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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Republicans Oust Liz Cheney From Leadership; Pipeline Operation Restored; Biden: Encouraged By Prospect Of Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal; House Hearing On January 6 Insurrection Devolves Into Partisan Finger-Pointing; CDC Now Recommending Use Of Pfizer COVID Vaccine In 12 To 15-Year-Olds; Authorities Hunt For Missing Tiger In Houston. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 12, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A new novel in bookstores, "The Devil May Dance." It takes place in 1962 Rat Pack Hollywood. It features the heroes from my previous effort, "The Hellfire Club."

If you are interested, you can get an autographed copy at or a regular copy wherever you buy books.

Our coverage continues right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is just a few yards away 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: fuel flowing again. A critical U.S. pipeline getting back in business tonight, after a truly stunning cyberattack shut it down, leading to dwindling supplies and growing lines at gas stations across the U.S.

A Republican turning point, as the party ousts Congresswoman Liz Cheney from its House leadership because of her criticism of former President Trump and her refusal to support the big lie.

And full-scale war, an ominous warning from a U.N. Middle East peace envoy, as Israeli-Palestinian violence now escalates to its worst level since 2014.

Let's start our coverage this hour with CNN's Dianne Gallagher. She's joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina, for the breaking news we're following.

Dianne, we might finally, finally be nearing the end of this fuel crisis that's plagued so much of the East Coast here in the United States all week. Give us the latest information.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf, Colonial Pipeline saying just about an hour ago that it is restarting that critical pipeline at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. But it warned that we may still be seeing scenes like what you see here in Charlotte, North Carolina, of cars waiting to get gas, because it could take several days for things to get back to normal, telling gas stations to expect intermittent service interruptions, though authorities say that the reason why this seems like a crisis has much more to do with the public panic.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As far as gas, yes, we ain't got no more.

GALLAGHER: ... and patience...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know how this is going to work for all of us.

GALLAGHER: ... running out all along the East Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to like six different stations, and nobody's got any gas.

GALLAGHER: Demand spiked by 40 percent on Monday in five states from Florida to Virginia.

TIEISHA BROWN, DRIVER: I was on my way to my dad's house, and my gas tank is basically empty. And all the gas pumps has out of service.

GALLAGHER: Officials blaming public panic for what seems like a sudden short supply.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): The shortages that we're seeing are pretty much solely related to panic buying from people. And I want to encourage people not to do that. Don't fill up your car unless you have to.

GALLAGHER: The nervous fill-ups sparked by last week Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: There should be no cause for hoarding gasoline, especially in light of the fact that the pipeline should be substantially operational by the end of this week.

GALLAGHER: The 5,500-mile pipeline moves roughly 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel supply, GasBuddy reporting more than 1,800 stations are offline, saying, here in North Carolina, an eye-popping 65 percent are running dry.

With long lines stretching for miles, if drivers are lucky enough to find fuel, it's costing them.

LEATHER KERNEY, DRIVER: Six gallons of gas for $35, that's absolutely ridiculous.

GALLAGHER: The average price of a gallon of gas jumping to $3. JEANETTE C. MCGEE, DIRECTOR, AAA EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS: More expensive than we have seen in quite some time. Actually, the last time we were at that price point was the end of October in 2014.

GALLAGHER: Experts warn that panic purchases could create a domino effect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't want to miss out. You don't want to be the one that doesn't get gas.

GALLAGHER: Meaning fear of a shortage could actually create one.


GALLAGHER: And, Wolf, while there are concerns about those potential shortages, there's also concern about price gouging.

Just with Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, attorneys generals in those states say that they have received already more than 1,200 complaints about price gouging in the past couple days. Wolf, more than 450 of those came within just the past 24 hours in North Carolina alone.

BLITZER: Yes, there are long lines and a lot of gas stations shut down here in the D.C./Virginia/Maryland area as well. I tried to get gas at my local station. It was shut down earlier today.

Dianne Gallagher, we will get back to you. Thank you very much.

There's other major news we're following, including the truly remarkable downfall of one of the most powerful people in Congress. We're talking about Representative Liz Cheney, removed as leader of the House Republican Conference, in a move underscoring, underscoring the grip that former President Trump still has on the GOP.


Our congressional correspondent, Ryan Nobles, is joining us right now.

Ryan, the race to replace Cheney is also under way right now.


Right behind me, the members of the House Freedom Caucus are set to meet with Elise Stefanik, who is Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leaders's handpicked replacement for Liz Cheney. That's after a vote this morning that was a very easy decision for House Republicans, as they sided with the former President Donald Trump, as opposed to Liz Cheney as conference chair.


NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, the big lie casting a shadow over House Republicans who are overwhelmingly choosing to side with Donald Trump moving forward.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president.

NOBLES: After weeks of fallout and public bickering, the end of Liz Cheney's tenure as conference chair came with a simple voice vote in a meeting that lasted less than a half-an-hour.

Cheney, who never backed down from her criticism of President Trump's role in the January insurrection, says, despite the ouster, she's not going anywhere.

CHENEY: I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.

NOBLES: The end of Cheney's tenure came because of her calls for Republicans to tell the truth about the 2020 election.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): What happened today was sad. Liz has committed the only sin of being consistent and telling the truth.

NOBLES: Today, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy trying to rewrite history again. After orchestrating Cheney's removal, he's now claiming his conference is not questioning the results of the 2020 election.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with. We're sitting here with the president today.

NOBLES: But, despite McCarthy's claim, CNN confirmed he recently spoke with Trump and has also gone down to see the former president in Florida.

And many Republicans, including Trump, continue to claim, without evidence, that there were problems with the 2020 election, Trump even writing on Monday: "If a thief robs a jewelry store of all its diamonds, the 2020 presidential election, the diamonds must be returned."

And McCarthy's handpicked replacement for Cheney, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, is among them. In addition to voting to object to the certification of the election results, she supports a controversial ongoing fourth audit of the votes in Arizona by a private company.

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

NOBLES: Stefanik, meanwhile, is hoping to move past this controversy and unite her fellow Republicans, with an eye toward winning the majority in 2022.

In a letter to her colleagues, Stefanik writes -- quote -- "Today, I humbly asked to earn your vote for House Republican Conference chair to unify our message as a team and win the majority in 2022."


NOBLES: But the big question tonight is, will Stefanik be able to unite the Republican Party behind her candidacy?

There are conservative concerns about her voting record. Liz Cheney actually had a much more conservative voting record, a voting record that was much more aligned with the former President Donald Trump.

That's why here tonight behind me, the House Freedom Caucus is going to grill Stefanik about her voting record. One member of Congress of that Freedom Caucus, Chip Roy, has suggested there should be an alternative to Stefanik. He's even flirting with the idea of running himself. Yet no one has yet put their hat into the ring.

And, Wolf, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Stefanik could be conference chair of the House Republican Party as soon as Friday.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what it looks like.

All right, Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles reporting.

Let's dig deeper into all of this.

Joining us now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, our CNN political commentators former Republican Senator Jeff Flake and former Republican Congresswoman Mia Love.

Jamie, you have been doing a lot of reporting on Liz Cheney.


BLITZER: She urged Republicans not to be, in her word, complicit in Trump's efforts to -- quote -- "unravel our democracy," very strong words from her.

This moment is about much more than just Liz Cheney, isn't it?

GANGEL: Absolutely.

She's made a political sacrifice, Wolf, and she's made it because, as she said, this is about truth vs. lies. What we have seen in their ousting her from the conference is that the GOP, the House members, are running back to Donald Trump as fast as they can. They are embracing the big lie again.

And what Liz Cheney is saying -- this is a conservative. She is not just warning her colleagues with these statements. She is warning American voters that she believes that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger.


That is the big picture.

BLITZER: Very strong words, as I said, coming from her.

Jeff, you wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" suggesting that the Republican Party's, in your words, steady embrace of dishonesty as the central premise has brought us to this low and dangerous place. Just how big of a watershed moment is this right now, not just for the

Republican Party, but potentially for the country?

JEFF FLAKE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's a huge moment, not that it matters who is conference chair of the Republican Party. Nobody outside of Washington in the House knows that.

But what this signals, this is a manifestation of a party that simply won't tell the truth and is ready to embrace the big lie just to stay in the good graces of the former president. And that is debilitating as a party, if we want to win elections in certain swing districts, in certain states or nationally.

And it's even worse for the country, in how it sows distrust in elections moving forward. So, it's bad all the way around for the party and for the country.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

Mia, you served in Congress with -- and you were at one point pretty close to the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy. Do you still think he deserves to be the leader after how he's handled all of this?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't like how he's handled this.

And I doubt -- I have never agreed with him 100 percent. And, still, he is -- I still consider him a good friend. I do question the way that this happened with Liz Cheney. I believe that, if he's going to be an effective leader, he needs to stop looking to the past. He has to stop looking to the former president for guidance.

He has to have a vision going forward. He's got to be able to say, look, I have got a vision. This is what we're going to do to make Americans' lives better. And we're going to get on that northbound train to a better life.

And if he doesn't do that, and he continues to go back and start advising on behalf of the president or actually getting his advice and continuing to put the former president in the forefront of what's happening with the Republican Party, there's going to be no defense for what he has done with Liz Cheney.

BLITZER: You know, Jamie, how jarring was it today to hear McCarthy say that he doesn't think anybody, anybody -- his word -- is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election here in the United States, given that that lie is still very much central to actually what happened today?

GANGEL: When I heard him say that, a whiplash moment, a: Wait, what?

I just couldn't even believe it. I went back and looked at the tape a second time. This is a page out of Donald Trump's playbook, say whatever you want, and hope you get away with it.

But you have to wonder, why did he say that today? And I think the reason may be Liz Cheney backlash, that he wants to be speaker, and that he is worried that what he did just at 9:00 this morning, pushing her out, could get in the way of that goal.

And so this is about changing the story and saying, no, no, no, I didn't mean that, and hoping that he can pick off enough seats for the Republicans to regain control of the House.

BLITZER: Yes, I know he's very ambitious. He wants to be speaker.

Jeff, to Americans out there who were watching all of this, and think it's just some inner-party fighting that's going on, it really doesn't affect them at all, what do you say to them?

Jeff, can you hear me?

FLAKE: Now I can.


FLAKE: I lost you for a minute.

BLITZER: All right. You want me to repeat the question?

FLAKE: Yes, if you could.

BLITZER: To the Americans out there who are looking at all of this and think it's just some internal, some inner-party fighting that doesn't really affect them, what do you say to them?

FLAKE: No, it does.

I mean, what happened on January 6 was an affront to every American. We had an attack on our Capitol. And it was because of the big lie, people willing to do anything for the president, because he simply will not admit that he lost the election.

Here in Arizona today and over the last three weeks and for the next couple of months, we're going through a so-called audit of the ballots in Maricopa County, because we have a party here that believes the president and will not accept that the president lost the election.

They're even looking for traces of bamboo in ballots because of some conspiracy theory that 40,000 ballots were shipped in from Asia the night of the election. So, it does have ramifications, not just for the party, but for the country as a whole, because we need faith in our democratic system and our elections moving ahead.


BLITZER: We certainly do.

All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

There's more news, breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION, the -- THE SITUATION ROOM. The Middle East is right now on the brink of potentially all-out war, amid the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2014. We're going live to Jerusalem. We will have a live report right after the break.


BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is speaking out for the first time over the surging violence in the Middle East.

The president says Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks and says he spoke directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Antonio about the current conflict.

Let's get some more from CNN's Hadas Gold. She's joining us from Jerusalem right now.

Hadas, this call comes as Israel is intensifying its airstrikes in Gaza.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israel is intensifying its airstrikes in Gaza.

And, actually, as we speak and within the last few minutes, air raid sirens have been wailing across Tel Aviv from the south to the north. Whenever these rockets are targeting Tel Aviv, it's seen as a clear escalation, because it is rare that Tel Aviv receives these rocket attacks.

Around 1,500 rockets have been fired into Israel since Monday. In Gaza, the Israeli military says it continues to strike hundreds of targets. They say they have killed more than 30 militants, including more than a dozen senior Hamas operatives.


They have leveled at least three buildings in Gaza which they say hosted key Hamas offices. And the death toll is rising. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, 65 have been killed, including 16 children.

In Israel, as of this evening, seven people have been killed, including a 6-year-old and one soldier.


GOLD (voice-over): It's a pattern that shouldn't be familiar, yet already is, Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets streaking across the sky from Gaza, sirens ringing out, warning Israelis to take cover, the Iron Dome intercepting as many incoming projectiles as possible.

The punishing retaliation of an air assault on Gaza targets by Israeli forces pushing the casualty count higher with each cycle, dimming the hopes for de-escalation of violence and exposing the harsh reality of a longstanding conflict boiling over into rage once again.

What started as a flash point over threatened evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque is now a conflict that the U.N. special envoy to the Middle East says is escalating towards an all-out war.

Israel calling up reservists and moving tanks and heavy artillery to the Gaza border, refusing to rule out a ground offensive.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz making clear Israel has no intention of backing down.

BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): In hundreds of strikes, weapons production sites, tunnels and towers that have been serving terror organizations have crumbled, and they will keep crumbling. There are many more targets. This is just the beginning.

GOLD: Hamas confirming some leaders of their armed wing killed in the latest round of airstrikes, while vowing that nothing will stop their battle.

A Hamas spokesman calling for Palestinians to march in Jerusalem to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, saying: "Your alarm towards Al-Aqsa is a pledge of loyalty to the blood of the righteous martyrs in Gaza with honor and an affirmation of continuing the path of liberation."

Anger now spilling beyond Jerusalem into other cities, the city of Lod becoming the latest powder keg, a state of emergency and curfew now in effect, after an Arab Israeli man was shot dead, and rioters torched synagogues, cars and businesses there.

In the meantime, civilians continue to pay the heaviest price, as Gaza citizens try to salvage what's left of bombed-out buildings, all while mourning and burying their dead, with scores killed and several hundred injured, while, in Israel, with every siren, a warning that another missile might make it through, as several have already claimed lives.


GOLD: And, Wolf, definitely, one of the biggest worrying developments is the rise in that communal violence between Jews and Arabs in these mixed cities.

We are seeing some really disturbing reports and videos of an Arab man being beaten in a town called Bat Yam. There's also reports of a Jewish man also being beaten in a place called Akko, definitely very worrying developments, and the tension just rising here.

BLITZER: Awful situation. And it clearly could escalate into a full- scale war. Let's hope it doesn't.

Hadas Gold, thank you very much. Stay safe over there.

Coming up: That critically important fuel pipeline stricken by a cyberattack is finally restarting operations.

Also ahead, Senator Bernie Sanders is standing by live. We have lots to discuss with him. And we will when we come back.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following, the critically important fuel pipeline here in the United States stricken by a cyberattack last week is finally restarting operations after days of gasoline shortages all across the East Coast of the U.S.

For more on President Biden's response to the fuel crisis, we're joined now by our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, the president said to expect some good news in the next 24 hours with the pipeline. That already appears to be the case, right?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it came even shorter than 24 hours, more like about an hour.

At 5:00 p.m., the pipeline started reoper -- started back up again, started operations back up again, according to Colonial Pipeline. Now, it's worth keeping in mind, Wolf, it will take a couple of days, the company says, for it to be fully up and going again.

But that restart is crucial for an administration that has been focused on this issue like a laser over the course of the last several days, recognizing that there are significant economic impacts, there are significant problems it could create not just for gas prices, but for gas availability as well, so starting to turn a corner there.

And this wasn't the only thing the White House was focused on. The president also meeting for the first time in person with the top four congressional leaders, a meeting, Wolf, that was more than 90 minutes' long.

And, according to one official, it was businesslike. He compared it to the meeting -- some of the meetings that happened in the Oval Office over the course of the previous four years, which were anything but businesslike, very explosive with former President Trump.

But, in this case, it was all four leaders and the president laying out their positions on infrastructure, trying to figure out if there is any pathway on a physical infrastructure deal, roads, bridges, ports, waterways, that the two sides can agree on, trying to figure out if there's a cost that perhaps the two sides could reach at the top line.

One thing that is very clearly not resolved, how to pay for it. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, Senate -- House -- or House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy making clear, raising taxes, particularly that 2017 GOP tax cut, is a nonstarter and a red line.


I'm told they mention this multiple times in the meeting to the president. And the president said he understood where they were coming from. However, the president making clear he's still optimistic. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm encouraged that there's room to have a compromise on a bipartisan bill that's solid and significant and a means by which to pay for it without dropping all of the -- all of the burden on middle class and working class people.


MATTINGLY: So, Wolf, what leaders are saying is consider this a first step, not anywhere near a deal. Another key meeting tomorrow, President Biden welcoming six key Senate Republicans to continue these discussions, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll let's see what happens. All right, Phil, thank you very much, Phil Mattingly over at the White House.

Let's get some reaction right now from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. He caucuses obviously with the Democrats. Senator Sanders, thank you so much, as usual, for joining us.

I don't know if you heard, but President Biden today joked at one point that he said it will be easy to reach a compromise on infrastructure. In your view as he, right now, though wasting valuable, time trying to reach an agreement with these Republican leaders?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): No, I don't think it's a waste of time. I think you make every possible effort to make the bill bipartisan. But between you and me, given the enormous infrastructure crises that we face as a nation, and by infrastructure, I mean not just roads and bridges and water systems, I mean the crisis that we have in low income and affordable housing, I mean education and child care and pre-K and health care. That is all part of our infrastructure.

And, Wolf, for too, too long, the average American has seen government work for the 1 percent for large corporations. And what some of us are trying to do with the president is have government start paying attention to the needs of the working class, which is struggling economically in a way we have not seen for a long, long time.

And in terms of paying for it, what the Republicans are very insistent upon is they want the middle class and working families to pay for it. The president correctly is saying he wants wealthiest people who are doing very, very well, large corporations who, in some cases, are not paying a nickel in federal income taxes to pay for it. The president is right, and we have got to move in the direction of progressive taxation.

BLITZER: Because you heard the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, say he's not going to support anything that raises taxes from the tax cut that was approved in 2017 during the Trump presidency. How is all this going to be paid for if they're not going to increase some taxes? SANDERS: Well, that's right. I mean, they do want to raise taxes, but they want to raise regressive taxes, taxes on working families. I come from a very rural state. People drive long distances as they get to work. Apparently, McConnell wants those folks, working people, to pay more in taxes. I want large corporation, some of whom have not paid a nickel in federal income tax last year and the wealthiest people in this county, to start paying their fair share of taxes. So that's the fundamental divide.

The other divide is what we consider would be infrastructure. In my view, it is not just roads and bridges but it is the foundation of a modern society.

BLITZER: And Republicans have a totally different definition as far as infrastructure is concerned.

Let's get to some other issues while I have you, Senator. We just learned that Senator Joe Manchin, the Democrat of West Virginia, won't vote for S-1.That's the Democrat sweeping Voting Rights Bill. He wants the narrower voting rights bill. It's called the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. What's your reaction to that? Is something better than nothing?

SANDERS: Look, what I hope people understand -- and I don't mean to be overly partisan in saying this -- is what happened today in the House with the removal of Representative Liz Cheney from leadership is a very profound statement. And Cheney's crime, the reason she was removed, is she has said correctly that Donald Trump is lying, that he lost the election. And what Trump is trying to do is undermine American democracy. That's what she said. And for saying that, she was removed for leadership.

All over this country you're seeing Republican governors and legislatures trying to make it harder in outrageous ways for people of colorful, for low income people, for young people to vote and participate in the political process. They're coming up with these incredible gerrymandering districts to protect Republicans.

The challenge at this moment, of all the problems we face, is whether or not we remain a democratic society, and S-1 says that we have got to address that.


We have got to make sure that everybody in this country has the right to vote, that we don't allow billionaires to buy elections, that we dot no not allow this excessive gerrymandering to take place. We need 50 votes to pass that, and I hope that we will get those votes.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll see. Let's find out sooner rather than later. Senator Sanders, thanks so much for joining us.

SANDERS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, tough questions by lawmakers but no real answers from former Trump officials as Congress investigates the Capitol siege.



BLITZER: A sometimes tense and contentious House hearing on the January 6th Capitol insurrection here in Washington. It involved into partisan finger-pointing as former Trump's officials were grilled by Democratic lawmakers. Here is CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the former acting defense secretary on the defensive, testifying for the first time and insisting he did not delay deploying National Guard troops to defend the Capitol, January 6th.

CHRISTOPHER MILLER, FORMER ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: This isn't a video game where you can move forces with the flick of a thumb. Those of you with military experience or who understand the nature of military deployments will recognize how rapid our response was.

SCHNEIDER: But Democrats zeroed in on the hour and a half between 1:34 P.M. when D.C.'s mayor called the army secretary to request National Guard troops and 3:04 P.M. when Miller finally authorized the mobilization.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Sir, because of your actions --

MILLER: There were 8,000 badged in credential police officers on duty. The United States Armed Forces only be used as a last resort.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And you weren't there. They were -- and you were AWOL. You were AWOL, Mr. Secretary. You were AWOL. Remember, as you said before --

MILLER: That's completely inaccurate. That's completely inaccurate.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: As you said before --

SCHNEIDER: Miller stressed he was reluctant to deploy military forces to the Capitol on January 6th since the use of troops near the White House during the Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020 had created controversy.

Miller also backtracked on these comments he made in March, blaming Donald Trump.

MILLER: Would anybody have marched over on the Capitol and over on the Capitol without the president's speech, I think it's pretty much definitive that wouldn't have happened.

SCHNEIDER: Even though Miller conveyed the same sentiment in a written opening statement he submitted to lawmakers but did not read word for word. MILLER: Have reassessed it's not a unitary factor at all. There was -- it seems clear there was an organized conspiracy.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): This is a -- it's a very recent reversal of your testimony.

MILLER: Absolutely not. That's ridiculous.

STEPHEN: You're ridiculous.

SCHNEIDER: Former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen was also in the hot seat but refused to reveal his communications with former President Trump on and around January 6th.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Were you asked or instructed by President Trump to take any action at the department to advance election fraud claims or seek to overturn any part of the 2020 election results.

JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Congressman, as I just alluded to in your prior question, I can tell you what the actions of the department --

CONNOLLY: No, sir. Mr. Rosen --

ROSEN: I cannot tell you with consist with my obligations today about private conversations with the president one way or the other.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, the current attorney general, Merrick Garland, testify at a simultaneous Senate hearing on domestic extremism, denouncing the January 6th attack and the extremists that executed it.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it is fair to say that in my career as a judge and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also testified at that Senate hearing saying that white supremacy extremist remain the most persistent threat to the U.S. and that DHS has created a branch to focus exclusively on that threat from white supremacists. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very strong words indeed. All right Jessica, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on this. Joining us now, CNN Counterterrorism Analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official, Phil Mudd, also with us, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Charles Ramsey, the former Philadelphia Police commissioner, former Washington D.C. police chief.

Phil, this was supposed to be a fact-finding hearing up on Capitol Hill today. Did you hear sufficient answers from Trump administration officials who testify today?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Let me give you a clear answer. Yes and no. From the Department of Justice, I heard a clear answer, that is when you're having a conversation with the president of the United States, you don't necessarily have to talk about that conversation with Congress. I would agree with that, Wolf, and we can talk about why, but the president should have the authority to have privilege conversations with advisers.

From the former acting secretary of defense, I thought that was a horrendous appearance. I would completely disagree on two levels. Number one, he's defending the National Guard's performance at the January insurrection. Two questions, first, if you think that went well, what would have been the alternative? Would the alternative have been -- would the alternative have been, do nothing different? I just don't understand that from a leadership level.

Let me close by offering something specific. In early March, the leadership of the National Guard in D.C. talked about changes in their response time and changes as a result of policy and procedure.


He referred at that time to a three-hour delay. Those changes were evidently as a result of concerns about political impact of a deployment of the National Guard. Why did that happen? I just think the answers from the former acting secretary of defense were not helpful and not clear. I didn't -- I thought they were just horrendous.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, we also heard some Republicans describe those who participated in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as patriots and peaceful protesters. What do you say to that?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, thank God we have video because clearly that's not the case. I mean that's revisionist history on full display.

So, listen, the only way we're going to get at what took place -- and there were numerous break downs that occurred that day -- is with an independent commission of full subpoena power put in place to be able to really dig deep into this to find out exactly what happened.

And it has to be made up of people who care more about their country than any individual political party. I think you saw today just by listening to the testimony and the questions being asked, I mean it was a lot of grandstanding. It was basically a waste of time.

BLITZER: Yeah. It would be good to get a 9/11-type commission to understand and learn the lessons from what happened January 6th.

Chief Ramsey, Phil Mudd, gentlemen, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the CDC now officially, officially recommending the Pfizer COVID vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds. We're going to talk about it with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's standing by live.



BLITZER: This is important. The CDC tonight is officially recommending -- officially recommending that young people age 12 to 15 get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after the director accepted a unanimous recommendation from an advisory panel.

Let's discuss with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, how significant is this move from the CDC?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORESPONDENT: Well, I think it's pretty significant for 12 to 15 year olds, certainly. I mean, you know, I have three kids as you know, Wolf, in that age range. And they're planning on getting the vaccine.

You know, I think they're not very -- they weren't very worried about getting sick but it is in the back of their minds. I think more importantly for them, it's about what their plans can be for the summer and next school year. I think the vaccines are opening a lot of doors for them in a lot of regard.

Overall, Wolf, if you look at 12 to 15-years-old, they represent 5 percent of the population. So, you're making more people now eligible for the vaccine, more people to get vaccinated, make it easier to get that herd immunity that everyone talks about.

BLITZER: Yeah, as you pointed out, you're a father of three daughters, all of them in the 12 to 15 age group. So what does it mean to you that your children will soon be able to have the same protection that you and I and so many others were able to get months ago?

GUPTA: You know, Wolf, it's a good question. You know, I think at the back of my mind, I was always thinking -- I wasn't very worried that they were going to get sick but I guess it's in the back of my mind. Small risk, but now a vaccine that's basically 100 percent protective. You know, that that's -- this is a preventable disease at this point. The vaccine means a lot in that regard.

I want to show you something, Wolf, just in terms of significance, compare H1N1. You remember that in 2009, predominantly affected young people. That's the blue line. Hospitalizations from that. Well, it was a big deal. People, you know, we created a vaccine for that level of hospitalization.

COVID in just young people, 12 to 17-year-olds, has bypassed that. So, it's still rare but it is significant enough to think that if you have 100 percent protective vaccine, you should absolutely take it.

BLITZER: Yeah, very significant indeed. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

And important note to our viewers, we want to congratulate Sanjay on his new podcast. It's called "Chasing Life," it is really, really terrific, just premiered this week.

Sanjay, thanks for doing everything you do. We are always grateful to you.

Coming up, the hunt is on, get this. The hunt is on for a tiger. Yes, a tiger missing in Houston, Texas. Authorities are franticly searching but say they have no idea where the animal might be.


BLITZER: A bizarre and potentially dangerous situation is unfolding in Houston, Texas right now where authorities are searching for a missing tiger last seen on Sunday.

CNN's Rosa Flores is on the story for us tonight.

Rosa, so what are you hearing? What's the latest?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the man that's linked to this missing tiger, 26-years-old Victor Hugo Cuevas, posted bond earlier this afternoon on evading police charges. According to the Houston Police Department, this is the man who was seen loading the tiger onto an SUV and then taking off.

And according to police, after a short pursuit, he got away with the tiger hence the evading police charges. Now, according to court documents, this man was already out on bond on at least two other cases that we know of, one out of the county for murder and out of Austin County for evading police.

I talked to his attorney and this man says his client is not the owner of the tiger. Take a listen.


MICHAEL ELLIOTT, ATTORNEY FOR VICTOR HUGO CUEVAS: They saw my client go after the yard and retrieve the tiger and they assumed a whole lot of different things that he necessarily has not done and he's not guilty of. They assume that the tiger is his. It's, of course, it is not.


FLORES: Now that attorney is asking the public's help in locating this tiger. The Houston police department is investigating agency. They tell us that this is police officers doing police work. And HPD is giving the public no indication and I should repeat that no indication that this tiger is either on the loose or roaming Houston streets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it legal to have a tiger in your home in Texas, Rosa?

FLORES: You know that answer is a little complicated so bare with me for just a moment because owning and having a tiger here in the city of Houston is against a city ordinance. Having a tiger in the state of Texas is legal with some restrictions, and according to the Humane Society of the United States, there is no federal law that prohibits the ownership of big cats.

But, Wolf, they tell us that's why they are trying to pass federal legislation to bar the ownership of big cats as pets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rosa Flores, let's hope they find this tiger. Thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.