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The Situation Room

Michael Flynn Backtracks On Coup Call; Interview With Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); President Biden Delivers Remarks On The 100TH Anniversary Of Tulsa Race Massacre; Miami-Dade Police Director Says, Search For Suspects In Mass Shooting Very Active; Air Travel Hits Pandemic Record With Nine Million People Passing Through U.S. Airports Over The Holiday Weekend; Israel Rivals Unite To Bid To Oust PM Netanyahu. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 01, 2021 - 18:00   ET



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But one of the things I think we can see that, is as long as Lukashenko has the backing of Vladimir Putin, he certainly seems to believe he's in the driver's seat and does not fear any repercussions, so that summit certainly going to be very interesting to see, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much.

The news continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: President Biden only moments ago commemorating the Tulsa race massacre with a historic speech and condemning efforts to restrict voting rights as a -- quote -- "unprecedented assault on our democracy."

Also right now, the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn tells a conference that included QAnon followers that a coup like the one in Myanmar -- quote -- and I'm quoting him -- "should happen here."

But now he denies saying it, although he did.

Plus, a -- quote -- "very active manhunt" under way right now for the three suspects in a deadly Miami area mass shooting.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get straight...

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right, let's get straight to the White House right now. And we're following the breaking news.

Our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is working the story for us. Kaitlan, the president was very forceful in his condemnation of

Republican efforts under way right now to restrict voting here in the United States.


And he is saying that they are vowing to ramp up efforts to protect voting rights and push back on those efforts to suppress them, the president announcing he is putting the vice president in charge of the administration's efforts on this.

And, Wolf, all of this came on a day when you finally saw a sitting U.S. president acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Truly unprecedented assault on our democracy.

COLLINS (voice-over): One day after warning democracy is in peril, tonight, President Biden is blasting efforts to restrict voting.

BIDEN: With intensity and aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time.

COLLINS: Biden addressing the dramatic fight in Texas over one of the most restrictive voting bills in the nation.

BIDEN: It's simply un-American. It's not, however, sadly, unprecedented.

COLLINS: Texas Democrats stopped the GOP effort for now, but other states have already passed new voting restrictions or are debating it. Democratic state lawmakers are calling on Biden and his allies in Congress to act.

STATE REP. JESSICA GONZALEZ (D-TX): We did our part to stop this horrible voter suppression bill in Texas. And now Texas Democrats are calling on President Biden and Democrats in the Senate to use the filibuster in order to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act immediately.

COLLINS: The bill would named for John Lewis would reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but major voting legislation has stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition.

BIDEN: I hear all the folks on TV saying, why doesn't Biden get this done? Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate.

COLLINS: Democrats need 10 Senate Republican votes or to abolish the filibuster, which Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has pledged to protect.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm not ready to destroy our government. I'm not ready to destroy our government, no.

COLLINS: Biden putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge and pledging to get those laws passed.

BIDEN: I'm going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.

COLLINS: In Tulsa, Biden met with survivors from the racist 1921 massacre, when a white mob attacked a thriving black community.

BIDEN: For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness. But just because history is silent, it doesn't mean that it did not take place.

COLLINS: Biden is the first sitting president to commemorate the racial violence that was minimized for so long.

BIDEN: My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre.

COLLINS: Officials say Biden wants to help close the racial wealth gap by using more federal funding to support minority-owned businesses.

BIDEN: That's what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides.


COLLINS: And, Wolf, during this speech, as the president was talking about coming to terms with your dark side, you saw President Biden tie what happened in 1921 in Tulsa to what happened here in Washington on January 6 with that Capitol riot, to the recent attacks on Asian Americans, on Jewish Americans, even citing his own intelligence community talking about racially motivated violence in the U.S. and how it's on the rise, according to the FBI director, Wolf.

And he said during that speech to several of those survivors from the Tulsa massacre -- quote -- "We must not give hate a safe harbor."

BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much, a very important speech by the president of the United States.


So, let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us right now, CNN political commentator Van Jones, the president and CEO of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, and CNN senior political correspondent Abby Phillip. She's joining us from Tulsa right now.

Abby, the president, he spoke very emotionally about the Tulsa massacre 100 years ago. He also connected the injustices of that attack 100 years ago to the challenges America is facing today.

So, how historic was this visit? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was incredibly

historic, Wolf, to have a president of the United States come to Tulsa and recognize what happened here 100 years ago.

This is a community of -- particularly of black residents who feel like this atrocity has been swept under the rug, not just because people have forgotten or it wasn't taught in schools, but because it was intentionally swept under the rug, because people did not want to take responsibility for what happened there.

And so you -- to hear Biden not only talk about the specific events of what occurred that night, the burning, the looting, the murders, but also tying it back to the loss of prosperity, the loss of wealth, the loss of a future for many people that occurred as a result of it, I think, was profoundly important to so many people, but especially for the survivors and the descendants of this massacre, who have been waiting a very long time to see a day like this.

BLITZER: They certainly have been.

Derrick, the president also spoke of what he called a through line from the massacre up to the insurrection, white supremacy, hate crimes we're seeing exploding here in the United States right now. Do you believe the country is at risk right now of repeating the same mistakes by not facing its dark side, as President Biden put it?


We have learned through history, when you don't hold domestic terrorists who are white supremacists accountable, you can guarantee there will be other acts of violence, particularly in the African- American community. That has been our history. That's been the legacy of this country.

And, unfortunately, far too many individuals have committed murder and massacres like what we are recognizing today in Tulsa, and no one has ever been held accountable. We must stop this treadmill of violence against African-American and other communities and begin to look forward.

But we can't do that until we repair the harms of the past.

BLITZER: And, Derrick, earlier today, this morning, you actually criticized President Biden's plan to address the wealth gap between black and white Americans, saying it fails to address the student debt crisis.

Were you surprised he didn't address that in his remarks today?

JOHNSON: Well, when you look at the plan, it is absolutely going in the correct direction.

In fact, some of the programs being put in place for -- to increase homeownership is great. But you cannot hold on a home if your income/debt ratio is too high because of student loans. We must address the sharp increase in students who've taken out student loans as a result of states cutting funding for higher education, putting the burden on students.

And then, when you look at African-Americans, we are disproportionately impacted because we don't come from generational wealth. And we -- many of us are first-generation college-goers who work for government.

So, the issue is accelerated because we're not paid the same market rate as the private sector. And we don't have households that have the financial cushion to pay for our college degrees.

BLITZER: Van, the president warns that the country right now is facing what he calls -- and I'm quoting him now -- an unprecedented assault on our democracy.

But he seemed to downplay his own ability to fight that assault. Do you think he did?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's being honest that a president can't get it done by himself.

I think President Biden is showing incredible courage in talking about some of this stuff. I think he's surprising a lot of people. He hasn't been somebody who had been as forward-leaning on some of these questions. I think it's important.

For him to draw the link, I think, between what happened in Tulsa and what happened on January 6, I think, is very, very important. What happened in Tulsa wasn't just an attack on black life. It was an attack on black wealth.

My friend Morgan Simon wrote a piece where she said, it was about $2 million worth of property damage. In current terms, that would be $27 million. But if that money had been invested properly, it's $45 billion. So, you have a $45 billion hole in black wealth just from Tulsa alone.

And so to have Biden pointing this out, sticking up for black wealth, talking about the need for democracy to be respected, I think, is very, very important. And it's not just a great lie now from the Republicans. This is becoming a great excuse for them to do damage to our democracy. The great lie has now become the great excuse and Biden's becoming a great champion.


BLITZER: You know, Abby, President Biden is naming -- he announced it just a little while ago -- he's naming Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the effort on voting rights across the country. And he's calling for June to be what he calls a month of action Capitol Hill.

But how much, if any, impact do you think this is going to have?

PHILLIP: think it's really an open question how much even the vice president, Kamala Harris, can do.

Yes, she is a former United States senator who served in that chamber for two years. But, at the same time, the problems with the lack of bipartisanship, the lack of willingness among Republicans to address voting go way deeper than that.

I'm not even sure that President Biden, who himself has 30 years of relationships in that chamber, could overcome it. So it's a tough task. But it is an effort on the White House's part to signal to Democrats in particular that this is important to them, that they are putting political capital behind it.

And there's probably no higher political capital in the White House than the attention of the second most powerful person in the country. And so that is what this is intended to signal. Whether or not it changes minds, specifically the minds of two Democratic senators who have said they don't want to move forward with any effort to get rid of the filibuster without having some Republican buy-in, I think that is a real open question.

I don't think that this has moved Senator Joe Manchin or Senator Kyrsten Sinema at all.

BLITZER: Van, if Congress fails to pass laws protecting voting rights -- you need to pass it in the House and the Senate. House, they will pass it, the Senate, much more problematic, obviously. What do you fear is at stake?

JONES: Well, our ability to have a credible election in 2022 and 2024.

You now have Republicans -- don't forget, it was grassroots Republicans that in part saved democracy last time, because they refused to be rolled by the president. They stuck by the rule of law.

Now you see them, they're changing the laws, and they're making it easier for Republicans who don't respect the rule of law to have their way. This is a major threat to American democracy.

Senator Joe Manchin, who I have great respect for, keeps talking about saving our system and saving democracy. The system is not saved by the filibuster or the absence of the filibuster. We haven't always had the filibuster. But the right to vote, and to have a secure election that everybody can trust, that is key to the system. That's key.

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

Just ahead, we're going to get a live update from Texas on the Democratic revolt against the Republican effort to restrict voting rights in the state.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is standing by live. We will discuss right after the break.



BLITZER: Right now, Texas Republicans are planning their next move after a dramatic revolt by Democratic lawmakers. They walked out of the legislature, effectively killing a restrictive new voting bill, at least for now.

Our senior national correspondent, Ed Lavandera, is in Dallas for us.

Ed, so what is the governor, Greg Abbott, doing to try to push this through?


He's threatening to defund the legislative branch of state government. And, essentially, this is a -- he sees it as a punishment for the Democrats that walked out on the last hour-and-a-half of this -- of the legislative session on Sunday night, essentially killing that voting bill for now.

The governor telling "The Texas Tribune" this afternoon that he is not bluffing with that threat. But that would also affect thousands of nonpartisan staffers that work in Texas government as well.

And what is still the great unknown right now, Wolf, is just when this special session will be convened for Texas lawmakers to be brought back to Austin to continue working on the voting bill. The governor is -- has not laid out a timeline as to when exactly he is going to call that special session or how many different issues will be involved in all of that.

And then the great question becomes after that is, once they do get back together, will this bill look the same? Will Democrats be able to take out the worst parts of -- in their view, of this bill? Or will Republicans be able to make it even more restrictive? That is the calculus that many politicians here in Texas are now trying to work through.

But the bottom line is, we just don't know yet when the governor plans on convening this special session to go back and take another stab at the voting rights bill.

BLITZER: All right, Ed, thank you very much, Ed Lavandera in Dallas for us.

Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

And I want to get to the voting restrictions in your state in just a moment, at least the proposed voting restrictions.

But, first, you're in Tulsa right now. How powerful was it to hear the president of the United States, President Biden, commemorate the Tulsa massacre, the first American president to visit and pay tribute like this in 100 years?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Wolf, it was like a shooting star piercing the audience, a bright sunlight coming down on Mother Fletcher, 107 years old, Sergeant Ellis, 100 years old, and Mother Randle, 106 years old, three living survivors and their descendants.

They had never had the commander in chief, the highest office in this land, to speak to the brutality and the heinous and unbelievable death and murder that occurred in Greenwood.

I'm not only an in Tulsa, but I have walked the grounds of what was Greenwood. I have seen that the Oklahoma State University is there, took that land, and other places are there. They literally just took the land.

And the descendants have been scattered. And so the message of this president, this president who I call the commander in comfort, the commander in racial equity, is, I think, a major statement to the nation, really to say to all Americans, Wolf.

That's what's important. We can't just say this to black Americans. We have got to have the broad base of multicultural Americans realizing that this was wrong, and that actually the United States needs to repair it.


This was government, really, enacted, enforced, law enforcement, the local government, the military. And it must be fixed.

BLITZER: You heard the president say that the Tulsa victims' loved ones have gone 100 years without closure.

You believe reparations are part of that closure. But the White House dodged on the issue today. What would you say to President Biden on this? Why do you believe reparations are so critical?

JACKSON LEE: Well, first of all, I think the president spoke broadly about equity. It's in his DNA. I have worked with him preceding him being president, and he gave us an open door.

And the reason I believe that the repair -- the reparations is an international legal term and concept that deals with the violation of one's human rights.

The human rights of Greenwood, the human rights of African-Americans, because of slavery and then the (AUDIO GAP) disparities and inequity, have been violated, enforced and reinforced by government action sanctions -- or sanctioned by the government.

I think the president is a fair-minded person, along with his administration, and see the idea of a commission to study slavery and develop reparations proposals as a road map, begin the work that would help build up not just Tulsa and Greenwood, but build up the nation.

And what I often say, when you help certain populations, you really help all. You help Appalachia in West Virginia. You help the Native Americans in Arizona and in Oklahoma.

I'm a person who believes that, when you invest in people, then all people will benefit. And I think we have got to make our way and do to show that, to build on this story, and to see H.R.40, the commission to study and develop reparation proposals, pass.

Why? Because I have colleagues, Wolf, that have been so supportive, so generous with all backgrounds and wanting to see America do better. And I hope that's what we do.

BLITZER: The president also issued a rather stark warning about the assault on voting rights here in the United States.

What would these Texas proposed restrictions mean for your constituents, if they were in fact to become law, as Governor Abbott is promising?

JACKSON LEE: Well, Wolf, let me have some breaking news here.

This district that I live in, which is a district that Barbara Jordan represented, has never been able to be anything but a court-drawn district because of the Republicans denying the right to vote, doing the redistricting plan that they plan to do now with the new census.

And so we have had to rely on the voting rights bill to be able to keep this district, which allows people to choose a person of their choosing, and, in essence, majority persons -- majority-minority persons and others.

So, the efforts of our Republican friends, based on the big lie and the untruth, we had no discernible fraud in the state of Texas in 2020, election fraud. We had a great turnout. In the middle of COVID, we had wonderful procedures in Harris County, 24-hour voting, drive- through voting, without any representation of fraud.

Now comes this legislation that will do several things, one, kill 24- hour voting, drive-through voting, indicate that judges can quickly overturn elections with less restrictions, and to stop -- provide a criminal fraud if you mail an unsolicited mail ballot. Simply mailing a ballot to help some of the elderly, the shut-ins, get their ballot, you then will be criminally penalized and add criminal penalties to simple ways of people trying to help people vote.

If you take more than one person in your car, you have to be able to get permission or a permission slip. This is the crushing of democracy and the crushing Of voting rights. So, this bill cannot stand.

And I celebrated on Sunday night, going into the 31st, when this bill was killed by these very strong and courageous colleagues of mine.


JACKSON LEE: And I say that, Democratic members in the state of -- state legislature.

BLITZER: Well, we will see what happens in the days and weeks to come.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you so much for joining us.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you.

The Congress will have to act, Wolf. And we will have to pass voting rights. And we have to do that now.

BLITZER: Yes, we will see what happens.

We know what's going to happen in the House. We will see what happens in the Senate, obviously much closer over there.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up: Disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn now claims he never supported overthrowing the government of the United States, despite being caught on camera saying the U.S. military said stage a coup d'etat.



BLITZER: Former President Trump's fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn now claims he didn't say what he clearly did say when he appeared to endorse a military coup here in the United States.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In addition to being a disgraced former national security adviser, martial law proponent, and conspiracy theorist, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn is now demonstrating his skills at backpedaling.

Flynn now claims he didn't say what he actually seemed to say at a conference in Dallas this past weekend. An online account used by Flynn says -- quote -- "Let me be very clear. There is no reason whatsoever for any coup in America, and I do not and have not at any time called for any action of that sort."


Here's what Flynn at that conference in response to a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can't happen here.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No reason. I mean, it should happen, no reason.

TODD: Lawyer Sydney Powell, who's represented Flynn in the past, also claimed Flynn did not encourage a military insurrection in the U.S., similar to what happened in Myanmar. Some analysts aren't buying it.

MIKE ROTHSCHILD, AUTHOR, THE STORM IS UPON US: Michael Flynn absolutely endorsed a Myanmar-style coup in the United States. He was asked a question that he should have emphatically shot down with the idea that the United States does not remove leaders through violent coups, but through elections. And instead he endorsed exactly what's going on in Myanmar right now. TODD: The conference in Dallas built as the, quote, Forgotten Country Patriot Roundup, was attended by several followers of the QAnon conspiracy theories, theories which espouse absurd claims like the U.S. government is run by Satan-worshipping pedophiles and John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive. Flynn fed the crowd red meat regarding one of their core beliefs about the 2020 election, which is false.

FLYNN: Trump won. He won the popular vote. He won the popular vote and he won the Electoral College vote.

TODD: Analysts who monitor extremist movements say Flynn has become a hero among QAnon followers.

ROTHSCHILD: He has enthusiastically embraced the worship and the money that these people have given him while using QAnon catch phrases and iconography to bolster his credibility.

TODD: Like Flynn support of Newsmax, of the idea of using the military to keep Donald Trump in office after he lost the 2020 election.

FLYNN: He could order the -- within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.

TODD: But experts say Flynn is also cagey about publicly identifying himself with the QAnon movement.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Flynn has been careful because he knows the connotations that come with the QAnon label. He's been careful not to say that he is all-in on QAnon.


TODD (on camera): One influential member of Congress, Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria, Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, says she believes that Flynn's comments about a coup border on sedition and that legal action should be considered against him, possibly under the military code of justice. One analyst says, it's going to be difficult to prosecute Flynn because of free speech protections, but the military could make some moves like possibly taking away his pension. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, he's a retired lieutenant general. All right, thank you very much Brian Todd, reporting.

Let's get some insight from our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. His denial of what he said on tape seems to be ridiculous.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is ridiculous. He said, what he said, he used the word, should. He said, it should happen here, period, no reason, that's right. So that's what he said.

It's not only ridiculous, Wolf, but it's also dangerous. You have somebody who's a former short-term national security adviser, because he did plead guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI, as we all know, a plea that he then decided to recant, but he -- and was pardoned. But he is somebody who has a certain amount of stature.

This is somebody retired from the military at a high rank, former national security adviser speaking QAnon garbage and also saying things like, you know, Donald Trump could just be reinstated as president of the United States.

So you have academics around the country saying, look, this kind of language puts democracy itself in danger. And what is he doing? He's stoking the flames.

BLITZER: And it comes after several months of QAnon supporters openly speaking about a Myanmar-type coup here in the United States to get rid of President Biden and install former President Trump.

BORGER: Right. And, you know, the former President Trump could put an end to it by saying, well, that's not going to happen, that's ridiculous. But we all know that he's never going to do that and that Mr. Flynn is doing this at the behest and probably with the tacit approval of Donald Trump.

I mean, they want to fan the flames of the base. They want to say, look, Donald Trump actually won the election. They want to propagate the big lie, which of course we know is not true, and get people riled up. And, you know, this is somebody who our reporting showed that in December, he was in the Oval Office talking about martial law with Donald Trump.

So he's been on this band wagon for a while. And as Donie says, he may not want to formally affiliate with Q for whatever reason, but he is certainly singing Q songs.

BLITZER: And we heard Michael Flynn, former head of DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, a retired U.S. lieutenant general, repeat the big lie that Trump won the popular vote big time and Trump won the Electoral College vote.


He repeated that this weekend.

BORGER: Yes. And this is -- again, this is going to be approved by Donald Trump. This is what you see going on in many places around the country who want to fix election security even though this was the most secure election in our history, because they believe that it was rigged. They have been told this by Donald Trump. They're being told this by Flynn. They're being told this by people they respect.

And what it does lead to is people saying democracy isn't safe and actually saying perhaps there should be some kind of overthrow of the United States government, which is absurd.

BLITZER: It's not just absurd. It's so dangerous, right?

BORGER: It's very dangerous.

BLITZER: Because there are people out there who believe that kind of junk. All right, Gloria, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we'll have the latest on the manhunt for three murder suspects after a mass shooting in the Miami area.



BLITZER: Police in the Miami area right now say they're conducting what they describe as a very active manhunt for three murder suspects wanted in a mass shooting that left two people dead and almost two dozen injured.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is working this story for us.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the manhunt intensifying for the three suspects who shot into a crowd outside a banquet hall in Miami-Dade early Sunday morning. The Miami-Dade police director calling the search very active.

ALFREDO "FREDDY" RAMIREZ, DIRECTOR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE: We're looking for three killers, three murderers that killed two innocent people and wounded several others and destroyed the families of those victims.

SANTIAGO: Police released surveillance video Monday of the three masked suspects jumping out of an SUV with assault rifles and hand guns before opening fire into a crowd standing in front of a banquet hall. The three suspects get back into the car and take off less than ten seconds later.

A tip from someone in the community led to the discovery of the white SUV found submerged in a canal about nine miles from where the shooting occurred. Investigators say the shooting is connected to an ongoing rivalry between two different groups.

RAMIREZ: This was targeted. I had someone that was at that location. You saw in the video how they showed up in their commando style, when in 20 seconds, they ruined families and lives.

SANTIAGO: Raw emotion on display by those families whose lives were ruined by the shooting.


SANTIAGO: Clayton Dillard Jr. lost his 26-year-old son, Clayton Dillard III.

RAMIREZ: My tone is angry because I am angry. I'm angry to hearing that father yesterday. As a dad myself, it is heartbreaking and this has to stop.

SANTIAGO: The crime scene now another memorial site after another senseless shooting. MATT ROSENBERG, MIAMI RESIDENT: The bottom line is this all needs to stop.

SANTIAGO: Matt Rosenberg stopped to pay his respects. He's tired of having to explain the gun violence to his 15-year-old daughter.

ROSENBERG: She's traumatized, okay, I put that way, because she sees it happening all over the place.

SANTIAGO: That gun violence epidemic in this country getting further out of control.

RAMIREZ: Law enforcement is doing all they can on the street. What we need, and I understand that people are afraid to come forward because of retaliation, according to size (ph), but you know what, that's got to stop because the next time it could be you or someone you love.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And, Wolf, I just spoke to a woman who was here when the shooting occurred. She wasn't ready to go on camera, but she just kept repeating how traumatized she was, saying she never wants to go back out again, clearly a reflection of a very shaken community that is searching for healing and justice.

BLITZER: All right, Leyla, thank you very much, Leyla Santiago on the scene for us.

So, let's discuss all of this and more with the Miami police chief, Art Acevedo. Chief Acevedo, thank you so much for joining us. Are you surprised these three shooters are still at large given the strong surveillance video and the national attention this story is getting?

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE: Yes, I mean, I'm not surprised. What these guys do, whether it's the shooting or a shooting on Friday, one wounded or several were shot and one person died, is that they'll go into hiding. But in this region, we are all working very closely together to deal with this uptick in violent crime. And I'm confident that we will see arrests in both of our mass shootings over the weekend in the Miami-Dade area.

BLITZER: I hope so. What's your message to people out there, Chief, who know who did this yet are keeping quiet right now?

ACEVEDO: Well, look, first of all, if you're harboring these fugitives, like in many of these shootings that we had over the weekend, you're committing a crime and you're looking potentially prison time, not to mention the fact that you assume at times that these things can be gang-related, can be targeted in these shootings here in our area in the last weekend, and you don't want to end up being a victim.

And so we need people with information to come forward on any of the crimes that we've experienced in the greater Miami area in the last three or four days and because we're not giving up, and I can tell you we're working very closely with the director of Miami-Dade, Freddy Ramirez. We've talked several times, our investigators are talking, we're connecting all the dots. And it's a matter of time before we catch these bad guys.

BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers by the way, Chief, on the side of the screen, the America's gun violence epidemic this year so far in the first five months of this year here in the United States, take a look at this, 241 mass shootings, 274 people killed, 990 people injured.


You yourself say this is going to be, in your words, a long, hot, bloody summer if something isn't done about gun violence here in the U.S.

What needs to be done to stop even more lives from being lost to this senseless gun violence?

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE: Well, I think first we need to get our courts up and running across the country. I had a really good meeting last week with the judges here in Dade County. They were very accommodating, very helpful.

But I can tell you, as I talked to my colleagues across the country, to many of the court systems are just at a standstill. I think the president, Congress, governors, we've got to get our court systems up and running. We've got to start holding these bad guys accountable.

Secondly, when felons are caught with guns, they are not allowed to have them. They have got to understand and they have to face prison time and they have to be given prison time, because these fatalist -- fatalistic mindset of these gang bangers, they don't care about dying, but they fear prison. And we've got to have some teeth in our laws when we catch these guys with firearms and not wait until they kill somebody and shoot into a crowd, which is what's happening too often across the country.

BLITZER: Yeah, there is a gun violence epidemic in our country right now.

The Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, thanks for all you are doing. Thanks for joining us.

ACEVEDO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, life after lockdown. Things are getting closer to normal for many Americans as COVID vaccinations go up and new cases go down.



BLITZER: Millions of Americans got a reminder of pre-pandemic times this weekend.

CNN's Alexandra Field has the latest from New York.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the best feeling in the world to finally see this.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The triumphant return of travel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a real excitement in the community about having the tourists come back to our town. It's what we live and breathe for.

FIELD: The unofficial day start of summer, Memorial Day weekend, marked the busiest air travel stretch we've seen during the pandemic with nearly 9 million people passing through airports.

MICHAEL WOODY, GALVESTON CHIEF TOURISM OFFICER: We're really seeing a faster recovery than anticipated. I think everyone nationwide had expected about a (AUDIO GAP) recovery ramp.

FIELD: With the average number of new COVID cases dropping below 20,000 for the first time since March of 2020, more masks are coming off, more people are getting out.

Las Vegas looking like it used to, with capacity limits on hotels, restaurants and casinos all lifted. Half the U.S. population is now at least partially vaccinated, and incentives to get shots are ramping up.

In Arkansas, starting today, a choice of a scratch-off lottery ticket or a gift certificate for hunting and fishing license for people getting vaccinated. And in St. Petersburg, Florida, tickets to a punk band concert are going for $18 to vaccinated fans but unvaccinated fans must pay nearly $1,000.

MIGUEL CHEN, TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET BASS PLAYER/TOUR MANAGER: There's 250 people who bought tickets to the show understanding that those were the stipulations, and I think they are all very happily going to show their vaccination records so that they can come party and have a good time.

FIELD: Health experts are hopeful that vaccine confidence could soon get a boost among hesitant. Moderna announcing today its' applying for full FDA approval for its vaccine for people aged 18 and up following a similar announcement from Pfizer last month. Both are currently available through an emergency use authorization.


FIELD: All over the world, including Japan where a big push is on to get more shots in arms, they have started vaccinating 1,600 Olympic athletes and staff ahead of next month's games as the first international athletes travel from Australia. IAN CHESTERMAN, AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: It's going to be very

different time. There's no doubt about that.

FIELD: For the athletes and for the fans.

Spectators may have to show proof of a negative COVID test and will only come from Japan.


FIELD (on camera): And it is a landmark day right here in New York City. The COVID positivity rate today, 0.83 percent. That is the lowest number we have seen since the city started keeping a record, some 14 months ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alexandra Field, thank you very much.

We're going to have more news in just a minute.



BLITZER: We are following very fast developing developments in Israel right now, where the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on the verge of losing power.

Journalist Elliott Gotkine is covering the story for us. He's joining us from Tel Aviv right now.

What's the latest, Elliott?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Wolf, negotiations are continuing, they haven't really stopped since Sunday. The very intense, a source involved in the negotiations will be although would be completed on Tuesday, now in Israel early into Wednesday.

There's a midnight Wednesday deadline, that's but 11 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, by which Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid, the leader of opposition, has to go to the president, and the speaker of the Knesset and say, I've done it, I've got a coalition parties together that will be able to command support and more than half the lawmakers in Israel's parliament or Knesset.

Now, if they do get things over the line, the speaker of the Knesset will then have a maximum of one week, in which to convene lawmakers. They will then vote on whether this coalition can come into being, if they vote in the affirmative, it will come to being, if they if that happens, then Netanyahu will be out of office for the first time in 12 years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens with the next 24 hours.

Elliott Gotkine in Tel Aviv for us, thank you very much.

Finally tonight, I want to mark CNN's 41st anniversary when Ted Turner created the cable news network on June 1st, 1980, gave all of us admission, just as important today as it was then.


TED TURNER, CNN FOUNDER: To act upon one's convictions, while others wait, to create a positive force in a world where cynics abound, to provide information to people, when it wasn't available before.

I dedicate the news channel for America, the Cable News Network.


BLITZER: What a moment that was, 41 years ago.

Since then, CNN has changed the way people here in the United States and people all around the world get their news and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

To Ted Turner, thank you, thank you, thank you.

And to all of our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.