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Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill That Includes $1,400 Stimulus Checks; Race To Vaccinate Intensifies As Some States Relax COVID Rules; Trump To Campaign Against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) In 2022; Unseen Footage From The Apollo 11 Mission; Former Neo-Nazi On Fighting Hatred; Pope Francis On First Ever Papal Trip To Iraq. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 06, 2021 - 20:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to the viewers around the United States and around the world. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

Stimulus money for millions of American families and small businesses just trying to survive this pandemic, the money has now been cleared by the U.S. Senate and could start appearing in bank accounts before the end of the month.

Senators today narrowly passing President Biden's enormous coronavirus relief bill after staying in session nearly 24 hours straight. Much of the nearly $2 trillion package is earmarked for a third round of cash payments to individual Americans including children, $1,400 per person. For example, a family of four making $150,000 a year or less will see a total stimulus payment of $5,600.

CNN's Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill for us tonight. So, Jessica, the president is hoping for quick passage. What happens now and will it move quickly?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's looking like it is going to move quickly, Pam. The Democratic leadership here on the Hill, this is the one thing they wanted to get shepherded through. And so they have had their eye on it now since President Biden got into office and sent it over.

So what happens now is that this bill is going back to the House. They are going to vote on the changes that were made to the bill. And just about three changes, major changes that were made. They include income eligibility for who gets those $1,400 checks, changes to unemployment benefits. And then also remember that $15 minimum wage was removed from the bill. So, the House will vote on that and then it goes to President Biden's desk for him to sign.

And they're going to vote on Tuesday, and then it goes over to his desk to sign. And we are told that President Biden says that he hopes and anticipates families will begin to receive this money as soon as this month. So this is going to move pretty quickly from here on forward.

So we talked about the $1,400 stimulus checks. You always have unemployment benefits in there, $300 a week that get extended through September. $10,200 of that will be tax free for people making $150,000 or less. There is also a child tax credit in here that's a little bit different than it's been in the past, $3.600 for children under the age of six, $3,000 for children up to the age of 18. And what's different about this is that families can choose to receive that benefit in a monthly payment spread out over the year, so a lot in here.

Here is what President Biden said about the bills passed not too long ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the American people who so desperately need the help. Many of whom are lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, will I lose my job, if I haven't already, will I lose my insurance, will I lose my home?


DEAN: And there is also a significant amount of money in this bill for small businesses, for vaccines, vaccine distribution. There is money going to state and local governments, and it gives them a pretty fair amount of (INAUDIBLE) to use it. Does it need to go to different services for that community? Does it need to go to homes? How does that work? They will be getting the cash infusion as well, Pam.

Again, so much here, expanding Medicaid, expanding health insurance to those who are uninsured, but the bottom line is this bill now goes to the House on Tuesday, then to President Biden's desk and then those payments should be going out very quickly thereafter. Pam?

BROWN: They will help a lot of people. Jessica Dean, thank you so much.

And to the White House now, CNN's Arlette Saenz is there. So, Arlette, after weeks of bitter legislative bickering, optimism now seems to be the theme we're hearing from Democrats and the White House tonight.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of optimism from President Biden, Pamela, as he is promising Americans that health relating to this pandemic is right around the corner. And at the White House today, the president took a bit of a victory lap, even as this bill still needs to make its way finally through the House. But he went through a list of those benefits that Americans will be getting from this bill, everything from that $1,400 stimulus check to enhanced unemployment benefits.

But one thing that White House officials have been saying is that once this bill passes, they expect the president and vice president and others to take a moment to really sell the aspects of this plan to the American people so they know exactly what they are getting.

Now, the president throughout the campaign and heading into the White House said that he planned to work in a bipartisan manner. And you've heard the president today and his White House citing polling and bipartisan support from local officials relating to this bill. But he was unable to get one Republican to vote on this measure in the Senate today.

And our colleague, Joe Johns, asked the president about that a bit earlier. Take a listen.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Why don't you think you could get a single Republican vote? And what does the drama of the last 24 hours, including with Senator Manchin, tell you about the next four years?

BIDEN: They're going to be good. I'm going to succeed. We're going to succeed moving forward.

Look, the American people strongly support the bill. That's the key here. And that's going to continue to speak down through the public, including from our Republican friends. There's a lot of Republicans who came very closer. They've got a lot of pressure on them and I still haven't given up on getting this bill.


SAENZ: So, the president hoping to be able to work with Republicans down the road.

And today, he got a congratulatory message from his former boss, former President Barack Obama, who tweeted after the passage, elections matter and we're seeing why. Congratulations to the Biden administration and to the American people on a COVID relief bill that will improve the lives of families across the country.

The former president went on to say that this measure is a reminder of why it's so important to vote.

And as President Biden was leaving mass here in Washington, D.C., today, someone shouted, thank you for the stimulus, and that is something that the president is hoping that will be hammered away to the American people. They will be getting specific relief from this measure as he is really nearing that first major legislative accomplishment of his administration. Pamela?

BROWN: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for that.

And meantime, the race to vaccinate American is picking up steam as more people seem ready and willing to roll up their sleeves. New polling shows vaccine hesitancy is rapidly declining. Last September, only 13 percent of U.S. adults said they would get the shots as soon as it was available. Well, that number more than doubled by December, and then up to 43 percent in early January. Now, 57 percent say they have already gotten the shot or will as soon as they are eligible.

CNN's Natasha Chen has the latest on the race between science and the killer virus.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At the current pace of about 2 million vaccine doses administered per day, the U.S. could reach herd immunity by late summer through vaccinations alone. CNN analysis shows 70 percent of the U.S. population could be fully vaccinated by the end of July, and 85 percent by mid-September. Experts estimate between 70 and 85 percent of the population must be protected to suppress the spread of coronavirus.

PEGGY NICKOLA, LIVES IN RETIREMENT COMMUNITY: You don't know how special this is for me.

CHEN: There is hope on the horizon for people like Peggy Nickola, who is now fully vaccinated. She's hugging her son and daughter-in-law for the first time in a year.

NICKOLA: And I keep saying to everybody is if you have a family that cares about you, you are already way ahead, and my kids have been extremely wonderful.

CHEN: As many states are now expanding vaccine eligibility beyond the elderly, Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified it's better to vaccinated people ahead of their term than to let doses go to waste due to canceled appointments or logistical issues.

One challenge for vaccination sites is knowing how many doses they will get each week. Fulton County, Georgia, is one of the places about to get a huge boost in resources and predictability with the help of FEMA, a steady flow of vaccine shipments to ramp up vaccinations at Mercedes Benz stadium.

DR. LYNN PAXTON, DISTRICT HEALTH DIRECTOR, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: With this new initiative, the vaccine is coming. And we can handle definitely 6,000 a day.

CHEN: The state of California announced Friday that theme parks in counties with lower virus spread can reopen at 15 percent capacity to California residents only beginning April 1st.


JORDAN HANSON, THEME PARK VISITOR: I really think it's time. I think enough people are starting to get vaccinated. I think California needs it, like look how dead it is out here.

CHEN: Connecticut will keep its mask mandate but allows some businesses, like restaurants, to be reopen at full capacity with social distancing requirements. West Virginia is doing the same but allowing bars under those relaxed rules too. Health experts are troubled by that. DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: The one place you take your mask off is at restaurants and bars, right? So why would you say we have a mask mandate but you can have full capacity.

At the end of the day, that is where you're going to see transmissions.

CHEN: Meanwhile, some states are completely lifting mask mandates. Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Texas, where the governor there says it's safe to reopen at 100 percent starting Wednesday.


CHEN (on camera): After announcing the relaxing of those restrictions, Texas Governor Greg Abbott alleged without evidence that migrants coming into Texas were exposing the state's residents to coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci said to MSNBC today that undocumented people in the U.S. should get a vaccine when it's available to them. He said the Department of Homeland Security made it clear there will be no punitive element associated with people getting a vaccine.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.

BROWN: And please join me tomorrow when I talk to a single the mother whose daughter struggled with anxiety and depression for years, but that got worse during the pandemic. And her daughter nearly took her own life.


BECKY PHILLIPS, DAUGHTER'S MENTAL HEALTH SUFFERED DURING PANDEMIC: She had always gotten really great grades and then after all of this, her grades just plummeted. I really had to help her a lot just to get her to pass her sophomore year at the end of last year, and she had zone well before.

So the stress of the school, the online school, and not being able to see her friends, not being able to go anywhere, it was just really, really tough for her.

She kind of shut me out and would just be in her room alone and cry and she is very anxious about everything.

I tried to text her back and her phone was turned out. So I just immediate he knew something in me told me exactly what was going on.


BROWN: I'm sure a lot of paints are hearing that, thinking, gosh, I've had the struggles with my kid during this pandemic. It's been a tough road. So we are going to be listening more to Becky Philips' story tomorrow night at 6:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN. I hope you will be joining us for this important story.

And still ahead this hour, the pope is set to visit a charge that ISIS blew apart as his historic trip to Iraq continues.

The FBI reveals the threat of domestic terrorism is now worse than ever. A former neo-Nazi tells us what it takes to break the cycle of hate.

And footage from the Apollo 11 mission that hardly anyone has seen before and a story that really hits home now. The director of Apollo 11 Quarantine joins us live along with famed former astronaut. He is going to be joining us as well.

But, first, the former president vows revenge. Donald Trump says he will actively campaign against a sitting Republican senator, and he has something to say to Republicans who want to use the Trump name to raise money.



BROWN: After days of intense Democratic Party infighting and some sleepless nights, the Senate passed President Biden's huge $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. It wasn't never pretty, it never is when you watch the sausage get made. But here is the key. Those crucial stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits, which millions of Americans are waiting for, could be hitting bank accounts before the end of the month.

Let's break it down with CNN Political Commentator Paul Begala and Republican Strategist Doug Heye. Great to see you both, Doug. Go Heels. I believe that UNC is about to beat Duke, if not, already.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We've won by about 20 points, just under 20, as we usually do.

BROWN: Okay. UNC is my alma mater as is Doug's. So I had to mention that off the top here. But something much more important, I hate to admit that, but this more important, obviously what is happening today in Washington, right, Paul. This is a huge victory for President Biden, for Democrats. And the question is, with the passing of this COVID relief, will all the Democratic infighting over minimum wage and other initiatives fade as the party focuses on this package and touts it or will the tensions bubble back up in a few weeks. What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm thinking of my Uncle George who said, why God gave us family, so we don't have to fight with strangers. Of course, the Democrats are going to go back to fighting. But Uncle George is a wise man. But we're going to see a remarkable result of this legislation, and I don't want to let that pass. This is historic.

Experts say that this bill, in addition to the COVID-19, the $1,400 to the $3,000 to $3,600 per child tax credit, will cut child poverty in half. That is amazing, 21 percent. One out of five children in America are poor. Because of this bill, half of them will be lifted out of poverty quickly. It's just a terrific bill. The Democrats will go back to fighting. It's what we do, but they really ought to take a minute. And I heard your earlier report from Arlette that the president and the vice president are going to do what we used to call a victory lap, and I hope they do. This is an enormous win for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, it's an enormous win for the Democrats. It think it's going to be great for the country.

BROWN: And people are going to start seeing the money in their bank accounts soon, people who have been suffering through this pandemic, waiting for this. And on that note, Doug, zero Republicans voted for this relief bill allowing Democrats to take full credit for it. Could that come back to bite the GOP in the midterms?


HEYE: I think the short answer is we don't know yet. And the reason I say that is I go back to 2010 when -- 2009, really, when there was a Joe Biden-led stimulus package. Remember those shovel-ready jobs that weren't exactly shovel-ready, where we were told that if Republicans didn't support it and not a single the Republican in the House voted for it, that it would be electoral doom for Republicans. And, in fact, they won 63 House seats the next year.

We are about 18, 19 months away from the next midterms. To predict what happens today or late last night, early this morning, on one bill, of which Paul and I can debate the merits of, will translate into an electoral result this far down the line, I think, is really difficult to do.

BROWN: All right. We've got to talk about Joe Manchin here, because I think we are seeing on full display the outside influence he has right now, and we saw it with this bill. How should Biden, Paul, deal with him going forward? You heard someone, a reporter asked him, what did Joe Manchin -- what do you think about that? And he said, it's going to be a great four years. What do you think it's actually going to be like now with this new dynamic?

BEGALA: Well, I'm blessed to know them both. And both Joes are really personable people. They lead with their hearts. And, of course, is more moderate to conservative than most of the Democrats, he represents a state with 55 counties in West Virginia. Joe Biden carried zero. Hillary Clinton carried zero. Barack Obama against Mitt Romney carried zero. So, the fact the Democrats had a senator from West Virginia is a terrific thing for them.

And Democrats usually love endangered species. So we should hug know, project Joe. We should protect Joe. We should -- And I love the guy anyway, Senator Manchin. But imagine, Doug, if the Republicans had a senator from Hawaii, that is as Democratic state as West Virginia is Republican. So, actually, Manchin showed terrific loyalty. He went along with the most important thing for his Democratic president. It will do a lot of good for West Virginia too.

BROWN: He did make people nervous though yesterday, Democrats who thought it was going to go through smoothly. Then there was is a moment of, wait a second, what is he going to do? What do you think, Doug?

HEYE: Look, I think it shows exactly how razor thin this Senate majority is for Democrats. You know, one minute, it's Joe Manchin, the next minute, maybe Lisa Murkowski. Any Democratic senator can gum up the works, can cause a major delay on things to get what they want.

They may ultimately be successful. And it also tells exactly how important the special election, runoff elections were in Georgia. If Republicans have won those, that Donald Trump had been not a hindrance, we're not having this conversation at all.

BROWN: Yes. My colleague, Phil Mattingly, did a great piece on once it started looking like the Dems were going to get Georgia, that is when they really thought, we can get this package through, and you know what, it was 1.9 trillion asking from the beginning and they got through the $1.9 trillion package.

Now, I want to ask you about Trump, because he announced today, Doug, that he campaigned against GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski's 2022 re- election bid. And his lawyers asked the RNC to stop using his name in fundraising emails. You work with the RNC. How can stuff like this impact the party's fundraising and messaging?

HEYE: Two words, not good. It demonstrates that Donald Trump will be a thorn in the side of any Republican who is not loyal to him. And what shocker, we have seen that play out four years. But it's going to be a very difficult in circumstance for him in Alaska.

Again, if you go back to 2010, Lisa Murkowski was shocked to have lost her primary. And what did she do? She came back and won as a write-in.

And I'll tell you, Murkowski it's not necessarily -- it's a legendary name in Alaska, not the easiest name to spell if you are writing it in. She won as a write-in. That is a really, really tough task to do. And in an open primary with multiple people, it's going to be tough sailing for whomever Trump supports in that race.

BROWN: What do you think, Paul?

BEGALA: Yes, I think Doug is exactly right. I spent a lot of time in Alaska. I think Trump will be about as successful as the captain of the Exxon Valdez back in the 90s. He's going wreck out there.

Senator Murkowski is a really impressive politician. She just did something really, really smart. She supported Deb Haaland, now the secretary of interior to be the secretary of interior, a vitally important job in Alaska. And Congresswoman, soon-to-be-Secretary Haaland will be the first Native American when Native Americans are usually Democratic constituency. In Alaska, they rallied to Lisa Murkowski in 2010. Doug is exactly right. They wrote in her name.

So she did a very, very smart thing in listening to her Native American, Native Alaskan constituents up there. She is a very good politician.

BROWN: All right. Paul, Doug, gentlemen, great to have you on. Doug, go Heels. I like your tie tonight. Thank you so much.

HEYE: We always beat Duke.

BROWN: All right. Well, this just into CNN, an Atlanta area District Attorney's Office investigating former President Donald Trump has hired with lawyer with expertise with racketeering. The Fulton County D.A.'s office says John Floyd will work on multiple cases and the white-collar gang and public corruption units.


But two people familiar with the hire say the new attorney was not retained specifically for the investigation into Trump's post-election phone calls with Georgia's secretary of state.

More than 2,000 Americans lost their lives yesterday alone. But a grassroots group held a mask burning event in Idaho today. Details just ahead.


BROWN: The Mars Perseverance rover is sending back some photos from its first test drive since landing on the planet, and it's like a scene from a space Western.


Its wheel tracks are covering the surface of the dusty red planet and making new trails. Perseverance is going through all of the motions to check out every aspect of the rover's health, so it will be in great shape to explore a crater in search of ancient life.

Only a handful of people know what it's like to walk on the moon. But after the past year, we can all understand what Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins went through when they got home. Right after the Apollo 11 astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean in 1969, this is how the world saw its new heroes behind glass. They would spend 21 days in a medical quarantine to protect their families, friends and everyone else from any microorganisms or material they may have encountered on the moon and their way home.

Now, this quarantine is the subject of a new CNN film that you'll see in just a few minutes. And joining me now is the director of "Apollo 11: Quarantine," Todd Douglas Miller and retired NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, Leroy Chiao. Good evening to you both.



BROWN: So, Todd, let's start with you. What was it about these COVID- 19 quarantines imposed around the country that inspired you to go back and take another look at the Apollo 11 mission?

MILLER: Well, you know, we did the feature film Apollo 11 and I thought that was it. But like a lot of filmmakers around the world, we were effectively shut down due to the pandemic. And we were in the process of delivering a lot of the footage that we had been given access to for Apollo 11 back to the National Archives and NASA, but they were effectively shut down as well.

So, in the course of just prepping all that material, the pandemic was dragging on, we decided to just make a short film out of it. And much to our surprise, you know, it was very -- it was very complex. You know, NASA undertook this amazingly complex endeavor to get not only the astronauts back safely, but also all the lunar material and then the evidence, the film footage, the stills that they took, that showed that we actually went to the moon. So, it was an -- it was an enormous endeavor that they did.

BROWN: It's interesting to you're -- in quarantine while making this film about quarantine. We have all this incredible footage, Todd, of the astronauts in quarantine. How did Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins handle it? Did they have any issues? How did they spend their time?

MILLER: Yes, you know, they -- in the film, I don't want to ruin it. You kind of have to watch the film to see what they did, but they got through it, just like we all did. I think, you know, one of the most interesting parts to me was the enormous support -- the support staff.

When these astronauts came back, they were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier went got these -- not only three astronauts, but the command module that housed the lunar material, that housed the film footage and the stills got it back to Hawaii.

The astronauts spent those first few days getting back to Hawaii and then subsequently to Houston, Texas, stuffed into a retrofitted Airstream trailer. So, they passed the time, you know, playing cards, you see that in the film, playing music. They were there with John Hirosaki, who was an Asian-American engineer who was in there for the entire duration of the quarantine.

And then once they get back to Houston, they passed the time by, you know, doing a lot of post briefings. They met with their families behind glass, which you see in the film. And Neil Armstrong actually celebrated his birthday in quarantine, so that's all captured in the film, as well as the lunar material and also the film footage. You know, let's not forget, it was very important to see what these guys experienced. Because they had no one had seen them until they got back.

BROWN: And let's get to Leroy because, Leroy, you know firsthand what it's like to be placed in isolation. You were placed in isolation before each of your four missions to space, what was it like?

CHIAO: Sure, it's just an understood part of the thing. I mean, of course, we want to be going into quarantine before our mission so we don't accidentally come into contact with a flu bug or something like that and bring it up to space to the rest of the crew to a space station, get everyone infected. And coming back, you know, generally on the shuttle program, we didn't go into quarantine after we came back. But after the space station mission in Russia, they kind of put us under a voluntary quarantine, asked us to spend a few days with the crew quarters, more for our own protection because, you know, our immune systems might be a little bit weakened just from the stress of coming back to Earth. And they really didn't want us to get infected with, you know, some kind of a virus or a bug.


But, yes, being in long duration spaceflight aboard the space station for six and a half months, that's definitely an isolation of sorts. The biggest difference, I think, between the pandemic and going on an ISS mission is, you know, I had a long time to think about what it was going to be like.

I had, you know, volunteered, of course, for the flight had three and a half years of training, whereas the pandemic kind of took us all by surprise. But, of course, my experience gave me first-hand knowledge of how to deal with it we have the same tools.

BROWN: But how do you deal with it? What do you do to get through it?

CHIAO: Well, you know, you kind of just set your expectations. That's really what it's all about. The main thing is to not set your expectations too optimistically, saying, oh, gosh, by this point, we're going to certainly be out of this pandemic.

No, you want to say, look, I'm going to put up with this, this is what I'm going to do, this is I'm going to cope with it. And you know what, I have some idea of what we might get out of it, but I'm not going to set these false expectations and be disappointed if that doesn't come true.

BROWN: I think that's great advice. Don't set yourself up for disappointment. Leroy Chiao, Todd Douglas Miller, thank you both for coming on and talking with us. We look forward to seeing this "Apollo 11: Quarantine" airs next hour, right here on CNN.

And meantime, a Trump State Department appointee was arrested in connection with the Capitol riot. Up next, I'll speak to a reformed neo-Nazi about combating the kind of radicalization that drove that deadly insurrection.



BROWN: Another stunning arrest and the massive federal investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol. A Trump State Department appointee is facing six federal charges in connection with a deadly insurrection. Federico Klein was arrested Thursday for allegedly pushing police and entering the Capitol on January 6. Authorities say at the time of the attack, Klein was a State Department employee with a top-secret security clearance. For the record, this is just the latest piece of evidence that debunks a new false narrative being pushed by some Republicans that the Capitol riot wasn't actually carried out by Trump supporters and Republicans. Last week GOP Senator Ron Johnson recited a dubious eyewitness account pushing this lie. This week FBI director Christopher Wray push back.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have not, to date, seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with the 6.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (R-IL): Do we have any evidence that the capital attack was organized by, quote, fake Trump protesters? We have not seen evidence of that at this stage certainly.


BROWN: So, how does a person become so radicalized and so lost in the conspiracy rabbit hole that he attacks the very government he is working for? That's what I'm going to ask my next guest. At 18, Frank Meeink was already a notorious leader in America's neo-Nazi underground. He ended up in prison for violent crimes. And in the decades since, he has been dedicated to fighting racism and extremism.

Last September, he even testified before Congress about how to do it. Frank Meeink joins me now and his book is called Autobiography of a recovering skinhead. Frank, thank you so much for coming on. I first want to ask you, regarding this arrested Trump appointee. He had a top-secret clearance. He presumably passed government background checks. What does that tell you about the selection conspiracy movement and who it attracts?

FRANK MEEINK, FORMER NEO-NAZI RECRUITER: Well, you know, this, this attracts -- fortunately for us, it's tracking idol worshipers, which we should not have God against that, so we're going to let that take care of that. But where we need to worry about is where this extremism is isn't our police force.

As the biggest concern we have to look out for now, how many police charged that building, how many police officers go -- because they were on duty that day. Like there's a lot we need to look at in the policing, because I think that keeps the wound of America's civil rights open the wound is from mostly police activity right now.

So, I think for us to stop the radicalization, we need to stop giving American red meat to fight over. And so, let's get true real police reform.

BROWN: OK. And I know you're a black lives net, and you're now a supporter of Black Lives Matter movement. That that is a separate issue. And I don't know that there is any data or specific facts to back up what you just said. But what I want to go to is talk about this election conspiracy movement. And what we heard from FBI Director Christopher Wray outlining the urgency of combating domestic extremism this week. Let's listen to what he said.


WRAY: January 6 was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it's not going away anytime soon. At the FBI, we've been sounding the alarm on it for a number of years now.


BROWN: So, the acting Capitol police chief says some of the same extremists involved in the January 6 attack want to blow up the Capitol when President Biden addresses Congress. Has this type of extremist reached a new level in your view? And if so, what is driving it?

MEEINK: Oh, what's driving is, you know, the fear. It's fear and narcissism. And that fake patriotism that's just nationalism wrapped up again with worshipping an idol. But, again, what we can do is with these people that are just continuously passing conspiracies, is we have to realize that Fox News, and I know that this is CNN, but Fox News has completely radicalized so many Americans. If you look at Fox News and then you compare that to heat radio from Rwanda, and what started that Civil War, there's comparisons there.


Like, so we have to know that a lot of our fellow Americans, fellow children of God had been radicalized by a network of news that, as a form of radical, I can tell you from watching Fox News, I could show you were their same radical stuff that I used to say, I used to have T.V. shows and neo-Nazi.

I used to know how to do the -- they use the same stuff instead of saying where I would say Jews, they say big media, like it's just a swap down a couple of words here and there. But it's still just radicalization. So, we have to really -- we have to look at Fox News.

BROWN: And media does play an important role. How did someone like you get out of that mentality, of that mindset? I mean, that is the question with so many -- with this being such a big concern about domestic extremism, how do you get out of that? If you're -- if you're always bombarded with your views with your worldview, and conspiracy theories and so forth that just backup what you believe?

MEEINK: Yes. Well, I mean, what I believe is that, you know, everyone is the children of God, so I can't judge, and I know God loves me that I know he loves everyone else at the same and so I can't hurt what God loves, so.

But on how I stopped being a racist was when I started to be embarrassed by my people. When people and maybe God, I don't know, put people in my life to continuously prove my beliefs wrong to me, that's where I was in perished. And hopefully, that's what's going to continue happening in America with the Trumpism, is they're just going to completely keep in embarrassed, the QAnons, just keep being embarrassed and eventually will be the -- you know, America that accepts them back for even though they fell for an idol.

BROWN: I want to ask you about QAnon, it seems harder to pin down than white supremacy or other extremist ideologies. Do you see QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat?

MEEINK: Absolutely. QAnon is a huge -- the neo-Nazi stuff that I belong to is manifested in the -- in the QAnon, in the Proud Boys. So, it's the same -- but what I happened to learn how to not hate was I learned facts about myself, you know, to learn facts about myself, so I don't need to hate other people.

And when I see what I used to be, I see it in QAnon, I see it in the Proud Boys, like, racism always just recycles itself. You know, we can't be the KKK anymore, right? So now they can't be the neo-Nazi -- now they're the Proud Boys. It's just remarketing hate, remarketing.

And at this time, it's different. It's always different this time. Hate is totally different this time, but it's still the same. It's people that are wrapped up in fear, and they're just scared, and egos and it's -- that's exactly the Trump 2020 and, you know, it's our ego. So, we got to hope that our fellow Americans will start to see that.

BROWN: OK. Frank Meeink, thank you very much for coming on and sharing your perspective and your history.

MEEINK: Thank you.

BROWN: A little reminder now that the pandemic is not over. But a self-described grassroots movement in Idaho would have you think otherwise, mask burning sites, at least 24 of them, popped up all across the state today. The group called Free Idaho says it has the support of two local Congresswoman who says it's time for the mandates to end and reopen the state.

Adults and kids set fire to their masks and publications enforcing the mandates. The state currently has the highest test positivity rate in the U.S. right now at 24 percent. And hours from now, the Pope's historic trip to Iraq continues. He is visiting a church was destroyed by ISIS.



BROWN: Well, Pope Francis making history on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, the pontiff calling for cooperation and friendship between religions and condemning the violence that has plagued the country in recent years.

His trip comes as Iraq struggles with a series of crises including a wave of COVID infections. CNN Ben Wedeman reports from Erbil. Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, Pope Francis has finished his first whirlwind full day in Iraq. He started with a rare private meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the leading authorities of Shia Islam in the world. Afterwards, Sistani stressed the right of Iraq's Christians to live in peace and security with full protections of the Iraqi constitution. The Pope then went to attend an interfaith service at the ruins of the biblical city of Ur, birthplace of Abraham. He then went -- came back to Baghdad where he held mass at the collodion Cathedral of St. Joseph.

And to mark all of today's events, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al- Kadhimi declared that from now on, March 6, will be a National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence. Sunday, the pope is up early again, heading to Mosul to pray in a church destroyed by ISIS.

Keep in mind that back in 2014, the then self-declared caliph of the so-called Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, called on his followers to conquer Rome. The Pope then goes to the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, liberated from ISIS in late 2016. In that town, the terrorists from ISIS, destroyed or vandalized, almost every symbol of Christianity, burning Bibles and prayer books and turning the main churches courtyard into a firing range fire.


Finally, the pope is going to hold a mass in a stadium here in Erbil to be attended by up to 10,000 worshippers. The authorities say they will be socially distanced. Pamela.

BROWN: Thanks, Ben.

And thank you for joining me this evening, I'm Pamela Brown. I'll see you again tomorrow night starting at 6:00 Eastern. "Apollo 11: Quarantine" is up next.