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The Situation Room

Republicans Prepare To Oust Liz Cheney; Interview With Former Cybersecurity And Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs; Pipeline Hacked; Vaccine Cleared For Ages 12 To 15; Trump Endorses Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) For GOP Leadership Post; U.S. Suffers Horrific Weekend Wave Of Mass Shootings; Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Hamas Claims Responsibility For Rocket Attacks On Jerusalem; Death Toll Risers To 85 In Afghanistan Girls' School Bomb Attack. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 10, 2021 - 18:00   ET



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Our coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, breaking news: The U.S. turns a new corner in the fight against the COVID pandemic. The FDA has just approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds.

Also, a stunning cyberattack on a key U.S. pipeline that supplies almost half the fuel to the U.S. East Coast. What is the Russian connection?

And an exploding epidemic of gun violence here in the United States, including at least nine mass shootings. More than 400 Americans have been shot or killed in just the last 72 hours.

We're following all the breaking news, a potentially lifesaving vaccine now cleared for millions more Americans. Only moments ago, the Food and Drug Administration expanded its emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to include young people ages 12 to 15.

Let's go straight to our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, this is another critical victory in the U.S. fight against the pandemic. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right.

It's critical on a grand scale, and I think also, for many families in the U.S., on a personal scale.

On a grand scale, it will bring, if these children do get vaccinated, the number -- the percent of people who can get vaccinated in the U.S. up to 85 percent. So, if these children get vaccinated, if all the adults get vaccinated, that's 85 percent of the country that potentially could be vaccinated.

That is a huge number. As we know, children don't tend to get as sick with COVID as adults do, but they can be carriers of the virus. We know from the clinical trials the vaccine, the clinical trials that Pfizer did for 12-to-15-year-olds, that it was 100 percent effective.

In fact, the antibody responses that they got in these in these young -- in these adolescents was actually better than what they got in adults. And on a personal level, I have a child who is 14 years old. It is going to make a big difference in our lives, I know in many families lives. The rest of us are vaccinated in our family.

Now she will be too. It changes what we can do.It opens up what we can do and who we can be with once she gets vaccinated. And, believe me, she will be the first in line -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure you can't wait.

And there's more developments unfolding, very important developments. We also have news, Elizabeth, about vaccines and children under 12 years old. Tell our viewers what you're learning.

COHEN: That's right.

So, Pfizer said that they will apply to the FDA for emergency use authorization for younger children ages 2 to 11. And we have just learned that the FDA has set up a meeting of its outside advisers -- these are outside expert advisers to the FDA -- to meet in June.

That is a critical step towards the path to emergency use authorization. Now, this group didn't have to meet for the 12-to-15- year-olds. The sort of the assumption or the sort of algorithm here was that, you know what, we think 12-to-15-year-olds are similar enough to adults, we don't need to bring these experts in.

But the thinking for the little ones is, you know what, they are different enough from adults. We want the experts to weigh in. They will look at the evidence. They will make sure that it is effective and make sure that it is safe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, so important. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

There's other pandemic news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including a very dramatic drop in new cases and deaths here in the United States.

CNN's Nick Watt is working part of the story for us. Nick, we're seeing some pretty encouraging new numbers in the U.S.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is a good news day.

Here in Los Angeles County, we just heard from the director of public health, who said that she thinks, by mid to late July, this, the most populous county in the country, will have reached what he describes as herd immunity.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This summer is going to seem so much closer to normal than we have had in a very long time.

WATT (voice-over): There's great news in the numbers, Sunday, the lowest new case count in nearly 11 months and the lowest daily death toll in over a year. Still, 238 lives were lost.

TAPPER: Has the United States turned the corner?

JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I would say we are turning the corner.


WATT: So, time to loosen, lose those indoor mask rules?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, we do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated.

WATT: Starting today, vaccinated traders are back bare-faced on the stock exchange floor in New York.

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I do think there needs to be benefits for people who've been vaccinated.

WATT: Why? Well, April 10 was the record high, more than 4.6 million doses in arms, yesterday, fewer than 2.4 million. Southern states in particular are struggling.

In Alabama?

DR. JOHN WAITS, CEO, CAHABA MEDICAL CARE: The people who wanted the vaccine have gotten vaccinated. It's not an access issue anymore.

WATT: This week, Iowa ordered just 29 percent of its vaccine allocation, reports the AP. Wisconsin ordered just 8 percent.

XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I know of no community that is free of COVID. And I know of no state or community that doesn't need more of its people vaccinated. But we can only say that to folks and give them the best guidance. You can only lead a horse to water, right?

(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT: Many places now trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get a vaccine. In New York City, they're going to open vaccination sites inside subway and train stations and offer people free tickets if they get a shot.

Here in Los Angeles from today, you do not need an appointment to get a vaccination at any city-run site, like the one behind me. Now, a couple of months ago, this was busy. Today, it's really just a trickle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good numbers, indeed.

Nick Watt, reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all the breaking news.

Dr. Richard Besser is joining us, the former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us.

Give me your immediate reaction to the FDA's decision to expand emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine to include young kids ages 12 to 15.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Yes, I mean, Wolf, as you know, I'm a pediatrician, and I'm a parent. And so this news brings me joy, and it brings me hope, joy because we're there now millions more who can be protected from COVID, and a lot of hope that, this fall, school for high school kids is going to feel a lot more like school should feel like, because kids can be protected, they can do activities that otherwise they might have been prohibited from doing.

BLITZER: So, as both a pediatrician and a parent, what would you say to parents of children ages 12 to 15 who are now about to decide whether or not to vaccinate their kids?

BESSER: Yes, what I would say is, get your questions answered. Ask the questions that are on your mind.

But recognize that, although children tend to do better with COVID, than adults do, not all children do. We have lost hundreds of children to this. There are thousands who've developed a very unusual inflammatory syndrome. There are tens of thousands of children who've lost parents to this disorder.

And we know that children are part of the chain of transmission. So get your questions answered and just recognize the peace of mind that you could have and that your children could have if they get vaccinated.

BLITZER: And, as you just heard, Dr. Besser, the FDA now says it will meet on June 10, June 10, to discuss coronavirus vaccines for children under the age of 12, 2 to 12.

How quickly could vaccines be approved for that age group? And how much more testing and research do you think that will require?

BESSER: Yes, it depends what Pfizer has to date or Moderna, whatever any of the companies have.

The committee is going to want to look at data and make sure that the dosing is correct, that the safety data are in, because, as you get younger and younger, the severity of COVID goes down. I'm glad they're convening their advisory committee, because that will give me more confidence in the recommendations that come out of that.

For the move today, we still need to hear from CDC and their advisory committee. And they will be weighing in on Wednesday in terms of their recommendations for the children who are 12 years and up. But I expect they're going to recommend a broad use of the vaccine.

BLITZER: Yes, these are potentially lifesaving developments, very encouraging developments, indeed.

Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us.

BESSER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're getting new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now of the cyberattack on a truly critical pipeline supplying fuel to millions and millions of Americans. Tonight, the FBI says it knows who's behind it.



BLITZER: The U.S. vulnerability to cyberattacks laid bare by an extraordinary, an extraordinary strike on a critical pipeline here in the United States that delivers fuel to tens of millions of Americans.

There are new details coming in tonight about the so-called ransomware attack, including details of ties to Russia.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.

Jim, we have seen these ransomware attacks before, but this is one that's apparently on an entirely new level.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's bigger. It's a larger scale. It has affected a crucial piece of U.S. infrastructure, that which delivers gasoline, all kinds of fuel from the South to the Northeast, and, in doing so, exposed an enormous vulnerability here, which officials have been concerned about for some time.

Tonight, so far, fuel supplies in the Northeast not affected. Colonial says they will try to get everything up and running by the end of this week, but the danger clearly exposed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI is investigating the cybersecurity breach which has shut down the main fuel supply line to the East Coast. The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline temporarily halted fuel lines from Texas all the way to New Jersey, spanning more than 5,500 miles.

The pipeline transports more than 100 million gallons of gasoline and other fuel per day, nearly half the East Coast fuel supply.

ROBERT LEE, CEO, DRAGOS: So it is the largest cyberattack in terms of an energy infrastructure attack here in the United States. And so that is very disruptive, and it's something that's going to get a lot of questions in Congress and elsewhere.


SCIUTTO: Officials say the attack has not yet compromised the overall supply line, and the company is aiming to restore services by the end of the week, minimizing impact on gas and fuel prices.

The FBI is blaming the attack on a hacking group known as DarkSide, a Russian criminal enterprise, which claims to be apolitical. The FBI and other U.S. agencies are investigating whether this was a state- sponsored attack. So far, there is no indication the Kremlin is behind it.

ANNE NEUBERGER, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR CYBER AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY: We assess that DarkSide is a criminal actor, but that's certainly something that our intelligence community is looking into.

SCIUTTO: Culpability, however, is not as simple as who carried out the cyber-intrusion.

LEE: If countries are not enforcing the rules, whether it's Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, wherever, if they're not enforcing the rules and making sure that they take care of their criminal sector, there's some culpability to that state government, regardless of if they're involved or not.

SCIUTTO: Ransomware is a cyberattack in which hackers threaten to shut down networks or publish private information unless paid a ransom.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates a 300 percent increase in such attacks in the past year alone, with a cost of more than $350 million in ransoms.

Today, national security officials issued a clear warning to the nation's private sector.

NEUBERGER: Secure your systems.

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Our nation's critical infrastructure is largely owned and operated by private sector companies. When those companies are attacked, they serve as the first line of defense. And we depend on the effectiveness of their defenses.

SCIUTTO: U.S. agencies are still reeling from the SolarWinds data breach, a massive cyber-intrusion in 2020 by a network of hackers working for Russian intelligence. The attack infiltrated government and private sector computers and networks, remaining undetected for months.


SCIUTTO: History is important here, Wolf.

And that's because Russia has used informal hacking groups like this before to carry out the desires, the plans of the Kremlin in an unofficial way. Not clear that that's what's happened here.

But a consistent message I hear from folks in the national security space, two things -- one, if this were to happen from Russian soil with a known hacking group, Russia would know about it, at least. And, two, regardless of that, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, all foreign state actors who often attempt to and successfully hack the U.S. look at this and they learn from it, Wolf.

They learn about vulnerabilities, and then they attempt to expose those vulnerabilities later.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly do.

All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you for that report.

Let's go to the White House right now.

Our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is also working the story for us.

So, Phil, what is the White House saying tonight about this pipeline cyberattack, Russia's involvement, how the U.S. might respond?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this attack has been the subject of pretty much nonstop White House and Biden administration meetings over the course of the last several days.

And they believe they have mitigated the worst effects or any effects really on the U.S. fuel supply, the president making clear today that they are attempting to find and prosecute those who perpetrated this hack. But he was asked directly whether he thought the Russian government had any involvement. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to be meeting with President Putin.

And, so far, there is no evidence based on -- from our intelligence people that Russia is involved, although there is evidence that the actor's ransomware is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this.


MATTINGLY: Had some responsibility to deal with this is what stood out.

Also, the president saying definitively he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, something that both sides had been trying to work out over the course of the last several weeks.

It's worth noting as well this was obviously a criminal actor. I asked the president today whether or not, if they couldn't defend key infrastructure from a criminal actor, how could they stop a state actor? President Biden responded, "We can do both, and we will" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly over at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this, very dramatic developments, indeed.

Chris Krebs is joining us, the former of director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the U.S. government.

Chris, thank you so much for joining us.

So, put this into some sort of context for us. Has the United States ever been hit with a cyberattack on this scale before?


Specific to energy infrastructure, this is clearly the most disruptive attack, when you look at the scope, the scale, the number of people that are potentially affected. It's significant in that respect.

Now, other countries, Ukraine, you may remember, a few years ago, the Russians knocked out their power grid. A few years ago, the Iranians and others may have gone after the gas system or the petroleum system in Saudi Arabia.


But here on home soil, this is a pretty -- pretty significant event. But it does tie back to a bigger issue, I think, that we need to grapple with. And that is the fact that cyber-crime globally has really turned into a sort of digital pandemic.

And this crew, specifically, DarkSide, has been pretty active over the last six months in a very brazen way. And, once again, as the president noted and as others have noted, this is happening under the nose of the Russian government. And, to some extent, they own this. They have some culpability.

BLITZER: And, as you heard, President Biden said, there's no evidence that the Russians were involved, but he says they're looking into it. What is the relationship, as far as you know, between the Kremlin and

this gang?

KREBS: Well, this gang specifically, it's not clear. It's still early in the investigation.

But ransomware in general, crews have operated out of Russian sovereign state for quite some time. And I will point back to an indictment from the Department of Justice from last year where they tied a ransomware crew known as Evil Corp to the Russian FSB -- and that's the successor to the KGB -- where they were working in concert.

And I think there's some evidence at least that the DarkSide team was at least sensitive enough to not go after Russian assets. You don't -- you don't cause any additional trouble if you don't have to. But their -- in their targeting package, in their software, one of the things that would happen when they got on network is, they would look to see if any of the machines that they were scanning had Russian language packages installed.

And if they saw that, they would exit out, because, again, they don't want to poke the bear, so to speak.

BLITZER: Yes, important point, deep.

Chris Krebs, as usual, thank you very, very much.

Coming up: We're closing in on a truly defining moment for the Republican Party. The GOP has just set a date for its purging, its purging of its highest-ranking Trump critic from the House leadership. We're going to bring you new information right after a quick break.



BLITZER: The war inside the GOP is about to reach a boiling point, as Republicans prepare to purge one of the party's most prominent Trump critics from the House leadership.

Our congressional correspondent, Ryan Nobles, has the latest.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Republicans are preparing for their ongoing intraparty squabble to become a showdown.

As soon as Wednesday, House Republicans are prepared to oust Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney as their conference chair.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We need a conference that's united. That's why we need a conference chair that is delivering that message day in and day out.

NOBLES: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to be leading the charge.

And for the first time, he has come out publicly in support of Cheney's potential replacement, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS: Do you support Elise Stefanik for that job?

MCCARTHY: Yes, I do.

NOBLES: In a letter to his colleagues on Monday, McCarthy told Republicans to -- quote -- "anticipate a vote" on Cheney Wednesday, and said that, while the GOP is a -- quote -- "big tent" party, that "all members are elected to represent their constituents as they see fit, but our leadership team cannot afford to be distracted by the important work we were elected to do and the shared goals we hope to achieve."

McCarthy isn't alone. Steve Scalise, the House GOP whip and second most powerful House Republican, has also endorsed Stefanik. But while the outcome appears to be inevitable, Cheney and her allies are unwilling to go down without a fight.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): She's being run out for one thing, her consistency. She said the same exact thing that Kevin McCarthy said on January 6, which is, Donald Trump is responsible.

NOBLES: Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Trump critic, warning his colleagues that siding with the former president and his big lie about the November election will have long-term consequences, a sentiment echoed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the dear leader, or you get kicked out of the party. It just doesn't make any sense.

NOBLES: But, while Hogan, Kinzinger and Cheney continue to challenge Trump's grip on the GOP, it is clear that they are on the losing side of this war.

Rank-and-file Republicans and the party's elected leaders continue to retreat behind Trump, convinced he provides their best chance to win. And that means continuing to endorse the big lie.

REP. JIM BANKS (R-IN): I have very serious concerns with how the election was conducted. I objected on January 6. I will never -- I will never apologize for that.

NOBLES: And undermining the election results and, by extension, faith in America's electoral system is an ongoing issue, with a private company conducting a fourth audit of the 2020 results in Arizona, this despite no evidence of fraud, a project Stefanik has endorsed.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I fully support the audit in Arizona. We want transparency and answers for the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NOBLES: And it seems pretty clear that the person who has the most important voice in this controversy is the former President Donald Trump.

And he once again reiterated his support for Elise Stefanik today in a statement. And he seems to be addressing some of the concerns conservatives have about her voting record.

In the statement, he says -- quote -- "Elise has intelligence and an endorsement from the American patriot Brandon Judd and the National Border Patrol Council. She has an A+ from the NRA. And she loves our veterans.


We need someone in leadership who has experience flipping districts from Blue to Red as we approach the important 2022 to midterms, and that is Elise. So, once again, Wolf, this is all about the former President Donald Trump and it is the reason that Liz Cheney is likely to lose that number three spot and Elise Stefanik will eventually get it. Wolf?

BLITZER: Like it's going to happen on Wednesday. All right, Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get analysis from our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel.

Dana, how will all of this unfold during the next few days? Just how big of a watershed moment is this for the Republican Party?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a watershed moment. That is the perfect way to put it. And as Jamie has been reporting over the past week or so, it's a watershed moment that Liz Cheney clearly wants to happen. She wants there to be a reckoning within the GOP.

If she didn't, she would do what Kevin McCarthy and so many other Republican leaders had wanted her to do, which is to kind of to stay quiet about her feelings about the former president, but she refuses to. When asked, she answers and then some.

And so that is why she is in this place right now and it is an important moment in current events. It probably will be an important moment in history, because this is going to be the crossroads for people in the GOP. do you support truth or do you support lies? And by Liz Cheney being forced out in favor of somebody who is, as Ryan just put it in his piece, supports the big lie. That's the answer.

BLITZER: You know Jamie, I know you've been talking to your well- placed sources. What can you tell us about how Congresswoman Liz Cheney actually views Wednesday's vote?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as Dana just put it, this is not personal for her. She does not see this as a vote about her. She sees this as a vote about democracy. As Dana said, it's a vote about do you believe the truth or do you believe the lies.

And I think it's also important to note, Wolf, that this is just the beginning. If Liz Cheney had wanted to be quiet or pivot, she would be staying in this job. What we're seeing now is the beginning of what I think will be a long campaign. She will be unleashed. She will be able to speak out. And it is going to be -- I think in her mind, as long as Donald Trump is a player, she's going to be fighting back. Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Dana, let me play on a different subject a little bit of your brand new interview with Caitlyn Jenner who's running for Governor of California. Let's watch this.


BASH: Do you believe President Biden was duly elected?

CAITLYN JENNER (R) CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: He is our president. I respect that. I realize there was -- there's a lot of frustration over that election. You know what? I'm frustrated over what happened back then.

BASH: The then-Trump campaign went to court. They filed scores and scores of lawsuits. There was no evidence that there was anything fraudulent. Are you comfortable with that? Do you believe that the election was stolen?

JENNER: No. I believe in the system. But I believe in the -- what we need to do in the future is -- we are a democratic republic. We need to have integrity in our election system.


BLITZER: That exchange, Dana, really, I think, reflects the line Republicans are walking on former President Trump's big lie, doesn't it?

BASH: Republicans in places like California, where President Trump is not popular, absolutely. And she didn't want to go near this notion of whether the election was stolen or not for that reason, but she also didn't want -- she didn't want to pull it in, she didn't want to push it away.

And, you know, there definitely are some Republicans like Caitlyn Jenner trying to walk that line. Others aren't. Others are completely embracing it, or the very few, like Liz Cheney, are pushing it away.

Interestingly, Wolf, I asked about Liz Cheney and she didn't want to go there at all. She said that's Washington, I'm not talking about that, because I knew that we would be talking about this on the cusp of Liz Cheney getting thrown out of the house leadership on this very issue I was talking to her about.

BLITZER: Excellent work, Dana, thank you very much. Jamie, thanks to you as well.

[18:35:00] An important note to our viewers, stay with CNN for Dana's full interview with Caitlyn Jenner. That will air later tonight at 8:00 P.M. Eastern on AC360.

Just ahead, a horrific wave of weekend gun violence shakes the United States of America. Why are so many American communities right now, suffering from a brand new surge of mass shootings?


BLITZER: Communities across the United States are reeling tonight after an awful outbreak of gun violence over the weekend. Brian Todd is tracking this story for us.

Brian, these mass killings all across the country becoming a really distressing pattern here in the U.S.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a horrible pattern, Wolf. From police chiefs to criminologists, experts across the U.S. are trying to figure out those spikes in violence and there don't seem to be a lot of clear cut answers.


TODD (voice over): America shaken after another horrific weekend of gun violence. In the last three days, about 400 people shot or killed by gunfire in the U.S., according to the gun violence archive. In a broad daylight shooting in New York's Times Square, three innocent bystanders, including a four-year-old girl, shot and wounded.

The young girl might have had her life saved by New York Police Officer Alyssa Vogel, who used a tourniquet she had on her gun belt and quickly got the child away from the scene.

OFFICER ALYSSA VOGEL, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: I just picked her up and started running to the ambulance because I wanted to get her to the hospital as soon as possible.

TODD: In Colorado Springs, six people were killed during a birthday celebration at a mobile home early Sunday morning. The suspected shooter believed to have taken his own life, according to police. In Phoenix, a shooting at a Hyatt Regency Hotel left one man dead and at least seven others wounded. And a dizzying weekend of gun violence in Philadelphia, several different incidents were multiple people were shot, at least seven killed, according to a police inspector.

CHIEF INSPECTOR FRANK VANORE, PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: There were 22 men shot and three women shot during the course of the weekend. And I have seen a lot of violence. This is more violence than I've ever seen.

TODD: Across the United States over the weekend, there were at least nine mass shootings, leaving at least 15 people dead. CNN defines a mass shooting as an incident with four or more people killed or wounded by gunfire, not including the shooter.

While shootings in the immediate area around Times Square are infrequent, New York City has seen a terrible spike in gun violence recently. In the less than five months of 2021, at least 463 people have been shot in the city, up from 259 over the same period in 2020 and 239 in 2019. But New York is not alone.

PROF. JAMES ALAN FOX, CRIMINOLOGIST, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: There are other cities that are seeing spikes in shootings as well. We have unfortunately many people who have too much free time on their hands, too much idle time, whether they're not working or they're not in school.

TODD: And Criminologist James Alan Fox says the increase in homicides in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic is also a reflection of more pent-up frustration and anger among Americans, as well as other factors.

FOX: In addition to that, we've seen this uptick in the number of guns in the hands of Americans, partly purchased because people felt they needed self-protection during a pandemic.


TODD (on camera): But Professor Fox believes there could be some good news ahead. He sees the easing of the coronavirus pandemic in America, the continued openings of businesses and schools as a sign that violent crime could soon go down as more people return to work and to school and simply become more engaged. Wolf?

BLITZER: Terrible what's going on in the United States right now with all these shootings. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, I'll have the exclusive interview with the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. There you see her. This will be her first television interview since her truly stunning decision not, repeat, not to seek reelection.



BLITZER: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stunned the political world last week when she announced she wouldn't be seeking reelection.

Mayor Bottoms is joining us right now for her first television interview since revealing her decision.

Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us.

You say it's time to pass the baton onto someone else. Why have you decided not to seek reelection?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: Thank you, Wolf, for having me. There is not one single reason. I sat down a few weeks ago and I wrote

two letters. One was to Atlanta if I decided to run for reelection, and one was if I decided not to run. And remarkably, they were very similar letters. So, the last almost 3-1/2 years of my term have not been what I would have scripted. And I know people across America would not have scripted the last few years in our country.

But that being said, we had so many accomplishments and we were able to do so much for our communities in the most difficult of circumstances. So, I'm very proud of that. And I wanted to lead from a position of strength and not a position of weakness.

Thankfully, I am healthy. I don't know what my next job will be, but I am trusting and leaning on my faith that it will be one that fulfills me and continues to allow me to serve.

BLITZER: There have been, as you well know, some speculation, Mayor, that you were maybe uneasy about the competition you'd face on the road to reelection later this year. Did that play any part in your decision not to run again?

BOTTOMS: Absolutely not. I've never had an easy race. The first time I ran for office, I challenged an incumbent and I lost. And I dusted myself off, I ran again against I believe almost ten opponents. And then there was a very difficult mayor's race almost 4 years ago where there were almost 18 people in the race at one point.

So I am never afraid of competition. And, In fact, I believe that if I had some fear of competition or if I couldn't fund-raise or if there was something else, I likely would have stayed in just to prove a point.


But with the help of President Biden, I had the most successful fund- raiser in the history of any mayor in the city. So, I knew that I could fund-raise. I pulled it. My favorability ratings are near 70 percent, which is pretty remarkable. I'm thankful for that. And if the race of mayor were held today, I would win without a runoff.

And so, I don't always do things an ordinary ways, but I don't think it was built that we.

BLITZER: As is often the case when a politician, as you know, Mayor, decides not to seek election. There are questions about what higher office you may want to seek. Are you considering, let's say, running for governor of Georgia? Would that be a possibility?

BOTTOMS: You know, Wolf, there will be a whole slate of statewide elections in '22. So, of course, I have to give it some consideration. But I also have to give consideration to whether or not I want to enter the private sector or if there are other opportunities out there.

So I can say with all honesty, I do not know what my next step will be, but I just know that I'm going to continue to do everything that I possibly can to make sure that I leave our city in much better condition than when I found it when I was sworn in as mayor.

BLITZER: But you would consider running for governor?

BOTTOMS: You have to consider everything. I don't think that I would be an elected official if I didn't consider all opportunities. But I don't know that that is something that I would pursue.

BLITZER: Well, you'll still be mayor until the end of this year. We will certainly welcome you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

BLITZER: U p next, the rocket sirens blaring in Jerusalem for the first time in years. We're going live there for the latest on the attacks and the retaliation.



BLITZER: An extremely tense situation in Jerusalem tonight with days of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians have escalated into rocket attacks on a city and retaliatory strikes.

CNN's Hadas Gold is on the scene for us.

Hadas, rocket sirens capped off a day of escalating violence. What's the latest where you are on the ground?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all evening long, the sirens been going off especially in southern Israel and as of right now, as we understand, about 150 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel from this evening. A few hours ago, six rockets were fired towards Jerusalem, a really new escalation that they've not seen in some time.

Israel says it has responded with targeted strikes in Gaza, and the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza said that 20 people have been killed, including 9 children. Although it was not immediately clear how many had died as a result of the airstrikes, as a result of the Israeli airstrikes. The Israeli army said it is taking any reports of civilian casualties very seriously, that they are investigating the situation seriously.

Gaza militants said they fired these rockets in direct retaliation for what is happening in Jerusalem. Rising tensions in Jerusalem. Days of clashes around the Al-Aqsa compound.

Just today, more than 500 Palestinians have been injured, according to Palestinian Red Crescent during clashes with Israeli police at the compound.

Now the question will be, of course, whether we will see more rockets fired from Gaza, where will they hit? Will they hit places like Tel Aviv and what the Israeli response will be over the next coming of days? Wolf?

BLITZER: Very tense situation. Hadas, stay safe over there. We will be in touch with you. Appreciate it very much.

Meanwhile, the death toll in a bomb attack targeting Afghan school girls has now risen to 85 people.

Our international security editor Nick Paton Walsh has the very latest for us.

Nick, you're recently back from Afghanistan, what more are you learning about this truly horrific attack and who might be responsible?

NICK PATON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Wolf, it's not just the age of the victims. Schoolgirls referred to by the U.S. charge d'affaires of Afghanistan as the future of Afghanistan pursuing their education, but it's also the nature of the attack itself.

When they left that school at the end of the school day, a car bomb outside exploded to hit the first wave it seems of school girls and those leaving the school. Then as people rushed to the scene as usual to investigate, to offer help, two of the devices went off as well, initially a death toll of 25. Now it has rocketed to 85.

This, frankly, one of the worst mass casualties we've seen in Afghanistan for a number of years. Frankly, the most atrociously disgusting choice of victims here by whoever was responsible. The Taliban's say it was not them, but in one tweet does not necessarily embrace or encompass everything that's going on in Afghanistan. Quite fractured insurgency now, where there are extremists and moderates and hard-liners.

Certainly, fingers have been pointed towards ISIS franchise in Afghanistan who have in the past made particularly violent attacks against a Shia minority in Afghanistan, predominantly the people in which this part of Kabul were populated by.

But this is also raising many fears about the security vacuums that's possibly being sparked by the U.S. withdrawal that began on May 1st, unconditionally, and is now racing forward to be finished by September. Many of the grave sides of these young girls were cursing the Afghan government for not being able to provide security for them and it's really the challenge in Kabul that they face to maintain that.

The real fear, though, being that this sort of episode will just increase in savagery in the months ahead as the U.S. pull out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Awful situation indeed. All those school girls and God -- I'm so worried about what happens in the coming weeks and months.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.

That's it for me.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.