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FBI Director Compares Threat of Ransomware Attacks to 9/11; Facebook Says, Trump Ban Remains Until At Least January 2023, Cites Risk to Public Safety; CDC: Rise in Adolescent Hospitalization Rates Shows Importance of Vaccination and Prevention Measures; Sources: Pentagon & U.S. Intel Can't Rule Out Possibility That Military Pilots Are Encountering Alien Spacecraft. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 04, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can tweet @theleadcnn. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in The Situation Room. Have a great weekend. I'll see you Sunday morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The FBI director is comparing recent ransomware attacks to terrorism in the wake of 9/11.

Also, Facebook bans Donald Trump from its platform until at least 2023 as the former president intensifies his assault on democracy while reportedly becoming increasingly obsessed with his big lie about the 2020 election.

Also breaking news, Republicans have just added $50 billion in their latest counteroffer to President Biden's infrastructure spending plan, but the White House says, quote, it did not meet his objectives.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We begin with a growing alarm over a spate of cyberattacks suspected to be originating from Russia, threatening to technologically cripple U.S. companies unless they pay up. Our Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is here with the latest.

Alex, the FBI director compares terror threat to the threat the U.S. faced 20 years after 9/11.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, the comparison that Director Wray is trying to make is how important it is to root out these attackers to disrupt these attacks. He's driving home how destructive they can be. Wray is now adding his voice to a growing chorus of administration officials highlighting the fact that this is an urgent national security threat. But there are significant questions that remain over whether the administration is doing enough.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): The cyber threats against the United States have grown so much, it's like dealing with terrorism after 9/11. That urgent message from the head of the FBI, Chris Wray, today adding his voice to the alarm being sounded by the Biden administration over the growing ransomware attacks here and around the world.

There are a lot of parallels, Wray told The Wall Street Journal. The scale of this problem is one that I think the country has to come to terms with.

JOHN HULTQUIST, V.P., MANDIANT THREAT INTELLIGENCE, FIREEYE: Before long, we are worried that some people will get hurt, especially when you consider all these incidents that are affecting health care.

MARQUARDT: Health care, schools and most recently the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods, which is the biggest meat producer in the world. Those attacks caused gas shortages and beef plants to shut down.

MICHAEL LETER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: I think this is going to be an ongoing struggle, increasing threat, increasing defenses. And to the extent, again, that this counterterrorism analogy works, that's another way in which this will be a long-term fight.

MARQUARDT: The Justice Department announced Thursday it will implement practices used for terrorism cases, telling prosecutors to share more information and coordinate efforts on ransomware attacks, which is when hackers take control of a network and hold it hostage, demanding money.

The attacks and the amounts paid have skyrocketed. The Justice Department says ransom payments often in cryptocurrency last year went up 300 percent. The White House on Thursday released a rare open letter, pleading with companies to strengthen their online defenses, saying they can't fight the threat alone. But experts say the government also needs to find a better way to take down the attackers and deter them from even trying.

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE: It really requires the government to take additional actions. They've got to work collaboratively with foreign law enforcement agencies to take these people off the field, to use law enforcement efforts, intelligence agency efforts, economic sanctions to disrupt and deter these actors.

MARQUARDT: Most of the recent major attacks have come from Russia government hackers in the case of a breach like SolarWinds and criminal hackers striking the pipeline and food companies.

Today's comparison of cyberattacks to other terrorist threats is one that has made for years, including in 2018 by the country's head of intelligence.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUARDT (on camera): Those warning lights are now doing more than just blinking. They are fully on. Wolf, I'm told that these attacks from Russia are going to be a big part of Biden's trip to Europe both at the G7 and then in his face-to-face meeting with President Putin in which he is expecting to tell the Russian president that he has to crack down on these hackers inside Russia, that they are fundamentally destabilizing to the relationship.

We have heard Biden say time and time again he wants a stable and predictable relationship with Russia.

BLITZER: Alex, stick around, don't go too far away. Speaking of Putin, he's laughing off these accusations that Russia is behind the latest ransomware attack on a major U.S. company.

Let's go to our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance. He's covering the story for us. Matthew, this will certainly be a major point of contention when President Biden meets with President Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, 12 days from today.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it will be right up there on the agenda, Wolf, with issues like Russia's military buildup along the border of Ukraine and its crackdown against dissidents at home, Alexei Navalny, of course, one of the leading opposition figures there, had been incarcerated for 2.5 years.

On the issue of these ransomware attacks, a scathing rejection from Vladimir Putin today about those allegations that Russia was in any way involved, described the allegations as nonsense, ridiculous and just hilarious, that despite the fact U.S. officials saying that the criminal gangs they believe carried out this ransomware attack are based in Russia. They called on the Kremlin to crackdown on those gangs. The suggestion, of course, being at the moment that the Kremlin allowed them to operate with relative impunity.

Well, Vladimir Putin made those remarks on the sidelines at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, he was speaking in an interview to state television. Take a listen to what he had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: It's just ridiculous to blame Russia for this. I think that the relevant U.S. services should find out who the scammers are, not Russia for sure. For us, to extort money from some company, we are not dealing with some chicken meat or beef. It's just hilarious.


CHANCE: All right. Well, as you say, these remarks come and these attacks come just a few days now, 12 days, I should say, before the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the summit between President Biden and President Putin. On that, President Putin said he hopes the meeting will be held in a positive manner, but that he does not expect any breakthrough in Russian/American relations, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Matthew Chance reporting for us, Matthew, thank you very much.

Let's get more on all of this, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Christopher Krebs, is joining us. He's now with the Krebs Stamos Group. Our Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is still with us as well.

Chris, let's talk a little bit about this statement, a blunt statement from the FBI director, Chris Wray, in The Wall Street Journal, comparing the scope of the latest cyberattack threats against the United States to what happened here in the U.S. on 9/11. This is a dire warning. How does the country respond to this?

CHRISTOPHER KREBS, PARTNER, KREBS STAMOS GROUP: Well, Wolf, thanks for having me on. I think when you put the current ransomware crisis in the context of 9/11, I think there are some striking similarities when we're talking about non-state actors that have launched a series of attacks against the United States.

And, really, my take-away from Director Wray's statements from yesterday's memo prioritizing ransomware investigations at the Department of Justice from the deputy national security adviser, from the president's comments, from the press secretary's comments, from secretary of homeland security, all of them would point to the same thing, the government is taking ransomware seriously, and this is a signal that we're not going to take it anymore.

But consistent with Anne Neuberger's memo, it is going to take a whole nation effort, not just the government. It's going to take the private sector to up their defenses. But the government is going to use a different and new set of tools and capabilities to push back on these criminal gangs.

BLITZER: Chris, this certainly isn't the first time we've heard an alert like this. As you heard in 2008, then Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, and I'm quoting him now, the warning lights are blinking red. If foreign adversaries decided to do their worst, how vulnerable are we right now?

KREBS: Well, I think given JBS, given Colonial, given a number of other events over the last several months, we are quite vulnerable. We need our nation's businesses, our corporate executives to take this seriously, not just as a technical risk or some sort of call center, but as a functional disruption risk, a business continuity risk.

I will make one distinction though. When you talk about criminal actors, they have a different risk calculus. They are a little bit more careless and carefree than a state actor, an intelligence service. An intelligence service striking Colonial Pipeline and knocking them offline, as they did, that would be as close to an act of war as I could possibly imagine. But when a criminal actor does it, there's a degree of plausible deniability, at least in the Kremlin, as you've seen with Putin's recent remarks. BLITZER: The FBI director says a huge portion of these cyberattacks are traced back to actors in Russia, his words. But Putin, you heard, he appears completely undeterred. So what does President Biden need to do when he meets face-to-face with the Russian leader in Geneva?


KREBS: Well, I think it's really more the actions that lead up to the meeting. So, again, you've seen these series of statements this week. You have a series of meetings next week with allies in Europe, in the G7 and others. So when President Biden comes to the table meeting with Putin, I think his prior actions will have done the majority of the speaking for him.

He will reinforce the fact that western level democracies that have been targeted for destabilization by the Russians over the last several years, the game has changed and we're not going to take it anymore. And so then the question becomes what are those levers that President Biden and his partners in other countries are willing to pull? And we need to take a hard look at what some of the global economic dependencies of the Russians are, including their Russian -- rather there oil and gas exports and some of their secondary debt on the global market.

BLITZER: All right. Alex, very quickly, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. What options are there? Because it looks like it's going to go on and on and on. What can the United States do?

MARQUARDT: The Biden administration is now trying to change the paradigm. They're trying to change the landscape. And one of the biggest things that they want to do is take money out of the equation and take away the incentive for these attackers to keep carrying out these ransomware attacks. So it's going to involve some analysis of how cryptocurrency moves so they can attack these attackers.

They also want to crack down on these ransomware networks themselves. Of course, the U.S. has very formidable cyber capabilities. So the question is, are they using those to go on the offense. And then they're trying to get other countries involved. They're trying to get countries both their allies and adversaries like Russia to crack down on hackers that are operating within the country. And so that is essentially how they think they can get ahead of these attacks.

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt doing excellent reporting, as usual, Chris Krebs, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, a senior Trump Organization official reportedly called to testify before a grand jury looking into the company's financial dealings. There is new information. We'll share it with you when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight, The New York Times is reporting that a senior Trump Organization official has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into the company's financial dealings.

Let's get some analysis from our Senior Legal Analyst, the former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara. Preet, thanks for joining us.

What is this reported subpoena of this longtime Trump Organization Financial Executive Jeffrey McConney tell us about the status of the Manhattan district attorney's investigation?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it confirms what we've been saying about the status of the investigation and the stage it's in for the last number of days, that they are serious, that they are doing substantial things, that they're progressing, that the reports about the grand jury were correct, that they're putting witnesses who have long-term knowledge of the Trump Organization under oath, locking them in to get information for them. And it's probably the beginning of a long line of witnesses, given what the reporting is and given what the stage of the investigation.

It's significant because this is a person who has been with the organization, as I understand it, for 30 years, who knows where a lot of things are, knows where a lot of misconduct may have occurred and can corroborate things that the district attorney's office may already believe to be true.

BLITZER: What sort of information specifically could prosecutors glean from someone like McConey. Why is his insight potentially so valuable to them right now?

BHARARA: Yes. So further to what I said a second ago, the length of time that he has served in that organization certainly gives him institutional knowledge. It probably means he is a person who is quite trusted, so it would be privy not to just to being able explain documents that the district attorney already has, explain transfers of money, explain the flow of money, but also maybe is able to talk about communications with high level members of the organization, including Weisselberg, the CFO, maybe Donald Trump himself, members of his family, communications that may not have been put in writing, that may not be existent in emails or text messages. And so it can give some color to what was going on.

And the most important thing in any criminal investigation is evidence of intent. And sometimes the evidence of intent doesn't come directly from the documents or communications because people are careful about that. But testimony from a long trusted employee of an organization combined with those emails may suggest intent to engage in misconduct or break the law, that in combination is very powerful and that is what I suspect they're going to be looking for.

BLITZER: Could this subpoena, Preet, actually encourage, and you mentioned Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, could it encourage him to cooperate with these investigators? He is viewed by many as certainly a key player in all of this. BHARARA: Yes. I think Weisselberg certainly is a key player. I don't know if the fact of a subpoena issued to another financial executive at the company would make a difference to Weisselberg. I think what ultimately will make the difference, given that he has not appeared to be flipping yet and entering into a cooperation agreement with the district attorney's office yet. But what it does mean potentially is that they're building a case against Weisselberg based on the testimony of this new witness that we've been in combination with other evidence they may have. And that is something that will focus Weisselberg and his attorney's minds on the choice they have to make.

Do they otherwise try to save themselves if they're otherwise going to be facing criminal charges and time in prison, or do they remain loyal to the person who used to be the president of the United States? This is one step in that process, but I don't think it's the trigger for cooperation.

BLITZER: Very quickly, should Trump be sweating right now?

BHARARA: You know, I think so, but there have been many prior occasions where people have said he should be sweating, and he escapes problems on those occasions even though he puts the country through a lot. It has put the country through a lot. I think this is a different kind of thing. It is not a political investigation. It's not about things he spoke about on 1/6.

What it seems like, a standard financial organization criminal investigation. And if they have the goods, and it looks increasingly like they might, we don't know but they might, then, yes, Donald Trump should be sweating, which is why maybe he's making all these other noises about running again and everything else to try to be a distraction.


But an ordinary person -- I'm not saying that Donald Trump is an ordinary -- an ordinary in his position should be feeling some heat, yes.

BLITZER: Our Senior Legal Analyst Preet Bharara, thank you very much, Preet, for that analysis.

Coming up, Facebook says former President Trump will remain suspended at least until January 2023. This as sources tell CNN he is becoming obsessed with the conspiracy theories about his 2020 election defeat.



BLITZER: One of former President Trump's favorite social media megaphones will remain dark for him until at least January of 2023. Facebook says its two-year ban on Trump's account won't be lifted unless, quote, the risk to public safety has receded.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on the story for us tonight. Sunlen, so what else are you learning?

SUNLEN SERFATY: So, Wolf, Trump, of course, has millions of followers on Facebook. And this move means that Trump will not be able to host from his Facebook account before the 2022 midterm elections, but potentially opens the door to lifting the suspension ahead of the 2024 presidential campaign.


SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, Facebook is not backing down in their ban against former President Trump, announcing that Trump will remain suspended on Facebook for two more years until at least January 2023. Trump calling the decision an insult to his supporters.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.

SERFATY: This comes as former Vice President Mike Pence is reemerging into the political spotlight in the battleground state of New Hampshire.

PENCE: But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured. And that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

SERFATY: Putting some distance between himself and former President Trump over the January 6th insurrection, publicly acknowledging they have very different views of what happened.

PENCE: You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office and I don't know if we'll ever see eye-to-eye on that day.

SERFATY: Pence was inside the Capitol on January 6th, overseeing Congress certifying the vote for Joe Biden.

PENCE: The Senate will now retire to its chamber.

SERFATY: As the violent mob chanted, hang Mike Pence, the vice president was rushed out of the Senate chamber. Security footage showing that at one point, he was less than 100 feet from the rioters.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.

SERFATY: Earlier, then-President Trump had delivered an incendiary speech to some of the protesters who would later go onto storm the Capitol.

TRUMP: Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country.

SERFATY: After watching the events unfold at the Capitol, the president did not call his vice president to check in on him and did not speak to him for several days following the attack.

TRUMP: I know your pain, I know you're hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us.

SERFATY: With their relationship strained, sources familiar say the two men have largely gone their separate ways in the months since, as Trump continues to dismiss the severity of the insurrection.

TRUMP: It was zero threat right from the start. It was zero threat. Look, they went in and they shouldn't have done it. Some of them went in and they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards. You know, they had great relationships.

SERFATY: A lie the Republican Party seems quite content to embrace for now with Senate Republicans even refusing to form a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened on January 6th. Instead, they are pledging loyalty to Donald Trump as the former president is preparing his own return to the political stage this weekend, kicking off a series of campaign-style rallies on Saturday.


SERFATY (on camera): Saturday will be Trump's first public event in three months and a big question, of course, is what he decides to speak about. Sources familiar with Trump's thinking describe him as bored with the issues that his advisers want him to talk about tomorrow night, while he remains fixated on re-litigating the 2020 election.

BLITZER: All right. Very, very good report, Sunlen, thank you very much, Sunlen Serfaty, reporting for us.

Let's discuss with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel.

Gloria, so, first of all, what impact will the Facebook decision to ban him for all practical purposes for another two years until January 2023, what will the impact be on his influence? He's already banned from Twitter, from Instagram. You know, he wants to be able to speak to those millions of followers, he can't.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And, look, he still does speak to them in their hearts. Let's put it that way. But I think he's going to be muted to a great degree from mainstream platforms through the 2022 midterm election. That's very important.

He uses Facebook as a way to raise a lot of money. It's cheap. Put an ad in Facebook, raise a lot of money, he's not going to be able to have that. So he's going to have to figure out a way to raise that money.


And it also gives him an issue, by the way. It gives him a new enemy. The enemy is big tech. The enemy big tech and, of course, mainstream media has always been there but add big tech to the list. And when he speaks tomorrow night, I guarantee you he's going to talk about big tech muzzling him and trying to muzzle his 74 million supporters. BLITZER: Yes, the people who voted for him in the last election. He said and he issued a statement today, Trump, saying there will be no more dinners with Mark Zuckerberg, he said, next time -- this is Trump -- next time I'm in the White House. He's suggesting that he's going to be back in the White House.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, this is classic Trump lashing out, but I'm going to go out on a limb. I don't think Mark Zuckerberg is losing sleep over this one. It does speak to a different issue. And that is that we've been hearing that Donald Trump is telling people he's going to be reinstated as president in August. Just to be clear, no matter what the MyPillow guy says, Trump is not going to be reinstated.

Either this is a desperate attempt for -- you know, he wants attention, or it's delusional or it's both, but there is a danger here. And that is we know that people believed the big lie and they may very well believe continuing lies.

BLITZER: You heard Mike Pence. All of a sudden, he's out in New Hampshire. He says that he knows he and Trump will never see -- probably will never eye-to-eye on January 6th. How does this play politically for the former vice president?

BORGER: Look, Mike Pence wants to be president and he's trying to navigate this, but he's sort of navigating himself into a ditch no matter what he does. He's trying to navigate it and say, push it aside, you know, we'll never see eye-to-eye on that.

These were people who were in the Capitol who wanted to kill him. And what did Donald Trump do? He didn't call him. He didn't help him. And so, yes, they're not going to see eye-to-eye on this, but he wants Donald Trump supporters. He'd also like some more establishment Republicans who maybe don't believe in the big lie or independents who might -- if he would a primary, who vote for him.

So he's trying to walk this line. But in the Republican Party right now, you really can't do that.

BLITZER: Jamie, what did you think Preet Bharara just said on this show, he thinks Trump probably should be sweating right now given the fact that the Manhattan district attorney is beginning to subpoena all these executives from the Trump Organization?

GANGEL: Look, he is the expert on that. Nobody can read the tea leaves better than he can, but it certainly is true that our reporting is that this is being taken very seriously. We have a grand jury out there.

I just want to add something to what Gloria said about Mike Pence. A Republican said to me this morning not seeing eye-to-eye is a term we use on policy, not on an insurrection.

BLITZER: Especially when they were saying, hang Mike Pence, and all that. All right, guys, thanks very much. Just ahead, breaking news, President Biden rejects a Republican counter offer on infrastructure as the two sides remain extremely far apart. Are Democrats about to try to go it alone?



BLITZER: Tonight, the White House says a new Republican counteroffer on infrastructure, quote, did not meet the president's objectives. Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us.

Phil, the GOP is offering more money, but the White House is rejecting their latest proposal. What do we know?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, that's exactly right. And just to give you some context here, even with that new Republican offer that would add additional $50 billion to what Republicans have put on the table, the two sides still more than $700 billion apart. That reality has the White House now looking for other Republicans to talk to about a potential bipartisan deal.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Now is the time to build on the foundation we've laid.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden pressing the path forward to a major infrastructure deal.

BIDEN: We have a chance to seize on the economic momentum of the first months of my administration.

MATTINGLY: A path that remains in limbo. Biden speaking by phone with Senator Shelly Moore Capito, the lead GOP negotiator in the long running bipartisan talks, but a new GOP offer to increase their proposed spending by $50 billion fell far short of Biden's expectations. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a statement saying Biden, quote, expressed his gratitude for Capito's effort and goodwill, but also indicated that the current offer did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis and create new jobs.

Biden this week offering to drop the top line of his proposal and take corporate tax increases off the table to finance the plan, a central GOP ask. But Republicans have quietly poured cold water on that effort. Still, the White House not signaling time has run out yet --

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not unlimited, but we have an opportunity. He's going to talk to Senator Capito this afternoon. We're going to see how those conversations go.

MATTINGLY: But Biden also facing crosscutting pressures inside his own party.

[18:40:00] Progressives pleading with him to drop the bipartisan talks and move to a budget procedure that allows for a simple majority to move Biden's sweeping proposals.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): If we're going to stand up for working families, what we need to do is use reconciliation.

MATTINGLY: As moderates crucial in a Congress where Democrats hold the narrowest of majorities, calling on them to continue.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): These take time. You just can't -- I know everyone is in a hurry right now.

MATTINGLY: For Biden, a critical moment coming as the May employment report showed 559,000 jobs added and an unemployment rate that ticked down to 5.8 percent.

BIDEN: No major economy is gaining jobs as quickly as ours.

MATTINGLY: But the hole from the pandemic still deep, 7.6 million jobs fewer than before the coronavirus shut down the nation and no shortage of choppy economic data from inflation to labor force participation, threatening to derail Biden's goals.

BIDEN: As we continue this recovery, we're going to hit some bumps along the way. We can't reboot the world's largest economy like flipping on a light switch.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, the big question for President Biden now is where does he go next in that search for a bipartisan deal. He's made clear he will speak once again with Senator Capito on Monday, but White House officials saying the president is going to be looking for any Republican or Democrat that is willing to talk about a potential pathway forward.

And that brings us back to Senator Manchin. He and Senator Mitt Romney have been working with a group of Republicans and Democrats kind of behind the scenes on their own proposal. White House officials say they are happy to speak with them.

But they also note, Wolf, they are keeping a close eye on House Democrats who next week will move their own surface transportation proposal, basically, Wolf, keeping multiple balls in the air recognizing that they need a path forward even though the window is closing fast. Wolf?

BLITZER: A good point. Phil Mattingly over at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on the effort to bolster cybersecurity. Our Senior Washington Correspondent Pamela Brown is joining us right now. You had a chance to sit down exclusively with the Capitol Hill sergeant at arms. It was an important discussion, especially given the cybersecurity threats facing the U.S. in the aftermath of January 6th. PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, she is the chief law enforcement officer, Wolf, of the Senate. And I asked her what she views as the biggest threat now nearly five months after the insurrection. And she said the thing that keeps her up at night the most is cybersecurity.


KAREN GIBSON, SENATE SERGEANT AT ARMS: I worry a lot more about cybersecurity than I do about another mob attacking the Capitol. Certainly, our networks have attempted intrusions every single day. And so cybersecurity for me is a much greater concern than the prospect of thousands of people storming the west terrace.

BROWN: Christopher Wray, the FBI director, compared the current cyber threat with ransomware to the terrorism threat around 9/11. Do you view it that way too?

GIBSON: I think whether it's ransomware or other cybersecurity threats, yes, I actually -- again, I see cybersecurity as my greater concern than a mob attacking the Capitol.

I think members have sensitive information that they would not necessarily want to have disclosed that may be in documents. Much of what we do is public and meant to be so, so committee deliberations, hearings, that's intended to be public.

But I would worry about, I think, nation state actors or others who might try to just really cripple the government's ability to function by locking down cyber communications networks.


BROWN: So she's echoing what the FBI director said as well, Wolf. And she says that on Capitol Hill, that they have a highly capable cyber team, a chief information officer. But despite this robust team, she says, you think you're prepared but you don't really know until there's intrusions, until something happens. And so it's something that they're focused on day in and day out on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thank you very much, good work indeed. Pamela, by the way, is going to have more of her exclusive interview tomorrow and Sunday, 6:00 P.M. Eastern on her program Newsroom with Pamela Brown. We look forward to that.

Coming up, a spike in the number of young people with COVID-19 who have to be hospitalized. The CDC now says there's a message, an important message behind the latest numbers.



BLITZER: There's new concern tonight about COVID hospitalization rates among young people.

Our national correspondent Erica Hill is in New York. She's got details.

Erica, I take this is specifically of those 12 to 17 years old, more than 200 had to be hospitalized during the first three months of the year because of COVID?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. And that's the concern, Wolf, that this recent troubling rise and hospitalizations among 12 to 17 year olds. And that is just reinforcing the need to get that age group vaccinated as we are hearing from the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.


HILL (voice-over): Shots of hope at a New York City playground.

AALIYAH JENNINGS, 14-YEAR-OLD, GOT FIRST SHOT FRIDAY: If it benefits me in a good way, in a safe way, then why not get it?

HILL: An attitude the administration is hoping more young people will adopt as a new-CDC study shows a recent, troubling rise in COVID hospitalizations among 12-to-17-year-olds.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: These findings that force us to redouble our motivation to get our adolescents and young adults vaccinated.

HILL: This morning, mobile vaccine clinics were ready outside schools.


MEISHA PORTER, CHANCELLOR, NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: Our families trust their principals, they trust their schools. And so, if they can come to what is almost their second home and get it done. It just makes a big difference.

HILL: Tonight, they park at bars and nightclubs.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We're going to go where young New Yorkers are.

HILL: Meantime, Massachusetts announcing plans to close all its mass- vaccination sites, in the coming weeks. Two-thirds of the state's adults are now fully vaccinated. New Jersey, not far behind, just dropped all indoor capacity limits.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vaccinations are up. Jobs are up. Wages are up. America is, finally, on the move, again.

HILL: The president focusing on the positive amid signs his July 4th goal of at least one shot for 70 percent of adults may be an uphill climb. The country is close, but average daily vaccinations are moving in the wrong direction, dipping below 1 million, for the first time, since January.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think we can make it. But it's going to take a push. HILL: A dozen states have, already, met or exceeded that goal. But --

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: I'd remind people, just because a state has hit 70 percent, we still see pockets in those states, where they are well below 50 percent protection.

HILL: It's not just those pockets raising concern. Six states have, yet, to get a single shot in more than half their adult population.

COLLINS: I worry about the ones that are way below that. And they are sitting ducks for the next outbreak of COVID-19.

HILL: The good news? Average-daily cases, now, just above 15,000. And average-reported deaths are at levels not seen since March of last year.


HILL (on camera): And, Wolf, it is important to highlight that good news there. I want to also point out that we just heard from Dr. Fauci a short time ago at an event with U.S. Health and Human Services, who said, you know, it ain't over until it's over. So we need to remain vigilant. Do not all of a sudden just go back to your pre-pandemic life right now.

He said there still a chance of a surge, especially as more variants are out there circulating. The best way to keep that from happening once again, as we know, Wolf, is to get vaccinated.

BLITZER: So important indeed.

Erica Hill in New York, thanks very much.

Coming up, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community investigating military encounters with UFOs. There are new details emerging right now. We will share them with you right after this.



BLITZER: Tonight, CNN is learning intriguing new details of an investigation into military sightings of UFOs.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, some of these encounters have been captured on video.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have, Wolf. And sources are giving us new information tonight on a report that is reaching the top levels of the U.S. government. What we are learning deepens the mystery of UFOs spotted by Navy pilots.


TODD (voice-over): Outside their cockpit windows, veteran Navy fighter pilots apparently see objects that surprised them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a whole fleet of them. Look at them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going against the wind. The wind is 120 knots to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing, dude.

TODD: This video is from a U.S. military training mission off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, in 2015. The objects are UFOs and American military pilots have seen so many of them in recent years that the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community have undergone a large-scale investigation.

Tonight, CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence officials have found no evidence to confirm that those objects are alien spacecraft. They also cannot rule out the possibility. That's according to five sources familiar with the upcoming report to Congress.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), FORMER AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: There's a lot that they cannot say, a lot that they do not know from a scientific standpoint. But they're also maybe classification issues.

TODD: In recent years, CNN and spoken to former navy pilots who could not explain objects they saw on training missions.

Ryan Graves, who flew FA18 Super Hornet fighter jets, was on the same mission off Jacksonville which spotted this object.


TODD: Graves told us this object was similar to what he saw on training missions off the southern coast of Virginia throughout 2014 and 2015. He said the object showed the capability of staying airborne for long periods of time and could move laterally quickly.

LT. RYAN GRAVES (RET.), FORMER NAVY FIGHTER PILOT: A lot of times we are flying around these objects and they would tend to exhibit movement. As we approach them, they would kind of move out of the way.

TODD: Another former Navy fighter pilot, David Fravor, told us he saw a UFO during a training mission off of San Diego in 2004 on a clear day. What surprised him? The object had no visible propulsion and was much more agile than a plane or helicopter. He said it looked like a 40 foot long Tic-Tac with no wings.

CMDR. DAVID FRAVOR (RET.), FORMER NAVY FIGHTER PILOT: This was extremely abrupt like a ping pong ball bouncing off the wall. It would hit and go the other way and change directions it will.

TODD: One source tells CNN U.S. officials cannot rule out the possibility that these mysterious objects were operated by Americas enemies like Russia and China, who experts say are developing hypersonic weapons. LEIGHTON: Are we confronted with a missile system, weapons systems,

from either Russia or China, that are far better than our defenses are? And if that is the case, then we have a long way to go to protect our country.

TODD: Or could be actually be confronted with aliens?

PROF. HAKEEM OLUSEYI, ASTROPHYSICIST, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: To me, it looks terrestrial. It does not look alien. If it's anything humanlike at all, that is my smell test for aliens. Would you how humans do? We build vehicles, we build craft, we fly around the sky.


TODD (voice-over): Several sources have told CNN they do not expect the U.S. intelligence community to release a lot of specific information at all in the report to Congress. Why? Because if the signings are next generation technology operated by Russia, China or another U.S. rival, intelligence officials do not want to get them off on what the U.S. has seen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very intriguing indeed.

Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much.

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

Have a nice weekend.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.