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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Week Two Of Derek Chauvin's Murder Trial, LAPD Expert Says Force Was Excessive; NY Times: Rep. Gaetz Asked White House For Blanket Pre-Emptive Pardons For Himself And Unidentified Congressional Allies; McConnell: Corporations Are "Stupid" To Criticize Georgia Election Law; Trump Criticizes McConnell Over Lack Of Corporate Boycott; Pres. Biden Directs States To Make Every American Adult Eligible For COVID Vaccine By April 19. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 6, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But you know, I'll mention that protest outside the Navalny -- the Penal Colony, a couple of hours drive from Moscow. Eventually that was broken up and the police moved through to clear the area outside the gates and they detained the woman you heard from in that report, Anastasia Vasilyeva, she was spearheading that doctors' protests, demanding access to Navalny.

But also, I was picked up. My cameraman was picked up, a couple of other journalists were put on the police van and driven off to the police station.

We then had our documents checked and we were processed, then we were set free and allowed to continue with our work.

But it just underlines how little patience the authorities have these days when it comes to protests about Alexei Navalny's conditions, and indeed about coverage of those protests as well -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Amazing. All right, Matthew, thank you so much for that fantastic report. And we're glad you're back with us.

Thanks to all of you for watching. Anderson starts now.

[20:00:57]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Ahead tonight, a revealing and sometimes surprising look at how the Derek Chauvin trial is being seen by people watching it. Cup Foods, that's the corner store outside where George Floyd died with Chauvin's knee on his neck.

First, the trial itself. More expert testimony on the use of that knee today and though there were inconsistencies at times, the overall thrust appeared damaging to the defense.

Some of it even came out under cross examination with Chauvin's own instructor telling defense counsel quote, "We tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible." Details now from CNN's Josh Campbell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One by one, veteran members of the Minneapolis Police Department took the stand. Each part of the department's training force.

Today's testimony added to the chorus of police department witnesses, including the Chief who have said Derek Chauvin's use of a knee on George Floyd's neck was not part of their training.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: Would it be appropriate and within training to hold a subject in that prone restrained position with a knee on the neck and a knee on the back for an extended period of time after the subject has stopped offering any resistance?

LT. JOHNNY MERCIL, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE USE-OF-FORCE INSTRUCTOR: No, sir.

SCHLEICHER: Or has lost their pulse?

MERCIL: No, sir.

NICOLE MACKENZIE, MEDICAL SUPPORT COORDINATOR, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: If you don't have a pulse on a person, you'll immediately start CPR.

CAMPBELL (voice over): But the defense pushed back with this image.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a specific kind of photograph that demonstrates the placement of a knee as it applies to prone handcuffing. Correct?

MERCIL: Correct.

CAMPBELL (voice over): While the witnesses emphasized a focus on minimal force and prompt medical care --

SCHLEICHER: How soon should the person be put into the side recovery position?

MERCIL: I would say sooner, the better.

CAMPBELL (voice over): The defense asserted, rules can be fluid.

NELSON: There is no strict application of every single rule, agreed? Or every single technique.

MERCIL: That is correct.

NELSON: Have you had people say "I can't breathe"?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

CAMPBELL (voice over): At times, the witnesses contradicted each other.

NELSON: Have you ever been trained or trained others to say that if a person can talk, they can breathe?

MERCIL: It's been said, yes.

SCHLEICHER: Do you train officers that if a person can talk, it means that they can breathe?

MACKENZIE: No, sir. Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately.

VOICE OF GEORGE FLOYD, VICTIM: I can't breathe.

CAMPBELL (voice over): And in a trial defined by numerous graphic videos of George Floyd's final moments --

NELSON: You would describe sometimes that the public doesn't understand that police actions can look really bad.

KER YANG, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CRISIS INTERVENTION COORDINATOR: That's right, I'd say yes.

NELSON: And -- and -- but they still may be lawful, even if they look bad, right?

YANG: Yes, sir.

AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Here we are now in the shadows of a courthouse, praying for justice.

CAMPBELL (voice over): During the trial's lunchbreak, George Floyd's family joined the Reverend Al Sharpton outside the courthouse.

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: After we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we will be able to breathe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Josh Campbell joins us now. Josh, you showed some of the conflicting testimony. What was the sense of how today went for the defense?

CAMPBELL: Well, we've heard over a week of damning testimony against Derek Chauvin mainly from his fellow officers. But today was arguably the best day yet for the defense. They were able to elicit some potentially advantageous information from the prosecution's witness.

For example, you have one officer admitting that there have been instances where a suspect would say they were in medical distress so that they couldn't breathe and that later turned out not to be the case.

Of course, we're all aware, Anderson, of that gut wrenching video of Chauvin on George Floyd. But of course, in the U.S. criminal justice system, all the defense has to do is raised out in the mind of one juror in order to threaten the prosecution's case -- Anderson.

COOPER: Josh Campbell, appreciate it. Thanks. Joining us now, Jeffrey Storms, an attorney for the Floyd family.

Mr. Storms, I appreciate you joining us. I'm wondering what stood out to you from the testimony you heard today.

JEFFREY STORMS, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: You know, Anderson, from the lead-in, you know, a lot of people are talking about whether or not the defense have scored some points today. And sure, we heard testimony that sometimes there are unruly crowds. Sometimes there might be a need to put on someone's neck or need to put a knee on someone's neck.

However, what's critical to keep in mind, this is not the hypothetical murder trial of George Floyd. This is the actual murder trial, and every person who has testified in this case has testified that what Derek Chauvin did was wrong, and in actuality, had no place in policing.

[20:05:34]

COOPER: The -- clearly the defense, which we saw yesterday was also, when they talked to the physician who attended to Mr. Floyd in the ER, they tried to bring up other possible causes for his death or for asphyxia. They talked about drug use.

They are clearly trying to just raise some form of doubt about -- that it is absolutely clear what killed him, that it's absolutely clear what occurred.

STORMS: Well, absolutely. They're trying to misdirect the jury every which way they possibly can with red herring and hypothetical after hypothetical.

But the prosecution will have to really focus in on what was actually found here. You know, the ER doctor saying that his leading theory was asphyxia. That the individuals who observed what was happening to George Floyd was consistent with asphyxiation and not this red herring of a drug overdose.

COOPER: The defense today showed a picture of Derek Chauvin's knee on George Floyd's neck claiming that it showed he had followed protocol when trying to arrest him. That doesn't seem to follow with, as you said, what the testimony of many of the actual people who teach this said?

STORMS: Yes, absolutely. What the defense wants to do here is point to some split moment in time and say, wasn't it okay that Derek Chauvin did this based upon training? And even if you listen to Lieutenant Mercil who says, for a transitional period of time, maybe you can put a knee on a subject's neck. That is not consistent with holding your knee on that subject's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds long after they've ceased breathing.

COOPER: Jeffrey Storms, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

STORMS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Joining us now, CNN legal analyst, former Federal prosecutor Laura Coates, also criminal defense attorney, Jose Baez, and CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsay, former top cop in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

So Laura, we heard that at times conflicting testimony from police officers in Josh Campbell's report just a few minutes ago. Should prosecutors feel confident or concerned tonight?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They should feel confident. I mean, it's undoubtedly the truth that of course, at times the defense is going to be able to land a punch or two, but the question for the jury is can it actually deal a requisite blow?

I don't think they've dealt the blow they need too right now because, of course, it's undisputed that of course, an officer can use reasonable force to subdue or restrain a noncompliant suspect. That, of course, is the truth.

The question is whether they crossed a line, whether Derek Chauvin crossed a line away from the reasonable use of force to excessive force onward to criminal assault.

And again, after there is no longer any even conceivable perceived threat, if you maintain the use and application of deadly force against the training, against what the imploring pleas have been from the bystanders against even a question from one of your own men on the scenes.

If you do that in a way that defies logic, training, commonsense and humanity, the fact that you could have at one point use reasonable force does not essentially immunize liability for the duration of that nine minute and 29 seconds.

So, so far, they may be able to say, hey, you can use some type of restraint. But could you keep doing it? Could you have kept sort of Tasing somebody if they were already on the ground? Could you have kept applying deadly force? They haven't been able to answer that question.

COOPER: Jose, what have you heard from the prosecution's case? What do you make of their case thus far?

JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think they're putting together a pretty strong case. So the question is, are they invoking enough emotion to carry the day? I think this is a highly emotional case. It's going to be won and lost on emotion; even for the prosecution, they can carry this in that way, as can the defense but I certainly just don't see it that way right now.

COOPER: Chief Ramsey, you know, we continue to hear from police officials and experts who say that what this officer, Derek Chauvin did was excessive force.

Again, the defense has been able to get some concessions from prosecution witnesses, whether it's, you know, the level of distraction posed by onlookers or other people saying "I can't breathe," the amount of time a neck restraint takes to render someone unconscious.

Would you be surprised if the jury wasn't entirely clear on some of this?

[20:10:10]

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I wouldn't be surprised. I think they did a pretty decent job of, you know, muddying the waters, if you will, on a couple of issues.

I go back to that one photograph of the handcuffing technique with the officer showing his knee on the neck, but they overlook one important point. And that is Derek -- I mean Floyd -- George Floyd was already handcuffed and he was handcuffed before he even came in contact with Chauvin.

And so you know, the defense constantly raises these things, but it doesn't fit what took place in this case, and that's really what's important.

So, you know, it goes back and forth. I thought probably the most effective thing that -- in favor of the defense that I saw today was that photograph they showed of heroin, and then fentanyl. And it was just a few grains of fentanyl saying that that's a lethal dose.

I think that's something that -- I'm a very visual person, that when you start arguing about whether or not drugs were the reason for the -- for Mr. Floyd to pass away. You know, I mean, that's an argument there. But what they left out is the fact that people build tolerance for drugs over time. And so what would kill me may not kill you if you're a regular drug user.

So the prosecution doesn't have this all wrapped up. They've got -- they have still got a lot of work to do.

COOPER: Jose, what do you make of the question by the defense so far?

BAEZ: You know, I hear and I see points being scored, but you don't win the case on scoring a few points they are giving at the old college try. You really have to carry the day. You have to carry it consistently throughout a case if you want to win a high stakes criminal trial. Especially when it's complex as this, you definitely don't -- you need to have a -- you have to have consistent themes, and you have to be able to carry the entire day, not just go score a point here or there with a photograph, a good cross on perhaps one witness.

It really is a difficult -- a difficult thing to do to win a criminal trial. Everyone always says, all you have to do is create reasonable doubt. Well, that's really not that simple as people say it is.

Otherwise, prosecutors would lose 90 percent of the time as opposed to win 90 percent of the time. COOPER: It's interesting, you talk about creating themes and

consistent themes. From a defense standpoint in this trial, would a consistent theme then be, it was drugs that, you know, were a factor or the factor in in Mr. Floyd's death?

And, you know, other questions about, you know, the crowd involvement. I mean, are those the kind of themes you're talking about?

BAEZ: I think when you talk about themes in relation to this case, you have to look at it in the context of, yes, there's this, but you would want to point out how he wasn't following lawful orders, whether they were by his choice or his inability to do so, that's the arguable point here.

But the reality is, you need to be able to show -- listen, this officer was doing everything consistent with his training. It's just that this specific individual was not cooperating, therefore, put himself in a position of danger and peril, therefore, that's where we are in the gray area.

Now, as it relates to the police and the procedures and prosecution, they're all going to fall in line because of the political hot potato that we're all sitting in and the reality is, everyone is fully aware of all of the protests of the issues that are going on, and there is no way in the world that the Minnesota Police Department is not going to fall in line with the prosecutors in his case and that's something that you need to hear from the defense that this is perhaps -- they're all consistent and in sync because they have to be and that has to -- that drum has to be beaten over and over and over again so that it's in the very front of everyone's minds as these jurors are deliberating the stakes.

COOPER: Laura, I saw you shaking your head.

COATES: Well, I'm shaking my head because I understand my colleague's notion about what they have to say in the defense. But let's not mistake that these officers are all of these multiple law enforcement witnesses who are simply falling in line because they must cave to the pressure of a sociopolitical agenda.

What I'm hearing is very objective relaying of details surrounding the training that has been universally taught and should be universally applied.

Now I know that there is room to be nimble and we expect our police officers to be able to adapt, particularly for things that training cannot contemplate, but this is not the Men in Black here where you have an alien life force that presents a new novel approach to what you have to do to use force.

You're talking about every single aspect having been contemplated and dealt with, somebody in the prone position, somebody handcuffed, somebody suspected of being under the influence, somebody who is no longer conscious.

[20:15:11] COATES: And so when it comes down to me, where we're thinking about

from the prosecutor's angle to two questions. What did they know? And what duty did they owe? Well, what did they know at the time? They knew, because they on notice that he was not breathing, did not have a pulse. And they knew that they owed him a duty of care, even if they suspected drug use.

They withheld the duty of care. They did not provide the aid that is necessary.

And go back to that opening statement from Mr. Blackwell, somebody in your custody is owed a duty of care. They had no idea from toxicology reports that are only thought of and created after the fact, autopsy reports after the fact. What they knew in the moment is that somebody was under obvious physical duress, likely because of the activity of one of their officers.

And what they chose to do based on that knowledge was not to perform a duty of care. And so that's going to be top of mind for the jurors, not at all the notions of whether the Minneapolis Police Department is suddenly conspiring together to concoct some tale to get "atta' boys" from the people of Minneapolis in Hennepin County.

And remember, final point, in the voir dire selection, they were asked a lot of questions about their thoughts on justice and the police and Black Lives Matter and interactions with police officers in the community. And so we already know clearly about these jurors what we anticipate their ability to be impartial based on how those things are.

They're going to think about the psychology of all those things. But a discussion to fall in line, I'm not buying that.

COOPER: We are going to leave it there -- oh.

BAEZ: I am not saying that that's exactly that that's exactly what is occurring here. I am saying that that's specifically what needs to be done to be able to win this case.

I don't see it being done --

COATES: I understand.

BAEZ: But certainly, both things happen in trials and everyday across the country. And you have to be able to show it as a defense lawyer and to put up a defense so that people can see that this is a human system and this can be operated by humans, which are completely imperfect -- imperfect, excuse me.

COOPER: Jose Baez, Laura Coates, thank you. Charles Ramsey, as well. Thank you.

Coming up next. This is all being seen on the corner where George Floyd died, what people at Cup Foods are feeling and seeing as they gather to watch the trial in the store every day. And later, breaking news on Congressman Matt Gaetz. Now, new reporting

that will not do anything to lift the cloud of allegations he is under. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:35]

COOPER: Now, we've seen nearly every angle on the corner George Floyd died on. We've watched in bystander video and body cam video, security footage from inside the store at 38th in what's now George Perry Floyd Jr. Place.

What none of us has been able to do until now is see the trial through the eyes in the hearts of those who frequent that corner, who visit that store and are watching the Chauvin trial there. CNN's Sara Sidner tonight reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A few are watching the trial more closely than the folks in the neighborhood where George Floyd took his last breaths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody that comes in takes a look at the trial.

SIDNER (voice over): Inside Cup Foods, the place where Floyd allegedly paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20.00 bill, every day the television is set to the trial of the former officer accused of killing him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the training that you received.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the training that --

TRACIE COWERS, MINNEAPOLIS RESIDENT: It is sad. It's so sad and it's really sad to watch it in the raw.

SIDNER (voice over): Minneapolis resident, Tracie Cowers came in for her breakfast with her dog, Ador. Cowers reveals what everyone around here already knows. The strongest of emotions are just under the surface here.

One scratch, this time in the form of a question and sorrow flows out.

SIDNER (on camera): How hard is it to watch this trial?

COWERS: It is mind boggling how somebody is here to serve and protect, and they are the very ones who harm you. Not all, but some.

SIDNER (voice over): She says she can't look away even though it hurts to watch.

The store owner say they have received both love and hate, especially after their former cashier testified he was the one who took the alleged fake bill from Floyd. CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, WITNESS: The policy was that if you took a

counterfeit bill, you'd have to pay for it out of your money, or your paycheck.

SIDNER (voice over): Christopher Martin, a teenager, tried rectifying it with Floyd. That didn't work and police were called.

Martin now regrets that.

MARTIN: If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.

SIDNER (voice over): The store owner, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh says the store has received dozens of fake bills over time.

MAHMOUD ABUMAYYALEH, OWNER CUP FOODS, MINNEAPOLIS: When employees do take counterfeit bills, part of our training is we tell them that they're going to be responsible to pay for it, just as a deterrent. We've never made an employee pay for a counterfeit bill.

SIDNER (voice over): The store has also received threats. But most people are sending support via stacks of mail for Christopher Martin, and phone calls from all over the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via phone): I just thought I would make a call to you, to see if there was something we could do.

SIDNER (voice over): We happened to be there during one of those calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His mother has obviously done a wonderful job in raising him and this is what we need to do in society.

SIDNER (on camera): Outside the Cup Foods store, there is not just a memorial to George Floyd anymore, it's more of a community center. There is community gatherings that happen at the former gas station and there's a community garden that all of the people help plant and take care of.

SIDNER (voice over): On any given day, Jay Webb, a former professional basketball player is in the square planting hope and beauty.

Feet away Floyd took his last breaths last year. Then in March this year, another man's body lay dying outside the store. He was shot and killed by a resident.

Neighbors, business owners and activists are battling back violence and arguing over the barriers that have closed off the streets to traffic to the Square for nearly a year now.

But there is still love and light being shared here.

JAY WEBB, "THE GARDENER", OF GEORGE FLOYD SQUARE: This is our response. Do your worst, and we'll do our best. This is his. This is his -- every direction, peace and love.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sara Sidner joins us now. Sara, have people talked to you about how they will react if they don't agree with the verdict?

[20:25:36]

SIDNER: Yes, and I'm not sure any of us want to see some of the things that have been said to me. There are many people who are terrified about what's going to happen in their neighborhoods with the kind of destruction that they're worried about, and there are people that are telling me in no uncertain terms that in their view, from what they saw, from their vantage points, looking at that bystander video, looking at what's happening in the trial, looking at and listening to the officers that have testified so far.

They are telling me that if indeed Derek Chauvin is not convicted in some way, in this case that this place is going to -- and I'll use their term -- blow -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sara Sidner, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Coming up, breaking news, new reporting on Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz in his pursuit of a pardon. One of "The New York Times" correspondents who broke the story joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:07]

COOPER: There's breaking news report involving the federal probe of Congressman Matt Gaetz. The New York Times has a new report on Gaetz's efforts to head off that investigation, the final days of the previous administration.

New Times' Maggie Haberman shares byline in the store joins us now by phone. So, what have you learned about the attempt to get a pardon?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, Anderson, the way it's been described to us by multiple people who are familiar with what took place is that Gaetz did two things. Publicly on Fox News, and I think he tweeted it. He said that the former president should pardon literally everybody. I think he mentioned the thanksgiving turkey, talks about Joe exotic, you know that because in his words, the quote unquote, liberal crowd was going to come after allies to the president.

There was also a private conversation that he had with White House officials about a blanket pardon that he wanted one for himself. He was suggesting one for allies. It is in Congress, we're not sure specifically who. White House officials thought it was bizarre and knocked it down pretty quickly.

Now remember, this was not -- what we're told is that White House officials did not know specifics about what Gaetz was under investigation for at that point. We don't know how much Gaetz knew. But we do know that at that point, it was clear that his friend, this tax collector in Florida, himself was under investigation related to issues regarding young girls or young women.

So, all of this paints this picture of somebody who sought a blanket pardon, ostensibly because he thought he'd be targeted because of the former president, but now allies of the former president are looking back on it and questioning whether this was an effort to protect himself because he knew what was going on.

COOPER: So --

HABERMAN: So he has I should just note denied wrongdoing.

COOPER: So, you're not -- you don't know if he for sure knew that there was this investigation, but he was aware, according to your reporting, that this person he was linked to the tax collector was under some form of investigation.

HABERMAN: Correct.

COOPER: And the -- and so the White House, they didn't take this seriously at the time.

HABERMAN: The officials in the White House who learned it, thought it was it was very strange. They were perplexed by it. They didn't want to go ahead with it. They thought among other things that would set a bad precedent, and it died fairly quickly.

Now, President Trump -- then President Trump was aware of this request, it's not clear whether he had a specific conversation with Gaetz directly. But it was not something that the former president pushed for Gaetz either as far as we know.

COOPER: And what is Gaetz's office say to all this?

HABERMAN: Gaetz's office has acknowledged that he talked publicly about receiving a pardon, they have maintained that, you know, he was not doing so because he wasn't under investigation for this, this latest issue. And, you know, we will learn more as we go. But at minimum it is of note that he was seeking this blanket pardon at a time when an associated of his was in legal trouble.

COOPER: Yes, Maggie Haberman is fascinating reporting. Thank you.

There's more --

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: -- reporting now on how Gaetz is trying to save his political career. We're joined by senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid.

So, in the midst of all the controversy, Congressman Gaetz is actually fundraising of the possible federal charges, right?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. In an e-mail today, he accuses the media of publishing lies and dragging his dating life into their political attacks. He then asks for money to help him fight back. And despite the federal sex crimes investigation and the separate

allegations, he shared pictures of nude women with other lawmakers while on the floor of the House. We're also learning that Gaetz is scheduled to speak at an event put on by women for America First at a Trump resort in Florida on Friday.

COOPER: So, this is associated with Congressman Gaetz, former county official in Central Florida named Joel Greenberg, who is facing charges including sex trafficking of a minor. He's pleaded not guilty. He'll be in court on Thursday. Do we know anything about how that might impact Gaetz?

REID: He's so central to all of this because Greenberg is Gaetz's longtime friend and political ally. The investigation into Gaetz is actually part of a larger inquiry into sex trafficking that resulted in Greenberg being indicted. And Greenberg is the former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida.

He was arrested last summer and charged with a litany of crimes including I.D. theft, sex trafficking, and the federal investigation is currently looking at whether Greenberg and Gaetz sought out women online and then exchange gifts or money for sex.

Greenberg and Gaetz were also recorded by security cameras several years ago, entering the tax collector's office and rifling through some confiscated driver's licenses. Now Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and Greenberg has so far pleaded not guilty, but on Thursday Greenberg's case is back in court for a hearing on new charges. Alleging that he embezzled more than $400,000 and then use the money to buy cryptocurrency and sports memorabilia.

[20:35:12]

Greenberg doesn't have to be in court on Thursday. But the charges against him Anderson they're adding up and there is now increasing pressure on him to flip on Gaetz. And that is one of the big things we're going to be watching for, as we cover that case from Orlando for the rest of the week.

COOPER: All right, appreciate it. Paula Reid, thanks.

Perspective on all this now, from former U.S. attorney and CNN senior legal analyst, Preet Bharara.

So, Preet, I want to get your reaction to what we learned from Maggie Haberman, first of all, does it change anything for you? The idea of him sinking blanket pardon?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's another crazy story. I mean, we were up late, on the last day of Trump's presidency, trying to see who we might pardon. And we were thinking about people that he might preemptively pardon, including his family members, including himself and didn't know that this was something that was maybe on the table.

But what I think is, is really a dangerous sign for Matt Gaetz, a couple of things. One is, as the reporting just suggested, you have this individual Mr. Greenberg in Florida, who as the charges keep mounting against him. And he's facing more and more jail time as additional accounts are brought to bear against him.

The easiest way for him to avoid jail time, as we've seen in other cases, as well, is for him to flip. And who to flip on who better to flip on the federal prosecutors in a sitting member of Congress. So, that's bad, because all the incentives are in favor of him cooperating.

There's perhaps audio recordings, we know that there's surveillance footage, he can fill in the gaps, and connect the dots with respect to bad behavior on the part of Matt Gaetz that has been reported, but not yet proven.

And the second thing I would say is, a lot of this reporting suggests that to the extent there was some interest on the part of people who knew Matt Gaetz and his bad conduct alleged bad conduct, were in a position to remain silent, they're no longer remaining silent. Like, it's not a coincidence, that all these stories are leaking out about Matt Gaetz showing pictures of nude women, and videos of nude women on the floor of the House.

And then he might have sought this pardon. It seems like the floodgates have opened with respect to a lot of third party witnesses who might have direct evidence of bad conduct and maybe even illegal conduct on the part of Matt Gaetz, not a good sign for him.

COOPER: Does the new reporting for the Times -- I mean, does it only further highlight why it's a priority for the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute crimes by members of Congress? I mean, it's not necessarily political. But these are people who have sworn to uphold the Constitution and they have access presidents who are able to grant pardons?

BHARARA: You look, I think that there's, there's two sides to that, there is always an incredibly important priority on prosecuting people who have taken an oath to protect the public and to serve the public people in high office. There's also a need to be very careful and thorough and cautious, because duly elected people deserve their day in court like everyone else in a presumption of innocence, like everyone else.

So you, at the same time, want to make sure that corrupt politicians are held to account, but also because they occupy a particularly special place in the government having been elected, you want to make sure that you cross every T and dot every I.

COOPER: Going back to the Greenberg hearing on Thursday, is there something you're going to be particularly looking at? I mean, if, you know, if he was to make some sort of a deal, would that be revealed in court on Thursday?

BHARARA: It's possible, a trial date has been said it's not too far off, as I understand it. And so, what sometimes will happen with somebody in his procedural posture, the prosecutors could signal that they need more time, they could signal that there's a plea in the offing, because you'd have to plead guilty before you're signed up as a cooperator.

So, any shift in what's about to happen in the coming weeks and months with respect to Mr. Greenberg's case, could be a sign that he is being, you know, very seriously considered and maybe even being signed up as a cooperator, which I'll say for the second time, is would be very, very bad news for Matt Gaetz.

COOPER: Also, I mean, if this was done, if Mr. Greenberg, or whomever was finding people online and making arrangements with them through websites and the like, and then there were payments being made, you know, through, you know, online payment systems or whatever, that's a pretty easy trail to follow.

BHARARA: Yes, all the report again. Emphasizes reporting, and they're great scoops from Maggie Haberman and her colleagues and others. It looks like a Matt Gaetz is not the most careful human ever to have lived in America or to have served in Congress.

He looks like he's left a trail. There's already the surveillance footage that was referenced before with respect to looking at those confiscated IDs at an office in Florida.

He probably has telephonic communications, he probably has telephone calls. He probably has toll records that can corroborate what a cooperating witness might say, with respect to meetings and illicit activities, sexual or otherwise by Matt Gaetz.

[20:40:01]

So, you know, to the extent they can get a live witness to say these are the things that happened and these are the things I did with Matt Gaetz and then you have corroborating electronic evidence to support that. I'll say for the third time, it's very bad for Matt Gaetz.

COOPER: Yes. Well, we shall see. Preet Bharara, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

BHARARA: Thanks.

COOPER: The Republican rhetoric ramped up even more today against companies who are criticizing those new Georgia voting laws that Democrats say will limit voting rights. Were both GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and the former president both had to say that, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell ramped up his criticism for a second straight day today at businesses for taking positions against that new Georgia voting law, which Democrats say will restrict voting rights in the state. He again assailed Major League Baseball for removing its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest to the law and move he said was, quote, irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans. He also made a reference to both Delta Airlines and Coca Cola both headquartered in Atlanta, which have also opposed the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) MAJORITY LEADER: Republicans buy stock and fly on planes and drink Coca Cola, too. So, what I'm saying here is I think this is quite stupid to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue particularly when they got their facts wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:45:03]

COOPER: Now keeping them honest McConnell hasn't always felt that way. Back in 2012, in the speech, the American Enterprise Institute, he said that all corporations quote, should be free to express themselves on the issues of the day. Again, quoting, I mean, who's afraid here, let's all have a conversation he said about the future of the country.

Meanwhile, the former president has weighed in as well. In a statement over the weekend, he called for a boycott of Delta and Coke among others. But in a phone interview today with conservative Cable News Network, Newsmax he directed some fire at McConnell, who of course, harshly criticized him for his role in the January 6 riots.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: And, frankly every Republican conservatives ever got their act together, which they should. We had some real leadership instead of Mitch McConnell and the group. If we had some real leadership, what you'd be doing is something much different.

They'd be boycotting these companies and those companies would be coming. That's what the liberals do. They boycott anybody that speaks out, they boycott them, they cancel them, and they boycott them. We have more people that they do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: Lots store through. Joining me now, our Abby Phillip, CNN senior political correspondent anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS" Sunday. And Paul Begala, veteran Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator.

So Abby, what does it say that this issue, the Georgia voting law is what push Republican leadership to properly attack corporate American because they're obviously traditionally been GOP allies?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does seem to be kind of like a canary in the coal mine, if you're a Republican. For so long, corporations were willing to speak out about issues like taxes and regulations. But now that they're talking about issues that are related to democracy, it's a huge problem on the Republican side.

I think there's some real questions, though, about the truth of what Mitch McConnell had to say, he said that they're, you know, and former President Trump as well suggesting that there are more, you know, Republicans who would boycott these companies and people on the other side. I think if that were the case, I mean, these companies would be doing what's right for their bottom line.

And so, it seems to indicate that perhaps the numbers are not in their favor. And there's some real concern here, which is why they're pushing back and pushing back hard.

COOPER: Paul, President Biden weighed in on this as well, today. I just want to play this for our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: It is reassuring to see that for profit operations and businesses are speaking up about how these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We should point out that that was not an off the cuff comment the President deliberately chose to again label these measures as new Jim Crow laws.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And well, I think he's got a very good argument. And he also has a very loyal following, Abby's exactly right. Corporations care about the bottom line, OK. There are over 3,000 counties in America, Donald Trump carry 2,562 of them, vast majority of counties, Joe Biden only carried 509 counties, but those 509 Biden counties account for 71 percent of the entire American economy.

So, these companies know what they're doing. And they are following their bottom line. They're following their consumers. The notion that Mitch McConnell somehow now were Donald Trump for that matter is anti- corporate. It's kind of hilarious.

Opensecrets.org says McConnell himself in his affiliated PACs took $4.3 million in corporate money in the last five years. So he should give the money back. If he's going to boycott, why doesn't he boycott their money and give it back?

COOPER: Well, Abby, I mean, to that point, McConnell made clear he wants the money and says, of course, they should give money. But he's long been an advocate for corporations to allegedly have a voice in politics, as we pointed out, you know, saying in 2012, corporations should be free to express themselves. It certainly does seem kind of remarkably hypocritical.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, many of us remember the Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to basically give unlimited money to certain political organizations. That's something that Republicans like Mitch McConnell, fully support to this day. They want Republicans not only -- or they want corporations, not only to give them money, but to use that money as a form of speech.

So, this is about the issue that is at hand here, not so much about whether corporations have a right to actually speak up in the public sphere. But we should also remember as we're talking about this, again, Mitch McConnell is defending bills that are predicated on a fundamental lie, which is that there was fraud in the last election. He was on the Senate floor denouncing that lie, you know, during the impeachment proceedings and after the January 6 riot.

So, there's a real question about whether there's some backsliding going on here, among some Republicans who are willing to denounce the big lie but are also willing now to support these bills that actually are born out of that very same line.

[20:50:05]

COOPER: Well, in fact, Paul, you know, McConnell is now using the term big lie to refer to the portrayal of the Georgia voting law as opposed to what it actually was originally used for, which is the lie of the former presidents about the election.

BEGALA: Yes. And, you know, George Orwell is spinning so fast in his grave right now that you can play a record on him. It's really pathetic. The problem McConnell has is these calls for boycotts from him. At least it's only one day, but both Coca Cola and Delta stock closed up today.

So I looked back in time, the first big boycott I remember Trump calling for it was during the South Carolina primary I think it was, it's February 19th, 2016. He called for all of us to boycott Apple because he didn't like how Apple was handling a terrorism case with one of their phones. On that day, Apple stock closed at 24 bucks a share. Today, it closed at $126 a share.

So I don't think these corporate CEOs have anything to worry about in terms of Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump organizing boycotts against them. They're following where their customers are. And if they've -- McConnell really wants to take on corporate America he should pass the For the People Act, which would cut down on corporate lobbies to get rid of dark money would actually rein in corporate power and politics in a very ethical way and empower people more. So how about Mitch once you come on board with the For the People Act and really take on corporate America?

COOPER: Well, the former president as I recall is also something of a diet coke fan I guess you would say didn't have somebody who actually would just bring him in a diet coke that was that was the person's job. So --

BEGALA: I don't need a diet coke button.

COOPER: Right. I don't think he's going to be -- he may call for a boycott but I don't know that he's going to actually follow it himself.

PHILLIP: He had a diet coke on his desk but he was calling for a Coca Cola boycott.

COOPER: Of course he did. Of course he did. Abby Phillip, thank you. (INAUDIBLE) Paul Begala as well, thanks.

Just ahead, details about President Biden's vaccine announcement this afternoon. Even as virus cases continue to swell. And a new report about the mental and neurological impact those infected with the disease.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:56:13]

COOPER: President Biden announced this afternoon, he's moving up his deadline for every state to make all American adults eligible for COVID vaccine to April 19th, less than two weeks away. Still, he urged Americans remain vigilant, he said the country must remain on what he called a war footing to defeat the virus.

Want to get perspective now from Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, he also advised President Biden's transition team.

Professor, I mean, it couldn't still take months for all adults who want the vaccine to actually receive it, despite President Biden moving up the deadline. What does that mean for the race against the virus that we're in?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CIDRP UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: But we have a real challenge right now. Because even if we were able to get the vaccines that have been promised out, it doesn't mean that we'll have enough to really slow down the virus in any meaningful way. For example, if you look at two states that are leading the country right now, in terms of new cases, both Michigan and Minnesota, we actually have very high levels of vaccinations relative to the rest of the country. And we're still seeing this very rapid increase in cases.

So --

COOPER: Why is that?

OSTERHOLM: -- it's (INAUDIBLE) more. It's just -- it's not enough people are vaccinated, if you look, we still probably have 45 to 50% of our populations throughout much of the United States that haven't been vaccinated, nor have they previously had infection and developed immunity. So we've got a ways to go.

It's great news that these vaccines are coming, I just wish we had another three or four months before this B117 variant surge started to occur.

COOPER: And what percentage of the population would have to be vaccinated in order to actually make a difference?

OSTERHOLM: Well, no one actually knows the real number, but I can tell you, it's going to be very high. This particular virus is highly infectious. As we've now seen from the work done in Europe, it's anywhere from 50 to 100% more infectious than the previous strains of the coronaviruses we've been dealing with. So, this is going to take a lot of people to be immune before we're going to see it slow down its transmission.

COOPER: A new study that was published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry has found that as many as one in three people infected with COVID-19 have longer term mental health or neurological symptoms. I've talked to people, you know, months out from having mild cases, or what they thought were mild cases who have, you know, what they call COVID brain fog? How worried are you about the lasting impacts of this?

OSTERHOLM: I think this is a huge challenge, you know, knowing now call those long COVID are used to be called long haulers. And, you know, we've always known that people who spend a significant amount of time in an intensive care unit on a ventilator most weeks to months, will have ongoing health problems, weeks to months after they get out. But we haven't seen are these mild or ill patients who otherwise, you know, should do well or should recover.

And in some cases, they virtually do recover completely. And then they develop this long term, chronic problem, as you call it, the brain fog, severe challenges in terms of their heart and their lungs. And we don't know much about this at all. And so, this is a real concern. And it's going to be -- I'm afraid one of the legacy issues of this pandemic.

COOPER: There's data today suggesting that after two doses of Moderna's vaccine, immune response could stay robust for at least six months last week, data from Pfizer showed efficacy was still above 90% after at least six months. I know you're an advocate for giving a single dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to more people rather than two doses to fewer people. Do you think people waiting to be vaccinated wouldn't be open to that? And do you still want to think that's a good idea?

OSTERHOLM: I think it's a very critical idea. We are going to see just what's happening in Michigan and Minnesota play out around the country because of the number of people that we have vaccinated those that we don't. Don't forget that every day that the media reports on 3 million more people being vaccinated. Almost half of those are people who are just getting a second dose not a first dose.

[21:00:12]

COOPER: I appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

COOPER: News continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.