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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney Speaks On House Floor About Move To Oust Her From GOP Leadership; Rep. Cheney: Our Freedom Only Lasts If We Protect It; Sen. Paul And Dr. Fauci Clash Over Wuhan Lab Theory; Brown's Family Views 18-Plus Minutes Of Nearly Two Hours Of Body Cam Footage. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, he is, you know, had some issues in the past. He's got over them. We're not saying this is definite, that split samples still needs to come back, but if there's a stain on Baffert, stain on the sport.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Nick, thank you very much, and thanks to all of you. "AC360" starts now.

[20:00:17]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Breaking news on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol where Congresswoman Liz Cheney is expected to speak any moment now.'

Her office sent out a statement saying her speech would start around 8:00 p.m., likely her last speech as House Republican Conference Chair. Now, when that happens, we will go live to hear her remarks.

Tomorrow, House Republicans are expected to vote on whether to keep Liz Cheney in her position. She is expected to lose that vote. It's the culmination of a month's long battle, not over her place in the party, but that of the former President and his false allegations about voter fraud, which have continued to be embraced by the vast majority of Republicans in the House.

I want to start with the speech, Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill tonight with the latest. So what is -- what do we expect from Congresswoman Cheney tonight?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we expect her to stand her ground as she has done since the beginning of this controversy and state emphatically that she believes that Donald Trump is lying when he says that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and that by extension, Republicans who enable him to spread that lie are actually causing long term damage to the Republican Party.

She has been very vocal about this, going all the way back to the beginning of the year during the impeachment trial. She, of course, voted to impeach the former President.

You'll remember a couple of weeks ago when she chose to be a part of that small group of Republicans and voted to impeach the President. That's when conservatives, members of the Freedom Caucus wanted her removed from the position initially. Of course, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy supported her at that time.

She was able to hold on to the Conference Chair by an overwhelming number, but in the past few weeks, she has continued to answer direct questions about the former President, say what she believes to be true about this situation, and that now looks as though it could cost her, her job as the Conference Chair.

Anderson, the big difference between what we saw at the beginning of the year versus what we're seeing now is that she no longer enjoys that support from the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has had an about face on all of this.

He calls her a distraction and says that he has lost confidence in her and he has already picked her replacement in Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. So what we'll see here tonight is essentially Cheney's last plea to her colleagues to turn away from Donald Trump and his continuing to peddle this big lie and instead move past him and focus on conservative policies.

It's not expected, Anderson, that it will be enough and that she will be pushed out as Conference Chair in a vote tomorrow morning.

COOPER: It's so fascinating, Kevin McCarthy, I mean, months ago had supported Cheney when she faced opposition saying that the Republican Party was a big tent. It's now essentially the size of a pup tent.

I mean, there is no place in this Republican Party, it seems currently in the House, especially for Republican leaders who are not willing to go along with the former President's big lie.

NOBLES: You're absolutely right, Anderson. And it's important to pinpoint that it is a very narrow standard by which we are judging these members of Republican leadership, especially when you look at Liz Cheney's voting record. She overwhelmingly voted with the former President when he was in office.

In fact, she voted with him far more often than Stefanik, who is a set to replace her. This is only about one specific thing and that is that Cheney refuses to side with the former President when it comes to his questions about the voting and the collection of votes in the 2020 election.

She has repeatedly said that it was clear that President Biden was duly elected, that the election was fair and free and that is what's caused all the consternation. It is what's caused the former President to continually attack her. It's what's caused many of these loud voices in the far right of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives to come after her.

And the other thing that is interesting about this, Anderson, and we have a picture of the House floor up right now, what is actually going to be kind of the opening act to Liz Cheney's speech here tonight, these are members of the House Freedom Caucus that are speaking on the House floor right now. They are talking about cancel culture.

They're talking about all these different things that they believe have been -- have silenced conservatives across the country. They brought up Dr. Seuss, they brought up Twitter and Facebook and things along these lines, wherein, you know, just a couple of hours tomorrow morning, they are set to vote Liz Cheney out of her position as the House Conference Chair, because she spoke out about something that she believed to be true.

And you know, I talked to Adam Kinzinger earlier today, who is a Republican from Illinois, who is of course a vocal, outspoken critic of President Trump. He described what's happening to Liz Cheney as the ultimate in cancel culture.

He said it's appropriate for Republicans to call it out when they see it happening to them, but when it is something that they're doing, they're often blind to that and he called it hypocritical. That's exactly what we're seeing play out right now -- Anderson.

[20:05:08]

COOPER: I mean, Liz Cheney has been extraordinarily consistent whether you agree with her conservative principles or not, she has been extraordinarily consistent, and it looks like Liz Cheney is about to approach the podium. We saw her in a shot there.

She has been consistent. Elise Stefanik is really remarkable, her evolution.

Let's listen in to Liz Cheney.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I'd like to thank very much my friend, colleague, Mr. Buck for yielding me time this evening.

I know the topic, Mr. Speaker is cancel culture. I have some thoughts about that.

But tonight, I rise to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.

Mr. Speaker, I have been privileged to see firsthand how powerful and how fragile freedom is.

Twenty-eight years ago, I stood outside a polling place, a schoolhouse in western Kenya. Soldiers had chased away people who were lined up to vote. A few hours later, they came streaming back in, risking further attack, undaunted in their determination to exercise their right to vote.

In 1992, I sat across the table from a young mayor in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and I listened to him talk of his dream of liberating his nation from communism. Years later, for his dedication to the cause of freedom, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated by Vladimir Putin's thugs.

In Warsaw in 1990, I listened to a young Polish woman tell me that her greatest fear was that people would forget -- they would forget what it was like to live under Soviet domination, that they would forget the price of freedom.

Three men, an immigrant who escaped Castro's totalitarian regime, a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country's Minister of Defense and a dissident who spent years in the Soviet gulag have all told me it was the miracle of America, captured in the words of President Ronald Reagan that inspired them.

And I have seen the power of faith and freedom. I listened to Pope John Paul II speak to thousands in Nairobi in 1985, and 19 years later, I watched that same Pope take my father's hands, look in his eyes, and say "God bless America."

God has blessed America, Mr. Speaker, but our freedom only survives if we protect it, if we honor our oath taken before God in this chamber to support and defend the Constitution, if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.

Today, we face a threat America has never seen before, a former President who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him, he risks inciting further violence.

Millions of Americans have been misled by the former President. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law.

The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 State and Federal courts, including multiple judges the former President appointed have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former President's claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them.

The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.

Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.

Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that.

I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President's crusade to undermine our democracy.

As the party of Reagan, Republicans have championed democracy, won the Cold War and defeated the Soviet communists.

[20:10:08]

CHENEY: Today, America is on the cusp of another Cold War, this time with Communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure.

We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen and America has not failed.

I received a message last week from a Goldstar father, who said, "Standing up for the truth honors all who gave all." We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom.

They are the Patriots. Katharine Lee Bates described in the words of "America, the Beautiful" when she wrote: "Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self, their country loved and mercy more than life."

Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, this is at the heart of what our oath requires, that we love our country more, that we love her so much that we will stand above politics to defend her, that we will do everything in our power to protect our Constitution and our freedom that has been paid for by the blood of so many. We must love America so much that we will never yield in her defense. That is our duty.

Thank you.

COOPER: Stunning statement from Congresswoman Liz Cheney, speaking on the House floor, likely tomorrow to be removed from her position as the third most powerful Republican in the House.

I want to bring in David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama; Republican former Congresswoman Mia Love also, and CNN's Jamie Gangel.

David, first of all, you just heard what Congresswoman Cheney had to say. What do you think her audience was? And did it change anything about her fate tomorrow?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it'll change anything about her fate tomorrow. I think her fate is probably sealed. I don't think she was speaking to the members of the caucus so much as she was speaking to Republicans and Americans across the country and she underscored why she is in the dilemma she is in.

She took a principled stand, as she refuses to participate in Trump's lie. And she has become inconvenient for the rest of the Republican caucus who wants to keep peace with Trump, who wants to use the big lie as a rationale for changing voting laws across the country and it is very hard to do when one of the leaders of your caucus is out there speaking truth.

But I will say, Anderson, you know, Michelle Obama once said, "When they go low, we go high." This was a very big speech. This was a very lofty speech that went to fundamental principles of our democracy, and I think the people who cast these votes against her tomorrow are going to look small in reflection.

COOPER: What's so stunning about it, Jamie Gangel, you've done a lot of reporting, obviously on the run up to this. There were no theatrics, there was no raised voices. It was very straightforward. It was classic Liz Cheney in many ways speaking about, saying our freedom only survives if we protect it. She spoke about experiences she saw firsthand, people she talked to in Kenya, in Russia, in Poland who were fighting for freedom.

She said, "Today, we face a threat America has never seen before." The former President, she said, quote, " ... risks inciting further violence. He continues to undermine our democratic process. More than 60 judges have rejected his claims. The election is over. That is our rule of law."

She talked about those who are refusing it are at war with the Constitution, and she said, "... remaining silent, ignoring the lie emboldens the liar" -- Jamie.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Liz Cheney believes that Donald Trump remains a threat to this country. And as you said, it was delivered with classic Liz Cheney style, no dramatics, but there were some parts that I know she has been writing this speech over several days, and I think you hit on what she cared about most.

She wanted to emphasize, the first sentence is about duty. The last sentence is about duty.

She wanted to make clear that the election is over. She also said something that actually I've spoken to her about before and that is when she said millions Americans have been misled by the former President.

[20:10:04]

GANGEL: I know that when she has gone back to Wyoming and spoken to voters who believe the big lie, this is what she has tried to explain to him, and I would just say this, I believe that she sees the vote tomorrow, not as a personal vote. It is a vote of principle. And if it is a vote on anyone, it's a vote on her G.O.P. colleagues.

I just want to say one thing, I don't know if you can see it, but on her lapel, she's wearing a pin that I believe her mother gave her, and it is a replica of George Washington's battle flag. And it is not an accident that she is wearing it tonight. After that vote tomorrow, which she expects to lose, she believes there's life after leadership, and her long game is to take out Donald Trump.

COOPER: Certainly, if -- she also quoted a Goldstar father, who apparently reached out to her saying, "Standing up for the truth honors all who gave up all." Congresswoman Love, as a former Republican House member, I'm wondering what you make of what you heard from Liz Cheney tonight?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that she brings up a very good point, and she reminds not just Members of Congress, but also the American people that when you are a Member of Congress, you actually take an oath, you raise your hands, and you swear to protect the Constitution, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and that's why she talks about duty. She talks about her duty, not just to the country, not just to the people who got her to where she is, but also her duty to the American people and to the conference.

And so she also states, I'm not going to sit back and allow this to happen and allow these lies to continue to perpetuate. She also mentions that this is a threat, not just what we're seeing on the surface, but when other countries like China see that somebody is out there perpetuating this idea that the electoral system does not work, it hurts us nationally and internationally.

And so she is talking about this greater threat out there that they need to see the United States being strong.

And so you know, I think it was actually a very good speech. It was meant for the American people and she is pretty much laying down the gauntlet and saying they're making a choice between the Constitution and the person.

COOPER: David Axelrod, I mean, this is a speech that will wear well over history. I mean, over time, this speech will stand up compared to the cowardice that so many in the House right now have been exhibiting and going along with a lie that by all the reporting, many of them privately don't even believe in, but they are simply afraid of not getting re-elected, because many people in their districts have bought into this lie that's being peddled by, you know, other networks and by the former President.

AXELROD: Well, and in fact, Anderson that is symbolized by Elise Stefanik who is going to take her position.

Elise Stefanik was considered a moderate in the Republican Party.

COOPER: She was endorsed by Mitt Romney years ago.

AXELROD: And she and she began to fear that she was going to have a primary challenge, and so she decided to sidle up to Trump. She became one of his big defenders in the first impeachment trial, and she published a piece on the day of the insurrection, January 6th, repeating egregious lies about what happened in the election, including 140,000 fraudulent votes in Fulton County alone -- Georgia, completely fictitious.

She wrote it in print and gave it as her explanation for voting to overturn the election. These people, some are -- yes, some of it is out of fear and others see profit in siding with Trump, what Liz Cheney sees as a threat to our democracy by allowing this lie to flourish, and yes, her speech may not lead to triumph in the short run, but there are a lot of examples in history.

Margaret Chase Smith standing up and taking on Joe McCarthy in the '50s when very few others, certainly very few other Republicans were willing to do so, and there are others who have stood up in situations like this, and they will be remembered well in history, but she -- you know, I agree with everything everyone else has said.

This is fundamental to our democracy, and she is quite right. Liz Cheney is a hawk on China. She is a hawk on Russia, and she understands what a propaganda, triumph it is for them to have a former President leading his party in this direction, and she is saying no. She is putting her hand up. She is refusing to go along.

[20:20:09]

COOPER: Jamie, I mean, there's a long history of crass and craven politicians, you know, who have been -- who would have toadied up to, you know, bullies to remain in power. And over time, they don't usually end up so well, certainly at least not in history books.

Congresswoman Cheney, I mean, what happens to her now? And the larger picture, you know, for Democrats who are watching and thinking, well, this just doesn't really matter much because this is, you know, a battle happening within the Republican Party. We are a two-party system and we only work as a democracy when those two parties at least function on the basis of reality and one party does not completely believe a lie.

GANGEL: From my conversations with her and from some of her colleagues, who also think that Donald Trump is a danger to the country -- to this country, what they tell me is they're not sure that the Republican Party can be wrestled back from Donald Trump.

You may remember that Jared Kushner told Bob Woodward in his book that Trump had hijacked the Republican Party. What several Republicans have said to me is, it was a party that wanted to be hijacked.

So I think your point is well taken in that the question now is, Liz Cheney has laid down her marker, but can she be effective? Can other Republicans who are in effect, never Trump Republicans, either take back the Republican Party? Wrestle it away from Trump? Right now, that doesn't look very likely, or are they going to go in a new direction?

COOPER: David Axelrod, one of our reporters was just giving some background information, I just heard it in my ear that her colleagues, fellow lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, they cleared out of the chamber when she was speaking, only one, according to the report, I just got -- only one remained to even listen to what she was saying.

AXELROD: They're very heroic. I think that -- I think it's very clear that they've made their decision. And as I said at the outset, she is embarrassing them by telling the truth. It's a truth they don't want to hear and they are en masse.

They are trying to find comfort and strength in, you know, by gathering together in opposition to her, but it's the truth they're running from. It's the truth they don't want to hear.

You know, Anderson, I would point out that Kevin McCarthy spoke that truth on the floor of the --

COOPER: Well, I was going to say, it emanates the truth. Kevin McCarthy himself spoke, it's the truth. You know, Lindsey Graham, who, you know, in the hours after he fled in terror with everybody else, because the mob is marauding through the through the Halls of Congress, he gave a speech saying his love affair with the President had ended and he was out and he couldn't do anymore.

And, you know, and then he gets yelled at the next day at an airport and all of a sudden, he is golfing with the former President again.

AXELROD: Yes, well, to Jamie's point, Trump is -- you know, they talk about the big tent, it is a circus tent and he is the ringmaster right now. And he has the width, and they are frightened of him.

Kevin McCarthy doesn't want Donald Trump to interrupt his ability to become Speaker of the House and that means getting a majority. And so one week after, or maybe less than a week after McCarthy and Trump got into a shouting match on January 6th, I guess, it was a little later than that, he flies that he flies down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring after Donald Trump taunted him and refused to send in help when the insurrectionists were breaking down the doors in the Capitol.

That is a measure of the control that Trump had.

Liz Cheney noted this in her op-ed in "The Washington Post" last week, which I'm sure didn't sit well with McCarthy. I think he had already made his decision about her. But she is a source of tremendous embarrassment to the leadership of the House and to the members of the House, who have pledged their fealty to Trump, to this horrendous story, this dangerous story about the election.

You know, the irony of the whole thing is they say we don't want Liz Cheney. We don't want to talk about the past. We want to talk about the future, yet they have pledged their fealty to a guy who does nothing but talk about the past. All he does his rant about the election and this false story about how he lost the election. That's all he does.

And this is the Republican Party and by throwing Liz Cheney out, they've made this their identity.

[20:25:14]

COOPER: Well, also, I mean, Congresswoman Love. You know, Steve Scalise gave some quote earlier today about, you know, it's not about right or wrong, it's that her focus wasn't right. You know, she was focusing on the wrong things, meaning, you know, calling out the former President on his dangerous lies, which are leading to the breakup or the complete dysfunction within the Republican Party.

Republicans these days are not talking about -- I mean, you know, everybody on the floor tonight was talking about cancel culture. There's no healthcare program. I mean, there's no -- you know they spend so much money under the Trump years, they have no moral standing to talk about busted budgets, or, you know, concern over the deficit or government spending.

You know, where is the Republican Party as a party of ideas, which, whether you agreed with them or not, in the past, they certainly seem to have in the past?

LOVE: Yes. So, you know, this is -- I'm a Republican. I believe in fiscal discipline and limited government, personal responsibility, free markets. I believe in all of those things. And I think that there are so many other Republicans that are sitting there looking at this and saying, when can we start getting judged based on those policies again? When can we start talking about those policies again?

They've actually said, look, this is not about pro-Trump or anti- Trump. This is about lost confidence. This is about her inability to keep a message. This is about her inability to unite the party.

And I, as a colleague, a former colleague, and a friend of all of these people want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I have some issues, one, with timing. I also have an issue with the fact that she is -- she didn't miss a line with them on policy. And is it just her responsibility, by the way as a Conference Chair to unite the conference? I mean, I think that everyone in leadership actually bears that responsibility, but no one has taken that responsibility.

They decided that they wanted to throw her under the bus, and I also would say that there is a cost to all of this. Liz Cheney is not going to go away. She is going to continue to stand up for what she believes in.

And as long as she is there, and as long as she has a microphone, she is going to be able to -- she is going to say, I'm not going to go away. I'm going to continue to talk about this because I believe that it threatens the American way of life.

COOPER: Mia Love, Jamie Gangel, David Axelrod, thank you.

Once more, Liz Cheney, moments go on the House floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Today, we face a threat America has never seen before, a former President who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.

Millions of Americans have been misled by the former President. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

I am a conservative Republican and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law.

The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 State and Federal Courts, including multiple judges the former President appointed have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former President's claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them.

The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm joined now by Michael Gerson, a columnist for "The Washington Post" and a former speechwriter for the second President Bush.

First of all, Michael, we will talk about the party in a second, but just I'm wondering what you made of her remarks.

MICHAEL GERSON, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the thing that really struck me as I was listening to that is that she is making a substantive argument. She is talking about the rule of law. She is talking about, you know, points about constitutional self-government.

Her opponents are not answering any of those arguments. They're not engaging her in a discussion about very important matters; rather, it's just politics as usual.

She is saying that the United States is at a hinge point, that this is actually a choice about, do we want self-government or do we want something else? Something that's unknown and untested and unsafe.

And so, you know, I wish that there could be a debate between Cheney and McCarthy, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be a little bit one-sided.

[20:30:10]

COOPER: Well, you know, it's interesting. Jeff Zeleny tweeted out that -- Anne Grayer with CNN was reporting that once Liz Cheney, I'm reading from Jeff Zeleny's tweet, once Liz Cheney came to the House floor, the Republican lawmakers cleared out. Republican Rep. Ken buck is the only member watching Liz Cheney speak, again, according to Anne Grayer of CNN.

I mean, Mia Love earlier just a moment ago was talking about what is their message? They don't have a message right now. I mean, they are not talking, as you said, they are not talking about ideas, they are not engaging in debate on the substantive things. They're talking on things which, you know, make for good ratings on Fox and other networks. But it's not about, you know, a battle of ideas with Democrats or even within Republican Party.

GERSON: Well, Trump does not offer a governing vision, he offers his himself. And he asked people to believe in him. This is not a party that's really defined not by shared ideas or shared convictions, but by shared delusions that are set by Trump himself. He wants -- this is a epistemological crisis in the Republican Party.

Trump wants to determine not just what people think and do, he wants them, he wants to determine their view of reality itself. He wants people to get rid of their critical judgment in order to accept his total authority.

And that is an attack on self-government that is making our representatives into something that's less than they're calling their constitutional calling. And I think that that's what Cheney is calling them out about.

COOPER: By the way to Annie Grayer, I'm sorry, not Anne Grayer. The -- what happens, though? I mean, how do I mean looks, Cheney talks about our freedom only survives if we protect it, and we face the threat America has never seen before. We are a two-party system, if one party is not accepting reality and undermining and pledging allegiance to somebody who is actively undermining the very -- our very Democratic process, how do we function?

GERSON: Well, this fever has to eventually break. I'm not sure that it's going to be -- it's going to break through rational discourse. I think Republicans are going to have to start losing in key races. If Americans keep supporting them and if they win the House in the midterms, there's very little reason for a party that thinks it's on the advanced to reform.

Party's reform when they think they're down, that's what Bill Clinton did with the Democratic Leadership Council. That's what Tony Blair did. These were parties that were down on their luck. And there was another approach that was offered.

And so eventually, I think Republicans and others are going to have to say, this isn't going to go into work politically, that's going to be what breaks the fever.

COOPER: I want to play one more thing that Congresswoman Cheney said for our viewers, then talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What if that fever does not break? What if the Republicans win the House in, you know, in the, you know, in the midterms?

GERSON: Well, this is a terrible danger. We have one party major party at the national level that is not committed to accepting the outcome of legitimate elections. That's not something that you can tolerate in the long run. That is a recipe for a kind of edging towards authoritarianism.

And, you know, so I think that it is -- it's a stark choice. And she, you know, I think that's what Cheney's contribution was here tonight, major contribution is she put it in the historical context of this is a country deciding on the nature of its own self-government. And the Republican Party is going to have to play a role in that.

COOPER: It's an extraordinary moment in our history and a sad, terrifying moment. Michael Gerson, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

GERSON: Thanks (INAUDIBLE). COOPER (voice-over): We'll continue the conversation in a moment. Democratic Senator Tina Smith joins us to talk about what we heard from Congresswoman Liz Cheney tonight and about the fight inside the Republican Party.

And later the family of a black man shot by North Carolina deputies last month sees police body cam videos of that shooting, Andrew Brown Jr.'s family watched the videos. The attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown, Jr. one of them watch the tapes as well are with us. Tell us what they saw.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:39:09]

COOPER: More now our breaking news. GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney talking about the assault on truth is the former president continues to spread lies about the election and now she's on the verge of losing her leadership role for calling him out. More on that in a moment.

There was another moment of questionable truth on the Hill today a heated moment at Senate hearing on the coronavirus. Once again Republican Senator Rand Paul clashed with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Senator Paul used the time to question Fauci about the origins of the virus and a theory about the Wuhan lab. Here's part of the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S. has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super viruses. This gain of function research has been funded by the NIH.

Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?

[20:40:03]

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Senator Paul with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology --

PAUL: Do they find Dr. Baric?

FAUCI: We do not fund gain --

PAUL: Did you fund Dr. Baric's gain of function research?

FAUCI: Dr. Baric does not doing gain of function research. And if it is, it's according to the guidelines and it is being conducted in North Carolina.

If you look at the grant, and you look at the progress reports, it has not gained a function despite the fact that people tweet that. So --

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, joining me now for more perspective on this, Senator Tina Smith, who was also at the hearing today.

Senator Smith, appreciate you joining us when we get to what happened Doctor at the hearing with Dr. Fauci. First, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you your reaction to what Congresswoman Liz Cheney just said on the House floor ahead of her but certain oust her as GOP conference chair tomorrow morning.

SEN. TINA SMITH (D-MN): Thank you, Anderson. You know, I was watching here and I was just struck by how dignified she was. I suspect that if Liz Cheney and I were to fill out a political questionnaire, we would find that we disagree on almost everything. But we both love our country, and to think that she's being driven out of leadership of her party because she speaks the truth, because she tells the truth about the big lie that President Trump former President Trump continues to push, I think is just such a sad commentary.

But yet she just was so strong and so dignified. And I think as someone said, she was really speaking to history tonight.

COOPER: During today's COVID hearing you were next to question Dr. Fauci after exchange with Senator Paul and I just want to play that portion of the face here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: Dr. Fauci, what is the impact of conspiracy theories peddled by Senator Rand Paul and others, on Americans willingness to take this vaccine, a vaccine that by all accounts is remarkable for its safety and efficacy?

FAUCI: Well, conspiracy theories certainly are not helpful in what we're trying to do. I guess I can say that with some degree of confidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm wondering you're -- were you planning to ask that question? Or was that just in -- was that in relationship to what you had just heard from Senator Paul?

SMITH: I mean, I went right after Senator Paul and I'm laughing because Dr. Fauci is the master of understatement, I think in his response to saying that these conspiracy theories are not helpful.

No, I was planning on asking a question which I went to next about what we are learning about how to overcome people's resistance to the virus? A resistance to taking the virus and some success stories that we've had in Duluth, Minnesota.

But here you have here you have Rand Paul, he's a United States senator. He is a physician, he serves on the Health Committee, and he chooses to use his time to peddle these ridiculous conspiracies about how somehow Dr. Fauci is responsible for the COVID-19 virus. It's just such a sad commentary, and so completely beneath what the work is that we have to do on the Health Committee and in the Senate.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, he's ophthalmologist, you would think that he would be, you know, have more respect to these for medical science.

Dr. Fauci, he later told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, do you think senators might be playing to the cameras? It certainly, you know, that could certainly be at the idea that Fauci is somehow a villain to Trump allied politicians. What does one even say to that idea?

SMITH: Well, I know and let's be honest, I mean, this is not the first time that Senator Paul has done this. He's does this over and over again, it's sort of his favorite ploy. So, I mean, that's the problem. And here we have Dr. Fauci, who has basically dedicated his life to science to protecting Americans' health and to be maligned like this, it must get pretty exhausting, I think.

But, you know, the point of this, of course, is that we have serious business to do in the Health Committee, we have the we have variants that are springing up, we are trying to get -- how do we get to increasing vaccine -- vaccination uptakes in this country. We have questions about how young people are going to be adapting to taking this vaccine now that it's approved for children.

So, we have serious business to be doing and not just sort of this kind of play to the camera that I think we saw today. And we see frankly, too often.

COOPER: What do you think we do to get more people vaccinated? I mean, whether it's vaccine hesitancy, whether it's access issues, whatever it may be.

SMITH: Well, one of the things that I think we're learning in Minnesota and around the country is that what we might characterize as hesitancy to get the vaccine is actually just lack of opportunity.

[20:45:04]

You know, people -- this is what we learned in Duluth we put a pop up clinic right near the transit station and people that are running from job to home to childcare to the grocery store, there it is right where they can get to it easily and conveniently they get signed up, they get the vaccine, they go on their way. So they're not hesitant to get the vaccine, they just didn't have the opportunity to get it.

I think that's one of the things that we're learning, is lots of reasons why there's a continuum of reasons why people don't get the vaccine, but it is, we can make a big headway. We can make big headway by going to people where they are with trusted providers.

COOPER: We should also point out Dr. Fauci in his exchange with Senator Paul did stress that he fully supports further investigations, the origins of COVID-19. What more do you want to know about what happened in Wuhan? SMITH: Well, I, of course, want to understand how this happened. And what -- and there is an investigation that's going on right now. So I think that that's very, very important. I think that we need to understand from a scientific basis, also what happened. But to somehow impugn the credibility of Dr. Fauci, for whatever reason, is just completely unacceptable.

COOPER: Senator Tina Smith, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

SMITH: Yes, thank you.

COOPER (voice-over): Up next, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. gets to see more of the police body camera footage of his fatal shooting. What their attorneys are saying about what they saw.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:14]

COOPER: In North Carolina, the family of a black man fatally shot by police last month we're allowed to watch more body cam videos of how an attempt to serve an arrest warrant led to the death of Andrew Brown Jr. In a moment we'll be joined by two attorneys for the family. One of them saw the videos.

First, Brian Todd joins us from Elizabeth City, North Carolina with the latest. So, how's the video being described to members the community and what's the reaction so far?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson was nothing short of extraordinary just a couple of hours ago when the attorneys for the Brown family came out and described what they saw on this body camera footage. And since that time, protesters have been marching in the street. They broken up for the night now but they were very animated earlier after they heard these accounts.

It was extraordinary Anderson because this was a polar opposite account from the version of this given by Andrew Womble, the district attorney several days ago in court. That day on April 28th in court, he said that Andrew Brown, quote, made contact with the deputies with his vehicle, and only then were shots fired.

Well, a couple hours ago, the attorneys for the Brown family after having viewed at least 16 minutes of body camera footage and possibly as much as 18 and a half minutes of this footage had a completely opposite account of this. They said that at no point in the tape that they viewed did Andrew Brown made contact with the deputies.

In fact, they said it was the opposite that the deputies actually made contact with his car first with their hands. He -- they said that when they came upon the scene, Andrew Brown was sitting there in his car, hands on the wheel that at some point he might have even been on his phone, and that the car only moved after shots were fired. And at no point did he pose any kind of a threat to the deputies.

It was really an extraordinary account. It was it was very moving. And I have to say that the attorneys had a lot of detail in their account, but Andrew Womble did not provide in court several days ago. The attorneys were very specific about what they saw. And I've made a very compelling argument at least to those of us who are gathered there listening to them that Andrew Brown did not pose a threat to these deputies.

So they went from that to calling for prosecutions arrests, jail sentences for the three deputies who did the shooting. They are also repeating their calls tonight for the district attorney Andrew Womble to recuse himself from this case because they argue that he works much too closely with the sheriff's department in this building behind me with the deputies involved here.

And that he cannot possibly, you know, conduct this case, this investigation and any trials in any kind of an objective way. Andrew Womble steadfastly still tonight refusing to recuse himself. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Brian Todd, appreciate that.

I want to speak to the attorneys now. Joining me now, two attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown, Jr., Harry Daniels, and Chance Lynch.

Mr. Lynch, you were able to view the body cam footage today with the Brown family. Can you just explain what you saw?

CHANCE LYNCH, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW BROWN'S JR.'S FAMILY: Absolutely Anderson. First, thanks for having us. Today was an emotional day, I was able to view the footage with two of Mr. Brown's sons. And it was very clear to us we went through six videos. One was the dash cam of one of the vehicles and then five body cam videos that we were able to watch --

COOPER: From different officer, in different vantage points?

LYNCH: That's right Anderson, different vantage points. Still even with the body cams as you can imagine, we were only able to see what the -- their bodies were actually facing. And so, we were limited to be able to see all of the surroundings. Of course you got to remember Anderson that their faces were redacted. The presiding judge ordered that some of that would be redacted.

So we didn't get to see any faces. We were able to see weapons, and we were as absolutely able to see Mr. Brown sitting in his car afraid. The look on his face, he was terrified and was in shock when they arrived on the scene. And once a gunshot was fired the car bad in reverse.

He turned his wheel and began to travel away from the police officers that were on the scene. And as he traveled across the grass in his yard, they unloaded their weapons, subsequently causing a shot to the back of his head where he crossed the street and crashed into the tree in his neighbor's yard.

COOPER: So, the first shot was it clear to you how that -- when that was fired in terms of the overall time of this from them first getting there. Why the first shot was fired and who shot it? [20:55:05]

LYNCH: Anderson that's a really good question. When they got on the scene there was so much chaos going on, they're yelling, yelling different things. Some were saying, hands up. Others were saying get out of the car. The commands were very unclear.

You can see Mr. Brown's hands at all time. It appears that in one vantage point he may have been holding his phone. His right hand, if I'm not mistaken, was on the steering wheel. So his hands were seeing the entire time never any vantage point that we see where Mr. Brown was a threat to the police.

COOPER: And just to be clear, the district attorney said that when officers approached and attempted to open a door and Mr. Brown's car, the vehicle backed up and made contact with them stop made contact again. Did you see that?

LYNCH: Anderson, I'm not sure I said this earlier during the press conference. I'm not sure what video the (INAUDIBLE) is talking about. All that I can tell you is this. They chose the footage that we will get to see today. They chose the images that we will get to see. They also chose the evidence that they will redact. Now what we saw today was clear. When Mr. Brown put his car in reverse, there were no officers behind his car.

Now there were two officers that it appears that they were both reaching out at the same time to attempt to grab maybe the door handle. That shot was fired and when Mr. Brown began to go backwards. They may have been reaching out toward Mr. Brown, but Mr. Brown never caused or operated his vehicle to go towards an officer.

COOPER: So --

LYNCH: So, I'm not sure what the (INAUDIBLE) just talking about.

COOPER: So when the first shot was fired, how close was it fired? Was it fired, I assume at Mr. Brown or what did you see?

LYNCH: Absolutely. You could see the -- you could hear the shot and then you could see the bullet hole go in the front of the windshield. At that point, Mr. Brown goes, puts his car in reverse and he goes backward.

COOPER: So was he hit? Was he hit by that first shot, you know?

LYNCH: I'm not sure. I'm not sure if he was hit by that first shot or not. He was able to try to get away. It was clear on his face that he was afraid for his life. And he was trying to get away from the ambush. And those officers that were present and when he drove away and Anderson, I think one of the things is very important here is when he was driving away, and there's a section of land where there is pavement for the cars to park.

He had crossed that pavement driving across the yard and officers stop midway of that pavement and began to unload their weapons. So many shots were fired that we found great difficulty to be able to count the number of shots.

HARRY DANIELS, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW BROWN JR.'S FAMILY: Anderson and I stated before that the term fleen was used initially. It is clear that Mr. Brown was trying to save his own life. As long as it gets on scene and nearly started shooting. Mr. Brown, he's not doing anything to cause a threat. When we think they are there to kill me and I need to get away. They were there. They shot at him. He tried to save his life and they in fact killed.

COOPER: So where do things stand now on the video actually being released to the public? Do you guys know?

DANIELS: Well, the position and none of the North Carolina laws is encouraging us to currently in sec -- legislature currently in section and trying to get body cams made public. I know they are moving in that direction pretty rapidly is a bipartisan effort.

However, a family out -- we are making our own petition for the release of the vehicles of videos, the full videos, no redaction to be released to us and the family has a overarching compelling reason to get those videos. That petition will be filed. I do know that we move fairly quickly on that matter, to go before the courts to make our arguments to get the videos release.

COOPER: Well, Harry Daniels, Chance Lynch, I really appreciate your time and we'll continue to keep following this. I appreciate it. Still a lot of questions on answered.

We end tonight with Republican reaction to our breaking news on this Cheney's speech on the House floor. Ahead of a vote likely to oust her from Republican leadership. Cheney says she will not go quietly that she will continue to talk about the former president's lies and she says that the party is abandoning the rule of law.

Moments ago, Republican congressmen who supported Cheney stand, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeted this quote, this is leadership. This is integrity. This is Liz Cheney, and I'm damn proud to support her.

That vote is expected tomorrow morning. We'll cover that of course.

The news continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.

[21:00:02]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It's a very important night. This is a pivotal night and we're going to see which way it takes us.