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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

GOP Senators Talked Strategy with Trump Team; Impeachment Managers Wrap Case, Trump Defense Tomorrow; Trump COVID-19 Condition was so Concerning that Doctors Considered Putting Him on a Ventilator; Third Day of Donald J. Trump's Second Impeachment Trial; DOJ: Oath Keepers Leader Waited for Trump's Direction Before Capitol Attack. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 11, 2021 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. The former president's defense attorneys met privately today with three of his allies in the Senate after impeachment managers wrapped up the last day of their case.

Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee met with the attorneys behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. Senator Cruz said they were working on a strategy and according to one of the attorneys, the Republican Senators were, quote, making sure we're familiar with procedure.

The private meeting with three Senators who are also jurors in this trial puts the light of any notion this is totally an impartial affair. It is not. It is a political exercise. Case in point out in the meeting, Cruz told CNN, quote, "I think the end result of this impeachment trial is crystal clear to everybody, which is that Donald Trump will be acquitted. Perhaps one reason why Democrats state not only appearing intent on trying to impeach the president's bad acts, but his legacy as well."

Wonder how Democrats wrap their case today from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Senators, America, we need to exercise our common sense about what happened.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House impeachment team rested its case tonight, urging Senators to hold President Trump responsible for repeatedly misleading his followers, and inviting them to the Capitol in a last-ditch effort to stop the election from being certified.

RASKIN: He knew they were coming, he brought them here, and he welcomed them with open arms.

ZELENY: On their final day of arguments, the prosecutors zeroed in on the former presidents own words, and actions. Said, he showed no remorse, and must be held responsible for his conduct.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): You don't have to take my word for it that the insurrectionist acted at Donald Trump's direction, they said so.

UNKNOWN: We were invited here. We were invited here by the president of the United States.

ZELENY: Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, one of the impeachment managers, seized upon the stories of one rioter after another, who said they breached the Capitol at Trump's direction.

UNKNOWN: Let's call Trump. Yes. Dude, dude, let's tell Trump what's up.

UNKNOWN: Trump would be very upset.

UNKNOWN: He'd be like, no, just say we love him. We love you bro.

UNKNOWN: No, he'll be happy, what do you mean? We're fighting for Trump.

UNKNOWN: I thought I was following my president, I thought I was following what we were called to do.

DEGETTE: All of these people who had been arrested and charged, they are being held accountable for their actions. Their leader, the man who incited them, must be held accountable as well.

ZELENY: The big lie, that the election was rigged and stolen from Trump, is also on trial. And prosecutors say that the Senate has the power to stop it from happening again.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): You know, I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I am afraid he is going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again.

ZELENY: One day after horrific sights and harrowing sounds of the attack filled the Senate chamber --

UNKNOWN: Cruiser 50, we have lost the line, we've lost the line. All MPD, pull back. We have been flanked and we've lost the line.

ZELENY: Convicting the president still remains a remarkably high bar. With 17 Republicans needed to join all Democrats in finding Trump guilty. Republican Senator, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted with Democrats on the constitutionality issue, said Trump's lawyers must address the president's false assertions about a rigged election.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): The point was made, people felt as if they had no recourse, because their vote was being stolen. We know the president built that story. So, how do you defend that? How do you describe that?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, joins us now from Capitol Hill. You just mentioned Senator Cassidy there, when he's looking for tomorrow. What else are Senators expecting to hear from President Trump's legal team?

ZELENY: Well, Anderson, I think Senator Cassidy speaking for many of his colleagues and simply wanting to know what President Trump was doing in the hours of January 6th. We've seen a tweet, we've seen a statement, but in the rest of the hours, of course, our reporting shows that he was cheering on the insurrectionists. That that is something that many Senators want to know, exactly what he was doing to fill in some of those blanks.

But a big question hanging over tomorrow's defense by the Trump legal team is how much they talk about this stolen election. Of course, those are falsehoods. But the president changed his whole legal team over that specific matter. He wanted his lawyers to focus on that. These lawyers say they would rather not.

And it's not one of the reasons likely that we are hearing this is going to be much more of a shorter affair. Perhaps using only three or four hours, of 16 hours allotted. This all could be wrapped up by the end of the weekend. Anderson?

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks. Let's get perspective now, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Anne Milgram joins us. And White House correspondent, John Harwood, and our chief domestic correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, we have new reporting tonight about what to expect tomorrow from the defense.

[23:05:00]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I spoke with Bruce Castor, one of the president's impeachment lawyers earlier today. He said they were cutting part of their presentation as we speak, to shorten things for tomorrow. And I think brevity is going to be the key. The president's impeachment team wants to, I think, maybe earned some points with some of these Senators by being brief tomorrow.

They expect this presentation to be about three or four hours. They do expect to, Anderson, and you and I talked about this from time to time, they do expect to try to accused Democratic impeachment managers of some hypocrisy by saying that there are some members of Congress on the Democratic side who have used comments, like fight like hell, to say, OK, well, they did it so to Donald Trump.

Of course, when the Democrats did it, there was not an insurrection that followed. So, there's no equivalence there. They're also going to make the argument that there is no straight line between the president's comments on January 6th, and what the rioters did on Capitol Hill on that day.

Of course, you know, the impeachment managers did present that video evidence and it was compelling, and sometimes devastating video evidence that showed that they were Trump supporters who are out there on the Capitol, at that time. (Inaudible), they were taking their cues from Donald Trump himself. And so, I think that at this point, the idea from the impeachment team is that they want to do no harm, they want to think that less is more, and by getting out of there as quickly as possible.

They are hoping to keep as many Republicans on as possible. And Anderson, talking to Bruce Castor earlier today, they say they are very confident at this point that they are going to be able to walk out of this process with the former president acquitted in all of this, and not convicted. And I think all indications are at this point, that is exactly what we should expect.

COOPER: Yes, Anne, I mean, right now, every indication, Democrats should, you know, forgo calling witnesses. Do you think that is the right call?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't. And I have to sort of show my biases as a former prosecutor, state and federal prosecutor, you always want witnesses. You always want as much evidence as you can have. And I do think that there are some unanswered questions here. There are a lot of questions in my mind about like the ellipse and the permit. Who was involve in the changing of that permit? So that it was January 6th?

And it was, it did allow a march to the Capitol. Like, why did it take so long for the National Guard to respond? What was Donald Trump doing on January 5th and January 6th? And there is also sort of a money trail that Representative Swalwell started to talk us through. Of money that had actually gone to recruit Trump followers to come to Washington D.C. on January 6th.

So, I think that there are questions, and you know, my view, as a prosecutor, is when you put in your case, you want to sit down believing that you put in every piece of evidence that you can. They have done an outstanding job, and I think that they have drawn that line, and they've showed that Donald Trump's fingerprints are all over the insurrection. But I still think that there are questions that I, personally, would like to see them answer with witnesses.

COOPER: John, we already know that many Senate Republicans are not going to change their mind. What do you make of CNN's reporting that Graham, Cruz, Lee, actually met with the former president's defense lawyers today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it shows that this is, in fact, a political process, and not a courtroom. That informs the decision of the House managers to move ahead without witnesses, despite and valid objection as a prosecutor, to the fact that they have not fully developed the cases they could.

But, you know, unfortunately, for President Trump, he has got a bad case, and he's got lawyers who aren't nearly as effective as the House managers. Fortunately for him, because it is a political process, he's going to win. As Bruce Castor's confident for a reason. And the reason is that the Republican Party has been radicalized. We saw that expressed in the insurrection.

President Trump was able to put the anger, and fear, of his base of his supporters who are concerned about the way the country is changing, it's becoming less white, less Christian, requiring more education, that base of white working class voter is concerned about falling behind. They are open to non-Democratic means of holding their power, some of the Republican politicians themselves have been radicalized. That's why they favor steps to make it more difficult for people to vote.

But even people who are not radicalized understand that they fear that base. They are not willing to cross that base, and that is why so many Republican Senators are not even going to consider the merits of the case. They are going to hide behind the idea that this is unconstitutional, and, simply, wash their hands of the case, and try to move on after acquitting the president.

COOPER: You know, Jim, we saw one of the defense lawyers David Schoen, leave during the trial today to go do an interview on Fox. Even out of office it is the former president wants his lawyers to be on TV, and I know you've been getting that message.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. I talked to a source familiar with the former president's thinking today who said, listen, the former president wants to see more lawyers out there on television. Extolling the virtues of his case, and his defense. As if there is a defense at this point that really adds up at this point.

[23:10:13]

I think, at the end of the day, as John was alluding to a few moments ago, Anne Milgram that these Republicans are essentially going to settle on this process argument. It was unconstitutional to put the president, former president through this process to begin with, because he is now out of office.

And I think, Anderson, you know, perhaps it's because it is the night before the final day, before all of this breaks down and these senators go to decide whether or not they want to vote to acquit, or convict. I think it needs to be said that it is going to be written in our history books with a lightning bolt.

That the Republican Party, as John was saying a few moment ago, is going to forgo an act of courage here. They are going to skip past a moment here, where they could have had a profile encouraged, and decided to just weigh the evidence here, and decide on the evidence, to go ahead, and convict this president.

I mean, it is just undoubtedly the case. If you look at the video, if you look at the evidence that was presented by the House impeachment managers, you can call witnesses until the cows come home. There is just no doubt, when you look at the video of the president on that day, inciting people, calling them to marched down on the Capitol, and make their voices heard, and so on.

He was sending people to the Capitol. There is just no doubt in anybody's mind about that. But at the end of the day, this is just a political process that is playing out. And that is why I think you are going to see obviously this former president being acquitted in all of this. But at the same time, there is just a massive missed opportunity here for a lot of Republicans to side with the country, and not their own party here.

And it just seems to me, Anderson, you know, when David Schoen skipping out of the trial to go appear on Fox News, he's just doing that to appear for an audience of one. Where is a decision being made to stand on principle in all of this? We are just not seeing that kind of act of courage, profile in courage in any of this. And frankly watching it, it's just, it's just really disappointing to watch.

COOPER: Anne, you know, what's interesting, Jamie Raskin actually tried to address the notion of, you know, the fig leaf, a lot of the Republican Senators are going to use which is, well, we don't believe that a former president can be impeached, can be put on trial for an impeachment, therefore, we are going to just, you know, we are not even going to address whether or not he is guilty of any of this.

Raskin kind of took that head on and said, look, that's already been settled. That the Senate has decided. Yes, the Senate actually does have the right to do this. Now you need to decide how you are going to vote based on the evidence that has been presented. It doesn't mean they are going to do that, but I thought it was an interesting argument that he basically took head on and said, you know, they are going to argue, perhaps, you know, you don't have the right to put him on trial. That's already been decided.

MILGRAM: Yes, absolutely. And I think he was right to point that out, because it's one of the first things they are going to say tomorrow that it is a major defense for Trump. And remember what both Jim and John just said, is absolutely true. They're arguing process. They are not arguing the facts on what happened on January 6, or before that. And that is a really important thing to know, because I think they can't argue those things.

And so, they are going with this very, process oriented argument. And what Raskin was trying to basically do is take that off the table. What's really important also about, about Raskin calling them out on this is that if they take this process approach, what they are doing is really in some ways, they're complicit with the big lie. They are failing to call out how we ended up where we did on January 6th.

And so Raskin is sort of trying to pull away that fig leaf and say that is not a valid defense. You have to address this issue, because to vote otherwise, is to vote against the constitution. And also, to vote I think, against truth of what really happened on that fateful day.

COOPER: Yes. Anne Milgram, John Harwood, Jim Acosta, thank you. Just ahead, more breaking news. The sources, the former president's coronavirus infections were so concerning that doctors considering putting on a ventilator. Which then tells you that his doctors, when they gave those ridiculous press conferences were lying, just as we all knew they were.

One of The New York Times reporters who first broke this story will join us with more details. We are also continuing the impeachment discussion with legendary reporter, Carl Bernstein, about how this trial will shape the nation and the history. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:15:00]

COOPER: Our coverage of the impeachment trial continues in just a moment. Right now, we are breaking news story first reported by the New York Times, in another area of the former president's legacy.

According to the Times, back in October when he contracted coronavirus, his condition was far more dire than he in the White House acknowledged. With some officials worried he would need to be put on a ventilator. He also reportedly had far lower blood oxygen levels in his own physician indicate it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: I wanted to ask if his oxygen level ever dipped below 90.

SEAN CONLEY, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: We do not have any recordings here of that.

UNKNOWN: What about here? At the White House or here? Anything below 90, just to follow up on her question?

CONLEY: No, he's below 94 percent, it wasn't down in the low 80s or anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We are joined now by Mark Mazzetti, CNN national security analyst, a Washington investigative correspondent who co-wrote the story of the Times. Also, with us, Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, and former Baltimore health commissioner.

Mark, I mean, I remember when Dr. Conley said that, and it was so obvious he was trying to avoid answering that question altogether and he have two misleading answers. Explain what you have learned from your reporting?

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You're right. We recall back to that period of time when it was very difficult to get answers, not only from the president's doctors, but also from White House officials about exactly what the president's condition was. So, Dr. Conley, in that press conference, talked about sort of a range of numbers for a very key metric in coronavirus which is, the president's blood oxygen level.

[23:20:06]

And what we are reporting in our story today was actually the blood oxygen level dip into the eighties. Which is a sign of a very severe case of the disease, and something that was greatly concerning to not only the doctors, but to the White House officials. And was one of the key reasons why the president ultimately went to Walter Reed Hospital.

So, it was -- what we are learning is that the president symptoms were far worse than we, or anyone, knew before. And with the doctors at the time, were certainly not being upfront with everyone about the extent of the president's condition.

COOPER: And there was -- what was the concern about that a ventilator might be needed? Do you know who, was that a doctor's concern?

MAZZETTI: It was -- what we know is that there is a concern among White House officials. Now, we don't know, right now, about whether it was actual medical concerns, or if it was conveyed to White House officials. But certainly, the president, we know his oxygen levels were plummeting, and he was having trouble breathing.

And he got to a point where while he didn't want to go to the hospital, it was sort of that he was convinced that the only way he was going to go if he wanted to go was to go in a helicopter, walking, if he waited too long, he might not actually be able to walk. So, he wanted to actually have the photo op of going in the helicopter to the hospital. And so that was one of the things that convince him. That was the time to go.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, when all this was going on, you are very skeptical about what the former president's doctors were saying. You suspected he was far sicker than they were letting on. I am just amazed that, I mean, I don't know if the doctor was being misleading because his patient was telling him he had to be misleading, but it just seems like a doctor's job is not to be, you know, spinning stuff. It is either to give information, or just say, I'm not going to give out any patient information.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's right, Anderson. I mean, to me, this is the equivalent of a patient who doesn't want their family members to know exactly how ill they are. And we physicians are in that situation, actually quite often. When the patient says, I don't want you to tell these details to my family members. We always respect the patient's decision, but if that is the case, we then tell the family that the patient doesn't want us to tell you this information.

We don't mislead, and we certainly don't try to paint a particularly rosy picture by cherry-picking certain details. And that is what happened here. I mean, we didn't know what the oxygen saturation level was. I thought it was also really striking that we never found out what the lung imaging studies showed.

And now, we know based on Mark's reporting, that publicly there were infiltrates showing that there was pneumonia which was suggested by the fact that the president was put on dexamethasone. This powerful steroid that you don't put patients on unless they are severely ill.

COOPER: Yes, Mark. In your story, you know that the president's lungs were in worse shape that the doctors led on. You also have reporting about the lengths that the White House went to, to get him, and it turns out the first lady, on a special treatment.

MAZZETTI: Right. So the day before he goes to the hospital, the first day that the president, we know that the president has the diagnosis of COVID-19, we are reporting about some, a really a scramble, by the White House, to get FDA approval for the president. And it turns out the first lady to get the Regeneron antibody treatment.

And we reported that the Deputy White House counsel calls the FDA heads, Dr. Steven Hahn, and tells them that they need this Regeneron approval for two White House officials. Hahn doesn't even know who he was approving it for. He only finds out later, it was for the president and for the first lady.

And as we, of course, knew at the time, the president got the Regeneron treatment, one of several different treatments he got at that time, but it also shows that the White House, really, was scrambling at this time to basically get any kind of treatment they could, however experimental, to give to the president, because there was so great concern about his condition.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, when the former president left the hospital, you know, he of course, returned to the White House in that very dramatic, choreographed fashions, for a photo-op, where he takes off the mask, he climbs the step, he's clearly struggling to breathe at that time.

WEN: That's right. One of the signs we look for in breathing is whether you're using other muscles to help you breathe. If you and I am breathing, and talking, we don't look like we are breathing. But if somebody is using their neck muscles, they are straining, that is when you tell that there is work of breathing. There is something else going on.

And I know that at that time, I was very worried for President Trump. Because I thought that it was too soon for him to be leaving the hospital. I mean, he was still having these drops in oxygen level which, to me, means that he is by definition, unstable.

[23:25:07]

If you have continuing changes in your oxygen level, and you are brought to the hospital in the first place to monitor your condition, then why are you now being discharged? And so, I'm glad that he ended up doing well, but I think there is a lot about the privilege that he had, that other Americans don't.

COOPER: Yes. Mark Mazzetti, Dr. Wen, thank you. Mark, fascinating reporting, I appreciate it.

Coming up, I'll talk to legendary Watergate reporter and author, Carl Bernstein about the history that we have all been witnessing this week, and how it compares to another tumultuous presidency.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: No matter this impeachment trial ends up, it is undeniable the former president now counts for half of the presidential impeachments ever recorded in American history.

Perspective now from renowned Watergate reporter and author Carl Bernstein, along with his Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, lived and reported through the last time the nation had such a tumultuous chief executive. So, Carl, the House impeachment managers are rapping up their arguments today. What were your impressions?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A remarkable case about the sedition of a president of the United States, the first seditious president in our history was presented airtight and shown that this president, Donald Trump, led, instigated, embraced an attack on the United States of America.

And meanwhile, the Republican senators, instead of saying, Mr. President, this attack is unconscionable, it cannot stand, we will repudiate you and convict you, they are embracing the evil of Donald Trump and Trumpism at a moment in our history when they had the chance to absolutely repudiate it and take a stand for principle against the most evil force in the White House that we have ever seen.

COOPER: The former president is likely to be acquitted. I mean, at this point, obviously getting 17 senators to vote with Democrats unlikely. If inciting a mob to attack the Capitol is not impeachable, and even without that, just undermining the electoral process and the confidence in democracy, you would think would be almost impeachable.

BERNSTEIN: Well, Nixon would have been convicted in the Senate for undermining the electoral process. But this goes further. This is a kind of dereliction of duty such as have never ever been even imagined by a president of the United States.

And I think we need to look at something else about Donald Trump's dereliction of duty and that is what he has done in COVID. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died because of his homicidal negligence. And the same attitude is indicated in what he did in terms of leading, instigating this insurrection.

This is a president of the United States who does not care about the United States, who does not care about its people. He cares about himself and about his seditious movement, about his own demagoguery, about his own welfare.

Whatever you say about Richard Nixon, he was not seditious. He had a belief in what the United States is, what its place in the world is. He did not daily undermine the interest of the United States and fight the interest of the United States for his own personal welfare. He did it in terms of his election -- what he did in terms of undermining the electoral process, but nothing like this.

COOPER: Although now, I mean, the Republican Party, there was a moment that -- the night of the insurrection when they had a moment where it seemed like they might actually be taking a stand in deciding to rid the party of -- to no longer have it be the party of Trump, and that lasted for, you know -- Lindsey Graham's --

BERNSTEIN: Well --

COOPER: -- moment of courage lasted for a minute or two and --

BERNSTEIN: Twelve minutes maybe.

COOPER: Yeah. And the next morning gets heckled in an airport and then, you know, suddenly is a different Lindsey Graham.

BERNSTEIN: More important than Lindsey Graham is Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is going to be remembered as the equivalent of a minority leader in the Senate who embraced Jefferson Davis before the civil war, a secessionist.

This is an act by a leader of the Senate of the United States putting self-interest, political party interest above the country in a way such as we have not seen by someone who is believed by his colleagues for a while to at least have some fig leaf (ph) of responsibility to the nation. That is gone now.

The idea that the evil, the evil that Mitch McConnell pointed out on the floor of the Senate only a few weeks ago, that he turned tail and ran, is something to behold.

Look, we have been in a cold civil war for a good long time in this country. Donald Trump poured the flames on that cold civil war and ignited it. And now the Republicans in the Senate have said we are going to have an ignited civil war of some sort in this country.

It transcends politics. It's cultural. It has to do with racism. It has to do with misogyny. It has to do with the character and cult of Donald Trump.

[23:34:54]

BERNSTEIN: And these senators throwing away principle have said, all right, we are going once again to go our craven cowardly way and embrace Trumpism, an evil force.

You know, I said on this air and did a piece about more than 21 Republican senators who despised Donald Trump. The number is probably 30, 35. They include Mitch McConnell. They think he's a danger to democracy. These Republican senators have no spine whatsoever. They now have endangered the country and the future of the United States.

We are going to have also a kind of civil war for the future of the Republican Party. That's evident now, and perhaps there will be a third party started for a legitimate conservative movement that can fight Trumpism.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

COOPER: Yeah. Up next, a new allegation from federal prosecutors as they try to link the former president's words to Capitol Hill attack. Why they say an oath -- so-called Oath Keepers leader arrested and charged in connection to the riot believed she was responding to a call from the former president himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, as the attorneys for the former president appear ready to argue before the Senate there is no evidence, he told a rioter, to attack the Capitol, the Justice Department is drawing a connection, comes new court filings from prosecutors. We have details now from our Jessica Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prosecutors are now putting it plainly in their latest court filings. Some of the alleged Capitol rioters believed they were responding to the call from then President Trump himself.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue --

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The latest revelation comes in the case of Jessica Watkins. Watkins is a military veteran, who is now a leader in the right-wing militia movement. And the group, the Oath Keepers, according to prosecutors.

They told the judge, as the inauguration grew nearer, Jessica Watkins indicated she was awaiting direction from President Trump. Specifically, they say she sent a text on November 9th, saying, I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it's not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will.

CROWD: Die for Trump!

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This is the most direct language we've heard yet from federal prosecutors, linking Trump's rhetoric --

TRUMP: We fight, we fight like hell --

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): -- to the people charged with the most militant aspects of the insurrection. Watkins had trained and plotted for a moment like this, prosecutors told a judge, arguing to keep her in jail, pending trial.

They say Watkins wore fatigues and combat gear, leading 30 to 40 people on a radio app on January 6th.

CROWD: USA! USA!

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Prosecutors also detailing the plans of a man they say worked with Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, a fellow member of the Oath Keepers. Caldwell allegedly discussed transporting weapons across the Potomac River up to the Capitol.

Prosecutors say the weapons by boat plan (ph) was hatched three days before the siege, when Caldwell texted someone he believed was connected to another paramilitary group, the Three Percenters. Caldwell allegedly explained bringing weapons by boat would help them get around D.C. strict gun laws and said I will buy the fuel, maybe scooting on the river a bit and pretending to fish. Then if at all went to expletive, our guy loads our weapons and Blue Ridge Militia weapons and ferries them across.

Both Caldwell and Watkins have been charged with conspiracy. All of this as a judge has now released this woman from custody.

UNKNOWN: I've been in the other room with (INAUDIBLE).

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Rachel Powell directed fellow rioters with a megaphone during the insurrection, according to prosecutors.

They presented plenty of evidence to try to keep Powell behind bars, showcasing photos in court of firearms paraphernalia inside her home, along with smashed cell phones and go bags, arguing she is a flight risk. Inside those go bags. Prosecutors say Powell put throwing knives and survival gear like tape, lighters and tarps.

The Washington, D.C. judge who released her said that since two Proud Boys members, including an alleged leader had been released, the judge could not fairly keep Powell, a Pennsylvania mother of eight, locked up.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: Jessica Schneider joins us now. So you just mentioned the Proud Boys in your piece. The Justice Department announced today that several more of these members involved in the Capitol attack have been arrested. You know what they're charged with?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, Anderson, all five are now being charged with conspiracy. And, you know, this is the largest set of charges against the Proud Boys, really relating to their coordinated role in this attack.

And prosecutors here, they are laying out the details. They say that all five of these people associated with the Proud Boys, they moved to the Capitol together, they also wore fluorescent orange tape on their clothing, they wore tactical gear, and they moved through the Capitol and pushed their way through.

And the FBI tonight, Anderson, hinting that there will be more of these conspiracy charges to come against the Proud Boys. They said in a footnote in these court filings, they are investigating more people here. Anderson?

COOPER: Proud Boys love their costumes. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

So far, there have been more than 200 arrests in the wake of the insurrection, but what Senate acquittal for the former president means to the extremists who believe so fervently what he was telling them?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we saw in Jessica Schneider's report just one small faction of the home-grown groups that have emerged around the country, some of whom prosecutors say took part in the Capitol attack, the so-called Oath Keepers, the so-called Proud Boys and others.

In the face of a likely acquittal for the former president by the Senate, the question is, will these groups now feel emboldened to act even more?

Joining me now is former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman and Mia Bloom, who studies extremism at Georgia State University. Mia, how do you think extremists are going to view any acquittal of the former president in this impeachment?

MIA BLOOM, EVIDENCE-BASED CYBERSECURITY RESEARCH GROUP, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: You're absolutely right, it's going embolden them and encourage them perhaps to even do it again. Right now, on many of the chat rooms on the encrypted telegram application, the QAnon people are talking about March 4th. So if the president gets off scot-free, then we don't know what's going to happen in March.

But also, we don't know what's going to happen if he runs again, he loses again. So it is not just immediate. It's also a long-term threat.

COOPER: What's up with March 4th? Why is that suddenly now a date?

BLOOM: Well, so what happens is that a lot of QAnon people were absolutely positive that the storm was going to come on January 20th.

[23:50:02]

BLOOM: And if you were watching along some of the videos that they posted, they watched President Trump walked up the steps of Air Force One, and they were like, OK, any second now, it's going to be martial law. And when he actually went inside the plane, they freaked out.

And so, what they do very often when the Q oracle (ph) is wrong is they push back a little bit and they just change everything to a different date. So, the now the date for the storm is going to be in March.

COOPER: All right. Yeah, I mean, this Q oracle (ph), you know, this whole cult of Q has been wrong every single time and has predicted all this stuff that has never happened. And yet it is this ever-changing conspiracy cult and they just come up with a different explanation.

Congressman Riggleman, I know you're disturbed by all of this, as well. More than 200 people from at least 40 states have been arrested for the attack on the Capitol. If the former president himself isn't held responsible, what kind of message do you think it send?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER VIRGINIA REPRESENTATIVE: I think it's really a danger to our republic if we don't hold people accountable. We seem to have this propensity to push disinformation out almost every day. And about March 4th, I don't know if you know this, Anderson, but they've jacked the hotel rates up at the Trump Hotel for March 4th. That was the original --

COOPER: Is that really true?

RIGGLEMAN: That is true, absolutely. I would love to have a baseball hat and a fake beard and be there that night, I can tell you that. I'd love to get a room there. But the issue that you have with disinformation, and I want to talk about this, you see their proxies are already pointing out that (ph).

I think one of the plans of attack -- well, I will say one of the defenses that you're going to see tomorrow is that President Trump wasn't involved in all the planning for the attack.

That's pretty easy to prove that he was. When you look at disinformation attack, it's a deliberate dissemination of information that's false or malicious. And that's what you've seen for months and months with the president.

So, again, it's going to be interesting to see tomorrow what happens. It's going to be interesting to see these individuals like the Proud Boys and other people that are immediately saying that they were following the orders of President Trump.

But again, that just goes back to the months of disinformation, the maliciousness of it, but is the weaponizing of that type of insanity that you saw on January 6th. But again, March 4th is going to be an interesting date, especially around D.C. and especially at Trump Hotel.

COOPER: Mia, you know, what's interesting to me is, it is now well- documented that there were a ton of -- a lot of QAnon believers, true believers at the Capitol, one of them was shot to death, you know, these so-called Proud Boys --

BLOOM: (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Two of them --

BLOOM: (INAUDIBLE) and the other woman died because she was crushed. Rosanne died as a result of the crush on the second level.

COOPER: It's -- what's interesting is that, you know, a lot of them are now, who are actually facing justice and court cases, say, you know, they feel betrayed by President Trump, they were lied to by President Trump, but all the -- but there are still plenty of other Q people who have seen their fellow Q cultists now facing charges and saying, we were lied to, but that doesn't seem to influence anybody.

BLOOM: What's also very disconcerting is that there have been some surveys that came out today from AEI (INAUDIBLE). And so we are actually seeing even after the insurrection, an increase in the number of people that believe in QAnon, including six percent are Democrats. So, I understand that 29 percent are Republican. We are seeing an increase in QAnon and what they're saying is, trust the plan, it's coming, and don't worry.

We have to consider the fact that QAnon is becoming a massive problem because it's not just one group, it's crisscrossing the political spectrum from right to left and it's starting to involve more and more evangelicals.

COOPER: Congressman Riggleman, there have been warnings about, you know, right-wing extremism by law enforcement personnel, not politicized warnings, but from actual law enforcement personnel for years. Do you think it is -- law enforcement is taking this seriously now?

RIGGLEMAN: I think they're taking it seriously now, if you see the barriers around the Capitol. You know, I had a discussion today with somebody, Anderson, we were talking about, you know, do we -- somebody asked me, they said, who is the leader of Q? You know, this is an interesting question. There are a lot of different people that have been, you know, sort of identified that way.

But, you know, Q, like Mia was saying, is a cult, sorts of takes everything in. It's almost a conspiracy sticky bomb and everything sort of sticks to it. And I think when you see what's happening now and you're seeing the morphing of these conspiracies, again, as Mia was referring to, now you see hashtags, Anderson, like last week.

COVID 1984, which we mentioned on your program, I think, on February 4th, COVID 1984 was trending on Breitbart yesterday.

COOPER: Mm-hmm.

RIGGLEMAN: That's the anti-vax (ph) conspiracy theory. So, this is concerning. And I think we need to understand that this is not over.

COOPER: Yeah.

RIGGLEMAN: You're still seeing the surge in these types of belief systems.

[23:54:55]

COOPER: And also just, you know, we're out of time, but just -- any pretense that these are people who are supporting law enforcement and believe in law enforcement, when push comes to shove and we're seeing plenty of shoving right now on this video from the Capitol, they were attacking law enforcement.

When law enforcement was actually standing up for law and order and doing their duty, they were attacking them and not only saying vile things to them but assaulting them, and in one case killing one officer there and two officers who died later by suicide.

Congressman Riggleman and Mia Bloom, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.

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