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J&J to Apply for FDA Emergency Use Authorization Next Week; At Least 21 People Arrested In Capitol Riot Are Military Veterans; Former President George W. Bush To Thank Dick Cheney "For His Daughter's Service". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 29, 2021 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Chris is off tonight.

In our second hour of 360, the faces, of the Capitol insurrection, and how many, of them belong to ex-service members. Also, new up-close video, that should erase any misconceptions about the attack.

First though, the uncertain moment we are all now in, when it comes to COVID.

Today, Johnson & Johnson said it would apply, next week, for Emergency Use Authorization for its one-shot vaccine. It also released Phase 3 study data showing it to be 66 percent effective in preventing moderate and severe disease and was 85 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I want to point out that this has important potential and real implications, both domestically and globally, because as many of you are aware of, this is a single-shot vaccine, in which you start to see efficacy anywhere from seven to 10 days, following the first and only shot.

It is very, very good with regard to cold chain requirements, namely requiring only a refrigerator. It is inexpensive, and the company is capable of making doses in the - in the numbers of billions.


COOPER: It is a tremendously hopeful development. As we discussed, in the first hour, with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Leana Wen, who herself is participating in a second arm of the study, looking at the benefits, if any, of a second dose.

But any celebration of the news is tempered by this, from the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, a new projection suggesting that even with vaccines coming online, the next few months could be worse than imagined. Here to talk about is IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray. Also, with us,

infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist, Dr. Celine Gounder. She served as a member of the President's COVID Transition Advisory Panel.

So, Dr. Murray, your new model, projects, anywhere from, 25,000 to 85,000 additional deaths, with U.S. suffering 654,000 deaths by May 1st, in the worst-case scenario.

I know you factored in the new variants. But you've also included something called rebound mobility and governments not "Taking action to apply cautionary measures as quickly as expected."

Can you explain both of those factors?

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Sure. Yes, I think on the rebound mobility, the idea, Anderson, is that we are starting to hear small-scale data that once people get vaccinated, they think it's a pass to go out, stop wearing a mask or being much less cautious.

So, we've built in a pretty conservative view of that that a quarter of the people, who get vaccinated are going to start to go back to being more mobile. It could be much higher, and we'll really need to track that carefully. So that's the rebound part.

And in some states, like California, it's really important, because they've just dipped under the point, where they're getting the epidemic under control, easy to go back up, and start seeing transmission again.

COOPER: Dr. Gounder, the idea of--


COOPER: Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead.

MURRAY: No. And the other part is that what we've learnt on states taking action is that despite having high transmission rates, some states have not put in the mandates that we would have thought they would. And so, we've taken that into account.

We've looked back at the behavior of different state governments, and said in those states that don't take action, very quickly, we don't expect them to put the brakes on through mandates, when - if transmission gets bad again.

COOPER: Dr. Gounder, so the idea of the rebound mobility, people who are vaccinated feeling more confident to do things, combined with governors easing restrictions, for example, New York's Governor Cuomo opening up indoor dining to 25 percent, starting on Valentine's Day, how dangerous a combination is this?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST, SERVED ON BIDEN TRANSITION COVID TASK FORCE: Well, Anderson, I am really concerned about this relaxing of social distancing measures. You and I live in New York City. I feel very uncomfortable going and

dining indoors. We are supporting our local restaurants, in other ways, by getting take-out, and tipping very generously to people who work there and who deliver the food.

But this is not the time to be relaxing those kinds of measures.

This is the time with the emergence of these variants, whether it's the variant from the U.K., which is more transmissible, which may in fact be more virulent, we don't have a definitive data on that yet, but even if it's just more transmissible, that translates into more cases, more hospitalizations, more deaths.

And then you have this variant from South Africa, another one from Brazil, which seem to, at least to some degree, the vaccines as well as natural immunity, have less of a protective effect against the South African and Brazilian variants.


And so, this is not the time to be relaxing our measures. We should be doing everything possible to prevent transmission of the virus.

COOPER: Dr. Murray, you agree with that?

MURRAY: I really do. I think the risk of the South African variant, particularly because the results from the Novavax trial had the sort of big surprise that having been infected, in the past, from the other variants, gave you no protection against the new variants.

So, you can get it twice. Lots of people have. And that really changes the equation for the long-term as well. So, this is not the time for us to be bouncing back to our previous lives.

COOPER: Let's just talk about that a little bit more, Dr. Gounder, because I mean I think a lot of people still think, well, if you had COVID once, you're not going to get it again. You can get, if you had the old COVID, and there's a new variant, you can get the new variant?

GOUNDER: So, what we're seeing is people who had mildly symptomatic or no symptoms at all, with their first infection with COVID, their immune responses are highly variable. They may not be very strong, and they may not be very long-lasting. And on top of that they may not be protective against these new variants.

And so, this is why we've been saying - one of the many reasons why we've been saying all along that natural infection to reach herd immunity is simply not the way. This is a situation, where the vaccines are at least more reliably protective.

And even though there is a decrement, a lesser degree of protection against the South African strain, with some of the vaccines, they are still largely protective. So, we really should be ramping up and accelerating vaccination at this stage.

COOPER: Dr. Murray, just to reiterate, though, getting the vaccine, even if you've had the double dose, with the vaccines they need the double dose, you still need to wear a mask, because you can still - the vaccine doesn't prevent you from getting infected. It just will prevent you from having symptoms or hospitalization from it, correct?

So, you still - you can still infect other people, is that right?

MURRAY: So, we have really compelling evidence for Pfizer, Moderna, you know, now Johnson & Johnson for the vaccines, and Novavax, by the way, for the vaccines to prevent severe disease. It's much more of a question about how much the vaccines prevent you from being infected.

And again, if you take all the trials together, and think about the ones that prevent mild cases, as well as looking at the severe, and probably the vaccines prevent about half of transmission not, you know, 90 percent.

So, yes, you can still - you can still get infected, you can still transmit, we suspect, even when you're vaccinated.

COOPER: And Dr. Murray, what's the reality, I mean, what percentage of the population is wearing a mask? And has vaccine hesitancy decreased at all?

MURRAY: So, the great news is that, over the last four months, five months, Anderson, the Americans have heard the message. More of them have worn a mask. We're up above 75 percent that wear a mask. So, that's really great.

COOPER: That's great!

MURRAY: And holding steady. We have, you know, it'd be better if it was 95 percent. That's certainly the case, and we can save lives that way.

But in terms of the direction of that - of vaccine hesitancy, the other question you asked, we've seen the numbers go up a little bit, from 53 percent to, 10 days ago, saying that, yes, they'll definitely take the vaccine. We've got up to 54 percent. So, that's a small movement in the right direction.

Hopefully, all the discussions in the media, about both safety and the benefits of vaccination will be able to get more of the unsure, the other quarter of Americans who were unsure, saying, yes, they want the vaccine.

COOPER: Dr. Gounder, when it comes to the vaccine, you say that communities may be experiencing a tipping point. What do you mean?

GOUNDER: I think what we're seeing is once maybe 30 percent, 40 percent within a certain subgroup have been vaccinated say, for example, among health care workers.

Where you're seeing all your friends posting on Facebook, on Twitter that they have been vaccinated, that it's been safe and effective for them, then everybody else sort of tips over. They come onboard because they realize that "You know, it's actually

safe and effective." And they trust it when they hear it from their colleagues, from their family, from their friends.

And so, I do think we are going to see some of the hesitancy fade away. I think you just have some people who want to wait on the sidelines, sit on the fence, so to speak, just watch others get it first. And if it works out for them, then they feel more confident.

COOPER: Dr. Murray, I don't know if you - I know you've been tracking this, obviously, for the whole time, because you keep doing these studies.


But what's the lowest - do you know, off the top of your head, what the lowest percentage of mask-wearing has been in this country? I mean it is now 75 percent. What was the lowest?

Because I - you and I have talked about this, over the course of the year. I seem to recall there was someplace where it was below 50 percent or around 50 percent, but do you - do you remember?

MURRAY: Oh, we went far below that. So, places like North Dakota and South Dakota had mask-wearing rates well below 30 percent, at different points, during the epidemic.

There's been a - people start wearing masks more when things are bad in their community. We see that quite a bit. We also saw, of course, at the beginning of the epidemic very little mask use.

But there's been places that have been pretty more resistant to mask- wearing than others. Fortunately, no one's below 50 percent, at this point, but we have been down in the 30s.


MURRAY: You know?

COOPER: Well, let's keep getting that message out to people, and thank people, who are wearing masks, because that's obviously critical.

Dr. Celine Gounder, appreciate it. Dr. Chris Murray, thank you very much.

Coming up next, the troubling pattern emerging in the people charged with attacking the Capitol, namely lot of them had past military service.

And later, the question of QAnon, whose signs and members were all over the attack. We'll be joined by an expert on this conspiracy cult and how deeply it's taken root in the country.


[21:15:00] COOPER: There's new developments tonight in the facet of the January 6th insurrection that could have dramatically escalated the death toll. The FBI says two pipe bombs, discovered near Democratic and Republican Party headquarters that day were planted the night before.

The Washington Post obtained the security camera video of the man the FBI says is a suspect, seen here walking in a Capitol Hill neighborhood. There's now a $100,000 reward for information leading to location, arrests and conviction of anyone responsible for placing the bombs.

Meantime, more charges in the attack itself, and some breaking news. Federal prosecutors charged a woman, who they say, could be heard on a selfie video, saying "We were looking for Nancy," meaning Nancy Pelosi, "to shoot her in the friggin' brain but we didn't find her."

In all, more than 160 people have been arrested so far, and CNN has discovered a disproportionate number of them are veterans, at least 21, whom we know of.

More now from CNN's Sara Sidner.



SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They have the tactical training, gear and guns to bring the war home. CNN tracked down nine of the military veterans, who are charged in the Capitol siege.



SIDNER (voice-over): This guy is one of the most well-known, a far- right personality, known for, spouting extremist views, long before January 6th.

BIGGS: Hey, what's going on, everybody? This is Joe Biggs.

SIDNER (voice-over): 37-year-old Joseph Biggs is an army veteran. He is also a leader in the far-right violence-prone Proud Boys. His violent rhetoric got him banned on social media sites.

On January 6th, in Washington, D.C., it wasn't just rhetoric. Prosecutors say he did aid, abet, counsel, command, induce, or procure others to unlawfully enter the U.S. Capitol by means of destruction of federal property.

This is Biggs as he helps lead the Proud Boys to the Capitol steps.


SIDNER (voice-over): Once there, one of his Proud Boys, this guy, broke into the Capitol. According to court documents, 20 seconds later, Biggs is seen inside the building.

Biggs is charged for an alleged commanding role in the insurrection. A judge ordered he could go home on house arrest. We visited him there.

SIDNER (on camera): Mr. Biggs? I'm Sara with CNN.

Look, all we want to ask you is whether or not you were in the Capitol, on January 6th, and what you were doing there.

BIGGS: (inaudible).

SIDNER (on camera): I'm sorry?

BIGGS: I'm calling the police.

SIDNER (on camera): You're calling the police you said? Are you an insurrectionist?

BIGGS: Oh God no.

SIDNER (on camera): You're not an insurrectionist? Well come talk to me. What - what are you? I've seen some of the things that you've said over time. They've been pretty violent like give us an answer. What are - what were you doing in the Capitol on January 6th?

BIGGS: If you don't get the (BLEEP) out of here, I'm calling the police right now.

SIDNER (on camera): If we don't get the F out of here, you're calling the police?

SIDNER (voice-over): Former Army Captain Gabriel Garcia, of Miami, Florida, is also a Proud Boy. He ran as a Republican for state office and lost the vote in 2020.


SIDNER (voice-over): Here he is, inside the Capitol, and now accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct, on Capitol grounds, among other charges.

According to the federal complaint, Garcia posted video of himself, inside the Capitol, saying "We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It's about to get ugly," and that he also called police "F- ing traitors!" for trying to stop the siege.

Time after time, our efforts to get comment were met with calls to police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment, leave. Leave now.

SIDNER (voice-over): This man was outside the business of insurrectionist suspect Ryan Nichols in Longview, Texas. Nichols was not there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling 911 right now.

SIDNER (voice-over): On the street, outside his house, his neighbor confronted us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it. I'm going to call the police right now.

SIDNER (on camera): All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have an issue with that.

SIDNER (voice-over): Nichols is a former marine who ended up on "Ellen" for his work rescuing dogs in hurricanes. He also runs a wholesale business he says has made him a fortune.

RYAN NICHOLS, OWNER & PRESIDENT, WHOLESALE UNIVERSE, FORMER MARINE, MILITARY VETERAN, FACES CHARGES IN U.S. CAPITOL RIOTS: Hey, Ryan here. I'm the Owner and President with Wholesale Universe. I've made millions of dollars on the ecommerce platforms.

SIDNER (voice-over): This is also him, in a Camo hat, at the Capitol. On the right side, his Texas buddy, Alex Harkrider. Both are military veterans, who also ran a non-profit.


SIDNER (voice-over): In D.C., the FBI says Nichols sprayed what is believed to be pepper spray, in the direction of federal officers, trying to restrain the mob.

Court documents show Harkrider posted this on Snapchat. "We're in. Two people killed already. We need all patriots of this country to rally the F up and fight for our freedom or it's gone forever."

They are both charged with conspiracy and assault with a deadly weapon on a federal officer.

Former FBI agent Michael German, who spent years, undercover, in domestic extremist groups, says he's not surprised so many of the rioters are former military. There are many possible reasons for their actions, but one stands out.


MICHAEL GERMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FELLOW & FORMER FBI AGENT: What we've seen too often is that this kind of ideological militancy is allowed to exist in the military. And there isn't enough effort to root it out and to actually paint it as a - what it is, an anti-democratic movement and - that's a threat to our security within our security forces.

SIDNER (voice-over): That includes an army veteran, who was awarded a Purple Heart.

According to court documents, Joshua Lollar is caught on police body camera video wearing a gas mask, at the Capitol, saying, "Yes, I'm good. Just got gassed and fought with cops that I never thought would happen."

Lollar was released on bond to his home. His father briefly talked to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell you anything.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you know him? Are you his dad or?


SIDNER (on camera): You are. Is there anything you want to say, just on his behalf?


SIDNER (voice-over): We also went to this accused Texas veteran's home. He is out on bond, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please leave your message for.


SIDNER (voice-over): Air Force veteran Larry Brock is seen dressed for combat, inside the Senate chamber, holding zip ties. Brock is the guy in the green helmet.

BROCK: I agree with you, brother, but it's not ours.

It belongs to the Vice President of the United States.

SIDNER (voice-over): Authorities say he may have intended to use those to restrain individuals, who he saw as enemies, presumably lawmakers, something Brock denied to "The New Yorker."

1,000 miles away in Woodstock, Ohio, two more military veterans face some of the most serious charges yet in the insurrection, including conspiracy.



SIDNER (voice-over): That's Army veteran Jessica Watkins in the background, and former marine, Donovan Crowl, in front, both dressed for battle, inside the Capitol.

Watkins' boyfriend knows them both.

SIDNER (on camera): What's he like?

MONTANA SINIFF, WATKINS' PARTNER: When drunk, the guy you want to shut up. When sober, the best man you could have.

SIDNER (on camera): What was she doing?

SINIFF: She was supposed to help protect some VIP members within the Trump rally. And then, of course the - Trump said that they'll protest, and some people took that to mean more than they should have probably.

SIDNER (voice-over): Crowl was right there with her, so was Thomas Caldwell of Clarke County, Virginia. The three are the first to be indicted on federal charges of conspiracy, obstruction, and destruction of government property. Caldwell's disdain for Congress made clear before they stormed the Capitol.



COOPER: And Sara Sidner joins us now. We heard the last guy in your report call lawmakers "Traitors." I know you came across some people actually have political aspirations of their own.

SIDNER: Yes, in fact, the guy you just saw calling lawmakers "Traitor," Thomas Caldwell dabbled in politics. He was actually a Delegate in the Clarke County, Virginia Republican Convention.

And as you saw, earlier in the piece, the Proud Boy and accused insurrectionist, Gabriel Garcia actually ran for state office, here in Florida.

It is interesting to us to see that people, who have seemed to have such disdain for people, who were duly-elected to office, actually ran for office themselves. Anderson?

COOPER: Sara Sidner, appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

So, why were so many veterans drawn to the Capitol attack? And how much should the Pentagon be doing to help those, who could be in the military - help find those, who could be in the military now. We'll take a look at that next.




COOPER: CNN's Sara Sidner just reported on the number of military veterans charged to date in the wake of the rioting. It's alarming and worth repeating of those charged and arrested the number is at least 21.

During the insurrection, we also saw many rioters wearing military- style gear. All raises a lot of big question, of course, among them, just how many more actually involved, or want to join these insurgents.

Let's get perspective now from retired lieutenant general Mark Hertling, CNN Military Analyst.

General Hertling, it's good to see you. Why do you think that the number of former members of the military is relatively high among these - among those arrested?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think we have to look at some facts first, Anderson.

There was a 2019 poll, in Military Times, a newspaper, and they said one-third of all active troops, and one half of minority service members, in the military, have seen signs of either white nationalism or ideological racism in the military. Now, these extreme views aren't new. They have existed within the military for a while.

But, unfortunately, what we've seen is an uptick in society. And because the military is a reflection of the society, it serves, they are recruited from the society, you're going to see, probably, the same uptick, in the military that you've seen in the society, over the last couple of years. That's unfortunate.

And certainly, what I'd say, in the past, the military that I belonged to, before I retired in 2013, we used to focus on addressing behaviors, not so much attitudes, but behaviors.

In other words, what I'm saying is if an individual came into the military, and had personal background or experiences with racism, or some kinds of extreme views, we wouldn't try and correct that attitude. But we would say, "Hey, any exhibition of behaviors is inappropriate, and you'll be punished for it."

Now unfortunately, what we're seeing is more of a manifestation of those behaviors in the open, not just in the military, but in society as a whole. And you're going to see these same kind of things in the military.

And yes, I actually believe that the military has a problem. The vast majority of troops, Anderson, let me state this first, the vast majority of those, serving, are extremely good people.


HERTLING: But there is a segment of the military that certainly have these extremist views and will exhibit them.

COOPER: Yes. And I mean I certainly second that. I mean it's the service of so many people, and the military is a reflection of society, at large, and the vast majority of people, who are serving, and who have served incredibly honorable, and are doing incredibly important work.

One of the things I guess though is so disturbing, too, is sort of the embracing by some of these extremist groups and like QAnon conspiracy theorists of the word "Patriot," you know? HERTLING: Yes.

COOPER: They refer to themselves "A patriot," and "Patriot" has almost become a code among QAnon followers.


It's - I just find it particularly galling that it's people who are assaulting police officers are calling themselves "Patriots," you know, people who, even if they have served, who are choosing to attack members of the National Guard or police. It's - it's wrong for them to be using that term.

HERTLING: Yes. I find it not just galling but disgusting.

These are individuals, who really don't understand the norms of the society. They will bring away with them and identify with the term "Patriot," which for those, who are true patriots, who understand the history and the societal functions, of a democratic republic it has nothing to do with the kind of anarchist behavior and mob-like behavior we're seeing.

You know? It's interesting to me, Anderson, having served in foreign wars these are the same kind of individuals that we saw in complex insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And just like in those kinds of societies, where they would take on names, like Ansar al-Sunna, Ansar al-Islam, Al-Qaeda, the 1920 Brigade, the kinds of formulations of "Hey, we're here because we have this great historical context of what has - the kind of fighting that's gone on in the past, we're here to revive that," and they seem to remember - or they seem to forget the society has moved on.

And societal norms are different. And if you want to have your voice heard, you do it in a civil manner within the government.

And that's what's so galling about this. There are those of us, who have fought and died and bled for our countries. And these people that are doing these kind of things certainly don't represent that.

COOPER: Yes. Lieutenant general Mark Hertling, I appreciate your time as always. Thanks.

HERTLING: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot of lawmakers are under fire for dangerous rhetoric, leading up to the insurrection aftermath, freshman congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene especially under scrutiny now.

New developments on that front, next.



COOPER: The 10 House Republicans who opted to put Trump on trial again are facing great backlash for voting their conscience, particularly the third-ranking Republican in the chamber, Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

In Trumpian style, the ex-president has said to be focusing his energy on revenge against her. And he clearly has willing acolytes like Matt Gaetz, who traveled to Cheney's home state of Wyoming, yesterday, to wage a smear campaign, with her constituents.

Tonight, we're learning about plans by former president George W. Bush to call Cheney's father tomorrow, his Vice President Dick Cheney, for two reasons, according to his Chief of Staff, to wish the elder Cheney a happy 80th birthday and to thank him for his daughter's service.

Sounds like he is sending an underlying message there!

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has expressed support for Congresswoman Cheney. But he also just showed his undying allegiance to Trump with that visit to Mar-a-Lago, yesterday. So, where he stands is well, pretty clear.

Joining us now, with their insight, two, CNN political commentators, Scott Jennings, a former Special Assistant, for former president George W. Bush, and Paul Begala, Democratic Strategist.

Scott, what do you make of your former boss' calling up Cheney? Do House Republicans care what President Bush thinks?


And I'm glad he's doing it. She deserves support. I mean, if this whole thing were to end, and the only person, who suffers any consequences for it, is Representative Cheney that would be a travesty, because she did nothing wrong, except say what was on her heart, and basically speak the truth.

And so, if she suffers some political consequences, and nobody else put this mob together, suffers at all, I mean that would be just outrageous for that to be the outcome. So, I'm glad President Bush is getting involved.

I don't know how persuasive he'll be to the Conference. I hope the Conference makes the right decision and leaves her in the leadership.

COOPER: You know, Paul? It seems like it's taken just a blink of an eye, I mean, I guess what, three weeks and a day - day and a half - or now two days, for the Republicans to be rewriting history, on actually what happened on January 6th.

And we haven't heard yet from South Carolina Lindsey Graham yet although he did hop on a helicopter with, I believe, the President going down to the border, even after saying "Oh, you know? He's out, He's done."

But you have McCarthy going down and kissing the ring with Donald Trump. I mean they've all - are they - have they all just decided "You know what? That's where the base is and we have to kowtow to the people in our districts because we want to stay in power?"

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that's the very opposite of the definition of leadership. But I think that is what we're seeing, in some quarters. Scott Jennings, a notable exception. Scott is a person of principle. We disagree (inaudible) worked for Clinton, worked for Bush. But that's very different from what we're seeing right now. And

(inaudible) only a few weeks ago but that mob - well the mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.

You know what they did? They tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government. That's the very definition of insurrection. That's a definition of terrorism. That comes from Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell said that. Why isn't he acting like it?

This was not - we now know and we're learning more and more this was not just a political rally that went - they - they brought guns. They planted pipe bombs. They had TASERs. They had zip ties. They had a noose.

They had murderous intent, and they killed one cop, and they probably would have killed a whole lot more, if they had gotten ahold of our national leaders, including calls to murder our Vice President, at the time, Mike Pence.

There has to be consequences. Scott Jennings is exactly right. Anyone who fed and incited that mob, as Senator McConnell said, has got to be held to account. And that's got to happen, or the Republican Party is just going to collapse.

COOPER: But Scott, I mean the idea that the Republican Party is going to collapse or - I mean isn't this the Republican Party kind of showing what way they're going to go?

I mean if Liz Cheney, as you said, is now public enemy number one, and McCarthy's gone down to Trump, and he apparently told Republicans "Stop attacking each other," you know, the day after Matt Gaetz continues to attack Liz Cheney, and is now campaigning in Wyoming to unseat her, I mean is there - isn't this where the Republican Party has decided to head?


Because that's where, you know, didn't they send up trial balloons with McConnell and even McCarthy right after the insurrection, sort of saying the President's responsible, but they seem to be singing a different song now.

JENNINGS: Yes, I mean it's a mess. I mean I don't know what else to - how else to describe it. It's a mess.

And if the Party is fighting itself, if you've got Republicans trying to take out Liz Cheney, instead of being unified against, say, the more liberal parts of the Biden agenda, it really does, just from a political perspective, hamper the Party's ability, I think, to win in the future.

I mean, historically, the first mid-term of a presidency is good for the out-party. And so, right now, Republicans really ought to be unified, in presenting a different face to the country than what Biden is going to present, and using that for an electoral platform.

But, right now, what they're telling the American people is, "You know what was wrong? We didn't have enough Trump!"

And what we learned, empirically, from the election is that is not a winning hand. And it wasn't a winning hand in the 2018 mid-terms. And it wasn't a winning hand in Georgia.

So, insurrection aside, the Party has to tell the American people what it wants to do apart from Donald Trump. And it doesn't appear to me that they're trying to do that right now.

So, my advice to the Republicans would be "Get unified. Get focused. Dispatch the crazy. Focus on an agenda that would be a reasonable governing alternative to what we have, and you just might trip into some majorities in 2022."

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Paul?

BEGALA: And the key to that--

COOPER: Yes, go ahead.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Anderson. If I may interject, the key to that is dispatching the crazies. It's not easy.

A century ago, my Party, the Democratic Party was infested and infected with the Ku Klux Klan, a 11 governors, 15 senators, 75 congressmen.

And it took 40 years for the Democrats to purge the Klan and those racists from their Party. But we went - the Democrats went from being the Party of Bull Connor to being the Party of Barack Obama.

Now, the Republicans don't have 40 years. This is the 21st Century. Things move much, much more quickly. But if they move quickly, and now, they can do this. And it's only going to get worse, the longer they allow this infection to fester.

COOPER: Well that's the thing, Paul. I mean the president is out of power - the former president is out of power. This was the opportunity to rid themselves of him, not only through impeachment, but voting to not have him be able to run for federal office ever again.

Obviously, there would be political costs for that. There would be blowback from that. But this was the chance. They have clearly seen which way the wind is blowing, or at least they believe the wind is blowing, among their supporters, and they've chosen not to do that.

BEGALA: And it's a tragedy. It's a tragedy for the country. We need a strong, normal mainstream Republican Party. I have to say, if I put my partisan hat on, instead of my patriot hat,

and Scott's right, it's a terrible political move for the Republicans.

Democrats haven't won a single Senate race in Georgia in 20 years. That was my friend, Zell Miller. 20 years! We won two, last week, or this month. So, it's (inaudible) Republicans, even in a very Red state, like Georgia, which is now becoming purple, in part because of this crazy.

So, this is where the moral thing to do, is to cleanup your Party, and to purge the lunatics, as the Democrats did with the Klan. And it's also actually politically a better course.

But it's the cowardice of their leadership. I don't want to blame their followers. I want to blame their leaders. If the leaders stand up, and lead, then I think the Party will follow.

COOPER: Yes. Paul Begala, Scott Jennings, I appreciate it, thanks.

Just ahead, more on the QAnon conspiracy theory, a look at its beginning to the present moment, and why its rhetoric and bogus charges are focused on well-known folks.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: The QAnon conspiracy theory that's driven Republican politics and its followers participating in the attack on the Capitol is the subject of a new CNN Special Report that we've been working on.

It's called "INSIDE THE QANON CONSPIRACY." It airs tomorrow night, traces the Movement's beginnings through the present moment.

It's also something of a personal project, as the QAnon fringe has previously focused on me, and a bunch of other reporters, as well as many other public figures, as somehow being responsible for some of their more outlandish, should we say, and bizarre conspiracies.


COOPER (voice-over): I was also called a pedophile.

Phony flight logs, reported to be from convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein's airplane appeared online with my name and dozens of other well-known people. It's all made-up, of course. But QAnon supporters seem to believe it or at least use it to try to harass me.

Jitarth Jadeja was a believer until June 2019.

COOPER (on camera): Did you, at the time, believe that Democrat - high-level Democrats and celebrities were worshipping Satan, drinking the blood of children? JITARTH JADEJA, FORMER QANON SUPPORTER: Anderson, I thought you did that. And I would like to apologize for that right now, so I apologize for thinking that you ate babies. But yes, 100 percent.

COOPER (on camera): You actually - but you - but you actually - you actually believe that I was drinking the blood of children?

JADEJA: Yes, I did.

COOPER (on camera): Was it something about me that made you think that?

JADEJA: It's because "Q" specifically mentioned you, and he mentioned you very early on. He mentioned you by name.

And from there, if - he also talked about like, for example, like family. But yes, and I - I'm going to be honest like people still talk about that to this day. I - there were posts about that just four days ago. So, some people thought you were a robot.

COOPER (on camera): You really believed this?

JADEJA: I didn't just believe that.

I, at one stage, believed that QAnon was part of military intelligence, which is what he says. But on top of that, that the people behind them were actually a group of fifth-dimensional interdimensional extra-terrestrial bipedal bird aliens called Blue Aliens.


I was so far down in this conspiracy black hole that I was essentially picking and choosing whatever narrative that I wanted to believe in.


COOPER: Joining me now is Kevin Roose, Technology Columnist for "The New York Times," who's reported extensively on the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Kevin thanks so much for being with us, and taking part, also, in the documentary.

We just heard from this former QAnon follower, who, I'm glad, came to realize that their theories and beliefs are completely made-up. He said that he believed a group of extraterrestrial bird aliens were helping QAnon. The idea that that is an actual idea that some of these followers believe is just - I do not understand just rationally how somebody does that.

I know you've spoken to a lot of QAnon followers. Are they ever able to give you a good explanation for why they believe these really insane theories?

KEVIN ROOSE, TECHNOLOGY COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well some of it is just what he told you. It's because "Q" told them.

I mean "Q," this anonymous message board poster has posted thousands of times with clues and cryptic messages about celebrities, about Democrats, about things that he believes are happening in the Deep State.

So, it's partly that and partly, I think it's that "Q" has sort of become a big tent conspiracy theory that has really engulfed every other major conspiracy of the last 50 years.

So, you'll find people in QAnon talking about 9/11, you'll find people in QAnon talking about aliens, you'll find people talking about the moon-landing. You'll find basically every major conspiracy theory has been kind of wrapped into QAnon in this really interesting and troubling way.

COOPER: But they've done something, though, that's very smart, which is they've used - they have a hashtag or they had a hashtag "Save the Children," and they've used what is, you know, there's a legitimate organization called that, which helps children around the world.

This idea of that there's a global cabal of celebrities who are trafficking children, drinking their blood, in order to get some sort of a chemical, eating children, they've used that idea of, "Well, you know, if you want to save children, get involved in this."

And it's sort of that's a safe entry point for a lot of very decent people who, of course, want to save children. And there is international sex trafficking of children and of adults, you know?

I mean, these - but it's not this cabal and drinking blood of children, Satan worshipping that they're claiming. It's much more organized in a business, frankly. So, it seems like that's a safe fig leaf that gets people in the door.

ROOSE: Yes, that's part of their recruiting strategy. They start you off with these more innocent sorts of almost factual - there's a factual basis for being worried about things like sex trafficking. So, they use that.

They'll go into parenting Facebook groups, or anti-trafficking groups and they'll start to see these news stories, and these theories, and then they'll use that as kind of the on ramp to the rest of QAnon.

They'll say, "Well, if you buy that, then let us tell you about who we think is doing the trafficking, and what else they're doing to the children."

COOPER: I know you and your reporting - anybody who reports on them gets attacked by them, and it's not a pleasant experience.

I've tried to engage with some of the followers who have sent me death threats or harassing me in the past. And some of them seem like very, you know, I look at their Instagram pages. They seem like decent people. They have families. They have children. They seem like a, you know, nice photographs of them, doing just family stuff. But there's no real way to discuss this with them because, I mean, how

do you prove? It's like, you know, the old question like, you know, I mean accusing someone of beating their - they're beating their wife.

How do you prove a negative, or how do you convince somebody you haven't done something when there's no evidence that you have done something?

ROOSE: Yes, it's really hard. And I've gotten this too, not only because I've reported on QAnon, but because I work for "The New York Times," which people in QAnon believe is part of the Deep State plot.

And they - I've had people tell me to my face, "Look, you seem like a nice guy. I know you get your talking points from the CIA, that they brief you every morning, on what you're supposed to write that day. But you seem like a nice guy."

And you just kind of have to acknowledge that you're not going to really find common ground on that one, and try to find other things to talk about.

COOPER: Right. Well the other thing they say is "Well, by not publicly denying these charges, therefore, of course you must be guilty, because any normal person would deny them." But if you deny them, you're giving air and oxygen to them, so you're caught in this bind.

Kevin Roose, your reporting on this has been amazing. I appreciate your time.

Our documentary airs tomorrow night at 9:00 P.M. I hope you watch it.

Still to come, a rare and special honor for the Capitol police officer, who, died after defending democracy on January 6th. Details when we continue.



COOPER: Breaking news to report. Just short time ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the Capitol Hill police officer, who died, as a result of the attack, on the Capitol, January 6, will lie in honor, in the Capitol Rotunda, next week.

Officer Brian Sicknick died after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher during the fight. He served on the Capitol Hill Police force, for more than 12 years. Before that, he served six years with the New Jersey National Guard.

In their statement, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer said "The heroism of Officer Sicknick and the Capitol Police force during the violent insurrection against our Capitol helped save lives, defend the temple of our democracy and ensure that the Congress was not diverted from our duty to the Constitution."

The ceremonial arrival will take place next Tuesday, 9:30 P.M. Eastern Time. Congressional tribute will be held the next morning.

News continues right now. Want to turn things over to Don Lemon and "CNN TONIGHT."

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining. And it is obvious this country is in a race.