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The Situation Room

San Jose Mass Shooting Investigation; Interview With Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Republicans Block Insurrection Commission; Memorial Day Weekend a New Test of Easing Pandemic as Travel Surges and Crowds Gather for Holiday; Biden Unveils $6 Trillion Budget, Proposes Biggest Spending in 50+ Years; Poll Suggests QAnon as Popular in U.S. As Some Major Religions. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 28, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who is, guess where, right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

I will see you Sunday morning. Have a great weekend.

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: Republicans block a commission to investigate the deadly Capitol insurrection. Top Democrats say they're shaming the Senate. We have exclusive reaction from the mother and the partner of the fallen police officer who was attacked by the rioters.

Also, chilling new images and details on the 22,000 -- 22,000 rounds of ammunition and multiple weapons found in the home of the San Jose gunman.

And the CDC tells vaccinated summer campers they can now take their masks off, as Americans begin to celebrate Memorial Day with a surge in travel we haven't seen since the start of the pandemic.

But let's start our coverage with our congressional correspondent, Ryan Nobles, right now.

Ryan, Senate Republicans were mostly united in killing the January 6 bipartisan proposed commission, with only six breaking ranks.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and that's not enough for this measure to move through.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that leaders, both Republican and Democrat, seemed unified in the idea of an independent commission to look into the insurrection on January 6. Now, after today's vote, it is unlikely that it will ever happen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NOBLES (voice-over): It may have taken a little bit longer than expected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.

NOBLES: But the outcome was never in doubt, Republicans successfully blocking an attempt to form an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection.

The final vote, 54 to 35; 60 votes were needed to move the measure forward.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): But out of fear or fealty to Donald Trump, the Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about January 6.

NOBLES: Six Republicans voted yes, among them, Maine's Susan Collins, who attempted to make changes to the bill to bring her fellow Republicans on board. It was not enough.

Louisiana's Bill Cassidy, who voted yes and voted to impeach former President Trump, warned his colleagues they will now lose a voice in future investigations: "The investigations will happen with or without Republicans. To ensure the investigations are fair, impartial and focused on facts, Republicans need to be involved."

And Democrats are already hinting that is the direction they will go. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who made a number of concessions to get the bill over the finish line in the House, vowed she was not done investigating what happened on January 6: "Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth."

The Republican refusal to form the independent commission comes at the same time as a CNN review reveals 450 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection, and as moderate GOP voices are increasingly becoming drowned out by the allies of former President Donald Trump.

The former House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the latest to insert himself into the party civil war.

FMR. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality or of second-rate imitations, then we're not going anywhere.

NOBLES: His effort mocked by Trump, who today called Ryan a -- quote -- "weak and ineffective leader who spends all of his time fighting Republicans," while Trump clone Matt Gaetz, arm in arm with Marjorie Taylor Greene, making it clear who runs the GOP, like it or not.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): This is Donald Trump's party. Taking advice on party-building from Paul Ryan would be like taking advice on how to interact with your in-laws from Meghan Markle.


NOBLES: So, the question is, what happens next?

House Democrats have made it clear that they still want a thorough investigation into what happened on January 6, and they are already signaling the possibility of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi starting a select committee that would look into the matter.

Wolf, that would only require a majority vote in the House of Representatives, something that the House speaker could easily push through, if she intends to do so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, she could.

All right, Ryan, thank you very much.

Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.

Now CNN's exclusive interview with the mother and the partner of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. They're slamming Republican senators for blocking the January 6 commission, saying they're all talk and no action.

Take a listen as they spoke with my colleague Jake Tapper.



TAPPER: What was your reaction when you saw the vote today, that the Senate Republicans, with six exceptions, voted to block the creation of this commission?

SANDRA GARZA, GIRLFRIEND OF BRIAN SICKNICK: Well, I was very disappointed, obviously.

I was very optimistic and hopeful, yesterday. But, for obviously some of them, I was not surprised that voted no, but still clinging to that hope based on our passionate pleas to them.

But I think it -- it speaks volumes to how they really feel, not only about the events of that day. But they're also speaking volumes to their constituents, and how much they really care, because it's not just our pleas about how we felt about Brian and his brothers and sisters in blue and everything that they did that day, but also the safety of them and everyone else that was in the Capitol that day.

If they can't do their jobs, if something happens to them, that also speaks volumes about how they feel about our democracy in general. How can they do their job if they are no longer here?

TAPPER: What about you, Gladys? What is your reaction to the news today? GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF BRIAN SICKNICK: Oh, I was disappointed, but

I realized it was going to happen. I really did. It was just vibes that we got yesterday. But...

TAPPER: What were the vibes?

SICKNICK: I don't know, just -- just a feeling, that they did -- they went through the motions, but you can tell that, underneath, they were being nice to us.

TAPPER: You know, we hear a lot about backing the blue, from politicians especially, who talk about the importance of backing our men and women in blue who protect us.

What does it mean, in that sense, when -- because you know, you are going to hear some of these 35 Republicans talk about in the future how important it is to back our men and women in blue?

What will you think when you hear that?

SICKNICK: Unbelievable that they think like that.

Just if they had a child that was hurt, was killed on a day like that, they would think very differently, or if they were hurt. I mean, they could have been very well -- somebody could have been killed, one of the congressmen, one of the senators.

But apparently, they just think, well, we're safe because of the men in blue. But they don't think any further from that.

TAPPER: What do you think?

I mean, what -- is -- Gladys said it was a slap in the face to not have this commission created.

GARZA: I think it's all talk and no action.

Clearly, they're not backing the blue. And, yesterday, having Officer Fanone and Officer Dunn there to talk about their experiences, I mean, I even learned more about what actually happened on that day, hearing their stories close and up front and live and in color. And I was absolutely appalled.

So, they heard it firsthand. Some of that stuff has not been put out in the media. And it's devastating, because they could have -- especially Officer Fanone, he could have been murdered. And this cannot happen, again. It cannot.

So, for them to vote no is -- it's not protecting law enforcement. And more importantly, it's not protecting our democracy. People there were not only hurting law enforcement officers -- and then, of course, like I said yesterday, there's the ripple effect of trauma that's still continuing today.

TAPPER: Oh, of course.

GARZA: Many officers are struggling with PTSD.

TAPPER: People should know you are a psychotherapist. So, this is something you know about, yes.

GARZA: Yes, yes, yes.

I work with people all the time that struggle with PTSD. So, I know how devastating and debilitating it can be.

You know, and then it's the family members that are struggling to pick up the pieces of that daily. But it's also those people were there to destroy the will of the people. They could have destabilized government as we know it.

You know, the vice president was in the building. People were after the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

I mean, the -- it's just unbelievable to me that they could do nothing about this. And now is not the time to sit around and say, well, maybe, we'll do something in the future. The time to do something is now.


BLITZER: All right, let's discuss what we just heard.

We heard a lot of pain in that interview.

Special correspondent Jamie Gangel is with us. Our chief domestic correspondent, Jim Acosta, is here. And CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod is joining us as well.


Jamie, you heard that pain. You know these women. What did you think, their reaction to these Republicans who decided, you know what, we're not going to necessarily have a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of this?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know how any senator said no to those women. They were compelling. They were authentic.

They weren't just talking about Mr. Sicknick's son, Brian, Sandra's partner, Brian. They were talking about democracy. And I thought one of the most interesting things they said was that, when the senators talked to them, Mrs. Sicknick said, they were very charming. They knew how to talk to us, but it was tense. Why was it tense?

Because they weren't being sincere, she said. They didn't want to get to the bottom of it.

And I think she summed it up perfectly.

BLITZER: Yes. And you could feel that pain.

David, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was scathing in her criticism of her fellow Republicans today, saying this was about short-term political gain.

Was this about anything other than short term political gain?


In fact, had Mitch McConnell not gone to his caucus and pled with them, on the grounds that it would hurt them in the midterms to have the results of this task force, of this commission report on the doorstep of the midterm elections, had that not happened, they probably would have had the votes to pass this today.

This was about raw power. This had nothing to do with principle. You talk about backing the blue. They chose orange in this case. They were -- they're worried about Trump. And they don't want him to be front and center.

And what was interesting to me is that you heard Bill Cassidy say, this commission would have guaranteed Republicans equal say in how this investigation moved forward. And I can only conclude that they think that the results of it would have prejudiced them in some way.

And I think part of that has to do with the role that the president the United States or the then president of the United States played in that interaction.

BLITZER: Yes, let's talk about that, Jim.

You covered the former president of the United States when you were our chief White House correspondent. If anything, the lies that he's uttering today are even more intense than he was uttering, what, around January 6.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: I hate to say, Wolf, but today was a good day for the big lie.

And what you saw take place up in the Senate today was not the Senate backing the blue. They were turning their backs on the blue. And when you consider where Donald Trump is right now, he demanded that this commission be rejected. And Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy acted as if he had pushed a button for another Diet Coke.

They are driving the getaway car in all of this. And when I talk to Trump advisers, they say Donald Trump is ruling the Republican Party right now through fear, fear of retribution, fear of revenge. And these Republicans are acting as if that's enough stimulation for them.

I talked to a couple of House Democratic members who said, listen, of course, we're going to investigate what happened on January the 6th. They don't need a January 6 commission to do that. But, at the same time, Wolf, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy can say, listen, this is just a Nancy Pelosi conference committee that's being put together, assembled to investigate what's going on here, it doesn't have to be taken seriously.

And the Republicans can go along with that kind of messaging. It is a shame, Wolf, because, as long as the big lie lids on, the insurrection lives on. It hasn't ended. And I think today was a clear example of that.

BLITZER: And it's such an important vote, Jamie.

Yet nine Republican senators didn't even show up to vote. I guess, were they afraid?

GANGEL: And to be fair, two Democrats didn't show up to vote.

I hope they had a good excuse. I really do. I think it is, frankly, unconscionable, short of an emergency, not to have been there on this historic day. We all saw it. They experienced it. Not only were they under attack. Democracy was under attack.

If there was a vote to show up for, that vote was today. It's stunning to me.


So, should the Democrats, David, begin to move now to create a select committee? They will be the dominant force, obviously, if they do, but will that eventually have the same level of credibility that this failed commission would have had?

AXELROD: No, it will play out exactly as Jim suggested.

However rigorous the investigation is, it will be portrayed by Republicans as a partisan exercise. And it'll be partisan because they refused to participate. But, nonetheless, that's how they will position it.

I think there's one other thing to point out. Matt Gaetz was quoted in Ryan's piece and -- as saying this is Trump's party.


He said something else at the same rally. He said the Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government of the United States if that becomes necessary.

So, you have a Republican congressman out there actually holding out the prospect of another insurrection, at the time that the Senate is turning its back on a bipartisan commission to look into the last one. And it just sends a terrible message.

And more than that what it says about how we're going to look at the past, it opens the door to a dismal future, if it encourages these insurrectionists to continue doing what they're doing.

ACOSTA: And, Wolf, our democracy is still under attack. Our democracy is under assault right now.

I think that what happened today was just a betrayal, as big a betrayal as what we saw on January 6. How can you not want to have a 9/11-style commission investigate this? I spoke to a Republican congressman the other day who said one of his

own staff members heard these insurrectionists in the lobby of one of the hotels in D.C. saying, "Let's storm the FBI building."

That tip was turned over to authorities. We don't know what happened when the authorities got that sort of tip. The information that came into the Capitol Police, into the FBI, what was done with that information? What's going to happen moving forward? We're not going to get to any of these answers if there's not a real commission investigation, like the one that occurred after 9/11.

That one was respected because it was bipartisan. They had the ability to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, and so on. The Republicans can just thumb their nose at whatever Nancy Pelosi does. And I imagine, as David was saying, that's exactly what we're going to see.

GANGEL: And...

BLITZER: And I keep saying it. If we don't learn what exactly happened, we're bound to repeat it down the road.

We will be watching tomorrow, Saturday. You're anchoring 3:00 p.m. Eastern, Jim Acosta, now anchorman.

ACOSTA: That's right. That's right. And I will have more to say about this tomorrow. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure you will. I'm sure you -- we always look forward to hearing what you have to say.

All right, everybody stand by, because I want to get some more insight right now, as we're joined by the former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us up.

In a new statement with other former Department of Homeland Security secretaries, you say the Senate's refusal to seek the truth, in your words, deeply alarming, and that you are gravely concerned about the message this sends to the American people.

So, what do you say to the Republicans who actually voted to block the creation of this bipartisan commission?


And I approach this from the security aspect of this situation. What happened on January 6 exposed real fissures, real cracks in the armor in terms of the various jurisdictions of the Capitol Police, the Secret Service, the National Guard, in the chain of command to respond to a situation like this.

We owe it to the American people, to the Congress, to the institutions of our government to find out exactly what happened, what failed and to recommend improvements in the situation. And I'm afraid that there is no legitimate reason in the public

interest to oppose a congressionally mandated panel of 10 people, five Republicans, five Democrats, with paid staff and subpoena power, to look into this, like a 9/11-style commission.

I'm afraid that the only conclusion one can draw is that there are many in Congress who seem to feel it's more important to support and defend their political interest than to support and defend the nation.

BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, says getting the truth isn't a Democratic or a Republican obligation. He says it's an American obligation.

Do you see this effort to rewrite history right now as a threat to American democracy?

JOHNSON: Well, I think Chuck is right.

It's not so much about looking backward. It's about looking forward. We need to protect the Capitol, the cradle of our democracy, in the midst of a constitutionally mandated function, from being stormed by an insurrection of whatever stripe, whether it's Trumpism boiled over in the future or some other motivated faction who may want to storm the Capitol.

That's not a matter of ideology. That's not a matter of politics, Republicans or Democrats. That's a matter of the sheer security of our very democracy. And so, as I said, I see no legitimate reason in the public interest why anyone would oppose an effort to try to improve this system.

BLITZER: A recent poll, Mr. Secretary, found that a majority, majority of Republicans believe there was illegal voting or election rigging of the 2020 presidential election. Six in 10 Republicans say the election was stolen from Donald Trump.


How do you even begin to start addressing that problem that's unfolding right now in our country, if you look at those kinds of results from these polls?

JOHNSON: Wolf, it's not just a division of opinion. It's a division in terms of what Americans now believe to be the truth.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, you're entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts. We live in a world where, on the Internet, on social media, you can find something to reaffirm virtually any bias or prejudice or suspicion that you have.

That is a dangerous environment, not just for public safety, for public health, the suspicion about the vaccine. It goes to the security of our very democracy. I think, at a most basic level, it's incumbent upon Americans in a democracy to do a better job of informing ourselves about the truth of a situation. Don't just simply accept what somebody pushes at you on the Internet.

The government should not be in the business of being a truth umpire. I don't believe that's the role of a government in a free society like ours. But we do need to have trusted flaggers, perhaps in the private sector, who are willing to put a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on the stuff that is shoved at the American people one way or another.

We have got to address this.

BLITZER: Yes, we certainly do.

Jeh Johnson, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're getting new details right now on the huge cache of ammunition and weapons found in the home of the rail yard gunman in San Jose, California.



BLITZER: There's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Law enforcement officials in Northern California releasing very, very disturbing new details about the mass shooting in San Jose that left nine people did, a search of the gunman's home revealing an arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

Our Dan Simon is working the story for us. He's on the scene.

Dan, the sheriff's department now says it's clear the shooter intended to kill as many people as he could.


And we just got some stunning photos from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office that show this incredible amount of weaponry that was found inside the shooter's home.

Let's go through some of those items. Among the items that were found, multiple cans of gasoline, suspected Molotov cocktails, at least 12 guns. That's in addition to the three guns that he had in his possession when he carried out the shooting, and approximately 22,000 rounds of ammunition, 22000 rounds of ammo.

And, Wolf, it is believed that he started the fire in his home by taking some of that ammunition, putting it in a pot on his stove, surrounding that pot with some accelerants, and then turning on the stove, so, again, a lot of ammunition.

And, right now, authorities are still at that home. They're trying to make sure that the property is safe and that the surrounding neighborhood is safe. Now, Wolf, in terms of a motive, there has been no definitive motive that has been given yet by authorities. But one theme has emerged, in that this is somebody who was highly disgruntled. We have heard that from people who were close to him, seemed to have some uncontrollable rage.

You take that, combine it with the fact that he had easy access to weapons, and then, unfortunately, you have the recipe for disaster, a tragedy like the one we saw unfold on Wednesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the sheriff's statement said this gunman was prepared to use his firearms to take as many lives as he possibly could -- 22,000 rounds of ammunition, that's so, so scary.

All right, Dan Simon, thank you very much.

Let's get some more in the breaking news right now.

Our senior law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey, is joining us, the former Philadelphia police commissioner, the former Washington, D.C., police chief as well.

Chief Ramsey thanks for joining us.

When you look at what was found in this suspect's home -- and you just heard it -- gasoline, Molotov cocktails, 12 firearms, in addition to the three he had, 22,000 rounds of ammunition, what does that tell you about the intent, the level of -- the level of premeditation?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, what it really tells me is that he intended to kill a lot more than he wound up killing.

I think the sheriff's deputies, their fast response saved a lot of lives. There's no question about that. And 22,000 rounds of ammunition, what is that, 15 guns in total? This is a guy that shouldn't have had one gun, let alone 15.

I mean, it just goes to show you just how -- one, how lax our gun laws are, that people who don't need to have guns can easily access weapons.

BLITZER: The details about how the suspect also set his home on fire as he was beginning to kill people, murder these nine men, wonderful men, I must say, he put ammunition in this pot.

He set it up with accelerants on the stove. This was a rather complicated effort, as he was trying to burn his own home, maybe destroy evidence. I don't know what he was trying to do.

RAMSEY: Well, maybe he was also trying to draw police and fire in that direction as he was executing people further away. So we just don't know.

And unless he left something behind that would indicate what his thought process was, it's something we probably won't know. But, again, it's very, very troubling. And we go through this time and time again, one mass shooting after another.

And when you stop and think about the carnage that takes place on our streets of our cities, not mass shootings, just one or two shootings at a time, with people dying as a result of gun violence, it is incredible. And it's crazy.

We have to do something about it. Unfortunately, I don't have much faith that that's going to happen anytime soon.

BLITZER: Yes, it's sort of, so many people -- so many of us, we -- after all these mass shootings here in the United States, we sort of get numb. But it's an awful situation.

Let me read to you once again the chilling line from the statement that the sheriff out there in San Jose put out: "The suspect" -- this is from the statement -- "The suspect was prepared to use his firearms to take as many lives as he possibly could, had sheriff's deputies not made entry to stop his rampage.


Clearly, this could have been so much worst right?

RAMSEY: Yes. They saved lives, there's absolutely no question about it. But, unfortunately, that means very little to nine families that now have a hole that will never ever be filled.

And, you know, I'm afraid that our country -- people in our country are getting desensitized to this because it's happening so often. And we just can't afford to let that happen. This is not going to stop. It's going to continue. I remember when I was a cop in Chicago years ago and we have a homicide or something and everybody's at the scene. As we were starting to leave the scene after everything was taken care of, we'd look at each other and say, hey, see you at the next scene. Why? Because we knew there would be something else we would have to respond to.

The same thing is happening now. We will be talking about something like this again. No question about it. The only thing we don't know is where it's going to happen, but it will happen.

BLITZER: Yes. Sadly, you are absolutely right. Charles Ramsey, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

RAMSEY: Well, thanks, Wolf. And I'll see you at the next scene, I guess.

BLITZER: I'm sure we will be talking. I wish we were meeting under better circumstances to be sure.

Coming up, just in time for summer, new CDC guidance emerging today that many parents have been waiting for, what health experts are saying about kids and camp, new information coming up right after this.


BLITZER: Tonight, Americans are hitting the road big time and heading to airports for the long Memorial Day weekend. It's a new test of our return to a new normal as the pandemic eases.

Our National Correspondent Nick Watt has all the new developments.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A seismic shift for summer, the CDC just said vaccinated kids do not need to wear masks at camp. Meantime, Cruella and a Quiet Place 2 are playing an open movie theaters nationwide. 135,000 fans expected at the Indy 500 Sunday. This holiday weekend, roughly one in ten Americans are expected to travel.

DARBY LAJOYE, ACTING TSA ADMINISTRATOR: Many airports have already returned or exceeded to 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

WATT: Daily case counts are falling, but so are average daily vaccine shots peaked at nearly 3.4 million mid April, just over 1.6 million late May. Most adults who want to get vaccinated have started the process, say pollsters.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We've certainly reached the lion's share of people eager to get the vaccine. The willing is the complicated part. There are a lot of people who are willing, but it's hard for them. I think we can them, but it's going to take a lot of work.

WATT: California is giving away over $100 million in incentives. West Virginia just announced cash prizes, college scholarships, pickup trucks, also, emotional blackmail.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): You've got to get vaccinated for Baby Doll. That's all there is to it. Now, she wants you vaccinated so badly, she'll give you a high five right now, but you have got to get yourself vaccinated.


WATT (on camera): Now, just briefly back to that CDC guidance on summer camps, even unvaccinated kids can pretty much roam free without masks outdoors. And, you know, the CDC has also posted guidance for camps where not everyone is vaccinated. A number one on the list of guidance is basically tell everyone to get vaccinated. Wolf?

BLITZER: Good advice. Nick Watt, thank you very much. Let's get more with Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst, Emergency Room Physician, former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us.

Do you think the CDC made the right call with this new guidance for summer camps? DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Mostly, yes, because, first, I think it is really important to say if everyone is fully vaccinated, you don't need masks or distancing, you can go back to normal and also that outdoors is really safe, and so even unvaccinated children can take off their masks outdoors.

But I do wish that the CDC had said that indoor masking is still required. They say strongly encouraged, but I think it should be required if we're talking about a lot of unvaccinated children who can still be a risk to one another.

BLITZER: Memorial Day weekend last year, all of us remember, essentially marked, what, so many called the end of the beginning of the pandemic. Does this Memorial Day right now mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic here in the United States?

WEN: Wolf, it's a night and day difference from last year when we were filled with dread that the worst was yet to come. But I think right now that the worst here in the U.S. is behind us. That said, we still have 50 percent of the country here that's not even seen a drop of the vaccine, and we have the world that may still have a terrible and terrible outbreak really in so many parts. And so, we should not be celebrating the end of the pandemic just yet.

BLITZER: Yes. You're absolutely right. Maybe half the American public has now at least received one shot, 40 percent fully vaccinated. But the other half, nothing, so there's still problem out there. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much.

Just ahead, a new twist in the federal investigation of Rudy Giuliani, a federal judge clears the way for an independent party to review materials seized from his home and his office.



BLITZER: New developments tonight in the federal investigation of Rudy Giuliani, the ex-personal attorney to former President Trump. A federal judge has now granted a request by prosecutors in New York to appoint an independent person, a so-called special master, to review materials seized from Giuliani's home and office back in April.

Let's dig deeper with the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg and our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid.

Paula, so, first of all, tell our viewers what you're learning about this late breaking development.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know last month federal agents seized 18 electronic devices from Giuliani's home and office.


And prosecutors also revealed they did a covert search of his iCloud account about two years ago.

Now, Giuliani's objected to these searches as being problematic because he is an attorney, and he was asking the court to return the materials to him so he could sort through what was privileged. Now, the judge rejected that argument, saying, look, just because you're a lawyer doesn't mean you're immune from a criminal search and is going to appoint this special master to preserve what he describes as the appearance of fairness in this ongoing investigation.

The former mayor is, of course, being investigated for possibly violating foreign lobbying laws. They're looking into whether he was actually working on behalf of Ukrainian officials without properly disclosing that to the U.S. government.

Now, the judge has given both the prosecutors and the defense until the end of next week to come up with a list of people they think might make a good special master.

BLITZER: So, Dave, what do you think? What does the addition of this so-called special master mean for this case?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good evening, wolf. Happy birthday to Rudy Giuliani. Today is his 77th birthday and he should enjoy it while he's still a free man.

As far as what the special master means, it's not a really controversial move. In fact, Giuliani's lawyers did not object to it. It's just what goes on normally within the Department of Justice, how there's a tint team that reviews the materials of an attorney to make sure there's no attorney/client privilege there.

The bigger issue is that the court rejected Giuliani's attempt to be above the law. He wanted the background information on the search warrants. He wanted the law enforcement affidavits that justified the search warrant. Well, he's not entitled to that because the investigation is ongoing. He would be entitled to it if and when he's charged with a crime.

But Rudy wanted special treatment. He said because he's a lawyer, he should get access to it.

Well, no, he's going to be treated just like the rest of us, birthday or not.

BLITZER: I know you're wishing him a happy birthday.

You know, Paula, "The New York Times" is reporting that prosecutors are investigating whether Ukrainians actually used Giuliani to promote misleading election claims.

REID: Wolf, this is part of a larger push by the U.S. government to crack down on foreign interference in U.S. elections. And here, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are looking at several current and former Ukrainian officials and whether they were pushing misleading information about now President Biden during the election and whether one of the ways they were doing that was through Rudy Giuliani. Now, at this point, "The New York Times" is reporting that Rudy

Giuliani is not a subject of this investigation. They're reporting that it's completely separate from what's going on in Manhattan that we just talked about, but your subject status can change depending on what's uncovered in this investigation. They're really likely going to be looking at how much Rudy Giuliani knew about this and whether he was a willing participant.

BLITZER: Dave, how worried should Giuliani be?

ARONBERG: He should be more worried about the investigation in the Southern District of New York than the Eastern District, because as Paula said, he is a willing participate in the conspiracy to interfere with our elections. But fortunately for Rudy, he was more of a useful idiot than a Russian agent, because he was too dumb to know he was being played by the Russians, he may get away with it.

BLITZER: Dave Aronberg, thank you very much. Paula Reid, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, Russia escalating its cyber war with a reported major hack against the U.S. government just weeks before the first summit between President Biden and Vladimir Putin.



BLITZER: It's the biggest U.S. federal budget proposal in more than half a century. And tonight, President Biden's $6 trillion plan is already facing big hurdles in Congress.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president has just released this first budget proposal of his presidency. What are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's massive. You are right about that, Wolf, $6 trillion is what the final number clocks in and basically, it's President Biden laying out his vision for expanding the size and the scope of the federal government. We already had a hint that he wanted to do that when he unveiled those plans earlier this year. The American Jobs Plan, infrastructure proposals and his American Families Plan.

Both of those that really would change the way the federal government interacts with daily American life. And so that's what President Biden really gets at in this big economic proposal, the budget that he's putting forward.

And one thing that the White House does address here is a criticism that you heard from Republicans which is warning basically Biden's economic agenda could overheat the economy and raise inflation. Those are concerns they say that they have about what President Biden is laying out. But here in this, President Biden's top budget aide say they don't see

a massive spike in inflation if all of these proposals went through. Of course, Wolf, this really just amounts to a blueprint coming from a White House because it's Congress who decides how much money the federal government has each year. It remains to be seen. What you get a look at is how the president envisions the federal government over the next few years.

BLITZER: Yeah, it's really significant stuff. We'll see what Congress does with this proposal.

Another sensitive issue I want to discuss with you, Kaitlan. We are a few weeks away from the Biden/Putin summit in Geneva, Switzerland, mid-June, it's taking place. We are hearing of another major Russian cyber hack targeting the U.S. government, news coming in just today.

Tell our viewers what you're learning over there at the White House.

COLLINS: Yeah. And what we heard about that is it appears those attacks going on as recently as last week, where they were sending out these emails, mass, as a U.S. federal agency.

And so, the concern here for the White House now and the questions that are put to the White House today is, does this change your thinking on having President Biden sit down with the Russian president and just three weeks from now in Geneva?


And so far, the White House has said no, they are monitoring this latest hack, they have not attributed to Russia though others have, we should note. And so, we're still waiting for that formal designation to come down from the government.

But, Wolf, of course, this would just be an escalation on Russia's behalf over the last several months, including just last month when you saw President Biden put those sanctions on Russia in response to that sophisticated SolarWinds hack, but I think the question that this raises, if it is Russia, is, of course, obviously, it doesn't appear that those sanctions are working, and they haven't taken away Russia's appetite for these hacks on the U.S., on the federal government, or on private companies like the SolarWinds hack as well.

So, I think that does raise a question of what that sit down is going to look like. But as President Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, said earlier, they don't view that summit as a reward for good behavior. They said, quote, far from it, actually, but they could use it as an opportunity to confront Putin over it. But whether not it actually changes his behavior, that is going to be a big question for what this tense relationship looks like over the next three years.

BLITZER: Yeah, that Biden/Putin summit in Geneva in mid-June is going to be very, very significant.

Kaitlan, thank you very much. Other news we are following including new polls that show very

disturbing popularity of the bizarre and dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory among Republicans.

Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, as we've seen, this conspiracy theory has actually resulted in violence.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has, Wolf, including on January 6 and well before that. What this new poll means for the Republican Party and the future of American politics, analysts say, is nothing short of jarring.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Release the documents.

TODD (voice-over): They have taken their far-right, illogical conspiracy theories to rallies around the country, and some of them showed up at the Capitol on January 6th.

Tonight, there are new indications that QAnon conspiracy theories are making disturbing inroads in American politics. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute finds around a quarter of Republicans believed QAnon's main point. Twenty percent in red said they agreed that the government, media, and a financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.

Even more, 28 percent believe a storm is coming to sweep away the elites in power, and 28 percent believe true patriots may need to resort to violence to save the country.

PROF. MIA BLOOM, CO-AUTHOR, "PASTELS AND PEDOPHILES: INSIDE THEMIND OF QANON": It was definitely a staggering number of Republicans and it is very worrying.

TODD: That poll suggests QAnon is now as popular in the U.S. as some major religion. CNN has caught up with QAnon followers at several events over the past few years. Some have ludicrously claimed Michelle Obama is a man. But their most consistent refrain is theory of a twisted cabal working the wheels the power.

LISA HARTMAN, QANON BELIEVER: There is a lot of people in Hollywood and a lot of people, well, in Washington, D.C. who are horrible child trafficking, sex trafficking amongst our youths.

TODD: In 2016, one conspiracy's theorist whose ideas formed the core beliefs of QAnon shot up at D.C. parlor where he believed the pedophile ring was operating.

Many QAnon followers have absurdly claim Hillary Clinton was apart of the sex trafficking rings.

BLOOM: A secret society of mostly Democrats but of leaders. And that the only person that can save the children is Donald John Trump.

TODD: And many QAnon followers believe Trump would return to power on March 4th of this year.

BETHANON, QANON BELIEVER: The military is doing their own investigation and at the right time, they're going to be restoring the republic with Trump as president.

TODD: One former QAnon follower talks to CNN about the so-called storm coming, QAnon's idea of punishment for those they accuse.

JITARTH JADEJA, FORMER QANON FOLLOWER: The unsealing of sealed indictments, followed by military tribunal of civilians, followed by public executions of those they consider to be in the cabal, followed by question mark, question mark, question mark, followed by prophet, everyone lives happily ever after.

TODD: Some analysts now worry that many Republican leaders who may not actually believe the QAnon theory still won't push QAnon away.

RACHAEL BADE, CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO PLAYBOOK: A lot of the base right now believe these conspiracy theories, and these are people that need to show up to vote for Republicans.


TODD (on camera): As for the broader implications, political analysts say the in roads that QAnon has been making in the Republican Party will make it much more difficult for leaders in Washington to negotiate bipartisan deals. And those who monitor QAnon are worried about the spreading of the movement worldwide, metastasizing as one expert puts it in places like India, Britain and France -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, this is a really, really worrisome development indeed.

Brian Todd, excellent reporting as usual. 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. You can follow on Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Please tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.