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CDC Says Fully Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need Masks in Most Cases; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Aggressively Confronts Rep. Ocasio-Cortez In Capitol; Rep. Cheney: GOP Can't Be A Party Based On A Foundation Of Lies; Review of Millions Of Votes In Arizona To Hit A Temporary Pause For High School Graduations; Abrams: AZ Audit Is A Continuation Of The Insurrection; CDC: Fully Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need Masks In Most Cases; Source: Ransom Was Paid To Hackers; Delivery Of Fuel Has Started, Some Gas Lines Persist. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 13, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: He denies through his lawyer that he's the Tiger's owner

You can imagine the shock and alarm if you look out your window and see a tiger wearing a collar. A tiger should never be in domestic homes.

People calling 911 as a vehicle driven by Cuevas with the tiger on board on Sunday sped away just as police got there.


TEXT: Uh, going north on River Road right now.

This is about a tiger.


BURNETT: Cuevas is charged with felony fleeing, the tiger is still missing.

Thank you for joining us. ACC 60 starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Tonight is one of those moments in history you may remember for the rest of your lives because more than 15 months after the C.D.C. first recommended wearing masks, a recommendation that was unnecessarily politicized, but nevertheless became a symbol of the pandemic and the restrictions we've all lived under. That same agency has made a stunning announcement that speaks to just how far we've come in fighting the disease in this country.

Starting today, the C.D.C. now says that if you're fully vaccinated, you don't need a mask anymore. I just want to repeat that because it's kind of great to say and we've waited a long time to say it. If you're fully vaccinated, according to the C.D.C., you don't need to wear a mask anymore, not indoors, not outdoors. Now, there are some caveats if you're on a plane or a train, and we're

going to discuss the new policy as well as the exemptions to it in a moment with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Leana Wen who joined us for almost all of the 25 Coronavirus Town Halls we've done over the past 15 months.

But before we do, we want to pause and take stock of the past 15 months. More than 584,000, that is the official number of Americans we have lost to the virus, 584,000 human beings. And remember when the projections came out and said that we could see 100,000 deaths and that number was too high to even believe.

No way, we thought. No way we would lose 100,000 people.

And now tonight, the official number stands at nearly six times that. As you may know, there are estimates that the actual number of deaths may be much greater and it is clear that many of those deaths could have been avoided. But that's not the conversation perhaps for tonight. It's this -- practically speaking, today's news means we see more smiles and basic human interaction should get a little easier.

It also means the vaccinations work and that's worth repeating as well, vaccinations work. And today's announcement by the C.D.C. is evidence of that.

Symbolically, removing those masks also represents perhaps the biggest step toward returning to some kind of normalcy. Today, reaction poured in across Washington.




JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a great milestone, a great day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, a great step in the right direction, and I can't wait for this whole period of time to be in the rearview mirror like millions of other Americans.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): It's about damn time.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I wouldn't go so far as to say it's essentially over. I think this is a very important step in the direction of trying to get back to some degree of normality, because this is something that everyone has had on their mind.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I'm glad this message was sent today. I think it needs to be even clearer and louder in the same way that putting the mask on was a clear and loud message.

QUESTION: Did you guys take your masks off in the Oval?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did. We heard all about it. The President took his off, too. We are masks off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the C.D.C. has finally caught up with it that a naked face is probably okay to be able to walk around and be able to talk to people after you've been vaccinated.


COOPER: "After you've been vaccinated." Let's start right now with our Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. You have some new reporting about when the White House was notified about the C.D.C. announcement?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, it caught White House officials off guard because the C.D.C. has been really cautious throughout all of this and they thought it was going to be at least several more days before they got updated guidance from the C.D.C.

It was just two weeks ago that they had put out that other guidance about vaccinated people not wearing a mask outside. And so how this went down, what we're hearing from sources is that yesterday, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Walensky met with her top officials at the C.D.C. They talked about this and she made up her mind to change this guidance.

And then afterwards, she briefed the H.H.S. Secretary Becerra on what the next plan was, how they were going to be changing this. And it was only after that, that they then went to the White House and said, hey, by the way, tomorrow, pretty drastically, we're changing this guidance on what fully vaccinated people can and cannot do or should and should not do when inside and outside.

And so that's kind of why you saw a little bit of a scramble at the White House today with President Biden addressing this change, which he was not initially scheduled to do. He wasn't supposed to talk about the pandemic today. Those remarks were scheduled for earlier this week.

And then of course, at the last minute they added those remarks so they could tout just what a milestone this really is.

COOPER: What did President Biden say at the announcement?

COLLINS: Basically, he was saying it's a good day for the country. And he was smiling as he came out there, modeling this new guidance himself, but also trying to use it as an incentive for those people who have not gotten the shot just yet.



BIDEN: The rule is very simple. Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. If you're vaccinated, you can be around the vaccinated or unvaccinated people. But if you're not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, you should wear a mask for your own protection and the protection of other unvaccinated people. The choice is yours.


COLLINS: And that is something White House officials have wanted for so long, to be able to directly tie getting vaccinated to something as basic as taking your mask off because they do think that will help incentivize people who have not been vaccinated yet. And also, it just points back to the science.

And so they went ahead and changed the guidance. At the White House, Anderson, e-mailing staffers tonight that yes, when you're on a White House grounds if you have been vaccinated, you don't have to wear your mask walking to and from one office to another like they had been doing previously.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Perspective now from our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore Health Commissioner senior medical analyst. And we're going to give the conversation plenty of time tonight so we can also include some of the questions that you, our viewers have sent us.

So Sanjay, first of all, your reaction to the news, how the decision was made? Is it the right decision?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a big day. I mean, as you as you pointed out. I mean, it feels like a very momentous time here.

I think the decision in many ways follows the science. We've known the benefits of these vaccines for some time that they are very protective in terms of you from getting sick, they are protective in reducing your chance of becoming infected.

And now, newer data shows that the likelihood that even if you do test positive for the coronavirus after being vaccinated, the chance that you would transmit that virus to somebody else is very low.

So this follows the science, I think in this regard.

I think it still feels jarring to be honest with you. Having conversations with people at the C.D.C. last week even, the impression was that this sort of loosening of the guidance was going to be a long time coming still. In fact, the loosening of indoor masking would take some time and we would have to be at a very low level.

So I was a little surprised, frankly, that had happened this quickly and I think the implementation of this is going to be challenging. You know, I was just reading this, Anderson, in Nevada. The casinos, they were basically told: follow the C.D.C.'s guidelines, no matter what they are, that's been their sort of policy from the Governor. Well, now because the C.D.C. guidelines have changed, basically, the

casinos are going to be maskless in Nevada. There's no mandate to show that you have proof of vaccination. So how is that going to play out? There may be a lot of unvaccinated and unmasked people indoors in those crowded situations.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Dr. Wen, that does bring up sort of the essential problem here is that, you know, when everyone was wearing a mask, you know, you weren't in danger from somebody else who maybe wasn't vaccinated, or you were in less danger.

Now, if no one is wearing a mask, you don't know who has been vaccinated and who has not. I suppose if you're vaccinated, it's not as big a risk to you. You can still get positive, but it won't take you to the hospital or kill you. But how do you see this?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, frankly, I was shocked when I heard the news. And I thought that the C.D.C. had gone from one extreme to another. They were overly cautious, and now, I think they're throwing caution into the wind.

COOPER: Because you have been critical of the C.D.C. for being too cautious in their previous guidance.

WEN: That's exactly right. And I thought that there's a lot that they could do. So part of what they did today was great saying these vaccines are wonderful. Once you get the vaccine, you could choose your own adventure, you can go out and take off your mask and do all these things. I think that's exactly the right message.

The only problem is that also needed to be tied to proof of vaccination, because what I really worry about is essentially the C.D.C. today eliminated mask mandates and social distancing. They are saying it's all an Honor Code from now on.

And so it's actually going to be a disincentive. There are a lot of people who never wanted to get vaccinated, never wanted to wear masks. Now they could just say, oh, I'm vaccinated, I don't even have to show anybody proof of vaccination.

And so I really worry about those people who cannot yet be vaccinated like our children, the individuals who are immunocompromised and are not fully protected by the vaccine, we're now putting them at risk. And I think bringing us actually even further from reaching herd immunity.

COOPER: Sanjay, what about that? I mean, for kids or, you know, even yes, you know, if somebody comes up to them, how do their parents know if that person has been vaccinated or not?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, that's the issue. I mean, that is really it. And that's, I think the surprising part of this.

I think that the idea that as you point out, if you are vaccinated, then previously your obligation was to wear masks because perhaps you might still transmit the virus to somebody else. What the science has shown that that's really not likely. There's been a couple of studies that have come out, we can show you one. This is one of the ones I talked to Dr. Walensky after the press conference.


GUPTA: And this is a study that she focused on. It came from "The New England Journal of Medicine." If we have it, we can put it up, but basically it shows that it these vaccines are very protective against symptomatic infection 94 to 95 percent protective after two weeks, but also very protective against asymptomatic infection. Again, that's for the vaccinated population.

But, Leana has small children. There are other people out there in the population who are not yet vaccinated or can't be vaccinated for some reason. If there are unvaccinated unmasked people around, they're potentially putting them at risk.

What someone said to me today, I thought was very interesting, the Deputy Director for the Vaccine Program at N.I.H. said, essentially what may happen, we keep thinking of this country as a vaccinated and unvaccinated country. You know, these two populations. What it is slowly going to turn into is a vaccinated and an infected country because people who are not vaccinated may increasingly become more likely to become infected as a result of this.

Now, maybe a small number, I don't want to exaggerate the threat here. But that's sort of what is happening. Vaccinated people will likely be safe, but unvaccinated people who are hanging out with other unvaccinated people, maybe at greater risk.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci did address businesses requiring proof of vaccination today and in Florida, for example, Governor DeSantis signed an Executive Order prohibiting the use of COVID-19 vaccine passports in the state. What did Dr. Fauci say?

GUPTA: Well, you know, yes, he was asked about this, you know, and he said that the sort of same thing that there's no -- there's not going to be a vaccine database with regard to vaccine, you know, vaccine passports. Businesses, restaurants, things like that, they may enforce these things themselves.

Some of them may continue to have mask mandates. There's nothing prohibiting them from still having mask mandates because they don't want to actually go through the process of trying to ensure vaccination status, but it's going to be a little bit ad hoc.

I mean, you know, that's part of the issue here is that you have Federal guidelines, but then each institution and state and community will enforce it on their own.

COOPER: Yes, Sanjay and Dr. Wen, stay with us. We've got a number of viewer questions to answer coming up next, including one dealing with the variants as well as masks in schools.

Later, the latest unhinged moment from a congresswoman with the history of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene's aggressive behavior against a colleague inside the Capitol. She denies it. There are witnesses. Will Republican leadership respond? A Democratic Congressman joins us to discuss when we continue.



COOPER: More answers now to viewer questions about our breaking news this evening. The stunning change in C.D.C. policy which now states that if you're fully vaccinated, you don't need a mask in most situations except on a plane or train.

Back with us, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Leana Wen.

So we've got some viewer questions. Dr. Wen, what about kids? One viewer, Lisa asked: what about kids under 12? With the new guidance, we all know that everyone will stop wearing masks that now puts my kids at higher risk. If they keep wearing their masks where unvaccinated people i.e. at the grocery store. Will they be protected enough?

WEN: Yes, I'm really worried about this, too, Anderson. And I know that you're in a similar situation. I mean, I have a three and a half- year-old who can mask and a one-year-old who doesn't mask and my kids are not eligible to be vaccinated. It's not that I don't want them to be vaccinated, it is that they can't be.

And I do really worry. Now, we're going to be potentially going into grocery stores or other settings where they could be exposed.

And just to be clear, vaccinated people are not at risk themselves. Now we know because they are now vaccinated. But those who are unvaccinated are still at risk, especially if there are now unvaccinated people who are not masking.

And so I do think that having your child wear a mask does help. Remember too that distancing is really important as well.

So if you're taking your kids to the grocery store or somewhere else, try to go at a time when there aren't a lot of people around. And if there are a lot of maskless people walking around, you suspect that some of them could actually be unvaccinated, maybe leave and come back later.

COOPER: Well, also if your child is, you know, above three, or I'm not sure what the latest guideline is, and you want them to wear a mask in a public place like a supermarket, I mean, they can, right?

WEN: Absolutely. And I that guidance, I think goes to other people, too. I mean, you could be vaccinated, but maybe you are immunocompromised. Maybe you live at home with somebody who is and you just want to be cautious right now, and I think that's entirely fine.

I actually think that a lot of it right now, it is going to take some time for us to adjust to this new normal. And in that period, we have to give each other a lot of courtesy as well. COOPER: And Dr. Wen, today, the C.D.C. Director said the guidance was

based on science that its purpose was not to give people an incentive to get vaccinated. I mean, that seems like contrary to what President Biden was saying.

WEN: Right. And I actually really disagree with Dr. Walensky here. I think the goal of the C.D.C., the purpose of the C.D.C. is to advance public health in the country, and also to help local, state officials, businesses and others with their public policies.

So your guidelines have to make sense and they also have to have that broader purpose and mission in mind. And so I really wish that the C.D.C. had taken an intermediate step, an intermediate step, instead of going the pendulum swinging all the way to the other direction, why not just say, fully vaccinated people can be around other fully vaccinated people, including at work, in workplaces, you can take off your mask.

I mean, I think that would have been a good intermediate steps to give people time to adjust to that, give people more time to be incentivized to be vaccinated, and then do something that's drastic, but I really fear that we're just going to take away the incentive for people who may be on the fence. Now, they just think well, I could just take off my mask anyway. What's the point?

COOPER: Sanjay, Jimmy sent in a question saying: I know fully vaccinated people with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna who have contracted COVID most likely while dining outside of the restaurant. In light of this breakthrough infection, how does the new C.D.C. mask guidance make any sense? And speaking, Sanjay, of breakthrough infections, the New York Yankees are dealing with this right now. Eight of their players and staff tested positive, six are asymptomatic, all have been vaccinated.


GUPTA: Right. So this has been a big question. The idea of the vaccine in terms of what it was proven to do initially was to prevent you from getting sick, which it does well. It was not clear that it prevents you from getting infected. There are these breakthrough infections, as you're saying.

My guess it's even higher than we realized because a lot of people don't bother to get tested again after they've been vaccinated. So it could be even higher.

But I think the big question, and one that's been more clearly answered just over the past few weeks, is whether or not even if you get a breakthrough infection, your likelihood of then being able to transmit the virus to others, and I think that that was critical.

This is data that the C.D.C., I think, really relied on with making these new recommendations. And it does -- it shows that you're just not -- you don't create a viral load that's high enough to actually be really contagious towards somebody else.

COOPER: So let me just be clear about that.

GUPTA: It could potentially happen, possibly --

COOPER: Because I'm very slow on this. If I have been vaccinated, which I have been, I can still become positive with COVID, but I am highly unlikely to be able to transmit it to somebody else, because the amount of COVID in me is small.

GUPTA: Correct, right. I mean, you know, the virus gets into your system, and then it starts to replicate, when it eventually gets to a high enough load, that's when you become contagious. The thinking was, and it wasn't proven till recently that because you have antibodies because you've been vaccinated, you won't get to that viral load.

So even if you test positive, you're unlikely to be contagious.

COOPER: Let's me just ask --

GUPTA: I think that was a critical sort of point.

COOPER: Let me just ask one other simplistic question, which again, I'm simplistic. If I get -- if I had been vaccinated and I get COVID, and I have mild symptoms, whatever, and it goes away. What -- am I vulnerable to being one of the people who get long haul symptoms, because a lot of those people had mild cases, and a year later, they're still dealing with stuff.

GUPTA: That's a good question, Anderson. And I don't know the answer to that. I mean, if you get symptoms, after you've been vaccinated, which can happen, the vaccine is very good at preventing you from getting really sick. But the idea that you get more mildly ill is there.

Is your likelihood of long haul still present? Probably. There's been some studies recently that shows the people who got vaccinated after they had been infected, that did seem to have some benefit in quelling some of their long hauling symptoms. But I don't know if the opposite is also true.

So you know, those are those are still some unanswered questions. But I do think the idea that the masking of a vaccinated person to protect others around them made total sense, but this new data that you're unlikely to transmit it, even after you've been vaccinated, I think is the critical point.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, Sy has a question about variants. What if someone is carrying the Indian variant and I know I'm fully vaccinated, how do I know I'll be safe without a mask?

WEN: Well, right now, it appears that all the variants that we are aware of that the vaccines do work well against them. Some of the variants may work less well with the vaccines. But the Indian variant, as far as we know, seems to work well with the vaccines that we have.

But I think it does bring up a broader question. There may be other variants that arise over time. It's something that needs to be monitored and we have to remember that there are some individuals who are vaccinated, it's rare, but there are some individuals who are vaccinated, but who may not mount enough of an immune response.

Patients on chemotherapy, for example; people who have transplants -- organ transplants, and are immunosuppressant, they don't mount as much of an immune response. And so I think part of this is there's an obligation for society and our policies to also protect those who are vulnerable, and not just leave them without their freedoms, too.

COOPER: Sanjay, another way to look at this is you could argue this is an incentive for people to get vaccinated, because there are now going to be a whole bunch of people running around without masks who have not been vaccinated, and you have no idea who has been and who hasn't. And if you want to protect yourself, you should get vaccinated. Is that correct?

GUPTA: You're right. I think there's all sorts of different ways to look at it. I would agree with that way of looking at it. I would agree of getting vaccine in the first.

COOPER: I mean, just from a self-preservation standpoint.

GUPTA: I would like to have myself protected.

COOPER: That's an argument if that's what you're concerned about, that seems to be a more selfish way of looking at it, but maybe it's reasonable.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, the idea now that I would like to go to an indoor location or some sort of gathering and I'm going to look around the room, there is going to be a lot of unmasked people.

I don't know who is vaccinated or not, if there's no requirement to show that proof. If I am unvaccinated, then I think okay, well, this may be a higher risk environment now, so I should get vaccinated. I think you're right, that could be an incentive.

What I keep coming back to and I and I don't know if Leana agrees or not, is that I think what I hear Leana is saying is that this only works, the incentive to take masks off and everything, is if there is some proof of vaccination. Is that what you're saying? Is that the only way that this would work?

WEN: I don't know if it's the only way, but I do think it's a powerful incentive and we have seen this over and over again in in polls.


WEN: I was just in a focus group done yesterday with a bunch of vaccine concerned individuals. And for them, this idea of, well, if we can't travel without showing proof of vaccination, if we can't engage in society without proof of vaccination, that was a really, really powerful motivator. And now if you can do everything, why bother?

COOPER: Right. That worked in Israel early on when people weren't getting, you know, going to get vaccinated. Companies said, well, look, if you aren't going to get vaccinated, you can't work here and vaccination rates went up because people wanted, you know, to be able to go back and work.

Companies can still decide. I mean, Sanjay, can a company decide that their employees have to be vaccinated if they want to work in the office?

GUPTA: There can be vaccine mandates by private organizations. I mean, one thing we've heard from the Biden administration over and over again is they are leaning away from the idea of keeping a vaccine database, having sort of vaccine, you know, passports or whatever.

But organizations can do that. Concert venues can do that. Large gathering events can do that saying you have to have proof of vaccination. You've got I.T. companies that are now creating apps that may go on your phone to do that, but it is a provocative, controversial topic. Some people say it infringes on your healthcare information. So you know, who knows where this goes.

COOPER: Sanjay, thanks. Dr. Wen as well. Thank you.

Up next, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene accused of shouting at her Democratic colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Halls of Congress. Greene denies it.

We will talk it out with another Congresswoman, Val Demings when we continue.



COOPER: The latest on hinge moment on Capitol Hill involves Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who's no stranger to controversy. The conspiracy theorist is denying the Washington Post reported that she shouted a Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez yesterday. Now according to the Post Greene followed Ocasio-Cortez through the halls of Congress asking why she supports Antifa, a far- left activist group and Black Lives Matter falsely leaving them -- labeling them terrorist groups.

The Post says the Greene shouted Ocasio-Cortez that she was failing to defend her radical socialist beliefs by declining to publicly debate her. Greene told reporters just after that heated moment, quote, she's a chicken she doesn't want to debate.

Tonight, Ocasio-Cortez is firing back, she says she won't be intimidated by someone who quote supports white supremacists. She's also expressing security concerns with her office calling on top lawmakers to ensure that Congress remains a safe civil place. Now there's some type of possible ethics complaint against Greene. Here's the other Republican Congresswoman responded that this afternoon.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I don't know why she needs security. She shouldn't have a problem debating about her policy. Why would a member of Congress needs security to debate with another member? That doesn't make sense.

She doesn't need to file ethics violations or whatever she's doing that's reacting, like a child. Adults are able to debate policy.


COOPER: Joining me now for perspective on this, Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings.

So first of all, I want to get your reaction to what we just heard that the latest in a list of spectacles orchestrated by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, it's actually something similar she did on video years ago to one of the Parkland survivors who was lobbying Congress on gun control. She did that on the street and recorded it. What do you make of this?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, Anderson, it's good to be back with you. And what I make of it is this. Look, we all were elected by persons that are various districts to represent them. Alexandra was elected by the people in her district to represent them. She has a lot on her agenda, just like we all do. We're coming out of a pandemic, thank God for that. But we know that businesses are hurting, families are hurting. We're trying to get children back into schools, trying to get as many people vaccinated, and Ms. Greene would better serve Congress. And I think the people in her district working on an agenda that really works on behalf of the American people.

Look, you know, there is a certain I think when you are a leader, I believe that you should respect the rights of other people. And it is just a major distraction that I think is ridiculous. I'm not sure what group she's talking about when she talks about it Antifa. But as she asked Alexandra, why does she support Black Lives Matter? The question for Ms. Greene would be, why doesn't she support Black Lives Matter?

So we have a lot of work to do. The American people are sick and tired of the distractions. There's no agenda on the Republican side, we need to come together and get down to business.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it does seem that these are, you know, clearly with this, Congresswoman Greene, this is a, you know, it's a cheap ploy to raise money, she, you know, doesn't have power in Congress. So she basically is trying to raise the power of her name and just fundraise off these kinds of things.

Republican Congressman Liz Cheney, who was ousted just yesterday from her leadership position by people like Congresswoman Greene, she just gave an interview on Fox and I just want to play some of what she said.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that for us, as Republicans, you know, we have a huge set of issues, we've got to be able to defeat the Democrats over and we've got a huge set of policies we've got to be able to implement, we have to get people to vote for us. And we can't do that if we are a party that's based on a foundation of lies.


COOPER: It seems -- I mean, she is right. She -- I'm not sure how right she is that there are a lot of ideas that the Republican Party has right now. But they're certainly not arguing those ideas. I mean, they're doing things like this things like you know, talking about canceled culture, which are all legitimate things to talk about, if that's what the American people want. But in terms of like healthcare policy, or there's not a lot of policies coming out of the Republican side.

DEMINGS: They have no agenda Anderson, they have absolutely no agenda. And because they have no agenda, that on behalf of the American people, they're just every week every day, throwing up distractions that really amount to nothing. Look, Liz Cheney, she is a rock solid conservative. But one thing that she has been consistent about she's -- we were classmates, is that she believes in the rule of law. She's standing by the Constitution, she standard by our oath and she is protecting our democracy, she will not play one minute with a big lie theory.


And so, she is on the right side of that she will be on the right side of history. It's been really shameful to watch the Republican leadership of the other colleagues go for the big lie. What they have basically said is that to me, if they lie about this --


DEMINGS: -- they will lie about anything. They do not have the people's backs. They have their own back.

COOPER: I do just want to play some of what some of the Republican colleagues -- your colleagues in House were saying yesterday rewriting history. I played last night, but I mean, it is really just so shocking and shameless. I just want to play this.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): When I see this sheet on our timeline, and on the -- let's see, OK, at 207, a mob of Trump supporters breached the steps. I don't know who did a poll that is Trump supporters.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): You didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.


COOPER: I mean, how do you -- what does one do about that? I mean, I just find it shameless.

DEMINGS: Well, Anderson, it is shame. Listen, what they have proven, as I just said, if they will lie about the Capitol riot, the deadly Capitol riot, on January 6, these members and we can call them by name, have proven that they will lie about anything and everything. They do not have the people's back. They have their own backs. They have basically sold out, willing to lie about it. They're basically dismantling our precious system of government aren't democracy. And it is shameful.

COOPER: Congresswoman Demings, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

DEMINGS: Thank you.

COOPER (voice-over): Coming up, update on that vote review in -- well, if you've really call it a vote review in Phoenix kind of charade and what's happening there.

Later, as gas lines persist in the southeast, there's new information tonight and that ransom demanded by the Russian hackers who launched the cyber attack. All that when we come back.



COOPER: Organizers of that stranger than fiction review of votes cast and last year's election in Phoenix, Arizona are hitting the pause button on one of the most outlanders escapades in the wake of the former presidents lies but who actually won. There's a private company called Cyber Ninjas is far from the finish line and counting or saying they're counting more than 2 million votes cast in Maricopa County. The workers it has hired have to stop tomorrow because of a number of high school graduations which were scheduled for the building where the count is being held. And the review was orchestrated by Republicans in the Arizona State Senate amid wild conspiracy theories involving ultraviolet light and even bamboo.

CNN's Kyung Lah law has been covering the saga since the beginning and was finally allowed inside.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are getting the first look ourselves.

(on-camera): Hey, good morning.

(voice-over): At the next act in the replay of the big lie. The 2020 election was stolen.

(on-camera): So this is the press box. And that's the floor.

(voice-over): The counting floor of yet another tally of the nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County from a distance and they're keeping reporters so far away that I have to use binoculars to see it looks like a ballot review but look harder, and the ballots are on a lazy susan zooming by ballot counters. This guy and a cowboy hat walking around with what appears to be some type of cell phone jammer. And then there's this light machine with multiple cameras. KEN BENNETT, ARIZONA SENATE LIASON: Two of the three matching.

LAH (voice-over): Ken Bennett hired by the Republican controlled Arizona Senate to help run this ballot review explains why they're using it.

BENNETT: Some microscopic cameras can zoom in on certain parts of the ballot to make sure that we're the ovals were filled in. There's a depression instead of the ovals being filled in by a Xerox machine.

LAH (on-camera): Is there a concern that ballots were Xeroxed?

BENNETT: There's always concerned that we want to make sure that every ballot came from a -- an eligible registered voter in Maricopa County, as opposed to somebody trying to introduce unauthorized ballots.

LAH (voice-over): That's a conspiracy theory that ballots were somehow snuck in leading to Donald Trump's defeat in the state last year. These types of lies resonated with ballot counters like Elouise Flagg.

ELOUISE FLAGG, AUDIT WORKER: I hope that we can come to a point where we're happy with the results and in truth is told.

LAH (voice-over): We talked to her as workers arrived outside the Coliseum to count ballots, their cars covered with bumper stickers supporting Trump and logos for conspiracy websites.

(on-camera): Do you think that Donald Trump won Arizona?

FLAGG: Yes, I do. I think that Donald Trump won the election. Firm believer.


LAH (voice-over): These workers didn't want to talk unless --

(on-camera): (INAUDIBLE) you guys talk about kind of Biden's (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They kind of made a sign a nondisclosure.

LAH (voice-over): Workers were told to not tell the public anything. Remember the guy in a cowboy hat. He jumped in to tell this worker to ignore us. He works for Cyber Ninjas, the tech company hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to conduct this third ballot review, or as Lisa Shacket calls it.


LAH (voice-over): With no training. Shacket got hired for two days. Here she is on the floor as an observer. She's retired a Democrat and worried about lack of training or consistent protocol with ballots.

SHACKET: The effort here is to uncover fraud. And if they can't uncover it, then they're going to create the fraud. RYAN MACIAS, ELECTION TECHNOLOGY EXPERT: From the counting process. It is not a normal recount process. It is definitely not an audit process.

LAH (voice-over): Ryan Macias is an expert in election technology. He's on the floor brought in by the Arizona Secretary of State to observe Cyber Ninjas ballot count. He is a registered independent and has been hired by both Republicans and Democrats to help safeguard dozens upon dozens of state and federal elections.

MACIAS: I mean that there's ballots, there's people counting. But the process in which they are utilizing at least on the counting floor is nothing that is in an election environment.


LAH (voice-over): A show that the Maricopa County Sheriff does not want to be a part of.

PAUL PENZONE, SHERIFF, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: To be reckless and to give away something of this capacity into the hands of a complete stranger is not going to happen while I'm the sheriff.

LAH (voice-over): Why is the sheriff involved? Another conspiracy this audit is chasing. The Cyber Ninjas want county routers to see if hackers rigged the election. Sheriff Penzone refuses to hand over the router saying the entire County's electronic security and law enforcement technology is at stake.

PENZONE: And when you have individuals who assume a conspiracy and then try to create the reality behind it, it's extremely dangerous.

LAH (on-camera): Is that what's happening here do you think?

PENZONE: That is what's happening here. You know, there's assumptions without any factual information to justify that.


LAH: And this bizarre ride is far from over. In just a couple of hours, the ballot counting is going to pause because our high school graduations next week, so they got to give up the space in the Coliseum. And so, those 2.1 million ballots, they're going to travel outside that Coliseum past. What I'm standing in front of which is the Crazy Times Carnival runs through Saturday. The move is going to happen tomorrow morning. And they're going to head to that green building the Cyber Ninjas, Arizona Republicans -- Senate Republicans say that that building is temperature controlled, 24 hours, monitored with security.

But here's a couple of issues. Anderson, the wall closest to the carnival has -- as it's being used by carnival goers, it's public toilets. And the State Fairgrounds does not recommend use of that building right now because of summer. And we're talking about paper ballots. Anderson.

COOPER: How long this is the Crazy Time Carnival opened, by the way, do you know?

LAH: (INAUDIBLE) another 48 hours. So, I believe tickets are on sale if you'd like.

COOPER: Well, I'll try to rush down. Great stamps. Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

As her story pointed out, what's happening in Arizona is a direct result of the former president's big lie that the election was somehow stolen. And that lie has rippled across the country, especially in states led by Republicans, which have enacted a series of new laws aimed at restricting voting in upcoming elections.

Joining me now is former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams, founder of a group called Fair Fight and the author of a brand new novel While Justice Sleeps.

Representative Abrams, I want to ask you about your new book in a moment, but just first on the news, given all your work on voting rights when you see this so-called audit in Arizona with cell phone jammers, and UV lights and conspiracy theories about bamboo ballots brought in from Asia. What is happening there?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: It's a continuation of the big lie. But more importantly, and more concerningly, it's a continuation of the insurrection of this attempt to descend, descend franchise voters and dismiss the legitimacy of our elections. And we know that this is only part of a larger intention. Just today there leaked audio from Heritage Action for America, where they admitted that this is model legislation being promulgated across the country through a vast Republican intention of limiting access to the right to vote because they think it's the best way to win.

And according to the leaked audio, they've been meeting with secretaries of states, with governors, with legislators, all with the intent of putting forward legislation that will restrict access to the right to vote and make it easier for Republicans to win. And we should all be concerned because our elections are not about partisanship. It should not be a question of Republicans or Democrats gaming the system, but everyone being able to participate and make their own choices.

COOPER: Which so kind of Orwellian about all this is at the same time this is happening -- Kevin McCarthy is saying that no one is contesting the legitimacy of the last election, which is exactly what they're doing.

ABRAMS: Well, they're not only -- is not only is there this hypocrisy, but it's gaslighting, they are saying aloud, that there's nothing wrong and at the exact same time they're pushing forward legislation to fix something they say is broken. Either they're lying, then or they were lying, or they're lying now. And the reality is the lie that continues to weave its way through our democracy is one that turns this issue of partisanship, this naked partisan grab. It distracts us from the fact that this is about citizenship, who has the right to vote in our nation? And should that vote be impeded? Because someone doesn't like the choice you're going to make?

COOPER: I want to --

ABRAMS: The answer should be --

COOPER: -- yes.

ABRAMS: -- unequivocally no.

COOPER: I want to play the an exchange that you recently had on the Hill about voting rights with Louisiana's Republican Senator John Kennedy about restrictions put into place in Georgia.


JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Tell me specifically, just give me a list of the provisions that you objected.

ABRAMS: I object to the provisions that remove access to the right to vote that shorten the federal runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks.


ABRAMS: That strict the time that a voter can request or return an absentee ballot application (INAUDIBLE) --

KENNEDY: Slow down for me, because our audio is not real good here.



COOPER: You went on and we're in great detail and I think he was surprised at the detail you were able to go into since then the federal voting rights bill, you've been advocating for a stalled. Are you confident that something will get passed at this point, because this week, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin confirmed he wouldn't support the voting rights bill known as the For The People Act. Manchin indicated he would support another more moderate voting rights bill called John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

ABRAMS: I think it's important that the voting rights standards that are embedded in the For The People Act that they pass, and that is standardizing and laying a threshold for how people vote no matter where they live. And whether that occurs through the For The People Act, which I know is stalled, currently. But this is a long year, and as we discovered in 2020 years can take a lot longer than we imagined.

But we also know that the persistence of this attack on voting rights in Florida, in Georgia, in Texas, in Arizona, in Iowa, now introduced in Michigan, in Ohio, that these attacks are going to continue. That Heritage Action says it intends to do this in Nevada and in Pennsylvania, that every time we see our right to vote under attack, it should reaffirm for every good American, especially ones who hold federal office in the U.S. Senate, that we have to protect the right to vote not to defend a party, but to defend the ideals of our nation.

And that the most patriotic thing we can do is pass voting rights legislation that actually defends the right to vote for all.

COOPER: So while you've been working on all the political things you've been working on, you have also written a book, which is how you were able to find the time I'm not sure but it's called While Justice Sleeps. It's a legal thriller set at the U.S. Supreme Court. What inspired you to write it?

ABRAMS: I actually started writing it back in 2008 based on a conversation I had with a dear friend Teresa Winroseboro (ph) about a quirk in the Constitution. The only people on the constitution who are given a lifetime appointment are federal judges. But there's also nothing in the constitution that says that you can remove them for simply being unable to do their jobs. When I thought about that, I thought about what if a Supreme Court justice who's the swing vote fell into a coma? What would we do and how would we react as a nation and Avery came and while justice sleeps was born.

COOPER: Represented Stacey Abrams, thanks very much appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, still to come the pipeline cyber attack along lines for gasoline, the question is was ransom actually paid?

(voice-over): Plus, more in our breaking news and the relaxing a mask use for vaccinated people what it means for those who travel on planes and trains and buses and what we need to know.



COOPER: More in our breaking news. The CDC has announced that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks inside or outdoors in most cases, but mask are still needed on airplanes, trains and buses.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins us. So, what is the exactly as the CDC requiring for travelers?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky laid out one key caveat in all of this, that even if you were fully vaccinated, you still should wear a mask when you are traveling. We asked the TSA about this. And it says the Biden administration's transportation wide mask mandate will stay in place that means bass on put on planes, trains, buses, boats, and here in terminals, like here in Reagan National Airport.

COOPER: And do we know how long the travel mask mandate will stay in place?

MUNTEAN: While September 13th is the latest date, in fact, that was just extended, it was supposed to expire this week. And it was extended after a little bit of lobbying from flight attendants. They are the ones who say they are on the front lines of enforcing all of this.

COOPER: And recently the FAA reported large increase in unruly passengers on commercial flights over mask rules. I imagine there must be concerned that this is only going to increase now that people don't have to wear masks in most places if fully vaccinated even though the rule says they have to wear them on the plane.

MUNTEAN: Well, Anderson, the head of the largest union of flight attendants says there should be no confusion about this. The FAA actually is already messaging on this on social media, saying you still have to wear a mask on board a plane, even if you are fully vaccinated. You know, the FAA reported a large uptick and unruly passengers not just about mask, 1,300 reports in the last three months alone and one has to wonder if this mixed message here will create more problems.

COOPER: Yes. Pete Muntean, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

As gas lines persist across parts of the southeast, an update tonight on the ransom payments demanded by the hackers that pipeline operator. That's next.


COOPER: Well two sources familiar with matter tell CNN tonight the Colonial Pipeline did pay a ransom to the hackers who carried out the cyber attack that caused widespread gasoline shortages throughout much of the southeast. Bloomberg first reported the payment although sources are telling CNN they do not know how much was in fact paid. The hackers previously identified as a group calling himself a DarkSide had demanded nearly $5 million according to two other sources.

Now, drivers in the southeast are still facing along lines even after Colonial announce a hit and restarted delivery in all of its pipelines but it will take several more days for things to get back up to speed.

President Biden today said he believed the Russian government was not involved in the attack. As for those lines, several stations are showing close signs today. But authorities say the situation should be resolved in plenty of time for the expected Memorial Day surge.


That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME."