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President Biden Pushes Congress To Act On $1.9 Trillion Relief Plan; Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Divide Grows In The GOP, Direction Uncertain After Trump Acquittal; Pelosi Announces Plans For "9/11-Type Commission" To Investigate Capitol Attack; North Carolina GOP Committee Censures Sen. Burr After His Vote To Impeach Trump; CDC: 89 Percent Of U.S. Kids Live In High Transmission "Red Zones" Under COVID Guidelines For School Reopening; Cuomo Admits Mistakes On Nursing Home Data, Denies He Covered Up Deaths. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 15, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So can he convince the American public to get on board and pressure representatives in Washington?

He'll be taking questions in Milwaukee and the CNN Town Hall with Anderson Cooper will be here tomorrow night at nine Eastern.

Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening, there is breaking news tonight. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi briefing House Democrats on plans to establish an outside presumably nonpartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the causes of the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

We will talk more about that shortly, including how that meshes with the new President's desire not to litigate the incident any further in the Senate.

First, though, how his motivation for putting the impeachment trial behind him differs from that of Republicans who also want to close the book on it.

For starters, President Biden wants to focus on COVID relief legislation and specific and more generally on re-establishing a sense of continuity with the way Presidents traditionally operate.

He spent the weekend at Camp David with his grandchildren who gave him this cap there, and at the White House, he keeps a regular schedule. No cable news benders or late night tweets. No morning executive time spent watching even more TV. The President's daily brief is a daily brief once again.

On the weekend, he goes to Sunday Mass. This, picture of presidential normality is both a reflection of who President Biden is as well as what he clearly wants to project politically at this moment.

By contrast, this is the image the Republican Party has chosen for itself this President's Day, the Republican National Committee tweeted it out. It's a picture of the twice impeached 45th President of the United States alongside Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln at Mount Rushmore.

In actuality, though, this is where the former President was today, in a familiar place, like his party after the second impeachment trial ended this weekend with his acquittal.

Even coming under a physical attack by a violent insurrectionary mob could only sway seven Republicans to vote to convict. As for the rest? Well, here's Senator Lindsey Graham gushing about talking to the former President, the one he said back in 2016, would bring down the Republican Party and the one he claimed he was done with on the night of the insurrection.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He is excited about 2022, and I'm ready to go down to talk with him next week, play a little golf in Florida.

And I said, Mr. President, this MAGA movement needs to continue. We need to unite the party. Trump Plus is the way back in 2022.


COOPER: Trump Plus. Senator Graham also suggested that Vice President Harris would be impeached if Republicans regain control of the House in 2022 and called for House Speaker Pelosi to be investigated in connection with the January 6th assault.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, meantime, doesn't even think much of the attack itself. Listen to what he said on it on a Milwaukee radio talk show today.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): The fact of the matter is, this didn't seem as an -- like an armed insurrection to me. I mean, armed -- when you think of, hear armed, don't you think of firearms?

Here's the -- here's the questions I would have like to ask: how many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired? I'm only aware of one.

If that was a planned arms direction, man, you have really a bunch of idiots.


COOPER: Well just to remind you, this bunch of idiots, as Senator Johnson calls them, managed to hurt and maim dozens of police officers that day with and without what you might think of as standard weapons.

One used a hockey stick; others, flagpoles; some carried bear spray, other Tasers and yes, several had been charged with carrying firearms. Federal officials say one man brought an assault rifle and hundreds of

rounds of ammunition to the Capitol allegedly targeting House Speaker Pelosi. And then of course, there were the pipe bombs as well planted the night before according to authorities.

One police officer died that day, two died suicide in the wake of the assault.

Senator Johnson is either poorly informed or just craven, or perhaps both. Other Republican senators at least acknowledge the horror, but hid behind technicalities.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.


COOPER: Well, that's of course Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and is especially rich coming from him because just a few weeks ago as Majority Leader, he prevented that private citizen from being tried while he was still President.

And if you want to relive Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10 at the Montreal Olympics, get a load of the backflip he did despite voting to acquit.


MCCONNELL: There's no question, none, President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.

The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President.


COOPER: Kind of like telling off the bully, but only after you're a few blocks away.

He did what he did after an account came to light of the former President's call during the assault with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, the President refusing to call off the rioters reportedly telling McCarthy, quote, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."


COOPER: A Republican Congresswoman was prepared to testify to this. The senators voted to allow witnesses, then for reasons not yet fully clear, both parties instead agreed not to call any and instead decided to get it all over with and start their week-long recess.

In a way, both sides are okay with that for different reasons from different places as parties with one side not even conceding simple facts about what happened that day to them.

In fact, tonight, the North Carolina Republican Party, they are meeting to decide whether to censure Senator Richard Burr for his vote to convict the former President.

Joining us now, CNN chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

So how is the White House squaring the prospects for President Biden's agenda, which he indicated he would prefer to accomplish on a bipartisan basis with where the Republican Party stands post impeachment?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think publicly they are still saying they want it to be a bipartisan agenda and to have these legislative achievements that are bipartisan in the end when the votes come down to it.

But I think the reality behind the scenes is that they look at what has happened over the last four years. They look at how this vote on Saturday when they know that's going to be incredibly difficult, because yes, they do have the House and the Senate and the White House, of course, but they barely have the Senate.

So they are still going to need Republican support for a lot of the things that they want to get passed, if they want to overcome the filibuster and they're going to need about 10 Republicans to support them on certain things unless they want to go through a weird procedural process like what they're doing right now with this COVID- 19 Relief Bill.

And so if you look at what happened on Saturday, you look at things like how Mitch McConnell ended up voting and the speech he gave after, you still see the influence that former President Trump has over the Republican Party and that people are not willing to break with him.

So for President Biden to get a lot of Republican support, it's going to be really tough, and that's what you're going to see on display this week now that he is back here in Washington, and the distraction of the second impeachment trial is really behind us.

This COVID-19 Relief Bill is taking center stage, but it has no congressional Republicans supporting it so far. And the White House is kind of dismissing that and stepping away from it by saying it does have Republican support out in the country with mayors and governors, but no lawmakers here in D.C. have supported it and that is what President Biden promised on the campaign trail that he would bring unity to Washington.

But so far, at least when it comes to this top legislative priority of his, his initial one, it is eluding him.

COOPER: Is there a sense the White House that the shadow of President Biden's predecessor is receding in a meaningful way?

COLLINS: I'm not sure. I think there is a sense that Donald Trump will always kind of loom in the background, in some ways that's been helpful to the Biden White House, because I think every new President tries to say they are going to be different than their predecessor.

You saw it with Obama and Bush, you saw it with Trump and Obama, and you've really seen Biden wield that in a way where he is saying, you know, I'm not just pushing my agenda, I'm undoing a lot of what Donald Trump did.

But then there are other aspects that will not be as helpful to him like when it comes to trying to get bipartisanship on bills and having Republicans be concerned about crossing the line for fearing the wrath of Donald Trump's base.

And so that's a big question going forward, and I don't think it's clear yet what that's going to look like during President Biden's time in office.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thanks.

Joining us now, Vermont Senator, and newly minted Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders, thanks for being with us. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a 9/11-type commission is going to be established to investigate all that happened during the insurrection of January 6, is that something you support? And what would you want them to focus on?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I do. I think when you have for the first time in 200 years an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States, you want to know as much as you can about who was behind it and what happened then and the role of the President of the United States.

But I would also say this, Anderson, it is absolutely imperative that the U.S. Congress show the American people who are hurting right now in a way that they have not hurt in many, many years that we can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.

So yes, we've got to deal with impeachment. Yes, we've got to deal with this commission. But mostly, in my view, we have got to address the pandemic. Make sure that all over this country, people get the vaccines that they desperately need. We've got to deal with the economic collapse.

The fact that many millions of people have lost their health insurance, people have lost their jobs and their income, people are worried about being evicted. People cannot feed their children. We have to address those problems.

We have to focus on climate change, on criminal justice and racial injustice, on immigration reform. We have enormous crises facing this country and we have got to go forward aggressively in standing up for the working families of this country.


COOPER: It doesn't seem at this point that the $15.00 an hour Federal minimum wage is going to be part of this particular stimulus plan. I know that's obviously very important to you, is that acceptable to you? And what are your thoughts on how --

SANDERS: I don't agree, Anderson.

COOPER: You don't agree, okay.

SANDERS: The $15.00 minimum wage was included in the House Bill. We are going to make our case and this is enormously complicated, I won't bore anybody with Senate rules here.

But we are going to make our case to the parliamentarian that we absolutely believe that raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour is consistent with the rules of the Senate and the reconciliation process.

And I believe, look, when you have half of the people in this country living paycheck to paycheck, when all over this country are having workers trying to survive a $9.00 or $10.00 an hour, or even less than that, the American people want, Republicans, Democrats, Independents want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour.

It is popular. It is what the people want. It is what justice demands.

So I'm going to fight as hard as I can, and I believe that we will succeed in including the minimum wage in the Reconciliation Bill.

COOPER: March 14th is when a lot of folks' unemployment insurance runs out. How confident are you that something will be passed to make sure that people don't fall off the cliff after the 14th?

SANDERS: That's a great question. That's a great question, Anderson, and you've got millions of people who will lose their unemployment benefits, we cannot allow that to happen. I am the chairman of the budget committee. This bill is going through the Budget Committee, and we're working with leadership, we are working with the House to make sure that we pass this bill as quickly as we possibly can.

And I want people to understand what is in this bill. It means if you are watching this program, the likelihood is if you're a working class person, you've already received $600.00 per person. We're going to provide another $1,400.00 per adult, per kid for people under 70 -- individuals under $75,000.00, couples under $150,000.00 because people are living in desperation, now they need that.

That's a family of four, another 5,600 bucks, that's life or death for millions of families. We're going to raise that minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour.

Anderson, we're going to do something that we have not talked about enough in this country, we're going to cut childhood poverty in half because we're going to significantly increase the child tax credit.

We are going to make sure that cities and states have the resources that they need so they're not going to be laying off teachers, or firefighters or police officers, or other municipal and state employees. This is a comprehensive bill, which is attempting to address the

unprecedented crises that working families throughout this country are facing and then let's be clear. The very, very rich are doing just fine. Billionaires are seeing tremendous growth in their wealth.

But working families today are living in more desperation than since the Great Depression, and Congress has got to move forward vigorously. Do what the President of the United States campaigned on and wants to do. That's what we've got to do, not only to help American people, but to restore faith that government, in fact, can respond to the needs of ordinary Americans.

COOPER: There has -- you know, obviously, there's been a lot of hope, as there always is in a change of administrations that things are going to become more bipartisan, that there's going to be more, you know, unification -- unity.

When you look at what happened over the impeachment, you know, and what you hear now from Republicans, you know, Senator Graham has once again found love for the former President and seems to be gushing about his power over the party.

Republicans are talking about impeaching Kamala Harris in 2022 if they took back power. How do you -- I mean, how do you make -- how is unity possible with this kind of rhetoric, and with the former President still being head of the party?

SANDERS: Anderson, in my view, and I'm not alone in believing this, the Republican Party is going to have to make a simple decision. The debate of today is not about healthcare. It's not about climate change, it is not about education. It is, in fact, whether the Republican Party believes in democracy, or whether they're going to continue to believe in the big lie.

You know, you may recall that during the impeachment trial, I asked Trump's attorneys, whether in fact they believe that Biden won the election, or whether they believe that Trump won a landslide victory. They refused to answer that question.

So either the Republican Party will be the party of the big lie, the party of conspiracy theories or the party of racism and the decisiveness. And by the way, the party of violence or else it will be as it has traditionally been a conservative party operating within the framework of democracy.


SANDERS: That is what Republicans are going to have to decide in terms of their future. And obviously, I would hope that the leadership and ordinary Republicans understand that people fought and died to protect American democracy. We don't believe in one authoritarian government, run by one person, Trump or anybody else, we don't. We believe in the rule of law.

That is a decision that Republicans are going to have to make, and I'm going to do everything that I can, not only fighting for working families, but fighting for democracy.

COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, I appreciate your time.

SANDERS: Thanks very much, Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks very much.

As a reminder, that President makes his first official trip tomorrow to Milwaukee for a CNN Town Hall. I'll be moderating that. You can see it here live 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time from Milwaukee.

Just ahead for us tonight, Anthony Scaramucci on the President he once worked for, what kind of Republican Party he sees today and in the future.

And later, all that is coming to light now about a key element of the Capitol mob and the tie some of these attackers may have to law enforcement, investigating the so-called Oath Keepers tonight on 360.


COOPER: More breaking news tonight in the Senate Minority Leader's ongoing campaign to have it both ways on impeachment, Mitch McConnell weighing in tonight with a piece for "The Wall Street Journal's" op-ed page.


COOPER: Quoting from it now: "There's no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility. His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehood he shouted into the world's largest megaphone. His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable from attacking Vice President Mike Pence during the riot to praising the criminals after it ended."

That said, as for his decision to do precisely nothing about it, Leader McConnell writes, quote: "The Senate's duty last week was clear, it wasn't to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost. Our job is to defend the Constitution and respect its limits. That is what our acquittal delivered."

So there's that. There's the party's decision to punish anyone for even trying to hold the former President accountable.

As we mentioned at the top, North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr is the latest facing party discipline back home tonight for his vote to convict. Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy was censured over the weekend for supporting conviction. Congresswoman Liz Cheney also censured for her vote to impeach. This is certainly not her father's Republican Party.

Now, to talk about what it all means, joining me is Anthony Scaramucci. He served as Director of Communications in the foreign President's administration. Anthony, could see you.

What does this divide mean for the future of the Republican Party? I mean, we've been talking about this now over the last year, not just the future of the party, but its ability to actually effectively legislate and govern?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I think it's been weakened, Anderson, and I think there's a large group of people in the party that are organizing now and are debating whether or not to have a faction inside the party, or to literally spin out and have a fall convention for a new party as a precursor to the congressional midterms and then start slating candidates.

Now, we both know that there are state issues there in terms of getting everybody on the ballot if we start a new party, but listen, 63 percent of the surveyed Republicans say that they want a new party.

And so you have a radical fringe, Lindsey Graham is obviously now part of that radical fringe as well as others, and so we have to liquidate that radical fringe because people that really love the country, Anderson, would put the virtues of the democracy and the virtues of the Constitution over everything else.

We can debate the policy issues at a later day. Right now, we have to work on the preservation of the democracy. So look for either a faction developing, it is being very well organized by the way or a new party.

COOPER: The thing is, I mean, as we all know, I mean, any third party has a huge, you know, it's not just state rules, just fundraising, everything. We just don't have that history in modern times here in this country.

There had been talk among, you know, diehard Trump supporters back when it looked like when the President left and after the attack when it looked like perhaps the G.O.P. was going to expel the memory of the former President that they were talking to -- Lou Dobbs was talking about the Patriot Party and that spinning off. That seems to have gone away.

And the G.O.P., I mean is now firmly -- continues to be the party of Trump.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, I think you're right about all of those things. But remember, if we can organize and effectuate a third party, and even if that third party is only 10 percent of the electorate and it's taking votes away from the current Trump party or the Republican Party, the irony, Anderson is they are really the RINOs, you know, it's -- they are Republicans in name only, they are really sort of like TINOs, Trump in name only.

And so if we can get 10, possibly 15 percent of the people, and by the way that could also energize independence and, you know, centrist Democrats. So it'll be an interesting thing.

I think it's the right course, if someone was asking me my opinion than trying to primary people in a gerrymandered district, where the Republicans can bring the radicals out to vote for them. If you have a standing candidate, you can start liquidating them on the edges, if you will, and then they'll lose those congressional seats and then that will force a restructuring of the party.

So yes, it's not going to be easy. But you've got two choices here, you can go with radical fringe Trumpism, where these people literally are signaling to you that they want to destroy your democracy, or you can try to set up people that really love the country that have center right values, can try to set up something new, or a faction inside that party to rebut them.

And this is a crisis fairly very similar to 1856 into the 1860 election. And so you know, listen, we've been here before, unfortunately, we've never had an insurrection like this and this party is stained with that, and so we have to rebuild it.

COOPER: You tweeted a couple days ago that Republicans would be -- what you say were spineless if they acquitted the former President. You said they'd be in a path to destroy whatever is left of their party. All but seven Republicans voted to acquit.

Many of those seven are now facing censure by their state parties, which seems more than the former President has gotten. Why aren't they getting the credit that you say they deserve?


SCARAMUCCI: Well, time will tell. I mean, obviously the President still controls the party. He's got 80 percent support inside that party.

Remember the registrations, the Pew Research numbers had them down to 29 percent a year ago. We believe that there's been way more disaffection, so we probably have 25 percent of the electorate, the President controls 80 percent of those. So that's 20 percent of the electorate.

So you're right, you know -- but you know, it's only 20 percent. So if they're censuring people, you have to just think about where it's coming from. It's really only 20 percent of the electorate right now.

And as we both know, the largest group of registrations are the independents, and so there is a big opportunity here. And if you think like an entrepreneur, I've started a few companies in this country. If you think like an entrepreneur, there's demand out there for a center right virtuous party, someone that would decry what has happened as it related to Trumpism and what is happening in terms of the disfiguring of the principles that the Republican Party has stood on since Abraham Lincoln.

So to me, I think it's a huge opportunity.

COOPER: But you know, the former President won against a whole stage of Republicans who were decrying just that. I mean, Lindsey Graham, you know, was talking about -- Lindsey Graham, you know, was right back then he said, this guy is going to destroy our party. You know, Ted Cruz, for goodness sakes, was decrying that as well. Graham is now saying, Republicans can't take back the Senate without

the former President's support, and that the former first daughter-in- law is the future of the Republican Party. I mean --

SCARAMUCCI: Okay, so just think like an entrepreneur for a second, imagine that we were able to galvanize 10 or 15 percent, of the center right movement in the country, and we took that party down to, let's call it 30 percent of the electorate.

They'll have no standing, Anderson. I think that's got to be the first step in terms of the preserving of a democracy.

COOPER: Did you -- like forming a center right party, I mean, how would that actually work? I mean, obviously, you would need, you know, some people who had money to back this idea. Like, what are the nuts and bolts of it?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, again, it's like a business startup. You need a group of people that are very interested in doing it, people that are willing to fund it. If they put up some organizing principles, I don't want to go into all of the names of the people that I'm speaking to right now, because I don't know if they want to be open about it. Some of them probably want to remain anonymous at this moment.

But there's already a notion about potentially having a convention in a place like Ripon, Wisconsin, which is the founding place of the Republican Party in the fall of this coming year.

And so, to me, you know, it's very, very exciting. And if you can get, as I said, 10 to 15 percent of the people moving towards that party, I think people are sick and tired of the separation and the polemics.

I think people are tired of the radicalism that's coming from the Trump fringe of the Republican Party, and you could have something very exciting happen in the age of social media and the age of this sort of guerilla-like communication.

So you know, look Anderson, there's enough people, again, I believe it's 10 to 15 percent that will say I've had enough of this nonsense. We had a direct threat to our democracy and our Constitution as a result of these people in the way they talk and the way they act, and that acquittal, that enough is enough, brave men and women will come together and see if they can help save the democracy by forming something.

And again, it could be a faction inside, or it could be a brand new party. And to your point, let's say they put a Trump-like figure up and they win the presidential nomination, if there's a third-party candidate out there that has standing, very, very low probability that that person will win.

COOPER: Anthony Scaramucci, I appreciate it. Thanks for your time.

SCARAMUCCI: Good to be here. COOPER: Still ahead, as House Speaker Pelosi calls for a 9/11-style

commission to exactly what happened and why is the Capitol was breached, Federal investigators are focusing on one particular extremist group for they say is its role in the rioting, that's next.



COOPER: As we reported the top of the program, Nancy Pelosi is calling for an independent commission to examine every aspect of the attack on January 6. And CNN's Sara Sidner reports one particular extremist group is fast becoming a focus of investigators looking into their brazenness and even their suspected ties to law enforcement.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of the extremist anti-government Oath Keepers --


SIDNER (voice-over): -- were a part of this siege.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: Fight for Trump, fight for Trump.

SIDNER (voice-over): They are seen in combat gear brazenly bragging about breaching the Capitol.


SIDNER (voice-over): The extremist paramilitary group is known for recruiting current and former members of the military and law enforcement. It has emerged as one of the groups that is a major focus of federal investigators. The FBI is trying to hunt down the suspects in these photos, some of whom are wearing Oath Keeper gear.

These three alleged Oath Keepers and military veterans Jessica Watkins, Donovan Crowle and Thomas Caldwell were the first to face significant conspiracy charges related to the Capitol attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A leader of a militia group known as the Oath Keepers received messages while he was at the Capitol

SIDNER (voice-over): The federal claims against the accused Oath Keepers even mentioned during the second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The leader was given directions to where representatives were thought to be sheltering, and instructions to quote, turn on gas, seal them in.

SIDNER (voice-over): An accused leader of the group that day, Caldwell denies any involvement with the Oath Keepers. His attorney claims the FBI has shown no evidence of him inside the Capitol.


In court papers his lawyer says, he worked for the FBI and has held a top security clearance since 1979.


SIDNER (voice-over): But this is also Caldwell talking about members of Congress on January 6.

THOMAS CALDWELL, ALLEGED OATH KEEPER LEADER: Every single (INAUDIBLE) in there is a traitor, every single one.

SIDNER (voice-over): A source with inside knowledge of how the Oath Keepers operate told CNN, about a dozen members were in federal law enforcement but purposely kept off the group's official membership database.

(on-camera): Would it be a surprise that someone who was in federal law enforcement was a member of the Oath Keepers?

ALEX FRIEDFELD, INVESTIGATIVE RESEARCHER, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Unfortunately, not, right. For years Oath Keepers have been targeting, you know, military and law enforcement personnel, especially at the federal level with their messaging recruitments.

SIDNER (voice-over): Federal prosecutors say just days before the attack called well discussed with another extremist, bringing weapons across the Potomac via boat. We could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms.

Federal agency, he also sent messages to accuse Oath Keepers Crowle and Watkins. In this one to Crowle. He says I will probably do pre- strike on the fifth maybe can do some night hunting. And then mentions when his Oath Keepers friends from North Carolina will show up.

In video from January 6, it appears the three may not have been acting alone. Watkins is seen with others marching towards the Capitol. The FBI said she was part of a group of eight to 10 people all wearing paramilitary gear and Oath Keepers paraphernalia, signifying their affiliation with the conspiracy fueled anti-government group.

Here she is again behind the guy with the eye patch, the leader and founder of the Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes in the November Trump rally in D.C. Two months later, Rhodes is seen outside the Capitol during the attack. He has not been charged with any crime. He was clear on his Oath Keepers mission in D.C.

STEWART RHODES, FOUNDER, OATH KEEPERS: And our mission there is as we stated on in our call to action to go to D.C. was all we always do protect people, protect venues, protect events. That's it, you know, do VIP escorts.

SIDNER (voice-over): And some did. Appearing to stand guard with Trump advisor Roger Stone. This is Oath Keepers Roberto Minuta of New Jersey. According to several people who know him. Later that day, Minuta is seeing yelling at police outside the Capitol. Soon after a man wearing the same goggles and clothing is seen breaching the Capitol.

Despite the mounting evidence and manhunt for some of his Oath Keepers, this is Rhodes 24 days after the siege, talking about the current government.

RHODES: So there's going to be resistance The only question is, is what will be the spark?

SIDNER (voice-over): Rhodes still spewing the lie that the election was stolen and egging on his followers to act.

RHODES: You got to declare this regime to be illegitimate? You got to declare everything comes out of King Biden's mouth as illegitimate and null and void from inception because he is not a legitimate president.

FRIEDFELD: He is continuing to use violent rhetoric and spread conspiracies that frame, you know, today's events in a way that necessitate action on the part of his followers.

SIDNER (voice-over): The road says it was a mistake for people to actually go inside the Capitol that day --


SIDNER (voice-over): -- even in light of the insurrection, his rhetoric has not changed.

RHODES: They have plans for us that they know will rebel against, and they're afraid because there's 365 million of us. We outnumber them vastly. And we're armed, well armed. So they have a problem and so they're afraid.


COOPER: So, Sara, we know according to those who track them, there are the so-called Oath Keepers in states throughout the country, have any of them come forward and denounced what happened in January.

SIDNER: Yes. This is kind of the first time that we have heard such a strong denouncement. There were Oath Keepers from North Carolina, a chapter there. The state coordinator wrote a letter to his sheriff actually and that letter was shared with us with their permission, and basically said that they were horrified about what they saw the Capitol attack that day on January 6th.

And that they believe that the national leadership of the Oath Keepers could have stopped it but did nothing. And so in the end, they decided they're going to end their affiliation with the Oath Keepers. They're in North Carolina and do their own thing.

I also should mention that we tried to reach out to Roberta Minuta who was there standing near Roger Stone in his Oath Keeper gear. He was also seen yelling at a police officer. He did not respond to our comments. Someone at his business said that he had no comment. We also tried to reach out to Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowle. They are both still in jail. And they do not have attorneys representing them yet. Anderson.

COOPER: And -- it's fascinating. Sara Sidner, appreciate it. We'll have more on this.

One final piece of related breaking news, the North Carolina Republican Party Central Committee unanimously voted just now to censure Senator Richard Burr for his vote to convict the former president. The party issuing a statement that reads in part quote, the NCGOP agrees with strong majority of Republicans in both the U.S. House representatives and Senate that the Democrat led attempt to impeach a former president lies outside the United States Constitution.


More breaking, news coming up. CDC is out with new numbers on the percentage of school kids living in or near so called red zones where COVID transmission is either high or substantial. Tell you what that means ahead.


COOPER: Is breaking news from the CDC tonight. In a new e-mail to CNN, a spokesman says even though the vast majority of schoolchildren 89 percent live in or near so-called red zones areas where the transmission of the virus is high or substantial. That does not mean schools in those regions should be shut down. This is the broad numbers show overall cases in the U.S. are in fact while -- are in fact down while those COVID variants are increasing.


Two seemingly opposing inflection points, when we get perspective now from two experts, Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

So Dr. Wen, so the CDC says that even though 89 percent of kids in the us live in counties either experiencing high or substantial levels of transmission, in person learning can move forward as long as schools are, quote, strictly implementing mitigation and monitoring cases in the school community. So, do you agree with that?

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I do. I think we now do have very good evidence of this that, first of all, the single most important determinant of whether schools are safe is the level of transmission in the community. And second, that even if the levels are high, there are things that can be done. Of course, the higher the rate of infection, the more things you need to do in schools, the more you have to not only have masking physical distancing, but you also have to focus on other things like improved ventilation. Now, I do want to say though, it's just such a tragedy that we have 89 percent of our students living in these high-risk areas. I think this represents a failure of our society to prioritize our children. Because if we had wanted to this summer, this fall, this winter, we could have done the hard things to drive down community transmission rates.

We haven't done that. And that's why so many of our students are out of school. And I just hope that moving forward, we do not put all of society's failures on our children and other teachers and staff work in them.

COOPER: Dr. Offit, I want to get your reaction, something that Professor Michael Osterholm an epidemiologist and a former member of the Biden-Harris transition advisory COVID advisory board said, earlier today about the CDC guidance in schools, I'm just going to play that for our viewers.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: At this point, I think most schools can handle the guidelines relative to the younger kids. But the problem is, is that again, as I pointed out, as case numbers rise in our communities, which is what the CDC has flagged will be the problem. So at this point, many of the areas can open up. I don't think they'll be open very long, because of what's coming down the pike with cases.


COOPER: Do you think that's accurate, that as soon as schools reopened, they may have to close again, because of he's talking about the variants that are may be coming down the pike?

PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER: Right. So, what's striking to me is that it's mid-February, it's the middle of winter, and this is a it's hard SARS-CoV-2 is a winter respiratory virus. Nonetheless, we have a decrease in cases, decrease in hospitalizations, decrease in deaths.

Why? Why is that happening? I think there's two reasons. One, is that that look at the sort of the natural immunity. In other words, we listed 28 million people have been infected with this virus. But that's just people who have been tested and found to be infected. Many people who are either asymptomatically infected or have mild disease never get tested.

So, how do you know how many people in this country have really been infected, you do antibody surveillance studies to see who's been exposed to the virus. When those studies were done in November, it showed that that number was off by a factor of four. It's probably more likely at least 80 million people in this country have already been exposed to this virus and are likely immune, that's 25 percent of the population.

In addition, you have about 50 million doses of vaccine that are out there, about 12 million have been people have been given two doses. So, add that all up that's roughly another 10 percent of the population. Now you're 35 percent of the population that has is at some level immune from moderate to severe disease, that's probably enough to start to see evidence of herd immunity.

Now, I think Dr. Osterholm might be right, if one of these variants becomes completely resistant to vaccine induced immunity, or natural immunity, which hasn't happened yet. Even the South African variant, the so called B351 variant, is still people who have been exposed to that virus who have been or have been immunized just with the vaccines were given here are still apparently protected against severe disease meaning hospitalization, ICU admission death.

So until we cross that line, I think right now, there's a lot of reason for optimism. But again, this virus is humbling. I think whenever people make predictions about this virus there, they may be humbled by it. But I'm going to choose to say that I think that we're starting to see evidence of turning the corner.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, do you agree with that?

WEN: I am not so sure that I'm quite as optimistic as Dr. Offit here. I think he could be certainly right, maybe we are turning the corner, maybe we're coming into the spring that weather is going to be warmer, maybe we're going to see a consistent decline.

But I'm also worried about a pattern that we've seen in the past, which is that we see a big surge, we see restrictions being put into place, that surge decreases. And then as soon as that as soon as restrictions get lifted again, people start behaving in pre-pandemic ways that are unsafe. And then we see another surge.

And right now we are at a very high level of infection. We are at two and a half times the level of daily new cases that we were in the summer, and we have these new variants that are coming, that I'm not sure that we can predict exactly how they'll go. We've seen what happens in other countries when they became dominant and actually schools that were open the entire time had to close as a result.


So, I'm not sure that I would feel as optimistic and I do want to urge people still that we need to keep up our guard that policymakers really should think twice before removing restrictions, especially mask mandates. And all of us need to do our part to get vaccinated as soon as we can. But keep on masking, physical distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings in the meantime.

COOPER: Doctor, you would agree with that, that even those who have been vaccinated, even those who maybe have had it, you know, wearing masks is still important for a whole variety of reasons.

OFFIT: Yes. I think it's still important, obviously to do everything we can to get people vaccinated to wear a mask, social distance, we're just I think we're just starting to see us turn the corner. But by no means are we out of the woods. There's still a long way to go. I agree with Dr. Wen completely, that we need to keep our guard up. But I do think that we may be seeing some early evidence of herd immunity. We'll see what happens over the next few months.

COOPER: Yes, Dr. Offit, appreciate it. Dr. Wen, as always, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

We do have more breaking news. Now, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo conceded to he wasn't transparent enough when the pandemic crisis was at its height. Admission comes after withering criticism over the failure to release accurate numbers about the number of nursing home deaths in his state from coronavirus, with political opponents claiming he was hiding the information.

Still today, Governor Cuomo said nothing was deliberate and that he should have done a better job at refuting what he called misinformation. More now from CNN's Brynn Gingras.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We made a mistake --

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finally speaking out days after his top aides admitted their office withheld data for months about COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents. Cuomo acknowledging on Monday that the data was not provided soon enough.

CUOMO: In retrospect, we should have prioritized providing more information.

GINGRAS (voice-over): But arguing that the state's death counts were accurate and that information was not hidden.

CUOMO: To be clear, all the deaths in the nursing homes and in the hospitals were always fully publicly and accurately reported.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Until late last month, New York only accounted separately for people who died from COVID-19 in long term care facilities like nursing homes. But the data didn't include the number of residents from those facilities who died after they were transferred to a hospital or elsewhere.

CUOMO: The public had many questions and concerns and the press had many questions about nursing homes primarily. And I understand that they were not answered quickly enough.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The tipping point came when in a private video called the governor's top aide Melissa DeRosa told Democratic state lawmakers they delayed giving updated information to them after then President Trump's Department of Justice sent an inquiry about nursing home deaths in this state because quote, basically, we froze because then we were in a position where we weren't sure what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys. What we start saying what's going to be used against us.

Her words an admission that the administration stalled on showing a true picture of just how many nursing home residents died just as the governor was lauded globally for his pandemic response.

EMILY MUNSON, ALBANY TIMES: Between his Emmy for his coronavirus press briefings to Governor Cuomo's book to his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Governor Cuomo has been held up as the model governor in his coronavirus response, even though New York was so hard hit by the virus early on.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo arguing today much of the same as his top eight that the request for data from former President Trump's Department of Justice was politically motivated, but took priority over the state legislators request.

CUOMO: Everybody was working 24 hours a day. Everybody was overwhelmed. We were in the midst of dealing with a pandemic and trying to save lives. They were answering DOJ.

GINGRAS (voice-over): He's now taking heat from both sides of the New York legislature.

NICK LANGWORTHY, NY GOP CHAIRMAN: The gravity of this cover up cannot be overstated.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Republicans declaring he should be investigated. Some even using the word impeachment.

LANGWORTHY: Andrew Cuomo must be prosecuted and Andrew Cuomo must be impeached if this evidence exists.

GINGRAS (voice-over): And Democrats are actively discussing drafting a bill to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers. You're only sorry that you all got caught, tweeted Democratic senator Alessandra Biaggi.


COOPER: And Brynn, in your piece you mentioned some Republicans are mentioning impeachment. We just heard that. What's the Fallout, political or otherwise from all this?

GINGRAS: Yes, Anderson. The Governor said he's not really worried about investigation. He said he pretty much put everything out there today. So there's nothing more to investigate. So it'll be, you know, we'll have to see really, if Republicans are going to continue with an investigation. Again, they're calling to impeach them or if they're satisfied with what he said today, even Democrats have said that they might want to dig into these numbers even further.


But one thing to point out that one critic told me Anderson is that, if the governor's office had to prioritize responding to the DOJ and had to give later on the numbers to the state, then how did his administration, how did the Governor have time to write a more than 300-page book about his administration's response to the pandemic if they couldn't do both at the same time.

So, there is still a lot of criticism that is out there. And this is likely that something that will plague him, as we know the Governor is up for reelection next year. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean clearly with the press conference today is hoping to put this behind them. It doesn't sound like it may be accomplished that.

GINGRAS: Yes, it's really unclear at this point. There are still some questions out there. Of course, going back to that leaked phone call with his top aide Melissa DeRosa on that saying that they were worried numbers were going to be used against them when they responded either to the DOJ or to the state legislature.

What does that mean? Why not have the number of total of the nursing home deaths, all one number from the very beginning? There are still little bits of information that people really want clear answers to, and particularly the people who lost the loved ones because that's really, of course what this is all about. They want to make sure that their loved one was accounted for accurately. Anderson.

COOPER: Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

We'll be right back.