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Boulder, Colorado Grieves, Honors Fallen Hero; Survivor Shares Her Ordeal Inside Grocery Store; Interview With Rep. Joe Neguse (D- CO); Prosecutors: Extremist Groups Coordinated Prior To Assault; Senate Dem And GOP Leaders Trade Blows Over Ballots; CDC Director "Worried" About Latest COVID-19 Data. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 24, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It's called the bitters and then they get the greenlight to continue one way to continue.

The impact of Ever Given's grounding is huge because nearly a quarter of what goes through that canal is oil, oil and petroleum products. Oil prices have risen more than five percent on the news as the ship is still stuck.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Tonight, the grieving in Boulder, Colorado, the investigations and the push for change; in short, everything that comes in the aftermath of mass shooting in America, which today included hero's tribute for Officer Eric Talley.

Hundreds of people lining the streets as a hearse took his body from the Coroner's Office to a local funeral home. They also flocked what to the officers from a patrol vehicle, bringing flowers, wreaths and cards turning it into a makeshift shrine.

He was first on the scene Monday, lost his life trying to save others. Said one mourner today: "I know the job of a police officer is to run into danger, but shouldn't we make the world safer for them."

To that point, we're learning more about red flags in the alleged shooter's background as well as when and how he armed himself. We're also witnessing a community in mourning.

In about an hour, a candlelight vigil begins and we'll bring you moments from when it does.

Also tonight, new revelations about the January 6th insurrection, specifically evidence of coordination before the fact between the so- called Oath Keepers and so-called Proud Boys.

And later, new developments in Democratic efforts to get a voting rights bill through the Senate including a new threat from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of a nuclear winter if Democrats and the filibuster to pass it.

A busy night ahead.

First the latest from Boulder and CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Investigators continue to collect evidence at King Soopers grocery store and search for a possible motive. From his online activity, a law enforcement official tells CNN to one of the biggest questions: the gunman's connection to this specific location.

Why did he drive to this Boulder store 30 minutes from his home? The suspect's family home is in the suburbs of Denver, where police are digging into the background of Ahmad Alissa. The only incident on his record, a third degree assault in 2017. He admitted he cold-cocked a classmate at school.

BRIAN KRUESI, SHOOTING WITNESS: I saw a man with a beard, what I thought was possibly like tactical sort of clothing and AR-15 style rifle.

LAH (voice over): The gunman carried a Ruger AR-556 pistol. The arrest warrant says he purchased it six days before the shooting. That timing suggests to investigators, that's law enforcement source to CNN that this attack was planned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My understanding is that it was purchased at a gun dealer outside of Boulder potentially in Arvada, where he lives.

LAH (voice over): Across Boulder, the enormity of the loss settling in. Mourners line the city streets to watch the procession for Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, fellow citizen, father of seven moved from the Coroner's Office to a funeral home.

ROBERT OLDS, UNCLE OF SHOOTING VICTIM, RIKKI OLDS: There's a hole -- there's a hole in our family that won't be filled.

LAH (voice over): The uncle of Rikki Olds who worked at the grocery store honor the life she would never live.

OLDS: Sad in that she didn't get to experience motherhood. She didn't get to experience marriage. She didn't get to -- she was 25 years old.

LAH (voice over): Boulder grapples with a sense of helplessness, that they are likely not the last American city to experience this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm angry, because this could be anyone's town. I think it's easy to remove ourselves from these situations when we're not -- when it's not the store we buy birthday cakes at, it's not our colleagues and our mentors and our friends and our teachers and our neighbors and the person that comes into your restaurant every day and orders the same drink.

I would just beg anyone that has the power to make change to imagine if this was their community.


COOPER: And Kyung Lah joins us now. What else are you learning about the investigation?

LAH: Well, it's really the lack of information that's quite notable, a lack of a record and contact with this particular gunman.

I mentioned that 2017 assault charge. What a law enforcement source is telling us is that what's really notable is that he was not part of any sort of Federal investigation previous to what happened here and that's how he was able to purchase the gun.

The other thing that is notable, Anderson, and this is a little grim is that something that we don't usually see in a mass shooting are wounded survivors. Usually you see somebody who you can interview and there were no wounded survivors in this case.

So that is something that investigators certainly are at least noting -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

For more on the investigation, we're joined now by CNN contributor and former F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

In a case like this, Andrew, what kind of information are will investigators try and get from the alleged shooter's family and friends as they interview them?


ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So it's important to note, Anderson, that it's not necessary to prove his motive or to understand why he did this in order to convict him for these murders. He will be convicted of these murders. It's pretty, pretty explicit, the forensic evidence will be undeniable.

But it is important for society and for the rest of us to understand why did this person commit this horrible act of violence? And in order to shed light on that, investigators are going to look at everyone that he was interacting with. They're going to talk to his friends, his family members, if he has a job, they're going to talk to his work associates.

They're going to look at his social media postings, anything else he may have written that indicates his state of mind, whether he harbored any biases or grievances against any particular people or groups just to shed light on that question to answer that penetrating question of why did this happen, and particularly why in Boulder at that moment?

COOPER: It's not just to, you know, understand why this happened to tell people, it's also to build a case against him and prosecutors are fully aware of what his, you know, future defense attorneys will likely or potentially argue in a court and they want to try to counteract that, don't they? Or at least gather as much information as they can to counteract it? MCCABE: Sure. So it's likely that, for instance, his defense attorneys

could mount an insanity defense. They could say he wasn't responsible. He wasn't capable of understanding right from wrong and therefore shouldn't be held accountable.

And in order to counteract that defense, the prosecutors will use all the evidence they're collecting of his planning, of his purchasing the firearm days before the event, of his decision, the very distinctive decision to leave his house, you know, 20 miles away, you know, 30- minute drive and go up to Boulder and to target that specific grocery store at that specific time.

Those are all very distinctive decisions that would undermine a potential insanity defense.

COOPER: It seems -- which makes, you know, his online activity all the more important, not just to figure out, you know, is there some contact with some sort of group or ideological reason behind it? But also, you know, was he shopping online? Does his online activity give some indication of his level of planning?

MCCABE: That's right. That's right. And, you know, there's been some reporting about his social media posts and kind of airing of grievances about bullying that he might have been the brunt of, that he perceived as being bullied because of his faith.

So those are all in addition to kind of shedding light on why this gentleman may or this person -- I don't want to call him a gentleman -- engaged in this act. It's also important evidence for the prosecutors to use in his trial to kind of undermine those defenses that we mentioned.

COOPER: How long until -- I mean, how long would the investigation go on? For how long -- the trial could be a long ways of?

MCCABE: It could. It all depends on how much they're able to find. So let's compare it to the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock. That was an extensive investigation, because of course, he committed suicide.

There was no prosecution after his shooting, but we were essentially unable to uncover any specific evidence that would have indicated his motive for engaging in what is the worst mass shooting in American history at this point.

So you know, and so that went on and on and on. We continue looking, looking, looking, following down every lead, interviewing every person that came across and looking at every financial transaction, everything that he might have been involved in.

And because it was hard, it was impossible to find, it took quite some time.

With this individual, if those indicators are more easily un- coverable, you know, that could shorten the time period of the investigative effort. COOPER: What does it tell you that there weren't wounded survivors in

this mass shooting? I mean, it's something uncommon in a crime of this nature, obviously, the kind of weapon used, you know, is particularly lethal, the rounds when they enter the body, but what do you make of that?

MCCABE: It's really hard to say at this point, it's definitely uncommon. So I think, you know, the folks particularly in the F.B.I., places like the Behavioral Sciences Unit, they'll go back and try to figure out how this differs from other mass shootings.

But it could come down to something tactical, so in other words, he may have unable to conceal the weapon in a way that he was able to kind of get very close to his victims before scaring them away.

And he would have been able to engage them with the firearm from a much closer distance and that could have made his shooting much more lethal.


COOPER: And it's been very important over the years how the F.B.I. has studied mass shootings and gathered information and learned from them and that helps police tactics down the road.

Is that an ongoing process? And will the F.B.I. look at this and sort of add this into the, you know, the horrific database of information they already have?

MCCABE: Yes, absolutely. And there's other opportunities, or there may be other opportunities with this shooter, because he is still alive. And so after the criminal prosecution is completed, if there's an opportunity to engage with him in an interview to collect firsthand information, to understand like what he was thinking when he made these terrible decisions, I mean, that would be an extraordinary opportunity. It's something I'm sure that the F.B.I. would pursue.

There are a lot of legal hurdles to doing that, but it's that kind of like really careful, thoughtful research that enables us to shed some light on what these people are all about, and why they do what they do, which ultimately helps us protect -- to protect folks, that's the same sort of information that led to our active shooter training that so many thousands of people have benefited from around the country.

COOPER: Andrew McCabe, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.


COOPER: We heard just a moment ago from the uncle of one of the victims. Hard to imagine what it's like to choose to go on camera and talk so openly about a loss so immediate and so raw.

At the same time, we've also come to learn that for anyone who has lost someone close, it's important to be able to tell their story and talk about what their life was, and not have them defined just by how their life ended. Here's more of what Robert Olds said about his niece, Rikki.


OLDS: She was one of a kind. She was -- she was that person. She was -- she'd come to the house and we'd joke around and we'd laugh and she would start laughing so hard, she would snort and she's probably going to like throw something at me or something for telling you guys that.

But she was a snorter when she laughed hard, and I will really miss her. I will really miss that personality of hers and just her being around.


COOPER: Kimberly Moore joins us now. She is a pharmacy tech at King Soopers and worked with Rikki Olds.

Kimberly hid during the shooting. Kimberly, thank you so much for joining us. I'm so sorry, it is under these circumstances. Can you first of all, just talk about what Nikki was like?

KIMBERLY MOORE, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: She was a very fun and loving person. That's one of the things that we really just enjoyed about her. It doesn't matter what part of the store you worked in or what you were doing that day, she was on her way to come find you and talk to you and make you feel like you're just better for even being around.

COOPER: I heard she'd often like check on the folks in the pharmacy. Because I know you're working really long shifts and a lot of shifts in these days.

MOORE: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Since we started giving COVID vaccines, we've been working pretty hard. And it's really nice to see people a little outside of the store, you know, come and connect with you. And like I say, just come by and tell you a joke, give you a high five, those kinds of things, it really is what made working at that King Soopers like a family.

COOPER: Yes, I think I said, Nikki -- Rikki, of course. Can you walk us through when you were on duty, when did you realize something was wrong?

MOORE: We were in between some shifts of starting to give more COVID vaccines and the manager that yelled that there was an active shooter really gave us that head start.

COOPER: And the manager was online I understand with a family member, right?

MOORE: I mean, I'm not a hundred percent on that. I just know that I heard some commotion from outside. And then you know, people screaming and running. You know, fortunately for --

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead. MOORE: Go ahead.

COOPER: I talked to one of your co-workers, Maggie and she talked about sheltering in the counseling room. Where were -- were you in the same room?

MOORE: So they headed towards the counseling room. I stayed back. I wanted to make sure that my other colleagues and the pharmacy were okay. So we ended up just hunkering down more in the back of the pharmacy.

But for the beginning of the initial part of the attacks, it was really terrifying because you felt extremely exposed. All he had to do was jump over a counter.

COOPER: So you were what? Underneath the counter or --

MOORE: So there's these shelves that go behind the pharmacy where we keep our medications and we had eventually moved our way back there which is pretty deep into the corner as you can get being inside of the pharmacy, and when we just hid there.


COOPER: Wow. And do you -- you probably weren't able to see anything. Were you -- and which must, in some ways make it even more terrifying to just be hearing what is happening?

MOORE: Correct. I didn't see anything, but I heard everything. And I tried my best to pay attention to what I was hearing and feeling that was going on around me, which eventually led us be able to move further back into the pharmacy instead of staying so up close.

COOPER: And did you know where the gunman was? Could you hear -- could you understand based on the sound whether it was loud or farther away?

MOORE: Yes, lack of sound, and then, you know, gunshot sounds that traveled throughout the building. And then you can hear the shuffle because we were right next to the stairs that go up to where the manager's offices are. You could kind of hear that rustling noise as well.

COOPER: And then, when you finally were able to -- when it was over, when he gave up, do you remember what it was like walking out of the store?

MOORE: It was pretty intense. You know, right before we left, we had just figured out that this man had been hunkering down in front of us for probably at least a good 20 minutes.

COOPER: Right in front of the pharmacy.

MOORE: Right in front of the pharmacy, and it was crazy to notice that once when they were telling him to surrender and he said he was surrendering before he walked out. He was just sitting there, you know, and then you hear him be escorted

out. SWAT comes in, makes sure you're okay. And when you're being escorted, it is just difficult. They're trying to keep your focus on your feet. Try and keep your focus just to the right of you and then to the left of you.

Just doing the best they can and make sure that you don't have to see anything more than you've already probably experienced that day.

COOPER: Kimberly Moore, I'm so sorry for what you and everybody there has gone through and I appreciate you talking tonight.

MOORE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Thank you.

Coming up next, I will talk with the congressman who represents Boulder and who supported the local gun legislation that was law until just days before the suspect bought his weapon.

And later, new video of a key moment in the Capitol insurrection, as well as new evidence that prosecutors say shows two extremist groups worked together in advance of the attack.



COOPER: We're witnessing people in Boulder, Colorado coming together tonight. It is perhaps one of the only good things to come out of what happened just as they did in Parkland, El Paso, Orlando, after the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, people sharing the loss, sharing the load and drawing strength from what connects us.

Part of it, sadly, is the apprehension we also share wherever we live that this will happen where we live.

Just today Atlanta Police arrested a 22-year-old man after he went into a supermarket allegedly carrying a rifle. During the investigation, officers recovered five firearms and body armor in his possession.

Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse is heading to tonight's vigil shortly. We're glad he could spare a moment for us tonight. Thanks for being with us, Congressman. How have you seen the community coping and grieving tonight?

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Oh, good evening, Anderson. It's been a devastating few days here in Boulder, Colorado, devastating for our community, for our state and for our country. This is a community in mourning.

Folks are grieving the terrible loss, the tragedy of 10 people -- 10 cherished members of our community whose lives were cut tragically short on one day, and tonight is an opportunity for folks to come together as you said, to draw strength from one another, to share memories to be with one another as this community begins to heal, and there'll be many more vigils in the coming days and weeks ahead.

It's going to be a difficult process. It's going to be a long process for our community. But I know that this community is a kind one, a compassionate one. It's our community, it's my community, and we will come together at this really critical and difficult time.

COOPER: And I know you're going to be speaking at a virtual community gathering a bit later, do you have a particular message you intend to send?

NEGUSE: I message is really threefold, it's first to make sure that we honor the victims, and you've had so many of your guests who've been relatives of the victims. They've shared the incredible stories of those 10 souls who lived such incredible lives.

And it's important for us to take a moment to step back and honor their memory and cherish their memories and to be together in this moment. That's my first message.

The second is to ensure that our community has the resources available to them from a mental health perspective, you know, hearing just what I heard a minute ago, in terms of Kimberly, describing the scene to you, which just was so terrifying. It really sounded more like a war zone than a grocery store in the United States of America.

It's important for all the survivors in our community to have access to the resources they need.

And then finally, my third message is that the time for inaction is over. My constituents are tired of excuses. They do not want to see war scenes play out in grocery stores or movie theaters or schools. They are tired of it.

And so I am hopeful that we can ultimately make progress at the Federal level, and finally, curb gun violence in the United States. And it's certainly what I am making law.

COOPER: I mean, as you know, the City of Boulder had an ordinance banning assault style weapons, which I believe you testified in support of in 2017. A Judge recently ruled that the ban was unenforceable.

Now a few days later, the alleged shooter bought a weapon. Do you know if that ordinance would have otherwise prevented that purchase? Or can that connection not be made?

NEGUSE: I think we're still learning the answers to some of those questions. I think we'll learn more in the coming days. The arrest affidavit, as you know, was released yesterday. I suspect that tomorrow, the defendant has his first court appearance here in Boulder County.

In the days and weeks ahead, we'll learn more with respect to that particular question that you have regarding Boulder's assault weapon ban.


NEGUSE: What I would say, though, Anderson is this that this community, the Boulder City Council stepped forward bravely several years ago to enact that ban because they were tired of inaction at the Federal level. And it is emblematic of the incoherent Federal response to these mass shootings year after year after year, and I think reflects the need for the Congress to address the gun violence in our country that has just metastasized over time.

So it's clear that assault weapons ban at the Federal level would curb gun violence in our country. The empirical data is evidence of that.

It was a bipartisan assault weapons ban, as you know, when it was first enacted decades ago, in the mid-90s. The time is now as President Biden said just yesterday to reinstate that ban in the Congress as well as take a number of other steps.

There's no single panacea there. There have to be comprehensive solutions that ultimately are enacted to address what is really a crisis in the United States.

COOPER: Congressman Joe Neguse, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you so much.

NEGUSE: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, we have major developments in investigation of the January 6th Capitol riot. New videos related to the death of a Capitol Police officer who died after the attack and what prosecutors say as evidence of coordination prior to the attack between two far right extremist groups.



COOPER: Two major developments in investigation the January 6 Capital Riot, The New York Times has obtained videos that for the first time show how Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick who died after confronting rioters was attacked with chemical spray.

Also, in new court filings, prosecutors for the first time say they have evidence of coordination prior to the attack between two right wing extremist groups, the Oath Keepers and the so called Proud Boys.

More now from our senior national security adviser -- excuse me, security correspondent Alex Marquardt.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As the violent as the violent insurrection raged at the Capitol Building, new video obtained by The New York Times shows Officer Brian Sicknick facing off with rioters on the western side and how he was wounded. In the crowd were Julian Khater and George Tanios. Khater who was armed with both pepper spray and bear spray according

to prosecutors moved up to within just feet of Sicknick and in the new video can be seen unleashing a stream of chemical spray at the officer.

Sicknick is hit and retreats, keeling over. A day later, he was dead. Khater and Tanios have both been arrested and charged for assaulting three officers with chemical spray, including Officer Sicknick.

Federal prosecutors are now also discovering evidence of more coordination amid the chaos. New court filings alleging for the first time there was collaboration between the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Messages released by the Justice Department showed that Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs discussed on Facebook his communication with Proud Boys leadership, saying he quote orchestrated a plan with the Proud Boys for January 6.

Two weeks before the riots, Meggs wrote, we have made contact with Proud Boys and they always have a big group force multiplier. Three days later, Christmas Day, Meggs wrote to someone about the Proud Boys saying I've been communicating with the leader. We are going to march with them for a while, then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the Proud Boys get in front of them. We will come in behind Antifa and beat the hell out of them.

The prosecutors say the communication shows evidence of coordination that has yet to alleged conspiracy between the groups something that at least 10 Oath Keepers have been charged with, along with several Proud Boys. Court filings show Meggs' discussing rallying 50 to 100 Oath Keepers to Washington for January 6.

In one message makes it also sent a list of gear to bring including body armor and weapons. DC is no guns, Meggs wrote. So mace and gas masks, some buttons if you have armor, that's good. All of the communication released by the Justice Department to argue against releasing Meggs from jail before his trial. He has pleaded not guilty.


COOPER: And Alex Marquardt joins us now. So, Alex, I assume that they have not been able to directly at this stage link Officer Sicknick being sprayed with a chemical agent and his death, have they?

MARQUARDT: No, they haven't. So far what the investigators have not said what the official cause of death of Brian Sicknick is they haven't been able to tie the medical examiner, hasn't tied the use of this chemical spray to his death. It is incredibly powerful stuff Anderson, another of the officers.

They were all temporarily blinded said that during her training, it was more powerful than any of the pepper spray that she had experience. So, that's why -- they are prosecutors are using this video that has been obtained by The New York Times. These two men are still in detention. And they're going to be tried here in Washington, D.C. Anderson.

COOPER: Alex Marquardt, appreciate it. Thanks.

Andrew McCabe is back with us. What do you see from an investigative point of view, Andrew, from a visual point as a former law enforcement officer when you see this new video?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, it's disgusting. It's, you know, watching these videos of how these law enforcement officers were assaulted and terrorized on the Capitol, it is really disturbing to I'm sure anyone who has ever worn a badge and a gun. But I have to say that I think the investigators are really in a tough spot here on this one.

So we have, you know, incontrovertible proof of an assault by these two defendants on Officer Sicknick. And that's a serious charge. But in order to raise that to a charge of murder, they have to know that the assault led to his death.

And I would guess that there's probably not a large volume of reliable scientific evidence that that shows us what happens when a human is attacked with bear spray. It's not made for human. So this is not the average post mortem medical examiner's report. I would guess that they're having to really deep dive into the science and try to figure out how that stuff impacted him on, you know, on potentially a fatal level.


COOPER: You know, we've heard senators, you know, Senator Johnson and others talk about how these rioters were not armed saying that, you know, the indicating that it wasn't really as serious as we all saw it, it was. You see in that e-mail from that, you know, so called Oath Keeper saying, you know, D.C. is no guns.

It's interesting that they're, you know, for those who say, gun laws don't make much of a difference. I mean, I guess D.C. has strict anti- gun laws, and so they are afraid to bring guns, but they say, OK, don't bring guns, but bring, you know, other items. And we know people were armed with tasers and obviously these chemical agents.

MCCABE: Yes. I mean, the comments by people like Senator Johnson and others that they weren't, are just preposterous. I mean, like, you see what's happening in those videos, you see people concealing axe handles and metal poles and carrying them as if they're flag poles and then using them to beat cops and law enforcement officers. So this fiction that nobody's armed is exactly that.

And I think the Oath Keepers text messages today show a very clear level, high degree of planning and kind of premeditation that went into not just their appearance on the Hill that day, but how they equipped themselves, what kind of body armor they were wearing. As you mentioned, the clear decision not to bring weapons because he knew what kind of legal implications that could have for them, but to bring things like batons and tasers. It's still armed. It may not be a gun.


MCCABLE: It still be full arms.

COOPER: Yes. Andrew McCabe, thanks.

As Republican lawmakers in several states continue to advance legislation that would restrict voting rights. Senators on Capitol Hill clashes they convened a hearing on a new federal bill. The backers say would make it easier not harder for people to vote, that's next.



COOPER: The Senate got its first crack today at a new voting rights bill passed by the House and there were some clashes almost from the get-go. Democrats said the legislation would make it easier to vote on a federal level as opposed to several bills sponsored by Republicans now making their way through state legislatures that would restrict many voting rights.

As a sign of just how important the federal proposal is, the leaders of both parties in the Senate Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, made a rare appearance before the Senate Rules Committee. Hear some of the back and forth.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It's one of the most despicable things I have seen in all my years. Shame, shame, shame.

Instead of doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a democracy, attempting to win over those voters in the next election. Republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise those voters. Shame on them.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The turnout in the 2020 election was the highest since 1900. States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever. This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system. But even more immediately, it would create an implementation nightmare.


COOPER: Perspective and from Abby Phillip, CNN senior political correspondent anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" and Bakari Sellers, a CNN political contributor and former Democratic state lawmaker in South Carolina.

Abby, it's interesting to hear Senator McConnell there saying there was this huge voter turnout in 2020. And so clearly, that's evidence that Republicans are not trying to lower vote voter turnout, when in fact they are trying to change laws based on what happened in 2020.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. I mean, remember, Mitch McConnell was the same person who, even though he voted against convicting former President Trump, of inciting an insurrection, really indicted Trump for these election lies, saying that he misled his supporters. The election lies that Trump espoused for months are the basis for the voting restrictions that are being rolled out in states all across the country.

What Republicans in state legislatures are trying to do a state after state is trying to roll back any of the changes that might have been made due to COVID that allowed more people to vote. And in some cases, they're rolling back changes to election laws that preceded COVID. Changes that were made by Republican legislators, for example, in Georgia and in Pennsylvania.

So, look, this is clearly it's clearly a case where Republicans are actually trying to roll back efforts to make it easier for people to vote. And McConnell is choosing to ignore that by citing the fact that more people voted in 2020. That is exactly what many of his Republican colleagues all across this country are trying to change, and trying to make sure that that never happens again.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Bakari the fact that more people voted in 2020, than hadn't a long, long time. That's actually a good thing. both Republicans and Democrats and independents, more people voting, more citizens voting, I would think is something that all you know, folks in Congress would like.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You would think unless you've lost seven out of the last eight popular elections for president of the United States like the Republican Party has. The fact is they don't want to try to go out and win voters over, I think Chuck Schumer said that, instead, the strategy is to limit the access to the ballot box.

I mean, Raphael Warnock said this best in the State of Georgia, it's easier to purchase a weapon in Georgia than it is to go out and cast a ballot. I mean, these are some of the things that we have to look at in this country. And I always tell people, especially young folk, that if your right to vote wasn't so important, they wouldn't be working so damn hard to take it from you.

And, instead of having conversations about making voting a national, a national holiday, and putting it on a Saturday, instead of having conversations about automatic voter registration at the age of 18. We're having conversations about how to limit access to the ballot box, and even Attorney General Barr's Justice Department came out with a report saying that there was no widespread fraud that they could find in the 2016 election, the 2020 election, excuse me.


And so, this red herring is why you have to fight in all 50 states to push back these voter restrictive laws that are being?

COOPER: Well, and Abby, I mean the sick irony of, you know, Sidney Powell in court now being sued by dominion and claiming that no reasonable person and I'm paraphrasing her own lawyers opinion, but, you know, that no reasonable person would have taken her claim seriously. It's you know, these a lot of these bills in state legislatures across the country are based on the big lie, that none of the people who are telling the big lie truly, truly believe.

But the problem is, I mean, Abby, for Democrats is this it's obviously top legislative priority for Senate Democrats, but they don't have their entire caucus on board, particularly Joe Manchin.

PHILLIP: No, they don't. And, you know, Joe Manchin, has said that he's interested in protecting the vote. He has some problems with some elements of this particular bill that he's thinks go beyond just voting. I think there are a couple things that I'm interested in that we don't quite know yet when it comes to Joe Manchin, which parts of the voting rules part of this bill, is he interested in?

And would he be willing to do it with or without Republican support? Because at the end of the day, you know, Manchin seems to be more interested in making sure that the Senate is operating in a bipartisan way than, you know, perhaps pursuing legislation that he and other Democrats believe in?

And if that's the litmus test, that there must be bipartisanship, then I think there's a real question about whether Democrats can get to 50 votes. Because I think Republicans are actually fairly united in their opposition to casting any votes in the Senate on the issue of voting because it's such a poison pill with their base. Their base is all in on the big lie right now. And I think most Republicans don't want to touch it.

COOPER: Yes, Abby Phillip, Bakari Sellers. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, there's good news in the COVID vaccine ever, but the head of the CDC is worried about something else she's seeing. Former CDC director joins, ahead.



COOPER: Tonight, the head of the CDC assuring new concern is the drop in the seven-day average and new coronavirus cases continues leveling off and even shows a slight uptick. She says the average number of hospitalizations and deaths is also flat this week.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: I continue to be worried about the latest data and the apparent stall we are seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic. CDC is watching these numbers very closely.


COOPER: On Monday, she warned of the serious threat those were her words of a new surge of COVID restrictions around the country lifted too soon, but she's celebrating the pace of vaccinations. Dr. Anthony Fauci see new hope for their real world success based on studies in one of the most important groups which is healthcare workers.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Right now, as the week's go by we see more and more that not only are these vaccines efficacious, but in the community, they are extremely effective in preventing infection.


COOPER: With me now former CDC director Tom Frieden.

Dr. Frieden, thanks so much. We can continue to see this push and pull between CDC director, Dr. Walensky saying she's worried about the data, but at the same time, more than a dozen states have eased restrictions. What are your thoughts on these trends?

TOM FRIEDEN, FMR DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, we see really encouraging trends in deaths decreasing vaccination, increasing, we're now at an important benchmark, more than two thirds of people over the age of 65 have already gotten a dose of the one or another vaccine. And because of that, I anticipate we will see a real decrease in deaths.

However, because we are seeing reopenings and because the variants are spreading, I also think we're likely to see a fourth surge. Probably not a huge one, probably not nearly as lethal, but we do have to stay that safe really. It ain't over till it's over, mask up get vaccinated in the moment you can, and for the upcoming holidays. Maybe don't take the travel you were planning because travel can rapidly increase spread of the virus.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci, as we mentioned, highlighted the efficacy of the vaccine among healthcare workers in both Texas and California. There was a study done at a Medical Center in Dallas that found that after fully vaccinated only 0.05 percent of employees became infected. And healthcare workers at UCLA and UCSD reported a 0.05 percent positivity rate after being fully vaccinated. Which, I mean given they're healthcare workers who obviously face increased risk, the data seems really kind of remarkable.

Are you hopeful that it may provide some kind of confidence to people may still be on the fence about the vaccine, because we're not just talking about people who didn't show symptoms, it just people were not getting infected.

FRIEDEN: These vaccines are remarkably effective. And I'll give you one more really striking trend. It used to be that about four out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are in nursing homes. For the last few weeks, it's been more like two out of 10 and falling rapidly, maybe one out of 10 in the future.

If that proportion had stayed the same, more than 40,000 Americans who are alive today would be dead. Vaccines have already saved at least 40,000 lives in this country. They're remarkably effective. They're remarkably safe, get vaccinated the moment it's your turn.

COOPER: And that's thing I mean mask wearing continued mask wearing now can save potentially, I mean, all throughout this pandemic, we've seen cases where mask wearing can over the course of several months save tens of thousands of lives. And, you know, and especially now waiting for everybody to get vaccinated.


The CDC is tracking breakthrough cases of COVID people become infected after being vaccinated. What's important to learn about those cases? Are you confident that sequencing in the U.S. is where it should be?

FRIEDEN: The plain truth is that there's a lot we won't know about vaccines, until we see how they perform over many, many months, we don't know how long the protection will last, maybe it's lifelong. Maybe it's only a year or less. Only time will tell, we don't know whether the variance will overwhelm the vaccine protection or protection from prior infection.

So that kind of study of looking at possible breakthrough infections is very important. You do expect some no vaccine is 100 percent effective. And you might see some adverse events, we're seeing about one serious allergic reaction out of every quarter of a million people vaccinated, all of them have been successfully treated, everyone's done fine with that.

But we may find other rare adverse events. But the benefits of this vaccine are really striking and the risks other than a sore arm or a day or two of not feeling well, really aren't substantial.

COOPER: There was a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general found that medical staff and more than 300 hospitals are quote, exhausted, mentally fatigued, sometimes experiencing possible PTSD. What can be done?

FRIEDEN: What's really important, Anderson is that we resume and improve healthcare. What we know is that many people died not from COVID, but because of COVID, because they were afraid to go to the hospital, or because the hospital wasn't available. We have to strengthen our primary healthcare system in this country for cancer screenings, for treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

These are the major killers that we have. And by making sure that people get the care they need when they need it, where they need it, how they need it. We can save a lot of lives. But that's going to mean learning from the pandemic, for example, scaling up telemedicine, which has been effectively used not for all visits, but for many.

And figuring out how we can make sure that primary healthcare becomes the center of our healthcare system, because that can make a huge difference, not just in COVID, where it's really important for diagnosis and vaccination, but also for treatment of killer diseases and saving lots of lives and preventing people from having to go to the hospital in the first place.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Tom Frieden, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Ahead --

FRIEDEN: Thank you. COOPER: -- remembering, the victims of the Colorado shootings as new details surface in the investigation. We'll take you to Boulder. I'll speak with a survivor the Parkland school attack, ahead.