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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Capitol Security Ramped Up As FBI Warns Of Another Possible Attack; New Cases Climbing Again As TX, MS End Mask Mandates; Is There A Bias Against The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine?; Cuomo Apologizes, Says He Didn't Know He Was Making Women Uncomfortable But Rejects Calls To Resign; Pentagon Watchdog: Rep. Ronny Jackson Made Sexual Comments, Drank Alcohol And Took Ambien While Working As WH Physician. Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired March 3, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. You just have to go to CNNgo. Thanks for watching.

I'll see you tomorrow. "AC360" with Anderson starts now.

[20:00:07]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And Good evening. Here we are, again, the Capitol under threat once more.

Capitol Police today saying they have obtained Intelligence of a quote, "possible plot to breach the Capitol" by an identified militia group tomorrow. House members worried enough that they're likely canceling going to work tomorrow.

At Senate hearings this morning, a senior Homeland Security official was asked about the Intelligence, she responded by confirming that her Department and the F.B.I. have also raised the alarm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, we issued a bulletin last night co- authored with the F.B.I. about extremists discussing March 4th and March 6th. Is that is that what you were referring to? It is a joint Intelligence bulletin we released last night around -- it was very late -- midnight, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So with concerns about a new attack front and center, you would think that understanding the last one would be a priority, especially to the senator, she was actually replying to Republican Ron Johnson. After all, he was interested enough in what might happen tomorrow to make it his very first question.

When it comes to what already has happened, though, not so much, except it seems, continuing to downplay it and deflect responsibility for it.

Now, we should say right here that some of his Republican colleagues truly are taking a serious interest, especially in why, with the capital under siege, it took more than three hours for the D.C. National Guard to respond, and the new order is putting obstacles in its path.

The Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard, Major General William Walker talked about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM WALKER, COMMANDING GENERAL, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD: The Secretary of the Army's January 5th letter to me withheld that authority for me to employ a quick reaction force.

Additionally, the Secretary of the Army's memorandum to me required that a Concept of Operation be submitted to him before the employment of a Quick Reaction Force.

I found that requirement to be unusual, as was the requirement to seek approval to move Guardsmen supporting the Metropolitan Police Department to move from one traffic control point to another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ohio republican Rob Portman, one of the Ranking Members today, says he wants to hear more on this from the former Army Secretary and former acting Defense Secretary.

Another Ranking Member, Missouri Republican, Roy Blunt devoted much of his questioning to the subject. Even Senator Ted Cruz eliciting new information with a question about whether those new guidelines hobbled the guards' response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: Senator Cruz, I would have had that authority prior to January 6th, to employ direct Quick Reaction Force. So the Secretary of Defense, his letter authorizes me to use the Quick Reaction Force, and it says only as a last resort, where the Secretary of the Army, his direction to me withholds the authority to use the Quick Reaction Force and he will only authorize that and only after he has a Concept of Operations sent to him, a Con-Op sent to him.

So that was restriction that was unusual to me. I had never seen that before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now Senator Josh Hawley called attention to what the General said, but then he quickly directed his questioning toward the notion that these new orders were an overreaction to criticism of the Guards' role in the mayhem surrounding the former President's photo-op last summer.

He then said in segued, into questions he asked the F.B.I. Director yesterday about collecting metadata on the 6th. But the prize for deflection goes, as we said to Senator Johnson, who has made a career now out of rewriting what we already know for certain about the insurrection and downplaying the horror that we all saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): How many firearms were confiscated in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds during that day?

JILL SANBORN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, F.B.I. COUNTERTERRORISM DIVISION: To my knowledge, we have not recovered any on that day from any other arrests at the scene at this point.

JOHNSON: Nobody has been charged with an actual firearm weapon in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds?

SANBORN: Correct.

JOHNSON: How many shots were fired that we know of?

SANBORN: I believe the only shots that were fired were the ones that resulted in the death of the one lady.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, there's been a theme for the senator that somehow an insurrection involving makeshift arms wasn't the real thing, like a flagpole to beat an officer nearly to death is not a weapon. The officer taking those blows would probably say it was or what's believed to be bear spray used on the police, an irritant that according to the latest reporting might have contributed to Officer Brian Sicknick being killed. Would that be a weapon?

Senator Johnson has been at this for a while now playing rhetorical games and deflecting about what really happened that day.

You'll remember he read this revisionist account of the assault in the Congressional Record last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: A very few didn't share the jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor of the great majority. Some obviously didn't fit in and he describes four different types of people: plainclothes militants, agents, provocateurs, fake Trump protesters and then disciplined uniform column of attackers. I think these are the people that probably planned this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:05:08]

COOPER: So it seems like it's kind of a game to him. I mean, five people died directly because of the insurrection.

Senator Amy Klobuchar responded directly to Johnson's assertions that the insurrectionists were just there for a peaceful and fun visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): These people that were assaulting the

Capitol in military gear and we're pinning an officer between a door and we're using bear spray on officers in the Capitol, would you title them provocateurs?

SANBORN: Ma'am, it would all depend on the evidence behind the case. Right? So as we're going through, and we're figuring out what actually we know about each individual, it would just depend on what the facts are and what we know holistically about that, to be able to put a label on it.

KLOBUCHAR: Do you think there were some very serious, violent people involved in this insurrection?

SANBORN: One hundred percent, a lot of officers were injured and a lot of damage was done.

KLOBUCHAR: And would you describe the atmosphere as festive?

SANBORN: Absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Absolutely not, and the absurdity didn't stop there and I'm using that word because on the eve, the Capitol is once again under threat. We got an op-ed from the man who was nearly -- excuse me -- sacrificed on the altar of that big election lie.

Mike Pence, who writes this in an op-ed today opposing new voting rights legislation. I'm quoting: "After an election marked by significant voting irregularities in numerous instances of official setting aside State election law, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election."

People who believe that wanted to hang Mike Pence, and that's where we are tonight with the Capitol again under threat eight weeks after the first insurrection and bracing for the possibility of another because of the big lie that just won't die.

More now on the new threat reporting as well as the chain of command mystery surrounding the D.C. Guards orders during the insurrection. Joining us senior national security analyst and former assistant Homeland Security Secretary, Juliette Kayyem, also, CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

So Juliette, this possible plot to breach the Capitol we mentioned earlier, grave enough that the House is likely canceling its session tomorrow, a lot of it seems based on this QAnon identifying March 4th, as you know, the date of the real presidential inauguration back, I guess when Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated and that somehow Donald Trump is going to return to glory on the fourth and become the 19th President of the United States.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The resurrection, and that's what they're anticipating. I can't second guess the Intelligence that they are seeing from my

seat. So all I can say is, this is where we are. This is -- that there at least legitimate enough Intelligence to suggest a second attack that is promulgated because of the lie that is essentially the -- at this stage, the direct outcome of the lie.

The lie leads to the violence, you can't deny it anymore. That closes down or potentially closes down all of the third branch of government or third branch of government tomorrow. This is where we are.

And guess what? We will be here for a while because the lie doesn't go away. The G.O.P. is invested in the lie because it's tied to, as you just noted, it's tied to the voting restrictions that they are trying to put in place throughout the country. They need to convince people that the lie is true that the votes were illegitimate, and in particular, African-American and Hispanic votes.

So this lie is not going away, and what they're trying to do is say, well, the lie actually is just, you know, it's about policy changes, about voting rights. But the lies also leading to the violence, and they can't have it both ways.

And so, any Republican now who does not reject the lie outright is now responsible for the violence that we're going to see -- that we might see not tomorrow, but because there's going to be a new date and a new date and a new date.

And that's the -- that's the inheritance of what Trump leaves behind for the Biden administration's Intelligence teams.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, General Hertling, that is the thing about like a group this, you know, QAnon belief is they come up with a date, and then the date passes and nothing happens that they said was going to happen, and then they come up with a reason why that occurred that oh, that was a Psy-Op. It was disinformation -- intentional disinformation. The next date is, -- you know, it's like those people used to predict the end of the world and then change the date all the time.

From a security standpoint, given the deficiencies we saw on January 6th, what should be in motion now to -- I mean, are our troops ever going to leave D.C.?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's a great question, Anderson. You're exactly right. We have seen this kind of thing in combat before, where there's anticipation that the enemy is going to attack, so you get all revved up. You get people up at dawn. You have them in their foxholes ready to shoot and the enemy doesn't attack. And then he another date and they don't attack again.

[20:10:00]

HERTLING: So suddenly you start feeling lax and you're not as energized and then suddenly they get away with it. But you know in this whole thing, in this event on the 6th of January, what I saw today has to do with what Juliette was talking about. It was just -- I anticipated an ugly hearing. It was that and so much

more. Because what was discussed during that hearing today was everything we shouldn't do as military forces, as Intelligence forces.

The thing we have to do is fight for Intelligence, not wait for someone to give us information. We have to plan and collaborate with people we anticipate fighting with, in this case, the D.C. Police and the Capitol Police. We have to have trust in the chain of command. That was gone with the last guy's administration.

And then finally, what I'd like to say, and this was the thing that troubled me the most. When I first saw General Walker's rules of engagement, the letter that he received from the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army, I was flummoxed.

That is something you would never see. You trust a two-star General to commit his QRF, to commit his reserve. That's why he gets promoted to those levels of authority. That wasn't happening.

And I've got to tell you, you know, General Walker used, as you played the tape, he used the term "unusual" several times in his testimony. That translates into "This is a bunch of BS." And I've got to tell you, it's just -- it was horrible.

COOPER: Yes. The QRF, Quick Reaction Force is what you're referring to, but General Hertling, just from your experience in military matters. So William Walker, the Commander of the D.C. National Guard, I mean, he raised these questions about, you know, the instructions he had gotten from the Acting Defense Secretary and the Secretary of the Army.

What was so unusual about that the idea that Walker wasn't given the ability to just move a Quick Reaction Force, to deploy them, or even redeploy Guardsmen who were already stationed in one place to another?

HERTLING: You can go down the entire list of the things he was asked to do to include what kind of uniforms were his soldiers going to wear? What kind of things could they not take with them, like vests and helmets?

Moving people, as he testified between one traffic control point to another. That's just silliness. I mean, a Sergeant Squad Leader makes those kinds of decisions, not a two-star General.

And to go back to the Secretaries to get confirmation of those kind of orders to me, as a guy who has been in combat, under rules of engagement, sometimes are restrictive. There's usually a reason for those restrictive rules of engagement.

But in this case, it just seemed to hinder his activity with a by the way, Anderson, of extremely small force. That's troubling too, because when he was talking about committing the Quick Reaction Force, 150 people, 140 people, whatever he said he had, that would have been nothing in terms of countering the kind of activities that were going on.

And again, I go back to my first issue, you plan and collaborate with other organizations before you get into an anticipated fight.

Everybody saw this coming, and I'm really surprised at the actions of having a lack of forces to support this individual as well as some of the State Capitals that did have national --

COOPER: Juliette, you know, obviously, when those restrictions that Walker was talking about were not in place, by the way, during the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer, we saw a much, you know, a more ready and, you know, sort of muscular response of troops.

You worked in Homeland Security. I mean, why was Walker handcuffed?

KAYYEM: So it's important to note that those restrictions were not put in after Lafayette Park, so people like the senator who was arguing, well, this was an overreaction to Lafayette. No, this restriction was put on January 5th.

So something is going on here, which is not explained in any of the testimony. And it's basically this: by December, any person with a Twitter account, let alone, you know, just listening knows that Donald Trump is talking about this date. He is using the language of fight.

It is so disconcerting that even Members of Congress don't show up that day and some even show up armed. They are nervous.

The day -- so that Intelligence is out there. You don't need to wait for the F.B.I. to tell you. The military is then told do less than what you would do in a normal situation, which is you would preposition at this stage.

We did it during the elections. The National Guard was prepositioned, and you would do it during this, not because, you know, you want to stop First Amendment rights, but because there is a legitimate concern about violence.

So the fact that they weren't even out there on the 5th and in the morning of the 6th meant that the crowd, the mob, looks up the Hill and says, it is totally -- you know, let's just go up there right, and let's just attack because it's not being fortified.

[20:15:16]

KAYYEM: So I think -- those five days, we have no explanation about both what Mark said -- the General said about the rules of engagement, and why did the Pentagon take so long and so the only person I care about hearing from is, is the former Acting Secretary, Chris Miller, who was brought in at the last moment by Trump very late in the administration and has some explaining to do.

COOPER: Juliette Kayyem and Mark Hertling, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Next, in light of the breaking news, a closer look at the conspiracy theories driving the concern about tomorrow.

And later, Texan Beto O'Rourke on his Governor's decision to go against the experts and throw his state wide open to COVID. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:01]

COOPER: There's breaking news about a possible new threat to the Capitol. It centers on a date, the 4th, tomorrow which some, though not all, QAnon followers believe will mark the former President's return to office. Not only is that not on the agenda, it looks like the House won't even be in session until Monday due to this new development.

In any case, tomorrow, is a concern as is the 6th. We will get perspective now from two of research and written about QAnon, "New York Times" technology columnist Kevin Roose, and Mia Bloom, author of the upcoming book, "Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon Women."

So, Kevin, is there any way to predict how QAnon followers will react to whatever does or does not happen tomorrow? Because I mean, if history is any guide, we know there have been dates set before and promises made, and none of it has come to pass, and just, they evolve into new theories or say, well, that was an intentional distraction or disinformation or a Psy-Op.

KEVIN ROOSE, TECHNOLOGY COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I mean, QAnon operates as a kind of Doomsday cult, they are constantly making predictions about when things will come to pass, when this storm will arrive, and the pedophiles will be rounded up and arrested, and it never happens clearly. And after it doesn't happen, they push the date back and try again.

So this is happened a lot, and it has happened most notably on Inauguration Day when they believe that the Inauguration would be interrupted by you know, Trump announcing Martial Law and taking a second term in office.

And they did actually suffer some setbacks after that. A lot of people who were sort of part of the group became disillusioned, but the people who are hanging on changed their prediction to March 4th, to tomorrow, as the date when they think that Trump will return as the President.

COOPER: And I saw some pictures posted online, Mia, where, you know, some of these people were saying that executions will take place on the 5th of people who have already been rounded up or will be.

And they showed pictures of the press risers put up for the Inauguration, saying that those were gallows and that Washington has actually already been taken over by the military and is now a prison for the people who are going to be rounded up.

There's also, Mia, this thing that a lot of them believe that President Biden isn't really President Biden at all. That it's a body double, like, it's just nuts.

MIA BLOOM, EVIDENCE BASED CYBERSECURITY RESEARCH GROUP, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: There are a few things that they believe. So, the first thing was that it's not really Biden and like the movie "Face Off," that it's really President Trump, and the reason that President Biden is always wearing a mask isn't because of COVID-19, it is because they haven't synced up the mouth yet between, you know, the facial mask of Biden, and how President Trump is imitating Biden.

They also look at the fact that on his very first day, Biden signs 17 Executive Orders, 17 being, you know, Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.

COOPER: It's so -- I mean, it's so interesting. I mean, I don't know if it's that interesting, frankly. The more, you know, the longer it goes on, the less interesting it becomes, after a while, it's just like the person, you know, won't leave the party and keeps talking.

You know, there were 17 flags when President Trump I think said, you know, farewell to Frank Sinatra and/or I think, it was The Village People playing, surprisingly enough and boarded the plane and there were some people reading into that.

Is it, Mia, from what you've seen, are people -- is there still money being made? Are they still selling products? Are there still -- is there still the backing of this that there was before? Because I mean, you know, we've talked and with Kevin as well about people leaving in the wake of none of their promises coming true.

Is there any way to know how many people are still out there who believe this?

BLOOM: Well, so after the January 20th Inauguration and the storm didn't happen, on Gab and Telegram, there was a great deal of weeping and teeth gnashing, but the fact remains that the people who are diehards will double and triple down.

Now, what's interesting about tomorrow is that a number of these QAnon influencers, who are the ones that are making the money, are now saying, wait a second, wait a second, March 4th is a false flag operation that Antifa has created to make us look bad.

So you have now this different vein of arguments within QAnon that some people are saying, yes, of course, it's March 4th and that's why the Trump Hotel quadrupled the room prices, but then others are saying no, it's Antifa, it's a false flag. They're trying to make us look stupid.

COOPER: Did the Trump Hotel really quadruple room prices for tomorrow expecting loonies to come?

BLOOM: You know, if there's money to be made, Trump is going to make it.

COOPER: That's really interesting. Kevin, I mean, in terms of an actual threat, a threat of force that we're hearing about tonight. I mean, the biggest threat of force we have seen from them, I guess, would be the Capitol insurrection. Obviously, there was the guy who showed up at the pizza parlor, there was an incident at the Hoover Dam.

There has been, you know other incidents. Somebody doing a mob hit flaming QAnon ties. The idea that the House is likely not going to be in session tomorrow because of this possible threat, does that surprise you?

[20:25:23]

ROOSE: I think it's not surprising that there are threats and it's not surprising that law enforcement is preparing for the worst case scenario.

I do think there are some important differences between what we see in advance of tomorrow, and what we saw in advance of January 6th, the Capitol riot.

I mean, before the Capitol riot, for weeks, there were groups that were preparing to storm the Capitol, talking about their plans openly, you know, trading Airbnb listings and talking about carpooling to Washington, D.C., making it very clear that they were intending to show up in vast numbers.

And we haven't seen the same kind of energy around the events that some law enforcement, you know, agencies expect to happen tomorrow. It just doesn't seem to be capturing the same kind of offline energy.

But I think it's always good to be prepared. It doesn't take thousands and thousands of QAnon believers in one place to cause trouble and even violence.

COOPER: Yes, Kevin Roose, Mia Bloom, appreciate it. Thank you.

Just ahead, President Biden's blunt words for the Governors of two states that are ending their mask mandate.

Also my conversation with former Congressman Beto O'Rourke about what this means for the future of his state, Texas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A short time ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci added his objection to that of President Biden on Texas and Mississippi ending their mask mandates. He called it ill-advised and risky.

Earlier today, President Biden was more blunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think is a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody has realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we are able to get vaccines in people's arms.

We've been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot. And the last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking

that in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your mask. Forget it. It still matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:30:36]

COOPER: All both governors responded. Here's Mississippi's Tate Reeves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): Given how long ago Mr. Biden was elected to the U.S. Congress, he certainly should know how Neanderthal's think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Texas Governor Greg Abbott also responded saying was time to restore livelihoods and normalcy. Both states are ending their mandates after coming down off record highs, but also as new cases in both states have begun climbing again in just the past few weeks. Mississippi's mandate ended today, Texas is next week. Once that happens, at least 15 states the ones you see in red will have no mask mandate to other states in yellow require mass sometimes.

Earlier, I spoke to former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who's acknowledged a potential run for governor Abbott against Governor Abbott, about what this means for Texas in the nation at large.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on-camera): Congressman O'Rourke, you tweeted this decision by Governor Abbott was a death warrant for Texans. Why do you think he would do this?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know why he would do this. I know that in doing so many more of our fellow Texans are going to die beyond the 44,000 who've already come to COVID in the ill prepared way that he met the pandemic and in the Bosch rollout of the vaccines and it's disproportionately hit.

The communities are already struggling lowest income communities of color. And we know that those on the frontlines, including our health care workers are going to bear the brunt of the cost and consequence of this decision.

Anderson, one of the things that that people should understand is that Houston, Texas largest city in our state, one largest in America, is the first city to have every single variant of the coronavirus in one place. And that's just beginning to take off. We have no idea what the spread of these new variants are going to do.

But we do know that keeping a mask on, keeping six foot distance, having some public health protocols are going to save lives while we race towards the finish of having every single adult in America vaccinated by the end of May. Why he would give up now, when we're so close to the end. I don't know.

COOPER (on-camera): The governor came obviously under heavy criticism during the handling the snowstorms and power outages in Texas. You and I talked during that time, that the mayor of Austin last night said last night it's a possibility the governor's move to lift the mask mandate could be related to that criticism, I mean is that -- do you think that's possibly part of the motivation?

O'ROURKE: He's presiding over a state that is approaching the classic definition of a failed state, but literally cannot guarantee electricity, running water, heat when temperatures are dropping into the single digits. We know an 11-year-old boy froze to death in his trailer. We know an 84-year-old grandmother froze in her home.

We know that perhaps more than 100 of our fellow Texans died of hypothermia or carbon monoxide inhalation trying to stay warm in their cars. This is a really politically convenient bombshell to drop when every one of us wants to see the accountability and the answers for what happened to our fellow Texans in the midst of this storm.

COOPER (on-camera): I mean, right now the CDC has come out and said Governor Abbott's decision is premature the Infectious Disease Society of America said pandemic control measures must continue. I mean, what happens if the numbers go up then does he dig his heels? Or does he find -- does he then go back and say OK, well, let's restart the mandates.

O'ROURKE: What he said is that if hospitalizations reach a certain level within a given county, that county judge will then be empowered to take the necessary measures. That's really trying to close the barn door after everyone and all the viruses has gotten out and infected the people that whose care he's entrusted with.

Here's what we're doing. A number of us are going door to door on a voluntary basis to the poorest zip codes in Texas, finding those eligible to be vaccinated and ensuring that they get registered and signed up.

I mean, we're going to neighborhoods that don't have internet access, talking to folks who may not own cellphones, who may not be communicating in the English language to make sure that we get them vaccinated and help them out otherwise they are literally the first in line to become infected, hospitalized and to die. We've seen this over and over again.

[20:35:07]

COOPER (on-camera): The mayor of Boston said that he would try to get at least in government buildings in municipal buildings in Austin that a mask mandate. But is there much else that local officials or businesses can do? I know some businesses have said they'll require their customers to wear a mask?

O'ROURKE: Yes, Anderson. Imagine you're making the minimum wage in Texas, which is 7.25. And you're likely working not one, but two, maybe three jobs at a convenience store and a customer walks in without wearing a mask, you remind them that customer is very likely to say, I'm not listening to you behind the counter. I'm listening to the governor.

The governor has told me that this is OK. And that's not hypothetical. We are getting that kind of feedback already in real time, in the 24 hours since the governor has announced this. He's putting the most vulnerable, those $7 and 25 cent our workers, the health care workers, nurses, doctors, and administrative support staff. He's putting them in harm's way right now by doing this.

So yes, businesses can and should require masks. People can and should wear them when they go out. But what the governor has done is essentially getting the green light to anybody who does not want to wear a mask and to flout the best public health guidance that's out there. So, this one is on us. He's basically told Texas, you're on your own. He and the rest of our state government have given up, we're left to our own devices.

COOPER (on-camera): Congressman O'Rourke, appreciate your time. Thank you.

O'ROURKE: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, just ahead our Gary Tuchman investigates how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being received in communities and whether there is a bias against this latest life-saving drug.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: The challenge of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not just to get into arms, but to overcome options that have been less effective than the other two vaccines. Even if vaccine experts agree that all three of the drugs prevent people from getting seriously ill and that whichever vaccine you can get you should take.

[20:40:11]

Our Gary Tuchman has been looking into how this vaccine is being received in communities. Tonight, he visits suburban area with predominantly black residents to see what they thought when given a chance to vaccines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dellwood Pharmacy is a black owned business in the small predominantly black city of Delaware, Missouri, just north of St. Louis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went along prepared (ph) for this.

REBECCA MAWUENYEGA, OWNER, DELLWOOD PHARMACY: OK.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And the pharmacist who is also the owner of the business -- MAWUENYEGA: OK, congratulations, you're all set.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Just got her first supply of COVID vaccine for her community. But she didn't get just one kind of vaccine, she got two, Moderna and the newly approved Johnson & Johnson.

MAWUENYEGA: This has been the biggest honor, it's been great. It's a blessing to be in this position.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Particularly because Rebecca Mawuenyega knows there has been a reticence among many of minority groups about getting a COVID vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) I was hesitant about it.

MAWUENYEGA: Really?

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And because she has two kinds of vaccine, she has the unique opportunity of giving her customers a choice.

MAWUENYEGA: So I have the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson which one would you want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

MAWUENYEGA: That's the one -- those shots the Johnson & Johnson, you want to get that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But just one shot.

MAWUENYEGA: Just one shot and then you're done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I'll take that.

MAWUENYEGA: Yes, that's the best option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

MAWUENYEGA: And it's equally effective. So we do have a Johnson & Johnson we have the Moderna. Johnson & Johnson one shot and you're done, Moderna two shots. Which one are we going with today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Johnson & Johnson,

MAWUENYEGA: Johnson & Johnson. Why (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One shot I'm done.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): This is just one small pharmacy in America. But the trend here is very clear. The one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is very popular.

MAWUENYEGA: You're going to fill it in.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Trenia Clark also chose Johnson & Johnson. TRENIA CLARK, RECEIVED COVID-19 VACCINE: I cried. I was so happy because here in North County, we weren't getting any vaccines. They were making us drive 60 and 80 miles to go get it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Reggie Jones is the mayor of Dellwood.

MAWUENYEGA: OK, you'll set sir.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): He was one of the smaller number of people here who chose Moderna. Outside the pharmacy in nearby neighborhoods, it is not difficult to find people who aren't planning to get any COVID vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I believe that they will bring the lesser drugs in our communities to test us, to see if it worked before they hit the masses --

TUCHMAN (on-camera): You're referring to the Johnson & Johnson one dose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MAWUENYEGA: Congratulations, you are set.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The pharmacist knows about the past. But tells her customers that now is a much different time.

MAWUENYEGA: Done sir.

TIMOTHY WILLIAMS, RECEIVED COVID-19 VACCINE: OK.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Timothy Williams believes that with all his heart.

(on-camera): Tell me how getting this vaccine is going to change your life.

WILLIAMS: It's going to get to get off your house. I got grandkids, haven't seen my grandkids over a year but (INAUDIBLE) grandkids was turning one on. Once the 21st.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): You must feel great.

WILLIAMS: There they are seen was (INAUDIBLE).

TUCHMAN (on-camera): Last year?

WILLIAMS: Yes, last year, so I won't just hug and squeeze (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: The pharmacy is still open Anderson, it's a late night but we can tell you as of now 67% of the people have come in for vaccines. Two-thirds have asked for the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Anderson.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, appreciate you being there. Thank you.

Perspective now from CNN medical analysts, Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and former COVID advisor of President Biden's transition team. So Dr. Gounder, we just saw Gary's piece. Were you surprised by how many people chose to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Honestly, I was a little bit surprised just because there's been so much in the media about the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as compared to the others. And just to remind everyone, in terms of preventing hospitalization and death, all of the vaccines were 100 percent effective in clinical trials.

So, this is not an inferior vaccine. And if anything, we have in a sense more data on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it was tested in South Africa, in Latin America, where the variants had emerged later in the pandemic, and we know that the vaccine remains effective in those settings.

COOPER: I mean I do think that's one of the interesting things that's often overlooked about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because the efficacy when it came to, I mean there it is, a correctly or maybe I won't even say it, you tell me what the efficacy is, compared to the others on mild cases.

But what's often overlooked is the fact that this has been tested against the South African variant, likely the Brazil variant, and has been deemed effective against hospitalization and death with those variants, which is significant.

GOUNDER: Yes, and that's significant. We haven't seen that same level of data, frankly with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because they were tested in clinical trials much earlier on, and not in the presence of those variants. Again, all of these vaccines prevent hospitalization and death. We don't vaccinate for the common cold the sniffles.

[20:45:15]

And so, really that's the wrong measure to be looking at here. And when you think about it, this is one and done. And yes, you know, a vaccine does not take effect right away. It takes a little time for our immune system to see it and took mount a response. But it means you can get back to your life -- back to life, back to your family that much more quickly afterwards.

COOPER: How quickly after somebody has been vaccinated, whether it's with Johnson & Johnson or Moderna or Pfizer can they have some level of protection.

GOUNDER: So you get your full protection of the Johnson & Johnson four weeks after the first dose. With Pfizer, you get one dose then you get another dose three weeks later, and then it takes another two weeks. So you add that up that's five. And similarly with Moderna, you're looking at six weeks. So, you really do shave off a week or two and only need one shot with the Johnson & Johnson.

COOPER: As we report obviously the governors in Texas Mississippi plan to lift state mask mandates, are going to allow businesses to operate full capacity. Texas governor said it's now time to open Texas 100%. So how -- what do you think of those decisions?

GOUNDER: I think it's really concerning because this is not the time, we are almost there we are at the almost at the end the finish line of this marathon. And this is also when we are seeing this spread of the UK variant which is more infectious, more transmissible and also causes more severe disease and the CDC is still predicting this is going to be the dominant strain by the end of March.

We have seen cases plateau and we're really holding our breath, hoping but predicting that we're going to see an increase in cases again here in the next couple weeks. So, this is really not the time we are almost there. I would just plead with people just give it another month or two. Let us get as many people vaccinated, let's control this new variant before we start to relax on mask wearing and these other measures.

COOPER: Dr. Gounder, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

More breaking news, coming up. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holding his first press briefing to talk about the allegations of sexual harassment that he's facing. Like what he said what he's not going to do. When we continue.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[20:50:47]

COOPER: Here's breaking news tonight in those sexual harassment accusations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, after several days of seemingly hiding out, the governor appeared before the press apologize, but he also said he never touched anyone inappropriately.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologizing amid allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted advances from three women.

CUOMO: It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that's not easy to say. But that's the truth.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The governor also making it clear he's not going anywhere.

CUOMO: I'm not going to resign. GINGRAS (voice-over): In denying claims of inappropriate behavior.

CUOMO: I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo's appearance the first time we've seen him since the women came forward with their claims all in the last week. Two of the accusers are former members of Cuomo staff. A lawyer for Charlotte Bennett, who says the governor asked her personal questions about her romantic life not buying Cuomo's apology, saying his press conference was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.

The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable. My client Charlotte Bennett reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his chief of staff and chief counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint.

A third woman Anna Ruch told The New York Times she met the governor at a wedding reception in 2019. She says the governor asked if he could kiss her. Their encounters seemingly captured in this photo taken by a friend.

CUOMO: You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women, it is my usual and customary way of greeting. However, what I also understand is it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, my intent. What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.

SEN. ALESSANDRA BIAGGI (D-NY) STATE SENATE: It's really important for us to be able to hold our own accountable. New York State Senator Alessandra Biagi saying she would like to see the governor resign. So what a few of her fellow state Democrats, the State Senate Majority Leader not going so far responding to Cuomo's apology on CNN.

ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS (D) MAJORITY LEADER, NY STATE SENATE: He's saying that that nothing inappropriate happen. If the investigation shows that something inappropriate did happen, I think he would have to resign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Brynn Gingras joins us now. Do we know where the investigation stands now?

GINGRAS: Anderson, what we know that it's in the hands of the New York Attorney General who will appoint a special lawyer, private lawyer to handle all this. And you can imagine that's going to take some time because they have to make sure that they are vetted. They have to make sure that person can leave their current job to actually handle this investigation. And of course, the investigation as a whole could take months to complete.

But today, Andrew Cuomo reiterated the fact that he will participate fully in this investigation and he actually New Yorkers to hold off on judgments until those findings are publicly released.

COOPER: And you may have said this, I may have just missed it. Have they identified the person who's going to lead that investigation already?

GINGRAS: They haven't identified someone yet again, I think it's still a few days away is what we're hearing from sources again, because the process just takes a while to make sure all those background checks are done. All those, you know, little (INAUDIBLE) details like making sure that person can actually leave their current job because this will be a private attorney can actually handle this case.

But it's going to be an important person who does it because of course Andrew Cuomo has a lot of people who he knows. So they need to make sure this is an independent investigator as many people in the lawmakers and the victims of course want is an independent investigation. So we'll have to see when that name comes out, Anderson.

[20:55:05]

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

(voice-over): Coming up next, the explosive Pentagon inspector general's report about former White House doctor and now Texas Congressman Dr. Ronny Jackson, and what he is saying about it tonight.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: Newly elected Republican Congressman Dr. Ronny Jackson is the subject of a new searing Pentagon inspector general's report tonight. The report covers the time he served as White House physician under both President Obama and former President Trump.

And according to this inspector general report, Jackson made and I quote, sexual and denigrating comments while serving the White House on a presidential trip to Manila back in 2014, four witnesses alleged the Jackson was drunk and made inappropriate comments about a female subordinate.

Dr. Jackson, you may recall withdrew his nomination to head the Veterans Administration in the Trump administration over allegations that he was abusive toward colleagues loosely handled prescription pain medications and was periodically intoxicated. He said today in a statement that he rejects quote, any allegations that I consumed alcohol on duty. And later in a radio interview Jackson said the report was quote, complete garbage.

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

[21:00:09]

That's it for us. The news continues. Let's hand it over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris.