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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Major Parts of Texas Still Under Freeze Warnings; Senator Ted Cruz still Trying to Explain His Cancun Trip Amidst Texas Winter Storm; Sen. Lindsey Graham Heads To Mar-a-Lago In Attempt To Broker Peace As Intra-Republican Party Feud Boils Over In Public; Key Model Forecasts Road Ahead For Coronavirus; Biden Tours Pfizer Plant, Says Country Is On The Road To Getting Vaccinated; 111-Year-Old SC Woman Grateful For COVID Vaccine; Says Secret To A Long Life Is Wine, Beer and Good Food. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 19, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Scientists are looking for past signs of life that might be revealed by various experiments in robotic exploration already.

A truly, truly thrilling achievement that has my four-year-old very excited. Thank you for being with me this Friday night, AC 360 starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And Good evening for one last night, major parts of Texas are under freeze warnings, but even as Texans look forward to a warmer tomorrow, millions are still facing days, weeks and months of misery from what's been a punishing week of broken water lines, flooded housing, gas and power outages and all the misery that comes with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-TX), HOUSTON: This has been a hard week, okay. I've dealt with Harvey. I've dealt with social civil unrest, the coronavirus for almost a year and now dealing this week. This has been a hard week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Houston's Mayor also weighed in on Senator Ted Cruz's trip to Cancun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: For people who are fighting to stay warm, take care of their families, looking for a way to move forward. If nothing else, they expect for their leaders to be where they are, to remain on the ship and not to abandon the ship because you can have some comfort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senator Cruz is also still trying to explain what he did today. But before we get to it, let's take a look at exactly the kind of comfort he violated, C.D.C. COVID travel guidelines and jetted off to not just -- well, it was the Ritz, the Ritz Hotel perfectly perched as it builds itself on its website along the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean.

The blurb continues. It's from this enviable vantage point that resort guests can experience the many charms of this tropical destination all while enjoying the anticipatory service, luxury accommodations and carefully curated amenities that have come to make the Ritz Carlton so distinctive.

No doubt many Texans are also dreaming of someplace warm tonight and perhaps someplace even warmer for the senator. Here's what he told CNN Houston affiliate today. A warning first, you might want to take it like, maybe like a Margarita with a grain or two of salt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): And it was a mistake. At the same time, look, I mean, I've got to admit, I started having second thoughts really, as I sat down on the plane, as I started leaving.

School had been canceled. It was something that we could do and we were trying to -- trying to take care of our families, which is what millions of Texans are doing.

But at the same time, you're right. As a leader, you need to be here. And you need to be here when Texans were hurting, and that's why I didn't feel good about it even as we were heading out.

I knew why we said yes, but I was thinking it was a mistake almost from the outset.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: By the way, the look down and make it look like you're actually thinking about what you're about to say even though you've actually prepared all in advance, it is a classic Cruz move.

Keeping them honest, there's a lot as they say, to unpack in what the senator said, almost enough to fill the large suitcase he brought for a trip he initially suggested was just to drop off the kids and head back straight to home.

That of course wasn't true, nor was it true when he initially claimed it was his daughter's wanting to go on a trip with friends that was motivating all of this.

As first claimed that he started having second thoughts as soon as he sat down on the plane that may be true because likely he started looking at his phone and likely saw that he was quickly on his way to becoming a trending hashtag, photos and all.

He is certainly a very smart man and knows that pictures like these don't look good. But if the feelings of remorse were so intense so soon, he probably could have just gotten off the plane. His wife was still on the plane. She could have gone and escorted the

kids, they were still at the gate.

As for damage control, well, he has definitely shifted that into cruise control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: We're at a very divided place in our country where people are screaming vitriol and hate, and you know what I -- I think that is a sad sign of where we are.

I don't do that to other people. You don't see me screaming at people I disagree with that they need to resign.

And one of the things I'm most dismayed about how the last 24 hours has played out, is this whole thing has dominated the airwaves instead of focusing on, let's solve the problems.

Listen, Texans want the power back on, they want the water back on they want the problem solved --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm sure he is dismayed at the coverage, but not for the stated reason. Because truth be told, it has not dominated the airwaves. It may feel that way to him because it is so mortifying, but the airwaves have actually been dominated on local and national news outlets, including ours with hours and hours of reporting on the actual crisis, the one you were tired of hearing about and dealing with and we're trying to escape from, Senator Cruz.

As for the country, being as you say, in a divided place, coming from the guy who did all he could to perpetuate the lie that the election was stolen, the guy who voted to challenge the outcome of the legitimate election, even after the Capitol was attacked? It's a little rich.

Let's go to Texas now for the latest. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas for us. Ed, what is the situation?

[20:05:05]

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, well, here tonight, we know that the death toll across the State of Texas after what has been an absolutely miserable week is at 26. Most of those victims died of hypothermia and exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning, and it highlights that even with another night of frigid temperatures coming that the worst isn't over yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A military plane transporting 84,000 bottles of water from California landed in Galveston, Texas. Thousands of people are driving through massive food and water distribution sites in Houston and San Antonio. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think any of us was expecting this and

for it to be like this. So it's all about survival right now until it starts getting warm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No water. It is really bad and I have a seven- year-old and it's like -- it's tough.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Some 14 million Texans are battling water shortages as more than 1,200 public water systems across the state are fighting to fix disruptions caused by the winter storm and power grid failure.

The worst of the Texas freeze is over. State officials say the power grid emergency is now under control.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We want to make sure that whatever happened in ERCOT falling short never happens again.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Governor Greg Abbott is now calling on State lawmakers to pay for power plant weatherization upgrades.

ABBOTT: To ensure that all of the machinery that froze up and was unable to generate the power you need that may require funding.

The State of Texas to step up and provide that funding.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): There are still tens of thousands of people without power in Texas, but getting those people back online will require utility crews to repair damage inflicted by the historic winter storm, and that could take several more days to repair.

BILL MAGNESS, CEO, ERCOT: I really want to acknowledge just the immense human suffering that we saw throughout this event. When people lose power, there are heartbreaking consequences.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Seven people around the town of Abilene died from weather-related causes. A volunteer found an elderly couple in their home. It was 12 degrees inside.

CHIEF CANDE FLORES, ABILENE FIRE DEPARTMENT: They had been reluctant to leave their home, and so, it was 24 hours later, she went back to take them food and found the husband deceased in bed.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): As if battling a massive power outage in frigid temperatures wasn't enough, residents like Melissa Webb in the San Antonio area apartment complex could only watch as fire destroyed their homes.

MELISSA WEBB, HOUSE DESTROYED IN FIRE IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: I haven't been able to go to work all week long. And now, everything that we have in there, it is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the water pressure was -- as you mentioned that --

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Part of the building collapsed as a reporter interviewed a firefighter, frozen fire hydrants and failing water supply hampered efforts by firefighters to put out the flames.

Cities are battling crisis after crisis. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano says his city's wastewater system was knocked offline for an hour this week, which sent sewage seeping into some low-lying parts of the city.

MAYOR BRUNO LOZANO (D-TX), DEL RIO: This is something that it's beyond historical, beyond unprecedented. It's a chain reaction of worst-case scenario of worst case scenarios.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Texas Governor Greg Abbott has renewed calls for an investigation of ERCOT, the agency that runs the State's power grid system, and has also called for its executives to resign.

Bill Magness, the CEO of ERCOT answered those questions on CNN.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: How can you keep your job after a week like this?

MAGNESS: We're accountable to the people and the leadership of Texas. We're going to go and explain the steps we took and how that played into the entire situation on the electric grid. If that's the outcome, that's the outcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And Anderson, tonight, there are still about just under 130,000 households without power. The peak earlier this week was about 4.5 million, so it has changed dramatically.

But that water issue is going to extend well into the weekend, as things slowly get back to normal here -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Ed, you know, people are obviously calling for changes in the wake of this, how likely is that things are going to change because, you know, Erin Burnett just aired a piece about El Paso which had had experiences in the past with cold weather and they winterized their facilities and they were able to really keep -- it seems like keep most of the power on during this time.

LAVANDERA: Well, the Governor has made it clear that he wants the winterization issue of the power plants to become an emergency item for state lawmakers who just happened to be in session.

Here, State lawmakers meet every -- once every two years, but, Anderson, there is a long history that goes back decades of these State lawmakers here in Texas not being very willing to put forth these kinds of regulations and ideas to improve these types of systems.

So there's always been a lot of pushback here in this state. This is a state that loves cheap energy, as cheap as possible and they see regulations as an impediment to that.

So you had that struggle here, so we'll see where it goes. It's going to be a long, hard fight.

[20:10:13]

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it.

Now, joining us for more is former Communications Director for Senator Ted Cruz, CNN political commentator, Amanda Carpenter; also Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, and Texas resident, Paul Begala.

Amanda, as I mentioned, you worked with Senator Cruz. I read the fascinating piece that you wrote and I thought, it was really, really interesting in your perspective. I'm wondering what you made of his decision and the aftermath of his apology?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, you know, I've been thinking a lot about it. And like, how did he get here? Because 2021 has so far been a tremendously bad year for Ted Cruz. And it may not seem like the events that led up to the insurrection and his role in trying to cancel the votes of Pennsylvanians and his decision to go to Cancun isn't related.

But I kind of think it is, because to me, he has lost sight of what it means to represent Texans, and deliver services for them, and be there.

I felt like he once had that perspective, but a lot of things have changed. And I don't think this is exclusive to Ted Cruz, I'm not defending him. But the political incentives are so much aligned that to be a Republican star, right, you have to just boost Trump constantly and own the libs and dominate and destroy people on social media, and that kind of stuff has really consumed Ted Cruz.

That is what has led him to forget about what his role is supposed to be, and so, it's just -- it's hard to watch. And I really -- I don't know if it's because he's planning on running for President again and he thinks this is what he has to do. Or he just doesn't really care about being a senator anymore.

But to me, when he only made the decision to turn around after seeing how this played out on social media, tells me that he cares more about this audience, whatever it is, than his constituents.

COOPER: And he monitors that carefully. That's one of the things you wrote about. I mean, he looks -- he checks where he is trending, what his press is.

CARPENTER: Yes, that was definitely my experience. Yes.

COOPER: Paul, as a fellow Texan, obviously, you're no great friend of Ted Cruz's, but just looking at this as a political observer, what do you make of how this has played out?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, I like the personal insights to Amanda and those are very well, and I think it's two things. I think it is ideology and impunity. Okay.

Senator Cruz has an ideology that says government would screw up a two-car parade. Government can't do anything. So of course, when the government is needed to do something, he feels like, well, I don't have to do anything. I'm just the government. It's part of an ideology.

By the way, our government just shot a dune buggy 300 million miles away to Mars and is driving around sending pictures. That government can actually do some really cool stuff, Ted and it would be nice if he did his job.

So it's ideology, but then it's impunity. He's in a one-party state. He can't lose if he eats right and exercises, he is going to win. And the third --- he eats right and exercises and continues to suck up to that Trump base that Amanda was talking about.

So he's got the arrogance of impunity, without any checks. He won this last re-election against Beto O'Rourke by a little less than three percent, so it was pretty close. I was sort of hoping he'd get the message and listen to people like Amanda and actually come home and take care of the home folks instead of catering to this national ideology, but it didn't look like that lesson took.

COOPER: Well, you know, Amanda, I mean, it is ironic. I don't know how ironic is the right word -- and you mentioned this in the article that you wrote that Beto O'Rourke, who you know, is not serving in office, he actually did a phone bank which helped to check on seniors, who helped mobilize this phone bank, AOC of all people has nothing to do with Texas, as far as I know, she raised I think, some $2 million or so.

CARPENTER: Yes. And I personally know a few Republicans who are fed up and frustrated that there's an outsider so to speak, coming in and helping when Cruz got on a flight to Cancun. I mean, that's embarrassing.

I've worked with so many good people from Texas, Republicans who care about their state that want to be there for their people, and there just seems to be this trend happening, where these messes are created, whether it's the pandemic or this horrific emergency that continues to unfold in Texas, and the Republicans just want to blame the libs, right, like Governor Abbott was talking about the Green New Deal, which by the way, is not a law that has passed.

Don, Jr. was blaming a nonexistent Republican Governor. When are Republicans going to roll up their sleeves and go in and help? I mean, there is a role to play here and there's a lot of Republicans that want to play that role, but they don't have a way to do it when this is the leadership.

COOPER: Paul, Cruz invoked his daughters and his parenting in his response, instead of just kind of owning up, you know to it fully. It's a whole other layer in the apology tour that he's on right now.

[20:15:10]

BEGALA: It is pathetic. It's pathetic. It's just pathetic, it is not defending his father, when Mr. Trump falsely suggested that somehow he was complicit in the Kennedy assassination; not defending his wife when Mr. Trump attacked Heidi Cruz's looks.

But you don't throw your kids under the bus. For goodness sake, you're a dad, I'm a dad, and Amanda is a mom. You think that something ought to be sacred, Ted? And I think it's a colossal error, I think it's going to leave a mark.

He's had a long time to recover, a very long time, four years is a lifetime. You know, it seems like four years ago that we were in the impeachment trial, it hasn't even been a week. So he's got time.

But he should begin with simply apologizing and acknowledging the mistake. In fact, frankly, apologizing for trying to throw his wife and kids under the bus and blame them.

COOPER: I want to put back on the screen the quote from the article that you wrote, Amanda, because I thought it's really telling and you spoke to a little bit, but I want to talk more about it.

You said, "That's the Republican way these days. So what if there's a natural disaster, a pandemic, blame the libs, dunk on them, and then go to the beach, while Democrats handle the cleanup and let the MAGA media run interference."

I mean, frankly, it's -- you know, there's examples, frankly, on probably all sides of the aisle of folks who are existing not in the real world, but existing to be big on Twitter or big in Washington, as opposed to, you know, what their job is, you know, or thinking more about their national profile than they are about actually what the job is at hand.

CARPENTER: Yes, and I worry, you know, sort of on the coattails of Trump, there's a lot of people that don't understand or care about what government is supposed to be about.

The performance is really the point of everything that is the means to the end, it is the power and the purpose. It is all there is, a performance, right? Like this is sort of what the big debate about cancel culture is about because if your only point is to perform and to give voice for other people, well, then you can't be silenced. That is the biggest thing that could happen to you.

And the thing that I keep reflecting back to is what Marjorie Taylor Greene said after she got her committee assignments revoked. It essentially was, "So what? I'm here to make my voice heard. That's my job."

Like, no, that's -- that is not the job. It is not your job to just go after people on Twitter. I mean, after experiencing the pandemic, we should have a renewed commitment to what government means and what it can do and how it needs to protect people. But that, sadly, is not the lesson that Republicans have been learning.

COOPER: Amanda Carpenter, it was a great article. I encourage people to read it. Paul Begala, thanks so much.

Next, breaking news on the Capitol attack. New charges and their disturbing implications about how organized some of the accused insurrections were and how broadly officials believe their alleged conspiracy spread. House Impeachment Manager, Stacey Plaskett joins us.

And later, Michigan's Governor on President Biden's visit to the Pfizer plant in her state. Also what he said today about the vaccine shortage and the debate about whether one dose is effective enough and for long enough to provide protection.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:37]

COOPER: Breaking news tonight that sheds an even darker light on the Capitol attack that ties culpability for it even more tightly to the former President, the Justice Department today unsealing indictments tying together nine alleged associates of the so-called Oath Keepers in the largest insurrection conspiracy charged to date.

Prosecutors say searches of their cell phones and e-mail account show some taking cues directly from things the former President said or tweeted.

Prosecutors citing messages they claimed one defendant sent to Facebook friend quoting now from them, quote: "Trump said it's going to be wild. It's going to be wild. He wants us to make it wild. That's what he's saying. He called us all at the Capitol and wants us to make it wild." Sir, yes, sir."

Also tonight, Federal charges against a Pennsylvania police officer who prosecutors say was caught on video running at a line of police defending the Capitol yelling, "Charge" scuffling with them and yelling. "I'm a cop. I'm a cop."

A day later, this officer allegedly messaged an associate saying quote, "I may need a job," because quote. "Word got out that I was at the rally. LOL."

Joining us now, one of the House Impeachment Managers, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Congresswoman Plaskett, thanks for being with us. What is your reaction to the news about these, you know, alleged associates of the so-called Oath Keepers and how they, you know, cited former President -- the former President as a motivating factor interpreting that he was sending them messages.

STACEY PLASKETT (D), DELEGATE TO U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, first, Anderson, I want to say thank you for having me on the show.

I'm here at Government House in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and both Governor Albert Bryan and I send our deepest regards and well wishes to the people of Texas as they are living through their natural disaster right now.

What I can say about what's happened with the Oath Keepers is that this is no surprise to those of us who are investigating President Trump and the attack on January 6th. This is in fact confirmation of what we had presented to the American people and to 100 senators, that in fact the President had encouraged, incited and organized, those individuals that we knew were already violent, brought them to Washington, D.C. at a specific time, specific location, a specific date for a specific purpose that being to attempt to overthrow our government.

COOPER: There's also word tonight that House investigators have received an initial batch of documents from the F.B.I. and Intelligence Agencies regarding security failures on January 6th. For you, what are some of the key questions that you think investigators still need to find answers to?

PLASKETT: I would love to find out information not only related to the organization, and the coordination of these groups in the lead up to January 6, but in fact, who some of the campaign people were for President Trump and those of his associates who assisted in that organization.

As you can recall from the impeachment trial, one of the things that we brought out was that the President himself was involved in the organization of the event of January 6th, from changing the permit, from being mainly at the Ellipse to having them march to the Capitol along with who were going to be the speakers, the music that was going to be played and the invitations that went out.

COOPER: Is it clear to you how the joint House investigation which have been led by the Intelligence Oversight Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees is going to differ from the 9/11-style commission that Speaker Pelosi has proposed which still has to be enacted into law.

[20:25:05]

PLASKETT: Well, I think that Speaker Pelosi has made an excellent move in having us look into the attack in what led up to it, but also expanding it.

I agree with Bennie Thompson, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee that we need to look at the hate that this, that the events also organized and galvanized.

I think that we need to understand what brought us to a January 6. How we could allow an individual like Donald Trump, not only to organize these people, but in fact that law enforcement was not more vigilant in stopping these groups that we knew to be terrorist organizations here within us.

COOPER: Do you worry going down that road will be viewed by Republicans as politicizing this investigation?

PLASKETT: I would think that every American would attempt -- would want to root out terrorism within us, would want to root out radicalization of Americans to move against their own government that should not be a Democrat or a Republican event. And I think that the Speaker will do her best along in forming this

commission, to ensure that we have the best of Americans there. Not for it to be partisan, not even to be bipartisan, but to be a nonpartisan activity that looks at the events leading up to January 6 and making recommendations on how this can never happen again in our country.

COOPER: In the aftermath of the insurrection, the former President's relatively few critics within the Republican Party, Mitch McConnell now chief among them are apparently seen as such a problem that Lindsey Graham is headed to Mar-a-Lago this weekend to supposedly try to lower the temperature within the party.

What does that kind of mini saga say to you about what the coming weeks and frankly, months may look like?

PLASKETT: Well, you know, I'm not a member of the G.O.P. and that's their own issues that they're going to have to deal with. They have allowed an individual like Donald Trump to take and corral and try and take over a party, which, although I don't always agree with ideologically, has a very important place in the American history and our democracy.

We need to have bipartisan activity where there is negotiation between two groups coming to an agreement about how we move forward this country, and the fact that Lindsey Graham is going as usual to his master, Donald Trump to get his orders is not surprising.

I'm hopeful that good individuals within the Republican Party, we saw them during the impeachment as well as the trial, individuals like Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, Adam Kinzinger, and others, Richard Burr, Cassidy -- Senator Cassidy will in fact rise up and take back control of their party and lead it in the direction that I believe most of the members of the Republican Party want to go.

COOPER: You know, it is so interesting. We don't hear -- I may be wrong about this, but it doesn't feel like we hear very often people saying what you just said, which is, Democrats saying, we need an opposing party, we need a Republican Party, in order to, you know, lead this country.

We need that give and take, that negotiation in order to actually accomplish things, and to kind of steer the best course forward. This is an age where, you know, owning the libs or you know, attacking, you know, the far right or attacking conservatives, is what's popular?

PLASKETT: Well, I don't think that's what the majority of Members of Congress believe. If you look at the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, the majority makers are in fact those moderates, individuals who come from the purple states.

I'm happy to be one of the leaders of the new Democratic coalition, which are pragmatic business forward, economic development Democrats who believe that there are legislation, infrastructure, jobs, support for small businesses, that we can work with individuals across the aisle to move legislation forward.

We know that the best legislation that has been most long standing in this country have been when both Democrats and Republicans have been willing to sit down. And as a lawyer, the best negotiation and best contracts are those in which individuals have given up something and willing to concede and support one another.

And I think that that's the way that all Americans want us to move forward, and I think most of Democrats working in Congress believe that and are looking forward to that.

What we're hoping for is on the Republican side for them not to be paralyzed by Trumpism or MAGA-ism or whatever it is they want to call it and they will once again become a party which you know, in many instances, there are more conservative and fiscally more conservative than some of us, but has an important place in this country.

COOPER: Congresswoman Plaskett, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

PLASKETT: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[20:30:21]

COOPER: Even with all we're still learning about the Capitol attack, Republican lawmakers are still according to a former president like the kingmaker they seem to believe he still is. CNN has learned that Senator Graham, as we said, is heading to Mar-a-Lago this weekend hopes of bridging the growing rift in the GOP.

Perspective now from John King, anchor of CNN's "Inside Politics" and Dana Bash, co-anchor of CNN "State of the Union".

Dana, you have this reporting about Graham heading to Mar-a-Lago to you know, go golfing with the President, which is touted on other networks? You have high profile Republicans who are basically trying to make, you know, the President persona non grata. What does Graham think he can accomplish?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he argues and does so publicly that there's no way to make the former president persona non grata with the Republican Party as it now stands. And that the best thing to do is to try to persuade him to be constructive in the Republican Party going forward. You know, it very well could be a fool's errand Anderson, and it wouldn't be the first time either Senator Graham or other Republicans went on a fool's errand with the Mercurial former president on and, you know, trying to deal with a number of issues.

But this is really pressing. Because the very real concern here in Washington, is that if the former president puts his thumb on the scale for Trump like candidates in swing states that will decide whether or not Republicans retake control of the Senate, then it could very well hurt their chances to retake control of the Senate. So that is his goal. But as you said, there is a very different school of thought in the GOP, and that school is try to squeeze him out and try to, you know, ignore him and there -- and that will diminish his clout.

COOPER: John, I feel like we're back in 2016 when you had all those Republican candidates running against Donald Trump and, you know, trying to figure out how do we deal with him, oh, while some will just ignore him, others will, you know, make fun of him and try to play his game. They're still trying to figure it out. Does it make sense to you that Lindsey Graham is choosing this tact because I just find it fascinating that the night of the insurrection, he -- you know, said he was done with Trump and was out and sad how it ended. And now he's, you know, going to kiss the ring.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Lindsey Graham has tried every you don't need the other 100 Republicans or 200 Republicans or 500 Republicans. Lindsey Graham has tried. Every one of these tactics you're talking about. Donald Trump was a cancer back in 2016 to Lindsey Graham, he was a liar. He was going to destroy the party. You're right and that there's the four years intervening then there's the intervention insurrectionary which he says I'm done with Donald Trump. Now he's going to kiss the ring.

Look, there's not a lot of consistency when it comes to Lindsey Graham. He used to hitch his wagon to John McCain's horse. And back in those days, Lindsey Graham had a relative consistency of what he believed in where he was going. Now he's all over the place. What he seeks most Anderson is relevance. And he believes that relevance is golfing with the former president by day and being on Hannity at night. Does Lindsey graham have great influence in the Republican Party? The answer that is no, actually. The answer that is no. I've been at this 35 years and I don't know anybody out there in a state who says, you know, what is Lindsey think or we should get Lindsey's advice.

However, he believes matching up with Donald Trump somehow makes him relevant in the chatter. In the real world, I don't think so.

BASH: And he admits that he wants to be relevant that that's his goal. He's very open about it.

COOPER: But Dana, you agree that he's not like sort of the kingmaker in the Republican Party that he's not that influential?

BASH: No, but he wants to -- yes, the answer is yes, I agree. But I also agree that he is very open about the fact that he wants to be somebody who helps to get the party, whatever it is at that moment that he thinks it needs to get And right now, he wants to get his gavel back as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and his colleagues to get their gavels back and this is the way that he opts to do it.

COOPER: Fascinating. Dana Bash, John King, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

(voice-over): Quick reminder, be sure to watch "State of the Union" this Sunday. Dana's guest is going to be Dr. Anthony Fauci, Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Texas Congressman Michael McCaul. Still to come tonight, President Biden at Pfizer vaccine plant in Michigan, we'll discuss what he said about the vaccine storage with someone who was there with him the state's governor Gretchen Whitmer. And then new numbers from a key model that tracks the course of the virus, the director of the institute that publish it, he's going to join us discuss just how long the road ahead really is.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[20:37:26]

COOPER: -- are down as cases and deaths are declining. And what that may mean for the possibility of herd immunity. I'm going to talk to the director of the institute that conducts the research.

But first President Biden toured a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan today. While he was there, he explained that despite the vaccine shortage, the country is on the road to getting vaccinated. He said quote, I can't give you a date when this crisis will end. But I can tell you we're doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later. His comments come in day afternoon research found that just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine was 85% effective in the month after people received it, bolstering arguments to increase doses held in reserve for a second shot.

(INAUDIBLE) Dr. Anthony Fauci today said just one dose would be risky and question its durability. The research is frankly, isn't there. That's not what they tested it for. Earlier we spoke about the current state of the fight against COVID with someone who was with the President during the event today, the governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Governor bad weather postponed President Biden's trip to Michigan until today those same severe storms have slowed the delivery of 6 million vaccine doses around the country according the White House. Do you agree with what the President essentially said today that the vaccine rollout will recover and make up for lost time?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I think they will, absolutely. I mean, there are going to be setbacks. There are things that will happen that we can't control. But what the Biden administration can control they are doing very well. And that is getting vaccines out to states that is entering into contracts to secure more vaccines. And so hosting the President at Pfizer today was great. And it was a moment of real pride for us here in Michigan. But I think of hope for the whole nation.

COOPER: The White House vaccine czar said today the vaccines are sitting safe and sound in our factories and hubs ready to be shipped out as soon as the weather allows. What's your understanding of when those doses at Pfizer there in Michigan will be able to start going out?

WHITMER: You know, I don't know precisely what the data is. I know that some things are moving especially, you know, locally and in the region, but they have a plan. They're continuing to manufacture. And so, I don't think that this will be an a net shortage of vaccines. It's just going to be a bit of a delay.

COOPER: You know, part of the problem has been personnel to, you know, administer the shots to help, you know, in vaccination centers. President Biden also said that FEMA has provided tens of millions of dollars to bolster community vaccination centers in your state to expand vaccination access. We know that across the country communities of color are seeing, you know, far lower vaccination numbers overall. What's the situation in Michigan with that?

WHITMER: Well, I mean equity is an important you know, aspect back to us making sure that we get these vaccines out. And the Biden administration is focused on it. My administration is focused on it. We've got a lot of hurdles to overcome whether it is creating, and ensuring that there's confidence in the vaccine, there's certainly hesitancy.

[20:40:14]

But also, being intentional about ensuring that vaccines are prioritized and socially vulnerable areas with populations that are uniquely vulnerable to this virus. And so, we have to be very intentional about it. We're making strides, but there's much work ahead to do.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, the percentage I saw in Wisconsin where I interviewed the President the other night, were really pretty stunning. I mean, I think it was in Milwaukee, and I'm speaking roughly it was nine point something percent of white residents in Milwaukee had been vaccinated, whereas it was only like 3.3% of black residents.

WHITMER: Yes. Well, I you know, I can't speak to the numbers in Wisconsin. I can say, though, that when you prioritize the health care field, as we should have prioritized in the beginning, it does disproportionately impact the numbers. Being intentional about equity, making sure that we go to where people are, is something that's important when health systems are doing it, you have a -- that creates another dynamic. And so, there's a lot of pressure points here.

But I think our strategy here in Michigan, is to really focus on those social vulnerable indexes to make sure that we are we are equitable, and making sure that we've got vaccines that are going into pharmacies across the state, not just the big pharmacies, because we've got a lot of rural population that needs to be served as well.

COOPER: Is that already happening or is that underway?

WHITMER: That's underway. And, you know, as we are going to see vaccines, you know, continue to increase the number, I will be able to make even greater strides in that. Today's news about locking in hundreds of millions of more vaccines over the coming months, means that in a matter of weeks, months, maybe we'll have more vaccine than demand. And that will create another challenge for us. But that will be a much better problem to have. We want to get to 70% that when that's when life returns to normal, and that's when we know kids are safely back in school and all of our economy is reengaged at full stride. And so that's the goal 70%

COOPER: What do you tell people in your state when they ask you that question? When are things going to get back to normal or, you know, even some semblance of normal?

WHITMER: Well, in Michigan right now we are positive the rate is around 3%. It's one of the lowest in the nation, we have gotten over 1.7 million shots in arms, one of the highest in the nation. We keep this trajectory up, we keep masking up, we take these protocols seriously. We will resume some normalcy probably by the summer and that's our great hope. But as we started our conversation, Anderson, weather can change things and we can't control that. And that's why we're going to have to be nimble. We're going to have to give each other some grace and we're all going to have to double down on those safety protocols.

COOPER: Yes. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, appreciate it. Thank you.

WHITMER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Out of those new numbers from a key model tracking the course of the virus we mentioned just a moment ago, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation the University of Washington says that new cases deaths and hospitalizations are quote, steadily declining, largely due to seasonal reasons, but also because the vaccines have (INAUNDIBLE) that people may become less cautious about things like mask and distance things virus numbers decline.

Now, the bottom line despite the positive signs, the institute does not expect to reach herd immunity prior to next winter, which is sobering thing to even say out loud.

Perspective now, from our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Chris Murray, Director of the institute that's published this model.

So Dr. Murray, your new projections are down from last week. But you still expect more than 100,000 people to die between now and June 1st. Can you explain why that is?

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, IHME: Well, you know, cases and deaths are going down. But we see the trajectory is going to be sort of steady declines. But that still adds up to an awful lot of Americans dying by June 1st. And part of the reason is the spread of the new variants, particularly the British, the merit, that's going to slow the decline. I don't think it's going to reverse it. But it's slow the decline. And so, you know, you all these factors are coming together to determine what is the trajectory between now and June 1st.

COOPER: And to me, I mean the headline out of this, besides that those, you know, that that projection is why you think the U.S. will not achieve herd immunity before next winter. Can you explain? MURRAY: Well, you know, the models suggest that we should have a quiet summer, you know, decibels (ph) in cases are going to keep going down as long as people don't overreact and stop wearing a mask and stop being careful. As long as we're on a sort of slow pace of recovery, the summer should be quiet. But now COVID is really seasonal. So when the next winter rolls around, found we need to have a much higher level of protection to stop COVID in its tracks, then we're likely to achieve given --

[20:45:14]

COOPER: OK, we're having problems. We'll try to get that back.

Sanjay, what do you make of that? I mean, that's because, you know, we've talked, we've had people, you know, heard doctors say that the numbers of people who probably have already been infected and were asymptomatic, or, yes were asymptomatic is, is much higher than the official numbers, and therefore, maybe we're closer herd immunity than people think?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no, I was a little surprised. I was anxious to see how he was going to explain that because you're right, Anderson, if you do the math, and we did these back of envelope calculations, you know, to get to herd immunity 70, 80% of people, when you add them to vaccinations, even at the current pace of vaccinations, even if they didn't increase, and then you add in the existing immunity, because there have been people who've been naturally infected, obviously. And we're probably under counting by, you know, there's probably three times as many people have been infected as we're actually counting. They do the math, you sort of see middle of summer that we should get to that herd immunity.

Perhaps Dr. Murray is sort of, he's worried about the variants and perhaps escaped immunity, meaning some of these variants cause, you know, the virus to not be as easily, you know, affected by the vaccines. I'm not sure. I think the concern that you may have another surge in the fall in terms of cases is possible that happens in the in the colder months. But I'm not sure we would see the corresponding significant increases in hospitalizations, significant increases in deaths, because we should have a lot of immunity by them.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Murray, we're able to reestablish connection. I want to ask you about the idea, you know, we I interviewed somebody, a doctor a couple of weeks ago, I think it was or maybe last week time is sort of oddly perceived by me right now, given this pandemic. But who suggested that because more people probably have been infected than the officials numbers indicate, who are asymptomatic, didn't even know they had it, that we may be closer to herd immunity than people really think you're seem to indicate that that's not the case.

MURRAY: Well, you know, CDC conducts surveys on a very regular basis, testing for antibodies in every state. And when you put all that data together, and you put it together with what we know about the infection detection rate, about 20% of Americans have been infected, you know, it may be plus or minus a couple of percentage points, but it's not, not this idea that some people are saying it's 50%. And that 20% gives some protection.

But the reason the fall may not be, you know, what we're hoping it to be is that there's evidence emerging that that there isn't going necessarily protection from one variant to the next variant. So, look what's happening in Peru, they have 50, 60% been infected in the past, and now they have a huge outbreak right now unfolding. And likely, that's, you know, the new variants showing up there, but it just shows you that a lot of people being infected, doesn't necessarily mean in the presence of these new variants that will have the protection that we hope for.

COOPER: So in Peru, they've, you said that as many as 50% of the population had been infected. And yet, they're getting reinfected because of these variants.

MURRAY: You know, in Peru, their daily death rates back up to the peak of what it was last year, and they had one of the worst epidemics if you remember. And so, it's, you know, it's just exploded there. And it's an example same things happening in northern Brazil and Amazonas, where they had really high levels of infection, but still, they're having this big outbreak. And that's very likely the new variant, the B1 variant in that case

COOPER: Sanjay, in Israel, which has, you know, been able to vaccinate larger percentages of their population, researchers found that infection rates fell by 85%, after one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In Canada, researchers found people had more than 90% protection after one dose. Again, these results have, you know, fuel that debate which we you and I have talked about, is it better to vaccinate more people with just a one dose get into as many arms as possible, rather than fewer people, but with two doses.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I don't think there this debate has been resolved yet. I mean, people have pretty strong points of view on this. I think there's two there's two things. First of all, the Canadian data wasn't really new data, they were just looking at the existing Pfizer data. And they found that after people had one dose, there was a significant amount of protection. Most people in the trial obviously, you know, four weeks later, three weeks later, depending on which vaccine got another dose. So there wasn't a significant time period to sort of say, how long did the first dose really benefit.

So, you know, we don't know I mean, if you get one dose, it's not going to be as good as two doses, but it may be, you know, pretty good, but we don't know how long it lasts. We just don't have the data on that. And I think what a lot of people are saying like Fauci and others is that, you know, let's stick with what we know.

[20:50:10]

The other thing I think is interesting, Anderson, is that this idea that if you give partial immunity, might you actually be inspiring more mutations? This is not the exact metaphor but kind of like giving someone inadequate antibiotic treatment, might you create more resistant bacteria. One is a treatment one's a prophylactic, but still that same sort of idea. You want to give the full immunity if you can. COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, Dr. Murray. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Speaking of vaccines, the CDC is saying tonight that more than 59 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered throughout the United States.

(voice-over): Up next, we'll introduce you to one very special recipient of South Carolina woman who's one of the oldest people in the United States.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: We reported just before the break that more than 59 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been administered in the U.S. Of those, there's one unique recipient in South Carolina. "360s" Gary Tuchman has the story of remarkable woman with a recipe for a long life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Aulenbacher is the oldest stone person in the state of South Carolina, one of the oldest people in the United States. And on this day, the 111-year-old is getting her second dose of the COVID vaccine.

[20:55:05]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that's good.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maria Aulenbacher, now one of the oldest people in the world to get the vaccination.

MARIA AULENBACHER, SOUTH CAROLINA'S OLDEST RESIDENT: (INAUDIBLE) no, no.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maria lives with a daughter and son-in-law near the Blue Ridge Mountains, two of her grandchildren and a great grandson live nearby. But she was born in Germany and lived there a long time, more than a century to be exact. Incredibly, shortly after her 100th birthday, she moved across the ocean to the United States. Everyone calls her Oma and affectionate German term for grandma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Omi, it's sunny and beautiful again in South Carolina today. Isn't it so nice to live here?

AULENBACHER: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maria is incredibly optimistic. She loves her family reading and naps. And has a daily ritual that she's convinced has increased her longevity.

(on-camera): Ms. Maria, what is the secret to living to 111 years old.

AULENBACHER: Every (INAUDIBLE) I eat what I like. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maria was a little girl during the First World War and the influenza pandemic, and in her 30s during World War II. She became a widow more than 75 years ago. Her daughter and son-in-law say she's had to be strong.

DOUG DICKERSON, MARIA'S SON-IN-LAW: We look forward to seeing her every morning come out, cheerful, ready to have breakfast, a couple of cups of coffee. And take on the day.

TUCHMAN: How important was it to you that your mother get these vaccines?

BIRGIT DICKERSON, MARIA'S DAUGHTER: Well, we kind of felt like it's a civic duty, everybody has to get this vaccine because if we ever want to get over this, we all have to go and have the vaccine.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maria is well aware she is now a role model.

AULENBACHER: I'm very happy to get the shot.

B. DICKERSON: I really feel blessed that I can have her for such a long time. And I hope I have so many more years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old do you want to be?

AULENBACHER: Like old like Methuselah.

TUCHMAN: Like Methuselah. Methuselah is a biblical figure who lives in 969 years old. I hope you get there. And I think if anyone can, it would be you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: She's so great. Gary, first of all, Gary, I'm impressed that you knew the agent Methuselah but has anyone else in Maria's family in South Carolina been able to get the vaccine?

TUCHMAN: Well, it's sort Anderson. Maria does live in the same house as her daughter and her son-in-law. They are both in their 70s so in South Carolina, they are eligible for the COVID vaccine and they too today went and got their second vaccines, their second vaccination. So, it's a much more relaxed atmosphere in the house right now. The grandchildren, the great grandson like most of us, not yet eligible, but they will get their shots as soon as they can.

COOPER: I mean, it's amazing that she was alive during World War I through the pandemic of back then in 1918. Incredible. Gary Tuchman great story. Thank you so much.

A lot more ahead tonight, we're on for two hours. The latest on the dire water situation affecting millions in Texas and some areas facing another night of record cold weather.

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