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New Day Sunday

Miami-Dade Police: Two Dead, 20 To 25 People Hurt After "Targeted" Shooting Outside Concert Overnight; Texas Lawmakers Close To Passing Bill With New Restrictions On Voting; Millions On The Move As Mask Mandates Ease And Cases Fall; Biden Observes First Memorial Day Weekend As Commander-In-Chief; Party Leaders Might Form New Israeli Government To Oust Netanyahu; CNN Investigation Reveals Al Qaeda Still Thriving, May Be Able To Attack The West By Late Next Year; 135,000 Fans Expected For Today's Indianapolis 500. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired May 30, 2021 - 07:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The unofficial start of summer is here.

Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

The next hour of NEW DAY starts right now.


SANCHEZ: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY, I'm Boris Sanchez.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Boris.

I'm Christi Paul.

Listen, we're following some breaking news out of Florida. Two people we know are dead, and more than 20 others have been injured in a mass shooting. Our teams arriving on the scene. We're going to take you there live.

SANCHEZ: Plus, Texas is one step closer to enacting tough new restrictions on voting following the 2020 election. We'll tell you what lawmakers are pushing for and what President Biden is saying about all of this as states all over the country continue to pass similar legislation.

PAUL: And maybe turning a corner here, millions of people are venturing out this holiday weekend. You included I'm sure.

The Indy 500 is set to welcome 135,000 spectators, in fact, today.


SANCHEZ: It is Sunday, May 30th. We're thrilled that you're waking up with us. Good morning.

And good morning to you as well, Christi. PAUL: Good morning, Boris.

SANCHEZ: We start this morning with breaking news, a mass shooting overnight in northwest Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Miami-Dade Police say two people are dead and more than 20 are hurt. The violence breaking out at El Mula Banquet Hall in the country club shopping center near Hialeah. Police say it was rented out for a concert. A white SUV apparently pulling up, three shooters running out, opening fire at the crowd outside with rifles and hand guns.

PAUL: Now, we know earlier this morning the Miami-Dade police director called the attack a, quote, targeted act of gun violence. The victims are being treated at various hospitals, we've learned. Police say they are looking for tips to help track down the shooters.

CNN's Natasha Chen is on her way to the scene. We're going to check with her in just a bit.

SANCHEZ: We also have to tell you about what's going on in Texas.

Lawmakers there filing their final version of a bill that would add new restrictions on voting, and actually make it easier to overturn elections.

PAUL: The official filing hasn't been made public yet, but a final draft obtained by CNN bans ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting. It also makes it illegal to send out unsolicited mail ballot applications and gives new powers to partisan poll watchers. Now, the charges mirror restrictions passed by Republican controlled legislatures across the country, since President Biden won the 2020 election.

Last night, the president called on Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation writing, quote, it's wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder for every eligible voter to vote, unquote.

SANCHEZ: So, lawmakers in Texas now have until midnight tonight to approve the measure and despite protests from outside groups and Democrats, in the legislature, the bill is expected to pass.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more.



Yeah, the time is ticking on Senate bill seven, this election overhaul bill by Republicans that will add new restrictions and regulations, as well as enhance criminal and civil penalties to the voting process. It really impacts just about everybody who participates in it, including voters, election officials, volunteers, and those get out the vote groups. Now, look, it's a 67-page document that does a lot. Many of the items that are making headlines in past versions were

still included, like codifying these early voting hours that in some cases might expand early voting time in some counties. But in the largest and most diverse counties, it will likely cause them to lose early voting time and it will eliminate completely the ability to do 24-hour vogue, and also drive-through voting, which is something Harris County piloted during the 2020 election to help with the pandemic. They saw record turnout last year.

There is also elements that empower partisan poll watchers, and add criminal penalties if you obstruct that, but it does require them to take an oath saying that they will not disrupt voters or the voting process.

Now, look, there are criminal penalties that make it, for example, a crime to send unsolicited ballot applications and that's something we have seen across the country. It also makes, again, those partisan poll workers empowered. This is something that President Joe Biden hit on saying it reminded him of other state legislation we're seeing that is restricting voting rights. He called the Texas bill un-American.

The Republican sponsors of the bill say that this is simply about ballot security and ensuring uniformity.


Again, the clock is ticking, they have to get something done by midnight on Sunday. Boris, Christi, the expectation is that Governor Abbott, if it is approved, will sign this into law.


PAUL: Dianne, thank you so much.

So, let's talk about what we are all seeing on this Memorial Day weekend, the clearer sign yet that the U.S. is turning a corner on COVID. People are taking advantage of these relaxed restrictions you may be seeing where you are in the country.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, remember last year, we were cringing watching huge crowds not social distancing, not wearing masks and in the surge of COVID cases that followed, this year, things are different, the first big holiday since the CDC said fully vaccinated people can drop masks and forget social distancing without fear of getting themselves and other sick.

More than 134 million people now make up that vaccinated group, and maskless crowds are becoming the norm from beaches to baseball games, and elsewhere.

Let's get to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He joins us now live from New York.

Polo, a huge surge in travel as well this weekend.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Christi and Boris. What a difference a year and a couple of months would make here. Right, when you look at the situation, for example, here in New York, it's where we can start our update this morning. The numbers and such a significant improvement, and another sign that the state continues making strides here.

Just yesterday, officials announcing 0.59 percent test positivity rate, that is the lowest since the start of the pandemic.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): The Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the unofficial start of summer in the U.S., the first since COVID-19 vaccinations began.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going back to a little bit of normalcy.

SANDOVAL: Nearly 2 million people passed through U.S. airports on Friday, and according to AAA, more than 37 million are expected to travel over the three-day weekend. That's up 60 percent from last year when the company was marred in COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines.

The difference, vaccinations, the CDC says about 40 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated and more than half the U.S. population has at least gotten their first shot. President Biden suggesting the numbers offer a ray of hope.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I set an ambitious goal of getting 70 percent of adult Americans at least one shot by July 4th. Today, just over a month to go, we're at 62 percent. We aren't just saving lives. We're getting our lives back.

SANDOVAL: Right now, California, Hawaii, New Mexico are the only states that still have mask mandates for everyone still in place. CDC guidelines says those who have been fully vaccinated can lose the masks and the social distancing.

Americans are ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life has returned, right? I mean, we're back, thank God, we've returned safely. You know, it's been a challenge. This last year has been really difficult.

SANDOVAL: But the numbers of people getting vaccinated is on the decline, and there are unique motivation plans in place to encourage folks to get the shots, Ohio, California, and Maryland are among the states offering things like scholarships and cash prizes as high as $1 million in vaccination lotteries.

Drugstore chains, health care companies, and some employers are also providing financial incentives, and one Florida concert promoter offering $18 tickets to a punk rock concert to anyone who is fully vaccinated. Those who haven't gotten the shot will have to pony up a thousand dollars to see the show.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANDOVAL (on camera): And to the point of all incentives is to find a boost. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers can locally provide these kinds of incentives, so long as they are not coercive. They also rule that they are no limits.

For example, the supermarket chain Kroger offering a one time payment of $100 to its employees as long as they can get vaccinated, Boris and Christi. Remember, it was just December that the agency actually allowed employers to require its employees to get vaccinated. Of course, there are those exceptions for a few.

PAUL: Solo Sandoval, we appreciate it so much. Thank you, sir.

So President Biden is spending his first Memorial Day weekend as commander in chief honoring the men and women of the military, of course.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, this weekend obviously has added personal significance for the president.

Let's get to CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright. She's traveling with President Biden in Wilmington, Delaware.

Jasmine, obviously, this weekend has personal significance to Joe Biden because of his son Beau, and his service. What are we anticipating the president is going to be doing today and tomorrow?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, President Biden will deliver remarks honoring service members today in Delaware at veteran Memorial Park. Tomorrow, we'll see him in Arlington where he participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, along with the first lady, and second family.


And, you're right, Boris. It is a deeply personal day for the president today as it marks the anniversary of his late son Beau Biden's death.

Now, in the past, President Biden could be seen visiting Beau's grave site after attending mass here in Delaware, and on Friday, President Biden spoke at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, for the first time addressing an active base as president and he gave an emotional speech meant to honor those who have made a sacrifice to this country, but also he wandered off teleprompter remarks to talk about his son.

Take a listen.


BIDEN: You are the spine of America. The spine. I can't tell you how much it matters, I think you underestimate, is the consequence of who you are and what you do.

We Bidens are proud to have family in the military. And our son Beau's service was among the achievements, as I said, he was most proud of. My heart swells to see him in uniform.


WRIGHT: Now, President Biden also spoke at length about the toll of the war in Afghanistan, touting his administration's draw down as they plan to withdraw later on this year.

But these events that we'll see today and tomorrow as well as President Biden's response marks a real reminder for the country of how President Biden often adopts that role of empathizer in chief, using his personal loss this holiday to honor veterans, honor service members, and also marks what a difference this country is right now, how far we have come in the pandemic.

Remember, last year in 2020, deaths were on the rise and there were no vaccines, Boris and Christi. Obviously, right now, today, that is a very, very different scene.

So, we'll see President Biden outside and a little bit of rain, of course, here in Delaware today. And the event won't focus on the pandemic, but focus on honoring those who have sacrificed -- Boris and Christi.

PAUL: Jasmine, I hope you get some sunshine. You look like it today. You're bringing the sunshine girl, you're bringing the sunshine.

Thank you so much.

WRIGHT: I try.

PAUL: You do. You always do. Jasmine, thank you.

Standing out there in the rain for two days.

So, let's move on to this -- there's a power sharing agreement among opposition leaders in Israel now that could pose a threat to the power of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Israeli TV is reporting that opposition chiefs could announce they are forming a new government that would oust the long time leader.

CNN's Hadas Gold joins us now from Jerusalem.

Hadas, Netanyahu has had a tenuous grip over has power the last few years, four elections in two years. There has been talk of forming a new coalition government for some time. Is it actually going to happen now?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, from what we are hearing from reports in Israeli media, as well as a source close to the negotiations is expressing to CNN what you could call cautious confidence on where these negotiations are headed, and we could hear in the next few hours whether the leader of a small right wing party by the name of Naftali Bennett, whether he will join this sort of the anti-Netanyahu change bloc coalition that it's trying to form. Now, the way that this potential agreement would work was to be that Naftali Bennett would be prime minister first for two years, followed by the leader of the centrist party. His name is Yair Lapid, then he would be prime minister for two years, a sort of power sharing agreement.

And it's rather unique because Naftali Bennett, the leader of the small right wing Yamina party, his party only won seven seats in the last election but because of the way the numbers worked out in the last election, his party essentially became the king makers. Whoever they would sit with would essentially be in power.

And he was being wooed by Netanyahu, and Yair Lapid. But so far, the way reports we are seeing is that Bennett is expected to announce later today that he has reached an agreement with the anti-Netanyahu change block to form a new government, and this would potentially bring an end to Benjamin Netanyahu's longest run as prime minister. 12 years he has been prime minister and if this agreement works out in the next few days, we could see a new prime minister in Israel.

Now, this coalition would be a wide swath of parties from the left- leaning labor, all the way to Naftali Bennett's right wing Yamina party. Now, there doesn't seem much uniting them other than their opposition to Netanyahu as prime minister. So, this could be a fragile government to start because there are many pressing issues currently under way. Obviously, we have the cease fire, a few days old ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza.

There's continuing to be rising tensions in east Jerusalem, continuing to be, of course, long standing issues with Palestinians, whether there will be any peace process on the table.


All of these will be pressing issues for a new government. And I should note that things can change very quickly in Israel politics. The next few hours, we could see a total change. Prime Minister Netanyahu in the last few years already tried to offer a new deal, a new power-sharing agreement, trying to offer Naftali Bennett and the leader of another center right party a rotating prime minister deal with him.

So, it just goes to show you how quickly things can change and how this is still a very fluid situation. The way things are headed we could see a new agreement, a new potential coalition government, which could mean the next few days, we could have a new prime minister of Israel.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009. This would obviously mark a new chapter in Israeli history.

Hadas Gold, thank you so much for your reporting.

So, President Biden has made it clear he wants to work across the aisle to pass major legislation. But are his efforts at partisanship hampering the agenda? We'll discuss with former labor secretary and DNC chair, Tom Perez.

PAUL: Also following the rising attacks on the Asian-American community. One group in California is taking matters into their own hands, patrolling the streets just to keep their neighbors safe.



SANCHEZ: We want to get back to breaking news because a hunt is underway for shooters who opened fire on a crowd in northwest Miami- Dade County, Florida.

PAUL: Yeah. Police say two people are dead and more than 20 are hurt in what they're describing as a, quote, targeted act of gun violence.

CNN's Natasha Chen just arrived at the scene.

Natasha, what are you -- what are you learning there?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Christine and Boris, this is the unincorporated part of Miami-Dade County. We're in what is a strip mall essentially here, and the entire place is blocked off right now. We are on the edge of it.

And right now, we can see that there are some law enforcement there outside of the establishment, still working very hard, a lot of other vehicles here. A lot of first responders came to the scene very quickly when this happened as we understand the shooting was just after midnight, outside what seems to be a lounge over there, where there was a scheduled concert. Police say that, again, two people have died and more than 20 are injured.

Some of them were taken to area hospitals via first responders, via ambulance. Some of them arrived at these hospitals themselves, at least one of the injured in critical condition.

Here's the director of the Miami-Dade Police talking about this incident.


ALFREDO RAMIREZ III, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DIRECTOR: This is a despicable act of gun violence, a cowardly act. This type of gun violence has to stop. Every weekend is the same thing. This is targeted, this is definitely not random. My condolences to the families and to the victims.


CHEN: And he's saying this is not random because what police are describing is a Nissan Pathfinder that rolled up to the outside of this business and three people came out of it, started shooting indiscriminately at the crowd. And so, that's why they're describing this as targeted. Of course, this is very preliminary in the investigation. They're

going to need the public's help in giving them any sort of tips, and leads to finding the people responsible for this -- Christi and Boris.

PAUL: All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much. We know this is something that happened overnight. We appreciate the update.

SANCHEZ: Pivoting now to the Biden agenda, the clock is clicking on President Biden's Memorial Day deadline for Congress to sign off on his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. He's allowing Republicans time to present a counter offer but some are starting to question if Biden's goal of bipartisanship is bogging him down.

Tom Perez is former labor secretary under President Obama and former chair of the Democratic National Committee and he joins us now live.

Tom, thank you so much for spending part of your Sunday with us. We appreciate it.

Before we get to anything else, I want to get your reaction to the voting law Texas lawmakers are expected to pass soon, some of the strictest voting restrictions in the country. Republicans say they want to defend the integrity of the vote. What's your response?

TOM PEREZ, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: It's despicable. Look at what happened in Texas in the last election. There was record turnout. And actually, if they were being honest, there should be a bipartisan celebration of that turnout, because, frankly, Republicans won a number of congressional seats that I thought Democrats were going to win.

Why did they do that? Because a lot of people turned out. That's what you want. You have a debate on the issues and then you can make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to vote.

This is targeting black and brown people plainly and simply. Ten years ago, when I was the head of Civil Rights Division, we had Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This proposal never would have seen the night of day -- never would have seen the light of day because it is so blatantly illegal.

That's why we need to pass the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. It is so important because Georgia, Texas, et cetera, they can't win in the marketplace of ideas. So they're trying to suppress the vote plainly and simply.

SANCHEZ: An easy transition to discussing the Biden agenda because the Voting Rights Act infrastructure, police reform, even the January 6th commission, they all appear to have been ham-strung by this effort from the White House to have bipartisanship in crafting this legislation, and there's a feeling among some in the administration that history is repeating itself.

I want to read you a quote from "Politico" now. Quote: Undergirding Democrats' worries are the lessons from former President Barack Obama's first year, when Republicans drew out the negotiating process around health care reform for months before voting against the president's signature bill and then turning the legislation into a political cajole for the better part of a decade.


As someone who served in that administration, are you worried that President Biden is squandering precious time courting Republicans that ultimately will refuse to work with him?

PEREZ: Well, the president and his team moved very fast on the American rescue plan. That was passed roughly 50 days after he took office.

He set this Memorial Day deadline for infrastructure. You're not going to meet that deadline. What is clear is they understand time is the most precious commodity a president has, and as far as I can see, I don't think they're going to give these negotiations more than a couple of weeks because the president understands and he's committed to trying to show the American people that he tried to reach across the aisle.

But it takes two to tango, Boris, and when you can't muster 60 votes to establish a commission to study and understand the insurrection, I'm hard pressed to see how you're going to come to an agreement on an infrastructure bill.

So I think you're going to have no more than a couple of weeks to try and resolve this infrastructure bill, and then frankly, I don't think they're going to come to an agreement because Republicans don't really want an agreement. They're not going to accept higher taxes, and we need to tax the wealthy and corporations who got the massive tax cut in 2017.

And so, I do think that in a couple of weeks, Democrats will go at it alone, and they will succeed. We will have an infrastructure bill, and it will be a robust infrastructure bill, and we will have it in the near future.

But it won't be with any Republican support, unfortunately. That's my prediction.

SANCHEZ: Tom, I'm glad you mentioned taxes because I wanted to get in a question about the Biden budget. He unveiled it on Friday. Very ambitious, very expensive $6 trillion in spending over the next fiscal year.

Notably, it assumes that tax cuts passed under Donald Trump would expire in 2025. If that happens, it would break Biden's promise, his campaign promise to not raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.

Is there anything in the budget that worries you, whether it's ballooning debt or the potential tax increase or anything else?

PEREZ: Well, what worries me most right now is that we still have millions and millions of people who are suffering. We've got a long way to go. We have made tremendous progress in the first few months here of the Biden/Harris administration.

But you look at the unemployment numbers, and I look at those very closely every month, and we need many, many months -- we need actually another year and a half of muscular job growth just to get back to where we were prior to the pandemic. We want to do far better than that. We don't just want to be where we were in the beginning of 2020.

So that's my biggest fear, and I think the Biden administration budget reflects that. We've got to continue to invest so that we can grow the economy and really build back better.

SANCHEZ: Had many more questions for you. Unfortunately, we got to leave it there. Tom Perez, thank you so much for the time, sir.

PEREZ: A pleasure.

PAUL: So we're going to see something we haven't seen in a while, NASCAR fans in the stands today to hear that "start your engines". We're live from Indianapolis.

Stay close.



PAUL: The surge of crimes against Asian Americans have people in Oakland's Chinatown pretty anxious right now, so a group of seniors has decided to do something about it.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, they have been on foot patrol in Chinatown every day for the last four months trying to keep their elder safe.

CNN's Kyung Lah has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the group goes out on a daily basis. So, we show a presence to the shop owners. We also show a presence to the shoppers, you know, to the residents of the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any problem, we just call and they just come out to help?

TAMMY WI, OAKLAND BUSINESS OWNER: Yeah, the patrol really helps, and most of the clients say that they feel safer.

WAYNE CHAN, OAKLAND BUSINESS OWNER: Can you go back to your country, something like that, so we have to stand up and fight for our safety.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy- five-year-old Mr. Ma has lived in the Bay Area for 23 years. In February, he recruited other Chinese seniors from his social club to patrol the neighborhood.

DAVID WON, OAKLAND CHINATOWN FOOT PATROL VOLUNTEER: Normally they're a family association that, you know, kind of just get together for food and drinks and camaraderie, and you know, just kind of playing games and things like that. Probably 2/3 of the walkers are ladies in their 60s and early 70s.

LAH: They started the foot patrol to keep watch around lunar New Year celebrations, but because of the rise in reports of anti-Asian crimes, they decided to make the patrol a long-term effort and recruit members from outside their club. Like David Won.

WON: I grew up in Oakland. One of the things that was always good about Oakland is it's probably one of the largest diverse cities.

My dad came in the mid-'40s. You know, my mom came over, you know, late '59 or early '60. For better or for worse, we were growing up, you know, basically, don't rock the boat. Put your head down.

A lot of the violence that has happened has, you know, for the most part always gone, you know, unreported.


We're kind of trained not to make too much noise about it.

LAH: One study using police data from 16 U.S. cities shows reports of anti-Asian crime in the first part of this year were up 164 percent from the same time last year, and researchers believe that's an under count of the crimes due to under reporting.


WON: Some of it started with President Trump. He may have given permission, but, you know, the feeling, the systemic issue was always -- it has been there for a while.

LOK SIU, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ASIAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, UC BERKELEY: When we're confronted with moments of economic crisis or national crisis, I think there's an easy, sort of a knee-jerk movement, you know, to blame someone, right, to blame a group.

LAH: The group says they don't want to replace police. They just want to prevent crime.

WON: We try to, you know, just show our presence to try to make sure that the individuals that might be out there, you know, don't try to commit any crimes. If you see something, blow your whistle. If you hear your whistle, call 911.

LAH: Community watch groups like this are popping up in other cities too.

GEI CHAN, VOLUNTEER, SEATTLE CHINATOWN INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT COMMUNITY WATCH: We have nothing to do with the virus, and to see people attack, it's just sad and shameful.

LAH: In mid-May, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act which will expedite review of possible hate crimes during the pandemic.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's wrong. It's un- American, and it must stop.

SIU: For most Americans, Chinatown is a tourist site. But, you know, for Chinese Americans, for a long time Chinatown has served as a site where you get social services, health care, the food items that you're used to. It's home. So when there is, you know, vandalism, when there is sort of a particular targeted crime our community in that area, it feels like it's an intrusion into our safe space.

WON: I'm actually very, you know, proud of the community for setting up the foot patrol. If you asked Mr. Ma six months ago, would he be re-purposing his organization for this, he would say, you know, you're crazy, probably not, But people are doing what needs to be done.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Kyung Lah for that report.

A quick programming note for you, a new CNN Film uncovers the hidden story of when the richest black neighborhood in America was ripped apart by a violent white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Here's a preview of "Dreamland."


MAYOR GT BYNUM, TULSA, OK: My name is GT Bynum. I'm the mayor of Tulsa. I grew up in Tulsa. My family has been here since the 1870s.

My great, great grandfather was the second mayor of Tulsa. I heard about the massacre in 2001 or '02. I was 20 years old at this point. Every high school student has to go through Oklahoma history course, never came up.

My dad had been president of the Tulsa Historical Society, never came up. Hearing about that, it was shocking to me because I love Tulsa. I couldn't believe that Tulsa would be the kind of city where something like that could happen. We have Tulsans, of an undetermined number who were murdered in this event so we have a responsibility, I think, as a city to try and find out where their remains are and what happened to them.


SANCHEZ: A story that simply has not been told enough. You can watch "Dreamland" Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.



PAUL: Forty-three 43 minutes past the hour right now, and U.S. troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan. And as such, CNN is learning one of America's deadliest enemies is reinforcing its ranks right now. SANCHEZ: Yeah, al Qaeda, the terror group behind the September 11th,

2021, terrorist attacks on the twin towers and the pentagon is regaining strength, and intelligence officials say they may be able to cause a large scale attack in the near future.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more, and we should warn you some of the images in this piece may be disturbing.


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

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

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

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

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


Core al Qaeda members number in the hundreds most assessments conclude, but it's not how many, but who which is most telling.

Key is senior al Qaeda Husam Abd-al-Rauf known as Abu Mushin al-Masri here on an FBI wanted poster issued in 2019. An al Qaeda veteran, he was in on 9/11 before it happened, said Afghan officials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And during that delay, before the Afghans broke the news, both Syria strikes happened.

Strikes on al Qaeda figures are often announced by Afghan intelligence who present the threat as why the U.S. must stay.

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


PAUL: I want to thank Nick Paton Walsh for the report there, and we'll continue to let you know what's happening there.

We do want to go to Coy Wire. He's at the Indy 500 racetrack. Getting ready to see a lot of fans there today.

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Christi, good morning to you.

We're about five hours from that green flag waving, and there are already people starting to take seats in the grand stands here, 135,000 fans expected. The biggest single day sporting event in the U.S. since the pandemic began. Much more on the greatest spectacle in racing coming up in just a few minutes.



PAUL: Listen, this is something that we've not seen for quite sometime, 130,000 fans together at the Indianapolis 500. It is happening later today and it makes it the largest single day crowd in the U.S. since this pandemic began.

SANCHEZ: And let's get straight to Coy Wire who is there.

Coy, obviously fans miss seeing it live, but the drivers also miss the fans?

WIRE: Yeah, that is exactly right.

Good morning, Boris and Christi. You know, sporting events weren't an option for more than a year and now we're seeing crowds return in nearly full force. You had the NBA having to ban some fans for rowdy behavior at playoff games, there were huge fans swarming Phil Mickelson at the PGA championship, and today, the so-called greatest spectacle in racing is back.

Much different than last year. Drivers described it as sad without fans, said it was awful and heartbreaking and weird with no energy. It wasn't spectacular at all. But now, with 135,000 expected today, drivers are excited about what this means for the sport and beyond.


ALEXANDER ROSSI, DRIVER, NO.27 CAR: Fans are what make this is event a spectacle, the fans bring the Indy 500 and elevate it to one of the best events in all of the sports. There are fans standing outside of the garage waiting to say and get some autographs. It is such a great sight.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, DRIVER, NO. 14 CAR: Everything that we've been through in the last year or so, it is a step in the right direction and looking forward to getting back to normal.


WIRE: Right, 135,000 fans sounds like a lot, right? And it is. But it is only 40 percent capacity here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Typically, it's capable of hosting about 350,000 fans between the grand stand and the infield.

Now, the infield is 253 acres and the oval, you could fit Yankee Stadium, the Roman Coliseum, Vatican City, Churchill Downs, the Rose Bowl, Liberty Island, the Taj Mahal and the White House, all inside and still have room so fans should have plenty of open spaces if they want them.

Now, this race dates back to 1911, loaded with traditions. Well, because the parade was canceled this year, they held what was called the spectacle of homes this year. About 800 local families decking out their houses and yards, a month long celebration to welcome out of town visitors and also a chance to win a once in a lifetime opportunity, the best 33 houses got a visit from one of the 33 drivers in today's race.

What a cool moment for some of the families that must have been at Indianapolis Motor Speedway already buzzing, 135,000 expected today. The green flag is expected to way at 12:45.


Boris and Christi, back to you.

SANCHEZ: Look forward to watching the race.

Coy, anything exciting that you're looking out for specifically?

WIRE: You know, the roar of the vehicles for one. It is something when you're in person you feel it in your chest.

But, honestly, Boris, I'm looking forward to hearing roars of the crowd and looking forward this being an exciting day here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

PAUL: Yeah --

SANCHEZ: Another sign of things are getting back to normal.

PAUL: Yeah, it is been a long time. I can't get over the White House, the Vatican City could fit this there. That was a great illustration because I never would have known otherwise.

WIRE: They have glamping in the infield as well.

PAUL: Let me tell you, I could camp, Coy.

WIRE: You're going to be here next year, all of us.

PAUL: Thanks, Coy. Have fun today.

And thank you all so much for starting your Sunday morning with us. Make good memories this weekend.

SANCHEZ: Always a pleasure to be with you, Christi.

PAUL: Me too.

SANCHEZ: Phil Mattingly hosts "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY". And it's up in just a few minutes right here on CNN.