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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Manchin Stands Firm, Wants Bipartisan Deal on Infrastructure; Interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Pence Speaks out on Insurrection; NY Times: Government Finds No Evidence That Aerial Sightings Were Alien Spacecraft; New Evidence Of "Fraudit" Irregularities; Justice Dept. Investigating Gaetz For Obstruction Of Justice As Part Of Sex Trafficking Probe; How HIV And AIDS Have Changed Us Since The First CDC Report In June 1981. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 3, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes. Pretty, pretty, pretty incredible. And of course, in all of this are the investigations into the origins of the coronavirus itself in that Wuhan lab.
Max Boot, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
And I appreciate all of you as well. Anderson starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening, thanks for joining us. We are focused tonight on two powerful lawmakers standing between President Biden and virtually everything he hopes to accomplish in his presidency.
One of them is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell; the other is a Democrat. In just a short time ago, he spoke with CNN.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, despite having many of the same goals as the President is refusing to change the way the Senate works to achieve that, not only infrastructure or voting rights, or even a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol.
His deeply held belief that giving the minority the power to block important legislation will bring compromise and not paralysis is why the bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection could get 54 yes votes and just 35 no votes and still fail.
Yet, even in the face of that, Senator Manchin has stood firm against eliminating the requirement that most legislation needs 60 votes, in other words, 10 Republican votes to even reach the floor, it would take just 51 votes to change the rules.
This evening, under intense pressure to bend, he spoke with CNN's Manu Raju.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you just say --
just take it off the table and say you'll never reduce a 60-vote threshold on the filibuster.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Let me just tell you one thing, we're going to make the Senate work the way it was intended to work. I'm totally committed to that. And I'm not throwing caution to the wind. I have never desired to do that.
I've listened to everybody's point of view, but the bottom line is, this country has got to be united. We can't divide it. It has to be united.
And right now, there are people that want to divide it further. They say, it is useless. It can't work.
Well, I've never given up on our country.
RAJU: But what evidence do you have that Mitch McConnell wants to work with you? Last week, he blocked the commission bill and he could have -- and you saying that he will want to work with you.
MANCHIN: ... is dead either. I'm not saying that one's dead either. I know, I was very disappointed. I think it was wrong what he did. And I've said that. He knows how I feel about that.
And they look at this truly as a political -- I did not look at it political from that standpoint. I look at it as our country coming back together. It was totally everything they asked for, it was totally bipartisan.
I think Nancy Pelosi was very gracious in what she had offered, basically making it totally bipartisan. Chuck Schumer said, okay, I'll do the same. They were able to come to a disagreement, they were able to have the same staffing levels. Everything was done in the most bipartisan way. And for him to --
RAJU: But he blocked it because of the filibuster.
MANCHIN: Well, one person blocked it on that. But the bottom line is, we have seven people, six that voted, seven would, we need three more, let's give it another shot.
RAJU: So, you can say you'll never produce a 60-vote threshold.
MANCHIN: We're going to make the place work. We're going to make that --
RAJU: You're taking that off the table then.
MANCHIN: We're making it work. We will make the place work.
RAJU: You're not taking reducing the 60-vote threshold off the table?
MANCHIN: No. We're going to make the place work. There is nothing else I can tell you. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's a good effort by Manu. So that's Senator Manchin. As for Mitch McConnell, he has made it perfectly clear where his party stands. He said so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration. What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So not only does that not sound like the beginning of a beautiful bipartisan friendship. It sounds like what Mitch McConnell told the "National Journal" back on October 23rd, of 2010. Quoting now, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President."
Now, Joe Manchin knows this, of course. And to add in, he is a Democratic senator in an overwhelmingly Republican state, a state in which nearly 70 percent of people voted for Donald Trump in the last election.
Joining us now is Bernie Sanders, Independent senator from Vermont. Senator Sanders, we heard there from Senator Manchin, very clear about his intention to keep the infrastructure talks bipartisan. He also wouldn't totally rule out getting rid of the filibuster, either. He was saying we're going to make the Senate work.
Do you hold out for hope that he may still move on the filibuster?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, all I can say is, I want to make the Senate work. I think we all do, the American people do, what does that mean? What it means is you do what the American people want us to do, Anderson.
And the truth is that for the last four decades, wages in America for workers have been stagnant. We are seeing massive income and wealth inequality. We're the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all or have paid family leave. Half people are working paycheck to paycheck.
To make the Senate work, you've got to start doing what the American people want us to do and that is stand up for working families and not just for the top one percent, and when you do that -- that is called democracy. It's called majority rule.
SANDERS: It is making the Senate work and that's what we have got to do.
COOPER: So, you're for getting rid of the filibuster. SANDERS: At this particular moment, when you had Mitch McConnell right
on your screen, McConnell attempted to do everything he could to obstruct the Obama agenda and he has made it very clear.
Let's give the guy credit. He's out there. He is going to do everything he can to obstruct Joe Biden's agenda.
So, our only alternative now is to use reconciliation as we did for the American Rescue Plan, which was so important to the American people getting direct payments, cutting childhood poverty in half, extending unemployment, and was a very popular program.
We did that with 50 votes plus the Vice President, and it appears to me that's exactly what we're going to have to do again, if we're going to be successful in creating the millions of good paying jobs that we desperately need, dealing with a dysfunctional childcare and pre-K system, dealing with healthcare, dealing with higher education.
If we're going to stand up for working families, what we need to do is use reconciliation. And of course, we need to get rid of the filibuster,
COOPER: Senator Manchin said that, you know, the Senate was never designed for one party to go it alone, and Manu also asked the Senator if he was open to, you know, to creating just a limited, a carve-out essentially to eliminate the filibuster just to pass voting legislation, a simple majority party line vote.
He said he was not citing the concern that Republicans would use that against Democrats when they're next in power, saying what goes around comes around. Doesn't he have a point? I mean, is Manchin actually protecting Democrats for when the Republicans are in control.
SANDERS: I think not, Anderson, and I'll tell you something. Maybe the first test of this whole thing will not be on a reconciliation bill in order to create the millions of jobs we need and deal with so many of the infrastructure and climate issues that we have to deal with.
The very first test of it may be as to whether or not we remain, for all intents and purposes a democracy. I think you are more than aware, the American people are more than aware that in Georgia, in Texas, in states all over this country, what Republicans are doing in an absolutely shameful, disgraceful, cowardly way is making it harder for people of color, for poor people, for young people to vote.
So, they understand, I suspect, that their agenda of tax breaks for billionaires in cutting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid is unpopular. So instead of addressing the real issues facing working people, they are trying to make it hard for people who might vote Democratic to vote.
And what we are going to be bringing up within the next month is the For the People Act, which basically says the very radical statement that in America, if you're 18 years of age or older and a citizen, you have the right to vote, that we should not have the crazy kind of gerrymandering that we have in states around this country, and that we should not have the kind of dark money, billionaire corporate money, which is doing so much harm without disclosure.
So that's what we're fighting for. I suspect, we're going to get zero Republican support for that. And the only way we are going to go forward to protect American democracy, to give people in states all over this country a fair shot at electing who they want is by passing that bill.
COOPER: What do you say to the argument that, okay, you do that this time, Democrats are in control, it works for Democrats, you know, two years from now, if the Republicans retake the House, retake the Senate, then they use it?
SANDERS: No, that's true. That is true. But I think where we are, you know, what comes around goes around. But I think where we are right now, when we are dealing a whether or not we remain a democracy.
Look, what Republicans are trying to do now all over this country is stack the deck to make it harder for the people who will vote Democratic to vote and what that means is that it is going to be very hard to have a Democratic Senate, to have a Democratic House. And I think when you're talking about fighting for basic American democracy, you've got to do what you've got to do.
And right now, that means, if we have no Republican support, doing it with 50 votes plus the Vice President.
COOPER: Just finally, I know you've probably heard a lot of excuses in your current politics. Have you ever heard a lamer excuse than the Texas Representative who is saying that the bill that they were pushing in Texas to move the voting time, the voting on Sundays couldn't start until 1:00 p.m., that was actually a scrivener's error or a typo that they really meant 11:00 a.m.? And I mean, they argued it in the legislature. They were arguing this for days. Nobody picked up that it was a typo. I mean, it's insane.
SANDERS: Well, that is what we're dealing with now. We are dealing -- you want to go into insanity, we still have people claiming that Donald Trump won the election.
In fact, this whole voter suppression is based upon that big lied.
So, these are tough times, Anderson, and they require a tough response. We've got to pass the For the People Act and if no Republican is prepared to support us, we've got to go with it alone.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
Perspective now from CNN's Chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, also CNN political commentator, former senior Obama adviser, Van Jones.
Kaitlin, the Senator Manchin didn't take abolishing the filibuster off the table, essentially, he doesn't want to address that at all. He just says, you know, I want to make the Senate work for the people the way it should.
Manu certainly gave him multiple chances to take it off the table. He made a point not to, how do you read that?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he didn't. Though, of course on Capitol Hill several times he said I don't want to get rid of the filibuster, basically stop asking me that question. But pointing to him several times saying this 60-vote threshold is that something that you are never ever going to support changing? And you're right, he would not commit to that, which I do think is notable.
But of course, his comments, essentially offering a warning about what happens if they do change it, do stand. And you saw Senator Sanders there basically acknowledging it, but saying that they do feel and this is the feeling among some several prominent Democrats that voting rights and those voting rights legislation bills that have passed the House, but stalled in the Senate, they are worth it to get rid of the filibuster, even if it does come back around to haunt them, if Republicans retake the majority, because they were saying when it comes to elections, you know, that is really the basis for all of this, why we're here on Capitol Hill.
And so I do think it's notable that Senator Manchin would not rule it out, but we have to keep in mind he is not the only Democratic senator who is not in favor of abolishing the filibuster. There are several others that the White House would have to get on board or the Democrats would have to get on board if that was a path that they're going to go down.
COOPER: Van, what's your take? I mean, do you see some daylight there with Manchin?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I was frustrated with Manchin tonight, and I think people are getting increasingly frustrated just as it becomes more and more clear to the American people what the Republicans are up to. Their behavior just seems bizarre until you put all the pieces together, what they're doing is that this so-called big lie, is actually a big excuse to set up a big heist for the next election.
In other words, they are a hundred percent now committed, it seems to me as a party to go down this dangerous pathway of making it almost impossible for the majority to rule in America.
The deck is already stacked for the red states. Don't forget, the Senate already gives you know, little bitty red states as many votes as California in the Senate. The House has already gerrymandered up the wazoo. They already stole two seats on the Supreme Court.
The Electoral College gives your red states an unfair advantage, and they have the filibuster on top of that. You already have the game stacked for you if you're Republican, and you still want to cheat even more.
And so, there is going to have to be thunder on the left. You have a determined effort on the Republican Party side. I think people have been hoping that maybe we'll have a nice summer, can we just go out and enjoy our families and not have to worry about the pandemic? I don't think we're going to get that kind of summer. I think there is going to have to be a serious mobilization among progressives to save American democracy.
And Senator Manchin, I understand his intentions and I understand his heart, but at some point, he's got to look at the facts, and at least on the question of voting, line up with the majority of Americans who want us to remain a Democratic Republic, that's not where we're headed.
COOPER: Kaitlan, I want to play something else from Manu's interview with Senator Manchin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Last question, Joe Biden this week, he said that he said that you vote more with Republicans and Democrats.
MANCHIN: I think that -- I think that's taken totally out of content.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Saying he was taken out of context. Again, Senator Manchin comes from an overwhelmingly Republican state. I'm wondering what you made of his perception of that.
COLLINS: Well, saying that it was taken out of context. I mean, we saw the full context of that comment from President Biden, and yes, the White House did later try to walk it back saying it wasn't a criticism, but it's hard to see how it's not a criticism when the President is saying that you're a moderate Democrat who votes more with Republicans than you do with Democrats.
And we know that's not true, Sinema and Manchin do vote much more with Democrats than they ever do with Republicans. But it was a noticeable dig because it showed the frustration that does emanate from the West Wing with people like Manchin and the way that they are involved with President Biden's agenda and how they could potentially thwart his agenda when it comes to major pieces of legislation like what we're looking at with infrastructure.
COLLINS: Where Manchin is one of increasingly few Democrats who were saying keep these talks with Republicans going, let's keep these negotiations happening, these counteroffers and offers. You're seeing other Democrats saying, hey, it's time to move on and without Republican support, because clearly, they're never going to agree to what we are looking to pass here.
And also, I think, seeing the concessions that President Biden is making, there are several progressive Democrats who aren't happy with that. And so, I think that's a notable part here.
But saying it was taken out of context, it certainly wasn't. We all heard it for ourselves.
COOPER: Yes. Van, what do you make of the argument, which Senator Manchin makes and others make, which is look, Democrats, watch what you are fighting for because, you know, yes, maybe the filibuster will work -- you know, getting rid of it will work for you this time. But if when Republican, not if, when Republicans take control, you know, two years, four years, whenever it is in the House or the Senate, again, the shoe is going to be on the other foot.
JONES: Well, he is right, and we have to live with that. Look, there already are protections baked in for minority constituencies in our Constitution, the filibuster is not in the Constitution.
So, here's the deal. Right now, what's happened because of the abuse of the filibuster, the relentless abuse of the filibuster, when we win, we can't govern, and so at some point, why do we have to -- why do we even try to vote?
So, I think we have to roll the dice. Here is why Democrats might feel a little bit more confident. We have a pathway, at least with this Republican Party, if we can have a fair election to hold on to the presidency for a very long time. And so you don't have the filibuster, but you will have the veto, that can protect Democrats for a very long time if we are going to have fair elections.
If you don't have fair elections, though, then the whole game is over. And so I would rather trade in the filibuster and rely on our ability to veto if we can have fair elections.
COOPER: Van Jones, Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up next, breaking news on two related fronts, what Mike Pence just said about the insurrection that his old boss fomented and what his old boss is now asking about, somehow returning to office this year, reporting that's just now coming in.
And so is this: what Intelligence officials are saying about what those maybe pilots saw that no one has been able to explain. We'll talk with one of the journalists who has just learned what's in a hotly anticipated government report.
COOPER: More breaking news now, almost five months after former Vice President Mike Pence had to be hurried out of the Senate Chamber with his family to safety during the January 6th Capitol riot, the day when some of the rioters were heard by those present to shout "Hang Mike Pence," the former Vice President, possible future presidential contender took the opportunity of a speech in New Hampshire to show some distance between himself and the former President about that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I said that day, January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and Federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured.
And that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office and I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
PENCE: And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I am joined now by our chief domestic correspondent, Jim Acosta, who covered the previous administration and CNN's Chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins is back with us.
Jim, it's interesting, there wasn't applause when the Vice President had the line, you know, we went back and we did our duty. The applause was backing the, you know, I'm not going to let it you know, basically turn again, make me turn against the President and I'm so proud of what we did for the four years.
What else did the Vice President have to say?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, he was also talking about how he support some of these -- what they call election integrity efforts on the state level across the country, that those are code words, for essentially trying to fix the next election cycle for Republicans, because Republicans, by and large, have been driving this process at the State House level.
You know, Anderson, one of the things that Mike Pence did not talk about during that speech, he did not talk about how his own President tried to strong arm him into overturning the election results.
The disagreement that exists over January 6th, it's not just about January 6, it is about what led up to January 6th and how Donald Trump for days was -- and weeks really -- trying to overturn the results of election, calling various state officials and so on, and then trying to strong arm his own Vice President into going to down to the Capitol and overturn the election results.
And so the Vice President -- the former Vice President there is just glossing over what happened around January 6th, and it is just -- it is unfortunate to see, obviously, he wants to put that behind him because he thinks it's beneficial to him to get right with President Trump -- former President Trump for the 2024 cycle. COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan, one wonders how long it is going to be before he
makes a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, for you know, the same Kevin McCarthy photo up with the former President.
COLLINS: Though I think it's even worse for Pence to say something like that to try to really minimize that day with his comments because he was the one where they were chanting about hanging him. The rioters wearing Trump's -- carrying Trump's flags, wearing shirts bearing his name. And so it's stunning for Pence to make these comments.
It's not surprising, of course. This is a long held pattern that we've seen allies of the President take. Lindsey Graham, who Trump gave out his number one time at a press conference. Of course, he is a close ally of the former President. Ben Carson, Trump once called him a liar, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, I mean, the list goes on and on.
But I think Mike Pence is really the height of it, because of course, the situation he was in where he never got a phone call from the President that day when they were in office, the Vice President never getting a phone call from him as rioters were chanting, "Hang Mike Pence," is something that was well known on that day.
And of course, he had to be escorted out by service. His staff was greatly concerned about this, staff here at the White House were begging the President to put out a statement and to hear him minimize it as just one tragic day, and essentially blaming Democrats in the media for continuing to talk about it, even though it was a history making moment, it goes to show what this next race is going to look like in the Republican primary coming up.
Because of course, you're going to see people like Pence, who we do expect to run trying to square this while saying, you know, they're not standing by what Trump did that day. But they are saying we need to move on from it. That is the words that you've heard from Mitch McConnell, and those who voted against the January 6th Commission, saying let's put this in the rearview mirror.
And I think it's going to be a really difficult balance for them to try to maintain going forward because of course, we know what Trump expects and that is no criticism at all.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, Jim, the former Vice President's wife and daughters, if my memory serves me correctly, were there with him that day and scurried to safety. I mean, the idea that he now in order to run, you know, and to remain in good standing in the Republican Party has to kind of recreate or reinvent, you know, his feelings about that or what actually happened that day is pretty sad.
I know, speaking of the former President, you have some reporting -- some new reporting on what he has been saying to some of his closest advisers.
ACOSTA: Yes, we've been talking about this for a couple of days, Anderson, this idea that Donald Trump has been out there talking to advisers about whether or not he could be re-installed as President of the United States. We were able to confirm it here at CNN.
I talked to a Trump adviser earlier today, a source familiar with these conversations, who said Trump has been going around and asking his advisers, what do you think of this theory, referring to these far-fetched suggestions coming from far right celebrities, people like Mike Lindell, you know, who owns the My Pillow Company and so on, and wondering whether or not he can somehow be reinstalled as President of the United States, if somehow these election results are overturned, this crazy notion that the election results might be overturned in Arizona or wherever.
And according to this source familiar with these conversations, these advisers have had to talk Donald Trump off the ledge. And in the words of the source that I spoke with earlier today, this talk coming from the former President is quote, "very dangerous."
And so Anderson, you know, we can write this stuff off, as you know, Trump just you know, he is just talking out of his back end and so on. He does this on a regular basis. It's this kind of nonsense and craziness that sparked the insurrection on January 6th and it sounds like Donald Trump is so starved for attention, so starved for coverage, that he is willing to stoke this once again.
And the unfortunate thing is, is there just so many millions of Americans who believe this craziness even though it's just that.
COOPER: Yes, Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins, thank you.
Next, the government still can't explain what Navy pilots saw in the sky. They've just come to a perhaps the biggest single conclusion they can about these unexplained aerial phenomena. The new reporting when we come back
COOPER: There's more breaking news and the question that it speaks to cannot be bigger. Namely, are we alone? Specifically, we're all the strange, otherworldly objects reserved by naval aviators over the recent years alien spacecraft. The government has been looking into it.
Tonight, The New York Times has learned the reports bottom line. Julian Barnes shares the byline in the scoop. He joins us now.
Julian, what did the government -- what does the government saying have they come to any concrete conclusion?
JULIAN BARNES, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, they found no evidence that these unexplained phenomenon are alien spacecraft. But they still can't explain what they are. And that's going to be a big but. They have ruled out that these things that were seen by the Navy pilots were some sort of secret American government program that was out there as one possibility. And that's been eliminated. But we don't have a definitive conclusion on what it is. Although officials say there's no evidence its aliens.
COOPER: Have they -- what about the possibility of, you know, secret programs belonging to some other governments, some other country operating here?
BARNES: Absolutely. And that remains a possibility. There's more than 120 different phenomenon that were investigated by the government and reviewed as part of this soon to be released report. And not all of them can be balloons or scientific research projects. Some may well be could possibly be a technology by Russia or China, both countries are researching hypersonics. But even there, we don't have a lot of clarity. Because if some of these things were hypersonic weapons or aircraft that would suggest that the Russians and Chinese are far ahead of America, not just a little bit ahead, but quite a bit.
COOPER: Right. Either way, it's concerning either, you know, it, the fact that it's they can say that it's not U.S. military or U.S. spacecraft, then if they can't say for sure, they say there's no evidence that it's alien, but that doesn't mean it's not alien. There's just no evidence of it. Correct me if I'm wrong. And --
BARNES: No, (INAUDIBLE) --
COOPER: -- the other alternative is that it's some other countries aircraft moving in ways that we are not capable of are familiar within our airspace.
BARNES: Right. There's also a possibility that this is some sort of visual artifact that both humans and cameras could see there's some scientists who push that theory, although the pilots are very certain, they saw something and there were repeated incidents. So, it's a frustrating, like so many of these intelligence issues, it's pretty frustrating. We --there's more unknowns than knowns.
COOPER: So, even though the government says there's no evidence that this alien spacecraft and what happens now? It's not going to stop people believing something is out there. You know, there are also all these stories about maybe they had material or recovered material it does -- this report address any of that?
BARNES: Well, we don't know. But we don't know for certain. But there's nothing in this report. I'm told my colleague has told that presents evidence that could points to an alien spacecraft. So, having other worldly material, material that couldn't be explained. Well, that would be a piece of evidence for an alien spacecraft. So, that's not in this report, and it's not in the classified annex that'll come out later this month.
COOPER: Oh, and is there going to be an unclassified version?
BARNES: Oh, yes. So Congress has required an unclassified report that's due by June 25th. And the public will be able to read that. There will also be a classified annex that we won't be able to see. Although, we're told that in that annex there, there's no evidence of aliens there either.
COOPER: Is fascinating. Julian Barnes. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
BARNES: Thank you.
COOPER (voice-over): Coming up next, did Pennsylvania state lawmakers running from CNN's Kyung Lah in Phoenix run all the way home with new ideas for overturning election results there. I'm talking about what the state's lieutenant governor.
Plus, new reporting on more sketchiness surrounding the Arizona ballot review.
COOPER: When last we saw CNN's Kyung Lah, she was chasing Pennsylvania state lawmakers not in Pennsylvania but in Phoenix, Arizona. They were visiting the bogus ballot review going on there, apparently intent on trying something similar back home. In a moment we'll be joined by Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor.
But first a new development in Arizona fresh evidence that would Democrats even some Republicans are calling a sham is precisely that. It comes from Arizona Secretary of State whose office has been documenting irregularities in the operation. Once again, CNN's Kyung Lah.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a mystery from the start. Why the so-called audit workers all were color coded t shirts, but two are in pink shirts? The non-partisan observers representing the Arizona Secretary of State's office told by the company leading the audit that they need to wear them. Now Secretary of State Katie Hobbs thinks she's figured it out.
KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: What we've noticed is that they are using these shirts to label our observers as pinko commies that the shirt made him look like a transgender. Which I don't even know what that means.
LAH (on-camera): So it's a joke.
HOBBS: I don't -- I mean, I think this whole thing is a joke.
LAH (voice-over): The pink shirts are one of the more eye popping details and a summary report from Hobbes's office, detailing a slew of problems with his ballot review of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots. Observers noted more than a dozen serious problems from an unattended and open security gate. Errors with the software update used to examine ballots so problematic they ditched it and went back to the old software and a cell phone brought to the floor. Observer say that cell phone was carried by one of the leaders of the so-called audit despite rules prohibiting them and security using what appears to be an anti spy detector daily on the Coliseum floor.
And then there's --
JEN FIFIELD, THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: This there were two instances where black pens were again on the counting floor.
LAH (voice-over): Jen Fifield is an Arizona Republic reporter pen color is a big deal because blue and black pens can be used to alter ballots during an audit. She pointed out weeks ago to the Cyber Ninjas, the hired contractor conducting the ballot exercise for the Arizona Senate.
FIFIELD: He went, he checked he came back to me and said, you know what, we're going to remove the blue pens. We're going to use green pens instead.
LAH (on-camera): So you noticed the problem before Cyber Ninja said?
FIFIELD: I did.
LAH (on-camera): Does this strike you as a reporter covering this like a big deal?
FIFIELD: It strikes me as showing that they may not have experienced during an election audits before.
LAH (voice-over): The Cyber Ninjas are a little known tech company hired out of Florida for the so-called audit. A third review run by the Republican controlled Arizona Senate despite two previous audits conducted by Maricopa County. In response audit spokesman Ken Bennett tells CNN that he quote, laughed out loud when he read Hobbes's report calling it quote, untrue to inconsequential to a bunch of BS.
He also called the observers bias saying no one picked on them for the pink shirts. But Hobbs says her report seeks to rebut what she expects will be the final report from the Cyber Ninjas in Arizona Senate Republicans. The next chapter of the big lie.
HOBBS: I saw Senate President Karen Fann say to you last week that we're setting the gold standard here in Arizona.
KAREN FANN, ARIZONA SENATE PRESIDENT: And this will be the basis of a gold standard.
HOBBS: There is nobody involved with any type of audit in any industry who would say that what's going on here is a gold standard. We know the truth about the 2020 election and that the results we certified were an accurate reflection of the will of the voters and this process is not.
COOPER: And Kyung joins us now from Phoenix. There are Republicans in Maricopa County that are trying to fight against the big lies. Some are making the connection to the so-called audit and the former presidents, you know, believing he'll be reinstated in August. LAH: Yes. We're actually hearing from them more and more. And we just saw this tweet from Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates. He's been really one of the more active and vocal Republicans here in the county saying look, this is a lie. And what he tweeted was that the audit is feeding into that conspiracy theory for his desire quote unquote, reinstatement.
This is the important part. He tweets that Republicans must stand up to this madness and defend the rule of law. Silence is becoming complicity. It is something that we keep hearing about Anderson in this state. Is it going to be fact or fiction? With some report Republicans choosing fact and others continuing to follow this audit. Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Kyung Lah, appreciate it.
Joining us now John Fetterman, Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governor, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, thanks for being with us. There are obviously major problems what's going on in Arizona and only from, you know, an operational perspective, according to state representatives, but it's also based on the big lie that the election was fraudulent, and that there was widespread voter fraud, which we know there was not.
So, what goes through your mind when you see Pennsylvania Republicans visiting in Maricopa County, and I guess wanting to do the same thing in your state?
JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA) LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Well, it doesn't surprise me that the three colleagues are very much less tethered to reality than even the other Republicans colleagues in the Senate. These are fringe among more of a fringe movement. So, I'm not surprised and I don't expect it to go anywhere. But really the prime directive for Republicans at this point is sipping for the former president because that waters the tree of liberty for the Republican Party now.
COOPER: The State Center of Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, who was one of the three Pennsylvania lawmakers who have traveled to Arizona, he said, quote, I'm not about overturning anything, I'm just trying to find out what went right, what went wrong, and how do we have better elections in the future, unquote.
You know, he was at January 6. He said he left before any violence, and he renounced all, you know, any violence. But the idea that visiting a privately run, you know, audit that doesn't, you know, it's not really has -- doesn't have to answer anybody. They can announce results, any results they want. And there's no way anyone can check what they have done. Do you trust that Mastriano isn't about overturning anything?
FETTERMAN: Well, of course, they would love to. Recall Mastriano and the others put on that snake handling demonstration in the Ramada Ballroom in Gettysburg, late in 2020, trying to overturn the election results. I mean, this is what they do. This is all they know and this is all they have to run on it. And currying the former president's favor is their only play to be electorally viable nowadays in the Republican Party. And that's a tragedy. If you tell the truth in the Republican Party, you lose your elective career in politics. We've seen it with my counterpart in Georgia and across the country.
The bottom line is this. No one, including the Republicans themselves believe there was any fraud. They know what better than anybody what the results are. And this is strictly about sipping for Donald Trump. So he curries favor and they endorse him. He endorses them and they ultimately would win in their respective primaries.
COOPER: You're confident that there's not going to be a Maricopa style of, you know, so-called audit in Pennsylvania.
FETTERMAN: I am. The members that made that trip we're fringy even among the fringes, and I do not believe it would go any further than again the train wreck in the Ramada Ballroom in Gettysburg did. It's just all for show and it's all just a pander to the fringe in the extremes. And it's not going to go anywhere. No one's getting re- installed this president. It's all just part of this really bad performance art, that they just won't let it go because that's the only thing they have left to run on because President Biden and the Democratic majorities have led this country out of this pandemic, and are getting people back to work and getting people back to their lives pre pandemic.
COOPER: Lieutenant Governor Fetterman. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
FETTERMAN: Thank you.
COOPER (voice-over): Coming up next, there's new reporting on why Congressman Matt Gaetz could soon be in even deeper legal trouble than he already is. That's ahead.
COOPER: New reporting tonight that only adds the trouble, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz could soon find himself in. He's already under investigation for alleged sexual relationship with a minor. His former friend and wing man is already cooperating in the investigation. And now sources tell CNN the feds are looking to weather the congressman may have obstructed justice.
More now from CNN's Paula Reid.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A source tells CNN that investigators have been told about Gaetz and an associate discussing a plan to visit Gaetz's ex-girlfriend in October 2020. Investigators have also been provided with material that suggests the woman may have been influenced related to the investigation.
The woman is seen as a critical witness in the probe, as she was linked to the Congressman in the summer of 2017, when he allegedly had sexual contact with a different woman who was just 17 at the time.
Politico, which first reported the obstruction investigation late Wednesday also says investigators are looking at a phone call Gaetz had with a witness in the sex crimes investigation. The call reportedly originated between the witness and Gaetz's ex-girlfriends and Gaetz himself joined at some point. But the outlet did not report when the call took place, or what was said. The Congressman has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors.
REID (voice-over): In a statement in response to CNN's new reporting, a spokesman for the lawmaker said, Congressman Gaetz pursues justice he doesn't obstruct it. After two months, there was still not a single on record accusation of misconduct. And now the story is changing yet again.
COOPER: And Paula Reid joins us now. How significant is the obstruction piece of this investigation?
REID: Well, Anderson is certainly heightens the legal jeopardy for the Congressman. We have to remember is at the heart of this investigation is a group of young women who were allegedly traffic to some of them exchange sex for money and gifts. One of them was even allegedly under age. I have spoken with several of them. Some of them are savvy, and some of them are not. And some of them have told me they're very scared to be involved in a federal investigation.
So the fact that they're looking at any pressure on them very significant.
COOPER: Paula Reid, appreciate it.
Still to come, we remember 40 years ago this week, when the CDC issued its first report, a report on a virus the world will come to know as HIV.
COOPER: On June 5th, 1981 the CDC reported for the first time on a rare pneumonia in five previously healthy young gay man in Los Angeles. This was the agency's first report on what the world would eventually know is HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. That was 40 years ago this week. According to the CDC, 730,000 people have died of AIDS related illnesses in this country in the U.S. and about 32 million worldwide. At an event in December honoring his work fighting HIV, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about those terrifying early days in which there were few answers, little compassion and widespread fear of and bigotry against those who were ill. Fauci said he would be, quote, putting band aids on hemorrhages with no drugs available, watching literally all of my patients die.
Today, CDC says HIV infections have decreased about 73% thanks in large part to life saving drugs, better care and testing. Its astounding achievement in 40 years, but HIV is still with us. The Department of Health and Human Services says more than a million people in this country now live with it. More than one in 10 don't even know that they are HIV positive.
It's a reminder of the importance of regular testing for HIV because there is treatment, which has turned what was once a death sentence into just a chronic condition. With treatment, you are undetectable and if you are undetectable that means you cannot transmit the virus to others and you can live a normal life. So treatment and testing is critical.
The news continues. Want to hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.