Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); GOP Leader McConnell On GOP Rep. Greene: Loony Lies And Conspiracy Theories Are Cancer For The Republican Party; Pres. Biden Meets With 10 GOP Senators On COVID Relief Plan; First Major "Unity" Test; CDC: 471 Cases Of New COVID Strains Detected In 32 States; Sources: Investigators Recommend Against Charging Capitol Police Officer Involved In Shooting, Killing Of Rioter. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 1, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So far U.S. officials have condemned the treatment of the Russian opposition leader and the protesters. But it now won't be until after the court hearing tomorrow, when it's known if Navalny will be freed or kept behind bars, that the U.S. and its allies will be expected to act. Back to you, Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thank you so much, Matthew. And thanks to all of you. Anderson starts now.

[20:00:29]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, and a man who says nothing casually has just weighed in on QAnon supporter and freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. What he just said could matter a lot, we'll tell you in just a few moments.

First, we begin tomorrow morning, just in time for Groundhog Day, House Impeachment Managers will file papers laying out their case in the second trial of the 45th President of the United States. And in keeping with the spirit of the day, there's a lot about what he is accused of as well as how he is conducting his defense that will bring on a sense of deja vu, especially when it comes to how much of the wrongdoing played out in plain view.

Sources familiar with the matter say the impeachment team intends to establish that the former President's incitement of the Capitol insurrection was intentional and went on for months, something that we all saw and heard over and over again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, this election was stolen from you, from me, and from the country.

It's going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud.

This was not a close election. You know, I say sometimes jokingly, but there's no joke about it.

It was a rigged election. You look at the different states, the election was totally rigged.

There's no way we lost Georgia, there is no way.

I've been in two elections, I won them both. And the second one, I won much bigger than the first, okay.

Because the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged. Remember that.

Frankly, we did win this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So in addition to documenting that, the prosecution is expected to lean heavily on video from the attack itself and the President's speech that preceded it.

[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]

COOPER: This is footage of the mob's earliest push to get inside the Capitol. In it, you see insurrectionists charging, walking up to a barricade resulting authorities say in a serious injury of a Capitol Police officer who suffered concussion in the assault. You see the man taking off the jacket there, reversing his hat.

The video is evidence in the case against Ryan Samsel. He is accused of knocking over the officer. Then according to court papers, he picked the officer up off the ground saying quote, "We don't have to hurt you. Why are you standing in our way?"

As you know, five people died in the assault. Two more police officers later died by suicide. Numerous officers suffered serious injuries. The suspect is still at large in what might have been two mass casualty pipe bombings.

So as bad as the day was, it might have even been worse and the threat of right-wing violence has not subsided.

Then of course there's this, with a week to go until the trial, the President just changed his legal team. Apparently, it's because the prior team would not do what he wants, which is to argue that he won the election.

In other words, they left in part because the former President wanted them to lie on his behalf. Something no attorney is actually permitted to do.

Let me put it another way, the President lost his legal team in part because they wouldn't argue in the impeachment trial the very thing that inside of the insurrection that the former President was impeached for. Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY: He's not a very good client. He doesn't take

advice very well. He is unpredictable and he doesn't pay his bills. So it's not surprising that he's had trouble here maintaining counsel.

It's not surprising that he is asking them to violate the rules of professional ethics by making factually unfounded arguments such as that he won the election, and it's actually not surprising that a week before the impeachment trial, he had to go out and find another pair of lawyers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Jason Miller, a spokesman for the ex-President rejects the notion that he wants to argue election fraud telling "The Washington Post" it is, quote, "fake news." Consider the source there and take it for what it's worth.

As for the new attorneys, Bruce Castor on the left is a former Pennsylvania district attorney, best known perhaps for deciding not to charge Bill Cosby with sexual assault. He was later sued for defamation by one of Cosby's victims. The two sides later settled that case.

The other lawyer, David Schoen has represented Roger Stone and says he was in talks with convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein shortly before his death which Schoen doubts was suicide.

[20:05:10]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SCHOEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The reason I say I don't believe it was suicide is from my interaction with him that day. The purpose of asking me to come there that day over the past previous couple of weeks was to ask me to take over his defense.

I said -- we came to an agreement during the course of that discussion. We met for five hours on August 1st, I said that I would want to meet with his team first to see how they felt about that, and then we would go forward. We mapped out a strategy going forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he was upbeat?

SCHOEN: He was upbeat and excited about going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The defense will present its brief tomorrow as well, so we could learn whether if in fact, they will attempt to frame it the way the former President said to want it. If they do, then welcome back to Groundhog Day because trying to justify unjustifiable conduct was part and parcel of the first go around: a President asking a foreign government to help smear his rival, remember that, and getting away with it.

After which, this President far from learning his lesson as Senator Susan Collins once said he would does the unjustifiable yet again, because the only lessons he has learned is that Republicans will not hold him accountable. Only this time, instead of trying and failing to recruit Ukraine's President, he successfully recruits a domestic mob and meet hot stove yet again.

And don't forget, this isn't really his second time, it's his third. He made the Ukraine call just a day after Robert Mueller testified in Congress essentially taking him off the hook in the Russia scandal. So cue up the Sonny and Cher campers, rise and shine.

Joining us now, one of the impeachment jurors, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. Senator Blumenthal, what does it say to you that it was President Trump's determination to continue pushing the big lie that the election was stolen as his impeachment defense, and that's reportedly why the entire legal team quit this weekend? I mean, that lie is exactly what led to him being impeached a second time.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Anderson, thanks for having me. What it says to me is that he is going down a path of falsehood, a big lie, which has been rejected by more than 60 court decisions. It's been refuted by many of his former allies, and it has been absolutely rejected by lawyers who were told to argue it in court because they would be violating their oath to the court, which is that they would tell the truth, not deliberately lie.

And it tells me also that this trial, he is seeking to turn into some kind of vindication of that big lie, which is ultimately doomed.

COOPER: You've said about impeachment. You've said trials have an enormous impact on public awareness. I wonder how concerned are you that if President Trump's defense is continuing to lie about the election, could that lead to more chaos or potentially even violence?

BLUMENTHAL: I think that the big lie, the falsehoods, the deliberate kinds of deception that he is trying to foist on the Senate and the country will be even more abhorrent as a result of this trial, because what will be shown is the graphic consequences of his inciting a mob to assault the Capitol, try to stop vote counting and even assassinate public officials.

These injuries, which included stabbings, trauma, concussions, spinal breaks, and of course, loss of an eye, in the case of one Capitol policeman, five deaths are the kind of really repugnant consequences of his action that I think will have an effect on the country.

And it's not just that they resulted from his inciting this assault, but they were the result of deliberate and intentional and purposeful action on his part, which I think will be the proof, most powerful in this trial.

It will be his own words. It will be a short trial. It will be an open and shut and pretty straightforward set of evidence consisting of what he said in his tweets before to invite and implore these people to come to the Capitol. What he said afterward, in fact, as he sat in the Oval Office,

clearly, that constitutional law argument is flat wrong. But I think it would be wiser for him to rely on it simply as a trial tactic than in fact go through these falsehoods rejected already by courts, and ultimately further discrediting him.

[20:10:29]

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, appreciate your time. Thank you.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Perspective now from CNN contributor, former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, also CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, you've got some new information about what we can expect from the former President's new legal team in their filing tomorrow.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, I have some information from a source who is familiar with their brief, and he said to me that the focus is going to be on what he called the unconstitutional nature of the Democrats' impeachment witch hunt. So he said, there will be four to five major themes, the unconstitutional nature will be the biggest.

But when I asked about the rigged election and whether that's going to be on there, the response was, that will not be the quote, "focal point." So it's clear it's going to be mentioned, I guarantee you once it's mentioned, it becomes a focal point for the Democrats.

COOPER: But the main argument is, is their contention that it's unconstitutional to try a former President?

BORGER: That's right. And you can't convict a former President. He is out of office. But if that were the case, then why would he have lost his other attorneys because that's what Butch Bowers, the attorney who left was presenting -- was planning on presenting. And you know, Butch Bowers, I was reporting a piece on him by all accounts, is an ethics lawyer respected on both sides of the aisle. Somebody who does his homework, is not a show horse.

And what I was told over the weekend was that the situation had become untenable. We don't know exactly what those conversations were. But there's other reporting that says that, in fact, Bowers did not want to talk about the election and the fact that Donald Trump believes he won.

COOPER: John, I mean, even if -- for the attorneys to argue that, you know, a former President cannot be impeached. That certainly from -- just from, you know, a legal standpoint, even though many legal scholars say that's ridiculous, it does give cover to, you know, Republican senators who don't want to have to decide whether or not to impeach the President, it's an easy out for them to just say, oh, well, you know what, it doesn't matter the merits of it, it's just -- we can't do it. It's unconstitutional. But even if part of the former President's defense is that the

election was stolen from him, how can you use lies as a foundation for a defense?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's difficult. Your point, Anderson, that the constitutional or unconstitutional argument is a good cover. You can argue an Oxford comma is unconstitutional. That doesn't make it so. But it gives somebody an argument, which deflects from the more serious matter at issue, the underlying issues.

What is going on? What is the incitement of the riot? And how you can argue that because he believes or wants to perpetuate the big lie that he actually had the election stolen from him is just not really very logical.

It's very easy to understand why his last team of lawyers resigned, because he was probably pushing and insisting that this be the thrust of their argument, and they knew it, one, it was not a good argument; two, it's not true. And the House Managers can decimate this argument, and that might be a healthy thing to happen for the American people.

So in a way, I'm kind of hopeful they do argue this because I think they can put it to rest.

COOPER: John, just very briefly, what's an Oxford comma? Is that different than a regular comma?

DEAN: That's a whole other program, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. I'll go look it up afterward. Pardon my ignorance on this.

Gloria, so the wildcard in all of this is, of course, the former President. What else do you know about what he wants to do and what his advisers are saying to him?

BORGER: You know, I've been asking around and when I asked, well, does Donald Trump want to testify? Do you expect him to testify? The answer is, "Not that I know of," which is one way of saying anything can happen with Donald Trump, but not many people, if any are advising him to do that.

You know, again, with Trump, even people who are close to him just don't like to predict what he is going to want to do.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger and John Dean, I appreciate it.

Coming up next, the breaking news: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking out and sparing no criticism of the extremist Congresswoman, the conspiracy theorist who could soon be facing sanctions for things she has said, what he compared her ideas to when we come back.

Later, COVID relief legislation, the President wants to go big; Republicans bring him a trimmed down plan and call for unity. We will bring you the latest on their meeting at the White House which wrapped up just a short time ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:19:00]

COOPER: Breaking news now from Capitol Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just unleashed a scathing attack against Republican Congresswoman QAnon supporter, Marjorie Taylor Greene. He pointed directly at her without actually calling her by name. It's pretty clear though who he is talking about.

In a statement released by his office, McConnell said and I quote, "Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country. Somebody who suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre- staged and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.'s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party."

Meanwhile, sources tell CNN Greene could meet as early as tomorrow evening with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy as Democrats are demanding should be removed from her Committee assignments for an array of unhinged statements, some of which, McConnell's statement just referenced.

Last week's K-File uncovered Miss Greene's support for executing prominent Democratic politicians before she was elected to Congress and on one social media post recently unearthed, she agreed with people who claimed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida nearly three years ago was a quote "false flag operation."

[20:20:12]

COOPER: Coming up, I'll talk to the mother of one of the victims of that shooting, had a private conversation with Greene to get her take, but this afternoon perhaps wary of potential discipline, the Congresswoman suddenly reversed course in an interview with the very conservative One America News network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): These are not red flag incidences. They are not fake and it's terrible, the loss that these families go through and their friends as well and it should never happen and it doesn't have to happen if we would protect our children properly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: She said red flag instances as opposed to false flag, I'm not sure if there's any significance with that. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now with the state of play.

So, Ryan, has the Congresswoman responded to Senate Minority Leader McConnell's rebuke. RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She did in fact, she

tweeted out almost immediately as that statement was first released. She said, quote, "The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully. This is why we are losing our country."

And Anderson, I have to admit, over the next couple of days, if she is hoping to stay on these committees that she is currently sitting on in the House of Representatives, you would expect to see some level of contrition from her because of these past statements. If this statement is any indication, that's likely not to happen.

COOPER: I mean, it is -- you know, suddenly she's under all this pressure. So now, she has come forward and says that oh, you know, it wasn't a -- what she called a red flag operation. I don't know what that means, false flag is the term that she had used in the past, where does everything stand in the House as far as holding Congresswoman Greene accountable for her past statements?

NOBLES: So normally, if a Member of Congress is going to be removed from their committee, the leader of their party is the one that makes that decision. But at this point, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has not shown an inclination to make that move. So now House Democrats are moving forward in doing it, and in order to do that, they have to bring a resolution to the House floor to make that happen.

That process begins on Wednesday where the Rules Committee will meet to officially take up that resolution. Now, Congresswoman Greene will have the opportunity to appear before the committee at that time to make the case if she wants, but Democrats have made it very clear that they're not going to wait for McCarthy anymore. They believe this rises to a level where they need to take action.

Now, Anderson, we should point out this could lead to a precedent that we haven't really seen in the Halls of Congress before. Usually, the committee assignments are decided by the parties themselves. So for a majority party to take action on a minority party member would be unprecedented.

COOPER: What kind of -- I mean, they can't -- can the Democrats, you know, which have the majority, can they remove her from her committee assignments? I did say -- I thought that was only a thing the Republicans could do?

NOBLES: No, so Kevin McCarthy could unilaterally just do it on his own, decide that she is no longer a member of the Education Committee or the House Budget Committee. The only way the Democrats can do it is if they have a majority vote on the floor to make that happen and that begins in the Rules Committee where they'll have a debate about it there and then it would have to go to the floor of the House of Representatives.

But we should point out, Anderson, that even though Democrats have the majority, there are Democrats concern about setting this precedent. They would prefer for Kevin McCarthy to make this decision on his own. And that's why Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader has basically laid down this, you know, this situation for Kevin McCarthy to say if you don't do it, then we're going to do it for you and he is basically giving him about 24 to 48 hours to make that move.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate the update. Thank you. Before we get to our next guest, there's video we want to show you and warn you about it. It's very disturbing and violent. It has no sound.

It's of the shooter in the hallways at Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. Now, as you will see, students are running for their lives up a staircase and down a hallway.

By the doorway, there is a teacher. His name is Scott Beigel, a geography teacher and cross country coach ushering his students inside a classroom. He died to protect those students. Scott Beigel's mother gave us this video. She told us she wants you to see it, she wants you to see the attack. That day was no false flag operation.

[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]

[20:25:20]

COOPER: Joining me now is Linda Beigel Schulman, Scott's mother, she and Congresswoman Greene spoke privately before Miss Greene's statement earlier today. Linda, thank you for being with us.

When you hear Congresswoman -- this Congresswoman finally say in public on a conservative media network that she believes school shootings are not what she called -- not red flag operation, although false flags is what she called in the past, I'm wondering what you thought of what she said.

LINDA BEIGEL SCHULMAN, MOTHER OF SCOTT BEIGEL, VICTIM OF MARJORY STONEMAN HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: You know, I think it's good that she finally admitted, let's say in a well-crafted statement that these shootings do take place. It's clearly the bare minimum, but it really doesn't even scratch the surface as a reach-out.

COOPER: The idea that this Congresswoman after liking horrendous comments online about school shootings was placed on the Education Committee. Does that make any sense to you at all?

SCHULMAN: Somebody was truly not thinking. I mean, Kevin McCarthy couldn't have been thinking when he put her on the Education Committee. How can you be on an Education Committee when you, even in the past and present, whatever way she wants to say or it was said when you're accused, because she said she didn't -- she said she never said it. She said it was the media. Okay. She even -- she talked about that today, okay.

But if it was the media, and people and her followers got ahold of this, and it was quite the conspiracy theory. Why didn't she stop it then? Why did she wait until now to come out with her bare minimum statement? Why didn't she stop it then? What did she have to gain? Why did she have to rustle up her followers, her clan of a cult, whatever you want to call it, you know, and tell a lie or let the lie go? She said she didn't do it, but let the lie go over and over and over

until people started believing because we know people believe lies. All you have to do is look over the past four years, you tell a lie long enough and you get people to believe you.

COOPER: And I think it is clear the reason she didn't do that is either she believes it, which is entirely possible, perhaps even worse. She doesn't believe it, but she knows it will get her votes because there are other sick people out there or conspiracy minded people out there who believe it and she doesn't have the guts to stand up to them.

She has publicly embraced QAnon. She has said that this mysterious Q who has posted these anti-Semitic, bizarre, terrible conspiracy theories is a patriot. She's talked about, you know, the plane didn't hit The Pentagon on 9/11.

When you spoke to her over the weekend, did she give any reasons for why she has -- I mean, not only supported lies about -- at the very least about the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings in the past?

SCHULMAN: No, she said that -- she said she didn't do it. It was the media that they took, I believe it was a Facebook post or some post that she had said about Scott Peterson getting his pension, and that she was horrified that that could happen and that the media turned it around, which was fact checked to be false, of course.

But you know, it's so funny, because I think she used political strategy on both sides. Political strategy that she didn't come forward to say anything or to negate what was being said, okay, and now on this side of the fence, she is using political strategy to maybe save herself a little bit, because she's getting bombarded by all sides right now. And quite honestly, it's a really horrible way to conduct yourself.

COOPER: I mean, it seems pretty clear that the only reason she would make, you know, this limited statement that she has made on a conservative network is because her back is to the wall because there is a very real possibility that she will finally face consequences for the lies that she has been spreading.

SCHULMAN: Anderson, if she really wanted to -- to be, you know, like, we would say, you know, I don't know what the female word for mensch is, I really just don't know. But if she wanted to stand up, and she really wanted to turn down the temperature, she would just make a statement. She would make a statement. She would say that the Parkland shooting was not a false flag. It was not a staged event. And she would say that so that everybody could hear her.

And you know what? She could use the excuse that she would want to why it got to where it was, but she needs to stop it and her statement today was -- listen, it was so well crafted. I mean, I even put it in quotes in front of me because I had to read it over and over to try to find where she actually recanted what she said about Parkland. I can't find it in those words anywhere.

[20:30:34]

So, I mean, stand up, tell the world, that that's not what you believe, because I did have the conversation with her and we had a very cordial conversation, OK. And she told me straight to my face that she didn't believe that. So why not tell everybody? Why not take away the hurt and the anger that she's caused with the people from (INAUDIBLE) talk about the people from Parkland?

I mean, I certainly know them. Why can't she take that away? Why is it so horrible? I mean, it wouldn't hurt her. It can hurt her with her followers, because everybody knows that Parkland happened. Everybody knows that that Sandy Hook happened.

I mean, the former President knows it happened because he spoke about it. It wouldn't take her out of his good graces. It just makes no sense. I mean, she has all sorts of conspiracy theories. And she can have those. I don't want to really get into those right now.

But the one that that touches me, that goes to my heart, that puts me in disbelief. OK. Is the one about Parkland? I mean, you can see it, you saw the video. I mean, I've said it before, I'd be more than happy to take all of her followers or anyone who believes what she says, let's go on a field trip or let's go on a bus trip or whatever.

And I'll take you to the 17 grave sites of the people from Parkland. I'll show it to you. She knows it. Nobody in the world could convince me that she believes those conspiracy theories about Parkland, no way. She looked me straight in the face on the Zoom. And she told me that she didn't believe it. So tell everybody.

COOPER: You see this word, manche. I'll use another one, which might be misusing it. But it's Shonda and which is shame and she has no shame. And that's how she can look you in the eye and say these things, which are different than what she has said previously, because she has no sense of shame. Can you tell me a little bit about -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

SCHULMAN: I don't mean to step on your words. I'm sorry.

COOPER: No, no, go ahead.

SCHULMAN: I'm quite honestly being forced to defend the fact that my son was murdered in the Parkland school shooting is beyond absurd. Nobody -- never convinced me that I would have to defend the fact that my son was murdered, in that shooting in that massive (ph).

COOPER: And there are far too many parents who have had I know parents from Sandy Hook, who have had the, the playground that they dedicated for their child, had to face by people who've, you know, denied their child even existed. Can you just talk a little bit about Scott, What was he like?

SCHULMAN: I could talk forever about Scott.

COOPER: We have a lot to be proud of him. SCHULMAN: You know, Scott was just a normal kid. OK, he was a normal kid. But he was humble, really humble and really private. I'm sure wherever he is, he's saying, Mom, I can't believe you're making my life so public. What is wrong with you? I'm sure. He had super dry humor. And he was really sarcastic anybody who knows him.

He -- I think his greatest qualities were that he treated people the way he wanted to be treated. And he loved he loved mentoring kids. He just loved it. And the kids loved him back. I just wish that he knew how much he was loved back by his students and his cross country team. Because he'd always say to me, you know, Mom, I can do better, I can do better. I just don't know what it is. But I know I can do better.

And, you know, Scott got a champion for the underdog. He really was that there was a child that maybe didn't fit in, or a child that was unhappy, or something that he could that he thought maybe he could do. He was the first one to bend down and say to somebody, I said, what can we do? Or, you know, you seem like you're not part of those people over there that are maybe playing soccer. What is it that you would rather do?

Scott really did treat others the way Scott wanted to be treated. And I think that's an amazing, amazing attribute (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: He would champion others and you are championing him and thank you for being with us, and it's not an easy thing to do, and I'm sorry, you're in this position where, where you have to, but it's important. Linda Beigel-Schulman. Thank you very much.

[20:35:09]

SCHULMAN: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you for having me tonight.

COOPER: Coming up next, the White House has just weighed in on talks tonight between Republicans pushing for smaller COVID relief package and a president who says the need is far too great. Not to go big. We'll be right back.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's breaking news tonight of the President's COVID relief legislation and a drastically less expensive, less comprehensive proposal being offered by a group of Republican senators. They met with the president tonight. Afterwards, Senator Susan Collins spoke to reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I wouldn't say that we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two-hour meeting. But what we did agreed to do is to follow up and talk further at the staff level and amongst ourselves and with the President and Vice President on how we can continue to work together on this very important issue.

So, I think it was an excellent meeting. And we're very appreciative that as his first official meeting in the Oval Office, the President chose to spend so much time with that's in a frank and very useful discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the question with the two sides, about $1.3 trillion apart is what's next? Also, are Republicans bargaining in good faith. And how far is the President willing to go in the name of the unity that he campaigned on? Lots to talk about CNN Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

So, Senator Collins there, Kaitlan, you hear what he says, what's the White House saying about this meeting?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she sounded pretty upbeat there. And the White House just put out a lengthy statement. Well, they also said it was a cordial meeting. They don't sound near as close to an agreement as what you kind of heard from Republicans who said they continued, they agreed to continue to talk further than this, because in this White House statement, they are saying that President Biden will not settle for a package that they say fails to meet the moment.

And the other key part of this read out from the White House that sticks out is they say every part of this package is save America or this rescue America plan that they've crafted and proposed was carefully designed to meet the moment they say.

[20:40:11]

And what you could read into those words, Anderson is that there's not a lot in this package that the White House wants to change. They've said, maybe they would, you know, come down a little bit on stimulus checks that there's room for compromise there.

But other than that, what they're saying in here, and what they're talking about with mentioning reconciliation, which is that process they could use on Capitol Hill to only get Democratic support for this proposal does not sound like this meeting today is going to actually result and then coming closer to what that Republican proposal is going to look like, given the White House has noted just how much -- how smaller it is, I guess you would just say, just to put it bluntly.

COOPER: There is a wide gap between what the President wants and obviously what the senators wanted, you know, and what they're putting for. What could the average person actually get from this package?

COLLINS: Well, from the Republican package, it's a lot different just because mainly, it's the stimulus checks, there is a difference. There's no federal minimum wage in here for $15 an hour. That's what Biden has in his package, there's a difference in how long the extended jobless benefits would go for.

But it's the stimulus checks that everyone is really focusing on. Of course, you've seen in Biden's package, it starts with this $1,400 stimulus checks that's on top of the $600 that passed earlier or late last year. But what Republicans have in their proposal are these $1,000 checks. But they're much more targeted to people with lower incomes. Basically, they're trying to limit who gets this because their complaint and you've even heard this from some senators Democrats.

So, there is a chance maybe this could change is that too many Americans making too much money that have not been really affected by the pandemic in a financial way would be receiving and benefiting from these stimulus checks. So that's an area to keep an eye on to see if that comes to an agreement.

But one thing the White House makes clear in their statement is they still want to move with the urgency here. So, they're not saying there's a lot of time for them to go back, have their talks and then come back together and come to an agreement. So it remains to be seen, but it does not sound like they came closer to accepting a lot of those Republican proposals.

COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan, appreciate it.

In fact -- stay right there. We're also going to bring in CNN chief national correspondent John King.

John, we're learning that Senator Joe Manchin, obviously key Democrat was frustrated by an interview Vice President Harris did last week with a local West Virginia station pushing for the larger stimulus plan. Do we know where he stands on all of this?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has said he would like a smaller package. He has said he thinks 1.9 trillion is too much into Kaitlan's point. Senator Manchin has said things along the lines of some of those Republicans saying he thinks so far that the money should be targeted more to middle income and lower income Americans and not people who he considers to be in the more affluent class. So I do think you will see President Biden tweak the plan somewhat in that regard.

Look, Senator Manchin, loves to be in the middle of it. During the Republican presidency, he wanted to be in the middle of these bipartisan negotiations. During this Biden presidency, he is essential because Joe Biden cannot afford to lose any votes in the Senate 50-50 even divide.

So he will be in the mix of it. This was bad politics by the White House, they should at least have given him a heads up. And they should have said we're doing this to help you. We're doing this to create a climate in your state where people will vote for big, so they're going to have to smooth some feathers there.

But I will tell you this. The Republican governor of West Virginia, did the President of United States of favor today, the governor, the Republican Jim Justice, saying he'll take a bigger package right now people need it. That will help President Biden in the end, it might actually help Joe Manchin vote for a package a bigger package and say, hey, the governor needs it. COOPER: John, you mentioned Democrats can't afford to lose any votes in the Senate. Do you think they'll remain united on this issue? Because I mean, as I recall, you know, the Democrats just won two seats in Georgia. And in the final days, that campaign, they were promising $2,000 to people in Georgia worth it?

KING: Yes. Listen, Joe Biden is going to have to call Senator Manchin, President Biden, I should say, have to call Senator Manchin. He's going to call perhaps, Senator Sinema, he might have to do some work within the Democrats, he might have to do some work with House Democrats to tweak the package.

But I think we're talking about this almost backwards. People keep saying is Joe Biden willing to go down? Is President Biden willing to go down to meet the Republicans? The question is much more, are they willing to come up to make it worth him to continue the bipartisan negotiations?

Because to your point, President Biden won the election, Anderson saying he wanted a big COVID relief package after the election, when Republicans were warning don't give Joe Biden and the Democrats blanket control of Washington, both of those Democrats in Georgia won by saying what, let's give people checks. Let's have a big package.

So, the Democrats believe they have the momentum they have the American people. Joe Biden truly believes in process. He believes in talking to Republicans, so he wants to give it a chance. But the question is, will they move to him? Not well he moved to them.

COOPER: So, Kaitlan is out with this meeting was about sort of optics, or was, I mean, this is not really the setting for a serious negotiation, or was it?

COLLINS: I don't think so. It did go on much longer than anyone expected it to about two hours. That's also because there are nine senators in a room, one on the phone and President Biden there as well.

But this was his first big meeting at the White House, the first group of lawmakers that he has invited into the Oval Office and this is comes as the White House has been faced with multiple questions about, is he really pursuing this path of unity if no Republicans get on board with this.

[20:45:07]

But of course, as John noted what the White House is hoping is that even if they do move forward with this reconciliation process, which basically is an easy way of saying they would only have Democrats who voted for this bill, they wouldn't have to get 10 Republicans on board, the White House still thinks that Republicans could vote for it later on maybe facing pressure from their constituents and given the popularity of some polling that the White House has touted on this bill. That all remains to be seen.

And you are seeing people like Joe Manchin voice concern about some aspects of this some specific aspects of this. So if the White House is going to change that we're waiting to figure that out. So far, they have not committed to that they haven't exactly agreed to that. But I do think that a lot of this was also the White House making an effort to show, hey, we invited Republicans here we are sitting down with them. We are listening to them. What it actually changes though. No one is clear yet on that.

COOPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, John King, thanks very much.

(voice-over): Just ahead, with more virulent strains the coronavirus spreading throughout the country. Does the Biden administration need to rethink vaccine administration. Debate when we continue?

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: Two conflicting storylines tonight on the fight against coronavirus. Girst new cases and hospitalization rates down dramatically last month. That's a good sign after January also became the deadliest month of the pandemic.

States and major metro areas like New York, Chicago and L.A. County loosening restaurant regulations as a result. But this comes as a second stories unfolding involving those more virulent COVID strains first seen in the UK, South African Brazil. CDC says at least 471 cases in 32 states have so far been detected.

Short time ago on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci said there's a high rate of reinfection with a strain from South Africa if it becomes dominant. Calls now for the administration to prioritize getting more first doses to people. That includes Michael Osterholm, a top epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota and a former medical adviser to President Biden's transition team. On Sunday, Osterholm used the metaphor of a hurricane to make his point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:50:12]

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CIDRP: Imagine we're at chuck right now, you and I are sitting on this beach where it's 70 degrees, perfectly blue skies, gentle breeze, but I see that hurricane five category five or higher 450 miles offshore. And, you know, telling people to evacuate in that nice blue sky day is going to be hard. But I can also tell you that hurricanes coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: But today the Biden administration indicated it would stick to the two dose schedule group. Want to get perspective now from our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner and CNN medical analyst.

Sanjay there was obviously so much hope when the vaccine started rolling out now with all these variants that hope is certainly if it's not fading, and certainly, you know, more cloudy. Should it be because experts say it could be a long time before we get back to a real sense of normalcy?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, I think this has added a lot more urgency to an already very urgent situation, Anderson. The bad news first, you know, first of all, people who've been infected by this coronavirus and have their own antibodies, there's now increasing evidence that those antibodies may not be as effective against the variants.

So the chance of reinfection, as you mentioned, becomes higher. As a result, there's a lot of people out there who said I had it, I'm done with this, that may not be the case if these variants start to become more and more dominant. Second thing is that the vaccines that are out there, like the Johnson & Johnson data, we know that that while they're effective across the board, they are less effective against the variants as well.

The good news is that like with again, the Johnson & Johnson one, they were still effective against people getting really sick, whether it was the variant or the other, you know, the existing circulating coronavirus, it was pretty effective against people getting very sick being hospitalized or dying.

So, what this really means is we've got to get people vaccinated and quickly, that's the best chance of basically protecting them and getting and slowing down the rate of transmission of these variants.

COOPER: So does that mean Sanjay you think, rather than holding, you know, half of the dose is to give people a second dose so that there's guaranteed to give people a second dose that they should kind of flood the market with first doses?

GUPTA: You know, I kind of do you know, and I realize this is a provocative point that people have gone back and forth on this. I know that the CDC is not yet recommending this. But let me show you a couple pieces of data here. The Moderna trial, we looked at this data pretty carefully trying to get a sense of just how effective is the first dose and then how much more effective when you add in the second dose.

If we show the numbers there 80.2% after the first shot. Now the caveat is that they only studied that for a few weeks, right, because these people then get a second dose three or four weeks later, depending on which vaccine. So it's small data and it's short term data. But it did look promising.

Let me show you Pfizer really quickly here this graph, I want to explain this to you. Because we dug into this when we saw the Pfizer apply for the emergency use authorization busy graphic. But bottom line is this the blue line going straight up to the upper right corner, that's placebo group, people who just got the placebo.

The red line is the number of people who got sick after the first dose, and you can see that line just really flattened out. That's after the first dose. So, it's pretty clear there is a benefit to the first dose. Anderson, people need both doses, we got to do this, right. But we should give people the doses right now not hold doses back and then promise them they'll get the second dose. We are in the middle of a public health emergency here. So, this idea of holding doses back I think just doesn't make a lot of sense. But we should also guarantee them within six weeks, as the CDC says they should be able to get their second dose.

COOPER: Well, Dr. Wen, a can that guarantee be made? Are there enough doses out there? And do you believe -- do you agree with Sanjay on this?

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the guaranteed timely second dose is really critical. And I think that what the Biden team is saying is to the providers, don't hold back the second dose, we are going to guarantee that there's going to be a steady supply.

So if you are holding back on half of your supply, because you think that we're not going to give you a second dose, then go ahead and give that dose now to people who have not gotten anything at all. We'll guarantee that in several weeks time you're going to get that that second. So, I think that is reasonable. But I will just say that the timely second dose is so important because that's how these Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were studied.

By the way, this is different from Johnson & Johnson, which is studying a one dose versus a two dose regimen. So in that case, you could actually have the data and make a reasonable assumption to say if you have a one dose vaccine, it's going to be this effective a two dose vaccine is somehow less effective, but it's worth getting into more people in order to do that. But I really fear that if we don't give that time the second dose, we could be seriously eroding public confidence.

[20:55:04]

Already there are a lot of people who think that we have expedited the vaccine approval and are not following the science while we need to be following the science to the letter here or else we could really erode public trust.

COOPER: Sanjay, Dr. Wen, appreciate it. Thank you.

Still to come, breaking news about whether there will be charges against a police officer involved in the shooting and killing of a an attacker during the last month's attack on Capitol Hill.

Also, a CNN investigation on several rioters who didn't do the one thing you have to do to reelect the president.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news report on the attack on the Capitol last month. Sources tell CNN that investigators have recommended that prosecutors declined to bring charges against the U.S. Capitol Police officer in the shooting and killing of a rioter. The shooting remains under investigation. While no final decision has been made, the Justice Department could make one in the coming days.

Now to a separate CNN investigation involving the attack, state election data shows that at least eight people facing criminal charges for their involvement did not actually vote. Donovan Crowl is a member of a self-styled militia and was removed from Ohio voter rolls in 2020 for never voting.

There's also no record of him voting in Illinois where he was once registered. Jack Griffith faces a number of charges including violent entry. Court documents state that after arriving Washington D.C. he posted on Facebook that quote, the cavalry is coming. Election data from two states where Griffith is live showed he voted in 2016 and 2018, but not 2020.

Yes, there you go. They were talking about saying the election was a fraud. The votes were stolen. They didn't even bother to vote.

News continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right Coop one of your biggest fans has a big day today.

[21:00:00]