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House Democrats Accuse Trump of Singularly Responsible for Inciting Insurrection; Interview with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); House GOP Leader Meet with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 2, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: He went home knowing -- knowing -- that it was a certainty that he would be sent to prison.

All right, thanks very much for watching. And don't forget, you can watch "Out Front" any time. Just go to CNN Go. Anderson, meantime starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: And good evening. Just about 90 minutes from now, the United States Capitol will receive the ashes of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. They will be taken to the rotunda where they will lie in honor, a reminder to us all of the insurrection that caused his death on the 6th of January.

As that happens, the United States senators whose lives and whose staffers lives he died protecting, they are being asked to show some bravery as well. House Impeachment Managers and the ex-President's legal team have today presented their briefs in next week's impeachment trial and just to be clear, the insurrection, at the heart of that trial, it is not ancient history.

They'll be weighing their decisions with the seat of American democracy and their workplace still showing the scars from an attack unlike any we've seen in our lives.


COOPER: The managers' case is straightforward. They plan to use video of the former President's rally leading up to this and comments by his violent supporters to show he instigated the attack.

They also plan to rebut the notion that a President cannot be tried after leaving office. As for the defense? Well, their brief begins with a mistake, a pretty sloppy one actually. At the top of page one, as you see it there, the lawyers misspelled "United States." Those are the ex-Presidents lawyers.

From there, they argue that an ex-President cannot be convicted on constitutional grounds. In addition, though, they make a claim that's pretty easily disproved, reading from their brief quote, "It is admitted that after the November election, the 45th President exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution, to express his belief that the election results were suspect." The brief goes on to say, quote, "Insufficient evidence exists upon

which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President's statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false."

Insufficient evidence? A reasonable jurist? Keeping them honest, more than 60 reasonable jurists decided otherwise already and they were elected judges. They were appointed judges, there were Democratic judges, and there were Republican judges, and they were Trump appointees and they sit on the United States Supreme Court.

The claims made by the President's motley mob of attorneys in the weeks after the election were without merit. They all decided the election results were not suspect. The State of Georgia recounted their ballot three times. Is that somehow insufficient evidence? In fact, when the ex-President asked this at his rally, he already had the answer.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, does anybody believe that Joe had 80 million votes? Does anybody believe that?


COOPER: Yes, 80 million people at least do. Every single Secretary of State, also, Democrat and Republican believed it, every single Secretary of State in every state. Is that insufficient evidence? Is it insufficient evidence that one even told the former President directly just a few days before the rally, Georgia Republican and supporter of the former President Brad Raffensperger, here's a portion of their phone call.


TRUMP: We have won this election in Georgia, based on all of this, and there's -- there's nothing wrong with saying that, Brad.

The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry, and there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: But Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.


COOPER: "The data you have is wrong." Is that insufficient evidence? Again, that's the guy who voted for the former President, who wanted him to win. He just didn't want to lie and cheat for him.

And here's his deputy, also a Republican, back in December warning the former President about the potentially violent consequences of lying about election fraud.


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA ELECTION OFFICIAL: Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed.


COOPER: That was more than a month before the attack. Four days later, armed Trump supporters descended on the home of the Michigan Secretary of State stoked by their defeated President's false claims about election fraud there. A week later, so-called Stop the Steal rallies across the country turned violent.

You see them there. Four people are stabbed in Washington. That same morning at 8:05, the President tweets quote, "I won the election in a landslide."

House impeachment managers say they plan to show precisely this kind of incitement and effect from what the President says to what his violent supporters do. Not all his supporters are violent, far from it. But we're talking about the violent supporters.

This video compiled by the organization "Just Security" shows the former President's remarks on the 6th of January synchronized with how some people in the mob responded, at each moment taken from videos posted mainly on social media. Here is a portion.



TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.


TEXT: Crowd responds. "Storm the Capitol." "Invade the Capitol Building."


COOPER: So that's how the former President's words were received by a number of people who had been fed a diet month after a month of lies by the former President. We've been told -- they've been told not to believe the officials, not to believe the judges, the Supreme Court judges, not to believe the electors.

They've been told both that both day and night, day after day that they had every right to be angry. Yet, somehow, his attorneys in their filing today claim and I quote, "It is denied that the phrase, 'if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore' had anything to do with the action of the Capitol, as it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general."

It sure doesn't seem like a lot of the folks who attacked the Capitol were just doing it for election security in general. That didn't seem to be the rallying cry. Some of them were overly comparing this to -- overtly comparing this to a new American Revolution and chanting about hanging Mike Pence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we're doing -- fighting back.

QUESTION: And what's the point? What's the endgame?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the point? We're losing our freedom. What do you mean what's the point?

QUESTION: Describe it to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Describe -- I am going to describe it to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not even knowing is that -- that's the point right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will describe it to you.

QUESTION: Well, explain it to people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we supposed -- what are we supposed to do? Okay?

QUESTION: You're on camera. Tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court is not helping us. No one is helping us. Only us can help us. Only we can do it.

QUESTION: What are you going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever we have to do. What do you think 1776 was?


COOPER: "What do you think 1776 was?" Was that guy's name is Barton Shively. He's been charged with aiding and abetting civil disorder, forcibly assaulting or interfering with a Federal officer and violent entry.

The President's new team of attorneys will be arguing that he was just at the Capitol fighting metaphorically for election security in general.

Looking at the Capitol tonight, hard not to think about all that happened there not even a month ago, and the seven lives lost in the wake of it. Lives taken, not lost.

And shortly tonight, one of the fallen returns home to it. The question now is how will he be honored by the men and women he protected and the democracy he died to save? Perspective now from CNN contributor and Republican election attorney,

Benjamin Ginsberg, also senior and senior legal analyst Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. So Ben, the filing from the former President's legal team alleging his claims of voter fraud cannot be proven false. What do you make of their filing?

BENJAMIN GINSBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they had a simple task in their filing, which was to keep the 45 Republican senators who voted with them on the constitutionality provision happy, and they opened up a couple of doors that are going to cause great nervousness for that discreet jury.

One of them is the First Amendment part that he was using protected speech, even although it led to the incitement of a riot. And the notion that there was not sufficient proof to show that he was wrong in his remarks is nonsense. There were all the court cases that you referred to before. There were the certificates by the individual states that their votes were correct.

And what he was saying about the election has never received any evidence at all. And that's going to make the Republican senators quite nervous.

COOPER: Preet, do you agree with that? I mean, because what Ben is saying essentially is that the just the argument alone of it's unconstitutional, you cannot put a former President, you cannot impeach a former President. You can't put him on trial for impeachment for when he was in office.

Just after that, that would give cover to a lot of senators to just say, oh, yes, well, I agree with that. We don't even need to go on to the merits of the charges because just -- it is just unconstitutional.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I mean, these jurors, they're not traditional jurors that you see in a criminal trial or civil trial in Federal or state jurisdictions and they can choose to base their vote on anything that they want. And they I think they can still choose to base their vote on that constitutional argument which by the way, is not only wrong if you talk to the overwhelmingly majority of legal experts on the on the question, but also has failed with respect to a particular vote in the Senate, and we already had that vote 55 to 45, including five Republicans said, it is okay and constitutional and proper and legal to proceed.


BHARARA: You can in fact, have a Senate trial of impeachment with respect to a former President. So in some ways that question is settled. And I don't know that senators of either party have much pause when it comes to what their strong beliefs are.

And on the Republican side, what they want to avoid saying or doing.

COOPER: Ben, is that settled? I mean, the argument that a former President can be impeached. GINSBERG: I don't think it's settled. There's not any sort of a court

ruling about it. The Congress is the judge of its own procedures and there's nothing to stop the 45 Republican senators from voting not to convict, because they're wrong about the constitutionality argument. There's no consequence against that, which is why the Democrats need to present and they've indicated they're going to present sort of a strong visual emotional case to try and get the Republicans nervous.

And again, that brief filed today is helpful to the Democrats actually.

COOPER: Helpful the Democrats because it raises uncomfortable questions that challenges Republicans.

GINSBERG: Yes, precisely. I mean, the notion that Donald Trump was right about election fraud is an argument the Republican senators do not want to have to make.

Remember, even when they were challenging the state certifications on January 6, they never argued that there was fraud involved. Now, Donald Trump's lawyers have brought that subject back up in that portion of their answer that you just read.

COOPER: Preet, when you look at what was filed by the President's attorneys, I mean, they misspelled the United States in their filing right off the top. How does something like that just fall through the cracks? I mean, is it just they don't have -- that they're rushing to get it to Kinko's to print? I mean --

BHARARA: Look, it's not -- and it's not an astonishingly brilliant piece of legal writing, but, you know, to give them some credit and to forgive them somewhat, they don't have a lot to work with. I think the argument that the President is making, and the arguments that they must have had with their own client, the President, given the reporting about a raft of lawyers resigning from the case a few days ago. It's a very challenging thing, apparently, both financially, because he doesn't like to pay his bills apparently, and substantively, to represent the present this President, former President of the United States, and so they don't have a lot to work with.

They're being dictated things probably, literally probably sentences being dictated by Donald Trump. They were in a rush, because they were only retained recently. And this is the product you get.

And by contrast, you have a very carefully thought out -- I mean, just, you know, trying to be objective about it. You have a very well written 80-page submission by the House Democrats in favor of conviction on the on the Article of Impeachment that lays out, you know, I think a very clear narrative, marshals the evidence, makes legal arguments that makes sense, and to my quick eye, no glaring typos on page one.

COOPER: So Preet, as a former prosecutor, how do you think the House Managers should go about presenting their case? BHARARA: There was a reference earlier that Ben made to the

possibility that they're going to make a sort of emotional case based on videos and arguments that appeal to passion, and ordinarily, I might think, well, that doesn't make you know, the best possible case. You argue facts and rules.

But think about what is being alleged here. What's being alleged here is that the President of the United States incited an insurrection. The way you incite an insurrection is by appealing to passion, and causing people knowing that they're able to be stoked into this, and having warning signs, including probably from his own law enforcement officials.

And certainly, as you pointed out, from the election official in Georgia, that if you don't tone down the rhetoric, bad things are going to happen, people are going to be harmed and people are going to be killed, that turned out to be true.

So, you know, the entire nature of the proceeding because of the nature of the crime, the high crime or misdemeanor being charged, is very saturated with emotion. And so I think it's an appropriate way for them to go about it to show the public that Donald Trump had every reason to foresee that violence would occur if he spoke the way he spoke, they didn't calm people down and that he wanted to overturn the election.

It wasn't just that he was promoting this idea of a protest. He wanted a particular action. He wanted that action from the Secretary of State of Georgia. He wanted that action from his own Vice President, Mike Pence. And when those things fail, and there's a bunch that I didn't mention, he wanted those protesters, the context shows, to figure out a way by force to impede the counting of the votes and to overturn the election. I think that's clear.


COOPER: Preet Bharara and Ben Ginsberg, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining us now is Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who served as an impeachment manager in the former President's first trial. Congressman Jeffries, thanks for being with us. What do you make of the Trump team's legal argument that the trial is unconstitutional? Because Donald Trump is no longer President and his speech is protected, because there's no proof that he was wrong about election fraud?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, it's certainly a settled question that the trial can proceed even when a former Executive Branch, elected official or administrative official has stepped down.

The very nature of an insurrection by definition, Anderson, is that it's going to come at the end of a President's term as part of the effort to halt the peaceful transfer of power. And so it would defy logic and accountability if someone could simply halt a trial, because there was a failed coup attempt, or failed attempt at sedition and insurrection, and therefore, escape accountability. And so, I think that that is an argument that is not compelling at all. And with respect to the alleged truthfulness of the President's

remarks, every reasonable person in America knows that Joe Biden won the election. He won the election by more than 80 million votes. He is governing now on behalf of people who voted for him and voted against him working on tough challenges on behalf of the American people, and that it was Donald Trump, who was the individual who refused to accept the results and radicalized millions of people, which resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th.

COOPER: I mean, the idea that the defense team would include the false and disproven election fraud claims in his formal response to Congress and state insufficient evidence exists to make a determination on those claims. I mean, Ben Ginsberg was saying that that's just ridiculous. I mean, those claims have been rejected in, you know, some 60 court cases.

JEFFRIES: We have a client in the former President, twice impeached, a President and a disgraced President, who was directing his legal team to do his bidding, and carry out this narrative fantasy of the presidency being stolen. The big lie continues to be perpetrated by Donald Trump, and that is why we are where we are.

And the hope is that there will be a enough decent and fair-minded Senate Republicans are going to follow the facts, apply to law, be guided by the Constitution, and let the chips fall where they may once the compelling evidence by the impeachment managers is presented and hold him accountable for the charge of inciting a violent insurrection.

COOPER: I mean, the rules of the trial, as you know, are still being finalized. Senator Lindsey Graham on FOX News yesterday said that if Democrats hold a lengthy trial, including calling witnesses, it could open up quote, "A Pandora's box." What do you make of that?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think Lindsey Graham is divorced from reality at this particular point in time, because he is no longer in charge of making the decision along with his colleagues on the other side of the aisle in suppressing the ability of witnesses to be called or threatening to call irrelevant witnesses. That was the game that the Republican senators played during the last impeachment trial when they controlled the majority.

But there's a new sheriff in town as it relates to what's going on in the Senate and fairness is going to dictate the witnesses that I believe will be called in this trial. And that's a good thing for truth, for justice, and for the American people.

COOPER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Next, breaking news on what happens to the freshman Republican Congresswoman who has questioned whether the Parkland school shooting was a false flag operation and doubted whether a plane really hit The Pentagon on 9/11, not to mention her support of QAnon beliefs. What the party will do or won't do and what it will say about the party, George Conway joins us.

And later, the new COVID variants and how concerned we all should be about them? We'll ask a researcher who compares what lies ahead to a Category 5 hurricane.



COOPER: We are waiting for word from a meeting happening right now between the top Republican in the House and freshman Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiracy theory supporting Republican from Georgia, the former President once called a future star. She's a QAnon supporter among other things. She is facing possible disciplinary action from Congress and perhaps from her party for incendiary remarks she has made in the past.

Here she is in some newly uncovered video before a protest nearly two years ago advocating her followers storm the Capitol.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): If we flood the Capitol Building, flood all the government buildings, go inside. These are public buildings. We own them. We own these buildings.

Do you understand that? We own the buildings and we pay all the people that work in the buildings.


COOPER: We asked the Congresswoman's office for comment on the video. We got no reply. She is still tweeting including a retweet of a letter containing unproven allegations against some of her fellow House members. Republican leaders today showed signs of losing patience with her, at the same time though, the party seems just as eager and pressed more so to discipline members such as Liz Cheney for their votes to impeach the ex-President.

Here to talk about it, conservative attorney, Lincoln Project cofounder, George Conway. George, good to have you on the program again.

So this new Congress have been in session for almost a month. What does it say that Republicans can't decide if they're the party of Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, or the party of Donald Trump and you know, QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene.

GEORGE CONWAY, COFOUNDER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: I think we're watching if it hasn't happened already, the moral collapse of the Republican Party and this is a product of four years of people who knew better being silent about Donald Trump who himself was a conspiracy theorist, who told 30,000 lies in office, who talked about ridiculous fake miracle cures for COVID, who pretended like COVID was going to go away. And then who told the biggest lie of all that resulted in violence, the big election lie that he had actually won the election by a landslide, but he was cheated out of it.


CONWAY: And you know, in the last -- in those last three months of his term, he tried to destroy -- I mean, this is what the impeachment is all about. And the impeachment trial is all about he tried to destroy constitutional democracy in the United States of America.

And through all of that, Republicans were largely silent. They didn't call him out on this. And the problem now is this conspiracy theory- ism, the QAnon insanity, all of this has metastasized. The Republican Party has now a significant portion of it that is devoted, not just to the cult of Donald Trump, but to just insanity.

And I don't know how you have a Republican Party that can survive with the likes of Liz Cheney being attacked for standing up for the rule of law. And meanwhile, this woman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, propounding bizarre theories and saying that the Speaker of the House should be assassinated and talking about Jewish face lasers. I don't know how -- I don't know how this party can survive like that.

COOPER: Well, I mean, what do you make this slew of Republican senators say, criticizing Marjorie Taylor Greene, are they just trying to get on the record, albeit belatedly for you know, the sake of their reputations? Or do you give them more credit than that?

Because, you know, Jim Jordan, I think said to cameras, you know, before that, or said to CNN before that, you know, he didn't think Kevin McCarthy was going to take her off her committee assignments.

CONWAY: Yes, I think I think they are concerned, many of the senators, about her. They should be. It is destroying the Republican Party to have, you know, the insurrection, to have this. It is scaring away, you know, middle class voters in the suburbs of swing states and elsewhere, they should be terrified.

COOPER: But you have Lindsey Graham today saying he is giving Marjorie Taylor Greene the benefit of the doubt, because he had a, quote, "very pleasant time traveling with her" and wants to know if her social media posts were manipulated. I mean --

CONWAY: Yes. And that that's the problem is they are scared of this, and at the same time, they're scared -- they are scared of what this is doing to the stature of the party in these suburban enclaves. But at the same time, they're terrified of this base, which as I mentioned, has been saturated with these toxic lies.

COOPER: Well, it does seem like --

CONWAY: And they are caught between these. They are caught between two elements, I don't know how it's sustainable.

COOPER: I mean, it just seemed like Lindsey Graham had a moment, like the night of the insurrection, where he said, you know, I'm done. You know, I hate that it ended this way. You know, he was a President of consequence, which means, you know, I mean, that's faint praise, that doesn't mean anything.

But now, it seems like he gets yelled out in the airport, and then all of a sudden, he -- you know, he just won a new term. He's got six years, I don't understand what he is so scared about.

CONWAY: I don't, either. I mean, I'd rather if I were in the position of Lindsey Graham, I'd rather go down fighting for truth and for reasonableness or the rule of law. And yet he is terrified of these people and that's the problem that we have created -- what the Republicans have created by not standing up to Donald Trump for four years is a monster.

They can't -- they are terrified of a base that is saturated with these lies where FOX News isn't even good enough for them anymore. They have to go to other outlets, like One America News Network to get their fill of what they want to believe, even if it completely defies reality.

COOPER: So what happens?

CONWAY: And I don't know how you walk back from that brink.

COOPER: Yes, and so what happens? I mean, where does -- what happens to the Republican Party?

CONWAY: I don't know. I mean, I don't know how -- I don't -- I think that the Republican Party, if it keeps going down this path is going to start bleeding educated suburban voters who are reasonable, maybe conservative, but not extreme, and who are reality based. They're going to continue to bleed those people.

And it may well be too late, even if people stand up to Marjorie Taylor Greene because there are so many people in the House who may not be quite as outspoken or bad in the sense that they say crazy things all the time, but they say crazy things some of the time and you know 140 or so members of the House have bought on to the President's big lie theory --


COOPER: Even after a brief?


COOPER: Even after the insurrection. I mean, hey, George, if you could stay right there. We're just getting some news from Capitol Hill on this. CNN's Ryan Nobles at the Capitol now is late word on the Congressman. Ryan, what's the word?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. So, we are told that the Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy has called members of the Steering Committee into a private meeting. Now, this is significant, because the Steering Committee is the body that is responsible for deciding who sits on House committees, who represents the Republican Party at these House committees. Now, as far as we can tell, the meeting between McCarthy and Marjorie Taylor Greene is ongoing. We've seen both Greene and McCarthy come in and out of his office, go on to the House floor to cast votes, and then go back into behind closed doors to continue their conversation. But the fact that McCarthy would now take the step of bringing the steering committee into the room to join the conversation would indicate that there must be some movement as it relates to her future on these committees.

Now, we don't know what is happening in this conversation right now. It is behind closed doors. And it is ongoing, but it is a significant development that the steering committee members have been brought into the conversation.

COOPER: OK. Ryan, will keep checking in with you. Ryan Nobles. George Conway is back with us.

So, George, I mean, you know, it's always a danger to read tea leaves. But, you know, the question is, well, does she keep her committee assignments? She's on the Education Committee, and I think the Budget Committee as well.

CONWAY: Well, obviously, we don't know what that -- what's going to result from tonight's meetings, it's possible that they do the right thing, and they strip her of these committee assignments. But the fact of the matter is, it may be for the Republican Party too little too late, she's still going to be a member of the House, the same forces that elected her, elected people like this, this woman in Colorado, in western Colorado, Lauren, what Boebert and other people just, you know, not quite as bad, but pretty bad, who, you know, are basically Donald Trump, cultists or almost QAnon types. And they still going to be a big part of the party going forward. That's exemplified by the fact that these people are there.

And I think the best thing that they could do that that could be done for the Republican Party would be for Republican senators, to get on the stick and realize how they got where we are today. And instead of focusing on just criticizing mark, one member of Congress, who's a wacko, from focusing on the fact that a president of the United States attempted to end constitutional democracy in the United States, and there should be a punishment for that. And Congress should exercise its power under the impeachment clauses, to mete out that punishment.

COOPER: It does seem that this is the moment for them to rid themselves of Trump as a future, you know, rid themselves of the former president hanging over their heads, and then having to pay fealty to him for the next four years, and living in fear that he's going to run again.

CONWAY: Right. I mean, I think politically, their best chance of survival as a party is to lance the boil. I mean, he's the problem. He's not the only problem. But he's the principal problem. He's the reason why it all got worse. And he's, you know, he went out the other day, and through his support in favor of this Congresswoman. And so, he's, you know, if they really want to try to save the party and bring it somewhere where it can function and bring it somewhere where it has a chance of reaching out to moderately conservative reality based voters. They need to do something about Donald Trump, and they need to, and it's their duty to do it.

COOPER: Yes. Hey, George, if you just hold on one more second, I just want to bring Ryan Nobles back in because -- Ryan, is this. I mean, the only kind of template I guess we have for this recently is Steve King, Republicans taking him out of all of his committees. Is this how that came about? I mean, did they bring a Steering Committee in is that can we read anything into that?

NOBLES: Yes, Anderson, you're exactly right. I mean, Steve King is a good example of how this process can play itself out. King of course, the former congressman from Iowa, was very controversial and said a number of incendiary things particularly made a lot of racist comments that led to a firestorm around the Republican conference. And that led McCarthy to begin the process of pulling him off the committees that he was assigned to, and it was the Steering Committee that made this decision and someone inoculates the House Minority Leader or Majority Leader depending on the case that we're dealing with, from having to make the decision all by himself.


So, the fact that the Steering Committee is brought into this process, we do have a precedent for this. Steve King is the president. Now, we don't know what's happening behind those closed doors. You know --


NOBLES: -- Ms. Greene herself, perhaps talking to the Steering Committee and making a case for why she should stay on it. That we don't know. But you're absolutely right that in the past, when they've wanted to take someone off the committee, it was done through the Steering Committee.

COOPER: All right, Ryan Nobles. Appreciate it. George Conway, I really appreciate it. Thanks for sticking around. We'll be watching this closely. Thanks, George.

Just ahead, new research tonight on about how long antibodies may protect people from the coronavirus after they were infected. And a separate report involving a new strain of the virus and protection from vaccines really important information, that when we come back.


COOPER: Confirmation tonight from a large British study that those infected with coronavirus keep their antibodies most for at least six months. A researcher said the data did not indicate it is whether the antibodies could provide protection against new variants. However, separate for today from British health authorities, just the main variants circulating there, has acquired a very concerning mutation which we've seen among strains in South Africa and Brazil, and that scientists fear could make it resistant to vaccines or lead to reinfection.

[20:40:18] Want to get perspective now former chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, the University of Minnesota and a medical advisor during President Biden's transition.

Professor Osterholm, I want to ask you about that report, does that mean that one of these variants that we already know is more transmissible could also be somewhat resistant to the vaccines?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CIDRP: Well, up until now, the that particular strain that you're talking about what we call B117, or the UK strain has only had the ability and I say only because it's still significant to cause more infection and likely more severe disease. Now, for the first time, British officials have found that it also has acquired the mutation that we've been talking about with the South African strain and the resilience strain that possibly could help it avoid the immune protection that we get from vaccines or national disease. Obviously, this is not a good development as B117, has actually shown how well it is able to be transmitted around the world.

COOPER: So Sanjay, I find this a little confusing, because I remember Fauci was on our town hall last week, and he was essentially saying with these variants that, you know, it's not great news, obviously, and very concerning, particularly the South Africa one and the Brazilian one, but that a booster shot could be developed for each of these variants, because they're kind of in the same family of, you know, of the virus. Is that still the case or is this just saying that there's basically more and more variants, that the number of variants is growing?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, some of these variants like the one that's emanated in the UK, they're acquiring more mutations, or they're acquiring mutations, you know, that we've seen and other variants, you know, so that's part of the problem.

COOPER: So it's not -- so the UK variant or their South Africa or the Brazilian variant. They're not just one variant. They're other they're now mutations of those variants?

GUPTA: Yes. I think the way to think about it is the variant is sort of like the umbrella term, a variant basically means that that's the virus that we thought about the one that's circulating, acquires certain mutations, based on those mutations. You know, it's, we know that there's three main mutations for example, around the spike protein in the variant that's emanating from South Africa. The UK, one had one main mutation making it the variant. And now, as Professor Osterholm was just saying it's sort of it's now you're seeing evidence that it has another mutation, one that we've seen in the South African variant.

So, it's going to get confusing. These viruses mutate all the time. A lot of the mutations that occur are, you know, frankly, inconsequential, but sometimes these viruses mutate in a way that makes them as Professor Osterholm was saying more transmissible, which is oftentimes, you know, the way that they go, But to answer your question, you could make new or retool the vaccines and that's something that's sort of special, I think, or specific to these mRNA vaccines, you can do it quite quickly, as someone was telling me today, you know, you think of vaccines, taking four to six years to make to retool one of these vaccines, you could do it in four to six weeks. It still need to go through some trials, but then there's these bridging trials that could make the process go pretty quickly. So we may be getting to that point, that could be the sort of booster.

Dr. Fauci was saying it's one of two boosters, either you're giving another booster of the same vaccine, just basically trying to increase your antibody levels, or you give a booster that's more specific to the variant, the virus that has these mutations.

COOPER: So Professor Osterholm for everyone listening and myself included it rug, which I tend to get concerned about these variants and mutations. The bottom line is still, we all need to be vaccinated, we need to get the vaccines that we can get, we need to have the vaccines that need two doses, we need those two doses. And that needs to happen as quickly as possible for many for as many people as possible. That is still the basic truth, right?

OSTERHOLM: That's absolutely the case. And just remember that a vaccine can prevent a virus infection from happening. And if you don't have a virus, you don't get mutations. So this in part is how we're going to address the issue with the mutations situation. So again, vaccine vaccine, vaccine, we can't say that enough times are loud enough.

COOPER: Right. The more people who get vaccinated and as quickly as possible that will limit the continued spread of new variants and more mutations.

OSTERHOLM: Right. And I think the other note to make here is that as much as we're concerned about these variants that may compromise the immune response. When you actually look at the studies that were done by the J&J vaccine in South Africa, it looked like what that happened. There was, yes, people did get infected with the variant strain even though they had the vaccine, but it was much less severe. And that we didn't see the big increase in hospitalizations or deaths.


That by itself, while isn't the perfect endpoint, we'd like to prevent disease. But if we can prevent severe disease, hospitalizations or deaths, that by itself is still a big victory even against the variance.

COOPER: And Sanjay, we mentioned this intro -- in the intro, this UK study finding people who previously had COVID-19 likely retain antibodies for at least six months. So, if you have antibodies against an old variant, how helpful would they be against a new variant?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's a really good question. I think that they would be helpful. And I've spent some time today digging into that exact question. So, I think they would still be helpful in terms of as a doctor, as Professor Osterholm was saying, in terms of preventing severe disease, you know, this is the thing. Are you trying to prevent infection? You don't want the virus? Don't get me wrong. I don't think people want to get infected. But what is it that we're really hoping for? That people don't get sick, they don't get hospitalized, and they don't die, obviously.

And if we can just show the J&J numbers since you, you brought that up. I mean, I think it's important when you look at the vaccine, how well it works. It doesn't work for mild and moderate disease against the variants as well. But if you look at that bottom line on the right, 85% protection against severe disease. In these trials, five trials, 75,000 patients, nobody who got the vaccine and those trials died, right. Which I think is really important.

COOPER: Yes, no, that is hugely important. Sanjay, thank you. I feel a little better. Professor Michael Osterholm, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

COOPER (voice-over): Tonight, as Congress prepares to honor Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, you're seeing the Rotunda there will he will lie in honor. The officer died as a result of injuries suffered in the attack last month. We'll also tell you about the supermarket errors who paid for much of that fiery Washington rally that preceded the insurrection. All that, when we continue.



COOPER: As we mentioned the top of the program, the remains of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick will lie in a place of honor inside the Capitol Rotunda tonight for congressional tribute scheduled for tomorrow. The ceremony is a rare one usually reserved for American political leaders or high profile jurists such as the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Because of the pandemic the ceremonies will be closed the public. Later in the day Officer Sicknick remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His family released a statement saying in part, knowing our personal tragedy and loss is shared by our nation brings hope for healing.

Meantime, CNN's Evan Perez reports that investigators are struggling to build a murder case in the wake of his death. They've yet to pinpoint a precise moment in which he suffered his fatal injuries. Sicknick who was a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police Force died one day after the riot.

With each passing day, it seems we're learning more about those who took part in the attack and more about the investigation. For many the underpinning of the insurrection was the rally held just before people stormed the Capitol but who paid for it.

Randi Kaye now, with a look into the supermarket heiress who funded much of the bulk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX JONES, HOST, INFO WARS: Thank God a donor came in that paid for like 80% of it. Does it cost close to half a million dollars.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's conspiracy theorist and host of Info Wars Alex Jones, talking about a key donor who helped fund the bulk of that January 6 rally in Washington D.C. That donor according to The Wall Street Journal is Julie Jenkins Fancelli, the heiress to the multibillion dollar Publix Super Market chain, how much did she give $300,000 according to the Journal.


KAYE (voice-over): According to Forbes, Fancelli is the heiress to a family fortune worth nearly $9 billion. Fancelli didn't respond to CNN's requests for comment, but did issue a statement to the Wall Street Journal saying, I am a proud conservative and have real concerns associated with election integrity. Yet I would never support any violence, particularly the tragic and horrific events that unfolded on January 6.

Florida based Publix has more than 1,200 stores in the southeast and more than 800 here in Florida alone. The backlash against the chain has been swift with the hashtag boycott Publix trending on Twitter. One user tweeted, company air bankrolled thousands to traitors who want to overturn our government won't be shopping with this dictatorship want to be organization. Another tweeted calling for a boycott, saying, profits from the supermarket chain were used to fund Trump's illegal and seditionist efforts at stealing the election and overthrowing our constitutional democracy.

Despite that Publix's communications director told me via email, Mrs. Fancelli is not an employee of Publix supermarkets, and he's neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way. We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli's actions, adding, the deplorable actions that occurred that day do not represent the values work or opinions of public supermarkets.

This isn't the first time Fancelli and Publix have been in the spotlight for their donations. In 2019, Fancelli donated $25,000 to Florida's Republican governor Ron DeSantis. And in December last year, Publix donated $100,000 to his Pac, friends of Ron DeSantis.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So great to be here at Publix.

KAYE (voice-over): That was just a month before DeSantis announced a state partnership with Publix pharmacies to distribute the vaccine in Florida.

DESANTIS: Now I'm delighted to be here in Marion County at Publix to make a really exciting announcement regarding COVID-19 vaccinations for our senior citizens.

KAYE (voice-over): The timing of it all raised eyebrows. The governor's office denies the vaccine deal with Publix was any sort of quid pro quo, telling us those claims were baseless and ridiculous.


But some on social media still need convincing. One Twitter user writing simply DeSantis has to go. He gave Publix the vaccine distribution after they gave him money.


COOPER: So Randi, how many Publix pharmacies in Florida are offering the vaccine now?

KAYE: Just tonight Anderson, the Governor said he's actually increasing the number of Publix pharmacies that will be offering it now. Total of 325 Publix pharmacies and 23 counties but the problem is, is that Publix isn't everywhere. It's not in a lot of this low income minority county. So a lot of people who live there don't have access to the vaccine if they qualify, and they're 65 and older, they might not have means of transportation or car to get there. The state is certainly trying to help they have these mobile units going out they have vaccination events taking place at churches, but a lot of the folks here are asking why not just expand it to other pharmacy chains in the state.

But for now, Anderson for the time being. If you're going to a pharmacy to get a vaccination, it is only available to Publix pharmacies because of the deal with the state. Anderson.

COOPER: In Florida, Randi Kaye. Thanks very much. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Sorry, we ran out of time with breaking news by the Marjorie Taylor Greene meeting. The news continues, want to (INAUDIBLE) over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris?