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The Situation Room
Vigil & Marches Mark One Year Since George Floyd's Murder; Floyd Family Discusses Police Reform With Members of Congress, Meets Privately With President Biden; GOP Leaders Finally Condemn Rep. Green's Holocaust Comments; WAPO: Grand Jury Convened In N.Y. Criminal Probe Of Trump; Blinken In Middle East To Bolster Ceasefire, Vows To Help Rebuild Gaza; Iran Helps Prop Up Hamas' Homemade Rocket Arsenal; Moderna Says Vaccine Is Safe & Effective For People Ages 12-Plus. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 25, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Great news, in our health lead as of today, more than half of all U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated. A major milestone for us vaccination efforts. This is the White House says anyone who is fully vaccinated should be able to relax and enjoy their Memorial Day weekend.
I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
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, a nation reflects the family of George Floyd meets with President Joe Biden marking one year since Floyd's murder. The President hoped to make progress on a policing reform bill by this date. Will it ever pass?
Also, Republican leaders finally condemned the ugly comments by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene but not without pointing fingers at Democrats.
Then, Secretary of State Tony Blinken visits the Middle East, just days after the start of a very fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. We're live on the ground with details.
But let's start with CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's over at the White House for us after President Biden's meeting with George Floyd's family.
Phil, so what do we know about their conversation that took place behind closed doors?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the President and Vice President met with six members of George Floyd's family for more than an hour and there was certainly discussion on policy. Police reform, number one on the agenda on the policy front for both the family and the President. But it was also a personal meeting, a meeting that underscored a relationship that has developed over the course of the last 365 days.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say his name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Floyd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Floyd.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, in tragedy, a bond between a president and a grieving family. Family of George Floyd meeting face to face in the Oval Office with President Biden.
PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: He's a genuine guy. They always speak from the heart. And it's a pleasure just to be able to have the chance to meet with them when we have that opportunity to. We're just thankful for what's going on.
MATTINGLY: One year to the day after this video shocked the world and set off a reckoning on race inside the U.S. Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck here since convicted on all three counts including murder.
In its wake, a presidential connection to the family White House officials say has developed into a genuine bond from a first meeting days after Floyd's death, the moment when Floyd's daughter Gianna at the White House today delivered words Biden has come back to in his highest profile moments as President.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was kneeling down and talk to her so I could look her in the eye. She looked at me she said, my daddy changed the world.
MATTINGLY: To a phone call just moments after the guilty verdict.
BIDEN: I wish I was there just to put my arms around you.
MATTINGLY: It's a bond both the President and the Floyd family have sought to utilize to bring genuine change.
BIDEN: I'm anxious to see you guys, I really am. And we're going to get a lot more done, we're going to get -- we're going to do a lot and we're going to stay at it till we get it done.
MATTINGLY: Biden aides say remains convinced Floyd's murder changed the dynamics of race in the U.S.
BIDEN: It stirred the conscious and 10s of millions of Americans. And in my view, it marked a turning point in this country's attitude toward racial justice.
MATTINGLY: But negotiators have now missed his deadline for police reform set for today. Still, for Biden the day marked by a private personal meeting. And by design, not a moment for a new big public push on the legislation. JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He remains closely engaged and closely in touch with the negotiators about what is most constructive on what role he can play and we can play to leave the space for them to negotiate and to move toward a place where you can sign the bill into law.
MATTINGLY: As key negotiators are signaling progress even as key sticking points remain in the Floyd family holding a series of meetings with key Democratic and Republican lawmakers Tuesday and remaining optimistic that a deal and change may be coming soon.
FLOYD: I think things have changed. I think that it's moving slowly, but it's making progress. I just want everything to be better in life because I don't want to see people dying the same way my brother has passed.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MATTINGLY: And Wolf the flow family is now on Capitol Hill meeting with two of the leading negotiators, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Tim Scott, the lead Republican negotiator. And they made clear, while the President in their private meeting expressed some disappointment that his deadline for police reform had been missed, he made a clear point to them. He did not want a rushed bill. He wanted Wolf, the right bill.
BLITZER: That would be good. The right bill would be very important.
Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you.
The memorials and the tributes to George Floyd will go into the night in Minneapolis. CNN's Joe Johns is on the scene for us right now.
Joe, the tone in Minneapolis where you are much is different compared to one year ago.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is Commons Park in Minneapolis, a very different scene. There's been a festival atmosphere, I would say with music, speech making. It goes on behind me right now drastically different from what it was one year ago today at 38th in Chicago where George Floyd died.
And people have been moving through that location all day. We expect the scene to turn solemn this evening when there was a candlelight vigil at that very same location.
Meanwhile, back here at Commons Park, we've seen a lot of the political activism that was launched as a result of George Floyd's death, including his sister speaking before this audience talking about the fact that there was an expectation that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act should have been or would have been passed by this time if the President had had his way. It hasn't happened yet. She said, obviously disappointed about that. But also said that's the reason why she did not join other members of her family in Washington, D.C. visiting at the White House today. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: Biden invited the Floyd family to be in his presence. But I was going to D.C. for a purpose. I was going to D.C. for Biden to sign a bill. Biden has not signed that bill. We need that bill passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Now, we also learned today that members of the Floyd family will use part of the $27 million settlement they got as a result of his death to pay for programs and organizations. Their existence right there at 38th. Street and Chicago Avenue. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Joe, thank you very much. Joe Johns reporting.
Let's discuss with Cornell William Brooks. He's the former President and CEO of the NAACP. Also with us CNN Senior Political Analyst, Nia- Malika Henderson.
Cornell, thanks very much for joining us. We saw what scores of protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder one year ago. Is there still a strong motivation based on what you can tell for change right now in our country?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, DIR. TROTTER COLLABORATIVE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. So, Wolf, first of all, it's just great, great to be with you, particularly on this occasion.
And to lift up for Americans that what we saw in the wake of George Floyd's death, with at least 26 million Americans taking to the streets, all across the length and this -- length and breadth of this country, and the largest civil rights demonstration in American history, both large in terms of geographic breadth, as well as numerical height and the number of people involved.
So, the movement continues in that -- yes, millions of people took to the streets, but millions of people look to Washington for the kind of change that would prevent, hopefully, people from losing their lives in the way that George Floyd did.
So, we're very clear about this 26 million people took to the streets, 220 members of the House of Representatives voted in support of the George Floyd Act, we need to hear from 100 members of the Senate pass that bill and take another step forward to transforming policing so that we as a country don't have to suffer modestly with the George Floyd family is yet suffering greatly.
BLITZER: You know, Nia, in the past year or so we're told that there have been about 250 bills signed on state levels, like state legislatures involving policing and oversight. But do they really make much of an impact? NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, listen, a lot of these bills in about 40 states have signed these bills into law while these bills look at police practices like chokeholds, or banning those chokeholds. They also look at the way these officer involved, shootings are investigated, and also trying to get training for some of these officers.
You also have in some of these municipalities across the country move to look at what police officers actually do. How should they spend their time? Should they be spending their time arresting people or stopping people for low level offenses? So there's that.
The broader picture in terms of policing over this last year as we mark the one year anniversary of George Floyd's tragic death is that the deaths are still happening at the same rate, but 1,100 people have been killed over this last year. It's about the same before George Floyd's death. And black people still more likely than white people ought to be killed at the hands of police officers about three times as high.
So, you know, there is progress. You heard for instance George Floyd's brother say it's slow, but there is progress and critics of the movement that we see in the States. So, it's going to take a much more comprehensive approach to really try to reinvent policing. It's going to take much more money as well and likely marching in the streets as well.
BLITZER: Yes, you make an important point, you know.
Cornell, nationally, as we all know now, three key black members of Congress, they're negotiating what's called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Bill. We're told they've made some very significant progress on key elements, including federal standards for no-knock warrants, a ban on chokeholds, limits on equipment from the Defense Department, for example.
But one key sticking point is still what's called qualified immunity, which protects police officers from civil lawsuits. Is it worth setting this issue aside, at least for now, to get this bill passed, signed into law?
BROOKS: The President, President Biden talked about the need to pass the right bill. Qualified immunity is a part of a right bill. So where we have police when there's a police homicide, essentially saying it's about a few bad apples. But when it comes to qualified immunity, we act as though people in the streets are attempting to destroy the origin.
Qualified immunity taking that away means that we can hold police officers who literally agreed, bridge, spoiling people's rights bodies, their humanity, it means we can hold them accountable. That is a key element of a good bill. It is what the Floyd family is looking to see. Billions of people across the country are looking to see. Back in April, 60 percent of the American public was open to that kind of accountability. We need not lessen the standard in terms of accountability at this moment, particularly as nearly we're still seeing 1000 plus people, 1100 plus people losing their lives at the hands of the police each and every year. This is a state of emergency. And so, we can't -- we can't drop the standard there. We need to go back from that demand.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on that front key issues right now.
Cornell William Brooks, Nia-Malika Henderson, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, Republican leaders finally, finally condemned Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene after she draws yet another ugly comparison between wearing a mask and the Holocaust.
Plus, prosecutors accidentally revealed details about the investigation into Rudy Giuliani. What we're learning right now, that's coming up.
BLITZER: Took a very long five days, but today House Republican leaders finally condemned Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for comparing mask mandates here in the United States and vaccine requirements here in the United States to the treatment of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill for us.
Manu, so what are Republican leaders finally, finally saying?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're finally condemning her remarks after she initially made those remarks on Friday comparing mask rules and the U.S. House, the requirement for members to wear masks to how -- to what happened in the Holocaust. Then she doubled down over the weekend despite outrage she was hitting across the political spectrum.
Now for Republican leaders, for some rank and file Republicans and a lot of Democrats she's still double down. And then, this morning, went even further tripling down comparing vaccine rules to how the Nazis treated the Jewish people on -- during World War Two. Those outrageous comments prompted concerns from a number of people including one of Kevin McCarthy's top advisors.
And finally, the House Republican leader issued a statement condemning Marjorie Taylor Greene for her remarks. And then, followed suit was Steve Scalise, the number two Republican, and then number three Republicans Elise Stefanik, all of whom had been silent for days on the issue.
Now that on the Senate side, the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who in the past has been sharply critical of Marjorie Taylor Greene called those comments reprehensible. And when today I asked if anything else should be done to punish Marjorie Taylor Greene, he said, it's up to the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: This morning you called Marjorie Taylor Greene's comments reprehensible. But should Republican leaders do more either censor her or even expel her from the House for these kind of comments?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: Well, she doesn't serve in the Senate. But this is one of the frequent outbursts that are absolutely outrageous and reprehensible. But any punishment I assume would have to be administered by the House.
RAJU: Would you recommend anything to Kevin McCarthy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any changes that could be made to that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So he didn't say if he'd recommend anything to Kevin McCarthy. It's unclear if McCarthy would support any action going further.
Some Democrats are drafting a resolution, a censor resolution to condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene formally in the full House. It's uncertain if that will have -- get a vote. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to get behind that idea. She sharply criticized Marjorie Taylor Greene herself, but stopped short of actually saying she would put any sort of censor resolution on the floor. But if she did, it would undoubtedly pass the House. The question will be ultimately how many Republicans will ultimately back it. Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see if that happens. Manu, thank you very much.
I want to discuss this and more with our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Dana is with me here in the Situation Room.
Dana, why do you think it took these Republican leaders so long to condemn these outrageous comments from this congresswoman?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a difficult question to answer. And we haven't been able to answer -- or to ask any of the leaders themselves why it took them so long. I mean, this is a pattern for Marjorie Taylor Greene to say outlandish, ridiculous things, and then they have to answer for them. This is a whole different ballgame, though. And this is a completely different situation.
And I think it took a while for them to realize that. I don't know why it took them back that long to realize that. But you know, they clearly are kind of exhausted by having to, you know, say yes or no to whatever she says because she is so powerful. And they know that she is powerful when it comes to one of the most important things, which is fundraising.
And, you know, finally they realize after the third time she was given a chance to either recant or retract or clarify, she tripled down on these repulsive comments, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's really sick when you think about it.
There was this tweet today from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in Poland right where the Auschwitz death camp existed. Let me read it, "The instrumentalization of the tragedy of Jews who suffered were humiliated, marked with a yellow star, isolated in ghettos and murdered during the Holocaust, in a debate on different systems that aim at protecting public health is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline." A very strong statement from the Archbishop Memorial and Museum.
For you and me, it's not just political, it's not just the story we're covering, this is a very personal issue, given the fact that both of us, we lost family during the Holocaust.
BASH: That's right. And none of this should be political. This isn't about political party. This is about right and what wrong, and ignorance and whitewashing something that was a stain on humanity and in human history.
And yes, I mean, the fact that Auschwitz had to come out with this incredibly powerful tweet. My grandparents were Nazi refugees. My great grandparents perished at Auschwitz. And yes, you know, maybe a yellow star was something that was, you know, yellow star was horrible. Being gassed, which is what my great grandparents were, is a whole different thing. And to compare that to the notion of public health and wearing a mask is just beyond the pale.
I can't imagine what it's like for you, Wolf. Your parents were in slave labor camp.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm a son of Holocaust survivors. But all four of my grandparents were murdered during the Holocaust. Two of them at Auschwitz. I never knew any of my grandparents as a result of that. But my parents did survive. They were young, they were strong and they came to the United States started a new life after World War II in beautiful Buffalo, New York and had this great opportunity.
But I've often said, especially since we saw on that January 6, assault on the U.S. Capitol, that guy wearing that camp Auschwitz shirt, my parents have passed away. But if they would have seen that, they would have said, how is that possible here in the United States of America to see something like that going on?
And if they would have heard the words from the so-called congresswoman utter these ugly, ugly comparisons between wearing masks to save yourself to save others, they would have -- they wouldn't have believed that this was possible in our country. BASH: Especially since I know your parents were like this, my grandparents were like this, that, you know, a lot of refugees, and a lot of immigrants are like this, but particularly I know well, Holocaust survivors, the most patriotic of Americans, because they don't take America for granted. They understand rights, and they understand freedoms. And the difference between a freedom and a right and a public health measure.
You know, I'm not -- unfortunately, none of them are around to talk about it. But you're right. I mean, in some ways, I'm glad they don't have to see what's going on today. But that is why the term never again, is used.
And it is why this should be a teachable moment to tell people that it is not frivolous. It should not be used in any ignorant statement like we've heard. And it also speaks to the broader rise in anti-Semitism that we've seen across the country. There are lots of reasons for that, but this doesn't help.
BLITZER: Yes, it's so important that all of these members of Congress, in fact, everybody, the American public, when they come to Washington, go to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, see what happened. Tour it, get an appreciation of the enormity of what happened during World War II to 6 million Jews. That's really so important.
All right, Dana, thank you very, very much. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news that's emerging right now, "The Washington Post" only moments ago reporting that prosecutors in New York have convened a grand jury to decide whether former President Donald Trump should be indicted as part of their investigation into his business.
Let's get straight to CNN's Paula Reid.
Paula, so what do we know about this? This sounds so, so potentially significant.
PAULA REID, CNN LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It is significant, Wolf. It suggests that this investigation which has been going on for two years is entering its final stage. Now prosecutors have been looking at whether the Trump Organization lied about its assets to defraud insurance companies and banks by saying they had more than they actually did. And also, whether they may have lied to the government saying they had fewer assets so they could pay lower taxes.
Now former President Trump isn't the only one who could potentially be in legal jeopardy here. Investigators have been looking at other executives and the company itself. Now according to "The Post," this grand jury will meet about three times a week for six months. And it appears that this matter is not the only matter before this particular grand jury. BLITZER: You know, it's significant, Paula, that we're watching all of this unfold because it also comes as Trump's lawyers responded today to a lawsuit about his role in the January 6 insurrection here in Washington.
What was his defense?
REID: That's right, Wolf. And this is the first time that the former president has formally responded in court since the insurrection. Here, he was responding to a lawsuit by Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, trying to hold the former president responsible for the insurrection. Now, in his arguments, he makes two specific arguments to defend himself and his message that he issued to supporters on January 6th, encouraging them to oppose Congress's efforts to certify the results.
His first argument is the First Amendment to saying, look, this is constitutionally protected speech. Now there, are of course, limits to the First Amendment. You cannot incite an insurrection. But that's his first argument. His second one is a little more specific. And there he argues absolute immunity, because he says he was arguing in his official or advocating in his official capacity as president.
Now, during the Trump administration, he was frequently testing the limits of executive power. A judge in a similar lawsuit has dismissed this kind of defense as to whether the judge will buy it here. We'll see., Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will. All right, Paula, thank you very much. Paula Reid reporting.
Let's discuss with CNN Legal and National Security Analyst Carrie Cordero. Carrie, thanks for joining us. So, what is a grand jury being convened in New York right now? Tell us about the progress of this investigation into the former president of the United States?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, as Paula just described, I think it does certainly represent a significant new step in the Manhattan D.A.'s investigation. And with respect to their investigation, we know that it probably doesn't just involve the president, and their investigation pertains to conduct that took place by the Trump Organization pre-presidency.
So, pertains to financial crimes, as Paula described, and other matters that had to do with the Trump Organization itself. So it could implicate the former president, but it also could implicate individuals who are part of that company or part of the leadership and management of the company, as well as the entity itself.
BLITZER: Given the fact that this grand jury is now convened, how soon potentially, could we know whether or not the former president would face charges?
CORDERO: Well, the prosecutors aren't going to bring a case unless the grand jury returns indictments. And at this stage, I think it's too soon for us to know what type of information they are presenting. From the Washington Post report that just came out, it sounds like the grand jury is just being impaneled. It's a six-month grand jury that's going to cover other matters as well. So I don't think we should expect anything imminent.
I will say this information about the grand jury as well as information on more recently that came from the New York Attorney General regarding her criminal investigation, it does sound like dribs and drabs are coming out of this investigation. And really, normally what we would expect from prosecutors is that the time that we hear from them is when they have a charging document.
BLITZER: The former President, as you know, Carrie, also facing some other legal issues. He's defending his role in the January 6th insurrection, for example. In response to that lawsuit, we just heard from Paula, the former president claims his fiery speech from that day is protected under the First Amendment. And he had, in his words, an app -- he had absolute immunity as president to contest the election. What do you think of that argument?
CORDERO: I think the absolute immunity argument is probably the weaker of the two arguments. So First Amendment, there is a high bar to demonstrate that somebody has caused imminent violence or, you know, the riot that took place after his speech.
The absolute immunity, I think is weaker, number one, because that is a very, very broad assertion of presidential authority. And there are usually more specific types of presidential authority that are asserted. So executive privilege, or sometimes the President will assert attorney client privilege.
Absolute immunity is extraordinarily broad as well as the fact that when the President was speaking on January 6th, he really was speaking as a candidate. He was speaking as someone who was challenging the election as candidate Trump. It really wasn't a presidential action that he was engaged in. He was president at the time, but for those reasons, I think that that particular argument is the weaker one.
BLITZER: Legally speaking, Carrie, is there such a thing as absolute immunity for the president?
CORDERO: It is not something that is a recognized immunity. It's something that the Trump Organization has argued. They argued it in his impeachment as well.
But as I mentioned, usually presidential immunities are asserted regarding a specific thing. In other words, regarding testimony, regarding conversations with advisers, regarding conversations with legal advisers that usually pertains or official presidential actions, it's usually not something that is asserted as just a broad, the President can do anything.
BLITZER: All right, we'll stay on top of this story, obviously, potentially so, so significant. Carrie Cordero, appreciate it very much.
Coming up, the rockets they made in Gaza but they are getting some help from elsewhere. We're going to explain when we come back.
BLITZER: The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken toured the Middle East today in hopes of building a lasting peace amid the very fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
CNN's Senior International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is joining us live from Jerusalem right now. And Nic, today Blinken announced that the U.S. diplomatic consulate in Jerusalem would reopen. So tell our viewers what that means potentially for U.S.-Palestinian relations.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Wolf, it's being welcomed by Palestinians because this is inside that consulate is where the Palestinian representatives often meet or often used to meet with representatives of the State Department. And that really for Palestinians right now signals a reengagement with the United States, that's big deal for them.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Five and a half years since an American Secretary of State met Palestinian Authority officials on their home turf. Antony Blinken came promising reengagement, reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem closed during the Trump administration. And rebuilding in Gaza, hoping to shore up the ceasefire.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: In total, we are in the process of providing more than $360 million in urgent support for the Palestinian people. And across these efforts, we will work with partners to ensure that a mosque does not benefit from these reconstruction efforts.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Despite the ceasefire, Palestinian tensions with Israel remain high. Anger at a nearby funeral for a Palestinian man killed by Israeli forces the previous night, during what Israeli security sources describe as an attempted arrest of terror activists. More than money, Palestinian leaders here want a U.S. commitment to help them.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translation): We also hope that the future will be full of diplomatic and political activities led by the U.S. and with the assistance of the international quartet to reach a peaceful, comprehensive and just solution based on the international law.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: The first point is a vote of thanks to President Biden and you.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Jerusalem, praise from Israel's Prime Minister for U.S. support during the conflict and concern Blinken can ensure money for rebuilding Gaza doesn't rearm Hamas.
NETANYAHU: If Hamas breaks calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful. And we have discussed ways of how to work together to prevent Hamas rearmament, with the weapons in means of aggression.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): It won't be easy. Hamas controls Gaza, not the Palestinian Authority, whom Blinken wants to boost by channeling the aid through them.
BLINKEN: There's a lot of hard work ahead to restore hope, respect and some trust across communities. But we've seen the alternative. And I think that should cause all of us to redouble our efforts to preserve the peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
ROBERTSON: But there's some big catches here right now. One of those is that what the Palestinian Authority wants that deeper political engagement diplomatic engagement, the United States is not ready to give because in part, the Palestinian Authority and leadership there right now that safely Blinken was meeting with really aren't assessed to be up to the job. And the political status on the Israeli side as well is also seen as counterproductive for the U.S. to have good interlocutors on both sides to work with, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nic, thank you very much for that update. Our Senior Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson in Jerusalem.
Also today, Secretary Blinken discussed Israel's Iron Dome defense system with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the same defense system that intercepted thousands of do-it-yourself rockets launched from inside the tightly controlled Gaza border during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann has the story.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rockets might be made in Gaza, produced locally by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but much of the technical know-how comes from Iran. During 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, Iran cheered for Gaza from a distance, an overt moment in the ongoing shadow war between Israel and Iran.
Iran's supreme leader wrote on Twitter, "I thank God for his aid and the honor bestowed on Palestinian fighters. I extend my congratulations for victory over Zionist criminals". Since the end of the 2014 War, Hamas has built up an arsenal of about 15,000 rockets, according to the Israeli military, firing barrages, that at times overwhelm Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system.
The Israel-Egypt blockade of Gaza has made it increasingly difficult for Iran to send assistance into the strip. The Israeli Military believes some rocket parts are still smuggled in for assembly. But far more, Iran has focused on giving technical expertise, weapons development and money. [17:45:12]
ISMAEL HANIYA, HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER (through translation): I think those who provided funds and weapons to the fearful resistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran, who are not frugal towards this resistance with money, weapons and techniques.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Even so, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry told CNN they saw no specific signs of Iranian involvement during two weeks of fighting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hardly mentioned Iran during the fighting, but he blamed the regime for their overall support of militant groups.
NETANYAHU: Iran not only supports completely the Islamic jihad in Gaza and gives them all the financing, they also give weapons to Hamas as well as to Hezbollah. And they provide the scaffolding on which these organizations really work.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries in recent years has pushed Iran to the sidelines of the Middle East. But this recent fighting was a chance for Iran to reassert itself in the region.
After the fighting, Palestinians celebrated what they saw as a victory over Israel, far inferior Hamas standing up to a stronger, technologically superior Israel. Iran celebrated in its own way. One day after an unconditional ceasefire, they unveiled their latest drone, an apparent imitation of a U.S. predator or Reaper drone, which they named Gaza.
LIEBERMANN: The Biden administration was also very quiet on Iran during approximately two weeks of fighting, but likely for a very different reason. Another round of talks in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program and a possible return to the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear agreement, and that the Biden administration has signaled is its priority. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Oren, thank you very much. Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann reporting.
Coming up, we're following breaking news, a grand jury reportedly considering whether to indict the former President Donald Trump. Plus, the U.S. sets a major vaccine milestone. We'll discuss with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that's coming up.
BLITZER: A major milestone in the fight against the coronavirus today, half of all U.S. adults, that means everyone over 18, half of American adults are now fully vaccinated. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us right now. So Sanjay, how significant is this milestone? SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty significant if you consider in the context of things, Wolf. I mean, Memorial Day weekend coming up, Memorial Day last year, I mean, it was obviously a very different country, very different world.
There's still obviously half the country that's not vaccinated. And I think for them, you know, they're going to have the same sort of decisions and risks that they dealt with last year, but for the vaccinated people, it's going to feel like a very different Memorial Day weekend.
One thing I'll say, Wolf, and you know this, but an unvaccinated persons not posing a risk to a vaccinated person and a vaccinated person is not posing a risk to an unvaccinated person. This is really about the unvaccinated people posing risks to each other. And that's why they're really going to have to be careful this weekend as if it were last year.
Let me show you some good news real quick, Wolf, this map here. What we now know is the numbers are coming down in terms of new cases, 25,000 on average, but only one in 10 people, 10 percent of people live in an area where there's high spread right now. So things continue to improve, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging. Moderna, as you know, now says their vaccine is safe and effective for adolescents, will this expedite getting children vaccinated?
GUPTA: Well, Wolf, so this is news coming from the company itself that that those numbers have to be validated. But if it does hold up, I think more than anything, it is likely to boost confidence in the vaccine because we're at a point now, Wolf, where supply is not really the issue. You can see how parents feel about giving their children the vaccine. About 30 percent of parents said that they would go ahead and do this right away. 26 percent say wait a while, 23 percent say would not.
But I can tell you, Wolf, we crunched the numbers in under two weeks, about 15 percent of children within that age group have already been vaccinated. And they represent about a quarter of all vaccinations in the country. So, I think this is better than people expected. We'll see how the trends continue.
BLITZER: Moderna's trial, by the way, was for children, ages 12 to 17. But what about younger kids? When will we have data on vaccine efficacy for them?
GUPTA: Well, we've been following this very closely, Wolf. So Pfizer, for example, has trials that are ongoing ages two to 11. You remember they had 16 and older and then they got an authorized for 12 to 15 and now they're looking for children two to 11.
You know, it's hard to say for sure, but what they expect is that they would likely have data that they could potentially submit to the FDA by September. So it could coincide, Wolf, at the beginning of school year next year. BLITZER: That would be encouraging as well. All right, Sanjay, thank you very, very much.
Up ahead, there's breaking news we're following here in The Situation Room. A grand jury reportedly convened considering whether to indict former President Donald Trump.
BLITZER: 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. A grand jury reportedly has been convened to consider a possible indictment of former President Donald Trump and other criminal charges.
George Floyd's family marks his murder one year later by meeting with President Biden urging Congress to pass police reform. This hour, I'll talk to their lawyer who's with them here in D.C.
And Republican leaders are finally breaking their silence and denouncing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene's comparison of mask rules to the Holocaust. Why did they wait five long days?
Let's go straight to CNN's Kara Scannell first. She's got the breaking news for us. Kara, the Manhattan District Attorney's criminal investigation of Donald Trump has reached a critical new stage where the grand jury reportedly convene.