: What about you, Sandra?

SANDRA GARZA, PARTNER OF FALLEN OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: I'm doing okay. I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having us.

TAPPER: Oh, it's our honor.

Sandra, let me just start with you. What was your reaction when you saw the vote today? That -- that the Senate Republicans, with six exceptions, voted to block the creation of this commission?

GARZA: Well, I was very disappointed, obviously. I was very optimistic and hopeful, yesterday. But for, you know, obviously, you know, some of them, I was not surprised. That voted no. But still, clinging to that hope based on our passionate pleas to them.

But I think, you know, it -- it speaks volumes to how they really feel. Not only about the events of that day. But they're also speaking volumes to their constituents. You know, and how much they really care, because it's not just our pleas about how we felt about Brian and, you know, his brothers and sisters in blue and everything that they did that day. But also, the safety of them and everyone else that was in the Capitol that day.

If they can't do their jobs, if something happens to them, that, also, speaks volumes about, you know, how they feel about our democracy in general. How can they do their job if they are no longer here?

TAPPER: What about you, Gladys? What is your reaction to the news today?

SICKNICK: I was disappointed, but I realized it was going to happen. I really did. It was just vibes that we got yesterday.

TAPPER: What were the vibes?

SICKNICK: I don't know. Just -- just a feeling. You know, they -- they -- they did -- they went through the motions, but you can tell that, you know, underneath, they were being nice to us.

TAPPER: You know, we hear a lot about backing the blue from politicians, especially. We talk about the importance of backing our men and women in blue, who protect us. What does it mean, in that sense, when -- because you know, you are going to hear some of these 35 Republicans talk about, in the future, how important it is to back our men and women in blue? What will you think, when you hear that?

SICKNICK: Unbelievable, that they think like that. You know? Just -- if they had a child that was hurt, was killed on -- on a day like that. They would think very differently. Or if they were hurt -- I mean, they could have been very well --

somebody could have been killed, one of the congressmen, one of the senators. But apparently, they just think, well, we're safe because of the men in blue. But they don't think any further from that.

TAPPER: What do you think? I mean, is -- Gladys said it was a slap in the face to -- to not have this commission created.


GARZA: I think, you know, it's all talk and no action.

Clearly, they're not backing the blue. And yesterday, having Officer Fanone and Officer Dunn there to talk about their experiences. I mean, I even learned more about what actually happened on that day, hearing their stories, you know, close and upfront and live and in color. And I was absolutely appalled.

So, you know, they heard it, firsthand. Some of that stuff has not been put out in the media. And, you know, it's -- it's devastating because, you know, they could have, especially Officer Fanone -- he could have been murdered. And, you know, this cannot happen, again. It cannot.

So, for them to vote no is, you know, it's -- it's not protecting law enforcement. And, you know, more importantly, it's -- it's not protecting our democracy. You know, people there were not only hurting law-enforcement officers, and, of course, like I said yesterday, there's the ripple effect of trauma. That's, still, continuing today.

TAPPER: Oh, of course.

GARZA: Many officers, you know, are struggling with PTSD.

TAPPER: People should know you are a psychotherapist. So, this is something you know about.

GARZA: Yes, yes, yes, I work with people all the time that struggle with PTSD. So I know how devastating and debilitating it can be.

You know, and then, it's the family members that are struggling to pick up the pieces of that, daily. But it's, also, those people were there to, you know, destroy the will of the people. They could have destabilized government, as we know it. You know? The vice president was in the building. People were after the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi.\\

I mean, the -- it's just unbelievable, to me, that they could do nothing about this. And now is not the time to sit around and say, well, maybe, we'll do something in the future. The time to do something is now.

And again, I mean, though there were some tense moments yesterday, I'm hopeful that at least they'll be able to reflect on some of what we said, as the days go on. And they'll be able to, you know, start to get the ball rolling fast. And say, we need to do something now. And I think more importantly, is to listen to the officers that were

there, that day, on the ground, because there's this misconception that there were no firearms there, that those people in the crowd had no firearms. There were firearms there. And I'm talking about handguns, not just the, you know, general term, weapons. I'm talking about actual handguns. People had handguns on them.

So, you know, this is serious. This is serious stuff. I actually heard the former D.C. police chief here that was on this network.


GARZA: Charles Ramsey, that was talking about, you know, they need to get serious about this because, you know, some bad stuff is going to happen. And they need to take this seriously, if not for themselves, about the other employees that are in the Capitol, the staffers. The architect of the -- I mean, yeah, the architect of the Capitol. I was very moved by Senator Klobuchar's opening statement in the hearings.


GARZA: When she talked about the gentleman who hid in the closet. That was part of the cleaning crew.

TAPPER: Yeah. It's terrifying.

GARZA: And he came out and had to clean up urine and feces in the building. You know, I mean, this is ridiculous. They need to do something, and they need to act now.

TAPPER: Gladys, I know some of the -- Sandra just alluded to it. Some of the moments in the meeting were -- were tense.


TAPPER: I mean, one of the things that I think people don't -- it doesn't really even matter. But Brian was a Republican. I mean, so, it's not just turning their backs on an American. They are turning their back on a fellow Republican.

Whatever you're comfortable with, tell me about the tense moments and the senator -- with the senators that you met with. You don't have to name them, if you don't want to.

SICKNICK: No, no, I'm not going to do that. Just, they were very charming. And they -- they knew what they were doing. They knew how to talk to us.

And -- but we kind of held back. And it's just -- it was just -- it was tense. And -- and we just made believe, you know, everything was fine. And we were very nice to them, for the most part.

TAPPER: Well, it was just tense because --

SICKNICK: Because of -- because we knew -- I think, because we knew they weren't sincere. They weren't sincere. TAPPER: And they didn't want to get to the bottom of what happened?

SICKNICK: No, no, and I don't understand it. We -- they are elected for us, the people. And they don't care about that. They care about money, I guess, their pocketbooks. Their -- their -- so they'll be in front of the cameras when they feel like it and they just don't care.


And it -- it's not right.

TAPPER: Sandra, were you surprised? Some of the senators didn't even agree to meet with you.

GARZA: No, I wasn't surprised. You know, it's -- it's much easier to do interviews with people who are not moved by their actions. You know? You know, by losing a family member, a loved one, like Gladys and I were, right? You know, to do something from afar.

It's very different, when you have to face someone who has been touched, personally, by something like Gladys and I were. So, you know, it -- you know, it's about having courage and a backbone and saying, you know, I'm willing to meet with you. Which, I respect those who were.

Even if they didn't agree with us, I still have respect for those who were. You know, and them willing to listen and, hopefully, you know, even though some of them did decide, ultimately, to vote no. My hope is that they will, eventually, do something, because that needs to happen. So --

TAPPER: Gladys, you met with Senator Cassidy from Louisiana.


TAPPER: He voted yes.


TAPPER: You met with Senator Portman from Ohio. He voted yes. Senator Toomey had a family commitment so he didn't vote, but he would have voted yes, he said.

Does it mean -- is that -- give you any sense of satisfaction that you may have --

SICKNICK: Oh, definitely.

TAPPER: -- changed some minds?

SICKNICK: Definitely. I don't know how -- were they -- I don't know if they were on the fence, or not. That, I'm not sure of. Were they all on the fence? I'm not sure.

TAPPER: Well, we only knew of three ahead of time that were going to vote yes, Romney, Murkowski, and Collins. So ultimately, three more voted yes.

SICKNICK: So maybe, we changed their minds. That would be great. That would be great.

TAPPER: It's not nothing.


TAPPER: I mean, a bipartisan majority did vote to create the commission. It just wasn't enough at the end.

SICKNICK: Yeah, what this means all these people that are, you know, backing, you know, the wrong people, I should say. They don't understand what they're doing. What kind of country do they want? Do they really want to live in a country that -- that they're creating? Do they want --

TAPPER: A country where this kind of insurrection happens?

SICKNICK: Right. Do they want their children to grow up like this? I mean, do they really want those people we saw on January 6th, they want them to be like that? They want a government that, you know, that is with these people. I just don't understand it.

TAPPER: I have more questions for Gladys Sicknick and Sandra Garza. But let me pause and get some reaction to what we just heard because it's a lot.

Let's bring in CNN's Jamie Gangel to discuss.

And, Jamie, very interesting moment when Gladys Sicknick, grieving mother of fallen-Officer Brian Sicknick, says there were some tense moments with certain Republican senators, quote, because we knew they were not sincere.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct. She is -- she's the real deal. And -- and frankly, I don't know how any senator who met with Mrs. Sicknick and with Sandra did not vote for the commission. But she got them. She -- she's very -- she said they were very nice to us.

TAPPER: They said all the right things.

GANGEL: They knew how to talk to us.

TAPPER: Right.

GANGEL: They were very charming.


GANGEL: And then, when you asked but why was it tense? She said because they weren't sincere.

TAPPER: Yep. GANGEL: She knew which way it -- it was going. I -- I thought, both,

Sandra and Mrs. Sicknick, I was standing over in the corner watching the interview, were so remarkably honest about what they had been through and about the loss of Brian, but also, very impressive. There was one message. And that was, I can't believe they didn't do the right thing.


GANGEL: Which is what Mrs. Sicknick said over and over, again.

TAPPER: And for them, it was really, honestly, and we have more of the interview, coming up. So people should know that. But for them, it was also -- it wasn't just about honoring, in Sandra's case, her fallen partner, and in Gladys's case, her fallen son. But al the officers.

GANGEL: Right.

TAPPER: And also, as -- as they made clear, democracy, democracy. They do not understand why 35 Republicans could have voted against -- we're not talking about throwing Donald Trump in jail. It's the creation of a bipartisan commission.

Washington does this 300 times a year, creates bipartisan commissions.

GANGEL: Correct. She said, at one point, is this the world you want your children to grow up with -- in? Is this the world you want -- want to create?


And I think the point about democracy was so important. One of the things that happened yesterday, behind the scenes, which we didn't see, Capitol Hill Police Officer Harry Dunn and Metropolitan Police Officer Mike Fanone were with them and went to all these meetings. And they also walked them around the Capitol.

And Officer Dunn introduced Mrs. Sicknick and Sandra to other Capitol Hill police officers. This was personal, for them. But it was very clear, in your interview, this was much bigger, as well. She meant it. This is about democracy.

TAPPER: And these are not political activists.


TAPPER: These are not people who are comfortable with this type of situation. It's actually one of the great honors of being a journalist, as you know. We speak to a lot of very important people with very important positions --

GANGEL: Right.

TAPPER: -- in government and business. And they're very skilled at talking to the American people, to people like us.

These are just authentic, regular Americans, who would rather be home with Brian, alive.

GANGEL: Right. And I think you could tell, Mrs. Sicknick, in real life, is a very quiet person. She likes being behind the scenes.

I know, from correspondence, that she didn't want to have to come yesterday. She came at the last minute, because she really expected that they would do the right thing. But when it came down to it, this was not easy for her yesterday. She came because she felt that she had to do it.

TAPPER: And I can't imagine -- look, we know Pat Toomey would have voted for it. Senator from Pennsylvania. Still, would not have been enough. But he had a family commitment. Still, there are ten other senators that didn't vote.

Now, look, I don't know what the reasons are. I'm sure some of them had good reasons. People have family commitments, et cetera. But generally speaking, I mean, you look at this list and you look Marsha Blackburn and Roy Blunt -- I mean, they couldn't even be bothered to vote?

GANGEL: You are more generous than I am. There were two Democrats, I believe, and -- and nine Republicans. I'm sorry. This was a historic vote.

TAPPER: And it's your job.

GANGEL: It's their job. They were attacked. They were there, that day. This was about a commission to get to the bottom of it. I don't -- it is inconceivable, to me, that, barring the most extraordinary circumstances, that you wouldn't show up to vote for this.

TAPPER: But, for whatever reason, and it's really, actually odd. I have to say, I didn't think that this would happen a month ago. I thought that Mitch McConnell, who has faulted Trump for what happened that day, very directly. I did not think that he would lead his caucus to vote against this. I -- I didn't, because -- well, I don't want to talk about what I thought because it's not operative, anymore.

But this is about a direct attack on democracy. It's not just, like, a riot that got out of control. Politicians and lying members of the news media at Fox and other places spread the lie. They lied to millions of people. Millions of whom, still, believe the lie. Thousands of them were incited to go and try to undermine and overturn an election. We've never seen anything like that in this country.

GANGEL: Right.

TAPPER: And I am stunned those 35 Republican senators voted against trying to get to the bottom of it.

GANGEL: Well, you and I have talked about this, I think, for about-two weeks now, as we watched it un -- unfold. As we watched the -- the politics on the votes unfold. I think it's quite simple. It's about political power.

Whether you are talking about Kevin McCarthy or Mitch McConnell, they want to be the speaker and the majority leader.

TAPPER: And they can only do that, they think, if they have Trump's base and Trump inside the tent. Spewing out. As opposed to outside the tent spewing in.

GANGEL: Correct.

TAPPER: With this commission dead, what's next? Speaker Pelosi has talked about maybe having a select committee.

GANGEL: She has floated the idea of a select committee. This is something she could appoint. The downside of a select committee is Republicans could now say this is partisan.

TAPPER: Right.

GANGEL: One of the scenarios I've heard floated is that she could appoint a select committee. But keep it along, exactly, the same lines of fairness, of bipartisanship, that the Republicans, Congressman John Katko, who is a Republican, negotiated. There was a compromise. Everybody agreed to it.

What if Nancy Pelosi picks that model? If she has John Katko as a Republican. Liz Cheney. Adam Kinzinger. Anthony Gonzales.


If she's --

TAPPER: Former Congressman Denver Riggleman.

GANGEL: If she sticks to a very bipartisan-select committee, that will take the wind out of the Republican argument that this is partisan.

TAPPER: We'll see what happens. Jamie Gangel, I wish we were covering a more pleasing, adventurous story. But it is what if is and it's always great to have you here. Thank you, Jamie.

GANGEL: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up. We are going to have more of my interview with the mother and partner of the late Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick.

Then, the CDC just updated their guidance on masks for children at summer camps. Will your kids have to mask up while playing kickball? Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our health lead, the CDC just released its updated mask guidance for summer camps. It says that fully-vaccinated children and staff do not need to wear masks, or socially distance.

And with this weekend kicking off the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend, the new guidance could not come soon enough.


CNN's Nick Watt reports now that 40 percent of all Americans are now fully vaccinated heading into the first, normal-ish feeling holiday since the beginning of the pandemic.



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This morning, mask mandates lifted across New Jersey. "Cruella" and "A Quiet Place 2" are playing in open movie theaters nationwide.

One hundred thirty-five thousand fans expected at the Indy 500 Sunday. This holiday weekend, roughly one-in-ten Americans are expected to travel.

DARBY LAJOYE, ACTING TSA ADMINISTRATOR: Many airports have already returned or exceeded to 2019, pre-pandemic levels.

WATT: Meantime, a sobering milestone. One-in-ten Americans confirmed infected during the pandemic. The actual number? Nearer one in three, says the CDC.

Daily-case counts are now falling, but so are average-daily vaccine shots. Peaked at nearly 3.4 million, mid-April. Just over 1.6 million, late may.

Most adults who want to get vaccinated have started the process, say pollsters.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We've certainly reached the lion share of people who are eager to get the vaccine. The willing is the complicated part here. There are a lot of people, who are willing but it's hard for them. I think we can get 'em but it's going to take a lot of work.

WATT: California is giving away over $100 million in incentives. West Virginia just announced cash prizes, college scholarships, pick-up trucks.

Also, emotional blackmail.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R), WEST VIRGINIA: You have got to get vaccinated for baby doll. It's all there is to it. Now, she wants you vaccinated so badly, she'll give you a high-five right now. But you have got to get yourself vaccinated.

WATT: Nearly half of Americans aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated. But about a quarter of parents of the under 12 say they definitely won't get their kids a shot when their time comes. Many of the nation's largest school districts will, still, be offering the option of remote learning, come the fall.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT (on camera): Now, just quickly, back to that new CDC guidance. They are also saying that unvaccinated kids can pretty much roam free un-masked outside. And they also have a section on their site, the CDC does, guidance for camps where everybody is not fully vaccinated. And the number one thing on that list is, basically, tell everybody that they should get vaccinated -- Jake.

TAPPER: They should. It's true. Nick watt, thanks so much.

Former acting CDC director, Dr. Richard Besser, joins us now.

Dr. Besser, 40 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. That means 60 percent are not. Do you think life is returning to normal too soon given that statistic?

RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: You know, I don't but I worry about focusing too much on that overall nationwide statistic. What -- what I am interested in is what's going on in -- in each community. And I think that should help guide what people do.

I -- I'm here in Princeton, New Jersey, and something like 67 percent of adults are -- are vaccinated. Fourteen miles away, in Trenton, it's down at 33 percent. And so, you know, if -- if you are looking across the state of New Jersey, we are doing incredibly well at around 60 percent. But it doesn't talk about the local circumstance where -- where you really need to say, all right, there is certain communities that you have to step up the efforts in a really big way to increase the vaccination coverage.

TAPPER: And for people who are not familiar with New Jersey, perhaps people watching internationally. Princeton, obviously, the home of Princeton College, a very educated and wealthy part of New Jersey. And Trenton, a little bit more disadvantaged. People not necessarily have connections to the health-care system. And maybe, even some vaccine skepticism there.

Dr. Besser, since COVID began, holidays have historically led to a spike in cases. Do you think that we are going to see that a few weeks after Memorial Day?

BESSER: I -- I think we're much less likely to see it than we have with other holidays. Right now, disease transmission rates across the country are as low as they have been since last spring before the -- the peak set in. With transmission rates or positivity rates that are less than 2 percent.

I think the vaccine coverage rates and the requirements of masks on airplanes make it quite safe for people to be traveling. I am getting on a plane tomorrow for the first time in over a year. So I don't think we are going to see the same kind of spikes that we did before. And I hope the increasing level of activity and the things that people can do safely, if they are fully vaccinated, will encourage people who are on that fence, those people who are willing but aren't taking the efforts. Encourage them to get vaccinated.

TAPPER: And if anybody like that is listening, Dr. Besser is vaccinated and is fine. I am vaccinated and I'm fine.


It's a good thing to do.

The CDC has updated guidance for summer camps and they say kids and staff who are fully vaccinated don't need to wear masks. Don't need to socially distance. But I have to point out -- I have an 11-year-old. Kids under the age of 12 are unable to get vaccinated right now. So what about them? Could this pose a risk opening summer camps?

BESSER: Well, again, I -- I think you want to look at your state. You want to look at the community that camp is -- is located in. What are they requiring in terms of staff being -- being fully vaccinated?

One of the things I love about the -- the new guidance from CDC out today is that even in camps that have younger children. Most-outdoor activities, kids don't need a wear a mask. You're hiking. You're out there playing kickball. You're running around. You don't need to have a mask on.

They say for crowded-close events outdoors, they do recommend a mask. For -- for crowded swimming pool or for swimming pools, they limit the number of people to -- to allow for some distancing. But for most activities, young kids at camp can be kids, which is so, critically important.

TAPPER: But if they are indoors, they should wear masks. But outdoors, for instance, it sounds like you are agreeing with former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who said this, this morning, about kidding wearing masks. Take a listen.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I don't think kids should be wearing masks outside. I think the risks of wearing a mask and the heat exposure, probably, are greater than any benefit they are going to derive from wearing a mask.


TAPPER: So, you think, what?

BESSER: When -- when I hear that, I mean, he spoke before the CDC guidance came out. And I think, for activities outdoors where kids are running around and increasing their heat level. Yeah, wearing a mask is not going to be beneficial.

But if you are -- if you are outdoors and you have got kids packed in together. That's a setting where they are saying use a mask. I think it is going to come down to judgment, at that level, because, you know, frankly, there isn't the science to drive it. It's what makes common sense.

The other piece of it is that there are some people, you know, kids and adults, who still feel more comfortable wearing a mask, even in a setting where it's not recommended. That's okay, too. And we need to go easy on people who say, you know what? I still want to wear that mask.

TAPPER: Yeah. We don't know everybody's personal-health situation. Some people might have immunization or immune system problems, et cetera.

Dr. Richard Besser, thanks so much. Safe travels this weekend.

As the United States prepares to leave Afghanistan, the same terrorist organization behind 9/11 is lurking in the shadows there and thriving, with some help.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, a sobering look, now, at the potential threat posed by an old and deadly enemy, al Qaeda. Yeah, them. The terrorist group behind the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the U.S., and much more.

That threat did not vanish when the U.S. killed Osama bin Laden a decade ago. The terrorist group is still around, still full of hate.

And as CNN's Nick Paton Walsh discovered, they are thriving in territories of Afghanistan that are under Taliban control.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Al Qaeda, the reason the U.S. went to Afghanistan, are greatly diminished, the Biden administration said.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time to end America's longest war.

WALSH: But a CNN investigation has discovered al Qaeda very much alive and thriving in Afghanistan, linked to global cells the U.S. is hunting.

Senior Afghan intelligence officials tells CNN al Qaeda are communicating with their cells worldwide from Afghanistan, getting shelter and support from the Taliban in exchange for expertise and could be able to attack the West from there by the end of next year.

U.S. Treasury in January said al Qaeda was, quote, growing in strength here. But Afghan intelligence officials I spoke to go further, saying it's more substantial than that, that Al Qaeda provided expertise like bomb-making, but also in finance and moving cash around.

Core al Qaeda members number in the hundreds most assessments conclude, but it's not how many, but who which is most telling. Key is senior al Qaeda Husam Abd-al-Rauf known as Abu Mushin al-Masri

here on an FBI wanted poster issued in 2019. An al Qaeda veteran, he was in on 9/11 before it happened, said Afghan officials.

Al-Masri crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan in 2014 and over six years, I was told, moved around different provinces in Afghanistan. Something that senior Afghan intelligence officials would only have been possible if he had the assistance of top Taliban officials.

But he was in October tracked down to here, a tiny Taliban-controlled village in Ghazni that we can only see on satellite images. Afghan Special Forces lost a soldier raiding this compound, so fierce were the Taliban resistance, and al-Masri died of injuries here.

When they went through al-Masri's position, his computer, they found messages communicating with other al Qaeda cells around the world, talking about operational matters, not necessarily attacks, but also about how soon Afghanistan could be a much freer, easier space for them to operate in.

Then something curious happened, revealing a lot about al Qaeda and Afghanistan's global connections, particularly in this case to Syria.


There were two rare U.S. strikes in al Qaeda cells in Syria immediately afterwards. This one on the 15th of October and another a week later both in Idlib.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. military said they were, quote, not aware of any connection to the Afghan raid. But a senior Afghan official told me they were most likely connected because Americans asked the Afghans to delay announcing their raid for over ten days.

During that delay, before the Afghans broke the news, both Syria strikes happened. Strikes on al Qaeda figures are often announced by Afghan intelligence who present the threat as why the U.S. must stay.

A Taliban spokesman rang CNN to say the claims were false and designed to keep American money coming to Afghanistan. He also said the Taliban had agreed to kick out terrorists as part of their peace deal with the United States.


WALSH: Now, Jake, I have to say, in that phone call, remarkable to get an English-speaking spokesperson Taliban to ring you to stress their point, shows how sensitive this is to them. They have made it clear they have issued not only an order making their fighters ban foreigners in their ranks but a secondary one actually making it an offense, that you could end up in a Taliban court if you have foreign fighters in your ranks. But frankly, their assessment is the opposite, frankly, of every-other intelligence agency or official you could speak to -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick, you and I are old enough to remember mujahedeen controlling Afghanistan in the 1990s when bin Laden first went in. How is it any different? What's changed in the last 20 years?

WALSH: Yeah. I mean, I think when we think about al Qaeda and Afghanistan, we sort of imagine super anointed (ph) men hiding in caves, perhaps, giving somebody a flash drive with an evil plan on it. That is no longer the case. But they are still a modern threat.

And al-Masri you heard about there, al-Rauf, this was a man using Telegram it seemed to communicate to global cells. He had been in Afghanistan for six years. He was still giving information around that seems to have led the United States to other strikes in other countries targets. It seems, they were seeking, as well.

So this is very much an organization thriving. We seem to hear every sort of two weeks or so, the Afghans have hit what they consider to be another senior al Qaeda figure. The core assessment is they could be there in serious numbers in their hundreds. But then, there are possibly thousands of extremists there who they could call upon.

So it remains a very serious and current threat to the United States, certainly. And one with the U.S. saying they are now about 25 percent the way through their withdrawal. That is likely to get more space to operate in and that's certainly what those in Afghanistan and al Qaeda were saying to those outside of the country. Stay tuned. We are going to have freer space to operate in, in the months ahead -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for that report.

Americans traveling this weekend, like they haven't been able to do in more than a year. But prepare for some sticker shock, when you pull into the gas station.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, with Memorial Day weekend marking the first holiday where life for many Americans is returning to normalish. So is holiday travel. One in ten Americans is expected to travel this weekend for the start of the summer season, the unofficial start.

And as airports see more flyers, there is also an uptick in unruly passengers. Southwest permanently banning a passenger accused of assaulting a flight attendant.

CNN aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean, joins me now.

Pete, what do we know about this Southwest incident? I -- obviously, seen it on Twitter and social media a hundred times.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this is one of the most violent incidents we have seen lately. Southwest Airlines says one of its flight attendants was assaulted on a flight on Sunday when the flight attendant, Southwest says, was just trying to give that passenger basic instructions about putting up their seat back and the tray table.

Now, the union, representing Southwest flight attendants, says this is when things got ugly and they are calling this a serious assault with injuries to that flight attendant's face. Also, getting two of their teeth knocked out.

Now, Southwest is responding by permanently banning that passenger. And also, saying it will not resume alcohol service on its flights, something it planned to do starting next month.

TAPPER: And, Pete, who are the people who are driving instead of flying? Tell us about them because they're -- you know, they won't have the same, violent experiences, potentially, from crazy passengers. But they are going to have a shock of their own, when they go to get gas.

MUNTEAN: Yeah. The vast majority of people are driving this weekend, Jake. According to AAA, 37 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during this Memorial Day weekend. And the national average of a gallon of gas, the national average is now $3.04. The highest it has been in seven years.

That is a 60 per percent increase from where we were a year ago and still about a 7 percent increase from where we were pre-pandemic, back in 2019. So a bit of sticker shock here.

The Biden administration even releasing a statement saying $3 a gallon gas is not all that unusual. But people are going to have to brace for this as they go out.

TAPPER: Yeah. I'm sure they don't want any fingerprints attached, though. Obviously, their critics disagree.

Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Coming up next, I will continue my exclusive interview with the mother and partner of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. What Republican senators told them about why they were going to vote no to form this bipartisan commission to look into the insurrection.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, under attack. Microsoft says Russian hackers have launched a new global attack on more than 150 organizations right before Biden meets with Putin.

Plus, I will talk to an author whose hot, new book is revealing some new details from inside Washington, including what Obama secretly said about Trump behind closed doors. And leading this hour, more of our exclusive and emotional

conversation with both the mother and the partner of fallen Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection. His loved ones were hoping to convince Republicans to back a bipartisan commission to investigate what went wrong on that deadly day.

Instead, that measure failed, earlier today, after only-six out of 50 Republican senators voted yes. Nine Republicans and two Democrats didn't even cast a vote.