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Interview with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL); House Republican Leader Meets with Disgraced Former President; Interview with Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI); Dems Slam Education Committee Assignment For GOP Rep. Who Promoted Consipiracy Theories; Senate Dems Predict Short Impeachment Trial; SC Officials Confirm Cases Of More Contagious Strain Of Coronavirus First Found In South Africa; Proposal To Build Permanent Fence Around Capitol Meets Resistance From Dems, GOP And DC Mayor. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 28, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Because she refused to play parts that she believed put down black women.

In 2016, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama and she achieved great acclaim. She was nominated for an Academy Award, in fact, for her moving role in "Sounder."

And she may be best remembered by some of you watching for the autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. May Miss Tyson rest in peace.

Thank you all for joining us. Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. If you were wondering how long a disgraced ex-President has to wait to be forgiven these days after inciting a deadly insurrection against the seat of democracy in hopes of overturning the election he lost, the answer is three weeks and a day. That's how long it took House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to make the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago and pay his respects to the former President.

He went on his own initiative to talk strategy about taking back the House in 2022. He also went to try to make sure he would stay in the President's good graces it seems. The President's Political Action Committee put out a statement that reads in part: "President Trump's popularity has never been stronger than it is today. And his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time."

Three weeks and a day. That's how little time it took for the party to rush back into the arms of the man who egged on the violent mob that descended on the Capitol, smashed windows, beat police officers, bludgeoned one to death while looking for lawmakers to capture or kill including the former Vice President.

Five people died in the attack, at least two police officers have since died by suicide.

Two weeks and a day, the House voted to impeach the ex-President a second time and the man who posed smiling today at Mar-a-Lago said this.


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 of President Trump, accept to share responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.


COOPER: That was the top Republican in the House just 15 days ago, today, he made a complete mockery of those words. Two sources tell CNN that some warned him against this with one source telling us he was told this would make it look like he was quote, "crawling back to Trump" unquote. Also that it would further isolate him from mainstream donors who want to move away from the disgraced former President.

Now, keeping them honest, it doesn't seem like that is a big concern anymore for Congressman McCarthy or the party. It's who they are. It's who they believe their constituents are. After all, he and 138 of the Republican House members voted to overturn the election even after they were attacked. And all but five Senate Republicans have signaled they will not vote to convict the ex-President for what he did, because this is still the ex-President's party. It belongs to him, to the insurrectionists who supported him to those beyond even that fringe.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Let me just say that about Nancy Pelosi. I think we have a message for her.

I just want to say Nancy Pelosi: she is a hypocrite. She is an anti- American, and we're going to kick that bitch out of Congress.


COOPER: That is Marjorie Taylor Greene, now Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. The person the former President called the future star the Republican Party. She has been a QAnon conspiracy supporter who apparently agrees with the belief that the Parkland High School shooting was a false flag operation.

She is also now a member of the House Education and Labor Committee. Kevin McCarthy could do something about that, he has not.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what could they be thinking or thinking is too generous a word for what they might be doing? COOPER: That's Speaker Pelosi today and though she did not mention the

Congresswoman by name, she also touched on the thread that some members continue to feel since the insurrection and where she thinks some of that threat is coming from.


PELOSI: I do believe and I have said this all along that we will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about in addition to what is happening outside.


COOPER: When pressed and what she meant, Speaker Pelosi said quote, "It means that we have Members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other Members of Congress."

Separately today, we learned the Capitol Police arrested a man yesterday, not far from Capitol grounds. He had a handgun, 20 rounds of ammunition. Stop the Steal literature and a list of lawmakers.


COOPER: Remember just yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security warned of the ongoing potential for violence from extremists saying, quote: "With objections, the exercise of governmental authority in the presidential transition as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives." False narratives pushed by the former President, and either embraced or tolerated by most in his party, a few Republican lawmakers who have called them out as false are being shunned.

Even Liz Cheney, staunch conservative, the third ranking Republican in the House, she's now facing censure back home in Wyoming and efforts by Trump forces to defeat her in 2022.

Three weeks and a day. That is how long it's taken for Republicans in Congress to forget about what happened and begin the process of rewriting history and doing whatever it takes to regain power, even if it means embracing the man who lost them the Senate and the White House.

In the face of a raging pandemic, a sagging economy, the looming threat of more political violence, this is the self-portrait they apparently want the country to see.

Joining us now, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois. Senator Duckworth, looking at the picture of Kevin McCarthy down at Mar-a-Lago today, gripping and grinning with the man who promoted the attack on the Capitol, praised the attackers even after the fact. What is that meeting and that picture say to you?

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): It tells me that he stands with someone who basically incited insurrection as opposed to standing with our Constitution. He has essentially violated his oath of office that he took when he was sworn in and that is to protect and defend the Constitution. Instead, he is now standing with the enemy of the Constitution.

COOPER: What do you think, you know, with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, most Republicans are unwilling to even talk about her or address any of her past actions and words, what does it say about the future of the Republican Party? I mean, when Trump said she's a future star of the Republican Party, a lot of Republicans said, oh, you know, that's just not the case. She's in Congress now. And she's a QAnon conspiracy supporter or was, even though she's trying to now hide it on her, you know, past postings?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I mean, it tells me that they're not standing with the American people, that they don't care about the Constitution, that they are backing, you know, these conspiracy theories, these people who seek insurrection and to overthrow our government. That's what these QAnon people believe.

They believe that we need to overthrow the government as opposed to protecting and defending the nation and our Constitution. It boggles the mind. I mean, these are the same people who were hiding, and who were, you know, in the same safe rooms that we were in that I was in, while the Capitol was under attack.

And yet, as you said, three weeks two and a day is all it took for them to turn their backs on reality, on the truth and to go stand with those who would actually violently overthrow our democracy as opposed to keeping their oath of office to defend our Constitution.

COOPER: Kevin McCarthy going to see and pay fealty to President Trump and be photographed with him. I mean, that's all just politics, isn't it? I mean, it's -- he is afraid of Trump supporters who are in his district and he wants to be this he wants to be this -- he wants to, you know, be the top Republican in the House. He wants to take the house. Isn't this just -- just pure politics of him choosing his own political future over any other consideration?

DUCKWORTH: Well, see, that's the thing, Anderson. You just said it. He is putting his own personal ambitions above the wellbeing of our nation. He is putting his own -- whatever he needs to do, his own political expediency, above protecting our Constitution and protecting and defending this great nation of ours. And people like that are not fit to be in office. That's why Trump wasn't fit to be the Commander- in-Chief because he always looked out for Trump first, not the United States of America, not our great union.

And it is absolutely shameful that Kevin McCarthy did this. But unfortunately, he's not the only one, you know, in in both the Senate and the House, you have all of these Republicans are choosing to stand with Trump, as opposed to choosing to stand with our Constitution.

COOPER: Well, I don't -- you know, Lindsey Graham, sort of, you know, indicated in the heat of the moment after the attack on the Capitol that night, you know, stood up and said, you know, I'm done, count me out. You know, I'm sorry, it ended this way. It's not how I wanted to, you know, he was a consequential President. Whatever that means. I mean, that's like faint praise.

He now seems to you know -- he has people yelling at him at the airport, which is certainly unpleasant and uncalled for. And now he seems back, you know, kind of throwing love bombs at Trump.

DUCKWORTH: I think that it's clear that Lindsey Graham is out for Lindsey Graham and, and not necessarily for the wellbeing of our country. I'm sorry to say that. You know, he's had a long career of service, but it seems like Lindsey Graham has lost his way under Donald Trump and he has decided that as you said, you know political expediency is his priority, not protecting and defending our country.


COOPER: Are you worried about security inside the Capitol grounds?

DUCKWORTH: Of course, I am. You know, listen, going around the Capitol and seeing all the barricades up, seeing National Guard patrolling. It's not how I want our nation's capital to be. But there is -- there are security concerns. I mean, my office, they attempted to break into my -- we call it a hideaway. So we all have a little office in the Capitol itself, away from our other offices, and that, you know, has still has got broken glass and boarded up windows, where the insurrectionists attempted to penetrate, thank goodness, my window held and my door held.

We're still seeing the scars of insurrectionists, and yet my Republican colleagues seem to have glossed over that. We just lost another Capitol Police officer who committed suicide just recently. Now we've lost three lives, in terms of the Capitol Police, and yet they're overlooking that just so they can go and stand with Trump. That's shameful.

COOPER: Senator Duckworth. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Before we get more perspective from our next guest, I want to play a piece of sound that underscores the contrast between how this former President is seen by his party and how thoroughly Richard Nixon was shunned. He is a political writer, Fred Barnes talking about how then President Ford would not even say, the former President's name.


FRED BARNES, POLITICAL WRITER: And I asked him, Mr. President, why don't you refer to your predecessor as President Nixon or as Richard Nixon? And Ford said, and I was amazed at this answer, he said, I just can't bring myself to do it.


COOPER: Joining us now, CNN chief national correspondent, John King and CNN political commentator, Mike Shields, who we should mention is Kevin McCarthy's political strategist. Mike, as we mentioned, you're a strategist for the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy.

Going down to Mar-a-Lago today, it sorts of looks like someone who is, you know, kissing the ring, playing to an audience of one and also to that person's supporters. Why? I mean, it seems a big evolution of Kevin McCarthy from three weeks ago saying the President bears responsibility, and he should correct this, and he should make the transition to the administration. Smooth. What happened?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he got a commitment from President Trump to help Republicans in the midterms and to work together. And look, President Trump, 75 million people voted for him and Twitter has deplatformed him and Facebook has, but those voters haven't, and they still believe in him. And when you look at what the Biden administration has done just in the last 48 hours to poke those voters in the eye, they want someone who represents them, and they put what President Trump stood for ahead of a lot of the other things that we're talking about. That's a big part it.

COOPER: I understand that, but essentially, you're saying, I mean, he had principles three weeks ago, he had beliefs about President Trump's responsibility. And he now is afraid of his base. And so, he goes, you know, and kisses the ring.

SHIELDS: It's actually not the base. These are American voters who may vote or may not vote. You know, the Old Joe Biden that I know John has covered for years, the old Scranton Joe Biden used to speak to these voters, manufacturing base voters, energy-based voters, no one is talking to them anymore. They feel like Trump represented them.

And what Kevin is saying is you have those voters. We want you in the Republican Party. That's the difference between guys that were horns and attack the Capitol, who should be in jail and Kevin was in the Capitol that day, he spoke very sternly about what happened. And he's been consistent. He's even continued to say, the President should have been more strong once he saw what was going on to stop it. He said that multiple times, including a couple of days ago, that doesn't mean that we don't talk to the voters who supported President Trump because they are up for grabs and they are American voters, who are frankly, not being represented by Joe Biden right now.

COOPER: I mean, John, it just seems mean beyond shifty for Kevin McCarthy, too, in Mike words speak strongly three weeks ago, you know, when he still got the adrenaline from, you know, running and hiding in Congress with the help of security because there are people out there, you know, rampaging through the Halls of Congress and killing at least one police officer.

And then, you know, when he starts to look at the polls, and he starts to look at his own future, and he starts to think about his own power, he goes to the heart of, you know, he goes to Mar-a-Lago and pays fealty.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You saw this, Anderson, right after the insurrection, not just from Kevin McCarthy, you saw it from Mitch McConnell, you saw it from several other Republican leaders who decided to have a trial balloon.

Can we keep those voters, Mike is talking about absolutely critical to the Republican Party and Republican success in 2022 and 2024? A lot of them brought into the party by Donald Trump, who are Trump voters, not necessarily Republican voters. It's a giant challenge for the party. Yes, Mike is absolutely right about that. So, what was the trial balloon?

Kevin McCarthy go to the floor. The President bears responsibility for this. Mitch McConnell saying even tougher things leaving open the door to possibly voting to convict the President. It's over. It's gone, Anderson. Why? Because they noticed the base did not move with them. They did not move any of what you want to call them, the base, you want to call them Republican voters, you want to call Trump voters.

Pick any definition you want. They did not move with them. So now they have decided if we want to win back the house in 2022. If we want to win back the Senate in 2022, we need the Trump voters and we don't have a strategy to get them without Donald Trump.


KING: So, in the short term, what Kevin McCarthy did today was essentially say we're the party of Trump. And I respect Mike a great deal, but Kevin McCarthy undermines his own leadership when he does that, because he's asking Matt Gaetz and people like that stop the civil war in the party.

What does Matt Gaetz do? The day after Kevin McCarthy says cut the crap, his words, gets on a plane and goes to Wyoming and campaigns against the number three person in the leadership, quotes President Trump and brings Donald Trump, Jr. in on a phone call and plays it to the audience. Kevin McCarthy is not Matt Gaetz's leader, Donald Trump is

COOPER: Yes, Mike I mean, you know, Minority Leader McCarthy said he wanted the Republican caucus to help, quote "bring people back together." How does that square with Matt Gaetz going to Wyoming and attacking Liz Cheney, the number three person in the caucus?

SHIELDS: Well, look, Kevin was pretty strong on the call, I believe it was yesterday and put his own personal leadership on the line and said, you elected me leader and I'm not going to stand for this. We have to work together.

And I think what Kevin's approach is, just like he did today going to the President to talk one-on-one, you know, he -- when Marjorie Taylor Greene was first elected last year, he went to meet with her and got her to disavow QAnon. I think he's going to meet with her next week about some of the stuff that's come up recently about her. That's what Kevin does. He meet with these folks one-on-one and that's how you bring a team together. And it's very difficult --

KING: Mike, he took $175,000.00 from her yesterday. They were on the fundraising call for the National Republican Congressional Committee, and they took $175,000.00 for money and thanked her for being an emerging leader in the party. That's not how you stand up to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

SHIELDS: The way the way you get someone to disavow QAnon is to bring them into the team, not to isolate them and shove them out and then have them go --

COOPER: So wait a minute, so I have not heard her publicly say, you know what, I no longer believe that Anderson Cooper, and, you know, Tom Hanks, and all of these people and all of these Democratic leaders, I don't want to believe that they're Satanists and blood drinkers and pedophiles.

I no longer believe that they're on a phony manifesto -- or that they're on a manifest of Jeffrey Epstein's flight. I mean, they believe that, you know, there's belief out there by QAnon people that there's this, you know, cabal of people drinking the blood of children, and it's based on anti-Semitic tropes.

You say she behind closed doors disavowed that? Come on. I mean, like, you would not want to sit next to this person in public, would you? And Kevin McCarthy is meeting with her? Go ahead.

SHIELDS: QAnon stuff is absolutely insane. It's reprehensible. It has no place in the Republican Party. That's Kevin McCarthy's --

COOPER: Well, actually you know what? It does have a big place in the Republican Party.

SHIELDS: And let's look at the case with Steve King. Steve King, once he was a member, once he was in the conference, not what he did before he was in office said racist things, and Kevin kicked him off his committees. We have Democrats in the Democratic caucus who have said openly anti-Semitic things, and there's no action taken against them.

So I think Kevin has shown that when something happens with a member while they're a member of the Republican conference, he will take action with them. This is why he is laying down --

COOPER: Right. What action has he taken with President Trump? What action is he taking?

SHIELDS: I'm sorry?

COOPER: What action has he taken with President Trump because he used stern words? What action has he taken?

SHIELDS: Well, President Trump is no longer. He is former President Trump. That's his title. And he is not in office. He's not a member of the Republican House Conference, which Kevin is elected by that group to be their leader and to represent them.

COOPER: Right.

SHIELDS: And so what he has said very clearly is -- because if you're a member of this conference, you represent the whole team. If you say something against the team, there's going to be consequences for that. And that's what he did with Steve King. You don't see that from Nancy Pelosi. When people in the Democratic Party --

COOPER: But John King, all right, Mike? Right. President Trump was tweeting against the Vice President, his Vice President, while that Vice President was cowering with his wife, you know, being hunted by a mob who was talking about hanging Mike Pence. I haven't heard Kevin McCarthy very sternly talking about that. I mean, there's no repercussions. You say there's repercussions with Kevin McCarthy. What are the repercussions for the former President?

SHIELDS: What I mean is repercussions for the House Republican Conference who elected him as their leader. That's his position in Congress as the Minority Leader.

COOPER: I just thought these people representing America and you want the best for America not the party. I mean, that's what -- John, isn't this --

KING: We will see if this changes. We'll see if it changes with respect to Congresswoman Greene. We'll see if it changes. I don't suspect it will Anderson, but again, to Mike's point, if Kevin McCarthy is the leader, leaders have to have followers. Leaders have to have respect. Leaders have to tell their members sometimes I know you're frustrated, bite your tongue. We're a family don't do this.

Matt Gaetz, the day after Kevin McCarthy said don't do it, the very day after, went to Wyoming. The truth is the establishment of both political parties have teamed up to screw our fellow Americans for generations.


KING: Now in Washington, D.C., Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney. This is a Member of the House, the day after his leader said please bite your tongue, who goes and attacks the Senate Republican leader, and the number three in his House Republican leadership and calls them corrupt. That's not follow the leader. That's follow Trump. That's not follow McCarthy.

COOPER: Right. But then, not only that, but then that leader, alleged leader goes to Trump and pays fealty, I mean, he's basically paying fealty to the same the same person Matt Gaetz is paying fealty to, so I'm not sure what stern repercussions there are going to be for Matt Gaetz or anybody else these days.

We're out of time, unfortunately. But Mike shields I do appreciate it. John King, thank you very much. We have more on Marjorie Taylor Greene, her extremist beliefs and what if anything her party will do about it. We'll be joined by one of her Democratic fellow committee members.

And later the arrival of a new COVID variant in the U.S. and some early answers to questions about how to protect against it.


COOPER: We mentioned Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene at the top of the program. According to CNN's K-Files, she has removed dozens of Facebook posts from 2018 and 2019 in which she endorsed fringe conspiracy theories and repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians. She has also been a supporter as we mentioned of QAnon conspiracy

theory who once called Q a patriot who is quote, "worth listening to."

She is once said Charlottesville was a quote "inside job" to quote "further the agenda of the elites." During her campaign she backed away from some of those comments but she also agreed on Facebook with people who said the Parkland shooting was a quote "false flag operation" and posted an image of herself holding a gun next to images of a Democratic congresswoman.


COOPER: Back in March 2019, she was caught on video confronting Parkland survivor, David Hogg. She is heard making false and baseless claims while asking him questions about gun rights. When Hogg walks away, here's what she says.


GREENE: He's got nothing to say. Sad. He has nothing to say, because there really isn't anything to say you guys. He has nothing to say because he's paid to do this. Guess what? I'm a gun owner. I'm an American citizen. And I have nothing. But this guy with his George Soros funding and his major liberal funding, he has got everything.

I want you to think about that. That's where we are. And he's a coward. He can't say one word because he can't defend his stance.


COOPER: Today on "New Day," David Hogg was asked what his message is to House Republican leader now that the Congresswoman has a seat on the Education and Labor Committee.


DAVID HOGG, PARKLAND SURVIVOR: My message to Kevin McCarthy is take all of her committee assignments away, along with that also don't support her when she runs for re-election again and try to get her primaried.

If you say this is not your party, actually call it out and hold her accountable, because Republicans always act as if they're the party of decency and respect. But would a party of decency and respect question whether or not school shootings happened? Would they harass the survivors of these shootings for having different opinions than them? I don't think so. And I think if Kevin McCarthy doesn't think so either, he needs to actually stand up and do something about this congresswoman.


COOPER: Joining us now is Congresswoman Haley Stevens who serves on the House Education and Labor Committee, also CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Congresswoman Stevens, you serve, of all committees, the Education and

Labor Committee with Congresswoman Greene, does she deserve to stay there?

REP. HALEY STEVENS (D-MI): I called for her to be removed. I believe, Anderson, that this was an egregious error of the G.O.P. conference. This type of behavior, these types of antics particularly taunting and harassing a teenage survivor of gun violence has no place in our Education and Labor Committee, Anderson.

When I need to be talking with you tonight about how we're going to get our teachers and our students back in the classroom safely, get everyone vaccinated, bring our economy back online. This is politics of the bizarre and it's got to go.

COOPER: Gloria, do you believe that Kevin McCarthy will take any action against Congresswoman Greene. Mike Shields was on. I mean, his spokesperson said he talked to her about her past comments. Mike Shields said that, you know, she had renounced QAnon, I guess face to face to him behind closed doors somewhere I haven't seen that. Is he going to do anything?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, at this point, maybe he'll decide to take her off the Education Committee. I have no idea. I mean, look, he said he found her comments deeply disturbing. There is no halfway with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

You're either in or you're out. And unless you take away and some of her authority, I think kicking her out of the Congress is a high bar. It's two thirds vote. But you have to strip her of her committee assignments.

She has with her social media, liked people who threaten the lives of the leaders currently in Congress. You saw what she just did with a survivor of the Parkland shooting. Instead, she has been promoted and put on the Education Committee. And I think, you know, this is the unfortunate legacy of Donald Trump. And it's the struggle within the Republican Party.

But you you're either in or you're out with her. You have to find a way to say this is not acceptable, and you're going to have to pay for your past actions, and if you're going to renounce QAnon and your past behavior, you have to go out there and say it and maybe that's not enough.

COOPER: I mean, Congresswoman, it doesn't seem like there is much of a struggle in the Republican Party. I mean, there were some hand wringing and when memories were fresh and the adrenaline was still high, the day of the attack, there were some stern words from a few Senate Republicans, but that has changed.

I mean, Kevin McCarthy's you know, like Luca Brasi going to kiss the ring of Don Corleone on his daughter's wedding day today in Mar-a- Lago, it seems like the Republican Party has stopped struggling and has looked at poll numbers and decided, you know what, Donald Trump is our party. STEVENS: Yes, well, when you have a major political party, Anderson in

the United States that's stoking conspiracy theories for votes and now allowing elected officials to run rampant in our Congress espousing these insidious viewpoints, it is a real concern and it absolutely is black and white. Either you are this or you aren't, and frankly because the Minority Leader has refused to disavow this, we haven't heard any form of apology from Rep. Greene, we have remained astounded at why she would be given this nomination to the Education and Labor Committee, why she isn't being stripped of her committee assignments.

We did this last session in Congress with Rep. King when he aligned with white supremacy, he was removed from his committee assignments. This is re-traumatizing our survivors of mass shootings from Sandy Hook down to Stoneman Douglas.


And we've got to get in the business Anderson, of looking at commonsense, gun safety legislation. It's been almost 10 years since Sandy Hook, we need real policy solutions, not this distraction, and not this complacency that is so tragically coming out of a party that, frankly, appears to be ripping apart before our very eyes.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And let me say one more thing. Why is the Republican Party taking her money Anderson? I mean, she pledged on this phone call $175,000. OK, great. We'll take your money. They shouldn't take her money, they should say, no, thank you. We're not interested in support from QAnon. Is it because Donald Trump called her to congratulate her when she won and sees her as the future of the Republican Party? I have no idea. But there has to be a way to say if you're Republican, this is not OK. And so far we haven't heard it.

COOPER: Congresswoman, Speaker Pelosi said today the enemy is within the House of Representatives. The acting Capitol Police Chief today said there should be permanent fencing around the Capitol Building. Is that -- I mean how concerned are you about your safety from other members of the House?

STEVENS: Well, we're absolutely concerned with our safety. And it's very alarming in the days following a violent mob insurrection on the Capitol that members of Congress won't oblige. The metal detectors that have been put up seem to be flouting the safety rules are insisting on carrying weapons under the House floor. And some members of Congress, Anderson, like Rep. Greene who are under investigation for potentially being involved intimately and directly with this insurrection. You know, you come right up to that line there. And then all of a sudden, put your hands up and say, oh, you know, I wasn't involved. Well, you know, where is that line, and certainly that line was crossed.

That was why Donald Trump needed to be impeached again. And why we're going through this, this is hurtful, this is painful. This is something that our country has got to overcome. We know we've got bigger challenges here. But we've also got to stand for what is right, and what is honest. And I'm on that side. I'm waiting for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join in.

COOPER: Representative Stevens, Gloria Borger, I appreciate your time. Thank you both.

(voice-over): With the second impeachment trial, the former president now less than two weeks away, the timetable that many Senate Democrats are now predicting. That's next.



COOPER: As both prosecution defense team's guru for the former president second impeachment trial, many Senate Democrats are saying it should be a short one days for example, not weeks. That is what Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal said today in his remarks were echoed by others. As for the outcome, hard to imagine, today, there'll be enough votes for conviction. But as noted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe cautioned in a tweet, quote, wait for a trial before assuming it's all over.

Professor Tribe is the author of To End Presidency, The Power of Impeachment. He joins me now. Professor Tribe, thanks for being with us.

So, what do you make of that? That even some prominent Democrats at this point are looking for this to be over and quickly? What does it say to you about the trial or their expectations of it?

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, they're hoping that the dramatic evidence of the president launching a violent attack on the Capitol leaving people dead, threatening to kidnap others, threatening to hang the vice president will not take all that long to present. And they are hoping that even though 45 of their colleagues on a procedural motion have basically said let's get it over with we don't really want to try this case.

But once the nation sees in vivid color, exactly how bloody this violent attempt by the President to steal the election was. They will decide to convict rather than acquit. And that they will decide to disqualify this man from ever again, holding office. It shouldn't take very long, but it's going to have to be presented in full and that's what I'm confident the House managers will do.

COOPER: Republican Senator Rand Paul, as you know, asked for a vote on Tuesday about the constitutionality and trying a former president. He invited law professor Jonathan Turley to flesh out the argument to oppose the trial and a meeting with GOP senators prior to the vote. Can you give us a sense of how that argument is received among constitutional scholars on both sides of the aisle? I mean, have Republicans signed on to something which is largely considered debunked?

TRIBE: Well, Jonathan Turley, I have to say is something of a hack. He himself wrote the very opposite not that long ago. He will say what he needs to say. But the overwhelming majority of scholars believe that the Constitution does not contain a 2-week loophole, during which anyone who tries to steal an election can then have kind of open season because you can't complete a Senate trial before the inauguration of the next president. That would be an astonishing loophole in the Constitution. Whatever Turley may think it's not there. The framers were not that stupid.

COOPER: I'll read something else that you wrote today on Twitter, you said nearly as vital as convicting and disqualifying Trump is rejecting the proposed transition loophole that would give any defeated tyrant a 2-week open hunting season between January 6 and 20th. To commit whatever high crime she chooses, without ever facing a senate impeachment trial. Do you think Republicans actually understand they could be creating a new precedent as a result of their actions? That this transition loopholes you wrote?

TRIBE: They may not understand it yet. But when Jamie Raskin who is a professor of constitutional law before he became a congressman, when he's done and when the other eight really extraordinarily talented house managers are finished, they will surely understand it. But they will understand is that if you set up an institutional scheme, under which a president who is simply unwilling to take the verdict of the people and take their verdict that he is out who claims that it's a fraud unless he wins. And who twists arms and does everything he can to overturn the result of a free and fair election.


And then when that doesn't work, he stormed the Capitol with hundreds of people with arms. They'll understand that when that happens, you can't then say that, between that date, which is always January 6, and the end of the President's term, which is two weeks later, that unless you can get him fully try, by the end of that time, he turns into a pumpkin, he's out there, raising hell. But he can't be tried. He can't be convicted. He cannot be disqualified.

You know, in a USA Today, poll, just yesterday, two-thirds of the people said they don't want this man ever to hold office again. And yet he's consolidating support among a rather violent one-third, and he will be back if not him, then someone smarter unless we avoid creating this ridiculous loophole, because otherwise, at the end of any president's term, if he's not satisfied with the election results, it's open hunting season. It's really scary.

I think people may not yet understand what a horrifying precedent that would set, but they will by the end of this trial. We shouldn't assume that people's minds are fully made up. I'm willing, at least to say that we ought to give people a chance to hear the evidence.

COOPER: Professor Laurence Tribe, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

TRIBE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER (voice-over): Just ahead, we have new comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci, whether current vaccines will be effective against that more virulent strain of COVID first detected in South Africa, which are now confirmed to be here in the United States. His words, when we continue.



COOPER: Breaking news in the battle against coronavirus. Just a short time ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the first confirmed cases of the South African strain of the virus, considered to be far more transmissible than what we have faced so far.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we're going to be finding out soon, literally likely within the next couple of days, is whether or not that the vaccines that are used, that we use or that are equivalent to the ones we use are actually effective or not.


COOPER: He added that early data from a vaccine trial for the company Novavax adjust the vaccines may not be as effective against new, more virulent strains, and that a booster would need to be used to address them. Adding another hurdle to a vaccine rollout that's obviously been far from perfect. Another concern about these two new cases discovered in South Carolina, no known travel history or connection between the individuals.

Want some perspective now from Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore Health Commissioner and our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, part of what we learned today about the two cases that the new variant of South Carolina is that these two people were tested weeks ago in early January, what does it tell us about whether there are other cases out there? And what should the Biden administration be doing about sequencing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it almost assuredly means there's other cases out there. And probably a lot of other cases out there, as you mentioned, no known travel history and no known connection between these two people. So, they haven't been able to find through contact tracing other people yet that, you know, either may have infected these two or that they have infected, but it's surely out there. I think it raises a couple points. So one is that we do need to be doing a lot more genetic sequencing. I mean, keep in mind, we still need to be doing more testing overall. But here's the issue, you know, if you, when you're doing genetic sequencing, you can start to find these variants much earlier. In the UK, for example, they're doing about 5 percent of their samples are getting a genetic sequence. Here we're doing, you know, closer to 0.3 percent. And, you know, what they say is, if you're getting between 5 and 10 percent, you're going to have a much better chance of catching these variants. So, that's, that's really the issue. Just to give you a little context, you know, if you look at the UK variant, the first confirmed patient with the UK variant in this country, it will be one month tomorrow, it was December 29. Now, a month later, that variant has been found in 30 states. And they've gone back and look at samples even before December 29 and found that it was already there before then. Point is it happens, and it happens quickly, once these variants start to spread.

COOPER: Yes, and I mean Dr. Wen to that point, there's a travel ban for non-U.S. citizens traveling from South Africa that goes into effect tomorrow night at midnight. Seems like, I mean, is that enough? What should American travelers be doing when they reenter the U.S. from South Africa? And should there be a 14-day mandatory quarantine in place?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think that would also help. I mean, I do think the travel ban for non-residents will do something because it will likely weed out some individuals who were asymptomatic or not residents and who would have otherwise traveled here. I also think that the mandatory testing requirement, we'll do something as well, because it's for If nothing else, it's going to deter people from traveling, because the testing requirement is pretty difficult, depending on where you're going in the world.

But I think we should be looking at mandatory quarantine in other countries have done. And I think we need to do a lot more when it comes to these variants here in the U.S. as well, because ultimately, we need to be controlling community spread in the U.S. since the South African variants, but certainly the UK variants are already here.

COOPER: And Sanjay, you know, Dr. Fauci was talking to us about this last night on our town hall about the boosters that are being created now for the vaccine for the variants. How long a process is that?

GUPTA: Well, you know, there's sort of two possible boosters' sort of strategies here. One is to essentially give a booster of the existing vaccine. So, instead of two shots, for example, it would be three shots. And the idea is to just create even more of these neutralizing antibodies, with the hope that it sort of -- it helps cover these new variants. But the other sort of booster would be one that is more tailored toward this particular variant, the South African variant in this case. And that's, you know, it's a it's basically retooling the genetic code.

Right now, the genetic code is for a very specific portion of the virus, this spike protein of the virus, it would still be for the spike protein but take into account these mutations that process probably about six weeks they say. It's not very long to actually create that new mRNA platform. You do have to then do some basic safety testing, again, phase 1 safety testing.


But you remember Anderson, Dr. Fauci said after that phase 1 is done. They can sort of bridge the data with the other data that's been collected on the previous vaccine that's called a bridging trial. And that can sort of accelerate the process. So within a couple of months, you could have potentially a sort of retooled vaccine.

COOPER: And Novavax says, its UK phase 3 trial shows its coronavirus vaccine has 95.6 percent efficacy against the original strain of the virus. And as I mentioned, Dr. Fauci was not that happy with its efficacy against the variance. But Sanjay what more do you have you learned about this?

GUPTA: Yes, we can show you the numbers. I mean, some of this data is just coming out. As you mentioned, against the original virus, you know, pretty effective. But once you start to look at the UK, data, I'm sorry, the UK variant, it drops to closer to 85.6 percent. For the South African variant, it was still early data to phase 2b data, but it's 60 percent. It's not bad. I mean, everything is going to be measured now compared to what we're used to hearing, which is 90 percent plus. But there's clearly a drop off with these variants.

And I should point out that in that that particular Novavax trial, they had a site in South Africa, and 90 percent of the people who were in that trial in South Africa had the South African variant of the ones that got infected. So, it's it was there, it's spreading over there, clearly. And we got some idea of what the current vaccines effectiveness is against them.

COOPER: And Dr. Wen, I mean, are there going to be -- so now there's a Brazilian variant, there's the South African one, there's the UK variant, the longer this goes on, are there more variants? And do they get weaker or do they get stronger?

WEN: This is exactly the problem that there are other variants. I mean, just by nature of this being an RNA virus that mutates, the more it replicates, the more it's going to mutate. And when you have selective pressure, you also will be selecting for the mutants that are the most contagious and spread the most easily. And so, when you look at where these variants have already come up, that are more contagious, Brazil, South Africa, the UK, these are places where there has been a lot of community spread. Where else has there been a lot of community spread right here in the U.S.

And so, it's actually very possible that there are already homegrown variants right here, that may be more contagious. But as Sanjay was saying, because we haven't been doing that level of genomic surveillance, we're not picking up on it. But I think that's what makes it even more crucial for us to expedite vaccines. Some people may be looking at this saying, well, if there's going to be a booster shot, let me wait until there's a booster. But actually, that's exactly the opposite response. We should be saying because of how much this is spreading, we need to do everything possible to vaccinate people and give them immunity now.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, Sanjay, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

(voice-over): Still to come tonight, D.C. was like a fortress for the inauguration. Now we're learning some of that fencing may become permanent and effort rent any other attack against the Capitol, suggestions, causing some pushback. Details on that next.



COOPER: Some more breaking news to report with the Department of Homeland Security warning of a heightened state of threat from domestic terrorists inspired by the attack in the Capitol, the acting Capitol Hill police chief has called for permanent new security measures around the Capitol, including at least one that appears to have met both resistance from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with detail. So, what do we know about the moves being considered?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So the acting police chief, in a statement said that she's considering and kind of advising Anderson that there be permanent fencing around the Capitol. And obviously, this has caused quite a stir here, the mayor here saying she does not want to see that. And then both Republicans and Democrats both sides of the of the aisle here, voicing their disagreement with this. Of course, the Capitol is this open, sprawling complex that really you can get very close to and walk around. This would be a significant change around the Capitol.

You know, something perhaps that we haven't seen since 911. At some government buildings across the country, security stepped up as a result of that. This now will change the dynamics completely of the capital. We have yet to hear from Nancy Pelosi on it. So, we'll see what happens.

And as you said, Anderson, of course is coming as there's this high alert here in Washington D.C. Just today, we learned of an arrest of a 70-year-old man -- 71-year-old man who had a gun in his car after he was stopped by Capitol Police. And then he had some concerning literature writings in his vehicle with the names of some of the lawmakers. It just highlights and shows the concern all across Washington D.C. today.

COOPER: You also have an update on man photographed with excuse me, his feet on Nancy Pelosi desk.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Well, today was his bail hearing. He had a hearing here in Washington D.C. And the judge just was not having it Anderson. She really had some blistering attack on him. His name is Richard Barnett. Everyone by now knows him. He has his feet on a desk inside Nancy Pelosi's desk and she really went out and she called what he did an assault on American democracies. She said he was brazen and titled. She said that you can still see the remnants of what he did what he's alleged to have done. Just outside of her courthouse. The courthouse is just blocks from the Capitol.

And as a reminder, she said you can look outside the window and you can see what you are accused of doing the result of that. And she said that we are still living in D.C. with the consequences of that violence. She then said that he was dangerous and that she was going to be keeping him in jail as he awaits trial. Anderson.

COOPER: Have there been any updates from the FBI on threats? PROKUPECZ: So, one of the things they're mostly concerned and talking to sources is for lawmakers as they start to leave D.C., as they say are going home and on weekends and things like that there's a lot of concern over their safety. So they're trying to work with them to see what ways they could perhaps law enforcement how they could step up security for some of these lawmakers. Anderson.


COOPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it.

The news continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris.