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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

House GOP Meeting Now On Representatives Greene And Cheney; Interview With Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA); House GOP Voting Now On Fate Of Rep. Cheney; Rep. Cheney Survives GOP Leadership Vote. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 3, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: But through this specific incident involving the Vice President Biden's brother, they have not said if they have specifically talked to Frank Biden about this, or his law firm, but Erin, they are emphasizing in a statement to CNN tonight that the President's name should not be used in connection to any commercial activities or to suggest his endorsement or support -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Sunlen, thank you very much. And thanks very much to all of you. Anderson starts now.

[20:00:31]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Less than a week away from the trial of a President at the scene of his alleged crime against democracy. Members of his party are deciding right now who they are and where their loyalties actually lie. They're at it right now, the meeting which has reportedly been tumultuous still underway.

House Republicans choosing whether they stand with the former President and the extremist freshman Congresswoman he calls a rising star or with the staunchly Conservative Party leader and daughter of a former Vice President who voted to impeach him.

The fact that this is happening just hours after leaders of that party paid tribute to one of the victims of the crime, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick only throws the moral stakes into sharper relief.

Just steps away from the Rotunda where his remains lay in honor, House Republicans are gathered to decide what to do about freshmen Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She is the QAnon conspiracy fan who has called school shootings false flag operations, questioned whether a plane really hit The Pentagon in 9/11, and said space lasers started some of the recent California wildfires, liked social media posts calling for the execution of top Democrats and supported the ex- President's election fraud lies to the hilt.

Now, Democrats want Republicans to strip her of her committee assignments including a seat on the House Education and Labor Committee. They're threatening to bring the matter to a House vote tomorrow if Republicans don't and it's not just Democrats who are upset about her. There are Republicans, conservatives such as North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): She is very extreme to say the least. The anti-Semitism, I've never seen anything quite like it. The anti- Semitism and the school shootings weren't real. I mean, she runs the gamut.

The idea that, you know, forest fires are started by, you know, Jewish lasers. I mean, it's just so profound and so far out there that it does make me wonder how she got elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called her views quote, "cancer for the Republican Party" though he never named her in the criticism.

Over on the House side, though, the members and leaders being called on to do something about it appear not to be too concerned. The Congresswoman spoke at the meeting, we are told, telling colleagues her social media posts do not reflect who she is as a person, which to be clear, she said behind closed doors and which raises the question if that's not who she is, then what was she doing posting and liking it?

If that's not who she is, then just exactly who is this person?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): The so-called plane that crashed into The Pentagon. It's odd. There's never any evidence shown for a plane in The Pentagon.

There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now.

Kennedy getting killed in a plane crash. That's another one of those Clinton murders, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Again, this is a first term lawmaker, someone who would ordinarily be a backbencher, not the champion of a substantial wing of a major political party or as Mitch McConnell warned, a cancer on it, which House Republican leaders do not seem inclined to stop right now, something Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled just this afternoon in a statement that reads in part, quote: "Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican conference."

He went on to say, "Her past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward."

And how did Congresswoman Greene show her appreciation to Congressman McCarthy for essentially giving her a pass? Well, she attacked him in an interview tonight with "The Washington Examiner" quoting now, "And Kevin McCarthy and all these leaders, the leadership and everyone is proving that they are all talk and not about action, and they're just all about doing business as usual in Washington. And so what's the difference between them and the Democrats? There isn't a difference."

So that kind of attitude to a party leader for saving her skin would once upon a time likely end the career of a young Representative. Today, though the party seems disinclined to do anything.

In fact, the main focus of criticism at tonight's meeting isn't the anti-Semitic Q hoax loving Congresswoman, it is reportedly the number three House Republican, Liz Cheney.

She was one of 10 Republicans who dared vote to impeach the former President. You know, the one who incited a deadly insurrection on them and the Vice President less than a month ago? That guy.

It is just that guy whom so many Republicans still continue to defend, the one whose name Congressman Matt Gaetz invoked just the other week when he went to Wyoming for a rally against Liz Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): So I had a chance to communicate with President Trump yesterday. He sends his love. He loves you all so much and President Trump is going to keep fighting for this country with every breath that he has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:05:10]

COOPER: Now Republicans have a choice, does the party still belong to him and the Congresswoman he is such a fan of or not?

Ryan Nobles at the Capitol for us. So what's the latest? Is this meeting still going on?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, Anderson, the better part of four hours these Republicans have been behind closed doors attempting to hash out these issues within their conference.

We're told that essentially, any member of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives that wants to get up and say something about either of these two issues has been given the opportunity to do so. So far, there have been far more of these Republican members that have come up to criticize Liz Cheney, who is the third ranking member of the House Republican Party for her vote to impeach President Trump. This could end up in some sort of a vote tonight, which will determine Cheney's fate.

Now, we know that Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader and Steve Scalise, who is the number two ranking Republican have both voiced their support for Cheney to stay in that post as the number three Republican, but she has taken a lot of incoming fire tonight from many of these Republicans angry with that vote.

So we're not going to know the outcome until the vote cast. If there even is a vote, that is up to Kevin McCarthy. Cheney has said that she would like the vote to take place, which would indicate that she believes that she has the support of the conference behind her. But we are still waiting to see what the outcome of that decision will be.

COOPER: I mean, this -- it is just incredible. The Republican Party now is looking about voting about Liz Cheney, not about Marjorie Taylor Greene and her committee assignments. Is that just completely off the table as far as Republicans are concerned?

I know, but Democrats still could take her off and seem to want to. Have the Republicans and has McCarthy now just decided they're not going to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from committee assignments?

NOBLES: Essentially, that's what it looks like is going to happen, Anderson. You know, this meeting has been all about Liz Cheney. They've talked very little about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

COOPER: Wow.

NOBLES: She actually got up and did speak herself for a few minutes and actually got somewhat of a standing ovation from a good portion of the conference that we're told.

You know, there was one Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois who has been, of course, a big critic of President Trump, who got up and really attacked Kevin McCarthy for focusing more on Cheney and dealing with that, and not doing anything to handle the situation with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But Kevin McCarthy attempted over the past 24 hours to try and find some way out of this. He asked Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Majority Leader, if there could be some sort of a compromise, perhaps put Taylor Greene on some other committee.

But Democrats are not interested in that. They don't want her serving on any committee. They have the votes to make that happen and they are pushing forward. So McCarthy essentially put his hands up in the air and said, I'm not going to do anything about it.

And it's also important to point out Anderson in that statement that you read from Kevin McCarthy, you'll note that he never says that Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized for the past statements that she has made about some of these wacky conspiracy theories. He says that she recognized what she said and how it could be a problem, but she never apologized.

And we're told that is actually what happened -- that she never volunteered to apologize for the comments that she had made, which had been a specific request of Democrats who had any hope of whether or not she would stay on these committees.

So it's pretty clear, there may be some sort of a reckoning with Liz Cheney tonight, but as for Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republicans are not interested in doing anything to hold her accountable.

COOPER: I mean, this is -- it is just incredible. You know, Liz Cheney is a conservative and, you know, outspoken in this case about the impeachment. Marjorie Taylor Greene, you know, has embraced QAnon hoax. She has been all in on this.

She wasn't just kind of a fringe player. She was all in on this. She doesn't believe the plane hit The Pentagon on 9/11, believes, you know, the Rothschilds are behind lasers from space causing wildfires in California.

It's -- I mean, this would be stunning. We are just getting word, Ryan, now. I just was told in my year, we do expect now a vote tonight, not on Marjorie Taylor Greene; as you said, on Liz Cheney. No word on exactly when that's going to take place.

Ryan, I appreciate the reporting. We'll continue to check in with you throughout this hour as warranted.

Perspective now from CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent, Maggie Haberman; also CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, I mean, this is the Republican Party deciding or at least in the House deciding who they want to be.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure are, Anderson, and the shock and surprise and disgust that you are -- I don't mean to put words or feelings into you or into your reaction, but it's what everybody is feeling because people who have -- I shouldn't say everybody -- everybody who is focused on the facts and focused on what is right.

Or let me just put it this way, focused on the conservative principles that Republicans have espoused for so long and that being their guideposts, things like lower taxes, things like less government in their lives.

[20:10:10]

BASH: That's not what's going on here at all. I mean, this is about somebody who voted her conscience because she thought that a President regardless of party, incited an insurrection on the building where she worked versus somebody who has repeatedly said things that are anti- Semitic, completely conspiratorial, and she is effectively getting a pass.

She did get a round of applause. Some people did stand up when she, Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke, and Liz Cheney, just like Ryan just said, I'm hearing from sources she is getting pounded.

Some people are coming to her defense, but for the most part, she is getting pounded. There is going to likely be a vote on her leadership role. That is, in large part because she wants one. She wants to show that she has support because she has been working the phones for a long time with members of her conference. COOPER: Maggie, do you have any sense how Donald Trump sees all of

this? I mean, without Twitter and without the White House Press Corps, he has, you know, I guess talked to Marjorie Taylor Greene. He's got her as his proxy in Congress. She is certainly all in on him.

Kevin McCarthy kissing his ring at Mar-a-Lago. Is this exactly what -- this must be what he wants.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He is still the party leader, Anderson, until there is another presidential nominee of his party or until the party starts to swing more in the direction of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader -- actually, Senate Minority Leader now who is trying to carve a different path from Kevin McCarthy.

Look, Marjorie Taylor Greene says that she has spoken to President Trump, we don't know that from his folks. But it would certainly be in keeping, he has been talking her up privately to a bunch of people, it would be in keeping with how he has remade this party in his image.

And what I'm struck by over and over, Anderson, watching this, is even if Kevin McCarthy wanted to at this point, there's nothing -- there's not a magic wand that he can wave to sort of marginalize Marjorie Taylor Greene. She has the support of other Republicans in the caucus and this is a caucus that has been reshaped by Trumpism, as opposed to sort of conservatism as it has traditionally been practiced.

That makes Donald Trump very happy: the longer he can keep his grip on the party, you know, I think the Liz Cheney vote will tell us a fair amount, but the longer that Donald Trump can keep his grip on Republicans, the longer he remains a factor and that's always what he wants.

COOPER: And do we know to what degree Maggie, the former President is remaining a factor? I mean, has he been in touch with McCarthy today? Does Donny, Jr. call him up? Do we know?

HABERMAN: There's a relationship between Donald Trump, Jr. and Kevin McCarthy. They had actually spoken while things were still fairly tense between Kevin McCarthy and the former President. I don't know whether the two -- Kevin McCarthy and the former President has spoken today.

But certainly, they had been in touch even after the former President was very angry at Kevin McCarthy as we know, for his speech on the House floor where he said former President Trump did bear some blame for the insurrection on January 6th.

But look there are clear lines of communication. There are a bunch of aides that they share in common, so I don't think that their wishes are unknown to reach other.

COOPER: Dana, I mean, if the Republican Party continues to choose to embrace the QAnon wing, essentially, which is, you know, also part of the Trump wing, does that hurt -- I mean, they obviously think it -- they don't -- they don't think it hurts them, obviously, they think that's where the energy is. That's where the votes are.

Hard to see a lot of folks in, you know, the suburbs and voters who are -- you know more -- or don't believe in these hoaxes following along with that?

BASH: Absolutely. And although I understand Maggie, with what you're saying about the fact that Kevin McCarthy can't wave a magic wand and make these conspiracy theories go away, what he is not doing is at least trying to show leadership in the notion of saying, you know what, we're not going to stand for this, because it could be that he could end up the next Liz Cheney.

It could be that that would be the outcome of that, but he is deciding not to do that.

HABERMAN: And I would argue, just one thing, it's late at this point. I think he had a moment where he should have done that.

BASH: Yes.

HABERMAN: On many points I think -- I think, the ship has sailed at this point. That's all I am saying.

BASH: I agree. One thing that a source told me this evening who is familiar with some of the conversations people are having with McCarthy, kind of his kitchen cabinet is that what he could have done to your point, Maggie, you know, maybe even a couple of days ago, never mind, like, you know, tonight was to say to her, okay, let's go down the list of all the things that you've said. Do you still espouse the idea of these laser beams?

Do you still believe that it's possible that a plane didn't really go into The Pentagon on 9/11 and keep going down the list?

[20:15:09]

BASH: And put her on the spot, get her on the record, whether it's in front of the conference, which as we know, now is still ongoing and the majority of the focus is on Liz Cheney, not on her, or get her to do it in public. And that didn't happen, nor is it happening.

And, therefore, Anderson, you talked about the suburbs, what the Democrats are trying to do is to try to put all the Republicans in a box, since they're not acting, they're going to have this vote, and so every Republican is going to be on record: do you want Marjorie Taylor Greene to stay on these committees or not? And those who say, yes, we do; that will be used against them.

COOPER: Maggie, I want to read something that Karl Rove, who is close to the Cheney family told "The New York Times" newspaper saying -- he said, quote, "The beneficiaries of Republican fratricide are Democrats. So the more we have purity tests and everyone has to think and act alike, particularly when it comes to former President Trump, it's only helping Democrats." End quote.

So as long as the former President is playing a role in G.O.P. politics, will those purity tests that Rove is speaking about ever go away?

HABERMAN: I don't think so, Anderson. And, look, I mean, it's -- to your point, when you were mentioning Kevin McCarthy at the top of this segment, going down to Mar-a-Lago, in your words, kissing the ring, he was in Palm Beach anyway, but the fact that he made this stop to see the former President appear for this picture where President Trump used that picture and put out a statement saying that, you know, my own endorsement is worth more than it's ever been, and cetera, et cetera.

What McCarthy needs is this infighting to stop and what he went there to tell former President Trump essentially was McCarthy wants to be Speaker, which we know and he needs the former President's help in trying to actually target Democrats, not other Republicans.

Has President Trump taken that message and adhere to it? I think how he behaves going forward is going to depend a lot on what we see next week in the Senate trial. I think that that is key in his mind right now.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, you know, what I think Matt Gaetz went the next day after Kevin McCarthy talked --

HABERMAN: It was that day.

COOPER: That day.

HABERMAN: It was three hours later -- three hours later, Matt Gaetz was in Wyoming standing at an event to trash Liz Cheney where he put Donald Trump, Jr. on speakerphone on his iPhone over the microphone. That tells you a lot about how the former President is going to keep one foot in each camp and he is going to try to torment Republicans until he thinks they're on his side.

COOPER: And how much at least Matt Gaetz and there are probably a lot of other folks in the House, how much they really -- or what they really think of Kevin McCarthy and his power.

Maggie Haberman, thank you. Dana bash, as well.

Coming up next, a Democratic lawmaker who could soon be called on to vote on Congresswoman Greene and what Congresswoman Greene calls Democrats who are criticizing her.

And later with COVID deaths crossing the 450,000 mark tonight, the hard work, the heartache and hope on the frontlines at a Texas hospital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:26]

COOPER: We have breaking news in the vote. Republicans are thinking over whether Liz Cheney will maintain her leadership position. CNN's Ryan Nobles at the Capitol with very latest. Have they started to vote? NOBLES: They have, Anderson. So remember, we weren't even a hundred

percent sure if a vote was going to take place tonight. We now know that they are voting and that process is beginning right now.

This could take some time. There are 211 Republican House members. Each is casting a secret ballot. So unlike the votes that they take on the House floor where we're able to get a record of how they voted, this is all done in secret. So they have to physically cast their ballot and then those ballots have to be counted.

We do know that some Republican leaders are already starting to leave the meeting right now. So the process is wrapping up, but it could take a little bit of time before we know whether or not Liz Cheney will remain as the third ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles. Thanks again. Appreciate it.

Congressman Greene, meantime, showing no remorse speaking as I said to "The Washington Examiner," saying this about Democrats criticizing her and I'm quoting now, "How stupid they are? They don't even realize they're helping me. I'm pretty amazed at how dumb they are."

Joining us now Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, Democrat of Pennsylvania. So, Congressman, thanks for being with us.

Congresswoman Greene saying Democrats are stupid and that by trying to strip of her committee assignments, you and your colleagues are actually helping her in her quest to, I guess, gain more power and get more Republicans elected.

Do you think there's some truth to that? Not to the stupid part, but to the building up her name, her name recognition, focusing on her gives her more power than she actually would have?

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): Well, I think what she is focusing upon is the fact that she has been fundraising off this like crazy. She is milking her base, yet again. I think the last report we heard was $1.6 million off this.

So you know, it's the race to the bottom for the Republican Party here.

COOPER: Well, it's so interesting because in her statement, she also said that you know about being -- or in that interview she did with "The Examiner," she also says -- she was asked about, you know, being taken off -- potentially being taken off committee assignments, which from -- it certainly doesn't look like it's going to happen from what the Republicans are doing.

And she seemed to indicate, well, she didn't really care because it allowed her more time to focus on the things she really wanted to focus on, which basically means fundraising and building her name and just being a -- you know, throwing Molotov cocktail -- you know, rhetorical Molotov cocktails, or let's hope, just rhetorical ones. And you know, that seems to be really what she wants out of serving in Congress.

SCANLON: Well, I don't think she's really interested in serving in Congress. Clearly, she is interested in being on Twitter and spouting whatever pops into her head or into Q's head or whatever.

I mean, since the moment she hit town, she has done everything she can to, you know, excite people it doesn't matter if it's true or not. I know when she first got to town, she was tweeting about you know, not being able to go to the gym and so then she put up a tweet about working out and or -- you know, she's just all about the publicity and apparently all about the fundraising. It's not about public service.

COOPER: She is like an Instagram influencer, a wannabe Instagram influencer, except with anti-Semitic and, you know, bizarre, anti- Semitic conspiracy theory beliefs.

SCANLON: Well, I mean, what's really concerning to Members of Congress is she is also about inciting violence. She totally bought into the ex-President's big lie that he hadn't actually lost the election and she was part of the crew that helped to incite the attack on the Capitol and the attempt to disrupt a joint session of Congress just a month ago today.

COOPER: Do you --

SCANLON: We had our Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick who was lying in state in the Capitol today.

[20:25:08]

COOPER: Yes.

SCANLON: We've moved on.

COOPER: Do you think Democrats could or should remove her from her committee assignments? I mean, that would be a really, I think, an unprecedented step, or at least a highly unusual step.

SCANLON: It's certainly highly unusual. I mean, in the past, we've been able to rely upon the parties to police their own, and it wasn't that long ago that the Republican Party did police its own, just last term or the term before it, the Republican Party removed Steve King from his assignments because he had said despicable and false things.

Now, the things that the Representative from Georgia has done are much, much worse, but apparently the Republican Party has changed.

COOPER: House Minority Leader McCarthy's statement tonight, in which he says that he takes Marjorie Taylor Greene at her word, that she will hold herself to a higher standard now, it's almost a parody of what one might expect from him, sadly, at this point.

I mean, you know, I think it was Dana, in our last segment who pointed out, it's not as if he sat her down and point by point said, okay, do you really believe that the Rothschilds are behind lasers from space causing wildfires? Do you really believe that, you know, the leaders of the Democratic Party eat babies and drink their blood for a chemical which is all part of Q?

It's like, he is basically just giving her a pass and just sort of saying, just don't talk about that kind of stuff now?

SCANLON: Well, I mean, we're taking her at her word, and her word is that she has incited violence against members of Congress, and she has espoused some pretty crazy theories that are not going to help us do our job to help the American people.

What does it say about the party that they're talking about stripping Liz Cheney of power, when she's trying to hold the ex-President accountable for inciting an insurrection? And they're elevating this new member who is inciting violence and just, you know, doubling down on fringe conspiracy theories?

COOPER: What is it like working in the Capitol now? I mean, it's never been more important given the stakes right now for our country, and at the same time, it's -- I mean, not in our lifetimes has it probably ever been as surreal.

SCANLON: It's extremely surreal. I haven't been here that long, but we've certainly had our fair share of unusual events in the last three years. But it has been really different. You know, in the day -- after the couple of days after January 6th when I would see colleagues from across the aisle, there was one of two reactions.

One was they would kind of avoid your eyes and, you know, kind of try to scuttle by quickly. The other was kind of sheepish, and, wow, you know, that was really wild what happened and oh, gosh, we're all in it together. But that's turned now that they're into this, oh, we need to move past -- we need to move past six people dying. We need to move past an attempt to overthrow the government.

That's the most surreal thing of all.

COOPER: Well, that's -- I mean, one of the quotes that came out of this, you know, meeting of the Republicans are having right now was one Republican lawmaker, a supporter of the Georgia Congresswoman, you know, saying that Liz Cheney's crime was that she aided and abetted the enemy.

I mean, the idea that that's how he or she -- I think it was a male -- views this as the other side is the enemy.

SCANLON: But the other side is just anyone who opposes Trump at this point.

COOPER: Exactly. Yes.

SCANLON: I mean, we have seen the Republican Party, it has no platform, other than whatever dear leader wants.

COOPER: Literally, they do not have a platform that's not just rhetorical. Yes.

SCANLON: Right. COOPER: Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, I appreciate your time. Thank

you.

SCANLON: Thank you.

COOPER: If the Republican Party is having a crisis over identity and their future, our next two guests are not. Rick Wilson is a former Republican strategist and author most memorably of "Everything Trump Touches Dies." These days, he is with The Lincoln Project; also with us, CNN political commentator, Mary Katharine Ham.

Rick, you still have the greatest title of any book ever in history. But what does it say to you about the Republican Party tonight that Marjorie Taylor Greene is completely being spared from any accountability and Liz Cheney is at real risk of getting booted from her leadership post.

RICK WILSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Because the real leader of the house now is Marjorie Taylor Greene, of the Republican Caucus in the House, at least. She is effectively the Minority Leader.

She has broken Kevin McCarthy. She has forced, in her alliance with Trump and the crazies and the QAnon people and then nutcases and the conspiracy theories and the Jewish space laser lobby that that part of the Republican Party is now the dominant strain.

It is now what has taken over from the old Republican Party that, you know, believed in -- however imperfectly, in individual liberty and fiscal discipline, the Constitution and all of those things and now they believe that, you know Hillary Clinton eats babies under a pizza restaurant.

This woman barely could contain herself to try to behave for 15 minutes tonight. And McCarthy essentially didn't even bother to slap her on the wrist.

[20:30:14]

I mean, but I got to say Anderson, the Democrats should be delighted by this. They should revel in this. This is the new face of the GOP. This is who the Republican Party is now. And she's crazy as a outhouse rat, a sugarcane field, as I like to say. She is truly going to be the face of the GOP, the Democrats should actually not kick her out, they should just love the fact that she's there breaking off more and more Americans from the Republican Party.

COOPER: Mary Katharine, haven't seen in a while it is great to see you on the program. What do you make what is going on?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, this is clearly a moment to define where the party is going, and the party is choosing a hell of a path here. It is (INAUDIBLE) not going to deal with Greene at all, and then turn around and possibly discipline Liz Cheney.

I mean, that is quite a contrast. And many, many Republicans will say, well, the media is making it a contrast and Democrats are turning it into this fight. Well, you're also making the contrast for everyone else. That's what we're it's just what's out there. Right.

So, are you going to deal with it? Do you wish in back suburban voters, more moderate voters? Many of whom by the way, even in this past election, voted for Biden, but may have crossed over and voted for Republicans for Senate and House, there were many of those voters? Do you want to lose all of them? Do you want to claw any of them back?

There are many people in these battleground states, particularly the new battleground states, Georgia and Arizona who would like a viable alternative for dealing with things, the COVID Fallout for dealing with kids who are not in school who are not being instructed in person. There are real problems that Republicans could speak to, but not if Marjorie Taylor Greene is leading everyone around.

And like leadership matters. Do I think McCarthy could have made a difference here a while ago? I do think that could have happened. But now that ship seems to have sailed. And I appreciate by the way, Cheney wanting a vote because it's a useful and instructive line on where this party is.

COOPER: And Rick, we have a bit of new reporting from that Republican meeting that before the vote overlies Cheney's faith, Minority Leader McCarthy delivered a unity speech, which, you know, is his kind of remarkable too, as well. I mean, he was talking about unity, you know, and said, everybody, you know, cut this stuff out, or whatever, you know, was it a week ago? And then right away, Matt Gates, is shows up in Wyoming attacking Liz Cheney.

WILSON: Right. Yes, I think I will say this Anderson, I would love to see Liz Cheney and Matt Gates go a couple rounds. She'd flattened him in a hot minute. You know that. But nobody made Matt Gates go out to Wyoming to torment her other than the perverse incentives of the current version of the Republican Party.

So he went out there to try to burn down a fellow member of the GOP, and they were so far in the past of the old Reagan rule about never speak ill of your fellow Republicans. That's not even funny. But Kevin McCarthy is the most ineffective possible leader.

I mean, the guy basically, you know, got his job by being the chairman of the alpha beta rush committee. He is a he's like an affable guy. But now that there's a crisis, he doesn't have the mental capacity to handle. It is really showing and the party is going to fall apart underneath this guy.

And, you know, they won some seats this year, but with some dumb luck, but right now, the people rising in prominence, power and volume in the House are going to be the very people as Mary Katharine says, they're going to push away those folks you want to claw back in the 2022 midterms.

COOPER: And Mary Katharine, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told reporters earlier that he wants members to air their grievances tonight so that everyone can move forward. I mean, does this do -- where does it move forward to? I mean, is that how this works tonight that they are their grievances and then it all just goes back to regular?

HAM: Look, like you could have moved forward because there was a close precedent in taking Steve King right Lee off of the -- off of his committee assignments, he was later primary and no longer was an embarrassing problem, right? That's kind of how it goes.

He could have said we had a chance to say, hey, we're going to deal with this on our own site. What I don't understand strategically, tactically. What do Republicans get here? Because now Democrats will likely do this anyway, she will be gone from the committees. She's right that she will become more popular and raise money and do all the things that she wants to do.

WILSON: True.

HAM: Because the incentives are extremely bad, not just in the Republican Party, but in American politics to be as you said, Anderson, an influencer and not a policymaker.

Look, they had a chance to put this person in a place where this could be manageable and now they're just all going to have to be on record about this anyway, but it's the Democrats doing it for them. And do I think that they may come to regret that and this will lead to a lot of tit for tat that they don't want to experience in the future and it's bad for everybody, probably so. But McCarthy could have short circuited that today.

[20:35:18]

COOPER: Mary Katharine Ham, Rick Wilson, I appreciate it. Just a bizarre --

WILSON: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: -- Saturday night.

(voice-over): Up next more on the vote happening now on the fate of GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney, over one in the former president impeach all of it tied to the lies of the ex-president. Talk to former DHS cybersecurity expert who debunked those lies, ahead.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: We get our breaking news Republican Party voting right now not on the QAnon fan Marjorie Taylor Greene but on their number three member of the leadership Liz Cheney whether to strip her title. Their answered seems to her vote to impeach after the capital insurrection last month. The deadly riot linked to the former presidents lies over the election which his lawyers perpetuated yesterday in their formal impeachment response to Congress.

Joining me now is Chris Krebs. The former Trump administration official was fired after debunking the ex-president's election lies. He was in charge of election cybersecurity, the Department of Homeland Security.

Christopher, it's great to see you. As Republican, what do you make of this intense infighting within the party tonight? I mean, obviously, some of it stems from the former president's false election fraud claims and subsequent insurrection impeachment and some of it's from the seepage of QAnon into the GOP. But what goes through your mind when you see this?

CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FMR TOP CYBERSECURITY OFFICIAL, DHS: Well, thanks for having me on Anderson. It's great to be back. I see representatives like Adam Kinzinger stepped forward and speak, you know, essentially truth to power on the side of Congress.

And, you know, that's what I expect out of the Republican Party right now not embracing or, you know, tepid denouncements of that of conspiracy theories that ultimately have left lead to the loss of life, let's be clear that the QAnon is much broader than election. Election fiction it also extends into things like COVID, anti-masking, anti-vaccine. It's a broad base conspiracy that has taken root in all corners of our society right now.

[20:40:12]

And the fact that we don't have an across the board resolution to denounce QAnon and denounce those amongst the members. To me, it just -- it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And this is an inflection point, I think for the Republican Party.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you know, Kevin McCarthy misstatement said, well, last, you know, last year, the Congress, you know, denounced QAnon. But he didn't seems that he didn't actually, you know, go down the list and ask this, Congresswoman, well, do you still believe there was no plane that was flown into the Pentagon? You know, as Dana Bash was saying earlier? Do you still believe that? You know, the babies are being eaten by Democrats? He just kind of gave a pass.

KREBS: You know, to me, it's interesting, and I kind of tried to get to the root cause here, you know, who holds him in thrall? Is it the QAnon followers in the Republican base that are holding the Republican members in thrall? Or is it the other way around?

And to me, you know, those that can step forward like (INAUDIBLE), like, you know, John Katko, those that can step up, Liz Cheney. Those are the ones I think that are again, like many of us have done, or at least a few of us that seem to be growing, that are putting country over party.

And that's to me a sign that there is some flicker of life and what I used to know as a Republican Party. But you know, as I sit here, I'm trying to figure out if the party left me or I left the party.

COOPER: When you were fired by President Trump or simply stating the facts for explaining reality. Did you think it would get this bad? I mean, not just for your party, but for the country.

KREBS: You know, rearview mirror and all that it certainly was on the path of escalation to violence, like we saw on January 6. And you know, there was going to have to be a reckoning, I've talked about it before, you know, everybody's talking about a canceled culture where we're in the midst of instead we should be at least in the midst of an accountability culture.

But these little lies that if snowballed into something much more significant, much graver, again, that led to January 6, than the armed storming of the Capitol. It doesn't just go away unless you get to root cause and you hold those that are accountable, or that those are responsible, accountable.

And I do think just the juxtaposition of officer Sicknick lying in state, while we have this debate about a Congresswoman in her affiliation or supportive QAnon. To me, it's just remarkable that we're even where we are right now.

COOPER: Yes, it is. Yes, that juxtaposition is painful and really, just very disturbing. You know, former President Trump, former -- the former president's legal team included his debunked claims of election fraud in their formal impeachment response to Congress, arguing that there's insufficient evidence to make a judgment on his claims, even though they've been rejected in some 60 courts. I mean, as somebody who knows all about election security, it's stunning to me that they would even raise that.

KREBS: I can't even with that. It's a quadruple negative, I think. Look, the things that jumped out at me, and they're filing were two points. One is the mootness of the impeachment. And, you know, I think reasonable minds can disagree on that. But I think there was precedent with the Secretary of War Belknap back in 1876.

You know, to me, it's bad public policy, if you can just run out the clock and do a bunch of crimes or badness, before your term ends, and then think you're going to get away (INAUDIBLE). There's got to be an accountability. And as we see democracy under siege across the globe right now, it is important that we continue to be the beacon of hope and democracy.

And then the second piece is that jumped out in his filing was the freedom of speech as a private individual. And I just find that absurd on its face that the President of the United States is long ago, blurred the line between his private, you know, speech and whom he, you know, what, what he says is the president, you know, the Hatch Act violations using the White House for his convention. You know, that anything he says at that point is as the president and he has a significant amount of influence with his words.

COOPER: You know, just from me security and national security standpoint. You know, I think a lot of people who were not supporters of the former president, you know, breathed a sigh relief after the election results. And, you know after you know, after the attack when, you know, order was restored. The thing is a lot of those folks are still out there. I mean, I know they're -- some of them are being quiet because they're afraid of being hunted, but, you know, being arrested by the FBI now because they were posting stuff on social media. [20:45:23]

But, there's an awful lot of folks who, you know, if they weren't in the halls of Congress, they were right outside and wish they were in the halls of Congress. And they're still there.

KREBS: Absolutely, and you are seeing a more forward leaning and aggressive posture from the Department of Justice and the FBI. I saw something earlier today that more foreign partners are similarly considering groups like the Proud Boys and white supremacist groups alongside the base which is a Russian linked white supremacist movement.

And so, that that is showing me that that the chickens have finally come home to roost and domestic terrorism and homegrown violent extremism is at the top of the priority list for this administration.

COOPER: Christopher Krebs, I appreciate your time as always, thank you.

KREBS: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: As the political turbulence continues in Washington, the nation's coronavirus death toll passes 450,000 people, especially hard-hit South Texas. We'll take you there, next.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: As Cheney survived the vote. Kevin McCarthy is talking now. Let's listen.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): -- she and I were both down in the skiff. And we heard what the FBI report was. No way would I ever leave him on Intel nor homeland. I'd question whether he should still be a member of Congress.

And then you're going to look at Maxine Waters as a chair of what she incited? There are so many -- I wonder if they put that same standard somewhere else because never in the history of Congress has people been deciding where other parties are putting people on committees.

[20:50:05]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the columns of her views amounted to a cancer for the Republican Party. We

MCCARTHY: I denounce all those comments that were brought up, everybody and she came to the -- she came inside our conference and denounced them as well. She said she was wrong. She has reached out in other ways and forms, and nothing that she said has been based upon since she's been a member of Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCARTHY: The voters, the voters -- no, the voters decided she could come and serve. When she's sent and denounced all those -- well in the inside our chambers --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) apologize for her past comments?

MCCARTHY: That's exactly what she did. That's what she did inside our conference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do Democrats deserve (INAUDIBLE) apology that she were.

MCCARTHY: Well, I think everybody should hear that. And she has expressed that she has put it out. From news agencies and others, I think it'd be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us denouncing QAnon. I don't know if I say it right. I don't even know what it is. Any from the shootings, she said she knew nothing about lasers or all the different things that have been brought up about her.

And so, from that perspective, she's now a member of -- if we are now going to start judging what other members have said before they're even members of Congress, I think it's going to be a hard time for the Democrats to place anybody on committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that she is a congresswoman and she say something like this again (INAUDIBLE).

MCCARTHY: Oh, I think people now that you're a member of Congress. Now, it's a responsibility of our conference to hold people accountable. And you know, the unique thing is, we have a long history of doing that, just as we were going to change something here.

It's on the Democratic side that is very difficult that they don't ever do that. When Omar made her comments wouldn't kept her on foreign affairs. We remove Steve King, when he made comments as a member of Congress. What's unfortunate is that Democrats don't keep that same standard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. McCarthy, she has a long history --

MCCARTHY: Any other question? He asked a lot of stuff. Let's do this. Let me let me let the whip talk. And let me let Liz Cheney, our conference chair, who just got a resounding shot in the arm, then we got a team and remember what this team is.

This is the exact same team that didn't lose one seat in the last election. When I saw a lot of you write stories about whether this team would survive after we'd lose 15 or 20 seats? No, we didn't lose one member we gained. And a little later this week, we'll gain another seat as well.

We'll be at 213. It will be the slimmest majority in the history of modern history for Congress. You know what that's going to mean? Two years from now we're going to win the majority. That's because this conference is more united. We've got the right leadership team behind it. And I look forward to watching to make sure we've got the right focus for this country on putting it back on track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vote count.

MCCARTHY: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Kevin. Liz. Tonight, our conference rounded a really important corner, we spent hours where members on every side of this issue looked each other in the eye, aired their grievances. And were very candid and honest with each other, but addressed this as a family and address this as a team, and ultimately, finally worked to have a vote where we kept the entire team together. And we came out much stronger. Because now while we there, those grievances. Everybody tonight was united.

And knowing that what is happening right now on the House floor, spending today over $2 trillion on a shell budget, with no real accountability for what they're going to do with the money when there's over a trillion dollars still available to help people get their businesses open.

President Biden alone in two weeks, has signed executive orders to destroy millions of American jobs and ship those overseas. In many cases where they're going to emit more carbon making the same things we used to make right here in America.

And his climate czar has acknowledged that he flies around on his own private plane, emitting 40 times more carbon than if he would have flown on a commercial liner. So the hypocrisy is very clear. The damage that they're doing to our economy is very clear. And our resolve, to unite to fight for the hard working families of this country, to round the corner on COVID, to get our economy back on track, to safely reopen schools, that resolve has never been stronger.

After looking each other in the eye, talking through the differences that we had, and finally coming back together as a stronger united Republican conference. And with that, our conference chair Liz Cheney.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much whip. And thanks, leader. We really did have a terrific vote tonight, a terrific time this evening, laying out what we're going to do going forward, as well as making clear that we're not going to be divided and that we're not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership. It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and that we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the really dangerous and negative Democrat policies.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCARTHY: It's just an example. This Republican Party is a very big tent. Everyone's up divided in and you look at the last election, we continue to grow and in two years we'll be the majority. Thank you all very much.

(CROSSTALK)

[20:55:08]

COOPER: Speaker Kevin McCarthy there. The headline, obviously that Liz Cheney has survived the vote that was taken on her leadership position. She's the third highest ranked Republican in the House. We got Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill. Ryan, what else are you hearing about what happened?

NOBLES: Well, Anderson, we should point out what the vote total was 145 a supporting Cheney, 60 voting against her and one voting present. That really isn't close. She truly had the support of the House Republican conference here tonight.

And I also think we need to point out how important it was that this was a secret ballot, this really allowed Republican members to vote their conscience and not have to worry about the blowback of casting a ballot in support of Liz Cheney, and that somehow being interpreted as a vote against President Trump. So, even though he Cheney did receive strong support here tonight, we cannot ignore the fact that President Trump in his presence, the former President, I should say, still looms very large over this conference.

And it will be interesting to see the juxtaposition of the vote total for Liz Cheney here tonight. And how many Republicans vote to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from those committee positions on the House floor tomorrow.

Remember, that will be a public vote, we know who will vote for or against that. So those Republicans will have to be accountable for that. So, it's quite likely here tonight, that we're going to see Republicans that voted to keep Liz Cheney in her position, but will also vote to keep Marjorie Taylor Greene on those committees tomorrow, even though there will be more Democratic votes, and she will likely be pulled off of those committees.

COOPER: And (INAUDIBLE) should be clear, there's not going to be the Republicans chose not to hold a Republican vote on Marjorie Taylor Greene, they could have done that, they could have had a secret vote and chosen to remove her or not from those committees. Now, they're just going to let the Democrats do it and then attack the Democrats for doing it.

NOBLES: Yes, that's 100% right, Anderson, Republicans could have taken this action on their own. Kevin McCarthy could have taken this action on his own. He chose not to do that, for whatever reason.

You know, he talked there, in the press conference that we just had, before you came to me about how he, you know, he wanted to remove her from committees, he was looking for some sort of a compromise and that he, you know, blame the Democrats for being belligerent on that point. But the fact remains that he had the option to take some sort of action, he chose not to take that action. And now Democrats are going to do it for him.

But there is still going to be an opportunity for Republicans to have a voice in this process, just because they chose not to do it in this forum, they're going to have to vote on this tomorrow. And they will be held accountable for that vote either for or against it.

And I have to imagine there are a lot of these members of Congress that, you know, represent districts that President Trump won by solid margins that are going to be very reluctant to cast a vote in opposition of Marjorie Taylor Greene because of her close connection to the former president.

COOPER: And Ryan for McCarthy to say that they are more united, trying to get their exact words, but united bigger than I've ever seen here in the past. That seems hard to believe.

NOBLES: I don't think you're the only one that is having a hard time believing the House Minority Leader rhetoric as he comes out of that meeting. You know, to his credit, you know, it's not uncommon for Republicans to have these closed door meetings where they really hash it out and yell at each other about their differences.

But, you know, there is still a pretty big divide in this party. You know, there are significant Republican House members that are very angry that Marjorie Taylor Greene is part of their party and is going to, you know, still represent, you know, constituents under the Republican banner for some time to come.

And let's not forget, Anderson, we're only talking about the House tonight. But there's a whole flock of Senate Republicans that are, you know, have come out and very strongly denounced her role in this process, have said that she should be removed from committees, and have even gone so far as to say that she should not be a part of the Republican Party.

So, this is a divide that may be for tonight, they're showing somewhat of a unified force. But this is a lingering problem that's going to continue to exist as Republicans try and forge their way through this process. And a lot of it comes down to winning elections. Right.

You know, it tends to be that you can win an election as a primary candidate when you run close to President Donald Trump. But we are now starting to see a consistent pattern outside of those strong Republican House districts, you know, that are drawn in a way that have more Republican voters, that it's becoming more and more difficult to win, was someone aligned with President Trump in a district or in a state that is even somewhat moderate.

I mean, you don't have to look any further than the results in Georgia, which has, you know, been a Republican state for a very long time to see the outcome there. So, this is the future of the Republican Party. There are still a lot of people who believe it should be close to President Trump, but there is still a portion of the party that believes it's time to move on.

[21:00:04]

COOPER: Ryan Nobles. I appreciate your reporting tonight.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris?