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New Day Sunday

White House Reduces Size Of Infrastructure Proposal To $1.7 Trillion In A Counteroffer To GOP Lawmakers; George Floyd's Family To Visit White House Tuesday; Senate Could Vote This Week On January 6th Insurrection Commission; Rep. Greene Compares House Mask Mandate To Holocaust; Three Killed, Five Injured In Shooting At Youngstown, Ohio Bar; India Surpasses 26 Million COVID-19 Cases, 299,000 Deaths; Two Doses Of Pfizer Or AstraZeneca Vaccine "Highly Effective" Against India Variant; Biden Administration Touts "Quiet" Diplomacy For Helping Stop Gaza Conflict. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired May 23, 2021 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. Welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Boris Sanchez. President Biden making a major push on the economy this week and we are expecting his first federal budget just days away. We'll tell you what to look out for.

PAUL: Also, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene compares mask wearing to the Holocaust and she's not breaking down.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a new strain of coronavirus picking up steam globally. A new study confirming that vaccines could be a big help in protecting us.

PAUL: Also, we're going to meet two pastors taking on the fight against Qanon.

It is Sunday, May 23rd. We are so grateful to have you waking up with us. I know it's early but we'll keep going here. Good morning, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Good morning, Christi. We hope you got your coffee and hopefully a warm breakfast, if not, a night cap and you're maybe just winding down after a busy night out. Who knows?

It is shaping up to be a busy week in Washington. President Biden focused on revitalizing the U.S. economy, and he's traveling to your home state of Ohio, Christi, on Thursday to sell his recovery plan. On Friday, the White House is then set to release a new budget proposal.

PAUL: And all of this as the Biden administration has now cut the size of their infrastructure and jobs package. White House officials presented Republican lawmakers with a counteroffer last week. They chopped some $550 billion off the price tag.

SANCHEZ: Yes. The White House saying that new offer was made -- quote -- "in the interest of finding bipartisan common ground." That chop to the offer though still roughly a trillion dollars over what Republicans have been saying that they would go for. Both sides still very far apart.

PAUL: No doubt. CNN's Jasmine Wright is following all of this, and joining us now from the White House. Jasmine, it is so good to see you this morning. So, we know that there's this real busy week ahead for the president. Walk us through what we're going to see.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, President Biden will try to refocus the attention on his domestic priorities. That's after last week was really derailed with foreign policy for -- so a big week ahead. Let's get into it.

On Monday, President Biden will visit the FEMA headquarters to receive a briefing on the Atlantic hurricane outlook as the season approaches. On Tuesday, President Biden will mark the one year anniversary of George Floyd's death by hosting the family here at the White House.

On Thursday he travels to Cleveland for remarks on the economy. And on Friday, the White House unveils their full budget that looks further his top priorities like racial equity, public education, climate change, and economic growth.

Now, on Tuesday, Christi and Boris, is also the self-imposed deadline for when the president said he wanted to see a bill done on that George Floyd policing reform. But lawmakers just don't seem to be able to hit that mark. They don't have a deal.

Now, one official told me yesterday that President Biden spoke to one negotiator, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, on Friday, where they discussed the process and the progress. Booker told the president, the official said, that they wouldn't -- excuse me, that they're not on track to hit their mark but that progress is being made.

Now, on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if they still had confidence in negotiations. Take a listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, it's unlikely as they have conveyed as well, we're going to meet the timeline that the president outlined in his speech. But we have confidence in the negotiators, and we have seen them convey publicly that they feel the vibes are good and they're continuing to make progress.


WRIGHT: So, the question going into this week, really the unanswered question, is what happens with this infrastructure push? One official told me this week that the ball is now in Republicans' court after President Biden and the White House officials delivered Republicans that counter offer that reduced it from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion.

But, of course, Republicans did not perceive that very well. They said it was well above what they believed they could get bipartisan support for. Remember Republicans offered something around the $800 billion range. $1.7 is basically double that size. So the question is, how can these two parties that are now so far apart find compromise and meet in the middle? Boris, Christi.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Jasmine. The big question also is how do you define infrastructure? Not a lot of agreement there. Reporting from the White House, Jasmine Wright. Thanks so much.

This week another point of disagreements. The Senate could vote on legislation to investigate the January 6th attack on the Capitol, but it is likely not going to have much Republican support.


PAUL: Yes. And there's this ongoing feud within the GOP that seems to be escalating now. It's fueled by new comments from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who compared mask wearing to the Holocaust. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux walks us through this.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Boris. As the Senate goes into session this week with little or no chance to passing a bipartisan bill calling for an independent commission investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, the party's most vocal are taking on each other over the issue as to whether or not Republicans to tell the truth, can be honest about not only the current events of the day but also history as well.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney who was recently ousted in her number three position in the House and has since embraced her new role as the standard bearer for her party calling out Trump's lies, she is now taking on freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for her recent comments comparing the House's ongoing mask mandate to the Holocaust.

Greene said on the "Christian Broadcasting Network" show, "The Water Cooler," quote -- "We can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about."

Jewish groups immediately demanded that Greene retract her statement as well as apologize tweeting this saying, "You can never compare health related restrictions with yellow stars, gas chambers and other Nazi atrocities. Such comparisons demean the Holocaust and contaminate American political speech."

Saturday, Congresswoman Liz Cheney also weighing in tweeting this, saying, "This is evil lunacy." Cheney is one of the few Republicans who is calling on her Senate colleagues to support this bill for this independent commission on the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol, but most in the Senate, those Republicans saying this is dead on arrival. Christi, Boris.

PAUL: Suzanne, thank you so much. Now, after what are deemed very insensitive comments comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene didn't apologize when speaking to a reporter yesterday rather she doubled down.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We shouldn't be having this kind of treatment. No one should be treated like a second class citizen for saying I don't need to wear a mask, or saying that my medical records are my privacy based on my HIPAA rights, and so I stand by all of my statements. I said nothing wrong. And I think any rational Jewish person didn't like what happened in Nazi Germany, and any rational Jewish person doesn't like what's happening with overbearing mask mandates and overbearing vaccine policies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you understand though why some would be upset and offended by the comment?

GREENE: Well, do you understand how people feel about being forced to wear masks or being forced to have to take a vaccine or even have to say that whether they have taken it or not? These are just things that shouldn't be happening in America. This is a free country.


PAUL: Anita Kumar with us now, White House correspondent and associate editor for "Politico." Anita, it is so good to have you back here. So, first of all, I want to listen to what Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez said to Jim Acosta last night.


REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): Obviously, I disagree wholeheartedly with that response. The Holocaust is a tragic event that's incredibly painful to the Jewish community here in the United States and around the world. Six million Jews died because of it. Nobody is going to die because of wearing mask.


PAUL: We have Liz Cheney as Suzanne had said calling it evil lunacy. We had Republican Adam Kinzinger saying it was absolute sickness. And then we had Representative Jim McGovern in a tweet saying this, "Representative Greene's anti-Semitic language comparing the systematic murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust to wearing a mask is beyond disturbing. She is a deeply troubled person who needs to apologize and resign. @GOPLeader" -- meaning Kevin McCarthy -- "needs to address her anti-Semitism."

Are you getting word, Anita, that there's any indication the Leader McCarthy will actually address this or that there will be any consequence for the words that she's using?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, POLITICO: Well, you're right. We haven't heard from the Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. I would suspect that he does not want to talk about this. This is -- feels like one of the same things we have seen over and over again, when Marjorie Taylor Greene makes these controversial comments. [06:10:01]

But not just her, when we have heard other controversial comments. It's this split in the party where the Republican Party, the leadership of the party doesn't want to get on one side. They don't want to face the backlash from some of these supporters that support her or even former President Trump who supports her. Obviously, she strongly supports former President Trump.

It's the same schism in the party that we have been seeing over and over again. I would not expect a lot of Republicans this coming week to talk about that. You will hear from a lot of Democrats though obviously.

PAUL: Well -- but, I mean, between Representative Gimenez, Cheney, Kinzinger, some are certainly coming out. What does this tell you about -- really we ask it often but it seems to be a very fluid issue, the state of the GOP. I mean, is there any indication that Marjorie Taylor Greene specifically in some of the things she says is causing a larger rift than there has been in the past?

KUMAR: Yes. She's definitely causing that larger rift. I would mention that some of those people that you have talked about, of course, Liz Cheney and others are -- you know, those that always are coming out now, right? They're the ones that are vocal. They're vocal against her. They're vocal against President Trump. So, we haven't seen a huge rift. I mean, if we -- if we see some of these other leaders coming out that would be something.

But you're exactly right. This is exactly what the party does not want. Every time there's a statement like this, every time there's a rift like this, it takes the Republican message away from what they want it to be.

Opposing President Biden's policies, his tax increase proposals, his spending plans, other things that they don't agree with that they think voters might care about. So, you know, whatever does happen with this particular comment, it is continuing that rift and it's taking the party away from what they want -- what they want their agenda to be about.

PAUL: Is there a sense at all that perhaps Marjorie Taylor Greene is trying to fill the void that was once the voice of President Trump? He said a lot of things that many deemed insensitive. Some that were outright wrong, particularly when it came to COVID, particularly when it came to the 2020 election. But the words are getting more brazen. Is there a sense that perhaps she's trying to fill that void because he does not have a Twitter account anymore, and he doesn't have a microphone in front of his face 24/7?

KUMAR: Right. I mean, you're exactly right. You are hearing from people that that is an issue that they think that she is trying to do that, her and a few others. You know, Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, obviously the two of them had a rally that, you know, they support President Trump. They're out there talking about him and supporting him. And, look, he's supporting them back. This is what we're going to continue to see over the next coming months and into the next year and into the midterms.

PAUL: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about what's coming up on Tuesday. President Biden is hosting George Floyd's family at the White House here. And we know that as they were talking about President Biden met with Senator Cory Booker on Friday to talk about the police reform bill.

We know that the January 6th commission is probably DOA as we have heard. We know that the infrastructure bill as Suzanne said, probably DOA. What about police reform? Is there any indication there's some movement there?

KUMAR: Well, as you indicated, they're going to miss the deadline, and I think everybody is aware of that because it's just coming up. But you're right you still have Republicans and Democrats saying that they think that they can get something.

There is -- you know, there is some movement here. There are talks still going on. They seem to want to have that agreement. So what it ends up looking like, we're not sure.

There's sort of one piece -- there's a lot of disagreements, but there's one particular piece that they have disagreed on, this qualified immunity, whether police officers should be sued, can you sued or not. They are working specifically on that issue. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina has come up with a proposal on that, and they're mulling that over.

So, there does seem to be movement on this and thought they could get somewhere. But I will say that as the anniversary passes next -- this coming week, as months and weeks go by, as Congress goes into recess, it's going to be even harder for them to meet that deadline.

As you know, Congress is an entity that really kind of only gets something done when they're right up against a deadline. They had this deadline. They're not going to meet it. And so there's some worry by a lot of people that if they don't hurry up and get this done it may not get done.

PAUL: At least for a while. Anita Kumar, it is always good to have your voice here. Thank you.

KUMAR: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, an update on the fight to eradicate COVID. Details on a new study that looks at how well some vaccines work against a variant first found in India.


PAUL: Also, how two pastors are working to stop the spread of Qanon within their own congregations.


SANCHEZ: This just in. We have some news out of Ohio where three people are dead and at least five others are hurt after a mass shooting at a bar in Youngstown. Police are telling CNN the violence broke out at the Torch Club Bar and Grill overnight. Not much information at this point coming from officials.

We're still working to get more on any suspects or a possible motive. We'll of course keep you updated on this story as we learn more. Pivoting now to the battle to eradicate coronavirus.


This morning India continues to grapple with an unprecedented surge of COVID cases. The country now surpassing 26.5 million cases with more than 3,000 COVID deaths a day for the past month.

PAUL: Now, listen, there's some good news here. A new scientific report shows two doses of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines are -- quote -- "highly effective against that variant first found in India."

SANCHEZ: Yes and to stay protected against these emerging variants vaccines makers are now saying people should prepare to get booster shots in the future, though health experts aren't sure if and when that might actually happen. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, guys, good morning to you. The U.S. surgeon general saying that we should all be prepared to get that booster shot possibly within the next year since we know that our current vaccination regimen offers protection for at least six months. Dr. Anthony Fauci adding to that saying that in terms of when that would be, we just don't know yet.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): Vaccine boosters may be the next phase in the nation's fight to contain COVID-19 but what's still unclear if they're needed or how long the protection from a COVID-19 vaccine regimen last researchers and health officials suspect it may wane after a year or more.

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Both the Pfizer and Moderna CEOs have come out and said that they believe booster shots are going to be needed within about eight to 12 months from your first dose because of the data that they're seeing. Now, we can only assume that means because of the immunity that they're following from people who were in their clinical trials, but they haven't released that data just yet.

SANDOVAL: The CDC maintains a need for and timing of a possible booster hasn't been established yet. What is widely known as the vaccination rates continue climbing at a stubbornly slow rate, daily numbers down nearly 50 percent since its peak last month, according to the CDC. In California lower demand means residents will notice fewer mass

vaccination sites, like the one that operated out of Dodger Stadium. They'll instead see smaller pop up locations like this one at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre.

DR. PAUL SIMON, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, L.A. COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Now that we have vaccinated a significant portion of our population, we are left with a residual group that aren't all necessarily opposed to vaccination but they're not quite as motivated to be vaccinated.

SANDOVAL: Here a shot in the arm will give people a shot to see the musical "Hamilton," from a chance to get the hottest tickets in town to the possibility of winning million dollar jackpots, states all over the country are hoping to make it harder for people to pass on a shot. And if you're among the nearly 39 percent of Americans now fully vaccinated, this Chicago restaurant owner welcomes you to the other side.

SAM SANCHEZ, RESTAURANT OWNER: You're free to come on this side, go to the bar. You can actually be pre-pandemic.

SANDOVAL: No social distancing and no plexiglass dividers needed in the vaccinated only section of Sam Sanchez's establishment. The city says it's OK for Chicago businesses to operate with no restrictions so long as customers are vaccinated.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: As we keep doing this, I think it's a great thing. And I think, again, the CDC has shown that the science shows if you're vaccinated you're protected.

SANDOVAL: And later tonight 15,000 people will fill New York's Madison Square Garden to watch in person as the Knicks faceoff against the Atlanta Hawks. Organizers say it will be the largest indoor event in New York State since the start of the pandemic.


SANDOVAL: And staying on tonight's game organizers say that they do expect fully vaccinated people to make about 90 percent of the crowd at Madison Square Garden tonight. As for those who are not fully vaccinated, Christi, they have to provide a proof of a recent negative COVID test, they have to remain socially distant and still continue to wear that mask.

So, if you want to have to get a shot at a million bucks, maybe watch "Hamilton," the fact that you can at least enjoy a game without a mask hopefully that's should be incentive to actually get a shot.

PAUL: Yes, I would think so. Yes. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

So, you just saw Polo in his piece there talk to Dr. Rob Davidson. He's with us next hour answering your questions about coronavirus, about the vaccine, about the booster. We have been hearing from a lot of you. Go ahead and tweet us, Christi_Paul, Boris_Sanchez, with your questions and we'll make sure that Dr. Rob Davidson gets those for you.

SANCHEZ: Also, coming up a fragile cease fire holding but tensions remaining high across the Middle East. Pressure mounting on President Biden to do more to prevent another round of violence. But is the quiet intensive diplomacy that Biden officials keep talking about the way to get there? We'll talk to an expert after a quick break.



PAUL: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour right now. And fighting between Israel and Hamas may have stopped for the time being, the root causes of the violence, though, are still unresolved. And protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people are happening around the world.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Here's a look at tens of thousands of people marching through London Saturday. This is one of the largest in a series of protests that have taken place across the U.K. and Europe. Similar scenes playing out in cities like Paris. And here in the United States in New York and Philadelphia. By CNN's latest count more than 90 events were planned for the weekend across the U.S.

The cease fire between Israel and Hamas, now in its third day but the humanitarian crisis impacting civilians, many of them innocent Palestinians is just beginning. President Biden vowing the United States will work with other nations in the effort to rebuild Gaza.

Among the damage, the United Nations says 800,000 people lack regular access to water. That's nearly half of the population of around 2 million. The hope is that the violence will not pick up again after days of a clear White House message on their strategy to stop it.





JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy.

ANTHONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are engaged in quiet but very intensive diplomacy.

BRETT MCGURK, WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR FOR THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: This was patient quiet and effective diplomacy led by the president.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that end.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Here to share her thoughts on a week in foreign policy that was anything but quiet, CNN Global Affairs Analyst and contributor to Time Magazine, Kimberly Dozier. Kimberly, always a pleasure to have you on. We appreciate you sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Let's start on Israel. Here is President Biden explaining why he believes that his strategy on the conflict worked in comparison to his two predecessors.


BIDEN: One of the reasons why we're able to get a ceasefire in 11 days, they didn't do what other people have done. I don't talk about what I tell people in private. I don't talk about what we negotiate in private. But I can assure you though is that the last time it took 56 days and six months to get a ceasefire. I'm praying the ceasefire will hold.


SANCHEZ: Administration officials have acknowledged to CNN that this conflict wasn't a top priority for Biden as he was entering the White House. I think it's fair to say that there were a lot of fires to put out here at home. Nevertheless, no one really expects that this relative peace is going to be long-lasting.

So, Kimberly, what do you make of Biden's approach here, especially given that more and more voices in his own party are calling for a reimagining of the U.S. relationship with Israel?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it was seen as a frozen conflict that wasn't worth putting political capital into. At the beginning of administration was so much to look at domestically and with bigger foreign policy problems like the withdrawal from Afghanistan, trying to renegotiate a deal with Iran.

However, Biden is possibly one of the best people in terms of his preparation for dealing with the tough customer, that is Bibi Netanyahu. They have met privately in the past during the Obama administration. And Biden was able to facilitate some negotiations between Netanyahu and Obama that made things -- that smooth things over. So, he starts with that measure of at least semi trust and this relationship. And you can imagine that there were tough words exchanged behind closed doors.

One of the things that US officials do often is that they kowtow to Israeli officials, not realizing that while that plays well with the American public, having spent a lot of time living in Israel and working with Israeli officials, they respect people who come from a position of strength and toughness.

So, those discussions apparently paid off. But look, this is a bandaid. All of the underlying problems, the Palestinians being in their own frozen conflict between Hamas and the governing Palestinian authority, and Israel moving towards expanding settlements and doing everything possible it seems to stop an eventual two-state solution, all of that still remains.

SANCHEZ: There's been so much going on around the world. I think this story sort of flew under the radar this past week. President Biden drawing immense criticism, again, even from within his own party for deciding not to sanction the company in charge of building Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Biden and Democrats excoriated Donald Trump for his attitude towards Vladimir Putin. Allowing this to move forward appears to be a huge gift to the Kremlin. It solidifies Russian supremacy over European energy. So, how does this decision deter Vladimir Putin's ambitions? Does this ultimately benefit the United States?

DOZIER: Well, there are a lot of layers to this decision. The top layer is yes, it looks like a gift to Putin. But what Biden announced -- what the State Department announced is they're waiving sanctions on the German company that's part of Nord Stream 2 but not on the Russian companies.

This is a two-pronged signal. Part of it as a signal to Moscow ahead of a possible Putin-Biden summit that says, if we work together, this is how things could go. We could let things like Nord Stream 2 go ahead without objecting to it.

It is also a signal to the embattled government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel because, you know, this Nord Stream 2 pipeline inside Germany is seen as a way to get cheaper gas to German citizens. There is a rising especially right-wing nationalist movement in Germany.

The U.S. objections to Nord Stream 2 are seen as just a way for the U.S. to try to corner more of Germany's natural gas market. So, if Merkel bowed to Washington and stopped Nord Stream 2 of which, you know, Germany is the main political master, that would be seen as them kowtowing to Washington D.C. and operating not in the interest of the German people.

The Biden administration understands that they're trying to reset what was a very poor relationship with Germany under Trump. So that's why you've got these multiple things going on. It doesn't mean that Nord Stream 2 is going to go forward with no Biden objections in future, but it is 95 percent done. That's also the other recognition here. This is a political reality. It's going to be very hard to stop.


SANCHEZ: The Biden administration no doubt juggling quite a bit. We didn't even get a chance to chat about North Korea and all the issues there, but we do appreciate the time. Kimberly Dozier, thank you so much.

DOZIER: Thanks, Boris.

PAUL: So, we're seeing evidence tying evangelical churches to QAnon and the January 6 riots. CNN talks to two pastors who are working to fight this spread in their own communities and organizations.


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




PAUL: So you know that the QAnon conspiracy theory has ingrained itself in members of the Republican Party but also in churches across America. It's more popular apparently among evangelical Christians than any other religion.

SANCHEZ: And two pastors preaching from opposite sides of the country are trying to stop the spread within their own congregations CNN's Donie O'Sullivan takes us inside how they are trying and often failing to stop the lies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the flag that went into the Senate when the doors were broken. The Christian flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the name of Jesus, amen.



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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing in Scripture leads us to claim a political system in the name of Christ through force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like to get off track and off the Bible. But as a pastor, I do have to guard the flock. And so the one that I wanted to speak to as far as conspiracies is the QAnon conspiracy.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Is QAnon compatible with Christianity?

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

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

Do you think particularly for people of faith, that there is a specific appeal? KENDALL: The biblical worldview is that there's a God who's in control of the whole world. And one day, Jesus is going to come back, he's going to judge the wicked. Then you look at my understanding of QAnon's belief is that there is a Q that knows everything and Donald Trump is going to come back and judge the wicked.

It's easier for Christians who already have that belief system to make that jump over into believing that worldview.

O'SULLIVAN: Pastors Ben Marsh and James Kendall are sounding the alarm, but other pastors are preaching conspiracy theories from the pulpit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When patriots took back key branches of the U.S. government in 2016, a light was turned on to the vast corruption network that had infiltrated into the highest positions of power across every state.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden is a fake president.

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

KENDALL: I've tried to talk with some of them about some of the issues but it doesn't go very far.

O'SULLIVAN They don't want to hear it?

KENDALL: A lot of times, they're not really open to hearing my side of things or explanations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


SANCHEZ: That was Donie O'Sullivan reporting. We appreciate that report. Look, Simone Biles is on another planet. The four-time Olympic gold medalist is further cementing her status as one of the all-time greats again. Sports after record break.


PAUL: 49 minutes past the hour. LeBron James in a bit of hot water with the NBA because of some tequila, particularly his own brand.


SANCHEZ: And Coy Wire joins us now. Coy, who hasn't gotten in trouble over tequila before?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That is a good point. Good morning to you, Boris and Christi. NBA on TNT host Charles Barkley said, look, there's no way the league would ever force LeBron to sit out of the playoffs for violating protocols the way they would other players.

An Instagram post by the rapper Drake showing the brand at a small promotional event for his Tequila brand, had the rounds ahead of the Lakers playing against the Warriors last Tuesday. NBA's spokesperson telling CNN "It's a violation of the agreed-upon protocols. And as we have in other comparable instances around the league, it has been addressed with the team." Lakers are in Phoenix for game one of their series against the Suns later today.

Now, the first NBA Playoff games tipped off yesterday and 14,000 fans build Barclays Center in Brooklyn for Nets and Celtics. Brooklyn (INAUDIBLE) win it all. Despite their three superstars, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, (INAUDIBLE) for just the night time. This isn't the injury, but the chemistry clearly there. The big three combining for 82 points in a 104-93 win for the Boston.

Let's go Heat and Bucks. Game one, buzzer-beaters. First on Jimmy (INAUDIBLE). Miami's Jimmy Butler driving the drop in a layup (AUDIO GAP) overtime. But in OT, it wasn't two-time reigning MVP Giannis killing the feel for the deer, it's Khris Middleton nailing the fadeaway (AUDIO GAP)

Tonight (AUDIO GAP) Knicks fans piled into Madison Square Garden for the first Knicks playoff game in eight years, making it the largest indoor gathering New York's pandemic event. Almost 90 percent will be fully vaccinated and everyone must either have proof of being vaccinated or a negative test for the past 72 hours. Knicks-Hawks is part of a playoff tripleheader on our sister network TNT (INAUDIBLE)

All right, let's go to golf's second of the year. 50-year-old Phil Mickelson (AUDIO GAP). Look at the Master's (INAUDIBLE) following him yesterday at the (INAUDIBLE). A win would five Mickelson his first major in eight years as the crowd has given him some extra juice this time around. He's partnering with 2018 and 2o19 winner Brooks Koepka who has just one shot back. (INAUDIBLE)

All right, finally, Simone Biles proving yet again she might be the most (AUDIO GAP). That might not be close. Her Royal Highness not only becoming the first woman to ever attempt the Yurchenko double piking competition, she lands it too. (AUDIO GAP) round off onto the springboard back handspring onto the ball ending with that tight double backflip there into the landing.

Put more simply, history. This was Simone's first competition since winning her fifth World All-Around title in 2019, Boris and Christie, clearly ready for Tokyo. Her belief and her freedom from fear to even attempt this is what's most incredible.

PAUL: Yes. It's going to be so exciting to continue watching her. Hey, Coy, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, sir.

PAUL: No tequila in that coffee by the way. I'm just checking. So, China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time. The country's rover is exploring the Red Planet now. We have details for you next.



SANCHEZ: Class of 2021. Join CNN tonight as we come together to celebrate you. Watch congrats messages from your favorite stars, musical performances, and a special message from the Vice President Kamala Harris. Graduation 2021, a CNN Special Event starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: So, China's Mars rover has set foot essentially on the red planet. And this is the thing. China just became the second country to drive a rover on the surface of Mars, so this is a big deal.

SANCHEZ: It is a big deal. The rover is going to be there for three months patrolling and exploring as part of its mission. CNN's Michael Holmes has the details for us. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Fresh tracks on the Red Planet mean new inroads for China in the latest Space Race. Zhurong rover went out for a drive on Saturday, making China the second country after the United States to land and operate such a vehicle on Mars.

The probe carrying Zhurong touched down on Mars on May 15th. China's top space official says it's a huge leap forward for the program. China's rover will now tread across the Martian terrain to learn what it can about the planet in hopes that humans can one day land there too/.

BILL NELSON, ADMINISTRATOR, NASA: The Chinese rover that has now landed on Mars --

HOLMES: NASA's administrator Bill Nelson, sworn in earlier this month, congratulated China's space agency but also warned Congress that China has ambitious plans for both Mars and the moon.

NELSON: They're going to be landing humans on the moon. That should tell us something about our need to get off our duff.

HOLMES: China is one of three countries that launched missions to the Red Planet last summer with NASA's perseverance landing on Mars in February. The Hope spacecraft launch by the UAE is orbiting the planet but not designed to land.

In addition, NASA's curiosity rover has been on the ground since 2012 making for a lot of competition in this next frontier. Michael Holmes, CNN.