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Former Gaetz Associate Strikes Deal, Pleads Guilty To Six Federal Charges; Mask Mandate Ending In New York For Those Vaccinated; Hamas Official: Death Toll Increases To 212; Israel Strikes Media Building In Gaza, Says Hamas Was Using It; Biden Faces Rift In Own Party Over Israel-Hamas Conflict; Sources: Mystery Syndrome Believed To Have Struck Second White House Official Last Year; U.S. Navy Pilots On Their Close Encounters. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 17, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The Pentagon, though has confirmed some witness accounts.

One pilot say, he is worried and considers whatever he saw a security threat.

Well, this has all gotten to the point now that the government is expected to release a report about UFOs in June. No idea how detailed it will actually be.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, tonight, Republicans who say they've had enough of the Republican-led big lie about the 2020 election, there is just one catch, they are not the Republicans who can do much about it other than speak out and that is because the big lie is coming from the very top of the party, and as we'll discuss in a moment, it is being embedded by some of the nation's top G.O.P. lawmakers who are currently in power.

That said, these particular Republicans, officials in Maricopa County, Arizona do have two things in their favor. They have the facts in this case about the election that the former President has been trying to discredit as a partisan bunch of so-called Cyber Ninjas combed the ballots for irregularities that had been ruled out again and again. They have the facts about that and they are angry.

This is Stephen Richer, a Republican Maricopa County recorder who heads up the county elections department.


STEPHEN RICHER (R), MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER: I have been accused of inserting fake ballots delivered from a South Korean plane. The claims have even been indulged by the Senate Majority Whip.

More recently, I have been accused of deleting entire databases, even though I participated in the transference of all databases to the Senate, have seen them with my own eyes, and even though I still have access to the current fully functional voting database.

It is enough. I didn't want to get involved. I wanted to sit quietly on the sidelines, but it is enough.

I am now the leader of an office of 160 fulltime employees and I am tired of hearing them defamed and ridiculed. They are good people. They are hardworking people. They are people of integrity. They are my friends.


COOPER: Republicans sick of the big lie, a lot like the Georgia election officials, also Republicans also sick of the big lie who spoke out repeatedly against the defeated President's attempt to overturn their results. And Georgia's Republican Lieutenant Governor Jeff Duncan, who announced today that he won't be seeking a second term. He tells "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" that phony conspiracy theories have dealt lasting damage to his party.

And as we might add, also fueled the single worst attack on American democracy by Americans since the Civil War sometime this week. Wednesday, we think, House lawmakers could vote on legislation setting up a nonpartisan commission to investigate what happened that day and what led up to it.

As of tonight, though, it looks like only a handful of Republicans are getting behind it. The Republican leader who supports such a 9-11 style panel, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney is now a former leader. She's been purged.

Her replacement, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is pushing the big lie and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who once very briefly spoke the truth about the attack called out the former President's role in it, he is now dragging his feet possibly because when it comes to telling the truth in going against the man at Mar-a- Lago once is quite enough for him.

Just as a reminder, he actually does know how to speak truth to power when he wants.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.


COOPER: Now, he says, maybe not. That was his assessment a week after the attack. Just a week later, though he began unsaying what he said. He subsequently traveled, of course, to Mar-a-Lago to proverbially kiss the ring and ever since has been dragging his feet on a 9/11- style commission unless it also looks into unrelated issues such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year.

As CNN was first reported, Kevin McCarthy spoke with a former President during the attack and when he asked for help, the former President reportedly said, quote, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

According to Republican lawmaker familiar with the call, Leader McCarthy told him the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows and asked Trump, "Who the F- do think you're talking to?"

He did not immediately comment on that report. Recently, though, he did say this.


MCCARTHY: I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn't see it. What he ended the call was saying telling me, he'll put something out to make sure to stop this and that's what he did. He put a video out later.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Quite a lot lighter, and it was a pretty weak video.


COOPER: Weak indeed. A 9/11-style commission with subpoena power could mean he would be called on to testify perhaps under oath, something Congresswoman Cheney was happy to talk about with ABC News's John Karl on Friday, the day her replacement was named, the interview aired yesterday.


JOHN KARL, ABC NEWS: Should Kevin McCarthy be willing to speak -- testify -- before that commission? After all, he is one of the few people that we know of that was actually talking to Donald Trump while the attack was taking place.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): He absolutely should and I wouldn't be surprised if he were subpoenaed. I think that he very clearly and said publicly that he has got information about the President's state of mind that day.


COOPER: And perhaps you might be compelled to say it for the record. I asked House Majority Whip James Clyburn about it just before airtime.



COOPER: Why do you think it is that Kevin McCarthy has pushed back on Democrats and advocating for broadening the scope of the commission? I mean, some critics have said he wants to muddy the waters and avoid testifying about his conversations with the then President.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I have no idea of what his reasons are. I do know that this is about January 6th. It has absolutely nothing to do with what may have happened someplace else in the world prior to or even after.

We are all about what it takes to secure this Capitol. We are about finding out what led to this insurrection and what we can do to prevent it from ever happening again.


COOPER: House Majority Whip James Clyburn and having heard at the top from the Maricopa County Recorder, we're joined now by another official who spoke out this evening Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone. He is a Democrat.

Sheriff, you've said this so-called audit is forcing you and other county officials to waste time, resources and energy on what you say is political theater, and those who wish to see "our nation destroyed celebrate this division." That's an end quote. I mean, does this exercise have any credibility in your view?

SHERIFF PAUL PENZONE, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Well, if it does, I think that it's getting lost in a lot of the other stereotypical theater because at this point, what we see is such an extreme division that we're hurting ourselves.

If there's legitimacy to the audit, let's identify specifically what those areas are. But once you start bringing the law for a -- of the equipment that we're critical -- that is critical for infrastructure, when it comes to technology, and our resources to provide protection, as well as transportation and other aspects, we are drawing that away from public safety needs for our community.

COOPER: I mean, one of the issues, of course, with this so-called audit is, there's no guarantee that any results that this group announces will be legitimate. There's nothing to say -- there is no standard procedures that they are known to be following, and not only are there all sorts of conspiracy theories floating around, but the people behind this so-called audit are actually demanding access to state government, computer routers and passwords.

PENZONE: Yes, and there's absolutely misinformation. You know, as a county, we have many entities, whether it is County Health, whether it is Recorders' Office, the courts, the jails, the Sheriff's Office, which is responsible for the (AUDIO GAP), our I.T. infrastructure all has a common area where we share information. And although this office is siloed off, because we are law enforcement, certainly there is a protection.

If you turn those routers over that's like turning over information about to go through the freeway system within the I.T. structure.

So in the hands of the wrong person, what it does is it puts them at our doorstep an equipped and talented hacker that can then breach into our infrastructure, our I.T. system, and either do damage to the information or draw it out for their own needs.

But ultimately, as we've seen with other law enforcement agencies that have been breached, we've seen it with recently, an oil distributor, it is far too dangerous that it could jeopardize not only the safety of our deputies, but it could jeopardize the safety of our community and provide information that is critical to our ability to function.

So I put my foot in the cement and said, I'm not moving on this, you're not going to get our equipment. We have nothing to do with this audit. We are a law enforcement agency, and if you had not invoked or tried to, you know, suck us into this narrative, I would have stayed out on the sidelines and just focused on public safety.

But now you have, and I have an obligation to protect our agency and provide safety for our community.

COOPER: Part and parcel of that, of course, is the Republican President of the Arizona State Senate, Karen Fann, as you know, she has accused the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors of noncompliance with legislative subpoenas.

I am wondering what you have to say to that, and do you intend to confront the Senate President and other Republican leaders tomorrow. She has issued an invitation for county officials to appear before the hearing.

PENZONE: No, that is something that falls in the political theater arena. You know, we're serious here. I give credit to my colleagues. And if you look at it, you know, when I made a commitment to take his office, for anyone who has familiarity with it, it was very politically involved, historically.

I want to remove politics from public safety and keep us focused on our number one responsibility, our mission to be a constitutional Sheriff where politics has no place in our efforts.

My colleagues, majority of whom are elected Republicans have been, you know, very bipartisan in the effort to ensure that our elections process and our system is protected, that it is fair, and that is just to include audits and other processes.

When I look at what they have done and how convicted they are relative to protecting our information, protecting this process and protecting the people, we're not going to get caught up in things that, in my opinion, are motivated through partisan efforts.

If there's legitimate information that rises to the level where you believe that there's a potential crime committed as it relates to a Federal election, but that falls in the hands of law enforcement, not some third party who is, you know, known to be professional hackers that you've contracted with to be a part of this process. If we have a potential crime committed, then show the evidence to us and we will move forward on it.

COOPER: Sheriff Penzone, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, what could be ahead for Congressman Matt Gaetz now that his former friend has pleaded guilty to half a dozen charges and cut a deal with the Feds, also with states dropping mask mandates this week, a question: is the moment that we've all been waiting for coming too soon? We'll talk to one expert and their opinion.

And later new reporting you never expect to see. After decades of public denial, The Pentagon now admitting that when it comes to UFOs, there is something out there.


COOPER: Congressman Matt Gaetz cannot be breathing especially easy tonight. The Florida Republican is now waiting to learn what if anything, his former friend and so-called wing man is ready to tell the Feds now that he has pleaded guilty to six Federal charges including that he knowingly solicited and paid a minor for sex.

More now on what this could mean for the congressman from our Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): These courtroom sketches capture Joel Greenberg huddling with his attorneys. He was dressed in a dark jumpsuit, his hand shackled in front of him.

Greenberg is a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, who was once an ally of Congressman Matt Gaetz. That friendship may explain this banner someone was flying overhead during court. It reads "Tick tock, Matt Gaetz."

The Florida congressman could find himself in hot water given Greenberg's admission in court that he, Greenberg, knowingly solicited and paid for sex with a minor and says others did, too.

FRITZ SCHELLER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: Mr. Greenberg has pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement that has certain requirements and obligations on him and he attempts to honor that.

KAYE (voice over): Honoring that 86-page plea agreement means Greenberg could be called on to testify against others and provide information about co-conspirators who may include Congressman Matt Gaetz.

The Florida Congressman wasn't named in the plea agreement or in court, though investigators are still trying to determine if Gaetz has also been involved in sex trafficking, prostitution, or sex with a minor.

Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

SCHELLER: Does my client have information that could hurt an elected official? I guess, this is just you know, must-see television, you'll just have to wait and see.

KAYE (voice over): In the plea agreement, and this is key, Greenberg admits he introduced that same minor he was sexually involved with to others who also had sex with her. Question is, who are those other men? And will Greenberg name them in the hopes of getting a lesser sentence? As part of his plea, Greenberg agreed to provide substantial

assistance. That may be why the Department of Justice cut a deal with him, allowing Greenberg to plead guilty to just six Federal charges instead of the 33 counts he was facing.

SCHELLER: I think he is feeling a sense of acceptance, and he definitely feels a sense of remorse.

KAYE (voice over): At a Republican event over the weekend, Gaetz played down allegations against him.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I am being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors --

KAYE (voice over): Naughty favors or something more, that may come down to what Joel Greenberg shares with investigators.


COOPER: Randi joins us now. I mean, given Greenberg's own history, he is certainly, you know, not necessarily a credible witness.

KAYE: Yes, Anderson, that's the real issue. He has a credibility problem.

In fact, as part of his plea deal, he admitted to falsely accusing a teacher of having sex with a student back in 2019, spreading rumors that that teacher had actually raped that student on social media pages. That teacher was a political opponent of his, so that explains why he was making those false accusations. None of that was true.

But this all speaks to his credibility. He now has this on his resume, if you will. He has the false accusations, the history of sex trafficking, the history of sex with a minor, a real credibility issue that will come to light if he does move forward and cooperate in this case -- Anderson.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thanks.

Joining us now, CNN senior legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor Elie Honig, also CNN political commentator, Amanda Carpenter.

Elie, I mean, Congressman Gaetz wasn't named in this plea agreement, but based on your experience, how worried should he be right now?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Anderson, any way you cut this, all the prognoses for Matt Gaetz are grim right now. There is just no way around it.

I keep going back to my own experience as a Federal prosecutor.

When I was a supervisor, if somebody had come to me and said, we've got this guy, Joel Greenberg. He is involved in sex trafficking of a minor, but I want to cooperate him. I would say, you better have rock solid proof to back him up and you better have some very important, very worthy targets that we are confident we're going to charge before we cooperate a heinous person who has committed heinous crimes like Joel Greenberg.

So if these prosecutors are operating with any competency whatsoever, they've only entered into this deal with Joel Greenberg because they intend to make big charges against important people.

COOPER: I mean, given the charges against Greenberg, Elie, he certainly seems to be very high on the, you know, the sleaze spectrum. In terms of his credibility, that is something that prosecutors, they're certainly aware he lacks credibility. They must be confident in something -- evidence he actually has. I mean, I would imagine they would have taken in his sleaziness into account.

HONIG: Yes, Anderson, even in the world of cooperating witnesses, who all by definition are convicted felons, Joel Greenberg is about as bad as horrible as it gets, and that's why I think we saw this 86-page plea document that Randi talked about. That is a very unusual document.


HONIG: I've never put anywhere near that level of detail into cooperator papers. I actually used to try to put as little detail as possible because you don't want to tip anyone off. And I think what prosecutors were telling us what that document is, we have the goods that backs up Joel Greenberg.

That's why we saw countless references in that document to specific texts, financial records, bank records, hotel records, because that's going to be the core of their case, not Joel Greenberg himself.

COOPER: And Amanda, Congressman Gaetz, certainly denied any wrongdoing. That's important to point out. How do you think -- does the Republican Party-- how do they navigate all this? I mean, so far, it seems like a lot of people are just sort of saying, well, I don't know anything about it.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I think for Republicans in Washington, they certainly wouldn't take any kind of action until charges are filed. And at that point, you might see him suspended from a committee assignment.

There wouldn't be any more official action unless he was actually convicted. He would be allowed to go to trial. He would remain a congressman.

But what is interesting to me to watch is how he is going on tour with his America First rally, you know, Florida, Ohio, Arizona next week, and he's sort of using his support for Trump as political cover.

He is going on tour with Marjorie Taylor Greene, and it's really amazing to watch. And it sort of speaks to the brain drain within the Republican Party, because for every say, you know, Liz Cheney or Cindy McCain or Mitt Romney that decides they can't go on with Trump as leader of the Republican Party, the more dependent those Republicans in Washington become upon people like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene because they perceive those two figures of having a strong connection with the Trump voter that they can't afford to lose.

And so by going on tour, and building up that support with the Trump base, it sort of makes them invincible in Washington from criticism.

COOPER: And Elie, Greenberg pled guilty to six charges instead of the 33 that he was facing. You know, one of those charges was that he knowingly solicited and paid a minor for sex. How significant is that in terms of his credibility? Was he being overcharged as to punish him?

HONIG: No, Anderson, I actually think it was a tactical mistake by prosecutors to let him plead out to only six of the 33 counts, because now if and when the day comes, when Joel Greenberg testifies against somebody, the defense lawyer is going to stand up and say, look at this sweetheart deal you got. You were charged with 33 counts, they dropped 27 of them. That's going to resonate with the jury.

I think the better practice and the practice, I was always raised with at the Justice Department is make them -- we used to say eat the sheet, meaning plead to the entire indictment. That way, when you put them on the stand, you can say to the jury, he is an open book. He has accepted responsibility for everything he has done. So I think that was a tactical misstep there by the prosecutors.

COOPER: It's so fascinating to me, Amanda, I don't know how fascinating it is. But I mean, it's sort of so now, the way things are handled. There used to be a sense of shame, and maybe somebody accused of these kind of things might lie low, a little bit, or at least have a little bit of humility about them.

This is sort of taking at, you know, the former President's playbook. And, yes, let's use these allegations to launch a national tour and try to, you know, raise my profile, make myself a defender of the former President that's why I'm being prosecuted, that's why I am being persecuted and see how much money I can rake in in the meantime.

CARPENTER: Yes, certainly. I mean, that's part of the pitch. He's the victim here. He's been canceled and he uses that to build a grievance base credibility with that Trump base.

What is sort of amazing for me to watch is how little the Democrats want to attack Matt Gaetz on these grounds, and I understand that justice system is going to take its course, but the House Ethics Committee is still investigating this.

They are going to look at the sexual misconduct, the allegations of illicit drug use, the misuse of campaign funds, the sharing of nude photos on the House floor that's been reported. And so even if somehow he escapes criminal repercussions, he still has to deal with that and I'm just -- I'm surprised how reticent the Democrats have been to be to talk about it.

COOPER: Amanda Carpenter and Elie Honig, appreciate it. Thank you.

Good news in the war against COVID. One state that was hardest hit is lifting its mask mandate. But Dr. Leana Wen says the C.D.C.'s new guidance is a mess and why she says President Biden needs to clean it up, next.

Plus, who is out there or what? For years, The Pentagon has largely ignored reports of UFOs. Now, it seems like they may be beginning to change their tune.



COOPER: Breaking news tonight. New York is joining the growing list of states adopting the new C.D.C. guidelines on masks. Starting Wednesday, fully vaccinated New Yorkers will not be required to wear masks or social distance.

Also Washington, D.C. made it effective today. New Jersey is only allowing no mask outdoors. They are still needed indoors for those vaccinated. Massachusetts is dropping the mandate, May 29th. California will, next month.

Still there's a lot of confusion over the new guidance with some praising it, others questioning it. CNN's medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen is not a supporter of the move. She warns in "The Washington Post," quote: " ... this relaxation is premature and could lead to a resurgence of infections." She adds quote, " ... this was a major blunder that threatens to set back much of the progress made. President Biden needs to fix it urgently."

Dr. Wen joins me now. So fix it how?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think first we have to recognize the problem, Anderson, which is that the C.D.C. got the science correct, but they got the policy and the communication really wrong. I think that they were trying to give essentially individual level guidance as if they were a doctor.

I think it's appropriate for a doctor to tell the patient, once you're fully vaccinated, you're now well protected from getting COVID-19. But that's very different from then saying that to the country, because it was then understood as community or societal level guidance, which is the reason why we've seen mask mandates just being dropped across the country.

And so I think the Biden administration is maybe too late to un-ring the bell and apply mask mandates again.

But I do think that they can encourage certain locales and certain businesses that are continuing to have mask mandates in place, and I think they should really work on vaccine verification because at this point, that is really what's needed in a lot of places, especially with high levels of community transmission to help keep customers, students, employees and other people safe.


COOPER: So when you talk about vaccine verification, it doesn't seem like there's an appetite for that in the Biden administration. WEN: Yes, I think they have been very queasy about this whole concept. And in some ways, I understand why. But I also think we need to frame it differently. This whole concept of a vaccine passport seems to signified some kind of national ID.

But I think we should be thinking about this more like a E-ZPass or a TSA precheck. That may be for everybody else, they have the symptom check. Maybe they also have testing. But if you then have proof of vaccination, you're able to skip these steps.

And so, I think a lot of businesses are really asking for this. And now is the opportunity for the Biden administration. that's already been working on helping businesses to develop some kind of vaccine requirements for the Biden administration now release what it is that they were working on.

COOPER: The problem with a verification system is, you know, then it's up to businesses to police that at their doors, asking for verification, it just seems like that seems like a difficult thing. I can see big companies, you know, deciding a big office, deciding everybody has to be vaccinated. But, you know, stores and such, it seems difficult.

WEN: Yes, I think that different types of businesses can approach it differently. If you are a university, or your aim (ph) individual employer, you can certainly ask for your students or your employees to have proof of vaccination. Stores, I mean, I'm a Costco member.

And every time I go into Costco, they check to see that I have a -- I have an ID. So it is something that we do on a regular basis. But I think at the end of the day, we have to think about why it is that we're doing it. We're doing this to protect those who are unvaccinated.

Right now, only 37 percent of the country is fully vaccinated. The percentage of African-Americans, Latino Americans vaccinated is much lower than that. Certain communities are well below 37%. And so, I think we really have to consider what is our obligation to protect the most vulnerable. Some of whom cannot yet be vaccinated like children and why our policies right now don't reflect that.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, for families with kids, obviously, there's certainly concern given the kids, you know, under a certain age can't be vaccinated. We're seeing a lot of states lifting mask mandates, major retailers lifting mandates to all metrics are down, which is certainly good news. People are finally feeling good about where we are. Is that wrong? I mean, you're saying people shouldn't.

WEN: I think there are certain communities where the vaccination rate is really high, that actually might have been time in those places to lift mask mandates. But there are others that are not there yet. And we are potentially endangering individuals like young children or people who are immunosuppressed and now feel like they can't even go to the store because things that were lower risk now has just become higher risk. If they're now going to be surrounded by unvaccinated unmasked people

who thinks that the pandemic is over, it's more risky for individuals who are not vaccinated or for immunosuppressed. And then we also have a situation of potentially increasing hotspots.

There are places with low vaccination rates where we could end up having surges as a result of this, that I just wish that the CDC had consulted anybody from a local state government, a mayor, a health official, even business owners who could have told them about the unintended consequence, because ultimately, what was the rush here? Why was there such a rush to get out this guidance when even a week or two of thoughtful deliberation could have prevented it?

COOPER: Should New York lifted guidance like they're going to lift this mandate?

WEN: Look, I would prefer that people tied that governors and mayors tied to the lifting of mandates to certain numbers. For example, actually in Maryland where I live, the governor had previously said that once we get to 70 percent of adults getting a first dose that mask mandates could be lifted at that point. But Governor Hogan actually rolled back this guidance because the CDC and now there are no more mask mandates in Maryland, certain jurisdictions don't have it but no more in Maryland.

And my point is that having numbers tied to this makes a lot more sense when our country is not homogenous. We don't have 37% fully vaccinated across the country. And I think tailoring your recommendations to each community is really key.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Leana Wen, I appreciate it. Thanks.

(voice-over): Coming up next, live report for the Middle East on the violence there and from the White House and what President Biden is saying about it as well as questions about whether he could be doing more, ahead.



COOPER: The worst fighting years rages on between Israel and the Palestinians. Tonight, Israel has pounded Gaza with airstrikes, Hamas has been firing with rockets at Israel and the death toll is climbing. Hamas says at least 212 Palestinians have been killed since last week. Israeli Defense Forces say at least 10 people have been killed in Israel.

In a moment White House reaction to Israel strike over the weekend on a building that destroyed the offices for the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. We should note Israel is saying that agents of Hamas also operated from that building.

First, the latest on the violence from CNN's Ben Wedeman who's in Jerusalem.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rescuers pull six year old Susie from the rubble of her home in Gaza City. She was trapped there for seven hours. Susie's mother, two sisters and two brothers were killed in an Israeli airstrike early Sunday.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): The last day saw of my wife says her father, Riyad (ph), she'd thrown herself on the floor and concrete fell on her head.

The high tech meat grinder that is 21st century warfare is gradually turning parts of this crowded strip of land on the Mediterranean into a lunar landscape of jagged concrete and twisted metal.

The death toll here now exceeds 200 according to the Hamas run Gaza Ministry of Health. Three years ago a senior UN official said the residents of Gaza are in his words caged in a toxic slum from birth to death.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): The Palestinian situation is devastated and in crisis since 15 years. Now that crisis is worse and suffering has increased as Gaza resident amend (ph)?


The power grid was already barely functioning before the hostilities. What little fuel that was coming from Israel has now stopped. The Gaza power company warns this strip could go completely dark within two days.

Israeli airstrikes and Hamas missile barrages continue unabated.

In parts of Israel sirens wailed Monday to warn of incoming rockets from Gaza. People in Be'er Sheva, Ashkelon, and Ashdod, including a CNN team fleeing to shelter for safety.

The Israeli military says at least one residential building in Ashdod was hit. It came after Hamas launched hundreds of rockets towards Israel over the weekend. One squarely striking his synagogue in the city of Ashkelon.

According to the Israeli military, at least 10 Israelis have died as a result of more than 3,000 rockets from Gaza, the country's Iron Dome of defense, and they believe most to take cover.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: Will do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Three times in the past 13 years, and now once more, the low intensity conflict between the militant factions and Israel has erupted into full scale war.

And each round ends with the same result. And soon the seeds of the next round of carnage and ruin begin to grow.

Perhaps common order of sorts will be restored to Israelis and Palestinians until the next time.


COOPER: And Ben Wedeman joins us now from Jerusalem. I understand a general strike is being called for on Tuesday for the Palestinian territories. What more do you know about that?

WEDEMAN: Yes, these are various Palestinian political parties and factions, which have called for a general strike, not just in the West Bank, but in Jerusalem and within Israel itself.

Therefore, Anderson, there's a high probability that will -- we will see this sort of unrest that we saw last week, across the region, across the West Bank, Jerusalem, and also inside Israel, something that particularly this inter communal violence within Israel, has Israeli officials increasingly concerned. Anderson.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Thank you.

More now on the Israeli strike on a building housing, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israeli military said the building contain Hamas military intelligence assets as well. A claim that Hamas has denied.

CNN's chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins us now with more. Kaitlan, what's the White House saying or perhaps more importantly, not saying at this point?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so the Israeli Prime Minister says that he has shared intelligence with the U.S. that proves that yes, Hamas was operating out of this building that house these news outlets. That's why they had that airstrike that crumbled the building over the weekend.

But the White House is kind of being cagey about this intelligence. They're not disputing that they've actually received it. Of course, that is a big intelligence sharing relationship that happens there.

But what they're not saying is who has actually viewed it, and Anderson whether or not they find it credible, because you saw the Secretary of State Tony Blinken this morning, saying that he himself had not received this information, though he did know that they requested more details on the justification behind the strike.

But even today, the briefing they would not say whether or not President Biden himself has viewed it. And the White House said they're not going to, they didn't want to get into those intelligence channels, they said.

And so, I think it's a big part of just that. But also really Anderson, it speaks to just how delicate the White House is viewing these negotiations and these talks going back and forth with the Israelis, with the Palestinians over what the White House wants to say what they don't want to say even when it comes to intelligence sharing. And when it comes to whether or not they're going to actually ultimately have the U.S. call for a ceasefire.

COOPER: And the Biden administration notified Congress, they approved a $735 million weapons sale to Israel earlier this month before the violence broke out. Is there any sense now of how that's playing among some of President Biden's own party?

COLLINS: Well, really what this is exposing as a lot of rifts among the Democratic Party, because you were seeing some Congressional House members saying that they want Biden to be tougher on Israel, take a different stance, even Senator Bernie Sanders saying that they should reevaluate the aid and the arm sales that go to Israel and talking about what that looks like.

And so, I think what we should know at the end of the day, is that President Biden has been in politics for a long time, he's had long standing support for Israel, and in basically, every statement we get from the White House, from Biden or his top aides, they say that Israel has a right to defend itself.

So that really gives you a good indication of where his head is out on a lot of this. But when it comes to this arm sale, you know, this is a small part of a bigger role of a bigger part of arm sales that happen. And so, you're seeing some Democrats like Ilhan Omar saying that it would be appalling if the sale went forward.


We do fully expect that to happen. It doesn't seem that that's going to change. But the broader conversation and how you're seeing newer Democrats, younger Democrats, more progressive Democrats respond to this and respond to the way the White House is handling it certainly is really revealing of the politics at play here even within the Democratic Party.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it from the White House. Thanks.

(voice-over): Just ahead, a second White House official who was struck by mystery illness that has now evaded easy answers for years. We'll have the details in the latest known incident what's been called the Havana syndrome.

And later, sightings of unidentified flying objects this time by Navy pilot what they saw and why there's like no other aerial craft they've ever witnessed? Their stories when we come back.


COOPER: Sources tell CNN that mysterious syndrome that's mostly affected American diplomats and others overseas struck a second person who was working in the White House last year. Known as Havana syndrome, both incidents involving official in the National Security Council. This time the symptoms were more serious caused the officials to seek immediate medical treatment.

Brian Todd joins us now with the latest from Washington. So, what more do we know about these incidents?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson these incidents are concerning on a number of levels. First and foremost, these were two officials from the National Security Council, some of the top national security advisors to the President of the United States, and they were struck with these illnesses, literally just feet away from the White House.

One was at an entrance near the ellipse in the southern part of the White House southern grounds of the White House. The other was another entrance on or near the White House grounds. So this was very close to the White House.


We have to say these incidents occurred last November, one of them was right after election day. The other one was a little later, as you mentioned, one of those officials required immediate medical attention. The other one had some headaches and some sleepless nights.

But again, the fact that these struck so close to the White House, you know, we spoke to a former Secret Service agent, Jonathan Wackrow, who said that this really is a signal by whoever may have been responsible for this, that they can strike close to the White House. And that is what is indeed, so ominous.

You know, we can't call this an attack just yet. But sources are telling us this is very consistent with some of the attacks that did occur against U.S. diplomats and intelligence personnel in places like Moscow, China, Havana, Cuba, that have been going on for the last five years. And in those attacks, these were like microwave type direct signals directed at these people. And in many cases, they got symptoms like vertigo, nausea, dizziness, things like that pounding headaches.

And so, these are debilitating attacks in some cases. And the fact that this struck so close to the White House that makes this even more ominous tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: And is there any idea of who's behind it?

TODD: Well, U.S. -- a current U.S. current, excuse me, current and former U.S. officials have told us that it could be Russia, it could be China. But that that is largely circumstantial, at this point. Russia, China ad then the -- and Cuban officials have steadfastly denied that they had anything to do with any of these attacks.

But we are told by experts and according to some intelligence documents that CNN has obtained that Russia has been developing these microwave type weapons for many, many years now. So, a lot of the signals do point toward Russia. But again, Moscow has vehemently denied any part of this.

COOPER: Brian Todd, appreciate it. Thanks. Now, to a mystery in the skies, Navy pilots speaking out for the first time about the unidentified flying objects. She has -- would have witnessed and that defy easy explanation.

Oren Liebermann has the story.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An object skimming the surface, apparently at high speed when --


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Bullseye, the aircraft sensors homed in on the, the thing, the unidentified flying object. It's one of a few videos of these UFOs, the Pentagon confirmed as authentic.

ALEX DIETRICH, FMR NAVY PILOT: You know, I think that over beers, we've sort of said, hey, man, if I saw this solo, I don't know that I would have come back and said anything, because it sounds so crazy.

Your mind tries to make sense of it. I'm going to categorize this as maybe helicopter or maybe a drone. And when it disappeared, I mean, it was just.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Alex Dietrich has never told her story publicly. She's one of several Navy pilots who spoke with "60 Minutes" who've seen or picked up on sensors, similar objects, often moving fast with odd shapes, and no obvious method of propulsion.

DAVID FRAVOR, FMR NAVY PILOT: There's definitely something that how who's building it, who's got the technology, who's got the brains, but there's, there's something out there that was better than our airplane.

LIEBERMANN: No one is using the word aliens here. The Pentagon calls them UAPs, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.

GRAVES: There's a whole (INAUDIBLE). My God. Oh going against the wind, the wind is (INAUDIBLE).

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Pilot Ryan Graves picked this up on his infrared sensor in 2004 off the coast of San Diego.

GRAVES: (INAUDIBLE) It's rotating. The highest probability is it's a threat observation program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could it be Russian or Chinese technology?

GRAVES: I don't see why not.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Late last year, the Pentagon created a task force to look at the nature and origin of UAPs. What are these things? Where do they come from? And is there an intent here?

The government sees this as a possible threat, something that may be able to outperform military capabilities. Lawmakers are demanding it be treated seriously.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): We have things flying over our military bases and places where we're conducting military exercises and we don't know what it is and it isn't ours. So, that's the general question to ask if it's something outside from outside this planet, that might actually be better than the fact that we've seen some technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Next month, the Director of National Intelligence and the defense secretary are scheduled to deliver an unclassified report on UAPs to Congress.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper applauds the transparency, but isn't expecting too much yet.

JAMES CLAPPER, FMR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I expect this report will be filled with ambiguity as well and people depending on their leanings will extract what they want out of this report.



LIEBERMANN: For years the government and the military downplayed or largely ignored reports of UFOs. Now, that handling is under investigation, the DOD inspector general announcing earlier this month at the Pentagon's handling of UFOs is part of its own investigation. Anderson.

Oren Liebermann, thanks very much. Fascinating.

(voice-over): Still to come, an update in the case the former Minnesota police officer charged and shooting death a 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Details when we come back.


COOPER: A Minnesota judge ruled today the case against the former police officer charged in his shooting death in April of 20-year-old black motorist Daunte Wright can proceed. The incident occurred after a routine traffic stop outside Minneapolis was captured on police body cam and as always want to warn you what you're about to see is difficult to watch.


KIM POTTER, EX-OFFICER: I'll tase you! I'll tase you! Taser, taser, taser! Holy (inaudible). I shot him.


COOPER: The shooting and demonstrations that followed occurred about 10 miles from the courtroom where the officer who killed George Floyd was convicted. Kim Potter has quit the police force. She and the department say she mistook her gun for a taser. She has been charged with second degree manslaughter. On Saturday Brooklyn Center City Council passed sweeping new police reforms in the wake of the killing. A lawyer representing Daunte Wright's family says they've received death threats and racist calls and e-mails since the killing.


That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.