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New Day Sunday

New CDC Mask Guidance Brings Mix Of Relief And Questions; U.N. Security Council Set To Meet Today Over Escalating Violence; Tiger Spotted In Houston, Texas, Now In Hands Of Authorities; House To Vote On Legislation Creating Jan. 6 Commission This Week; Former Gaetz Associate, Joel Greenberg, Expected To Plead Guilty Monday. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 07:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome to your Sunday, your NEW DAY. I'm Christie Paul. We're grateful to have you here.


The escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict now on its seventh day. No end in sight as both sides continue exchanging fire. We'll tell you what the Biden administration is now saying about the violence.

PAUL: Yeah, and as more Americans unmask, there are questions about how the new CDC guidelines are going to be enforced here. And a key question emerging, can people be trusted to abide by that honor system?

SANCHEZ: Plus, substantial assistance. That's what a former associate of Matt Gaetz says he will give federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging investigation that includes a sex traffics probe. What that could mean for the Florida congressman.

PAUL: And it took days of searching and a mysterious phone call and an anonymous handover, but the formally missing tiger known as India has finally been recovered.


PAUL: If you haven't looked at the call calendar, it is Sunday, may 16th. And it's 7:00 a.m. You're up early, but we're grateful for it. Good morning to you.

SANCHEZ: Grateful you're with us.

Always a pleasure to be with you as well, Christi.

This morning, the U.N. Security Council is set to meet to discuss the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza as international concern escalates over a violent back and forth.

PAUL: Yeah, I want to show you some new video of what the Israel Defense Forces say is the home of Hamas's leader in Gaza being hit by an airstrike today. Now, the IDF says he was not hurt.

We're also seeing the moment journalists evacuated a 12-story building in Gaza, later leveled by Israeli war planes. The Associated Press is calling for evidence from the IDF that Hamas military intelligence assets were also inside. That was their reasoning, they said, for striking that building. Al Jazeera's acting director calls the strike, there it is, you see it there, a war crime.

SANCHEZ: Now, the Biden administration now facing growing international pressure to step up its intervention. President Biden saying that in calls with leaders in that region, that Israel has a right to defend itself but also that he's concerned about innocent Palestinians, including many children getting hurt or losing their lives.

The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu vowing the air strikes will continue as long as Hamas continues firing rockets.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks, and we will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is reinstated and restored.


SANCHEZ: We should note, Secretary of State Antony Blinken apparently calling the head of the Associated Press offering this, quote, his unwavering support for journalists and media organizations around the world, and he apparently noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones. He expressed relief that the Associated Press team on the ground in Gaza remains safe.

PAUL: I want to go live to Israel now. CNN's Hadas Gold is in the city of Ashdod where rocket sirens have gone off again this morning.

Hadas, talk to us about the pattern you're seeing there of some of the sirens going off. And glad that you're all okay, but what are you seeing this morning?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, we're 15 miles away from Gaza, which is to the south behind me. And this city, Ashdod, according to the military has received the highest number of red alert sirens since the conflict began just about seven days ago. Now, as you noted, already this morning, we got a red alert siren.

When you hear that siren go off in a place like Ashdod, you got about 45 seconds, they say, to get to some shelter place. We got to our shelter, heard at least four explosions. Some of them could have been impact, some could have been the Iron Dome intercepting them. About 90 percent of the rockets that could be landing in populated areas.

There have been around 3,000 rockets, the Israeli military said, have been fired from Gaza into Israel. This is at a pace and intensity that the Israeli military says they have not seen in previous conflicts. The IDF says it's responding with equal intensifying.

It says striking hundreds upon hundreds of targets in the Gaza Strip, it said rocket under pods as well as buildings that they say are housing Hamas militants. They have been releasing images which they say show Hamas using civilian locations to hide behind in order to hide their assets, in order to conduct what they say are terrorist activities against Israel.

But the death and the destruction is reaching horrific levels. In Gaza, according to the ministry of health there, there have been 181 deaths including 52 children. We have seen complete buildings destroyed, which, again, Israel says that they are hosting Hamas locations, but you can see just the destruction that these buildings are causing, and people are having to pick stuff out of the rubble, try to get survivors out of the rubble as well.


In Israel, ten people have been killed, including two children, and a soldier. And one of the buildings that the Israeli military destroyed is the al Jalaa building. This is the building you were mentioning that hosted the offices of the Associated Press, and al Jazeera.

Now, the Israeli military says they called ahead to give the people of that building time to evacuate. We're seeing some really dramatic video of the journalists trying to gather up their gear and get out of the building in time. The AP and al Jazeera saying none of their staff were hurt but it was close.

Now, the Israeli military is saying that that building also included some key Hamas intelligence assets and that is why they targeted that building. But the AP is asking for evidence of that because they say that in the time that they have been in the building they had never seen evidence of Hamas being there.

We have heard concern for multiple international media organizations as well as President Biden expressing support for independent media. The A.P. is saying that by their building being destroyed that the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because their staff will not have a place to report from.

But as we have been standing here, we have continued to hear airplanes flying overhead. As we said we have received a red alert siren. This city has received the highest number in red alerts in Israel thus far since this conflict began.

And just from what we are hearing and what we're seeing here in Ashdod, although there has been pressure diplomatically from the international community, it does not seem we're heading toward some sort of de-escalation anytime soon.

PAUL: All right. Hadas Gold there for us in Israel, do take care of yourself and your crew there. Thank you, Hadas.

The escalating violence there in Israel and Gaza is absolutely forcing the White House to escalate its response. Top administration officials have been working the phones to express their concerns, including President Biden before he was heading out to his home in Delaware yesterday.

SANCHEZ: Let's get right out to Wilmington, and CNN's Kevin Liptak who's traveling with the president. Kevin, the U.N. Security Council finally getting U.S. backing to meet and discuss this conflict. They will do so in just a few hours, but President Biden is still facing pressure even within his own party, especially within his own party to do more to confront Israel.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, and this is a situation that is taking on new urgency at the White House. I'm told the president and his aides growing increasingly worried about the rising number of civilian deaths as the violence intensifies, and you saw this urgency play out yesterday with the president placing phone calls to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

And now, this is the second time that the president had spoken to Netanyahu over the past four days, and in the language that the White House used to read out that call, you saw some important shifts. The White House said that the president raised his concerns three times about developments on the ground there in Israel.

They didn't use the word concerns at all on Wednesday when the president first called Netanyahu. Another word they used was Palestinians. They didn't mention the Palestinians on Wednesday during the first phone call.

They said the president noted this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian individuals, including children. He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection. That, of course, after an Israeli airstrike leveled the building that hosted the bureaus of the AP, and Al Jazeera.

Now, with Abbas, the president expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom and economic opportunity that they deserve. So these are subtle shifts but they are important.

Now, President Biden is, of course, not the first president to deal with this situation. But he came into office not necessarily prioritizing starting a peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. He's more focused instead and I'm told that the White House is placing a lot of stock in these talks between regional countries and parties on the ground to broker some kind of a ceasefire.

Ultimately, the president's influence here, any U.S. president's influence would be somewhat limited. The U.S. doesn't engage directly with Hamas. They classify them as a terrorist organization. There is an American envoy on the ground in Israel today from the State Department meeting with senior officials. There's no current U.S. ambassador in Israel. We're told that that current nomination could come in the next two weeks or so. Ultimately, what the president wants is countries like Egypt and Qatar

to help foster these talks between the two sides, hope to come to some kind of agreement to stop more violence, the president has been closely monitoring those phone calls. American officials have placed dozens of calls to the region over the past week or so.

The president keeping very close tabs on those conversations. He updated Netanyahu and Abbas on those talks in his phone call yesterday -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Kevin Liptak reporting from Wilmington, Delaware, thanks so much for the update.


Pivoting back to the United States now -- just days after the CDC announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or socially distance indoors or outdoors.

PAUL: Yeah, and big retailers and other businesses such as Walmart, Trader Joe's, Starbucks, they're saying channel vaccinated customers can go mask free. Now, much of this, think about it, relies on the honor system.

Here's CNN's Polo Sandoval to explain.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the nearly 122 million Americans now fully vaccinated, this weekend came with a mix of relief and in some cases some questions, with only 37 percent of the country fully vaccinated, is it too soon to unmask indoors, asks Wilson Hung.

WILSON HUNG, NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT: I work in an elementary school. I think I will probably wear a mask until I feel it's safe enough to not. It's not just to protect me but to protect, protect the ones around us.

SANDOVAL: All over the country, Americans like Hung are choosing to keep the mask on after the CDC announced it's okay to lose it in doors if you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and in most circumstances. Some experts maintain it's a personal decision, recommending you look up transmission rates in your community or county. If in doubt, if it's high, consider some activities to be risky, and keep the mask on. If not, feel free to unmask like David Harris.

DAVID HARRIS, NEW YORK CITY TOURIST: I feel comfortable, but I understand that some people might not feel comfortable. I feel comfortable outdoors and I think in some settings, indoors might feel uncomfortable if it's particularly crowded.

SANDOVAL: At least 19 states lifted mandates for vaccinated people following the CDC's new guidance. Others still studying the recommendations before deciding. Businesses facing some tough decisions of their own. A grocery chain's Stew Leonard's mask signs are gone but not actual masks.

STEW LEONARD JR., PRESIDENT & CEO, STEW LEONARD'S: A lot of our customers are a little uncomfortable walking through the store with no mask. So, all of our team members, we have 2,500 team members, they're all required to wear masks right now. We're not going to throw people out of the store if they come in with no masks.

SANDOVAL: The new challenge will be knowing if those discarding their masks are fully vaccinated.

The Biden administration maintains Americans will be on an honor system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm also, like, a little unsure about that because I definitely feel like you're going off of what people are saying and like, there's no really way to hold somebody accountable to something like that.

SANDOVAL: Among some doctors, similar concerns.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: I think now we're asked to trust other adults in a situation where there's every reason not to trust a lot of people right now because there's so much denialism out there. There are so many people who don't wear a mask, don't get vaccinated because they don't believe this crisis is real or they don't care.

SANDOVAL: At least seven states have reached the Biden administration's goal to vaccinate 70 percent of their adult population with at least one shot. New Jersey became the latest this weekend.


SANDOVAL (on camera): And last night, another round of fresh guidance from the centers for disease control and prevention. This one having to do with schools offering in-person teaching to students. The CDC recommending they continue masking up for the remainder of the 2021 school year. The concern is currently children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive a vaccine -- Christi.

PAUL: All right. Polo Sandoval, good to see you, thank you.

SANDOVAL: So let's talk to Dr. Anand Swaminathan about all of this. He's an emergency room physician.

It's so good to see you again, Doctor. Thank you for being here.

Do you trust people enough since we're kind of on this honor system?


PAUL: Yeah.

SWAMINATHAN: Should we trust people, can we trust people? It's really hard to say that. The people who were not masking before these recommendations came out are still not going to be masking, and we don't know if they're vaccinated or not. There are clearly some association between lower vaccination rates and not using masks in certain parts of the country. So, we really have to take all of those things into account.

We also have to understand that the CDC recommendations are based on science. They are being guided by science. The problem is that they are good recommendations and they provide safety for people who are vaccinated in places where cases are low, and vaccine rates are high.

And, you know, you just mentioned, New Jersey, we're up to about 70 percent with at least one shot. That means there are lots of places in the country that are much lower than either the 37 percent fully vaccinated or the 55, 56 percent that are partially vaccinated. We have to look at that on an individual basis, which is really difficult on an individual basis to make that discussion, that determination, is it safe for me to go unmasked?

And really, for those who are fully vaccinated, this is going to be okay. It's going to be okay for you to go indoors, even if there are other people unmasked. It's for the people who are unvaccinated, haven't gotten vaccinated yet that don't have the same safety going into indoor spaces, and unfortunately, the cloth masks that most of us are using, they protect everyone around us and they don't protect us.

So, for unvaccinated folks, it really creates a hard position to be in.


Should I go indoors when there are lots of people who are unmasked? Is that going to be safe?

PAUL: So, here's the question, whether we can get to herd immunity, right, and what it's going to take to do it.

There are states going to great lengths to entice people to get vaccinated. I want to share a couple with you. First of all, because just this week, New York City is offering tickets to sporting events and popular attractions and free subway rides to get people to designated vaccination sites. You've got Maine's governor, Janet Mills, giving out free fishing licenses, state park day passes, gift cards to places like LL Bean.

And then you've got Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, this is a big one, people are talking about, he's offering state drawings for two really big prizes, one is a full ride scholarship to state colleges and universities. And if you're over 18, a lottery drawing for a million dollars. The AJC here in Georgia is reporting that Governor Brian Kemp is considering, quote, a variety of options. That's a quote from somebody in his office.

How hopeful are you that these kind of enticements will actually get people to vaccination sites?

SWAMINATHAN: Any incentive we can create is helpful. It will convince some people to go and get vaccinated. How many? We don't really know.

We've got some data saying $50 would make people who are on the fence decide to get a vaccination. Maybe if we double that to a hundred, maybe that's even a bigger bonus. Maybe if we have a stimulus package around getting vaccinated. There are a lot of different ways to look at this.

At this point, we have moved past that phase or we're mostly past the phase of people who want the vaccine no matter what. It doesn't matter whether there's an incentive or not, they're going to get it.

And so, we're moving into the carrot phase, we have to offer people something more to convince them to do it. I don't know exactly what the best incentives are. I don't think anybody knows what the best incentives are. But those are going to be necessary. The other side is what sticks should we be imposing as well? So, how should there be punishments to not getting vaccinated. And we should have those or not?

And that's something that I think is going to come. The federal government has said they are not going to do a vaccine passport. Private companies are going to create these. That's a help for businesses to say who's vaccinated, who isn't, where is it safe, and also for individuals to know I'm walking into a place that requires some sort of proof of vaccination, and that makes me safe in that space.

I think there's -- to me, it seems unimaginable that we don't work towards some kind of a system that verifies that people are vaccinated.

PAUL: And let's talk about kids as well. Because this new Pfizer vaccine that, you know, could be -- could give vaccinations to kids 12 to 16 now, give us a reality check. Would you please, on COVID and kids?

We have heard so many different things, through the whole process that kids don't transmit the virus as easily, that kids don't get the virus as easily. But at this stage of the game, where we are now with this virus, what is the reality for kids and COVID?

SWAMINATHAN: Just like kids and COVID is everything else in COVID, nothing is black and white. Everything has grays. Everything has nuanced. Younger kids probably transmit at a lower rate than older kids do. But older kids 12 and over, probably transmit similarly to adults.

And so, there is the dichotomy, and we have seen outbreaks in communities where kids are passing it to other kids. They're spending more time together as adults are getting vaccinated. Kids are coming together. More families are coming together more, which is creating transmission. So kids clearly transmit.

There are lots of kids who get sick from this, 130,000 hospitalizations over the pandemic. That's a huge number. That's more than what you see with seasonal flu. And we look at deaths, while deaths are low amongst the under 18 group, it is higher than most years with influenza.

So COVID is worse than the flu no matter what anybody says. That data is there. The CDC has lots of data to show that. So, yes, kids can get sick. They can get very sick. They can die.

But most are not. That doesn't mean we shouldn't get them vaccinated because that will help to add to that herd immunity.

And, Christi, I'll tell you, I got my son vaccinated on the 14, the first day he was eligible as over 12, we went, we got a vaccine, and I just can't wait for my other two to be old enough to get their vaccines too.

This is what we need to do to bring safety to our kids, to put them back in school but also keep them in school. To get them back to their usual activities. This is the safe way to do that.

PAUL: Yeah, there are a lot of parent who would like to see that happen.

Dr. Anand Swaminathan, we always appreciate you being here. Thank you.


SANCHEZ: Something to watch for in Washington this week, the first full week with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in a leadership role in the GOP. So, will she be pushing Trump's agenda or looking to the future? We'll discuss.

PAUL: And, listen, it took nearly a week to find India.


That tiger in Texas is safe and sound we're happy to tell you now. But we have some details for you on how this wild animal search came to an ending. It may not actually be over yet based on all of the aspects of this story.

We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a long week, we're looking for this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really has. But we got him, and he's healthy.


SANCHEZ: If you haven't been keeping up with this story over the last week, you may want to sit down. This is India, the tiger that authorities in Houston have been searching for, for several days now. It's finally in the safety of the city's animal shelter.

PAUL: I still can't help it. I think we all put ourselves in that position of looking out the window and seeing that, right?

So, CNN's Rosa Flores is with us now.

Police say the owner of this 9-month-old Bengal tiger, and when you look at that and think, it's nine months old, did surrender the animal last night.


What do we know about what happens from this point on?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's all a little complicated, just like everything with this story and the circumstances are a little sketchy as well.

But let me take you through it. According to the Houston Police Department, it was a concerned citizen who called the police about this tiger. And this concerned citizen knows Gia Cuevas. Now, Gia Cuevas is the wife of Victor Hugo Cuevas, the man linked to this missing tiger.

Now, for the past week, his attorney has been denying that Cuevas owns the tiger. Well, yesterday, police confirmed that Cuevas is the owner of this tiger, and that Gia has known the whereabouts of this tiger all along. Take a listen.


COMMANDER RON BORZA, HOUSTON POLICE: The tiger was passed around a little bit, but ultimately, Gia knew where the tiger was at all times. If it wasn't with her, she knew where it was at.


FLORES: Now, despite the fact that you just heard that from police that Cuevas knew where the tiger was all along, police say they will not be filing charges. Having a tiger in Houston is a misdemeanor. Police say they will not be citing Cuevas either.

Now, as for the tiger, according to police, the transfer of the tiger to authorities happened on the west side of town, and this tiger was in a very small cage and it was agitated. Now this tiger is beyond the gates that you see behind me now, Boris and Christi. We're expecting for this tiger to get a medical evaluation before it's turned over to a sanctuary later today.

SANCHEZ: Glad it all turned out okay, Rosa. I'm sure the tiger king people are scrambling to the phone to get the rights to the story for the sequel. It is bizarre. We appreciate you bringing it to us.

PAUL: Well done, Rosa. Thank you.

FLORES: You're welcome.

PAUL: Listen, we could see something happen in D.C. this week that we haven't seen in a long time, compromise on Capitol Hill. The vote that could actually bring lawmakers together, we'll talk about it.



PAUL: Listen, there is a big vote on Capitol Hill this week. House lawmakers say a compromise deal is on the table to create an independent commission that will investigate the deadly January 6th attack on Capitol Hill.

SANCHEZ: Let's get go now to Capitol Hill and CNN's Daniella Diaz. She joins us now.

Daniella, there was gridlock over the formation of this panel for months, ultimately, a deal announced on Friday afternoon. What specific terms were agreed to?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: A huge breakthrough indeed on this, Boris. Look, this is huge news because the leaders of each party, you know, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been trying to negotiate on this since the insurrection happened on January 6th.

And you know, for a while, we didn't even know if they were going to be able to reach a deal on this. But they actually appointed two members of their House Homeland Security Committee to reach a deal and negotiate on this. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of that committee, negotiated with John Katko, the Republican ranking member of that committee, and they reached a deal and announced this on Friday.

I want to talk a little bit about what's going to be on this commission, this 9/11 style commission to investigate the insurrection. The commission would include a ten-member panel with half appointed by Democratic congressional leaders including the chair, and half by Republicans including the vice chair.

The panel would have the power to issue subpoenas if they are signed off by both the chair and vice chair. The chair is going to be a Democrat. The vice chair will be a Republican. And the commission would be tasked with issuing a final report by the end of this year, making it a quick time line for the panel to put out its final product.

You know, after the agreement was announced on Friday, reporters spoke with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to get his take on the deal. He said he was still looking at it, but that is not stopping Democrats from putting this to a vote this week.

They plan to vote on this -- creating this 9/11 style commission that would investigate the events on the insurrection on January 6th and the events leading up to it, and they're going to vote on a $2 billion supplemental funding bill that would improve and increase Capitol security.

The bottom line here is this is a major breakthrough, bipartisan deal, you know, bipartisanship is rare here these days, and here is something that happened this week and it's also major because negotiations had been stalled for so long on this -- Boris, Christi.

SANCHEZ: Rare bipartisanship, indeed. Daniella Diaz, reporting from Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's dig deeper and discuss with Alex Burns. He's a national political reporter for "The New York Times."

Alex, we appreciate you being with us this morning.

Congressional leaders --


SANCHEZ: Good morning. Congressional leaders were at odds for months over this commission. House Speaker Pelosi ultimately making some notable concessions. As we heard from Daniella a moment ago, it's unclear if Republican Leader McCarthy is on board.

So, what is your read on this? Ultimately, do you think it passes with his support?

BURNS: Well, Boris, I'm not sure it will pass with his support, but I do think it will pass the House. The Democrats have control there. The minority, Republicans, do not have a lot of instruments for stopping this.

And it's not clear that there is the appetite among Republicans for really waging a fight against this, that vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, John Katko, who negotiated the deal with his Democratic counterpart, Bennie Thompson, is respected in his conference.

And frankly there are not a whole lot of substantive arguments against proceeding with an inquiry like this, Boris, they're really just political ones, concerns that this could be embarrassing to the Republican Party or embarrassing to former president Trump.

But you clearly have seen among the rank and file House Republicans who, yes, they're overwhelmingly aligned with Donald Trump, and quite far to the right. A willingness to entertain the importance of actually looking into what happened on January 6th as it was for many of them an attack on them as well.

SANCHEZ: On that note, Alex, House Republicans theoretically could be voting on this commission less than a week after they booted out Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her role in leadership, a clear sign that the party is still behind former President Trump. She was punished for telling the truth about his nonsensical claims of election fraud.

She vowed during an interview with our colleague Jake Tapper that she would prevent Trump from getting to the Oval Office. But at this point, if Trump ran again, he would have a very good chance of winning the nomination.

So, do you think this report could hold weight in changing the popularity of former President Trump among Republicans?

BURNS: Well, I think that it really depends on just how deep the commission delves, just how willing it would be to use the subpoena power that Daniella alluded to.

The idea that you have the power to compel testimony from people that, you know, could include figures like Kevin McCarthy, figures like Mike Pence, but you need sign off from both sides, it is sort of a daunting obstacle and the fact that there is a bipartisan compromise to create this commission does not necessarily mean that there will be the same sort of spirit of bipartisanship that would actually let the commission function and do its job.

So I think that's the big task looking over the horizon, even if this clears the House, even if it clears the Senate. The lawmakers that I talked to, Boris, think it is likely to go forward, that there is likely to be some form of commission and panel, but the seriousness of it, I think the comparison to the 9/11 commission is frankly a really high bar for any inquiry of this kind to meet.

SANCHEZ: Alex, there's also been this awkward, weird sophomoric tension on Capitol Hill between Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Greene confronting AOC in the halls of Congress.

You say this spat clearly shows how deep the GOP's internal problems go and you've been speaking with Republican lawmakers and strategists about what this means for winning future elections. I'm curious about what they're telling you?

BURNS: Well, the reality is Boris, that Marjorie Taylor Greene is behaving in a manner that is obviously totally inappropriate for a member of the House, that it's straight up harassment of one of her colleagues, and the fact that she is somebody who is not just a member of the Republican conference but that there are other members of the Republican conference that stand up to defend her, and defend her behavior shows that there is a really, you know, I don't know that it's a massive bloc, but it's significant and obviously very vocal bloc of members of that conference who are simply way outside the mainstream.

The leadership knows this, strategists tasked with winning future elections knows this. They kind of wish there was some way to just make her go away. But as far as I can tell, there's nobody developing a strategy for making that happen.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, that's part of what Liz Cheney has been lamenting during this series of interviews that she's been doing. She feels the Republican Party is leading into Trumpism with bombast, and not much substance and these social media stunts like we're seeing from Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Alex Burns, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

BURNS: Thanks a lot. PAUL: So, a former friend of Congressman Matt Gaetz just struck a deal

in a sex trafficking case. He's agreed to plead guilty and could give up named prosecutors. The question is what does that mean for the Florida lawmaker.

We're talking about that with Elie Honig, next.



PAUL: Forty-three minutes past the hour right now.

Joel Greenberg, the former associate of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, is set to appear on federal court tomorrow. This is happening in Florida, and he's expected there to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors. Sources say as part of the deal, Greenberg could cooperate with investigators looking into whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old and broke sex trafficking laws.

We need to point out Gaetz has vehemently denied all of this.

CNN legal analyst, and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Elie Honig, with us.

Elie, it is so good to see you. Thank you for making time for us this morning.

First of all, when we look ahead to what's going to happen tomorrow. We know that Greenberg is pleading guilty to six charges. They include identity theft, wire fraud, sex trafficking of a minor.

Prognosticate whether you think this deal is going to move forward because Greenberg has some of his own skeletons obviously.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, he's got a closet full of skeletons, Christi.

Yeah, this plea deal is certain to move forward at this point. They have a signed plea agreement. It's an 86-page document. It's been signed by the prosecutors, by Joel Greenberg, by his lawyer. They had Joel Greenberg initial every single page of that.

The only way this does not happen is if Joel Greenberg has a last second change of heart, which is disastrous because he has admitted the crimes to prosecutors, or two, if prosecutors learn something new that they didn't already know or know that Joel Greenberg has lied to them or withheld information.

Both of those things, though, are extremely unlikely.


I do expect this plea to go forward tomorrow.

PAUL: And because he has a bit of a credibility issue, obviously, I'm assuming that if you're prosecuting this case, let's say, Elie, you're going to want to look for some sort of corroboration of the things that he's saying.

Does the ex-girlfriend fill that spot?

HONIG: She helps, yeah, Christi. And corroboration, you said the exact right word. That is the key with any cooperating witness, especially Joel Greenberg.

I mean, I've dealt with many, many cooperating witnesses. Joel Greenberg based on the paperwork would be among the absolute worst in terms of the crimes he committed, the dishonesty he has displayed, of course, the sex trafficking of a minor is a heinous crime.

And so, what you need to do is back up a witness like that every way possible, documents, e-mails, texts, and other witnesses, and if this ex-girlfriend independently supports some of the things that Joel Greenberg says, that will help bolster his credibility, that's important to prosecutors.

PAUL: So as we say, Gaetz has vehemently denied this, but Gaetz is talking publicly as well. So are there any red flags in what you have heard him say thus far?

HONIG: Yeah, he would be better served not to talk about all. The denials are fine. He's absolutely entitled to the presumption of innocence.

He has that presumption even as of this moment. He has not been charged with anything. And if he ever does get charged, he's, of course, entitled to a trial to all of his constitutional rights.

It is not smart for him to be out there talking. He can't possibly help himself.

For example, remember the day after, the day of these allegations surfacing, he went on Tucker Carlson's show on Fox, and did an interview, and he acknowledged the existence of some woman who claimed he had dinner with Tucker Carlson with. I mean, that in itself is an admission that ultimately can be used against him.

So if I'm his attorney and I'm sure his attorneys are asking him, advising him to keep quiet, but you can't force a client to do something. You can just advise them.

PAUL: Real quickly, the Justice Department investigation, and this is what's interesting, it goes back to the Trump administration and to then Attorney General William Barr, how does that play into this? Because do partisan politics, do they go out the window as an excuse here?

HONIG: They should. I mean, he's still using it, Matt Gaetz, he's still saying it's a witch hunt. He says everyone from the Trump DOJ to the current DOJ to, quote, the establishment is trying to get him. So he'll continue to play the blame game but that's an important fact to keep in mind. This investigation was started under the Department of Justice while Donald Trump was in office.

PAUL: Okay. Elie Honig, we so appreciate your perspective. Thank you so much. Have a good day.

HONIG: Thank you, Christi -- thanks, Christi.

PAUL: Sure.

SANCHEZ: The last 12 months have been tough on a lot of folks, but for one high school student in California, this last year was especially difficult.


UNIDENTIFED MALE: We were moving from hotel to hotel, kind of begging them not to kick us out.


SANCHEZ: But this story has a happy ending you will not want to miss. That is next in the good stuff.

Stay with us.



PAUL: On tonight's all new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA", W. Kamau Bell visits Portland, Oregon, looks into the dynamics of history of activism, civil disobedience and protest in America. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Militia funnel. But on top level of this funnel, there are a lot of mainstream issues that bring people to movement.

Guns is a huge one. People are really concerned about their Second Amendment rights or land use. Main Street white suburban anxiety but then you go down to the next level of the funnel and it is the hatred of the federal government.

And you go down another level and it is like all of the Nicholas Cage movies, right? Some cabal, some secret conspiracy.

And then down the next level and it is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This is a global Jewish conspiracy to deprive people of their rights.

And you down the bottom of the funnel is the revolutionaries. So the idea of this model, the more people we could bring in on mainstream issues, you could convince them to slide down to the bottom.

So what we're seeing now is a sort of acceleration of the movement from the top to the bottom.


PAUL: Don't miss "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA". It's tonight at 10:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

And we do want to get you some good stuff today. And we want to tell but this high school senior. Oh, my gosh. He's in California. He's overcome such odds -- homelessness and the coronavirus.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it started with Omar Bahena's family lost their home after his dad got hurt on the job. He says they moved around from hotel to hotel and even had to sleep in RV's and outside at certain points. Then his family tested positive for COVID-19.

We're happy to say that Omar is one of 30 high school seniors to be named a 2021 Edison Scholar and the winner of a $40,000 scholarship.

PAUL: He plans to study electrical engineering in the fall and accepted to a program with NASA.

Omar, congratulations to you. We need good stuff and he's one of those that gives us inspiration for sure.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, hard work perseveres especially after a year that led us to so many questions, still confusion about whether to mask or not to mask at this point. And that was the big question that Dr. Fauci kept facing all week long after the CDC rolled out its new guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans.

The news, of course, is exciting but it left many with a lot of questions and, of course, Saturday night live had some fun with that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, we're four friends from three different households.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all half vaxxed and traveled by train from Florida to the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of us is old and severely at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And one of us is a baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how many of us should wear masks and in which order?




SANCHEZ: Which one was the baby and what train are they taking to the U.K.? PAUL: That is a whole other question, isn't it, Boris. It is always so

good to see you on the morning and we hope that you make good memories today.

SANCHEZ: Always a pleasure to join as well, Christi.

We hope you'll stay with us for "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY WITH ABBY PHILLIP". It starts in just a few moments.

Have a great day.