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New Day Sunday

Trump, Biden Campaigning In Key Battleground States Today; Michigan Governor Whitmer On Trump Rally Rhetoric: This Puts "Lives In Danger"; Only Two States Trending Downwards As Coronavirus Surges; States See Spike In Turnout As Early In-Person Voting Begins; How A Former QAnon Believer Escaped The Virtual Cult. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired October 18, 2020 - 07:00   ET



CAROL ROSENSTEIN, CNN HERO: Medicine with a side effect? It's pure joy.

Where's my Kleenex?


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: For more on how Carol is using music to fight the impact of coronavirus isolation now, go to


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan is now responding to President Trump's call to have her jailed.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extraordinarily dangerous. Immediately after the FBI uncovers a plot to kidnap and possibly kill her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is not changing his tune, continuing to insist despite all evidence to the contrary that we are turning the corner on coronavirus.

BLITZER: We're hearing that his Minnesota rallies last month are now being blamed for more than a dozen COVID infections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a long track record of rallies that have led to infections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In just three weeks, the CDC says that we could be having up to 6,700 new hospitalizations each and every day.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul. PAUL: The sun is up in New York. We hope that you are as well. Thank

you so much for making us part of your morning. We appreciate your company here because there's a lot to talk about with only 16 days left until we hit Election Day itself. Twenty-two million people have already cast their votes.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Today, former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to lock in a lead in North Carolina. That's a state that President Trump won in 2016.

PAUL: President Trump meanwhile is trying to close the gap in Nevada. He lost that state the first time around.

BLACKWELL: The latest national poll has Joe Biden out front. But his campaign manager, however, says do not get complacent.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is following the latest for us now from the White House.

The president, Sarah, is in Nevada this morning. He lost that state in 2016. He's got a bit of a gap to close. What is the strategy as we know it from the campaign?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Hey, good morning, Victor and Christi.

And President Trump waking up this morning in Nevada. It's a state that he lost by just under three points last time. So perhaps, his campaign is looking at alternate paths to 270 electoral votes as polls show that he is trailing Joe Biden in some of the other battleground states.

But he's been visiting a variety of places during this homestretch of the campaign trail including some states that he won handily in 2016 like Georgia and Florida. And some were similar like Michigan, Wisconsin, and those two states is where he focused yesterday with a pair of campaign events. In Wisconsin and Michigan, two states that are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, and where local officials warned that the president should not be holding these large events without taking the proper social distancing precautions.

Now, in Michigan, the president went after Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer for keeping the state closed. He urged her to open the schools and even sort of joined in with the last lock her up chant that had broken out at the rally. And that sort of raised some eyebrows because less than two weeks, the FBI just uncovered a plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer.

And she responded pretty quickly on Twitter, I want to read you that tweet. She said: This is rhetoric that put me, my family, and other government officials' lives in danger while we try to saves the lives of our fellow Americans. It has to stop.

Now, interestingly, the governor's deputy digital director also responded on Twitter, and I want to read that, as well. I see everything that is said about and to her online. Every time the

president does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media. It has to stop. It just has to.

Now, we do expect the president to keep up his very demanding schedule heading into the final two weeks of Election Day, perhaps hitting multiple states a day until then -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: So while he's on the campaign trail, we know that White House adviser Dr. Scott Atlas is pushing this false narrative that masks do not work. Help us understand what happened here.

WESTWOOD: Right. Dr. Scott Atlas, one of the most visible at this point members of the coronavirus task force, one of the president's advisers on this topic, posted on Twitter yesterday, questioning the effectiveness of masks. Twitter flagged and subsequently removed the tweet from its platform. It's just sort of remarkable, though, that someone working for the president on coronavirus can have messages that are so misleading that Twitter is forced to take them down. And that's what we saw happen yesterday, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Uh-huh. No doubt.

Sarah Westwood, appreciate the updates, thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Sarah.

Here's why Dr. Atlas' tweet was removed. This is from Twitter: Dr. Atlas' tweet was in violation of Twitter's COVID-19 misleading information policy.

It says: The policy prohibits sharing false and misleading content related to COVID-19 which could lead to harm.

PAUL: It goes on to say it specifically includes guidance on claims related to misleading information, statements or assertions that had been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject matter experts such as public health authorities.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in now, epidemiologist and CNN contributor, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

Doctor, good morning to you.

Listen, the president on I believe it was Thursday in these dueling town halls tried to sell that he has no problems with masks, but then also saying that 85 percent of people who wear masks contract coronavirus, which is bunk. And now, the only doctor he appears to be listening to in the White House is selling this.

What's the conclusion you received from what Dr. Atlas tweeted?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what it looks like is he's trying to make masks a battlefield in his ongoing war against science. About 217,000 people now are casualties of that war. There is no evidence and certainly no consensus of the scientists,

either in public or the scientists that work on the task force or the scientists that work in the administration, none of them have reached any sort of consensus that says that masks do not work. You have these folks who push these theories about why masks aren't the right way to go, but it seems to be more broadly in line with trying to look at what the president has done on the coronavirus which is minimal, and then to tailor their interpretation of the science to make the president feel good about himself.

And this -- this pandemic response led by one man's ego rather than a pandemic response led by the science is exactly why the United States accounts for nearly 20 percent of all deaths in the entire world to coronavirus. And so, it looks like Scott Atlas is just another of these handpicked phony doctors who uses MD as a fig leaf for the president's narcissism.

It's inappropriate. It's wrong, and people are dying because of it. And Twitter rightly flagged it and removed it.

PAUL: What do you make, however, of the fact that this is a doctor speaking for the White House where the president himself suffered from this virus? Now granted he received treatment and got better in treatment that is not available really to the general public. But the fact that the president actually had COVID and this doctor from the White House is saying masks don't work is -- it's jolting, I think, to people.

EL-SAYED: I agree. It's astounding, and it frankly speaks to the moral decay at the court here.

Look, Scott Atlas is not an epidemiologist. He's an infectious disease doctor. He's a doctor whose job it is to visualize people's internal organs. He's a radiologist.

And it'd be like asking a painter to do your roof because the painter works on houses. This guy has a history of being someone who just speaks in idiosyncrasies about science, and the president I guess like what he had to say on Twitter and decided to give him a job.

I want to step back, though, and I want the viewers to appreciate that this is part of a broader argument, a strategy per se, politically, not a public health strategy, a political strategy to argue for this quote/unquote herd immunity. And what we're hearing is people saying, well, if you just let people get sick, right, and the virus moves through people and they'll acquire immunity to the illness, and we won't have this problem anywhere, but the key thing is you have to protect the most vulnerable people.

Now, here's the thing, here's why this political strategy is ridiculous, because the president himself is considered one of those vulnerable people. And he is the most powerful, most protected person in the world. He could not protect himself from COVID-19.

This strategy won't work. It is not a public health strategy. It is a political strategy to look at the failure of a response and then back justify it with some bunk scientific hypothesis. And then to tell us somehow that this is what we ought to be doing.

It is absurd and, frankly, with respect to Scott Atlas, anybody who would bastardize their MD this way and use it to justify the failure of a response to a public health epidemic, honestly, honestly, you have to ask what that oath that you took when you started med school and you graduated at med school meant to you.

BLACKWELL: Here, Doctor, he also tweeted a link to this libertarian group's right on masks which challenges masks, talks about herd immunities. And I read it, here's a portion of it. It says that, we can defend against it, the coronavirus, by our immune systems and trusting those with stronger immune systems to protect the weaker despite the propaganda. Herd immunity was the standard before March, 2020. It is not a fringe concept.

But when you consider that we have to remind people this president in February knew exactly how contagious and deadly this virus was because there's a recording of him saying it.


And now we watch him day after day put thousands of people together with no social distancing and some of them with masks, many without, and stand in front of them and tell people that we are rounding the corner as we get nearly 70,000 new cases a day, hospitalizations climbing, deaths growing in some states, as well. The juxtaposition is standing in front him.

EL-SAYED: Yeah. You cannot care about humans. You cannot care about human life and know that what you are doing is putting people at risk for contracting a disease that you yourself got, and almost died from, right?

It was clear that the president had a serious case of COVID-19. He knows exactly what this is. In fact, he (AUDIO GAP) on this issue because he spent several days at Walter Reed.

Now, he is actively trying to bring people together in the midst of a surge of a pandemic, right soy they can celebrate his narcissism as he continues runs for re-election, despite thousands have died, many, many more livelihoods lost, and he knows what this is. The fact is is that he has never cared. There has never been any sort of focus on the morality of a question of leading to save people's lives.

And I mean, this is the frustrating thing, right? So, now, they're trying to maneuver the science and make it look just so, so that they could back justify this failure to even regard the humanity of people who support him, let alone the rest of us. And so, we've just got to -- to call this will what it is. There is no scientific basis for this. I keep coming on to the show and telling you why the stuff that's coming out of the White House task force is scientifically bunk.

But the question we have to be asking is why is it morally bunk. Why is it that they don't care about back adjusting science to meet the failure of a response to a pandemic? Why won't they just admit that when has gone on is wrong and maybe seek to try and make it better? It is just -- it's really frustrating to be talking to you seven months in.

BLACKWELL: I don't know that it's -- necessarily things coming out of the task force. It is this one doctor. We are listening, the president is listening to a radiologist, as you said, who has no expertise in infectious diseases when he has Dr. Birx, when he has Dr. Fauci, when there is the commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Hahn, when he's got the director of the NIH, Dr. Collins.

When you have experts, you go out and get a radiologist who says what you want to hear and you put him at the podium in the briefing room instead of the experts who have been doing this for decades.

The president may listen to Dr. Atlas about this. I haven't heard yet why the rest of us should. Dr. Abdul -- go ahead. Just wrap it up.

EL-SAYED: Victor, the only thing I was going to say is you're right. There's a task force and there's some great, credible scientists on the task force. And yet the only person we hear from is the least credible member, right?

So, you got to ask, well, why is that the stuff we keep hearing from the task force is seems through the least credible, right, most politically focused member of the task force. It's just super frustrating.

I really appreciate being on with you, guys.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

PAUL: We appreciate having your voice in this and your expertise to break this down and remind us how important this is and why it's so important.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, thank you so much.

EL-SAYED: Thank you.

PAUL: Absolutely.

All righty. Looking ahead to today, former Vice President Joe Biden is in North Carolina. Now, yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren told voters what's at stake in this election.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): And now, Donald Trump and the Republicans in the Senate are trying to steal another Supreme Court seat. They are trying to advance an extremist right-wing agenda, a big part of which is to overturn the Affordable Care Act, to end protection for people with pre-existing conditions, to end Roe versus Wade, and to crush our unions.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Jason Carroll has more on Biden's campaign and the surrogates who will be out this week.

Jason, get us up to speed.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, as expected, the campaign putting much of its time, resources, and energy into battleground states, and states where they're doing early in-person voting. They're seeing some of the same images coming out of places such as North Carolina.

For his part, Vice President Joe Biden will be in Durham, North Carolina, today, speaking to voters, telling them to be patient and to get out there and vote. Senator Kamala Harris will be doing the same on Florida on Monday. She'll be making two stops there.

Biden not out on the campaign trail on Saturday. Neither was Harris. Biden met with advisers from his campaign on Saturday.

Harris for her part, as you know, a couple of people within her orbit tested positive for COVID-19. So, out of an abundance of caution, they physically kept her off of the campaign trail for a few days. She did test negative for COVID-19 on Saturday.

So, looking ahead again, you've got Biden, he's going to be in North Carolina today.


You've got Senator Harris in Florida. She'll be there on Monday.

Jill Biden will be in Pennsylvania Monday. She will be in Michigan on Tuesday, Joe Biden.

But Wednesday is the big day. That is the day that former President Barack Obama will be campaigning for Biden. He's going to be doing that in Philadelphia. And a number of Democrats are saying, if there's one surrogate that you want out there stumping for you, that would be the one -- Victor, Christi.


PAUL: All right. Thank you so much, Jason.

So, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Senate Republicans are going to try putting up a stand-alone bill to help small businesses. They want to do that on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, they'll try to advance a separate $500 million stimulus package. Here's a thing, it's not likely that they'll have the votes to pass the aid in the Senate. Stimulus bill is the same measure House Democrats blocked last month.

BLACKWELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office says that she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for a little more than an hour last night over the phone. An aide says in a statement that there was encouraging news on testing, but there are differences they say that must be addressed in comprehensive manners in the next 48 hours. The statement also says the decisions must be made by the White House

in order to demonstrate that the administration is serious about reaching a bipartisan agreement that provides for Americans with the greatest needs during the pandemic.

PAUL: Well, still to come, there are only two states, just two in the U.S. where COVID-19 cases are trending in the right direction. Health experts are warning the surge has the potential to get much worse. We'll tell you what they're saying now.



PAUL: So, as the coronavirus surges across the country, there are just two states trending in the right direction at the moment. We're talking about Missouri and Vermont. They've recorded above 10 percent improvement in the number of cases over the past week.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. There are plenty of other states going in the wrong direction. The biggest jumps we saw in Connecticut and Florida, 50 percent or more growth week to week.

CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval is with us now from New York.

And listen, health experts for a while have been suggesting that the fall and winter will be the growth, the peak that was coming. It's here now. It's no longer on the way.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've warned it's been coming, Victor, and now, multiple experts saying the fall surge is secretary general under way, at least in some parts of the country. Just giving you a perspective here, when you look the numbers here, consider what we're seeing back in mid-September, about a month ago, with the daily average of new COVID-19 cases was about 34,000. That number today has gone up about 60 percent. So, 55,000 new COVID cases a day in the United States.


EL-SAYED: I'll be honest, I'm extremely worried. Epidemiologists have been predicting a fall spike for a long time. People are starting to move indoors, are starting to be lax on social distancing.

Now, you're starting to see spread everywhere. And so, you're going to see many multiple fold cases than we saw in the spring if this surge persists.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): President Trump has been on a rally blitz as ten states break COVID-19 records. In Minnesota, public health officials say they've so far traced at least 20 cases of the virus back to a rally held by the president last month or to related events.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: This is so heartbreaking because it was predictable and inevitable. That when you have people congregating en mass, not wearing masks, not doing physical distancing, not using hand sanitizer, those are the perfect conditions in which you get the spread of the coronavirus from one person to another. They've quickly become the super-spreader events.

SANDOVAL: New Mexico is reporting a 101 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations so far this month.

And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo conceded Saturday that the state would likely see an increase in the transmission rates as schools reopen and cooler weather drives people inside.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Dr. Fauci warned us that we may well get to 100,000 cases, and I suspect that we will because we're not doing anything to mitigate this, right? I also worry that, you know, what we see today is increasing in cases and they continue to increase. What we see from two weeks from now is escalating deaths.

SANDOVAL: On the vaccine front, Pfizer now says it won't seek emergency vaccine authorization before Election Day. It hopes to later in November.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR & DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Maybe by the end of November, we'll know whether any of the three vaccines that are in later stage phase-three trials, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, the Moderna mRNA vaccine, and the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccines, whether any of them are actually working and are safe.

Once we get the signal, then we can start to begin releasing it to the public possibly through emergency use authorizations.


SANDOVAL: Back in New York City, officials continue to be concerned about specific areas that are seeing a large number -- large COVID numbers here. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo introducing this new so-called micro-cluster strategy. In that case, they would have to apply mitigation efforts on a block-by-block basis versus an entire community, or neighborhood, Victor and Christi. The goal there would be to try to at least limit disruption, some of those regions perhaps not seeing such high numbers.

PAUL: OK, got it. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn toward the election now. This year voters are navigating new rules and restrictions enacted in the name of preventing voter fraud. But we'll tell you why some critics say it's less about preventing fraud and more about suppressing votes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a very well-organized, well staffed, well-resourced operation that once they get an idea they can spread it like a dandelion.



BLACKWELL: We are now 16 days out from Election Day, but already 15 percent of the total ballots cast for president in 2016 have already been cast.

PAUL: Uh-huh, more than 22 million ballots we're talking about have been cast already. This is across 45 states and the District of Columbia. This is according to a survey of ballot data by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalyst.

And we need to tell you, Catalyst is a data company. It provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics, and non-profit issue advocacy organizations.

BLACKWELL: Now, the information is coming in from 27 states that report party affiliation show that Democrats are leading the way with more than 5.4 million ballots cast so far. Republicans have cast more than 2.4 million votes.

Keep in mind polling shows that Democrats prefer voting early or by mail. Republicans prefer to vote on Election Day, and just because a Democrat casts a ballot, there's no guarantee that it is for the Democratic candidate.


Just keep that in mind when you look at the numbers.

PAUL: Uh-huh. Among 36 states reporting ballots cast by gender, more than 7.3 million men have voted, but they're outpaced by nearly 9 million women who have also cast ballots to date. Experts predict with all of that that we just gave you this larger turnout this election compared to 2016 and why, just look at your screen. It's scenes like this that suggest there is definitely voter enthusiasm here.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, we see these long lines all the time across the country. In Kansas, North Carolina, this weekend, Georgia, as well, Nevada kicked off early voting yesterday.

And to bring it back to Georgia, it's setting new early voting records with a more than 134 percent jump from this time in 2016.

PAUL: So we've been speaking to voters about what issues are driving them to the polls, who they're voting for.

BLACKWELL: And here's some of what we hearing --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need change in this country right now. Honestly, it's important for the younger people to come out, because this is -- it's our country to run at this point. It's not for the older generation anymore. It's us that are coming up now. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my first presidential election. I really

want to get out my right to vote. I'm excited to get out here this morning to come and cast my ballot and see the change that I want. And vote for the candidate that I think will, you know, get our country to a better place, to what I want to see happen in our country.

REPORTER: Do you minds sharing who that it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election for us is really about health care, and obviously, the pandemic, two very important subjects for us, and then racial equality, as well. We just felt it was -- this is an important election, and wanted to make sure our voices were heard, and came down and dropped off the ballots.

REPORTER: What does this election hinge on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Making America great again. I like everything that Trump has done for me. Don't like his Twitters and all, but I like what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's done so many great things that I have notion to complain about over the last -- I have nothing on this complain about over the last four years. Certainly don't want Biden or Harris.


BLACKWELL: All right. With me now to talk about the election, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, professor at Princeton, author of many, many books.

Julian, good morning to you it. Good to have you back.


BLACKWELL: Let's start here with what we heard from a couple of voters who were heading in to a Trump rally I believe that was in Michigan.

Listen, these Trump rallies, they are in states often with huge jumps in percentage of positives, we've got the sloppiness like we heard from Senator Perdue on Kamala Harris' name. We've even got -- put the picture up -- a crowd-surfing state rep in Georgia during a pandemic. He tweeted this out, for some reason he's proud of this.

And really anybody who goes to these things is not undecided, they're really Trump voters. Are they worth it to the campaign to have these displays repeatedly?

ZELIZER: Well, I think the rallies which have always been a way to energize President Trump during the campaign and to energize supporters have now become this symbolic moment where the campaign is trying to defy what the experts say, what scientists say, and show that they're taking a very different path on dealing with COVID.

So it's definitely not worth the human cost. But I think that's how the campaign thinks of these politically.

BLACKWELL: The Biden campaign, let's turn to that. The national polls showing often a double-digit lead across the country, leads in many of the swing states. But a memo was sent out by the campaign manager this weekend. It says that supporters should not become complacent because the very searing truth is that Donald Trump can still win this race. And every indication we have shows that this thing is going to come down to the wire.

And polls don't show a lot of undecideds. But what do we know about Trump voters beyond some of the problems in the state polls in 2016? Do we see that there are, as some call them, these shy Trump voters who aren't often showing up in these polls?

ZELIZER: Well, there's some evidence that like 2016 the polls aren't capturing all of President Trump's support. But just as important in the end, polls don't win elections, votes do.

And I think all great campaigns always act as if they're behind to make sure that there's no complacency come election day. And we know Trump supporters are very enthusiastic. They're very likely to come out on Election Day and cast their ballot.

And I think what Democrats are worried about that either because of the polls or because of fears of the pandemic and health concerns or fears of voter intimidation, you know, they don't ultimately come out in the next few weeks.


And so I think that's what the Biden campaign is struggling about. And I think that's a serious concern. We saw last time just a very narrow margin of voters turned this election, and I think Democrats are trying to prevent that from happening again.

BLACKWELL: So, Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin -- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, they had a conversation last week, lasted a little more than an hour. Still an impasse at passing some coronavirus relief bill.

A marker passed just a couple of days ago in which the president of the United States and the speaker of the House have not spoken to one another in a year.

I want you to listen to what the president promised as a candidate in 2016.


DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to get them in a room, and you have to get people to sign things. I hate what Obama does with gun legislation where he doesn't talk to anybody. He just goes out and signs like last time executive orders. In theory, you're supposed to -- you know, the old-fashioned way, get everybody into a room and getting that people agree on. Ronald Reagan did it with Tip O'Neill. I'm not saying I'll get along

with him. I'm not saying anything. All I'm saying is I'll make great deals and we'll get them done.


BLACKWELL: Ronald Reagan and Tim O'Neill, he says. We've got the photo of their last meeting in the cabinet room. Put this into historical context for us, and is there some precedent for a speaker and a president having not spoken, especially with as much as is on the table now in a year.

ZELIZER: No. I'm really hard-pressed to think of any comparable situation. Even in very tense moments like 2008 when Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi and President Bush were at odds on almost every issue. In the middle of the financial crisis, they were meeting. The lines of communication were open.

President Obama actually did meet with Speaker Boehner when relations with Congress were at an all-time low. And you can keep going back all the way to the 19th century. And these lines of communications are usually kept open.

So, this is an unusual moment and it's not good because we're in a crisis. So, it creates a degree of instability in our ability to govern.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, we just -- I got the wrap on our conversation. I'm going to tweet out the link to your piece on about the president's legacy which, of course, includes the vote that will come on Amy Coney Barrett this week. But you discuss how it stretches far beyond just the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts.

Julian Zelizer, always good to have you, sir.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. And today on "STATE OF THE UNION," Jake Tapper will have Lara Trump, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, and Fareed Zakaria. "STATE OF THE UNION" airs at 9:00 and 12:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: I want to tell you what's happening with the family of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT that was killed by Louisville police. They affect took part in a peaceful rally in New York yesterday and their intention was encouraging people to get out and vote. Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, joined activities at that event with a clear message. She says, change is necessary.


REV. STEPHEN GREEN, QUEENS UNTIL FREEDOM: We believe that going to the ballot box in massive numbers, in a collective, unified voice to talk about changing this nation and shifting it on a trajectory moving forward.


PAUL: The rally started outside the Trump International Hotel. It was organized by the social justice group Until Freedom.

And in Washington, D.C., yesterday, demonstrators had a few things they wanted the president to hear.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we are sicker. I think we are poorer. I think we are less happy. And I think that's all because of the Trump administration.


PAUL: That's just one of many women's marches that were happening across the country.

BLACKWELL: Also, how a former QAnon believer escaped what's called a virtual cult. We've got his story coming up.



PAUL: Look at the thousands of people here. They were actually gathering in cities across the country yesterday for this year's women's march. The event -- it was in honor of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It was also a protest of President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my country back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For more women to be in office. For more people to realize that our voice matters at the end of the day. And to go out and vote, man. That's what I want to see.


BLACKWELL: A former QAnon follower has revealed to CNN how the conspiracy theory hooked him in.

PAUL: Yeah. Here he is telling CNN's Donie O'Sullivan how the virtual cult is tearing families apart.


JITARTH JADEJA, FORMER QANON BELIEVER: Looking back, it seems so obvious that I was like probably in a deep depression when I found Q.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Jitarth Jadeja who is 32 said he found QAnon on the Internet in 2017. Though Australian, he had previously lived in the U.S. and was already interested in American politics.

JADEJA: I think superficially it did seem like it gave me comfort. I didn't realize the nefarious kind of impact it was having on me because it was very insidious how it slowly disconnected me from reality.


O'SULLIVAN: QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory with a growing online community of believers.


O'SULLIVAN: At the heart of the theory is Q, an anonymous insider who reportedly revealed information via cryptic posts. The theory claims there is a deep state within the U.S. government that is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, and that President Donald Trump is trying to take them down.

JADEJA: I would have been so happy to see Hillary Clinton dragged in front of a military tribunal. That's what bothers me to this day. How willing and happy and joyfully I would have reacted to something that I would normally hadn't want no part in.

O'SULLIVAN: Jadeja followed QAnon for over two years, long enough he says to share theories with his father.

JADEJA: We used to talk about it a lot. We'd show each other things like, did you see, that did you see that?

CINDY OTIS, VP OF ANALYSIS, ALETHEA GROUP: We tend to underestimate the extent to which these sorts of narratives are appealing. You have people who are essentially looking for answers. They want to know why bad things are happening in their lives.

And so, it's a very compelling narrative to say all of this is orchestrated. There's a cabal coming after you. They're trying to make your life miserable. You want an answer to why bad things are happening, here they are.

O'SULLIVAN: While there aren't good estimates for a number of Q followers, it's clear their ranks are growing. And now, the FBI has wondered the conspiracy theories like QAnon could very loyal motivate criminal, sometimes violent activity in the U.S.

For Jadeja, cracks had already begun to form about QAnon when he noticed illogical consistencies in theories. The turning point came when he watched a video that disproved the final part of the conspiracy he believed in.

JADEJA: That kind of like shattered me. Like I've never felt so down -- it was the worst feeling in my life. I'm like, I cannot trust my thoughts and emotions anymore. I don't know what to do. I was full of self-loathing.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): You obviously went down the q rabbit hole and got back out. For people who are very deep into entrenched and believe in it now, is there any way to sort of bring them back?

JADEJA: Yeah. There is. But it has to start with empathy and understanding, allowing them to keep their dignity, because otherwise, what's their incentive? You have to admit you were so wrong for so many years, and that you were made a fool of.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Jadeja says he feels deep guilt over sharing QAnon theories with his dad. Jadeja's father did not respond to CNN's multiple attempts to contact him.

JADEJA: And that is why this is a big problem. Not just because people are being taken in and their families are like being ripped apart. This is -- this is an existential battle between good and evil that these people think they're fighting.


O'SULLIVAN: And, you know, only now are social media companies taking action against QAnon. But, really, they're trying to close the barn door her after the horse has bolted. This conspiracy theory has been around for three years. People who I have spoken to at Trump rallies and QAnon events, people who believe this conspiracy theory say they first learned about it since the beginning of the COVID lockdown in March.

People have a lot more time on their hands, there's been a lot more time indoors, and they're spending a lot more time on line. They have seen this conspiracy theory on platforms like Instagram and Facebook and YouTube and Twitter.

So while it's good that the social media companies are taking steps now against QAnon, it might be a bit too little, too late -- Victor and Christi.



PAUL: So, if you're looking for a social distance way to relax, this shows how alone time in an isolation tank or float pool might be the thing to help you distress.


DR. SAHIB KHALSA, LAUREATE INSTITUTE FOR BRAIN RESEARCH: There's about 2,000 pounds of Epsom salt in the water, more salt than the Dead Sea. The salt will do all the work and it will keep right at the top of the water.

Floating does seem to modulate body signals, so it lowers your blood pressure. It eases muscle tension.

KADRA TOMILOV, FLOATATION THERAPY CLIENT: Each float I have done, I did experience being calm.

KHALSA: You look at individuals with anxiety disorders, and eating disorders and we found floating is safe for those individuals and that we see a pretty strong short-term reduction in anxiety after people float.

TOMILOV: I think stress is what brings all the sickness in people. Having children, working, it's a lot to deal with. When you nurture your body, you are doing something for yourself.

KHALSA: Certainly, we have a lot more information coming out these days than we did, say, 100 years ago, although the architecture of our brains hasn't fundamentally changed. I think there's a feeling from some people that there's a need to disconnect.

TOMILOV: It's not that scary. I mean, I'm a scared person. If I can do it, anybody can do it.



PAUL: Human kindness here from an 89-year-old who's playing the role of teacher during the pandemic. It includes Doug Garner here, aka, "Paw Paw".


He's tutoring his six-year-old great granddaughter in math. Her name is Tori. Maybe, fortunately, her "Paw Paw" has 89 years in experience in life to draw from, fortunately.


DOUG "PAW PAW" GARNER, FARMER: I was a carpenter. We had to use a lot of numbers, you know, in construction work.


PAUL: He says there was no -- there were no calculators back in his day. You counted on your fingers or on paper. Part of his lesson plan calls for hopping on a tractor, helping in a garden, canning vegetables and learning the whole time.


ALISON MABE, TORI'S MOM: Counting beans, corn, acorns. It's sweet to see a great grandpa helping their five or six-year-old granddaughter.


PAUL: I mean, think about the bonds that they're building. She will remember this forever.

And, by the way, Tori's mom says Paw Paw is doing a better job than she could be doing with her daughter right now.

So, just a little human kindness to remind you it's out there and spread the love. Thank you so much for being with us. We hope you make good memories