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Former WH Official: Trump Was "Loving Watching The Capitol Mob"; Interview With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); President Biden Hopes Trump Impeachment Will Not Derail Agenda; CDC: More Than 42 Million Vaccine Doses Administered In U.S.; First Member Of Congress Dies After COVID Diagnosis; Fox Business Drops Lou Dobbs After Anchor And Others Are Named In $2.7 Billion Defamation Lawsuit. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 8, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: We end tonight on a sad note: Representative Ron White of Texas, that's who you see on your screen. He passed away after being admitted to the hospital for coronavirus, and he is the first sitting congressman to die after being diagnosed with COVID.

He tested positive on January 21st. At the time, he had mild symptoms. White was 67 years old. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. This country has only seen three presidential impeachment trials in its entire history. Tomorrow, it will see its second in about a year of the same President. The first was for trying to pressure a foreign head of state and to helping him win the 2020 election. This one is for trying to overturn it by force.

Tonight, CNN's Jim Acosta has some new reporting that goes to the heart of the case. It speaks the former President's state of mind as insurrectionists invaded the Capitol, a former senior White House official saying he was quote: "Loving watching the Capitol mob," end quote.

Think about that. His former senior official says the President of the United States was watching on television as the seat of our democracy was being overrun in an assault that would leave five people dead and dozens of police officers badly injured and he was loving it.

That said, it's not all we are learning tonight. Sources telling Jim Acosta, the former president is already taking his acquittal for granted and is fixated instead on punishing any Republicans who went against him, because and this will be a theme throughout the trial, he sees the Republican Party as his own personal play thing.

Late today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer laid out the agreed on trial rules, House Managers will get 16 hours over two days to make their case, then the same for the former President's side.

After that, a vote on the Article of Impeachment followed by another, if needed on barring the former President from holding future office. If House Managers want to call witnesses, a vote will be held on it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The structure we have agreed to is eminently fair. It will allow for the trial to achieve its purpose, truth and accountability. That's what trials are designed to do, to arrive at the truth of the matter and render a verdict, and following the despicable attack on January the 6th, there must -- there must be truth and accountability if we are going to move forward, heal and bring our country together once again.


COOPER: Well, proceedings are slated to begin tomorrow afternoon. CNN, of course will bring that to you live.

Earlier today, both sides presented their final pretrial papers, House Managers writing a five-page reply to the defense and I'm quoting now from the bottom line, "The evidence of President Trump's conduct is overwhelming. He has no valid excuse or defense for his actions. President Trump violated his Oath of Office and betrayed the American people."

Now it's an argument that's plain to see to a number of Republicans including the third ranking member of the House, Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach and was asked whether she'd convict if she were a senator.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I obviously believe and did then that what we already know is enough for his impeachment. What we already know does constitute the greatest violation of his Oath of Office by any President in the history of the country, and this is not something that we can simply look past or pretend didn't happen or try to move on.


COOPER: Well, she's been censured, as you may know, by her own party back in Wyoming, and she is one of the ex-President's targets for punishment according to our new reporting.

She is also a minority in her party now, most of which seems far more inclined toward the defense case no matter how little sense much of it might make, especially to Republicans who are not beholden to the man from Mar-a-Lago.

Attorney Chuck Cooper for one, a member of the Federalist Society and the Republican National Lawyers Association, which named him Republican Lawyer of the Year in 2010. In "The Wall Street Journal," he writes this in response to the defense claim that trying an ex- President is unconstitutional. Quoting, "Given that the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former officeholders, it defies logic to suggest the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former office holders."

Again, he is, like Congresswoman Cheney and Senator Mitt Romney and a few others are conservative and Republican, just not a Trumpist or seen cherry picking the facts to make his case as the former President's team seems to be doing with their client's words.

Quoting from their memo, "Mr. Trump concluded his speech at the Ellipse stating, so let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all for being here. This is incredible. Thank you very much. Thank you."

They go on, quote: "Despite the House Managers' charges against Mr. Trump, his statements cannot and could not reasonably be interpreted as a call to immediate violence or a call for a violent overthrow of the United States government."

Keeping them honest, the sentence they cited might not, but certain patches certainly were interpreted that way. The organization Just Security synced it up with how many in the in the mob responded at each moment using video taken from social media postings.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.

TEXT: In the crowd, Parler.



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

CROWD: Take the Capitol. Take it. Take the Capitol. Take the Capitol right now.


COOPER: Again, those are the President's words along with real-time reaction to them, and here's what it looked like in cell phone data obtained by "The New York Times". That swarm of dots is people going from the Ellipse where the former President spoke to the Capitol and staying there, and mayhem.

Yet the defense denies any cause and effect. Quoting again from today's memo, "House leadership simply cannot have it both ways either the President cited the riots like the article claims, or the riots were pre-planned by a small group of criminals who deserve punishment to the fullest extent of the law."

That argument is frankly absurd. The two things are not mutually exclusive. They actually overlap, as logic would tell you, significantly so because this already radicalized group was radicalized over the span of many months by the former President himself, the same one who then called on them to go to Washington on January 6 to take action thereby putting his seal of approval on what some were already determined to do.

And it's not like he couldn't conceive of the type of people who might be there that day. Be there, and this is a quote: "Be there. We'll be wild." The President wrote in a tweet calling people to Washington. It wasn't for loving.

Again, Jim Acosta's new reporting only underscores the point that he was quote, "loving watching the Capitol mob" end quote.

If he truly did not intend to stir up violence, wouldn't he have been appalled, doing everything he could to stop it? Oddly enough, his defense team claims he did. They write, "He and the White House took further immediate steps to coordinate with authorities to provide whatever was necessary to counteract the rioters."

They go on to say, quote: "There was a flurry of activity inside the White House working to mobilize assets. There's no legitimate proof nor can there ever be that President Trump was delighted by the events at the Capitol. He, like the rest of the country was horrified at the violence."

Wow. Horrified. If that's the case, why did he have to be pushed to finally put out a video halfheartedly calling on the insurrectionists to stop? And why did that video repeat the election fraud lie that was fueling that very attack? And why did it praise the attackers as very special people who the President loved?

Why during the attack with rioters looking to hang Vice President Pence was the President attacking Vice President Pence on Twitter? Was that part of the quote, "flurry of activity"?

Why would the President and Rudy Giuliani trying to lobby senators on the vote count even as they huddled in a safe room. The calls went mistakenly to G.O.P. Senator Mike Lee, which is the only reason we know about it. They were intended for freshman Senator Tommy Tuberville. Lee told "The Deseret News" that he handed the phone to Tuberville who spoke to the President for about 10 minutes.

He said he had to tell Tuberville, quote, "I don't want to interrupt your call with the President, but we're being evacuated and I need my phone," end quote. It sounds like a comedy of errors, but it was no comedy.

The point is, it was not an example of the President trying to stop the siege or prevent loss of life. It was simply one more indication the President wasn't going to let a little thing like a deadly insurrection interfere with his plans.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows went on FOX News this weekend and didn't mention that or any constructive steps taken in the heat of the attack, but he did try to place the blame for the inadequate response elsewhere.


MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There's all kinds of blame going around, but yet not a whole lot of accountability. That accountability needs to rest with where it ultimately should be, and that's on Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Well, now, in a way it does with senators, Republicans who will have to decide whether they belong to the accountability wing of their party, or the majority of it.

Joining us now, one of the Senate jurors, Minnesota Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Senator, thanks for being with us.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: The former President's legal team is basically making two arguments. One, the trial itself is unconstitutional. Two, that even if it was constitutional, that he was exercising his First Amendment rights and that he quote, "did not direct anyone to commit unlawful actions."

As a former prosecutor yourself, does that our second argument hold water?

KLOBUCHAR: No, it does not. The First Amendment is designed to protect people from their government. In this case, he literally incited people to attack the government, to attack a co-equal branch of the government.

This wasn't about his First Amendment right. He has more than exercised that over the years.


KLOBUCHAR: This was about him literally inciting a riot, and you laid out the evidence so well, from his tweets leading up to this from his statements at rallies. And what I remember was the dog whistle when he said, January 6th, that was, of course, the day of the Electoral College votes. That was the day that turned out to be the insurrection.

I remember it because I was preparing -- I was leading our caucus in our response to Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and I thought to myself, well, this is trouble. Because he literally was putting that day out there, telling people to go wild, and then as you point out, as he is glued to the television, by all accounts, watching this horror, in which a police officer dies as a result of his injuries.

When two officers later die from suicide, when we have a woman trampled on the steps of the Capitol, what does he do? He waits hours and hours and hours. And it is only the President-elect that is willing to speak up, Joe Biden, not the President himself.

And there were plenty of Republicans in that room with us that were saying, "When is he going to speak? When is Trump going to say something?" They understood that he controlled this violent mob. And so that is the evidence.

This is not about his First Amendment rights. It's about him inciting a riot. And as for your first question about constitutionality, I love you're quoting the Republican lawyer of the Year, Mr. Cooper, who made it very clear that the plain language supports going forward for this and we have actual precedent with the former Secretary of War in the 1800s who was impeached after he was out of office.

COOPER: The question of whether or not there are going to be witnesses, that's still undecided. I want to read something that the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the former President's first impeachment trial in January of last year.

He said, "You cannot, you cannot have a fair trial without the facts; without the testimony from witnesses with knowledge of the events and the related documents." Should the standard be any different this time around?

KLOBUCHAR: This is up to the House Managers and they are going to have to decide if we should have witnesses or not, and I will say one thing, all hundred people in that room witnessed it. We have videotape that I think we're going to see, I've been told that we have never seen that has never shown the light of day yet because it was law enforcement videotape. We didn't have that in that other impeachment hearing.

Now, whether they decide to call witnesses or not, that's up to them. They have asked the President to come forward and he declined. But the point is, is that all of that -- most of the evidence in that other case was behind closed doors. This is right out there on video for us to see.

COOPER: CNN is reporting that aides of the former President say he was enjoying the spectacle, the riot and that he was quote, "loving watching the Capitol mob." That was a senior official telling Jim Acosta.

I mean, what about issuing subpoenas? I know you said it's up to House Managers, obviously. What about issuing subpoenas to those who were with him during the insurrection or Capitol Police who could, you know, describe what they endured? Wouldn't that be the best chance of possibly changing Republican mind?

KLOBUCHAR: Look, any of this is possible, Anderson, I just am in the maybe unenviable position of being the juror in this case. We are not the managers of the case, the prosecutors of the case, even though it's not a criminal case, let me make that clear. That's going to be up to them.

And let's see what evidence they put out, and we have plenty of testimony as well, that has been garnered from what people actually said in the moment when they were there and we have plenty of evidence of what the President said, leading up to it in the report.

So I'm going to let them run their own case. But I do think it's significant that Senator Schumer and Senator McConnell reached an agreement, a bipartisan agreement of how this trial will proceed, including a decision about witnesses, which will be made at some point during the trial.

COOPER: Republican Senator Lankford said today on impeachment, quote: "I don't know of anyone that their mind is not made up." Do you think he's right?

KLOBUCHAR: I don't know about that. I guess, as a former prosecutor, I saw a lot of cases go good or go bad, depending on what the evidence is. I don't think that -- look in politics, did people think we were going to win Georgia? No, I don't think they did. And we did because people listened and made a decision.

So I'm just not going to concede that right now before we have even seen an ounce of evidence in an official proceeding. This is our job.

And I think Liz Cheney did a beautiful job this weekend of describing this, that you just can't pretend it didn't happen. I think that she said, "We've got to make sure this never happens again." And I think that's really important to note that you can't have a President who just because he loses, clearly loses an election decides he is going to mess around with our democracy and literally attack a co-equal branch of government that was simply doing its job to certify the votes that had already been certified.


KLOBUCHAR: Maybe Trevor Noah said it best when he said on his show, if you get fired from BestBuy, you can't go and steal a TV on your way out.

So we can't have the precedent be that you can just go do anything you want in President Trump's own words "go wild" and wreak havoc on our democracy to the point where people die and police officers are killed and not have any kind of responsibility for it.

So I look forward, as you pointed out at the end of your segment there of carrying on that mantle of accountability, and I think we have to take it very seriously.

COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Anderson. Look forward to being on again. Thank you.

COOPER: Joining us right now is Noah Feldman, who was a witness for the House Managers in the first impeachment trial. He's also a Constitutional Scholar, a Professor at Harvard Law School.

Professor Feldman, thanks for being back. So is there any merit to the argument that the former President's legal team put forward today, one that impeaching former President is unconstitutional; two, that he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights when he whipped up that crowd?

NOAH FELDMAN, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: The trial is definitely not unconstitutional.

There's a strong precedent for trying someone once they're out of office, and the history suggests that the framers also understood that that was a possibility. So I don't think there's much to that.

On the First Amendment claim, I think the key point to understand is that the Constitution says, you have free speech, and what it means by that is you can't be criminally prosecuted or otherwise harmed by the government for speaking freely.

It does not say that you have a get-out-of-jail free card as it were, as President to commit a high crime and misdemeanor, so long as you do it while you're talking. And that's what Trump did. He did it while he was talking. And that's what he was doing when he was inciting people to violence and that's what the allegation is, and that's what he'll be tried for. So it's just a mistake to see the First Amendment as the definitive feature there.

And so I think that argument as well, is not a legally correct one.

COOPER: We just learned that at least two alleged Capitol rioters are arguing in court that the former President himself is the reason for the violence, with one even going as far as calling him quote, "an unindicted co-conspirator." I mean, it's remarkable how, you know, supposedly supporters of the President, with their back up against the wall in the court, suddenly turn on him and named him as a co- conspirator.

But, I mean, do you think the Democrats might make that part of their case? Does that matter? I mean, would that hold any weight?

FELDMAN: I don't think they're going to make direct reference to what's happening in those trials. But they could say essentially the same thing. They could say that the President -- and they are saying that the President was a central cause of the attack on the Capitol by virtue of inciting it.

In fact, that's what it means to say that the President did incite it. It means that in some fundamental way, his words led to the events that followed. They don't have to prove that it was the but for cause, that if it wasn't for the President, people wouldn't have attacked, but they do have to show that the President's words led in some meaningful way, and that he knew they would lead in a meaningful way to the attack on the Capitol, and that's what they're going to try to do with their video presentation.

COOPER: It just seems that the entire fact that this rally was called for January 6, it's not a random date. It's not, you know, just some random date to protest election, you know, alleged election fraud, which was not actually, you know, real. It's the last date. I mean, if you're going to have a coup, this is the day to try to -- this is the day you have to try to stop the electoral votes from being counted.

FELDMAN: Yes, and that was really the context of what happened. That was the context of President Trump's speech, and it was the context of the riot that followed. Now his lawyers will try to say it was planned without him. In fact,

they did say this in their brief that they filed today, their long brief, it was planned independently, it wasn't because of him, the attack on the Capitol would have happened no matter what he did and that's a defense on the facts.

And I think the way to refute that is for the House Managers to say, did you watch TV that day? You know, did you see what happened? Did you see the President's speech? Did you see what followed? And that's really the core of the factual case that they're making.

And, you know, the President has to defend on those grounds as well, not on these pretty inconclusive and not very convincing legal theories.

COOPER: One argument left out of all 78 pages of legal filing today, that was in the defense's initial filing a week ago is that the accusation that helped foment this insurrection in the first place that the election was stolen, did it surprise you given how focus the former President has been on continuing to push the big lie? And do you think that's going to come up at all during the trial?

FELDMAN: You know, it was very noteworthy, the lawyers did not include that. And I would say that was the first piece of really good lawyering they have engaged in. It's not a good way to defend the President against the impeachment charge to say, well, the election was stolen from us, because that just seems like doubling down on the same issues that led to the attack on the Capitol in the first place.

So I think that was wise, and my guess is that having omitted it from their brief, they probably will not themselves, bring it up. That's not to say that some senators might not bring it up when they get to the point where they're going to deliberate over what actually took place and when they make their decision about how they're going to vote.

COOPER: Professor Noah Feldman, appreciate it. Thank you.

FELDMAN: Thank you.


COOPER: One other quick note, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger tells CNN that his office has started an investigation into the former President's attempt to overturn the state's election results. The probe is going to include that call he famously made, the former President made in which he was caught on tape asking Raffensperger to find him the votes needed to win.

The investigation, the fact finding. Any further legal efforts will be left to Georgia's Attorney General.

So there's much more ahead tonight. Coming up next, what President Biden said today about the impeachment trial and the question of how he can avoid having it overshadow his agenda? Later, both the welcome news on COVID and some worrying items as well

including new word on just how much less effective might vaccines be against new variants of the virus.


COOPER: Breaking news from our Kaitlan Collins right now on the timing of the impeachment trial. Trump attorney David Schoen has withdrawn his request for his client's impeachment trial to be suspended during the Jewish Sabbath, which would mean the trial would be paused Friday night through Saturday. Schoen says it can proceed as planned, but he won't participate.

More now on timing and President Biden with a full slate of things he'd like to get done quickly. Here he is today when asked about the former President testifying.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's got an offer to come and testify, he decided not to, so let the Senate work that out.


COOPER: Well, the President as you know has stayed conspicuously hands off impeachment. Here to talk about his stakes and then his incentives for moving on, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod, former top adviser to President Obama.

David, no stranger to the White House, you are, taking over amidst a crisis. President Biden has a pandemic economic calamity uphill battle over his COVID relief package, a divided country. And now, a lot of the oxygen in Washington is obviously going to be going in this trial. How do you navigate all that at the same time?


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you try and steer around it and hope that it ends quickly, and I think that's clearly what we're seeing here.

Look, you know, you asked Senator Klobuchar a couple of minutes ago whether she thought this was cut and dry. And she, you know, hopefully said no, but everybody kind of knows how this is going to go down.

The accountability for Donald Trump is going to be in the case that is produced by the House prosecutors, but we know how people are going to vote. And you'll see it again tomorrow when they vote on whether this is constitutional, and that that is a life raft that 45 senators chose to grab on to before, they will do it again, and I think that's fine with him.

You know, there needs to be accountability, most Democrats believe that. A lot of the country believes that. A lot of Republicans don't. And I think this is one place where he and Trump may have something in common. They both want to get this over with.

COOPER: Dana, we heard from President Biden saying that the Senate needs to work it out. And we know for weeks, he wasn't hot on the idea of impeaching the former President, but his calculation was trying to convince Democrats not to impeach that could divide his party. Is there any upside politically for the President here short of a conviction?


COOPER: Yes. The President -- President Biden.

BASH: No, no. No, there's no upside. I mean, there's no upside politically. There really isn't. I mean, there's not -- there's not necessarily a big of a downside, I don't think, but not that much of an upside either.

I mean, this isn't is what it is two weeks for President Biden. And my understanding in talking to Democrats on the Hill is that, you know, what they're hearing privately is what we're hearing publicly, which is, you guys work it out, I'm not going to give you guidance. I'm not going to give you pointers. I'm not going to put pressure points on anything that is going to go on.

I'm going to stay out of it and try to, as much as I can work on other issues, primarily the COVID relief package.

COOPER: David, President Biden obviously campaigned on unity, bringing the country together, bipartisanship. It was the focus of his Inaugural Address. He is clearly moving forward on the COVID Relief Package without Republicans at this point. There's plenty of reporting about lessons, you know, he learned early on in the Obama administration. What do you think he took away from that experience?

AXELROD: Well, he probably took away particularly on the Affordable Care Act, that, you know, don't chase the unicorn of unity on an issue like this and lose six months, which is what happened on the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama had numerous meetings with Republicans, discussions went on and on. There were Democrats in the Senate, who believed that it was possible to forge a bipartisan coalition around the Affordable Care Act. But there was a policy in place that was set by Senator McConnell that no one wants to stray. And we lost six months.

Joe Biden understands with a raging virus, and all the problems facing the country right now, he doesn't have a lot of time to spare here. And he's going to be measured by how quickly and decisively he moves on this virus and gets the country out of the economic hole that it's in, gets people back to work, provide the support that's necessary to keep them whole until they get back to work. And that's what he's rightly focused on.

So, you know, when you ask me before what the downside is of this impeachment, primarily, the downside is the loss of time. You know, there are going to be some -- there's going to be some discomfort and wrangling among members here and that's not great.

But at the end of the day, the time lost is the problem, and what he doesn't have is a lot of time here, given the nature of the crisis he faces.

COOPER: But Dana, you know, in the wake of the insurrection, even for a moment around the inauguration, as there kind of always is, there was a lot of talk about bipartisanship and the potential and the hope for unity. It certainly seems like everybody's kind of dug in their heels, which is, I guess, a lesson we learn every four years that there's always this talk of it and hope of it and I mean, isn't this what absolutely happens all the time?

BASH: Yes, it is. Having said that, I'm going to say that I am optimistic that there could still be a bipartisan deal making on other issues that are more ripe for bipartisan deal making.

COVID -- the COVID relief package just really never was given how big Joe Biden is determined to go and Republicans just aren't there. Other issues down the pike, even something like the Child Care Tax Credit which Mitt Romney says that he wants to do. That's a great example of something that they can genuinely do, but after they get this big package done likely with all of the Democrats.


AXELROD: Anderson, look, let me just say unity does not mean unanimity. And what Biden wants to get to is a place where you can disagree on some things, even big things and work together on other things. And I think his tone has been very good. Because he hasn't vilified the Republicans, he hasn't foreclose the possibility of working together even on this. And that's really valuable moving forward here.

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, Dana Bash, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, more about tomorrow, the first day of the impeachment trial, we'll get a historical perspective from presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, when we return.


COOPER: A historical implications of this impeachment trial can't be understated. It's the former president second trials we mentioned something that's never ever happened before. Fact that will be at the top of any summary of his time in office and it'll shape how this country remembers the previous four years. First time he was impeached zero Republicans cross the aisle, this time 10 members of his party did more than across lines in any previous impeachment including his first.


I'm joined by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership In Turbulent Times. Great to have you here again, thank you. We are on the eve of the second impeachment trial, two impeachments for the same person never happened before in American history. What do you think is the significance of this is just in terms of his legacy and the unprecedented nature of this?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think the significance of the trial is indeed for history. I mean, I think what the argument of the cow's managers is that if this is not an impeachable offense than what is? And if that's not made for history, and for the future, there's no question that that's the important thing that's going forward now.

And I think when people look back on his presidency, there may be presidential historians who will question what were the first four years like, could he have done this thing? Did he did that? Did he have some achievements? But the crisis that we found ourselves in from the moment that he lost the election, and refused to accept it was a crisis of his own making. And I think historians will regard that with great disfavor.

I mean, that's when he argued that he did not really lose, he refused to concede the first president that ever refused to concede created the story of a fabricated story of a stolen election, mobilize those supporters told them to come on January 6, timetables really matter in history. And I think if the impeachment people can lay out the timetable, and show the story, from beginning to middle to end. Stories are what matter, then you can tell it to somebody else, and historians will tell it to the children and the children's children. And that's what will be lasting.

COOPER: You know, it's so interesting to me how one's eye changes as time goes by, and things that looked one way, at one point look different through the lens of history, or through the lens of time.

You know, under this former president, things that were completely abnormal began to seem normal, and one was sort of, you know, after a while, it didn't seem so crazy that, you know, he's tweeting about ratings of morning news shows or, you know, on cable news, and, you know, pardoning the husband of one of the, you know, anchors on over at Fox who's now being sued by, you know, the company that has, who, you know, she allegedly defamed on voting machines. So I'm wondering, through the lens of history, how abnormal all of this we'll see.

GOODWIN: I think it will seem very abnormal. Somehow we became numb over these last four years, to things that were not true being said, to the idea that normal relationships between people in Congress, were going to see each other as tribal enemies. I think that's really the measure in a certain sense of success of the trial may not be the two- thirds conviction, which people seem to think will not happen. But whether the trial can tell people, this is what happened and this has never happened before in history, and we cannot allow it to happen again. That's why the public sentiment is the key.

You know, in a certain sense, everybody's saying, well, it's going to be a failure, it won't be a failure if the trial mobilizes the public to realize what happened and not to want it to happen again. And to judge the former president by that, so that everybody's assuming that he gets acquitted, and he'll be triumphant. And he'll and he'll primary the people who voted to impeach him.

Well, what if the public is mobilized by this to understand how serious this was, and they want to change that, and they want to protect the people who voted to impeach them, they can come out and vote in those primaries, you can't give up that battle of the public sentiment. And that's what Lincoln said, with public sentiment, anything is possible, you know, without it, nothing can be achieved.

So the real goal, it seems to me, it's not necessarily just the 100 senators and how they're going to vote. But does the trial mobilize public sentiment when they see what happened, when they feel what happened. They know pieces of it.

But if the trial can connect the dots, and make people have a story that they can tell to the people next door, and they say, yes, this was wrong. The majority of the people already feel it's wrong. There's a majority in those states. So, that's the battle that's still to be fought once this impeachment trial is over.

COOPER: You know, there's that famous Faulkner line in the past isn't dead. It's not even past. And I thought it -- I think about that, with this impeachment trial coming up, because it's so fascinating to me how the history is so alive, it's not just that we are living through a historical event, it's that we are looking back to the, you know, impeachment, or of the attempt to impeach the former Secretary of War in the 1800s, I think was Stanton. And that's, that informs the arguments that's being made today. I just find that kind of fascinating.

GOODWIN: No, it's really true. I think there are certain times when you know you're living through history, and when history becomes really important. That was true, obviously during Civil War. It's true during the Great Depression, true during World War II, may be true during the 1960s.

And it's certainly true now. But the key thing that we know about history is we know how those other situations ended. We know the Civil War ended with the union restored and Mansa (ph) patient secured. We know the Great Depression came to an end with the mobilization for the war. We know that World War II ended with the allies winning.


What we don't know is the end of our story, but we have the chance to write that ending. And that's what's important about knowing that we're living in history. Maybe in the '90s, or the '80s, or the '70s. You didn't feel you were living through history we are now and we are going to write the end of our story. So the citizens have a huge responsibility right now, to figure out how to tell this story and how to make right what was wrong.

COOPER: My mom just shortly before she died, I remember her saying to me, I just want to see how it all turns out. And I sort of had that feeling very often these days. Like, how's this all going to turn out? No, we shall see.

Doris Kearns Goodwin --

GOODWIN: Yes, sometimes I wish I were in a story and 50 years from now exactly how it's going to turn.

COOPER: Exactly. Doris Kearns Goodwin is always great to have you. Thank you.

(voice-over): While the impeachment trial plays out this week, there is undeniable evidence tonight the trend lines for the coronavirus are improving, but also these more virulent strains spreading across the U.S. will make the road ahead more difficult. That discussion will we return



COOPER: So here's the good news. The U.S. is now averaging half the new daily cases of the coronavirus, it was logging just a few weeks ago, hospitalizations are down dramatically as well. Deaths appear to be declining slightly with Sunday's total, the lowest for a single day in more than three months. Add that -- add to that more than 42 million vaccine doses have now been administered. And you have a case for a positive outlook. But as one former FDA Commissioner cautioned, these variants of the virus now spreading in the U.S. are likely to diminish the returns we see from the life-saving drugs.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FMR FDA COMMISSIONER: I think as a rule of thumb, we can assume that the vaccines are probably going to be about 20% less effective against these new variants from Brazil and South Africa.

I do think that the existing vaccines are going to offer reasonable protection against these new variants. And we also may be able to develop in a timely fashion maybe in four to six months, consensus strain, a bakes in a lot of the different variation that we're seeing to have boosters available for the fall.


COOPER: Now a new study suggests that a third variant for seen in the UK is doubling in frequency in this country about every week and a half. And that study is not been published or peer reviewed. It's important to point out. It was conducted in collaboration with a lab that shares information about variants with the CDC.

Let's talk about all of this with their chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore Health Commissioner.

So Sanjay, certainly, let's start with the good news cases, hospitalizations, deaths down, is this the end of the holiday surge? I mean, is this actually turning a corner? SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm always hesitant to use the term turning the corner Anderson I mean, and with great humility, because this virus, you know, obviously continues, you know, to surprise us in many ways. But yes, I think that there is some good news here, as you point out. The numbers overall down 21% as compared to last week, and as you mentioned, 52% down as compared to about a month ago.

I think one of the things I'm really going to be looking for is, you know, we may see increases still in case numbers with these variants, as we've all talked about. They're more transmissible, they're more contagious, and that's a big concern, especially if those transmissible variants because of their contagiousness affect vulnerable people more.

But I'm really going to be looking for though is that percentage of hospitalizations to cases, that percentage of deaths to cases. You know, right now, if we were to do the math, it's around 2% deaths to the overall number of confirmed cases.

I want to see even if the cases go up, does that percentage come down? If it does, I think that will give me more confident that we are starting to make some significant headway.

COOPER: And Dr. Wen, I know you're concerned about these variants.

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I am. I think that we may be in the calm before the storm here. I completely agree with Sanjay, I think there is really good news. But we're also seeing what happens in other countries. When these variants takeover.

There is explosive surge, even when the countries are in basically in shutdown in the UK and Denmark, we've seen with this UK variant B117. That cases really skyrocket and things like schools that were able to be opened all throughout the pandemic have to close as a result. And so, I really worry about people letting up on restrictions now --

COOPER: Like indoor dining --

WEN: -- and nearly seen in the last time that --

COOPER: Like in New York, I think indoor dining now is allowed at 25%.

WEN: Yes, and the governor of Iowa and North Dakota, they have removed mask mandates. This really is the last time that we should be removing these types of restrictions. We are in for something really potentially catastrophic. And we should be doubling down on the measures that we know to work.

COOPER: Sanjay, we heard the former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb say vaccines will be about 20% less effective against variants from Brazil and South Africa that they'd also offer reasonable protection. Sound like opposing ideas? I mean, can you explain?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I think the way to sort of think about this is that it is pretty clear that the vaccines, especially for moderate or mild disease aren't as effective against these variants as they are against the more dominant circulating coronavirus. We've seen that and, you know, we've shown the numbers, I think it's 66% effectiveness versus 72%.

But I think the opposing ideas and I think you know, Scott was being consistent here because when you look at the overall effectiveness against serious disease across the board, whether it's the -- this coronavirus that's circulating most dominant here in the United States or the variants, it's pretty effective 85% protective it was Johnson & Johnson trial against all of these variants.


He also made the comment that with these mRNA vaccines, what is kind of remarkable in some ways about them is that you can sort of retool them or re-engineer them pretty quickly, within weeks versus months to get a new vaccine out there that may give you more protection. So that may be something -- that's something else I know we're going to be keeping an eye out for is there going to be booster shots that are going to be recommended that are more protective against the variants going forward?

COOPER: Dr. Wen, in an interview on CBS, President Biden called the close schools a national emergency. That was his term, he added that CDC is going to release guidance on reopening schools as early as Wednesday. What do you think the guidance were -- what do you think the guidance should set?

WEN: Well, I hope that the guidance of the CDC will be very clear, because here's what we know, we know that schools can safely reopen if the mitigation measures are put into place. And if the community transmission is relatively low, that's not the case in many parts of the country.

And so, I want to see a breakdown of in places where there is low community transmission, maybe here are the five things that schools have to put in place. But if you have a medium level of transmission, you need those five things, plus you need 10 more. And if you have a very high level of transmission, maybe you need to do pretty extraordinary things like weekly or twice weekly testing. Maybe teachers all need to be vaccinated prior to going into the classroom.

I think if there's going to be a statement about the importance of in person instruction, there should also be a statement to about prioritizing our teachers in school and staff, the people who work in our schools as well.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, appreciate it. Sanjay, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The first sitting member of Congress has died after being diagnosed with COVID. Representative Ron Wright was 67 years old. He died yesterday. In a statement his offices the Texas Republican had been treated for cancer. In December, a freshman Republican elected in Louisiana also died after battling COVID. A lot more, why Lou Dobbs Tonight was abruptly canceled on Fox Business? Will tell you what Fox News is saying and why it's not quite adding up. When we continue.



COOPER: Tonight, Fox News claims the official reason for canceling Lou Dobbs show was a post-election programming adjustment. It's raising some eyebrows because Dobbs was the highest rated host on Fox Business. There was no mention of the multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuit that Dobbs is named in along with others filed by a voting technology company. More now, on the mysterious cancellation from CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.


DAVID ASMAN, FOX BUSINESS HOST: Hey buddy, I'm David Asman, filling in for the vacationing Lou Dobbs.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dobbs was not vacationing last Friday, he was being booted from the Fox Business Network.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Joe Biden --

STELTER (voice-over): Fox is now putting a generic show in his old timeslot, and giving no believable rationale for the sudden change. Dobbs declined to comment to CNN on Monday. A review of Lou Dobbs Tonight highlights just how extreme his rhetoric had become.

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS HOST: -- Donald Trump veiling an early blow to the radical Dems, venal and unconstitutional impeachment farcical fraud --

STELTER (voice-over): That's how he opened his final show, calling Democrats Dems, calling impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, a sinister clown and calling the trial illegal.

DOBBS: It's sad to watch --

STELTER (voice-over): And that was his daily approach.


STELTER (voice-over): There were no limits to Dobbs' propaganda for Trump.

DOBBS: -- and the leader. Now, this is a man who's a natural born leader. He outworks them, he out thinks, he is a remarkably resourceful. And we are lucky to have Donald Trump step up.

STELTER (voice-over): At one point even thanking him for making weekends possible. DOBBS: Have a great weekend. The President makes such a thing possible for us all.

STELTER (voice-over): So last November, Dobbs gleefully joined Trump's crusade to steal the election from Biden.

DOBBS: Why isn't the Republican Party in mass demanding the Department of Justice move in here?

STELTER (voice-over): Later, he blasted then Attorney General Bill Barr for admitting there was no evidence of mass fraud.

DOBBS: For the Attorney General of the United States to make that statement. He is either a liar or a fool, or both.

STELTER (voice-over): Name calling smears calling the truth a lie. This is how radical right wing TV shows distort American politics.

Now, some Dobbs targets are trying to hold Fox accountable, suing the network and naming Dobbs for defamation.

DOBBS: Dominion.

RUDY GIULLIANI, ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: Dominion Smartmatic. Dominion, dominion Smartmatic.

DOBBS: Dominion.

STELTER (voice-over): Dobbs was canceled one day after Smartmatic sued for $2.7 billion. With the damage to democracy was done months ago.

DOBBS: This is an assault.

STELTER (voice-over): As Dobbs peddled a false story painting Trump's as a victim.

DOBBS: The crimes that have been committed against him and the American people.

STELTER (voice-over): And eerily saying in December, that there would be consequences.

DOBBS: I guarantee William Barr this it will not be a quiet surrender of this constitutional republic. Not in Michigan.


COOPER: Brian Stelter joins us now. Gosh, I hadn't watched Lou Dobbs in a long time. That's quite a show. So, what more are you learning from sources that's why he was fired.

STELTER: You know, he ticked off management many times probably one too many time. There may have been a falling out with the Murdochs. Dobbs is not commenting. But even though he is gone and he won't be a part of the Senate trial coverage. There are a dozen TV hosts on Fox and Newsmax just like him. That's the big picture point here, Anderson, all of that incendiary

rhetoric, all of those lies that led up to the riot. Those are still being broadcast all over the airwaves every day, Dobbs is gone, but the kind of hateful rhetoric that he created, and he promoted, it is still all over the place. And that's going to be an important part of this senate trial I believe.

COOPER: Lou Dobbs, you can return to your post. Kind of an inside joke around here.


Brian Stelter, thanks very much.

Reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" our digital news show. You can catch it streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern at or watch it there and on the CNN app at any time On Demand.

News continues. Let's hand it over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris.