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Georgia Governor Signs G.O.P. Bill Restricting Voting into Law; President Biden Sets Agenda in First Press Conference; Wife: "We Have Had So Much Love And Support"; Biden Doubles Vaccination Goal To 200 Million Doses In 100 Days; Cruz Refuses To Wear Mask While Speaking During News Conference; Pfizer Begins Vaccine Trial IN Children Under 12; Pres. Biden Talks With Writers, Historians About Not Only The Past But Belief Systems. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 20:00   ET



DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Very, very welcome sign because it has been a volatile and very turbulent and dangerous day within Central Alabama. Now, we focus our attention across northern Georgia, where the National Weather Service has just issued a new tornado warning including the Atlanta Metro region -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you very much, Derek. I appreciate your time. And all of yours.

Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin with breaking news. Georgia's Governor late this evening signing draconian new voter registration measures into law, a law based on a lie.

The legislation's preamble is really Orwellian. It says the law is meant to address quote, "lack of elector confidence in the election system." Gee, I wonder where that came from.

Georgia's 2020 election results were counted. They were recounted, and they were counted again. No meaningful fraud was uncovered. The results were certified and attested to, numerous times, including by Georgia's Republican Trump supporting Secretary of State.

In short, any, quote, "lack of elector confidence," unquote stems from all the lying liars telling lies about the election. What's more, one of those liars former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, is now all but admitting to being a liar in her own court filings to avoid being sued massively.

Her defense against Defamation claims is that no reasonable person would accept her post-election statements as fact. It seems like a lot of elected officials are.

Ahead, tonight, how the big election lie is driving voter registration or voter restriction legislation measures nationwide and how far the Biden ministration may be willing to go to oppose them.

First, our Dianne Gallagher with what's in the new Georgia law -- Dianne.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Anderson, look, this is a massive bill that has now become law that literally changes almost every aspect of Georgia elections from top to bottom.

But the parts of it that have been focused on the most are those that would basically restrict ballot access, and particularly restrict ballots access for voters of color.

Some of those points are now requiring ID for absentee voting instead of what Georgia was doing before, which is signature match. They're limiting drop boxes to only being inside early voting locations, and they're making it a misdemeanor to give food or drinks to voters who are waiting in line to vote.

Perhaps the part of this bill that has created the most outrage from lawmakers, Democratic lawmakers and voting rights activists, is the fact that it broadens out the power that state officials have over local election management. So far as to that, they could replace local election officials.

Now, many of the people who oppose that see that as a direct strike against the blue pockets in the State of Georgia, like here in Fulton County in Atlanta that helped push the last elections for two Democratic Senators and for President Joe Biden in November.

And so a lot of the voters that we've talked to, people who have been -- who are upset about this, they kind of see this as revenge, Anderson.

Now, there was a lot of attention that was on some earlier parts of this bill, those have been taken out. And some of that likely did come from the protests, the outrage, the anger that they saw online, but there was a portion that talked about getting rid of Sunday voting if you remember, we talked a lot about Souls to the Polls and black churches going and voting on Sundays, early voting after services.

Well, that's not necessarily -- that's not a part of the bill anymore. And instead, they've made it two mandatory Saturdays up from the one that it was before, and optional two Sundays, but they set specific hours, Anderson.

So while it expands early voting, that is true for some counties in other counties like here in Fulton County, it likely reduces some of the hours of weekend early voting.

COOPER: Dianne Gallagher, appreciate it. Thanks.

Again, more coming up on what President Biden is doing to oppose the kind of measures that passed today. He spoke about it today at the first solo press conference of his presidency. It was one of several headlines to come from it.

It was in just about any way you could imagine everything that an appearance by the former President was not. It did not, as the former President did during his first press conference, falsely declare his victory, the biggest since Reagan's, which it wasn't.

And still, he did not have to explain the firing of a National Security adviser. There was no defense today of Vladimir Putin. And though he did show impatience at times for the questioning, there was no attacks on the news media.

Instead, the President did what Presidents other than the last one have always done in moments like these and we actually learned a lot from it. He made news on his priorities, voting rights, COVID even infrastructure, which became a running joke in the last administration.

He also talked about what he sees as his larger mission.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I'm running for three reasons: to restore the soul, dignity honor, honesty, transparency, to the American political system; two, to rebuild the backbone of this country, the middle class, hardworking people and people struggling in middle class. They built America and unions built them.


BIDEN: The third reason I said I was running was to unite the country.


COOPER: Joining us now, CNN's Kaitlan Collins. We got the President to make news with one of her questions. So Kaitlan, there's certainly a lot of curiosity about what the President would do and say at this news conference, how he would say it. What do you think the key takeaway was?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he got really animated talking about voting rights as Dianne was just laying out there, what we saw go into action today, what he was asked about before it actually been passed and signed into law by the Georgia Governor.

He was really animated. He called it un-American. He called it despicable. He called it sick. He really railed against these efforts by Republicans to restrict access to voting, that was one of the key headlines.

But Anderson, then he was also pressed on immigration and the surge that we have seen on the southern border. And of course, you know, this idea that it's not just come from his critics, but even top Mexican leaders, that it's his policies and his demeanor toward the border that has driven so many migrants to make their way up to the southern border.

He says he does not believe that is the case. And he pointed to other surges that happened under former President Trump.

And then of course, another big question that people were asking about this week that had come up since he had announced that he was going to do this press conference was guns and where he is going to move on that. And if he's going to actually introduce legislation or sign any Executive Orders, and he made pretty clear at this press conference today, Anderson, that it's not his top priority, infrastructure is what he wants to do next.

COOPER: You also asked the President a very specific question about the filibuster?

COLLINS: Yes, because of course, the filibuster, you know, while it's not really well known to everyone is incredibly important to what the rest of his agenda post infrastructure is going to look like, because he will have to get Republican support to get bills like ones on gun control or immigration passed, or he'll have to eliminate the filibuster, potentially, so they can get it passed with 51 votes instead of 60 votes.

And so I asked him if he agreed with a characterization that we heard from President Obama not that long ago at John Lewis's funeral, when he said he believed that the filibuster was a relic of the Jim Crow era, specifically talking about voting rights and getting legislation on voting rights passed.

And I asked President Biden, does he agree with that? He quickly said, yes. But of course, the next natural question is, if that is how you feel, and that is your characterization of it, the why not abolish it, why not eliminate it if it is a relic of the Jim Crow era?

And he gave a lengthy answer, Anderson, after taking a pretty big pause. And basically, he summed it up by saying right now, he wants to focus on what he sees is abuse of the filibuster, which is overuse of the filibuster, compared to when he was in the Senate.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, stay with this. I want to bring in two more voices, CNN political commentator, and former special adviser to President Obama, Van Jones; and CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, the contrast of President Biden's approach to his first press conference, obviously, compared to his predecessors couldn't be more stark. Do you think prison Biden, I mean, how do you think he did today? Do did he do what he felt he needed to?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think there's no doubt that he was pleased with the results of today, but I think it was important to note his mission going in here.

What he clearly tried to accomplish in this press conference was to yes, deal with questions about the stuff that lands on the President's plate that you don't plan for, like this crisis at the border, dealing with immigration, mass shootings, and what that means for gun legislation going forward, Anderson.

But I think he was so set on sticking to the plan because he believes and his administration believes that nothing else will matter until they can get fully through this pandemic, get the economy restored, and invest in that economy for the long term. Once that's accomplished, then he can tackle these other issues, but

he was pretty clear that nothing is going to derail him. At least, he hopes from sticking to that game plan, and that's why he said his next priority is that big infrastructure package.

COOPER: Van, as someone who supported candidate Biden, are you happy with what you heard?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, there's no buyer's remorse anywhere in the Democratic Party based on what Joe Biden is doing and what he has done. You know, he has got a challenge on the border. That's, you know, every President has faced that. He did tremendously well.

I'll add to what David just said, he is trying to focus on the economy, but democracy itself is on shaky legs, and he spoke to that very powerfully. When you talk about voting rights being under attack and an unprecedented way in the modern era, and the filibuster being abused in a way that's making government governance almost impossible. He has to deal with the democracy issues, both the filibuster and vote and voting. He is going to do that.

But I think a lot of people were thinking he's going to fall on his face. He's old. He can't handle the questions. Every time people say that stuff, Joe Biden proves them wrong. He got, I think, one little gaff in the whole hour, and again, zero buyer's remorse from Democrats with this President.


COOPER: Kaitlan, President Biden was pressed repeatedly about the situation at the border, the number of migrant children being held by the U.S. government. He blames the previous administration for dismantling the system the U.S. had to deal with the immigration and said he is committed to transparency as soon as he's able to implement his plan.

Did he explain why he doesn't allow full access right now to the media so the public can actually see what's happening? I mean, it seems pretty questionable.

COLLINS: Well, what we've heard so much was the talk about coronavirus and the pandemic. And of course, obviously, they want to prioritize the safety of the officials working there, the kids who are being held at these facilities and process for them. That is understandable.

But there are also ways to make it work. Of course, they gave access to a Health and Human Services facility this week, for example, they limited it to just one reporter from one outlet and a few cameras, not the normal slew of reporters that you would see.

But the question is, you know, you don't want to just see the H.H.S. facility, you also want to see the Border Patrol facility, which is a very much a jail like detention center where kids are hanging out way longer than they should be than they are legally allowed to be. And so Biden said today, he is committed to transparency, but he

didn't give a firm time of when exactly reporters will be allowed into those Border Patrol facilities. And we've been asking for about a month now. So it's a really important question, because of course, the Trump administration was not exactly eager to give access to those facilities either when they were at the height of the 2019 crisis.

But it's still important for reporters to have independent coverage of what's going on inside these facilities.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's hypocritical to say you believe in transparency, and then, you know, stonewall on actually letting there be anybody, you know, and claiming it's because of COVID. As we said, there's plenty of ways to, you know, adhere to COVID protocols.

David, President Biden made it very clear that his focus now is on infrastructure as you talked about, even when he was asked about guns, pivoted back to infrastructure. I mean, a lot of politicians. You know, a lot of Presidents have things they want to be their focus and often do end up getting taken off it, events make it impossible to focus solely on one thing.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about it. I mean, that is very much what defines many presidencies is how Presidents handle the unexpected that's thrown their way, Anderson, but I did think it was revealing when President Biden did say that he believes successful presidencies are the ones that know how to prioritize the policy proposals and sequence them in a way.

And to me, he then went right into pitching his infrastructure plan. And to me that indicated, he believes that he has a chance at really broadening his appeal to a majority of the American public, if indeed, he remains focused on investing long term in this economy, that that's the thing that will give him the entree to then try and convince Republicans and others to get on board with other policy proposals of his that may be a bit more traditionally partisan.

COOPER: Van, do you think that works?

JONES: Look, I think the economy -- it's the economy, stupid and that has been the watchword for a couple of generations now. I think that's correct.

He's got to create a kind of a rising tide, and I think he has put himself in a position to do that. And then these other things that are important, for instance, you know, with immigration, I actually think more transparency on immigration actually helps Biden more than it hurts him because it creates more urgency to help to solve that problem.

And it kind of gives him -- I think it would actually strengthen his hand. I think, you know, he's got a number of things on his plate right now. I think he is a hundred percent correct that most people are going to judge him based on his economic performance.

If this economy comes roaring back at six, seven, eight, nine percent, the midterms are going to look a lot better for Democrats, than they would otherwise.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, David Chalian, thanks very much. Van, stick around because I want to return to breaking news, the new voting restrictions in Georgia. We're going to talk more about the Federal legislation President Biden is supporting to expand voter access, which is now stuck in the Senate and whether he is willing to dismantle that Senate filibuster that we keep talking about.

Later, what the wife and the daughter of one of the Boulder shooting victims wants you to know about the husband and father that they love and the grandfather he was about to become.



COOPER: We began the program with breaking news out of Georgia where some of the toughest new restrictions on voting just became law.

As you know, Republican lawmakers nationwide are now pushing for similar restrictions, and the former President has come out and said that Federal legislation to block them, which President Biden is trying to get through Congress would mean, quote, "Republicans will have a very hard time getting elected."

Back now with Van Jones and joining us, former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Van, what kind of an impact do you think this Georgia voting bill is actually going to have there? And could it backfire on Republicans?

JONES: Well, listen, it is -- it's an attack on democracy. It's an attack on Civil Rights. It is an attack on black voters. And here's the thing.

When we don't participate, then they say, well, you know, black voters don't care. Black people don't care. They're apathetic, then when we read the rules and obey the rules, and in Georgia, they found even Republicans found no evidence of systemic voter fraud. So we did what the rulebook said do, it said, well, you know what, you still cheated and we're going to change the rules.

Well, hold on a second, you're basically saying the only acceptable outcome is an outcome where black voter preferences are denied. And at that point, you know, I think what you will see is organizers on the ground will double down, triple down, quadruple down. I don't think we're going to lie down and take this.

But you've now exposed that the problem that the Republican Party at least in Georgia has is just with black voters. There's no fraud that's been proved even by their own elected officials.

And so this is, I think, a very, very dark moment in the history of the country.

[20:25:12] COOPER: But Charlie, what's so hypocritical about this is all these

politicians who are arguing, well, you know, this is really to -- because there's a lot of folks who just, you know, who feel that there was something wrong about the last election. There's a lot of folks who just believe -- you know, don't have faith that it was legitimate and obviously the reason for that is that President, the former President was pushing this lie.

But to make legislation based on, you know, a projection of how they are saying some people feel based on something that is not true. I mean, that's just nuts.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, well, Anderson, there's an overreaction by many Republican legislators around the country to what happened in the election. Donald Trump lost the election, because of his conduct or misconduct in office and his response to the COVID crisis.

Republicans around the country did extremely well, with the voting systems in place. The method of voting is not what drives turnout. It is anger, it's enthusiasm, it's motivation. That's what drives the turnout.

And republicans did well, down ballot. Trump did not, again because of his own conduct.

So I think it would behoove these legislators to take a deep breath, and recognize that they did well with this system and they can do well with it again. They need to -- they need to go out and reach out to communities where they're not doing well, and energize their base to vote. That's how they should deal with this.

In Pennsylvania, you know, we changed the law, too, and Republicans did just fine. And going back to the 2019 method, you know, it won't necessarily be any better for Republicans. So I'm not sure why they think this is such a good idea.

COOPER: Van, I want to play something that President Biden was asked about today and what he said.


BIDEN: What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It's sick. It's sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote, deciding that you're going to end voting at five o'clock when working people are just getting off work, deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances.

I mean, this is gigantic what they're trying to do, and it cannot be sustained. I'll do everything in my power along with my friends in the House and the Senate to keep that from becoming to law.


COOPER: So is there anything his administration really can do about it?

JONES: Well, yes. I mean, they can they can pass voting rights, and they should. And I do think that we're now coming up against a real challenge for this administration.

Joe Biden, as you saw is a passionate institutionalist. He believes in the right to vote. He believes in our institutions of government. But now what you're seeing is people abusing the state legislative process to close the door on voters, just like they did back in the Jim Crow era, and actually worse, and you also see a filibuster being abused in the Senate to prevent any redress.

There's going to need to be a real effort here. If you've got to push the filibuster to one side, you've got to do it to protect the right to vote.

COOPER: Charlie, I know you don't think -- you think Democrats are going to ruin the day. They're going to regret it that they messed with the filibuster. Can you just explain to people first of all, I mean, we all talk about the filibuster because we follow this stuff.

There's a lot of folks out there who, you know, don't know the details on this. Can you just explain briefly what it is? And why do you think if Democrats eliminate it, they're going to end up regretting it?

DENT: Sure, the minority party in the Senate has the ability to obstruct legislation, and in order for them -- in order to break that filibuster, that's when they filibuster -- to break it, it would require a 60-vote threshold.

I watched Republicans after the Tea Party wave, very conservative Republicans and Donald Trump argued to get rid of the filibuster. I said, you will all regret the day because someday the shoe will be on the other foot, in this case on the left foot, and there'll be able to ram things to you that you will not like. The same thing is happening today.

Look, the filibuster is overused and it is abused. And I do believe it should be reformed. But it must be done on a bipartisan basis. And a lot of people say yes, it is a relic of Jim Crow. Well, I've got news for people, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act 1964 passed, became law in spite of the filibuster.

In 2006, I voted for the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act with a Republican President and a Republican Congress, it was a proud vote. It passed regardless -- the filibuster existed. The issue is they need to fix it, but they've got to do it on a bipartisan basis. This'll just turn into more acrimony and more bitterness, resentment and hostility in this country.

COOPER: Charlie Dent, Van Jones appreciate it. Thanks.

In the wake of two mass shootings within a week, the President said he will tackle gun control when the timing is right. It's tragically too late for the families in mourning. The widow and a daughter of a victim of the massacre in Colorado join

us next as police still work to determine a motive. What they want you to know about the life they lost in their lives, ahead.



COOPER: First court appearance today for the man accused of murdering 10 in a Boulder, Colorado grocery store on Monday. A judge ruled the suspect will remain behind bars without bail after his defense attorney asked to delay his next hearing for weeks to assess her client's mental health.

Police have said they're still trying to determine a motive, 10 more families torn apart by another senseless act of gun violence.

Sixty-one-year-old Kevin Mahoney, proudly walked his daughter Erika down the aisle just this summer. She, along with her mom, Kevin's wife, Ellen Mahoney joined me earlier.


COOPER: Erika and Ellen, thank you so much for being with us. How are you both holding out?

ELLEN MAHONEY, LOST HUSBAND, KEVIN MAHONEY IN BOULDER, COLORADO SHOOTING: Well, of course, obviously, understandably very difficult that we have had so much love and support from Boulder community and friends all across the country. So it's been very helpful.


COOPER: Erika, the photo I saw of -- the photos, I should say of your dad from this summer at your wedding. They're so touching. Could you just talk a little bit about your dad? What do you want people to know about him?

ERIKA MAHONEY, LOST FATHER, KEVIN MAHONEY IN BOULDER, COLORADO SHOOTING: I think that photo really does capture who dad was because he is filled with so much love and I love the photograph because I am looking up at him and you can tell he is so proud of me and proud of my husband, who I was walking to. And, you know, holding back tears.

COOPER: And Erika, I heard that your dad was kind of like the father to a lot of people in the neighborhood.

E. MAHONEY: Yes. He spent so much time outdoors, with my younger brother and I and all of our friends. He would play with us for hours. A lot of my friends have been texting me and saying that my dad was the best example of a father, and that he was a dad to them, too.

COOPER: And you were married for 30 years. I mean, it's so extraordinary. What has been this last year, what's it been like, during the pandemic?

E. MAHONEY: Well, we've been married 35 years.

COOPER: 35, I'm sorry.

E. MAHONEY: That's a long time. This past year, actually, during the pandemic, was a blessing for us. It gave us time to be together. It reminded me honest, like the beginning of our marriage, we took a lot of walks, we cook together, we watch TV together, we were it was just I'm very grateful for this past year, because we were both working together as a team under very difficult circumstances.

COOPER: It's extraordinary that to have had that and to be able to view that as a blessing at a time like this. And Erika, I understand you're, you're pregnant. And your dad knew about that. And I'm sure was thrilled to death and excited about it -- and incredibly excited about that. What do you want your daughter to know about your dad?

E. MAHONEY: I know that she will know how much her grandfather loves her. And that she can tell even in the photographs and the stories that we'll share how amazing he was. And I think she'll have his spunky attitude and his love for the outdoors. My dad absolutely loves the outdoors, he spent so much time hiking and being outside. One thing that makes this harder is being pregnant. But at the same time, it also gives you strength because this is such a devastating news. And it's so hurtful. But hey, no, my dad would just want me to be, you know, the mom I will be and to carry on. And so, we're going to do that for him.

COOPER: You're going to be a great mom, because you've had a great mom and you have a great dad, as well.

E. MAHONEY: Yes. I've had some amazing examples.

COOPER: I know also, your dad did a lot of charity work.

E. MAHONEY: My dad volunteered for the past five years with Meals On Wheels. And I got to actually go out with him one afternoon and see him in that element. And it really just, I think shows who my dad was to be able to go into someone's home and be that caring, comforting person, for someone in need, who lives alone. And he just was so kind to everyone. And I think one thing we want people to know is that he's a real person. And his loss has a ripple effect to so many people and the Boulder community and beyond.

And he -- there was one other thing too about the littering, I thought it was really good.

E. MAHONEY: He doesn't like litter bugs.

COOPER: He didn't like the -- doesn't like litter bugs. I understand that --

E. MAHONEY: Yes, when we do hiking.

COOPER: When he would hike he would actually -- he wasn't just hiking. He was also sort of cleaning up the trail.

E. MAHONEY: He was.

E. MAHONEY: Taking care of the trails.

COOPER: Was that fun or was that infuriating while hiking?

E. MAHONEY: No, I mean, there's not that much to do. But what I wanted to say is thank you to everyone who has shown us love and support at this time. It means so much to me. There was one person wrote me a beautiful letter that has a very important message in it that I'd like to share. And it said if you're in pain and suffering remember who you truly are and breath. You are as fast as the sky, as bright as the stars, as wide as the ocean, as strong as a mountain, and as beautiful as the first flower blooming in spring.


COOPER: That is, those are powerful words, and I'm glad that they bring you some comfort and will comfort a lot of people in this difficult time, Erika and Ellen, thank you so much for talking with us about both Kevin, about your dad, about your husband, thank you.

E. MAHONEY: Thank you.

COOPER: One family's grief.

Just ahead, the politics of wearing a mask. Today another Republican took a stand about when you shouldn't have to wear them in a social situation. The details when we continue.


COOPER: During news conference President Biden touted a new vaccination goal 200 million doses administered in his first 100 days in office. It's double the original goal. Something he's administration is already on pace to do. While that was going on Senator Ted Cruz engaged in the kind of mass theatricals his Republican colleague Rand Paul implied last week.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Good afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you mind please putting a mask on for us?

CRUZ: Yes, when I'm talking to the TV camera, I'm not going to wear a mask and all of us have been immunized, so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'd make us feel better.

CRUZ: You're welcome to step away if you like. The whole point of a vaccine, CDC guidance is what we're following.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Now, just so we're clear CDC guidance is that when fully vaccinated people are in a public setting engaged in a social activity. They should always wear a mask.

We'll get perspective and all this from our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioners and CNN medical analyst.

Dr. Wen, I'm wondering what your reaction was to the senator there.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it was discourteous, and frankly, just not true, as you said. We know that right now when there is such a high level of coronavirus that circulating in our communities, that even people who are fully vaccinated where they are in public with others who are not yet vaccinated, that the courteous and the right thing for them to do from an infection control standpoint, is to wear a mask. And that's what Senator Cruz should have done. Although I will say I am glad that he is vaccinated. And I hope that all of his counterparts who are elected leaders will become vaccinated too.

COOPER: Sanjay, President Biden's new goal of 200 million vaccine doses in the arms in the first 100 days, U.S. is averaging about 2.5 million doses a day right now is 200 million realistic.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's very realistic. I mean, you know, you keep in mind that the from the beginning, I think even before the administration took over, we were already at some 900,000 vaccines per day at that point. You know, a couple of months ago, we are already at, you know, 1.5, so we're getting close to even doubling that. I think if nothing changed, if we just kept at the current pace, it would be some 206 million vaccines at 100 days, but it's probably going to increase because you have these mass vaccination sites that are opening and other ways of targeting hard to reach areas.

So, I think it's very doable. And I think we will surpass it. They keep saying that they're under promising over delivering. That's their strategy. I think this is another example.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it's clearly a strategy to under promise and then be able to say, well, we're doing better than we thought.

Dr. Wen, a new study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective in pregnant and lactating women, Pfizer, Moderna, are the mRNA vaccines, not Johnson & Johnson. Just keep it in perspective for us, I mean, is there enough data for pregnant women or women wanting to become pregnant to feel safe about receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine?

WEN: Yes. So there is accumulating evidence of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines for pregnant women. So initially, in the clinical trials, pregnant and breastfeeding people were not included. But since then, we've had thousands of pregnant individuals choose to take the vaccine, many are essential workers who are at high risk for exposure. Others may be individuals with underlying conditions that make them more at risk for severe outcomes. And they chose to take the vaccine, there have been no adverse safety signals, or no safety concerns in the thousands of women who've taken the vaccine (INAUDIBLE) and now there's growing evidence that they also mount a strong immune response that protects them. And in fact, the antibodies that are produced seem to cross the placental barrier and also are excluded in breast milk and so may protect the newborn.

So, if I were pregnant right now, I would talk about it, of course, with my physician, but I probably would choose to take the vaccine.

COOPER: If you were actually pregnant, you would take the vaccine?

WEN: I would, yes.

COOPER: Sanjay, along those same lines, researchers at Duke University have begun trials of Pfizer's vaccine in children between the ages of five and 11. Can you just talk about how that works? But how do researchers determine the correct dose to give to kids? Is there any chance children may be able to be vaccinated by the start of the school year in the fall?

GUPTA: Yes, well, I think when it you know, keep in mind, the Pfizer vaccine is a is authorized for those 16 and older. So there's some students, you know, that my -- I have a 15 year old daughter who turns 16 in June, so we're having this conversation regularly. But so, it's already authorized for some high school students. I think for younger high school students, there's a good chance you'll have an authorized vaccine by the beginning of the school year. Those are, you know, people between the ages of 12 to 15.

For younger people, this is interesting, they are doing these dose trials, they try different doses, they start at 10 micrograms, they go to 20, they go to 30. They go to doses that are more like adults, and they see two things, you know, is it safe? That's primarily what they're testing. But also, is it effective in the sense that it's generating enough of these neutralizing antibodies, a term that a lot of people are familiar with now.

So, that those trials are starting now. And I think that if you sort of look at how these -- how long these trials take, you know, possibly by the end of -- I'm sorry about the beginning of next year, there could be an authorized vaccine for people even younger than 12 years old.


COOPER: And Dr. Wen, in Michigan the Department of Health and Human Services reported 65 new COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, 165 ongoing outbreaks, some schools reverting to remote learning. What does that tell us?

WEN: Well, it tells us that when we have a more contagious variant, that all bets are off, because it means that the activities that we thought were pretty low risk are now going to be higher risk. And so, I am very concerned about what this means for schools, especially as we are reducing the distance requirement in our schools. I'm not saying that schools should close but rather that we may need to be putting in additional layers of protection, especially with these more contagious variants. And I think that really increases our impetus for getting as many vaccines into arms as possible, including in teachers, but also in parents and everybody in the community.

Actually, Michigan Hospital Association just released data saying that they have something like a 600% increase in the hospitalizations of people in their 30s, and 800% increase in hospitalizations of people in their 40s. And so, it really is a serious problem there. And I worry about what that may look like with the rest of the country.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, Sanjay, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up details what President Biden discussed recently with author Michael Eric Dyson, and some of his colleagues, writers and historians about his presidency, whether this early stage compares to some of the presidencies of the past.



COOPER: President Biden is the oldest man to assume the presidency at 78. He's also spent more than four decades in Washington politics, including aide as vice president. During his news conference day, he briefly referenced some of his predecessors and he reminded reporters that when it came to gun control efforts along with his other priorities, and matters, not only how you do it, but when.


BIDEN: It's a matter of timing. As you've all observed, successful presidents better than me and been successful in large part because they know how to time (INAUDIBLE) order it, to assign priorities when needs to be done.


COOPER: Perspective now from author Michael Eric Dyson, who is among a group of writers and historians who had a chance recently to sit down with the President for wide ranging discussion not only about the past, but about belief systems. He's the author of Long Time Coming Reckoning With Race In America.

Professor Dyson, Michael, good to see you. You were there for the meeting of presidential stories at the White House. I understood what President Biden had questions for, really, for everyone in the room. And I'm wondering just what you and the President and others talked about?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Yes, well, it was a remarkable conversation. And thanks for having me, Brother Anderson. It was a remarkable conversation. This is a president who was deeply curious and profoundly reflective on predecessors, people who came before him a history and tradition. You saw it when he was in the Senate, his respect for that valuable and venerable institution, and also his appreciation for the fact that he's in this job as the oldest occupant in that office. And yet he has a desire to get it right. What did other presidents do before him, what did other figures who occupied that office in a time of crisis do?

And so, it was remarkable, to see up close again, and I've known him for quite a few years. But to see that hunger, that desire to know, despite the fact that he was 78 years old, he invited us there to engage him to think about things. And after each presentation Anderson, unexpected by me, I must confess, he gave a kind of preparation, he gave a kind of extended analysis. It was like being at a graduate seminar, where he was weighing in on the issues. He wasn't a passive bystander. He didn't see as a spectator consume the knowledge. He was soaking it up. He took notes of the wisdom, but he also, you know, reflected on what he knew.

And I can guarantee you on every subject, on every person, on every theme, on every historical epic, he was quite prepared. And in an improvisational of factor, in an improvisational fashion, he was able to engage us talk to us, reflect on these ideas, and really put forth some of his own thinking about these issues. It was quite remarkable.

COOPER: Did you get a sense of -- I mean are there presidents he thinks about a lot more than others? I mean, I, you know, I'm assuming kind of FDR. You know, there's people who have compared a potential given the, you know, the economic situation we're facing, obviously, FDR facing and FDRs new deal than to Johnson with his Great Society programs.

DYSON: Right. Well, yes, no question. I think that obviously, FDR, you would think of Lincoln, because this President is facing a racial conundrum, a racial catastrophe. The likes of which we haven't seen in this nation since the 1960s. And then when you harken back to a person like a president like LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson, facing down the southern big autocracy that prevailed, and his ability to really collar those senators, and enforce their hands, so to speak, to do something different, but he's got a long view of history.

The hallowed Hall of Presidents who have occupied that space, the ghosts of those presidential eras (ph) seem to ring him in a quite intimate fashion and being the oldest occupant of that office, excuse me, gives him a sense, I think, have a duty and a commitment to really get it right as the sagacity and the wisdom of those ages ganging up on him in a powerful way.

And I'll tell you what, for people who are worried about him being the oldest president ever to occupy that place, he's got stamina man, because, you know, several times during the meeting he was being handed no, hey dinner's waiting, families waiting should they go on? He didn't, you know, flinch, he was able to go on for another good hour thinking, talking, reflecting. And genuinely people were taken by the fact that it was a kind of genuine curiosity.


Other presidents have invited me and others and they really want you to be their messenger boys or girls to put it quite bluntly, or they want to communicate a message to you to help them amplify. This president was interested in the intrinsic value and in the inherent lessons that could be derived from comparative analysis between this time in an earlier time.

COOPER: Axios reported that the President's mindset of the meeting was that he wanted to go bigger and faster than anyone expected when it comes to accomplishing his goals. I don't know if you can say but I mean, did you get that sense from him? In terms the questions, he was asking the feedback he was getting from the group?

DYSON: Yes, I mean, obviously, he was asking for asking very penetrating questions. He was also, you know, it was a beautiful thing to see a guy go big, and go fast, because he learned a lesson from his former boss, President Obama. You try to negotiate with the other side, you try to reach across the aisle, they keep like alligators tearing your arms off, and you get nothing at the end. What he is understood, quite presciently and quite insightful he is, I'll go there if you want to go there. But if you don't, I'm going to go the world alone.

And he understood from president's past that you can do this if you have the will of the people and the bully pulpit to establish your moral authority in a perfect sense to get your public policy passed. And I think that's what he's about.

COOPER: Yes, interesting. Professor Michael Eric Dyson, great to see you. Thank you.

DYSON: Always good to see you.

COOPER: It's a busy night. Stay with us. For more on that new legislation just signed into law in Georgia that aims to restrict voting and the future changes as we said at the beginning of the program based on a lie. A lot more on President Biden's first news conference.

Plus, breaking news, at least five people are dead after tornadoes touching down in Alabama. A report on that and more, when we continue.