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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview with Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO); Interview with Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI); Texas Governon Blames Biden And Immigrants For Potential Covid Spread; CDC: Governors Should Encourage Everyone To Wear Masks; Gov. Cuomo Accuser Speaks Out; Jared Kushner Missing From Recent Trump Meetings; Ice Fishing & Politics: A Mix Of Optimism And Worry. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 4, 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]

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So how quickly it goes out really does depend on where you live, and if you live in a large and complex county, it is going to take longer, Erin.

And that's why here at Cobra Valley Medical Center, they scheduled a full day of second round shots.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: That's amazing. All right, Kyung, thank you so much.

And thanks so much to all of you. Hopefully that's a hopeful note. Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with breaking news. CNN has learned that the investigation to January's attack on the Capitol has uncovered signs of contact between lawmakers and January 6 insurrectionists.

Now the precise nature of that contact is not fully known at this point. The investigation is ongoing. The mere possibility of contacts only compounds what was already such deep trauma for the institution and the people who were there, those who protect them and everyone who watched the seat of democracy on Earth turned into a battleground.

In addition, this is happening as you know, with the Capitol still ringed by fencing and the House in recess due to a potential threat surrounding a date on the QAnon conspiracy calendar.

Our Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with the latest. So, explain what you've learned about what the F.B.I. knows and doesn't know.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So, one of the things that we've learned for certain is that there is information that the F.B.I. has gathered from cell phone towers here at the Capitol that indicates that Members of Congress were communicating with the rioters.

There are pings off of cell phones that connect with lawmakers, to cell phones belonging to lawmakers, certainly raising a lot of questions.

The F.B.I. has gathered a lot of information. What they did is they went through the cell phone data to see who was inside the Capitol on the day of the insurrection. Also, they were looking at data leading up to the insurrection, and what they found was that these cell phones, some of them belonging to the rioters, some of them belonging to Members of Congress were communicating.

They don't know the extent of that communication. Certainly, they have not revealed it to us. They would need to do more work to get that. But of course, it is troubling that they are finding some of this.

My colleague, Evan Perez has been doing the reporting on this. He talked to a law enforcement official who said that certainly this is raising a lot of questions, the fact that they have this information that they are seeing, that there was this communication, it's normally referred to, Anderson, as metadata.

This is data that is collected from cell phones that are communicating between each other and they have this information, now, the question, of course, is what do they do with it next?

COOPER: So, the alleged communication, is that actually during the attack, or is it in the days around it?

PROKUPECZ: Some of it is during the attack, while some of the people were inside the Capitol on that day, on January 6th, some of it is leading up to it.

The thing is, they don't know exactly, at least they haven't revealed to us what exactly that data is, whether it is text messages, whether it's actual people calling other people. So that is still the information that we don't have.

But they do have this data, and what they have told us is that it is -- some of it is from the day of the insurrection, and some of it is in the days leading up to the insurrection.

COOPER: And is there any sense of a timetable for this investigation?

PROKUPECZ: No. So, there's a couple of things going on here. First of all, we don't have an Attorney General. We have an Acting Attorney General.

So once there's an Attorney General in place, perhaps we could see an escalation, some movement in this investigation.

The thing is, when you start talking about Members of Congress, you need sign off from the highest levels of the Department of Justice, the F.B.I. So, you know, right now everyone is kind of in an acting role.

And so certainly, they're waiting for Merrick Garland to get into that spot. You still have the person, the acting -- who was the acting U.S. Attorney here in Washington, D.C., who is overseeing this entire investigation. He has yet to brief the incoming Attorney General on this investigation.

So, there's still a lot of moving parts. There's really no rush here, Anderson. You know, certainly this could take weeks, it could take months, it could take a year, until they gather a lot of this information.

Also, the thing that you can look at and see somewhere down the line is perhaps some of these insurrectionists cooperating with investigators.

COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

On January 6th, Colorado Congressman and former Army Ranger, Jason Crow was pinned along with other lawmakers and staffers in the House Gallery. That's a photo of him.

He joins us now. Congressman Crow, good to have you back. So you hear this latest reporting? Just the idea that there could have been some communication is obviously troubling.

Again, unclear what the nature of that communication is or the extent of it or the meaning behind it.

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yes, thanks for having me back, Anderson. We don't know, I mean, that intent and obviously the details of this, you know, that's going to be part of the investigation.

[20:05:02]

CROW: As your previous guest just said we have the data. The metadata is there, the signals, the pings on the cell phone towers, the firsthand witness accounts.

There's plenty of video footage, closed circuit, TV cameras around the Capitol, that information has been preserved, and the F.B.I. will go through it.

And I remember last time we spoke about a month ago, I said that we would follow a process, we wouldn't jump to conclusions. We wouldn't try to point fingers at folks who would actually look at the facts. We would follow where those facts lead us, and that's exactly what's happening.

The F.B.I. is doing that. They're doing it deliberately, and they will lead to where the facts go.

COOPER: It's also unclear, apparently, some of this may also be, you know, insurrectionists, people who took part in the attack bragging about contacts or talking about contacts with Members of Congress or staff members, again, unclear if they actually have those contacts, or if this is just, you know, people trying to puff themselves up and make them look more important to their, you know, fellow attackers.

CROW: It could be. I mean, it could be all of the above, too, right? I mean, when I sit back and think about this, you know, what's really sad is that I actually wouldn't be surprised if Members of Congress were involved and complicit in some of the riots as you saw the morning --

COOPER: You really wouldn't?

CROW: I wouldn't be, I just wouldn't be, which, you know, that is a sad testament to, you know, the state of affairs in Congress right now, to be honest with you, and the state of affairs in our politics, that there are some depraved people that serve in that chamber, that to this day, incite violence and further conspiracy theories, and shows zero remorse for what happened on January 6th. And actually, that morning, were part of inciting the violence and encouraging people to fight, and they continue to do that.

So, you know, that is sad, but you know, we're going to follow where the facts lead us. The F.B.I. will do that. The D.O.J. will do that, and we'll hold people accountable, whether they're a Member of Congress, or they're not.

COOPER: It's a pretty stunning statement that you feel that there are depraved individuals serving in Congress, you know, in this in this important time in our history. I don't know how I would feel going to work every day in a place where I felt there were depraved people.

CROW: Yes, it's not great, I can tell you that. And, you know, I do want to be clear that I'm not meaning to paint people with a broad brush here. There are overwhelmingly really good people that want to serve, that are trying to do the right thing on both sides of the aisle that are there to work and roll up their sleeves and do the work for the American people. But there are a handful of people that do not belong -- that is the bottom line, and that are a disgrace to their districts, to our country, and obviously to the institution of Congress.

I've been pretty clear about that, you know, I've voted accordingly to censure folks and remove folks from committees, and, you know, continue to speak up because what we can't have happen is for this to become okay.

Right now, you know, we've talked about this before, Anderson, this normalization of stuff, you know, eventually this goes on long enough, and the American people start thinking this is normal.

This is not normal. This is not the way the United States Congress and our government should run, none of it.

And you know, we can't be okay with it, and that's why I'm going to continue to speak up about it.

COOPER: Congressman Crow, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CROW: Thanks.

COOPER: Joining us now, CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero; also CNN contributor and former F.B.I. Director -- Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

So Andrew, what kinds of things -- I mean, how does an investigation of this sort and this particular angle, I mean, obviously, as the Congressman was saying that metadata has been gathered, what do you find from that?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Anderson, I think there's a couple of things that are important to clear up here.

First, this is like F.B.I. enterprise investigation techniques 101, right? This is what they do. They go out, throw the net out, in this case, they've captured within that net, the rioters that they've been able to identify who are in the capital, and now they're going deeper. They're looking at those individuals, phone records, they are looking at their text messages. They're serving legal process on the service providers for each one of those people.

The data that they're able to collect off of the cell towers is predominantly information that shows you who was in proximity of the Capitol. It doesn't usually show you who was talking to who and it certainly doesn't provide the content of those communications. But it shows you who was there.

With that start, there, now, as I said, looking deeper at, you know, going in and subpoenaing individual's phone records and seeing who was talking to who, and it's likely from those records that they're seeing individual rioters who are in direct contact with Members of Congress, or who were talking to each other and text messages likely about having spoken to their Members of Congress. It's very concerning.

COOPER: But that's interesting. So the metadata which you know a lot of people have been talking about, that doesn't show a link between one cell phone and another cell phone, it's once you have the cell phone data of the person whose, you know, clearly inside the Capitol at a point where there shouldn't be, and then you dig deeper into their records, that's when you start to see who they're communicating with.

[20:10:27]

MCCABE: That's exactly right. So you know, you do your cell tower dump, it shows you who was in the area. Let's say you're interested in John Smith, whose phone comes back on the returns from that request. Now you go to John Smith's phone, you serve a subpoena on the carrier to say, who is everybody that John Smith was talking to at that time, and you get the actual toll records of everyone that he called, and everyone who called him and that's likely where these connections are coming from.

COOPER: Carrie, where would communications between someone in Congress and someone who participate in the insurrection cross over from, you know, perhaps something unusual or inappropriate into something actually criminal?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it would depend on who the people are, and it would depend on perhaps the timing of the contact.

So if the investigation proceeds in the detailed way that Andrew just laid out where they would first have the big data collection, and then start giving targeted legal process against individuals who participated in the breach on the Capitol, then they can start looking at, okay, what's the timeline? Who were they talking to, or who were they communicating with through cellular communications, and then they can start looking at the timeline of when they were in contact.

Now, if they then want to, before they can even know -- the FBI can know whether an individual was engaged in criminal conduct, you know, in terms of coordinating with the insurrectionists, then what they'd have to do is actually obtain contents of communication.

So for example, if there were text message that they would have to serve legal process based on probable cause to be able to get the content of those communications.

So it's very early in the process to know whether these, perhaps Members of Congress who were in touch with people, whether what they were doing would rise to the level of criminal activity, which would be basically that they would be part of the conspiracy that is being charged in this overall investigation.

COOPER: There's also, Andrew, you know, the very real possibility of just people bragging to each other about how important they are, the Congress Members they know or staffers that they're in touch with?

MCCABE: That's absolutely right, Anderson, there's all kinds of ways that these contacts might be completely innocent. And you're not going to know that until you get that content collection that Carrie just laid out.

It's also not unreasonable for people who come to D.C. for the purposes of a rally or what have you, to reach out to the office of their Congressman, to get a tour of the Capitol or to get some information.

So the simple fact that there's been contact between maybe someone who ended up in the riot and one of their representatives is not -- doesn't by itself rise to the level of criminal conduct or anything that might be nefarious.

COOPER: Also, Carrie, I mean, anytime you're talking about Members of Congress, you know, it's not like investigating your average citizen.

How does that impact an investigation like this?

CORDERO: That's right. So in the Justice Department, any investigation -- if the F.B.I. actually wanted to open investigation into a Member of Congress's involvement in the insurrection and the planning of it as part of the conspiracy that would qualify as something called the sensitive investigative matter.

And under the standard guidelines that would govern that type of thing, normally, that would be something that would be at the approval of the Attorney General.

For example, you might remember that Attorney General Barr issued a special memo leading up to the 2020 election saying if that there was going to be an investigation of anybody related to a campaign, related to interference in the election that he personally wanted to approve it.

I would expect that the Justice Department would have similar types of policies put in place for this scenario to ensure that there is the highest level of approval and in this circumstance, until Attorney General Garland is confirmed. There is an acting Attorney General.

There also is an Acting Deputy Attorney General, who I believe is managing a lot of this nationwide investigation, and that's John Carlin, who was previously an Assistant Attorney General for national security. Also a senior counselor at the F.B.I. and so is very sophisticated in terms of how to run these types of investigations.

COOPER: Carrie Cordero, Andrew McCabe, a lot to learn to still. Thank you very much.

Next, more breaking news despite one senator's efforts to slow it down, the effort to stall President Biden's COVID Relief Bill. The concerns about it and a senator who plans to vote for it.

Later another breaking story, one of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's accuser speaking out about the intimate question she says he asked her and more ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:19:19]

COOPER: With millions of unemployed Americans just 10 days away from losing pandemic jobless benefits, Senate clerks are taking turns right now reading out the text of COVID Relief Bill that among other things would extend those badly needed payments.

They are going word by word, page by page and they've been at it for hours now, not because the bill is any secret, it's available online and you can read it yourself at cnn.com as can senators who have staffers going through the language in detail.

So then why is this happening? This ritual? Well, it's because one senator, Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin demanded it, and he did that because he can and because obstruction has the party seal of approval.

[20:20:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is a wildly expensive proposal, largely unrelated to the problem. So we'll be fighting this in every way that we can.

It is my hope that at the end, Senate Republicans will unanimously oppose it, just like House Republicans did.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Minority Leader McConnell's call for unified opposition

follows the apparent calculation by Democratic leadership in the White House, the brief negotiations with a small group of moderate Republicans aside, this is where the G.O.P. was always headed. That's what the Democrats certainly believed.

So they are now prepared to pass the bill on their own, and they are confident they have the votes to do it, which whatever you think of the legislation makes what's happening now, what's about to come next, basically, a stunt, one that will continue.

After the reading, there'll be 20 hours of debate, followed by time to offer potentially unlimited amendments, which will also slow down the process.

Joining us now is Michigan Democratic Senator, Gary Peters, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Chairman Peters, you know, Senator Johnson, he's a member of your committee. What do you think is behind the delay tactic, having the entire bill read on the floor and planning to offer a couple hundred amendments?

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): Well, I think you said it in the opening. It's just basically a political stunt, and basically is delaying this bill from going forward. And it's just so unfortunate that we're seeing this kind of behavior, given the fact that we've got people all across the country that are concerned about their future.

You mentioned, we have unemployment benefits ending in just a few days, people have that certainty. They're worried about putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their head. They want the certainty of knowing that legislation has passed that will extend that through the end of August.

We've got small businesses that are looking for funds, so they can stay open. We've got F.E.M.A. that we're trying to provide additional resources so we can expand the distribution of vaccines, so we can get it in as many arms as quickly as possible.

We're in the middle of a healthcare crisis. We're in the middle of an economic crisis, and yet, we're seeing a political stunt on the floor of the Senate that is only delaying the inevitable.

We need to be acting now. We shouldn't be delaying.

COOPER: Senator Romney, who is not really known for political stunt says he supports what Senator Johnson is doing, because it'll communicate that the bill quote, "has good objectives, but it's massively misdirected."

Do you think it's misdirected? I mean, what -- you know, the Republicans are saying, essentially, this is way too much money, and it's kind of too spread out?

PETERS: Well, it is focused on dealing with the COVID crisis to make sure that we deal with the public health aspects and get an economy up and running as quickly as possible.

If you look at economists and look at what they have said about this legislation, and these are economists all across the political spectrum, that have said that the economy is in a precarious situation. We need to make sure that we are investing in it.

And they said, you need to be bold. This is not about a tepid type of reaction. You need to be bold, put the money into the economy to make sure that we can recover quickly, but at the same time, making sure we're dealing with the public health aspects.

So that means ramping up production of vaccines and ramping up the ability to get those vaccines into people's arms. So we're dealing with a national crisis. We need a national response, and it needs to be bold. It needs to be strong.

COOPER: After yesterday's hearing with the D.C. National Guard Commander, which raised a lot of questions about the Pentagon's response in the day of the insurrection, and the orders that they gave him that he had to operate under. Do you plan to call former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy or the former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to testify?

PETERS: Well, I certainly think we need to hear from them. There's no question. They were central in the discussion yesterday in the hearing.

Clearly, they're in the chain of command with the Commander-in-Chief, the former President at the top of that, but decisions were delayed.

You heard the testimony from General Walker, who said that it made no sense to see this delay. He did not see a delay like that in the summer when there were protests going on in Washington. The approvals came through quickly.

And yet he sat there with Guardsmen ready to go, sitting on buses, ready to get to the Capitol, and he testified very strongly that had they gotten there sooner, it would have made a major difference.

So why was there a delay? We know two individuals can give us some information and we're going to work to get that information. We're just figuring out exactly what process we'll go through in order to get it.

COOPER: Yes. Last night we had on General Mark Hertling, who was saying when you hear a General using the word, you know, something is very unusual twice. Walker used it in his testimony, that's a huge red flag that I mean, it's not just -- it's an understatement. But for a General to be using those terms, it means that -- you know, what was going on with this? Why we're there? You know, that he had to give special notice to the Secretary of the Army and an operational plan. That's, he said highly unusual.

[20:25:00]

PETERS: It is a highly unusual. He was very clear and in the discussions I had with him before that as well. And part of it, he says, when you're in a situation like we were at the Capitol that basically it's the Capitol Police that are running that operation.

And when he sends members of the National Guard there, they're basically working with a police. The police are telling them what they need to have happen and where to go. So that's the plan, basically support the operations of the local law enforcement. That's the role of the National Guard.

But it was clear, he said, he had those 150 people that he had ready to go sitting on buses, had they shown up and started unloading from the buses from his years of experience that would have had a major impact on that violent mob as it was attacking the Capitol to see those soldiers disembarking off those buses.

COOPER: Yes, Senator Gary Peters, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

PETERS. Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, the Governor of Texas and Mississippi have now both taken swipes at President Biden after he called their decision to end state mask mandates quote, "Neanderthal thinking." The latest there and how the decision affects the Mayor of one Mississippi town when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: On Wednesday, President Biden criticized the Governors of Texas and Mississippi for ending their state's mass mandates calling it, quote, "Neanderthal thinking."

Today, Texas's Greg Abbott tried to deflect the blame back on the President and immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The Biden administration has been releasing immigrants in South Texas that have been exposing Texans to COVID. Some of those people have been put on buses taking that COVID to other states in the United States.

The Biden administration must stop importing COVID into our country. That is a Neanderthal-type approach to dealing with the COVID situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:30:16]

COOPER: Now, there's a number of problems with the statement. First, the governor appears to be pinning any potential blame for his own actions on undocumented immigrants. His comments also appear to be inaccurate as a senior homeland security official tells CNN Abbott is actually stalling efforts to provide funding for testing immigrants released from custody, and his decision is left to everyone including the Texas Restaurant Association today to develop their own protocols to encourage people to keep wearing masks.

Also, the decision to end mask mandates in Texas and Mississippi comes when both are still struggling to contain the disease. Compare the seven-day positivity rates earlier today of those states to those of Connecticut which they also announced they were ending capacity restrictions for restaurants and other institutions will keeping masks.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Texas and Mississippi are in double digits at 12.29% and 14.03% respectively, Connecticut just 2.6%. Its governor today -- the governor of Connecticut said today quote this is not Texas, this is not Mississippi, and the quote we are maintaining the mask.

Perspective now from a mayor whose residents are affected by the end of the Mississippi mandate Errick Simmons of Greenville, Mississippi.

Mayor Simmons, thanks for being with us. So, when you learn the governor's decision to rescind restrictions in the state, including the mask mandate, I'm wondering what you thought.

ERRICK SIMMONS (D) MAYOR GREENVILLE, MISSISSIPPI: You know, Anderson, we are at a crucial moment in the fight against this disease and the path is unclear. And the number one only priority of any leader during this pandemic should be the protection and safety of his or her people. That create an unnecessary risk for cities and towns, small and large, rural or urban. In Mississippi, we cannot relax. We cannot loosen restrictions. We cannot leave mask mandates, we cannot let our guards down.

COOPER: So -

SIMMONS: Especially as we approach Spring Break, Eastern all of these holidays, this move by this governor was premature and reckless Anderson.

COOPER: So, why do you think he made this decision? I mean, is it is it? I mean it's not based on science?

SIMMONS: No, it's not. Of course, you know, we've heard the CDC and Dr. Fauci talk about even double masking at this. So he stopped based up on science, his political pandering, and that is something we cannot continue to have endangering the lives of folks here in Mississippi.

COOPER: So, what do you do as a mayor? I mean, how much can you do in your city, Greenville mask are still required for the foreseeable future I understand. How are you -- you're able to mandate that in Greenville?

SIMMONS: You know, we have a citywide mask mandate here. This governor's order creates chaos. Greenville is the largest city in the Mississippi Delta. It has the mall, it has all of the amenities that other communities surrounding us don't really enjoy. Seven miles up in one direction a town has a mask mandate seven miles the opposite direction. A town does not have the mask mandate. So we have the mask mandate.

What it does, though, of course, Anderson you will know when this pandemic hits. Cities and towns across the country lost revenues as a result of pandemic. And so, it's creating a more financial strain on our budgets. If our police and fire have to respond to law enforcement making sure that folks are safe coming in out of Greenfield but also you saw major retail stores like Kroger, Best Buy, and Walmart CVS all today and yesterday say they're keeping their mask mandate.

So, in this community, we have a Kroger, Walmart, CVS is a huge challenge. When residents leave home to shop at one of these stores and they question whether or not they should follow the mask order by the governor to not wear a mask. But when you go into these stores, or you're here in this city, we require you to wear a mask but when you get to the Kroger you have to either mask it or no entry.

And so, it creates confusion between residents but also neighbors start traveling from local surrounding communities to coming to this city with a mask mandate when others are following the governor's (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: It also makes it -- makes a tough job for, you know, frontline workers even tougher you have people in, you know, working in Kroger or in a supermarket wherever it may be saying that they, you know, saying that, you know, asking the customer look, can you please put on your mask we don't allow people without mask and the response will be, well the governor says I don't have to. So, you know, what are you going to do about it?

SIMMONS: That's right. You know, I went to the Kroger today. And as I walked in, I know all the folks in small town of course Anderson your father is from Mississippi, and, you know, we say we go to make groceries here. So as I went to go make groceries the employees there at Kroger say, you know, they recognize me, Mayor, we have our mask on and thank you for following what our corporate folks are saying, thank you for keeping us safe.

[20:35:08]

But another resident could come in and do otherwise. And so not only does it put that particular employee, the program folks at risk, but it also is create chaos and confusion and endangered the lives of folks in this little community who's trying to question whether they should follow this eel less than scientific decision that this governor made here in Mississippi.

COOPER: Mayor Simmons, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

COOPER: And more breaking news coming up. One of the women who's accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment speaks out in her first television interview. What she had to say and the governor's reaction, next.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news now on the sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Charlotte Bennett, one of the women who's come forward with those accusations and spoken on camera with CBS News Norah O'Donnell. According to CBS, Bennett alleges their relationship took a turn in May when she says the governor started asking her about her love life and was fixated repeating over and over her history as a sexual assault survivor. Bennett was also asked about an encounter with a governor a month later in June in the workplace. That's when she said she was called into his office to take dictation, but she says he asked her to turn off the tape recorder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:40:02]

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, GOV. CUOMO ACCUSER: And he explains at that point that he is looking for a girlfriend. He's lonely, he's tired.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: You've just finished dictation. And the governor is telling you he's lonely and looking for a relationship?

BENNETT: Yes. He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my drama.

O'DONNELL: This is seems highly inappropriate.

BENNETT: Yes. The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy.

O'DONNELL: In his office?

BENNETT: Yes, during the work day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: CNN's Brynn Gingras has more. What else did she say?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, Charlotte Bennett was very deliberate and descriptive in the way she explained to these encounters with the governor in a one-on-one setting, essentially saying that he was asking her these personal questions that she really felt like she had to answer. Basically questions where she said, the governor asked if age mattered to her in a relationship, and that he was fine with being someone older than 22. And she's 25 years old. And she talked about the shame that she felt having to answer these questions. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Why did you feel shame?

BENNETT: I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down. And by answering, I was somehow engaging in that, or enabling it, when in fact, I was just terrified.

O'DONNELL: People will watch this and say, why didn't you get up and leave?

BENNETT: It didn't feel like I had a choice.

O'DONNELL: He's your boss.

BENNETT: He's my boss. He's everyone's boss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRAS: Bennett saying she very much felt that the governor wanted to sleep with her. Now remember, she is going to be part of this investigation by the New York Attorney General, she is with a high powered attorney. And they really want to come forward because they want others to come forward and that was part of her reasoning for actually going in front of these cameras. But, I also Anderson what, you know, listen more from her about what she says the governor was asking her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: You have been quoted as saying that he also asked you about if you'd ever been with an older man.

BENNETT: Yes. He asked me if age difference mattered. He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22.

O'DONNELL: And how old are you?

BENNETT: I'm 25.

O'DONNELL: What were you thinking as he's asking you these questions?

BENNETT: I thought he's trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Has the governor responded to this interview?

GINGRAS: Well, Anderson, CNN reached out to the governor's office after this interview aired, and we did not hear back. But CBS says they also reached out of course, and they were told to refer back to the statements he made in that news conference yesterday where he apologized saying that he didn't mean to make people feel uncomfortable, that he was sorry if his words were misinterpreted. And Charlotte Bennett clearly says it wasn't misinterpreted. You just didn't get what you want and her really own words.

So, we'll have to see if he says any more. But of course, he's going to be part of that investigation with the New York Attorney General, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Still to come, once a fixture by his father-in-law side, Jared Kushner now appears to be MIA. CNN's Dana Bash joins us to explain what sources close to Kushner are saying about the two men's relationship when we continue.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[20:47:30]

COOPER: As members of the Republican Party still flocked to the former president side to win his approval. Perhaps the most interesting of all right now is the one boldface name from his inner circle, who appears MIA, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law. Once a fixture in the White House and on the campaign trail sources are now telling CNN about a possible change in the relationship between the two men.

We're joined by CNN's chief political correspondent and anchor "STATE OF THE UNION", Dana Bash. So, what do you learned Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I did this story with our colleague, Kate Bennett. And what we are told is that, according to one source I talked to is that Jared Kushner is checked out of politics right now, certainly checked out of the Trump political world, which is, as you noted, really stunning, given the fact that he was such a presence, and a player wanted to be a player in virtually every facet of the Trump administration. Before that in the Trump campaign, and definitely in the in the Trump campaign in 2016, and definitely, in 2020, as well.

Now, we are hearing from some who are noting with a very heavy drip of sarcasm, and irony that this is classic, Jared Kushner, that this is the reputation that he built. When things were really good, he would run to the cameras and talk about winning, although I shouldn't actually overstate the running of the cameras. He wasn't on camera that much, but he wanted to take credit for it. And when things got bad, he would retreat and say, my hands are off. But, you know, it is noteworthy that the former president has had a lot of discussions recently with his new political team and Kushner is not one of them.

COOPER: I mean why might that be?

BASH: Well, several reasons and I'm sure this isn't going to shock you Anderson. It depends who you talk to and Trump world in to get a specific answer. So, some people we talked to say that it is his father-in-law, the former president who casts some blame about his loss on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner because he was very involved in the campaign. And others say that it is very much Kushner.

In fact, one source told me that he is just kind of had it that even for somebody who is related by marriage, Trump wears on you and he just needs a break. He wants to focus on other things, he wouldn't mind focusing on some of the issues that he very much liked when he was in the in the administration, but we don't -- the answer is we don't really know the real story. But what we do know is that he's definitely not involved. He might be we're told if the former president does actually run again in 2024, but not in the near future, that's not the plan anyway.

[20:50:20] COOPER: I mean, it always raises questions about whether he has interested in politics moving forward or, you know, other members of the Trump family has his, you know, Ivanka Trump in particular.

BASH: Yes, and she said, you know, I guess pretty publicly at this point that she's not going to challenge the Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, there was a lot of speculation that she would do that once they moved to Florida after they left really, really quickly in and around the inauguration of President Biden.

The person who is very much in the involved in the loop it with in the Trump family still is Don Jr. I mean, he's there all the time. He's very much focused, along with the president, the former president's two former campaign managers, Brad Parscale and Bill Stepien, Jason Miller, and others. But when it comes to the family, we're told that Don Jr. is really the person who is the most involved very, very involved in the decisions that the former president makes, including continuing to put out statements that perpetuate the big lie.

COOPER: Yes.

BASH: Even as recently as today, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, it's fascinating, Brad Parscale is back in the circle of love, given what occurred there. You know, the distance between Kushner and the former president. What's interesting that I mean, it comes as Alan Weisselberg, who's a longtime CFO of the Trump Organization, is reportedly under scrutiny by New York investigators interested in knowing what he may know. And the idea being that if there was something untoward he would know about it, and would he then if there was pressure on him, would he flip.

BASH: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, that is there any sense who the former president is leaning on if Jared Kushner is -- I mean, is he's not obviously, I guess in contact with Weisselberg.

BASH: Right. I mean, and that the Weisselberg story, The Washington Post was reporting on it. This is one of the most fascinating developments in all of the questions of whether or not the former president is really going to be in hot water legally for anything that happened, particularly with regard to his finances at the Trump Organization, because as we know, the Supreme Court allowed the New York Attorney General to get New York City, I should say, to get the president -- former president's tax returns.

And now, the gentleman you just talked about Alan Weisselberg, he is somebody who is the person who knows most about Trump finances. He's been working with the organization since like, 1980. He work for Fred Trump, his father and then him. And so, the fact that it seems as though prosecutors and investigators are putting pressure on him vis- a-vis be his children, it is quite telling about how valuable they think he could be with regard to any case that they might have against the former president.

COOPER: Yes. Dana Bash, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, a definite change --

BASH: Thanks.

COOPER: -- in pace a trip to an ice fishing spot on a Minnesota lake. Worth talk it's about politics.

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[20:57:15]

COOPER: As we end the program tonight and as the Senate considers the COVID relief bill in the pandemic is showing few signs of letting up. We thought we'd bring you a little tranquility a little politics on a still frozen lake in Minnesota. CNN's Bill Weir takes us there as winter starting to recede and there appears to be some optimism in the air.

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BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the end of ice fishing season. The one sport so slow, it demands food, drink, seating and conversation.

(on-camera): Are you more optimistic for the future as an American or?

VALDO CALVERT, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: I'm way more optimistic than I was two years ago.

WEIR (voice-over): But in the conversations on Lake Minnetonka these days. Hope is mixed with worry.

CALVERT: I don't see it smooth sailing for Biden. I see it always going to be obstructionism. But it's more coal. And I think it's going in the right direction.

CINDY GARIN, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: I'm really happy with our new President, Mr. Biden coming in and he's vaccinated. I don't know how many people now in the first not even 60 days.

WEIR (voice-over): While love for Biden is not hard to find in this blue suburb. Young Democrats like Ben, see a lot of promises unkept.

BEN CALVERT, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: They're putting that stimulus check on the back burner that put it in the minimum wage hike on the back burner. And they're dropping bombs in Syria right now. And those bombs are kind of expensive for a dude who owes me $2,000, you know.

WEIR (voice-over): But whether left or right to a person, they all worry about division.

TIM DELANEY, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: There's no common grounds anymore. Right.

WEIR (on-camera): Right. DELANEY: And everyone's so angry about it. I think we're just tired.

LEAH BEAMISH, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: You know, I'm all about love. Everybody should be loving each other. There shouldn't be this, this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So divided.

BEAMISH: So divided, you know. There doesn't need to be that, you know. And it just I just think it's just really sad.

B. CALVERT: We all got along. And then now it's like, those guys aren't my friends anymore, because I know what they really think.

WEIR (on-camera): That's heartbreaking.

B. CALVERT: Right. Yes, hang out with someone who's like, yes, I think it would be a good thing to assassinate the sitting House Majority Leader.

WEIR (voice-over): But then over by the smoker, a group that renews hope that barbecue and brotherhood can be stronger than politics.

(on-camera): But you guys are different parties or?

DELANEY: Oh, yes.

WEIR (on-camera): Is that right?

DELANEY: Oh, yes.

WEIR (on-camera): Well, this is a sign (INAUDIBLE) --

DELANEY: We don't want to go there. We don't want -- we're not going to go there.

WEIR (voice-over): But Tim can help it. He goes there.

DELANEY: What if Trump ran for Congress, right. And or House the House reps, and he got elected in the House. And then we took the House and we took the Senate. And then he sent impeachment to both, you know, the President and the Vice President. He'll be president for the next two years plus then he will be reelected for another four. Good idea.

WEIR (on-camera): That's a new one. I hadn't heard that. So, he would be Speaker of the House is that right?

DELANEY: That's right.

WEIR (on-camera): OK. All right.

KEVIN BEAMISH, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: Yes. It's that that old the old story of you don't talk politics or religion, with your friends or your family.

WEIR (voice-over): I ask the good fences make good neighbors theory of politics. Well, At least hear for now, the arguments are followed by laughter.

[21:00:04]

DELANEY: It's going to be difficult for me to be here after all that

WEIR (on-camera): Oh no, I'm sorry.

DELANEY: No, It's OK. It's OK. It's all right.

WEIR (on-camera): Nobody ruins a barbecue like Bill Weir.

Bill Weir, CNN, Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Looks like fun.

The news continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris?