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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

The House Delivers Trump Impeachment Article To Senate; Interview With Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI); Biden Tells CNN Trump's Impeachment Has To Happen; DOJ Watchdog Investigating Possible Attempt To Overturn Election Results; Dominion Voting Systems Sues Rudy Giuliani For Defamation; Fauci: Variant First Spotted In Brazil Might Become "More Dominant"; At Least 135 People Charged In Capitol Riot Probe. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 25, 2021 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And our breaking news coverage continues of the article of impeachment. Let's hand it off now to Anderson.

[20:00:26]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening.

Tonight, accountability and amnesia for only the fourth time in history, but the second in barely more than a year, House Managers just moments ago delivered an Article of Impeachment to the Senate. Trial proceedings began briefly tonight with the substance of it set for two weeks from now.

And if the last 19 days are anything to go by, fully half the sitting senators will pretend they don't even remember the alleged offense by then. That is the direction some Republicans are going.

So before we go any further, before we get to the so-called contours of the politics, here's a little reminder of what January 6th looked like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: (Chanting "Hang Mike Pence.")

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: As if anyone could forget the chants of "Hang Mike Pence" or the beatings or the five people who died in what after all, was an insurrection incited by presidential lies about the election and enabled by Republican lawmakers who either bought into it or simply went along with it.

Now not even three weeks later -- not even three weeks later, those same lawmakers want you to just forget all that and they're kind of acting like they have. There's no better example than Kevin McCarthy, top Republican in the House and his journey from disinfecting sunlight to misinforming gaslight. Here he is a week after the insurrection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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.

These facts require immediate action by President Trump, except to share responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President- elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's a strong assessment, but he didn't take it. Here he is last Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Leader McConnell has said that President, former President Trump and other important people provoked those folks to come to the Capitol. Do you believe that President -- former President Trump provoked?

MCCARTHY: I don't believe he provoked. Did you listen to what he said at the rally?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now that of course makes no sense given the President's words and tone. His lawyers called to quote "have trial by combat." Congressman Mo Brooks' battle cry for American patriots to quote, "Start taking down names and kicking ass." End quote.

But again, Leader McCarthy wasn't content to just let the former President off the hook. No, it wasn't the President's fault. He said it's actually your fault.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility. Think about four years ago after the President Trump was sworn in, what happened the very next day? The title was, resist with people walking in the streets. Maxine Waters saying to confront people, confront them in the restaurants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now for starters, it is dumb and obnoxious to bother people at the dinner table. But it's dumber and more obnoxious to equate that to putting on tactical gear, arming up and storming the U.S. Capitol in a siege that took five lives and might have killed many more.

But most of all, saying that everyone is responsible, it is really no different than saying no one is. Worse, this whole gaslighting effort has been done under the fig leaf of maintaining national unity, as though collective amnesia about the worst national disunity in generations is somehow the healthy choice in a functioning democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Now Republicans are talking

about unity. That was also a big theme of President Biden's Inauguration Address. They also seem to think that unity means compromising, specifically on policy. How do you see it?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Well, let me start with how about if we're unified against insurrection? How about if we're unified for accountability? Unity starts with accountability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That, of course, is Massachusetts Democrat, Elizabeth Warren, and nobody would pretend she shares much in the way of governing philosophy with say Florida Republican Marco Rubio, when it comes to accountability, just listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This is not about politics. This is about accountability. Someone needs to be held accountable for what's happened here. But it's also about preventing this from happening in the future. This is not about hurting anybody politically, this is about getting to the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senator Rubio saying what needs to be said in a moment like this. Unfortunately, that's not quite what you just heard. That is the senator in 2013 defending the Benghazi investigation. Here's Rubio now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: I think the trial is stupid. I think it's counterproductive. We already have a flaming fire in this country and it's like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:05:06]

COOPER: So with that, let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles at the Capitol in this historic night. So what is the latest in the timetable for this trial?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the clock is ticking, Anderson. The impeachment managers brought the Articles over tonight. Tomorrow, the senators will be sworn in. The presiding judge will take his position in looking over this trial and then begins the paperwork phase of this.

About roughly two weeks of time for President Trump to get his legal affairs in order. There are two deadlines where that paperwork needs to be submitted all in time for the trial itself to begin on February 9th. COOPER: Can you explain why the Senate President Pro Tem Patrick Leahy

will be the presiding -- will be presiding instead of Chief Justice John Roberts and what else the trial may look like in terms of witnesses and lawyers?

NOBLES: That's a good question, Anderson. Under normal circumstances, if President Trump were still the President, constitutionally, the Chief Justice would be required to preside over this impeachment trial. But because he is no longer the President, that allows the Senate some flexibility. And so the Chief Justice decided he did not want to be a part of it, then it would fall to Vice President Kamala Harris, there was a conflict of interest with her serving, given the fact that she was part of the election.

So then it falls to Patrick Leahy. He is the most senior member of the Democratic majority and so that's why he's going to take on that role. In terms of how the trial itself will take place, the possibility of witnesses, those are all things that are on the table right now.

Republicans have said that they think that President Trump should be afforded the opportunity to call witnesses if he sees fit. But at the same time, they want this trial to wrap up as soon as possible and the more witnesses that are called, the longer it will take.

COOPER: And I understand, there's new reporting about how the former President is preparing for the trial.

NOBLES: Yes, that's right. He's trying to assemble a legal team, Anderson. And what our Jeff Zeleny is learning is that it hasn't been an easy process. He has hired Butch Bowers, who is a lawyer from South Carolina who has agreed to represent him. They've tried to reach out to other lawyers in South Carolina to do that job as well.

But what they're finding when they reach out to many of these law firms is that they just don't want to be a part of this process. Not only are they fearful of the perception that there may be by attaching themselves to the former President during this trial, they're also worried by something as simple as they might not get paid. So that's made the process very difficult for President Trump.

One thing we know for sure, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is of course a close ally of President Trump, and also someone that has helped him assemble his legal team. Graham said today that he spoke to President Trump about the trial itself, and that even the former President just wants to get this whole situation behind him.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks. Joining us now is Rhode Island Democratic Congressman, David Cicilline, who is going to be one of the managers, making their case before the Senate.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. So you hear pushback from some Republicans that this trial will be divisive, it's unwarranted or even unconstitutional. What do you make of their arguments?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, this is a very important proceeding. The President of the United States, now the former President of the United States incited an attack on our Capitol, an insurrection that resulted in the death of five people, dozens of others injured, serious damage to the Capitol, all to prevent the peaceful transition of power and to remain in office.

This was a direct assault on our democracy, and so he must be held accountable. And of course, we are all unified in condemning domestic terrorism and making sure that anyone who engages this kind of attack on the government of the United States is held fully accountable from the President on down.

And, you know, I know, there's been some argument about the fact that he's a former President, but it has always been the practice of the United States Senate from the very early earliest Congresses that former officials are subject to impeachment and trial.

It would be a very dangerous precedent to depart from 200 years of history because you don't want to invite a President or a former -- or a Federal official to just wait to the near end of their term and commit the most serious misconduct, an attack on our democracy and figure they can avoid responsibility because it's near the end of the term.

A President is responsible from the first day in office to the last day in office for their conduct and we have a constitutional responsibility to hold this former President accountable and to proceed with the trial in the Senate.

COOPER: I mean, the idea that it's unconstitutional to try a President no longer in office, by that logic, any corrupt President could just resign before being tried by the Senate, thereby avoiding not just possible conviction, but also the separate penalty that allows the Senate to bar him or her from ever holding Federal office again.

CICILLINE: That's right. Our framers understood that which is why they created that second penalty, if you simply allow people to resign before they could be impeached or convicted or tried, that they could avoid what our framers intended was a sanction or punishment.

And you know, importantly, if you think about someone who is going to attack the peaceful transition of power and try to hold on to power, despite the will of the American people, that's going to happen at the end of their term, not at the beginning.

So it presents a very dangerous precedent. If we were to say, look a President or a Vice President gets a constitutional freebie, you know, you get one free thing, just do it near the end, so it'll be late in your term. That would be very, very dangerous for our democracy, and our framers understood that, which is why it has always been the practice that former officials are subject to impeachment and trial in the Senate.

[20:10:18]

COOPER: Do you expect to present video footage during the trial or call witnesses? And if so, do you know who they would be? CICILLINE: You know, I hope you won't hear any of the Impeachment

Managers talking about our trial strategy. What I can say is we will present overwhelming evidence that the President, former President of the United States incited a violent attack on the Capitol, a bloody attack that involved efforts to hang the Vice President, murder the Speaker of the House, hunt down Members of Congress, but most importantly, to stop the sacred ritual of the meeting of the Electoral College, which represents the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next.

And the President of the United States incited that violence in an effort to stop that from happening so that he can remain in office. We're going to present a very strong, very robust case. And I think at the end of it, the hundred jurors that will have heard that evidence will come to one inescapable conclusion. The President, former President of the United States committed high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting a violent insurrection against the government of the United States, he must be found guilty.

COOPER: Half of those jurors are Republicans, though, is it clear to you what is going on with congressional Republicans? I mean, you have, you know, Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, on one side; you have the Kevin McCarthy and Marco Rubio on the other side. Mitch McConnell, I'm not sure exactly where he is, I guess somewhere in between.

It does seem like there is a real split in the G.O.P. these days.

CICILLINE: Well, it's important to remember, this is the most bipartisan impeachment in American history. You have the third ranking Republican of the House saying the President summoned the mob, he assembled a mob, he lit the flame. He was responsible for the violence at the Capitol, and many other Republicans who have said -- made similar comments.

What I hope is that we have a hundred jurors that they'll listen to the evidence, that they'll listen to the arguments and they'll render a fair and impartial verdict based on that.

And I think when they do, they will conclude that there is overwhelming evidence that this former President committed the high crime and misdemeanor of citing an insurrection against the government of the United States. So we have a hundred jurors and we'll present our case and make our arguments and hope that they will conclude that we have proved our case and find the former President guilty of inciting insurrection.

COOPER: Congressman Cicilline, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Perspective now from CNN political commentator, and former Ted Cruz communications director, Amanda Carpenter. Also CNN senior political commentator and former top Obama adviser, David Axelrod and CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen.

So Amanda, I want to get your initial reaction to what the Congressman was saying about Republicans not wanting to hold the former President responsible. What do you make of where the Republicans are right now?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're not willing to come to grips with the question before them, and that is did the President incite a riot? And that's a harder question than it appears on its face because I don't know how Republicans in the Senate vote to find the President guilty without admitting their own guilt.

Because when you look at the things the President said, you know, there's something wrong with the election. We have to look into this. Fight to save your country. Most of the Republican Party was saying those things.

I mean, it was the default Republican position, all the way up through the Senate races in Georgia to question the results. Kelly Loeffler closed her campaign, fully supported by the Senate Republican establishment saying I am going to object, and so I do hope the Democrats think about finding a way when making the case to those Republican senators about how Trump's behavior was worse because he was President and how it was isolated to the events that day, what he did and how he refused to send help, thereby abetting the insurrection.

Because if this is just the thing about riling up the mob and getting things going, well, my goodness, Anderson, the Republican Party did that for two years.

COOPER: David Axelrod, what do you make of that? I mean, the idea of those managers who are making the case, trying to focus as much as possible on that day and the response, the lack of response from the President during the attack?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, it's pretty clear from the Articles of Impeachment that it's going to go beyond that the Articles of Impeachment refer specifically to Raffensperger, but you know, let me just make a few points.

I mean, for the same reason, as Amanda rightly said, that so many of them were echoing the President's charges. They are going to look for safe harbor here and they're doing it because they're reading their constituents and Trump still has strong support among many Republican voters and they're worried about taking them on.

[20:15:10]

AXELROD: And so they're going to try and find safe harbor in this argument of unconstitutionality and they're going to try and sidestep the President's actions. But really what they're trying to do is sidestep the wrath of their voters. And for that reason, it's very unlikely that they're going to act.

I mean, the notion as Representative Cicilline just said, the notion that you would not act here because he is no longer an office completely omits the argument or escapes the argument of you can then ban him from office forever, which seems like an appropriate punishment for someone who incited an insurrection against the U.S. Capitol while they were President. But I don't think that's going to happen, Anderson. I think people are

going to do what we've seen for the last four years and run for the hills.

COOPER: And David Gergen, it seems like the easy argument Republican senators can make is that they just think constitutionally, you can't try a President after he leaves office, and therefore they don't have to kind of address anything else?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Absolutely. They think this whole effort to bring up the constitutional questions of whether the President is being treated unfairly, because he is an ex- President, you know, is to clearly attempt to dodge the main issues at hand.

You can stand up and say we shouldn't be doing this because it's unconstitutional. Therefore, I never have to come to say whether I agree or disagree whether he incited the riot. That sort of point 1.2 is they can -- the longer they can drag things out and make the argument that the President is somehow being treated unfairly, the more they can poison the reaction to what happens here.

I think, generally speaking, Americans right now feel that the Republicans insisted, rightly, insisted, rightly, that Trump get a fair trial. Well, that's what he's got. He's got a fair trial. But now Americans are expecting their senators to stand up and give a fair verdict, to look at the evidence and not prejudge this, which is what they're doing right now.

COOPER: I mean, it's so interesting, though, because I mean, first of all, you have the sense that if this was a secret vote, I mean, it's pretty clear how a lot of these Republican senators would vote. But for so many of them, I mean, this is a chance for the Republican Party to rid itself, to distance itself from the former President and try to kind of, you know, reinvent itself, if it wants to, it seems like that would be a pretty strong motivation, if in fact, there were enough republicans in the party who really did want to kind of return to where the Republican Party once was.

CARPENTER: Yes, and I think what we have to acknowledge now is that the Republican Party doesn't want to move on from Trump. There has been this, you know, idea that I hoped would be true that once Trump was proven to be a political loser, we could have that reset, but now, Republicans have lost the House, the Senate, the presidency, Donald Trump, they can't -- they're not scared of the tweets. He is off Twitter.

And yet, they are still clinging to him because what happened through all that time is that the base became radicalized, right, like they were all in on stop this deal. The people that are going to turn out in those primary elections are waving the Trump flag, even in loss like a lost cause with their Confederate flags and with their American flags.

And so, the Republican senators, they know that and they are immobile. They're paralyzed. COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to have more

conversation shortly. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has spoken exclusively with the President on the subject of impeachment with President Biden, she joins us with that.

And later, the experts and his lawyer who lied about voting fraud and wanted trial by combat in his words. It turns out Rudy Giuliani will have to settle for just a plain old trial. He is being sued. We'll tell you about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:22:38]

COOPER: We have breaking news tonight on the President's latest thoughts on impeachment. CNN's Kaitlan Collins got the exclusive interview, she joins us now. So what did President Biden say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, it's notable because these are probably the most extensive comments that we've gotten from President Biden since he took office and I just caught him a few moments ago, in the West Wing. He told me that the way he's viewing this is that President Trump's impeachment trial is kind of inevitable.

He said, quote, "I think it has to happen" because he did acknowledge the effect that it could have on carrying out his agenda, what that could look like. But he said that he believes that if it didn't happen, the effect would be way worse if basically this trial did not happen, given of course what President Trump is accused of, what this Article of Impeachment is about.

And Anderson, I think what's also really notable is he does not think that President Trump is going to be convicted. He thinks in the end, this will result in a second acquittal for him because he does not believe they're going to get 17 Republican senators to vote to convict him.

COOPER: Did he talk about the impact -- potential impact on his legislative agenda or Cabinet nominees?

COLLINS: Yes, because that's really the concern that you've heard from White House officials. Of course, a lot of Democrats want to see President Trump held accountable, but their concern is that this is going to overshadow his early days in office, you know, not just getting those Cabinet nominees confirmed, but also that Coronavirus legislation, those bipartisan talks are happening right now, but this could imperil that.

Because a Senate trial is all consuming and so he said he believes that the effects it didn't happen would be worse. So that's kind of how he's seeing it. But it is notable that what he said about the Republicans and the belief that they are not going to convict President Trump because of course he is someone who spent a lot of time in the Senate. He acknowledged that the Senate has changed since he was there and as a senator, but he said, Anderson, it has not changed that much.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, stay with us. I want to bring back in David Axelrod, David Gergen. So, David Axelrod, are you surprised that Biden is now flat out or President Biden is now flat out saying he supports a trial and that it would have a worse effect of the trial didn't happen?

AXELROD: No, I mean, I think, first of all, I think he was very honest in his comments to Kaitlan. It is a dilemma for him that he has to navigate. But there's so much pressure to move forward on this particularly among Democrats, but also for the country to hold President Trump accountable in some way for what he did.

Even if it turns out that the Senate doesn't convict him, to not walk away from that, but it comes at a cost to President Biden who after all, is focused like a laser on two things which is getting this virus under control and getting the economy moving again. And this is a delay and it stirs up the waters of partisanship at a time when he's trying to build support for his answers to those problems.

So, you know, I think everything he said, seems to me like a very honest rendition of the situation as he faces it.

[20:25:31]

COOPER: David Gergen, what do you think of his comments?

GERGEN: Oh, I'm just so impressed and pleased by the way he is conducting himself. He is unpretentious. He's straightforward. He gets caught in the hallway and he actually makes news.

You know, it reminds me so much, Anderson, I never knew him, but I've always admired Biden as Harry Truman. He was known for playing speaking, in a book he actually had, but he would always just speak his mind and he didn't pull a lot of -- I'm used to White Houses where we spent a lot of time trying to architect every word to have political impact. It's not -- it is refreshing to hear somebody who just tells what he thinks.

COOPER: Kaitlan, has there been any indication that that President Biden might call some of the Republicans in the Senate weighing in on the trial directly with them? I mean, I guess that would put more political capital on the line than you might want to.

COLLINS: It could, but he kind of seemed to be approaching it as a foregone conclusion. And we know that our reporting has shown so far that they don't believe Republicans. The Republican votes are there to actually convict Trump.

But a lot of that has to do with the fact that he is out of office, and Biden acknowledged that to me in the halls of the West Wing. He said, he thinks that if Trump had six months left in his term, he was still in the White House where Biden of course is now occupying that spot, that this could have a very different outcome.

And I actually think that is a how what we've heard from a lot of Republican senators that they're viewing this differently, given that he is now out of office. Of course, this happened at the end of his term. And I heard what David Cicilline was saying to you about politicians still needed to be held accountable in their time in office.

But Biden was saying, you know, it would be a lot different if there were six months left on the clock, but we're not there. And so this is the reality of what we're facing right now.

COOPER: David, I found you -- I just find that hard to believe. I mean, it's easy for Republicans in the Senate say, oh, well, gosh, you know, if the President was still in office, you know, I'll secretly -- I'll tell you, this might be different, but I just don't believe that you can do a former President. I mean, it just seems like an excuse.

AXELROD: Well, there's no doubt about it. As I said earlier, I think that's safe harbor for them. But to your question to Kaitlan, it would be -- I would be stunned if Joe Biden picked up the phone and made calls to senators on impeachment.

If he picks up the phone and makes calls to senators, it is going to be on getting behind his coronavirus package and some of his economic plans. He has, I think very rightly said that this is a matter for the Senate to decide and they need to work this through themselves. And I think that's a very smart and appropriate approach.

COOPER: David Gergen, you agree that there's no real benefit for the President to be doing that?

GERGEN: Oh, no, you know, he ought to stay out of this. So far, Anderson, he stayed mostly above the fray, and it is working for him. You know, the latest poll that came out in the last 24 hours or so is the approval rating of 63 percent. You know, for Biden, that is a terrific start.

Remember that Donald Trump never broke 50. So I think he is connecting -- Biden is connecting well. He has still got huge problems coming up. They are just around the corner. And there's going to be a lot of very tough decisions to make. But at the moment, he is setting the right tone for the country.

COOPER: Kaitlan, just, you know, in the couple of days that this White House has been there, what is it like compared to the last one just in terms of functioning?

COLLINS: It's a lot different. And I'm a White House reporter who I didn't know any other White House except the Trump White House. That was the first one I've started covering on day one that Donald Trump was sworn in. And so all of the chaos and you know, the late night tweets and the last minute firings that seemed not normal to me, but it was the day-to-day. It was kind of what you grew accustomed to expect.

And so the first few days of the Biden administration have obviously been a lot different. And you know, when I talk to other White House reporters, they say this is what it was like covering previous more traditional administrations, not just Democrat, Republican as well that it was more by the book.

So the focused message every day, and of course, there are things that blow up and news that happens. And you know, this well and carefully planned day does get blown up every now and then. But it wasn't the minute by minute drama that you saw with a Donald Trump presidency where in the early days all the staff were criticizing each other behind the scenes, the President was speaking freely, and it's been much different covering this even just a few days into it.

AXELROD: Yes, and Anderson, I think that's one of the reasons he has that 63 percent approval rating because it hasn't just been exhausting for the people who have to cover this President, but for the country itself, and that sort of normalcy, you know, and just genuine regard for process and so on is just a welcome relief for everybody involved. It feels normal.

[20:30:09]

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, David Gergen, Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

(voice-over): Just ahead, how far did the former president go to try to win a second term. Details about a new internal Justice Department investigation, but the lengthy and seen a top official may have gone to in the people who refused to go along.

We also dig into the billion-dollar lawsuit fishing the former president's top attorney Rudy Giuliani for his role in promoting conspiracy theories about one company's voting machines.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's time to delivery the sole article of impeachment against the former president speaks explicitly to his incitement of insurrection as well as prior efforts to overturn the results in Georgia which might not be all he did along those lines. Today, the Justice Department inspector general announced they'll investigate whether any Department official tried to use the department to change the outcome.

As follows, reporting in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that the ex-president attempted to use the Department of Justice in an effort that included possibly replacing then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen as part of a way to somehow challenge the Georgia results.

[20:35:03]

According to the Times the department lawyer named Jeffrey Clark appealed to the defeated president's false claims of election fraud and nearly convinced him to remove Rosen. Clark declined to comment.

Here to talk about Christopher Krebs, the former man in charge of election, cybersecurity, the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Krebs, good to see you. When you first read the reporting about this behind the scenes pressure campaign between the former president and the Department of Justice official to overturn the results of the election. I'm wondering what you thought I mean, did you imagine you will see a day went something like this might occur in a White House and the Department of Justice?

CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FMR TOP CYBERSECURITY OFFICIAL, DHS: Well, I -- thanks for having me. Good to see you again. I don't have any information independent of that reporting that would suggest it's true or false. In reading it, though, it was fairly shocking. And it's true, as reported, I actually think the more surprising aspect is not that it was contemplated, but the fact that the President didn't follow through with it.

And that's based on all the other shocking things that the President attempted, of course, culminating with January 6. But it does fit a pattern of behavior, and attempts to use the federal executive branch and various agencies and departments to attempt to overturn the election. And there are other examples of that, as well.

COOPER: And it seems as if I mean, according to again, this is all just according to Times, but there was this apprentice style meeting at the White House where the former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and Jeffrey Clark, the DOJ official, apparently league with the President coordinate, the times were laying out their alternative cases to him about whether or not Rosen should be ousted and replaced. I mean, again, just one of those things that, I guess that is what turned the tide for him that the President decided not to go forward with what this official was suggesting.

KREBS: Well, Rosen had the opportunity to work with him on a number of different occasions as a consummate professional. I suspect he had the weight of the law behind him and thus pitched the more compelling argument to the President, along with Cipollone, the President's counsel in the White House. But again, you have to remember that sometimes that these Whitehouse meetings you think about the Friday meeting in December, where the President had Sidney Powell, Giuliani and others.

And in fact, Rudy Giuliani, allegedly, of course, called over to the Department of Homeland Security's Acting Deputy Secretary, and asked the department whether they could go seize voting machines in Michigan. So, I think it's important to step back and not lose focus on the bigger campaign here that there were a number of attempts to interfere in the administration of what by all truthful accounts, was a fair and free election.

COOPER: There's -- as I mentioned, there's going to be this department of justice inspector general investigation into all this as well as talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee investigation. In your mind, how much of a difference can those steps make? I mean, how, you know, what can be done, if anything to protect election integrity from presidential interference in the future?

KREBS: Well, I've said this before, but the framers got it right. The framers that stayed in the constitution that the states are the ones that administer the election, and never before has it been just so blatantly obvious that having the federal government, particularly when the incumbent is on the ticket, it's important that they not have that ability to interfere. But these investigations that will take place that need to take place in the coming weeks on the President's conduct, in the attempt to overturn are critically important, and I think I said it on the last time with you.

But we have to demonstrate that there, there's accountability, when you attempt to overthrow democracy, we have to show that not just to the American people, but democracies established and emerging worldwide, that you don't get a free crack at it. Because I am concerned that particularly as you see some of these state GOP parties over the last several days, adopting QAnon on type messaging and platforms and planks. What if next time around, we actually have a competent attempt to overturn democracy?

And then last, of course, is we have to make a very clear demonstration to dictatorships across the world rather, that, you know, American democracy is made of stronger stuff.

COOPER: You know, lastly, when you and I spoke, recently spoke it was post insurrection pre-inauguration, you said something that really, I mean, I thought a lot about you said we're on the verge of what I fear to be a pretty significant breakdown and democracy and civil society here. On this historic night when you have an article of impeachment that's just been delivered to the Senate, do you still feel that way? Where do you see the country now?

[20:40:17]

KREBS: Absolutely. I still think and as the investigation into the events of January 6, continue to turn up very disconcerting information about some of the people that took place and where they work and what part of our communities that they are engaged in. Those investigating -- investigations will need to continue digging into just who it was, that was involved in the January 6 activities.

And so, that going forward, we can -- there must be accountability for these efforts. Separately these calls for unity and not, you know, impeachment are nonsense, you do not get a free shot in overturning democracy. I don't care who you are. Even if you're the former president, you must be held accountable for attempting to undermine it overturned democracy.

COOPER: Yes. Christopher Krebs, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

KREBS: Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: Whether or not the Senate will hold the ex-president accountable for his big lie about the election, jurors in Washington D.C. federal court could be asked to do the same for the former president's attorney, the man -- Chris Krebs just mentioned Rudy Giuliani. Dominion voting systems is suing him for defamation. Our Tom Foreman tonight has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: This Dominion company is a radical left company. One of the people there is a big supporter of Antifa.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Dominion voting systems, the case against Rudy Giuliani comes from his own mouth.

GIULIANI: The company counting our vote with control over our vote is owned by two Venezuelans who are allies of Chavez.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Through dozens of falsehoods on television, radio and the internet.

GIULIANI: It is not made up.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The lawsuit says former President Donald Trump's lawyer knowingly pushed blatant lies about the company.

GIULIANI: One of the experts that has examined these crooked Dominion machines has absolutely what he believes is conclusive proof that in the last 10%, 15% of the vote counted, the votes were deliberately changed.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Dominions $1.3 billion lawsuit against Giuliani follows a similar suit against attorney Sidney Powell, who also promoted Trump's false claim the vote was rigged.

THOMAS CLARE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: People believed this lie. People believed the statements that were made by Giuliani, they were motivated to take action in the real world.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Dominion says the deception spurred deep mistrust of the voting system could cost the company a fortune and triggered threats against its employees. Giuliani says, the massive suit is quite obviously intended to frighten people of faint heart. It is another act of intimidation by the hate filled left wing to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech.

DONALD TRUMP, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Dominion, nobody even knows who owns it. These machines are controlling our country. So, it was a rigged election. It was really a sham and a shame.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Still, Trump and his supporters enjoyed a great deal of free speech when they were trashing Dominion. Again without a shred of proof to back their false claims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest fraud is the Dominion machines.

FOREMAN (voice-over): So, Dominion attorneys say they are looking hard at Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Rush Limbaugh The Epoch Times and more as the company contemplates its next legal moves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: What's more Dominion is hoping to learn through legal discovery whether some of these attacks on their company were coordinated and at what levels? If so, that could open up other targets for lawsuits and make all that free speech very expensive. Anderson.

COOPER: Tom Foreman, thanks.

(voice-over): Just ahead, a new virulent strain of the coronavirus has been detected in the United States for the first time. Share the details about that. Plus discuss what an influential model says about the effect of vaccine may have with the director of the Institute that just published it.

We also have an update on those arrests of the those prosecutors say we're involved in the attack in the capital, the number so far, who they are and what they're alleged to have done. That's ahead.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[20:48:10]

COOPER: There's breaking news report of the spread of coronavirus and potentially more infectious strain from Brazil has now been detected for the first time in the United States, the cases in Minnesota. Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously called this and another strain from South Africa quote, more ominous than one from Britain that's already in at least 20 states. Both British and American Medical experts agree that version could lead to more deaths. Right now we're headed toward the deadliest month of the pandemic, currently more than one death every 30 seconds.

An influential model from the University of Washington says about 569,000 Americans total will have died from the virus by May. It's a slight increase since the last update. But the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation projects 42,800 lives saved by the vaccine with about 36% of the country immunized by that point.

Now today, the CDC said we're at nearly 6% of the country immunized. This weekend CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she can't say how much vaccine the country has at the moment, a problem she said that will hopefully be cured in the coming months. Today, President Biden said he hopes to increase vaccinations by about 50% to 1.5 million a day.

Joining us now is Dr. Chris Murray, Director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore Health Commissioner.

Dr. Murray 569,000 deaths by May that is staggering. That is even with daily deaths starting to decrease next month. What would account for the projected decrease in February and does this new model that you put out does it account for the new variants of COVID?

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, IHME UNIV. OF WASHINGTON: So, Anderson, these numbers don't yet account for the new variants where we will be putting out models at the end of the week that will and that will change the picture. But the decline that we expect to see is coming because we're at the peak of seasonality.

That's going to start driving down transmission and we're seeing vaccinations scale up. So those two drivers are why, you know, we're sort of at the peak, and we expect to start coming off the peak in the coming weeks.

COOPER: And Dr. Wen it comes to these variants. I know you've said that activities we thought were low risk are now more dangerous. What activities are you referring to? And are you concerned that because so few people, so few cases of their variants are identified the United States like this one case from Brazil, people aren't going to be taking them seriously enough?

MURRAY: Well, you know --

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You know, Anderson, I am --

COOPER: Sorry, that was for Dr. Wen. It's OK.

MURRAY: Sorry.

COOPER: It's OK.

WEN: I am very worried Anderson, that the people are not taking these variants as seriously as we should be. Because public health officials are extremely concerned. We've seen what happens in other countries that have actually had coronavirus under relatively good control, then these variants took over and they had explosive spread of the virus, and then overwhelmed hospitals.

We've been there. And it looks like we're trending in the right direction. But all that progress could be erased. And I think there are serious implications on activities like schools. Now we think that maybe it's safe to open K through eight schools.

Well, what happens if we have an even more transmissible variant that could make those activities a lot more dangerous? And I think it really underscores the need for all of us to increase vaccinations, do more genomic surveillance to find out exactly how many of these variants are here, and what percentage of our -- of all the virus that exists are these new variants, but also we have to hunker down and stop transmission, because the more the virus replicates, the more mutations there could develop.

COOPER: So Dr. Wen, just so I'm clear that there's obviously a lot of unknowns about the variants, how widespread they are, how widespread they will become. But what you're saying is just in terms of what people can do right now, kind of redoubling our efforts to wear a mask or to mask when possible, spend less time, you know, as limited little amount of time grocery shopping as possible. I mean, you're talking about kind of just kind of rededicating everybody needs to rededicate themselves to following the guidelines.

WEN: That's exactly right. The variants are spread the same way as the normal coronavirus strain. And so, it's still the same things that we've been talking about all along. It's just that if there is something more contagious among us, if we thought that going to the grocery store before was relatively safe, there's actually a higher likelihood of contracting coronavirus through those everyday activities. And so, doing even more of that, we're in an even better mask, reducing the number of times that we have to go out shopping or in indoor crowded settings. All of that will be helpful.

COOPER: Dr. Murray, the pace of vaccinating people appears to be increasing thankfully, in addition to saying he hopes 1.5 million people will be able to be vaccinated today. President Biden also says he thinks any American who wants a vaccine will be able to have won this spring, and that the country would be on its way to herd immunity by summer. Are those expectations realistic?

MURRAY: I think the first part of that is realistic. I think that, you know, right now only half of Americans say they are definitely or adults, definitely want the vaccine. So we would get to that mark in May probably quite realistically. The herd immunity part is a trickier one because we don't really know if the vaccine blocks transmission. So, if you think only 50, 60% of Americans get the vaccine, maybe only half of them are truly immune from infection. It's unlikely we'll get to herd immunity in the summer.

COOPER: Wow. And if we don't achieve herd immunity, you know, this year, is it possible the vaccine will prevent the wave in the fall of 2021 and the winter '22 from being bad?

MURRAY: I think the vaccine will prevent a lot of death it's it's a great thing, right? We will have much less, you know, tragedy in the country from death, but it's pretty likely we believe that there will be a third wave of transmission in the winter of 2021.

COOPER: I just definitely can't believe that half Americans not doesn't think they should get a vaccine. I mean, I can't believe it sadly, but it's just I mean, I got to say it's ridiculous.

MURRAY: Well, it's about half say no, a quarter are not sure and quarters saying no. So it's the quarter not sure that we've got to focus on and convince them that the vaccine is really important for them, important for their family,

COOPER: Dr. Murray, Dr. Wen, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

(voice-over): A programming note. We'll have a new CNN Global Town Hall: The Race to Vaccinate America this Wednesday night. Joining me and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be Dr. Anthony Fauci and the new director of the CDC Dr. Rochelle Walensky. That is at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

[20:50:00]

Stay with us, more news ahead. New arrests in connection with the Capitol Hill riots, details. And the rising number of those charged, when we continue.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[20:59:20]

COOPER: An update now on the arrest of the week at the Capitol Hill riots. Federal prosecutors say at least 135 people have been charged including this man, a Michigan resident named Michael Foy. They'll remain behind bars after allegedly striking an officer with a hockey stick. A court appointed lawyer representing Floyd told a federal judge his client has a history of depression and substance abuse and has had suicidal thoughts.

Prosecutors have charged another man Tommy Frederick Allen that man they're accused of trying to steal an American flag from the Senate chambers. Meanwhile, charges were unsealed against to Ohio man for allegedly knowingly entering restricted building along with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. One of the men prosecutors say it's stolen a coat rack calling it a trophy Both men were released after their parents today in federal court.

[21:00:04]

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Appreciate it, Coop. I am Chris Cuomo.