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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview with Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY); Vote to Oust Cheney still Expected Wednesday; Wyoming Voters on GOP Split; New Florida Law Restricting Voting Signed Into Law; Lawyer For Accused Capitol Hill Attacker Says Client Had "Foxitus" And "Foxmania"; U.S. COVID-19 Cases Hit A Seven-Month Low; India Reports Highest Ever Daily Surge With 412,262 New COVID Cases And Record Death Toll; Rep. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene Launching Speaking Tour At Florida Retirement Community. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 6, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The so-called zip tie guy, you remember him from these pictures. His lawyers asked a Federal Judge for permission to call his mother on Mother's Day. Munchel is not in jail, but as a condition of his release, he is unable to confer with his Capitol riot co-defendants, one of whom is his mother who is also facing charges connected to the riot.

Thanks for watching. Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, a vote to expel Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the Republican Party leadership won't happen until at least next Wednesday. And yet, today, on the four month anniversary of the Capitol riot fueled by lies about a stolen election that wasn't, the person Republicans are coalescing around as Cheney's replacement was making the rounds, showcasing her fealty to the former President and the lies about that election and the riot itself, which is now apparently required for anyone who wants to survive in this Republican Party.

This is Congresswoman Elise Stefanik on Steve Bannon's radio program, talking about the latest cause de jure for the far right, a hyper partisan so-called the audit, some of them believe could overturn the results of the election in Arizona, a state which went for Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I fully support the audit in Arizona. We want transparency and answers for the American people. What are the Democrats so afraid of?

The voters in Arizona and the State Senate in Arizona pursued this audit, I fully support it. Transparency is a good thing. We need to fix these election security issues going into the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now for the record, this really has nothing to do with election security. There were no widespread security issues, no widespread voter fraud, at least not according to the Republicans, again, Republicans who run the state's largest county where the audit in Arizona is being held and not according to the Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who runs elections and who told us on the program last night that observers of this so-called audit are concerned because, quote, "There's not consistency in how they are putting the counts together," and that they're seeing, quote, "Procedures being changed midstream."

She is not the only one concerned enough to put this in a letter to the auditors either, the Justice Department has issued a warning saying the audit could be in violation of Federal voting and Civil Rights laws. At issue is whether the ballots and other election materials are even safe in the hands of the auditors. That's one of the issues as we reported on the program last night.

One of the people allegedly counting ballots is a guy who was caught on camera standing on the steps of the Capitol during the attack. They are also worried about canvassing efforts checking up on voters to see if they do live where they say, and the potential for voter intimidation.

Now Congresswoman Stefanik, who once worked in the George W. Bush White House may actually believe this is a legitimate audit, or she may simply be currying favor with the former President and his supporters.

Sources tell CNN that some conservative Members of Congress are concerned because Stefanik is not conservative enough. One conservative action group called her a liberal, far less conservative than Liz Cheney, the woman she hopes to replace, but she has been called a star by the former President and she has certainly returned to love.

And as one prominent conservative activist who spoke to CNN anonymously said quote, "That is all the counts these days."

Here she is, again on Steve Bannon show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEFANIK: My vision is to run with support from the President and his coalition of voters. This is also about being one team and I'm committed to being a voice and being a clear -- sending a clear message that we are one team and that means working with the President and working with all of our excellent Republican Members of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: By the way, the President she is referring to is the former President. She talks of him as though he did not lose the election and that is what it takes to rise in the Republican ranks these days, buy into the big lie, to borrow that phrase from an anonymous conservative, that's all the counts these days, buying into the big lie. Perspective now and the message this sends and the Congresswoman

spreading it from someone who has served alongside her, New York Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with this. What signal do you think House Republicans are sending if they oust, you know, Representative Cheney from her leadership post in favor of Representative Stefanik?

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): Thank you for having me, Anderson and the signal is a very clear one, that the Republican Party in this country is completely coopted and owned by Donald Trump. That's it.

I thought that there was maybe going to be some hope in the aftermath of what happened on January 6th with the insurrection where the majority of Republicans as we were hunkering down trying to find safe places to be, were saying, "This is ridiculous. We have to stop this charade."

But they have all gone to and found their way down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and when there were some hopes it may be a Republican Party that used to be the party of George Bush, Ronald Reagan, et cetera or John McCain is now a party of a cult of one and that's Donald Trump.

And look, this should not just concern traditional Republicans who do not like the direction that Kevin McCarthy is taking House Democrats and the Republican Party writ large in. It should affect every single American, because the premise of the Republican Party, as Kevin McCarthy is defining it right now, is based on a lie, right?

[20:05:10]

RICE: That is what it's based on. They don't believe in facts anymore. They just pull even lies and myths and disinformation. And what they're going to do to Liz Cheney, who, by the way, is a colleague of mine, whom I like very much, we don't agree on much. She is a true conservative. It's just outrageous what they're about to do to her next week and it should concern every single American.

COOPER: I mean, I've said this repeatedly, but I do think it's a really important point that our democracy relies on there being, you know, in our case, two parties that battle over ideas, and that you know, disagree and have good arguments and come up with solutions or don't come up with solutions, but it's based on facts and it's based on actual ideas, as opposed to just a cult of personality.

That's something we haven't seen before and that is what the Republican Party now, sadly, is completely buying into.

RICE: Well, you know, what the ironic thing is, too, Anderson, I came into Congress with Elise Stefanik. She is not just my colleague, but she is also a fellow New Yorker.

The Elise Stefanik of 2014, when we both first ran for Congress doesn't even remotely resemble the Elise Stefanik of 2021. COOPER: How so?

RICE: I mean, if you look at her voting record, first of all, and this is not me saying, it is Club for Growth. This is the most conservative organization there is out there who basically branded her a liberal, especially when you compare her voting record to that of Liz Cheney.

She was a moderate Republican when she ran in 2014. She has taken a complete turnaround and complete -- I don't even know, it's kind of an insult to say that she drank the Kool-Aid. I mean, it's so much worse than that.

And the fact that she is, you know, getting this power grab and convincing her colleagues to support her by perpetuating a lie, whether it's the recount in Arizona or all of this other stuff, I mean, it's just unbelievable and it should concern everyone.

Look, Washington is full of people who are just solely ambitious for themselves. I never thought that Elise was like that. She wasn't back in 2014, but that is what she has become and that is basically what the entire Republican Party has become.

COOPER: It's about staying in power. It's about, you know, whatever your principles were, put that aside, kind of tell yourself, oh, it's not that big a deal. No matter how bad it can get, it's not going to really hurt democracy.

But, you know, we saw an attack on the Capitol. If after an attack on the Capitol by Americans, it doesn't do it, I don't know what will.

RICE: You know, well, look, I hate to say this, but, you know, history has a way of repeating itself. And when you think you're safe, you know, you turn around and you say, oh, my gosh, now I'm the target.

I just think it's so crazy that we couldn't get any Republican support for this final COVID bill that was supported by over 75 percent of Americans across the board, not one Republican vote, Anderson. And guess what all of those Republicans are doing now? They're going back in their districts and they are putting out these flashy newsletters that are saying, look at all this money that I brought back to my district and all of you folks in my district, through this bill, oh by the way that I didn't vote for. It's just absurd.

And the vote that Kevin McCarthy is allowing the Caucus to take next week, where they are ostensibly going to get rid of Liz Cheney, is basically Kevin McCarthy saying to the American people, guess what -- the Republican Party is no longer about you or this country. It is solely about Donald Trump.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman Kathleen Rice, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

I am joined down by John Kasich, Republican who was a Member of Congress from Ohio before serving as Governor, Abby Phillip, our senior political correspondent and anchor of "Inside Politics" Sunday. Governor Kasich, I mean, what do you think the consequences is going

to be if and when Liz Cheney is ousted in favor of Elise Stefanik or somebody else?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Anderson, they better be careful because you could create an insurgency inside the party and if they throw Liz Cheney out of that leadership job, you think she's going to go away? And there will be people who will -- some will be openly for her, others will saddle up to her and I can tell you that when people stand alone, and I did that many, many times when I was in the Congress, it is amazing how people will come around you.

And Anderson, you said a number of things here tonight that I agree with. I think you were you were spot on. One of the most important things that you said was these days, yes, that's where the Republican Party is today.

But you know, where it's going to be in the long run? We're hoping it's going to change.

One other thing that I need to mention to you, they just had a special election in Texas down in Fort Worth and I noticed that the Republican turnout dwarfed the Democrat turnout.

[20:10:09]

KASICH: It's really interesting because the Republicans even though they have no program, have a distinct possibility of winning the House of Representatives and taking control. Now, both political parties are supposed to be offering ideas to improve the lives of people around them, I don't see that now with the Republican Party in the House.

So it's tragic, but it's also possible that they're going to win the House.

COOPER: Abby, Republican pollster, Frank Luntz was interviewed in a podcast by "The New York Times" this week. He said the former President's big lie is working. But he claims it's working for Democrats because many Republicans feel the election was stolen, that Donald Trump is basically telling them their vote doesn't matter when it comes to the midterm elections.

Governor Kasich is pointing out to this election in Texas that had apparently high voter turnout among Republicans. Is Luntz right or wrong?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I think this is why there are some questions about that assessment. Because, you know, the, one of the reasons that that Frank Luntz is saying that is because that's what happened in Georgia.

In Georgia, you know, as a result of former President Trump's election lies, Republican turnout, you know, decreased and decreased and decreased in each successive election in terms of the people who showed up for the primary, but didn't show up for the general, showed up for the general, didn't show up for the runoff.

But I do think that there's another thing happening here, which is that the Republicans that are needed for a midterm cycle, who are the diehards, the true believers, those are the people most likely to believe most fervently in the big lie. They are motivated by this myth and that might be the only thing frankly, that motivates them right now, which is why you see the kind of turnout that you saw in Texas.

And so for Republicans on Capitol Hill, they're trying to harness that, so that they can motivate those folks to come out in a midterm election, because other issues won't do it and that is why I think that at the end of the day, this is the best that they've got, this argument about the big lie that is about Donald Trump is going to be the most important factor in Republicans getting their base to show up in the midterms and also to give them money, which is the other key to a successful cycle for Republicans.

COOPER: Governor Kasich, I mean, if enthusiasm is so high among Republicans, what political incentive do Republicans actually have to back off the big lie strategy? It doesn't seem like there's any.

KASICH: That's the problem, and I have to take issue with what Abby said, because even though Trump not only get into this election down there, but even though Trump endorsed this woman, it was pointed out in a "Wall Street Journal," "New York Times" somewhere, that two out of three Republicans didn't vote for the person that Trump picked.

Trump is dominant today, but he is going to fade. I'll tell you what's going to motivate Republicans: tax and spend. $6 trillion in spending by Biden? He was a guy trying to bring us together and he is spending money, like, you know, there's -- like it's water and raising all these taxes, people don't like that stuff.

COOPER: But wait a minute. Wait a minute. Do Republicans have any leg to stand on anymore talking about fiscal responsibility? I mean, after the four years with Trump.

KASICH: Yes, Anderson, you know what, I do, because I was budget chairman who balanced the budget, and there are many like us. Bill Kristol -- there's a lot of Republicans that are very concerned about this.

But you're right, they were hypocrites for having spent all this money and it actually started under George Bush, when we had surpluses. They started spending money like there was no tomorrow.

So yes, there's no question that if they complain now, they're afraid they're going to be called hypocrites, but you know what? Admit it, you spent too much money, and now we are spiraling into a situation where, you know, $6 trillion in the last year and they want to spend more and they're going to raise everybody's taxes? I mean, it's going to ultimately be everybody, believe me.

So they do have something to campaign on. But they're so involved in, you know, going -- as Abby says, going down to see Trump and all this other stuff. It's silly, because they could be offering a better and more positive agenda, which they seem unwilling to do, because they're too caught up in trying to have some sort of a litmus test for people in the party. It's a disaster.

But it'll change, mark my words, it will change over time.

COOPER: The question, how much time and what happens until then? Abby, you have Mitch McConnell, saying a hundred percent of his focus is on stopping this new administration. You know that he used that phrase, given that they're also complaining the Democrats are refusing to work across the aisle.

You know, where does Mitch McConnell stand? I mean, he hasn't said anything really about Liz Cheney. He is certainly not coming to her defense in any way.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I think Mitch McConnell was trying to stay out of the way. You know, it was interesting last week to see McConnell starting to talk about one of Trump's favorite pet projects, which is stopping the 1619 Project from being taught in schools and it seemed to indicate that he realized that there's an element of the appeal to Republicans right now, that's going to have to also dabble in some of this culture wars stuff that I think is very effective for the Republican base.

[20:15:22]

PHILLIP: But you know, McConnell is focused on his Senate Majority. He is focused on obstructing a Democratic administration, which is what he attempted to do and said he would do for former President Obama. And so, it's no surprise that that is what he's articulating. I think he views that clearly as his job. He wants to stay out of the fight with Liz Cheney and Donald Trump. But he wants to not speak up in defense of the truth when it comes to January 6th, or in defense of Liz Cheney who is someone who I think, he has a lot from an ideological perspective in common with.

COOPER: Abby Phillip, Governor Kasich, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

More on the GOP divide next. Our Gary Tuchman is in Liz Cheney's home district of Wyoming hearing what her voters have to say about the stand that she has, her opposition to the former President.

And later, have we reached a turning point in the pandemic? What about this upcoming winter? Could it be rough with another surge if more people don't get vaccinated? The warning from CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:29]

COOPER: We reported at the top of the broadcast, Republicans already appear to be coalescing around a replacement for Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is the number three Republican in the House. Earlier this week, our very own Gary Tuchman traveled to the House

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy's district to find out what his voters thought about the Congressman and the issue dividing the party, the lies told by the former President about the election. Basically, most had few problems with how McCarthy was handling the matter.

Gary is now visiting Liz Cheney's home district and asking the same questions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The splendor of Wyoming is plentiful, the number of residents is not and that's why Wyoming only has one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. So, Liz Cheney represents every person in the state, like her or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liz Cheney has proved herself to be a lousy representative of the voice of Wyoming.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And we spoke with a lot who are saying not.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Here's what Liz Cheney wrote, "The Republican Party is at a turning point. History is watching." Whose side are you on -- Liz Cheney, or Donald Trump's?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If she runs again, I will vote for her opponent.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Madam Speaker --

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Conservative groups rank Liz Cheney more politically conservative than Donald Trump and she has a lifelong Republican pedigree with her father who served as Vice President, a national anti-Trump Republican group has put up this billboard near the State Capitol of Cheyenne thanking Liz Cheney for quote, "Defending the Constitution."

But it all matters little too many in this very red state who consider their Wyoming representative a turncoat and their ex-president from New York City, a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she needs to go.

TUCHMAN (on camera): How come?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I don't think she did the right thing for the Republican Party.

TUCHMAN: She says that Donald Trump is lying about the election being stolen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree.

TUCHMAN: I agree with what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree that the election was stolen.

TUCHMAN: There's no evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, eventually, it might come out.

TUCHMAN: In this dispute, do you think Liz Cheney has the right to be angry with Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

TUCHMAN: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't think he's wrong.

TUCHMAN: Do you think the election was stolen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's possible. Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): John Curtis remains upset Representative Cheney voted to impeach Trump.

JOHN CURTIS, WYOMING RESIDENT: I read in the paper that she said she had to vote her conscience. Okay. Maybe he's forgotten why she is there. Her conscience isn't why she was elected, she is supposed to be representing the people of Wyoming.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But there are plenty of people we've met here who very much like Liz Cheney's conscience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think she doesn't divide her thoughts along political lines. She speaks her truth and I appreciate somebody with that type of integrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. No doubt in my mind, Liz Cheney has the right answers and Donald Trump has the wrong answers.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Van Melblum (ph) is 95 years old and one of the relatively rare Wyoming Democrats, but she admires Cheney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she stands for truth and at least -- and a better Republican Party and we do have to have two parties.

TUCHMAN (voice-over); The Wyoming Republican Party voted in February to censure Liz Cheney and here in the state's largest county of Laramie, the County Republican Party also voted to censure her. But that vote was nowhere near being unanimous.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do you find this discouraging, this dispute?

KYLIE TAYLOR, VICE CHAIRWOMAN, LARAMIE COUNTY REPUBLICANS: Yes, I do.

TUCHMAN: Kylie Taylor is the vice chairwoman of Laramie County Republicans. She was elected to her post in March, so didn't participate in the censure vote. She stresses the following is her personal opinion. TAYLOR: I think that you've got to respect Cheney and she is not --

she is telling her truth and what she believes to be true. She is not backing down. She's not going out quiet. And I think for myself as a woman in politics and watching her as a woman in politics, it's something that I respect.

TUCHMAN: So does not mean you do not respect what Donald Trump is trying to do to her?

TAYLOR: Oh, yes, I guess you could say that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Gary Tuchman joins us now. Are there any indications that Congresswoman Cheney may be in danger of losing her seat in Congress over this?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, Liz Cheney certainly is in political peril, but there's no reliable, nonpartisan polling taking place here in the state. We can tell you a couple of numbers though, during 2020 Republican primary, she received 74 percent of the vote and you could bet big money that won't be happening this time around.

However, speaking of money, she has raised more than $1.5 million in the first quarter of this year, which is more than she has raised in any quarter in the four plus years she has been in Congress.

[20:25:02]

TUCHMAN: And finally, this fact, four Republicans have said they want to run against her in 2022, but they would likely split the pro-Donald Trump vote. She would get the anti-Donald Trump vote, so the more people who run against her, the better off it is for her -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Up next, Florida Republican Governor signs into law a bill aimed at curbing voting in upcoming elections and invites only one network to cover the event. You can probably guess which one, Van Jones joins us on that.

And later, well, one person accused in the rioting of the Capitol, he is using as the basis for his defense, it's unique.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Florida's governor Ron DeSantis signed wide ranging legislation into law today that would install new voter restrictions across the state. Among the measures enacted are additional limitations for the use of voting drop boxes, new rules on who can pick up and return a voter's ballot and expanding partisan observation power during vote tabulation.

Florida now joined several other states with Republican dominated legislature that have enacted new voter restrictions. The icing on the cake was this -- DeSantis invited FOX News to exclusively cover the bill signing live shutting out any other camera crews who wished to attend.

DeSantis said, quote: "This is a great place for democracy."

Joining me now, CNN political commentator Van Jones who served as special advisor to former President Obama.

So Van, after signing the bill into law in West Palm Beach, the Governor said, "Me signing this bill says Florida your vote counts, your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency." What do you make of that?

[20:30:08]

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I make up it. If that word were true, you wouldn't have a blizzard of lawsuits from everybody from African American organizations, people with disabilities. This -- it's the opposite of what he said. You had a secure election there, according to the Republicans who run the state, according to the Republicans who counted the votes, according to Republicans who certified the election, according to Republican judges, who threw out, you know, a case after case.

So, this is not about securing an election. This election was secure according to the Republicans, this is about something much more nefarious. When you're talking about taking away the drop boxes, making it harder for people to do the mail-in voting, making it harder for organizers to help people get their ballots turned in. All that translates to is one thing, longer lines for African Americans, longer lines for people in the counties and the districts, they're disfavored so that people are not going to vote. This is about voter suppression.

And the last thing I'll say is this. It was incredibly symbolic, as you said, you literally locked out everybody except for the most partisan outlet to even cover this. If you're trying to open up a process for voting, why would you then lock out the media, you know, who are trying to cover it, you're restricting the number and kinds of people who can vote and you're restricting the kinds of media that you even have access to the discussion about it, it speaks for itself.

COOPER: According the Palm Beach Post, more than 2 million Democrats voted by mail-in 2020. Compared to 1.5 million Republicans, it's pretty clear whom this measure is likely to hurt as you said, what do you see the next election cycle looking like in Florida? I mean, DeSantis himself is up for reelection?

JONES: Well, I mean, it's going to be a fight in Florida. The reason I think that you saw what happened in Georgia happened is because the it turns out that when the rules are clear, and people have more access, and not less, and people have enough time to do their work, Democrats and African-Americans in particular can do really well. And so -- and don't forget in Georgia, same thing, Georgia pass those voting laws, a governor who's Republican sign those voting laws, Republicans oversaw the election, certified the election, and they said, we can't have this again.

And Florida is now preemptively -- preemptively preventing people in Florida from doing what they just did in Georgia, using the rules that everybody has that are more expensive, to have a Democratic victory. And he's basically tried to reinsure his own reelection.

COOPER: Van Jones. Appreciate it man, thanks very much.

There was an outburst as well as an intriguing line of defense introduced today by lawyer for one of the Capitol Hill rioters during a video conference with a federal judge hearing some of the charges. The attorney for an alleged rioter named Anthony Antonio said his client had watched Fox News for months before the January 6 insurrection, and developed a unique condition that led him to believe the lies about the 2020 election. He had heard that condition, Foxitus and Foxmania. And I'm not kidding.

Joining me now, our CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a CNN senior law enforcement. Foxitus I'm sorry, I mispronounced it.

Jessica, can you explain what exactly this outburst was today?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. This is really the perfect storm that results when defendants for January 6, they attend these court hearings on Zoom and of course it's during COVID. So normally, all of these defendants, they would have been inside a courtroom and if there was an outburst they'd be restrained or taken away. But today, it happened in court. And really the court and the judge, they were momentarily powerless.

So, this alleged Capitol rioter, his name's Landon Copeland. He was waiting for his turn before the judge when another alleged writer's attorney use that Fox defense. So that was Anthony Antonio's attorney. But Copeland was waiting, and he shouted out I object. And then he lashed out. He ranted and raved at the attorney who used the Fox defense who criticized former President Trump and this other defendant Copeland he called court officials evil.

And, you know, now that the defendant who had been released, he was shouting this stuff out. He is now under court order for a mental evaluation. So, it was really just a terrible situation in a courtroom all held over Zoom, Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, Andrew, a lawyer's defense that his client was brainwashed by a television network. Have you heard an argument like that before?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: No, I've never heard one and I certainly have never heard of one succeeding. While I have no doubt that Mr. Antonio was probably, you know, his understanding of the facts and his outlook on life was negatively impacted by watching too much Fox News that's not going to constitute a defense to a federal criminal charge, you would have to be -- you would have to meet the qualifications of insanity defense, which is, you know, very, very hard to prove by people who actually have legitimate mental issues.

[20:35:16] But the real problem here, Anderson is what this says, for this population of Americans who still believe the big lie, who still see some glory in January 6, and who will take those feelings and that divisiveness into their politics going forward.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it is remarkable. Andrew, you know, just seeing Gary Tuchman's report on enlists Cheney's district, the certitude with which so many people have just bought into this idea that the election was somehow stolen, you know, against Donald Trump. I mean, it's, you know, good, decent people who, you know, have families and lives and are patriotic Americans believing something, which is just demonstrably false.

MCCABE: And, you know, Anderson, why wouldn't they? Because they are hearing this again, and again, not just from former President Trump, but now also from his acolytes and his flunkies on the Hill. You have the leadership of the House Republican caucus, just daily, talking about re-emphasizing the big lie. You have, you know, you see it in this effort to remove Congresswoman Cheney from her position of leadership in the Republican caucus and replace her with Elise Stefanik, who recently has embraced the lie herself. And it said, you know, said as much on radio shows just today.

So, they are getting this confirmation of their falsehood of this lie from the absolute highest levels of their party, and it is that party loyalty they treasure over anything. It's really, really damaging to the fabric of our democracy.

COOPER: Jessica, as we mentioned this lawyer, what was the -- since I read it wrong, it was Foxitus and what?

SCHNEIDER: I think that's what he was trying to say Anderson Foxitus, Foxmania, you know, new terms for sure. This was the lawyer for Anthony Antonio. And, you know, his hearing was ongoing when the other guy came in with the outburst. But part of what prompted the outburst was Antonio's attorney really saying his client had watched Fox News for six months straight before January 6, that he believed these lies about the 2020 election that this attorney said were fed to him by Fox News and the former president.

So, you know, they're using this Fox defense. It's unclear exactly how this played out in court if the judge may have bought it, because there was that subsequent outbursts that sort of derailed the whole court hearing here, but it was something that this defendant's attorney at least tried.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Schneider, thanks, Andrew McCabe as well, thank you.

(voice-over): Up next, the good news on COVID and a warning from Dr. Leana Wen on what may happen this winter people aren't vaccinated.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:41:44] COOPER: All signs point to a turning point in America's COVID crisis us daily cases around 46,000 levels we haven't seen since October. The CDC projects further declines by July and that'll likely mean more restrictions lifted. That's the good news, vaccinations are down 20% however, from last week, there's concern that we may not reach herd immunity.

CNN medical analyst Leana Wen warns that more people don't get vaccinated, we could be in big trouble again, she writes in a new Washington Post op-ed quote, we could see the comeback of COVID-19 in the winter of 2021. The unvaccinated would be at the highest risk, but even those who received the vaccine could become the ill with new variants. If enough cases develop and hotspots emerge, the U.S. won't be able to contain the virus and may have to resort again to societal level restrictions.

Dr. Wen joins us now. Her upcoming book is titled Lifelines, A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health. So Dr. Wen, I mean there's obviously reason to be hopeful in the U.S. about the pandemic. Explain why you're concerned that there's good news now may set us up for bad news come this fall and winter?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, I'm very optimistic right now about where we are. I do think you're right that we've hit this turning point, and actually shows that public health has worked, because so often public health is about preventing something terrible from happening, we were going to hit this fourth surge. And we kept on talking about the race between the variants and the vaccines. While we've won this race for now, because our vaccinations were at such a high rate.

What I worry about, though, is that we are going to see a calm summer, but that's the good part. But I think that those on the fence about getting vaccinated will be even more deterred from getting vaccinated because restrictions are going to be lifted, and things are going to get back to normal. And they're going to wonder, well, maybe a coronavirus isn't that big of a deal anymore.

And what I worry about is that then we enter the fall winter season, people are going to be indoors, this is a winter respiratory virus, those areas of the country that never came close to herd immunity could be hit again. And if we get variants from other parts of the world that are deadlier, or that can evade the protection of the vaccines, we could really be in for another catastrophe.

And so, all that is the same, we should celebrate the summer when it comes. But we still need to increase the rate of vaccination.

COOPER: I talked to the chief staff at the White House in the budget administration, Ron Klain last night and he said, you know, I was pushing him on the decline in vaccinations. He said it's a natural decline, that it's not surprising that they're, you know, obviously, there's a lot of interests at first. And once those people, then it's the harder to reach people with people who are skeptical about it, and that they are, you know, going out to try to get to those people and get them safe vaccine. And we've seen some states, you know, offering free beer or other incentives.

Do you buy that this is just sort of an understandable decline? Or do you think it's something more serious?

WEN: Well, I think it's both. I think the Biden administration gets a lot of credit for building the infrastructure so quickly, getting the supply, increasing the distribution, and at some point, we were going to hit that equilibrium where the supply catches up to demand. We've hit it really soon, in part because the Biden administration has done such a good job.

[20:45:00]

But I do think that now the hard work really begins. It's going to be really hard. I mean, first there are individuals who may want to get the vaccine, but who have other things going on to their lives.

And so, making the vaccine the easy, convenient choice for them, getting it to workplaces, to schools, to doctors' offices if somebody coming in for their high blood pressure or for a broken ankle, they should also be able to get the vaccine too. So, a lot of hard work ahead of us but we can do it.

COOPER: Dr. Leana Wen, appreciate it. Thanks.

I want to take you now to hardhead India reporting lonely see on CNN, 412,262 new COVID cases were recorded in India today, highest daily surge since the start of the pandemic. Every single day for the past two weeks, the country's added more than 300,000 cases, that breaking global records.

Now, India's also reported a record number of deaths today 3,980, just staggering amount of loss and grief.

CNN's international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in India. And here's her report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cremation starts before dawn, as workers still clean away the embers of the night before. Nestled on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi is India's holiest city. But it has not been spared by the vicious second wave of coronavirus ripping through the country.

As day breaks Lotro Choudhury (ph) waits for the rush to begin. His family has worked in the crematorium for generations. But he says they've never seen anything like this.

LOTRO CHOUDHURY (PH): About 100, 140, 150 body per day.

WARD (on-camera): And what you --

CHOUDHURY: Every five-minute, 10-minute doctor ambulance bring the body. WARD (voice-over): Officially the government says that eight to 10 people are dying here of coronavirus every day. The real figure is clearly much, much higher. Confronted with that reality authorities have had to improvise.

(on-camera): Varanasi's main crematorium has been so overwhelmed by the number of deaths that the city has had to set up a sort of makeshift crematorium you can see it up here this is just for COVID deaths.

(voice-over): A steady flow of bodies is coming in, to get off the boat to take a closer look. More ambulances are arriving, bringing the dead and grieving family members in full protective gear. They are sprayed with disinfected before they can begin the last rites.

But there is no way of sanitizing the deep sense of loss, during two hours we spend here, seven bodies are brought in. Critics say the government has been negligent in its mishandling of this crisis. That many lives could have been saved.

Nirmal Gupta (ph) tells us he never imagined would say goodbye to his father this way.

(on-camera): Has the government done enough to stop this second wave?

NIRMAL GUPTA (PH): No. Not enough.

WARD (voice-over): Much more efforts were required, he says. Varanasi needed a full lockdown. But the government didn't do it. It was incompetence.

The situation in the city has become so bad and shortages have been reported of wood, needed for the funeral pyres. Merchant Deepak Choudhury (ph) says the demand is four times higher than usual.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARD (voice-over): As long as I've worked here, I've never seen so many dead bodies coming in, he says. The last month has shocked me.

(on-camera): Is it true that you're running out of wood in some places?

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARD (voice-over): The three main suppliers had run out of wood, he tells us. The local administration had to intervene.

Death has always been part of the fabric of life in Varanasi. For centuries, people have come here to die. The belief is that the sacred waters of the River Ganges will help their souls achieve Moksha, liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. But the staggering toll of this scourge has shocked everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a very bad situation right now. And every household, every household is facing this. I don't think there's any family that has been spared.

[20:50:00]

WARD (voice-over): As the sun sets, the sound of the evening prayer pierces the smoky air. The next wave of the dead is brought in and the cycle begins again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The cycle begins again. Clarissa, you mentioned there's a lockdown there. Is that actually having any impact? Is it actually a lockdown?

WARD: So, Anderson, the lockdown the full lockdown was finally implemented back on Friday, it's been extended again to Monday. There is the hope that we're starting to see some of the numbers level off just a little bit. But as you can see, it's another day here now, early morning. Cremations already beginning, this is one of the most sacred and spiritual sites in India, and one of the hardest hit cities too, Anderson.

COOPER: Is there a Centrum health officials this will get worse before it gets better.

WARD: I think right now, honestly, people are just trying to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is also the constituency of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He hasn't actually visited here since last November. And there is a sense that people are grasping for leadership right now. But there's also a sense that I really hope it came through in our peace Anderson, that we have just been humbled to see the incredible dignity of people here in the midst of just horrible suffering. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it is incalculable, Clarissa Ward, really appreciate the reporting. Thank you so much for being there.

(voice-over): Coming up, Congressman Matt Gaetz is hitting the road, where he's going and why Marjorie Taylor Greene is going with him. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:55:40]

COOPER: To the former president staunchest and was controversial allies in Congress are set to begin a national speaking tour tomorrow at Florida's biggest retirement community the villages. Battle Congressman Matt Gaetz under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking among other things we'll be joined by QAnon curious Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for the beginning of what they call their America First Tour.

Our Randi Kaye had a chance to speak with some of the residents before their appearance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The villages is often called Florida's friendliest hometown, but Congressman Matt Gaetz may still get an icy reception.

(on-camera): Are you disturbed that he's having making an appearance here in the villages?

CHRIS STANLEY, DEMOCRAT: I'm horrified. I'm absolutely horrified.

KAYE (voice-over): Chris Stanley and other Democrats we spoke within this retirement community in Central Florida, say they've had enough of Gaetz.

MIKE FAULK, DEMOCRAT: He's by coming down here and really kind of doing a distraction tour. And reason why --

KAYE (on-camera): You call it a distraction tour?

FAULK: Of course.

KAYE (voice-over): A distraction Democrats We spoke with, say, from the allegations Gaetz is facing, including prostitution, sex trafficking and sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz has denied the allegations, instead suggesting without verified proof, it's part of a plot by a former DOJ official to extort money from his family.

SHIRLEY SCHANTZ, DEMOCRAT: He gets to say what he wants. It doesn't mean that it's true.

KAYE (voice-over): Even this man a Republican agrees.

(on-camera): Do you believe Matt Gaetz that maybe there was a some type of extortion plot?

DAVE DAVIDSON, REPUBLICAN: I got based on what I've heard, no I don't. And it's a nice story.

STANLEY: The problem is that his district is so heavily read. He could be reelected if he was in prison.

KAYE (on-camera): Do you still support Matt Gaetz?

ISRAEL HALL, REPUBLICAN: Yes.

KAYE (voice-over): Republican Israel Hall says he believes Gaetz so far but wants to see the investigation play out.

HALL: Their allegations and most conservatives were concerned about canceled culture where people get accused of things before you get a chance to defend yourself or go through a full process.

KAYE (voice-over): Fellow Republican Rick Carlins has his own doubts about the allegations against Gaetz.

RICK CARLINS, REPUBLICAN: If I was a betting man on a lot, I would bet that they're not true.

KAYE (on-camera): What do you base that on?

CARLINS: Anybody who's supportive of Donald Trump right now is under attack. Rudy Giuliani, you know, Matt Gaetz, that's the cancel culture. It's what's going on today.

KAYE (voice-over): When his nationwide tour kicks off, Gaetz will be joined by Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. When we asked about her support of Gaetz, this Republicans seem to waffle.

(on-camera): If Marjorie Taylor Greene says that she knows that Matt Gaetz has done nothing wrong. Should people believe her? Would you believe her?

HALL: I would, I would tend to believe her.

KAYE (on-camera): Marjorie Taylor Greene is the queen of conspiracy theories. And she says Matt Gaetz didn't do anything wrong. Why would you believe her?

HALL: I don't know that that she would know. I don't know that she wouldn't know that completely.

KAYE (voice-over): And about the tours title.

(on-camera): This America First Tour. What does that even mean?

DAVIDSON: I have no idea. But again, it's a nice, nice name.

KAYE (on-camera): If you were Matt Gaetz right now facing these allegations, would you be out parading yourself around the country?

SCHANTZ: Of course not. Because I would be trying to keep a low profile and trying to defend myself in the proper way with whatever my attorneys would want me to do.

ELLEN DUGAN, DEMOCRAT: I truly find that embarrassing when I thought God who would even go and listen to them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Randi, what more do we know about this tour?

KAYE: Well, Anderson, so far, we have just one date confirmed and that is tomorrow night. 6:30 p.m. right here in the villages in Florida. But Matt Gaetz has said the plan for this tour is to highlight the destructive failings of the radical left. That's an exact quote from him. He's planning to rally the 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the last election. But critics say that this is really just so Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene can get some attention and it's really just a money grab so they can do some big fundraising.

But here when you talk to people around the villages, like Trump, they have very strong feelings really on both sides about Matt Gaetz. One Republican telling me that he says that Matt Gaetz is a rising star in the Republican Party. So somebody is out there to take him down. So that's sort of what the thinking is here and what we're dealing with here in the villages, but we'll see if he addresses this tomorrow night because last time he was the headliner at an event of the Doral Country Club, the Doral Club in Doral outside Miami. And he spoke there and just a couple weeks ago and he said that he addressed them head on. So we'll see if he if he takes it up tomorrow night. So, will be here.

[21:00:16]

COOPER: Randi, thanks. Thanks very much, Randi. Appreciate it.

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