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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

McCarthy Meets with Trump as Book Reveals Top General Feared Trump would Attempt a Coup after Election; Lawmaker Behind Ballot Review Holds Fact-Challenged Hearing; Los Angeles To Reimpose Indoor Mask Mandate Saturday At Midnight, Even For Those Vaccinated; Britney Spears Celebrates After Winning Legal Fight To Appoint Her Own Attorney. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 15, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury" premieres Sunday at 10.

Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. When we left you last night, we just brought you excerpts from Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker's new book documenting fears the former President might try to launch or inspire a coup.

Well, it took 44 presidents of all political stripes and temperaments, good ones and bad, until this President today became the first former President ever to deny such a thing, to deny planning to launch a coup. And even as he issued that unprecedented denial, even as book after book, with page after page of chilling revelations come out, top Republicans were today showing that they still cannot quit him.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on him today at his New Jersey Golf Club. This Kevin McCarthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was a week after the insurrection. Days later, of course, he walked it back and flying down to Mar-a-Lago to show his loyalty, not to the truth, but instead to the man who incited a mob that sent him fleeing for his life and begging that same man that day to call off the rioters. Quoting from a newly released excerpt from Leonnig and Rucker's book, quote, "Kevin McCarthy, who had been trying to reach Trump at the White House finally succeeded and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the rioters. Trump falsely claimed that the attackers were members of Antifa. McCarthy told the President that in fact, they were his own supporters." "Other advisers who were away from the White House tried to call Trump, but he didn't answer. They figured he knew what they were going to say and he didn't want to hear it. Plus, he was busy watching TV."

He was watching the fire that he started burn. That's who Kevin McCarthy made a pilgrimage to, again, today. He can't quit him because he is scared of him, scared that the former President might turn on him, and that he could lose his power in Congress.

It is the most craven type of politics imaginable, but perhaps not surprising. Compromise everything even yourself just to hold on to power. And it says a lot about where the Republican Party is today. And after kissing the former presidents ring, Congressman McCarthy reportedly headed to the White House for a dinner with President Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

One wonders what kind of small talk you might make with her, will they perhaps talk about the details from the Rucker and Leonnig book in which the former President is said to have called Merkel quote, "That bitch, Merkel," and said, quote, "I know the effing krauts." Using the ethnic slur again, quote, "I was raised by the biggest kraut of them all," speaking about his father, which is odd that last bit considering that over the years, citizen Trump sometimes denied his German heritage, saying instead the family was Swedish.

And so it goes.

Joining us now is CNN's Jim Acosta; also CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein, author along with Bob Woodward, of course, of "The Final Days," the definitive account of the end of the Nixon administration. So Jim, what are you learning about this meeting between Trump and McCarthy and then the dinner with the Biden and Chancellor Merkel?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I was just able to confirm in the last several minutes that Kevin McCarthy is at the White House having dinner with President Biden and Chancellor Merkel.

But earlier in the day, as you said, he made the trip up to Bedminster to kiss the ring of the once dictator in exile, now a dictator trying to make a comeback, the former President Donald Trump.

According to our sources, what was discussed at the meeting was fundraising and looking ahead to the 2022 midterms of, Anderson, obviously, you know, one of the sub-context in all of this, is that they need Donald Trump's fundraising prowess heading into the midterms. And what is one thing that Kevin McCarthy prizes above all else? That is becoming Speaker of the House.

And so, he has set aside what he said after the January 6 insurrection that Donald Trump bears responsibility for it, because in his case, in his view, the ends justify the means no matter what the Constitution was going through at that time.

Now, as for the dinner conversation over at the White House this evening, I'm not too sure, it might be something along the lines of McCarthy passed the bread and perhaps the January 6 Commission, too.

COOPER: Carl, what does it say that the day after we learned about all of these new details of General Milley being concerned about a potential coup from the then President and his allies, Kevin McCarthy goes to Bedminster, as you know, was who we said, to kiss the ring and show his loyalty?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's what we've known all along, that the Republican Party today is beholden to Donald Trump and Trumpism, which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military leader of the United States, yesterday and in this book, we have learned that he has compared Trump and Trumpism to Hitler's neo- fascism to Hitlerian fascism. This is an astonishing moment.

These books that are coming out now enlarge on the picture of Donald Trump that we've known all along, his derangement, his delusions, his criminality, and his utter lack of concern or conscience for the Constitution, for the people of the country, only for himself.

But what's new here, and is so important, the military leader of the United States has compared Trump and his movement to the brown shirts of Hitler's fascism. That's astonishing.

COOPER: Yes. Jim, I mean, these new books, as Carl was saying, I mean, they paint this incredibly chaotic picture of the Trump presidency leading up to the insurrection, fear of an attempted coup by the country's top military officers -- no small thing as Carl is saying.

Have any congressional Republicans said anything about these new revelations? Because it just seems like they are completely paralyzed from speaking out against Trump, while he is of course, the leader of their party?

ACOSTA: Yes, Anderson, I think most congressional Republicans are treating these books like Trump tweets. So, they haven't read them yet, or they're going to claim that they haven't read them yet. But the authors of these books have done in the Woodward and Bernstein tradition of going around and talking to sources who were in the know at the time who were there, when all of this was unfolding, and I will tell you, Anderson, a lot of what is being reported in these new books, aligns and matches with what we were reporting at the time.

I talked to a Trump adviser earlier today to go over some of this. This adviser said, yes, Trump was this out of control at the time of the January 6th insurrection, between the November election and the insurrection as a matter of fact, and I asked this source, was Trump trying to do just about everything under the sun in order to hold on to power? And this source said, yes.

And ask for all of this Hitler talk, Anderson, I even went back to this source and said, what is the deal with this Hitler talk? And the source responded to me, well, Trump did like to use the term blitzkrieg.

Anderson, I think there is no doubt in anybody's mind at this point who is dealing with reality that Donald Trump was totally out of control and acting like a dictator, who was willing to burn the Constitution to stay in power, and I think the burning question now for this country, and perhaps Carl may agree with me is what should be done about it?

It appears to me, in a very Nixonian fashion that crimes were committed heading into the January 6 insurrection.

COOPER: Well, Carl, I mean, you know, obviously, as we said, you wrote "The Final Days" with Bob Woodward about Nixon's dramatic last days in the White House. When you hear details coming out about the Trump final days, how does it compare, if at all?

BERNSTEIN: I think they are quite different, because Richard Nixon was a cogent criminal President of the United States, throughout his presidency, and a master at cover up; but Donald Trump would never be accused of being cogent about anything. And rather, what these books do is that they enlarge on the picture that we have already known about Donald Trump throughout the four years.

This is not about delusional, in the final days. He has been delusional, out of control, deranged -- and again, this -- I remember the first time I came on the air and said that Members of Congress, Senate leaders are depicting Trump, and this was in the first year of Trump's presidency depicting Trump as crazy. This was in the first year.

So, we shouldn't be surprised at these revelations, rather they build on what we have known all along about Donald Trump and how unfit he is for the presidency. What's so extraordinary and the difference between the final days of Nixon and the final days of Trump is the Republican Party, that McConnell, McCarthy, they are totally in enthralled of this President, who has been shown to be deranged, who McConnell himself has described to aides as crazy.

So, let's look at the difference, not just the similarities. The Republican Party under Nixon pushed him from office. Senator Barry Goldwater, the 1964 nominee of his party to be President told Nixon, "You must go or you will be convicted in the Senate." We didn't hear Mitch McConnell do that.

COOPER: No.

BERNSTEIN: We didn't hear Kevin McCarthy do it. And so, we have a Republican Party that is absolutely in lockstep with Trumpism, and what General Milley was talking about, which is a terrible, awful, terrifying moment in American history.

COOPER: Jim, what's also so stunning about this is Kevin McCarthy has got to know that no matter how much he debases himself, no matter how much he bends a knee to and you know, kisses the ring of the former President, even if he does this every single day through the next election, he could still not become Speaker.

[20:10:11]

COOPER: The former President could just decide, you know, on any given day, no matter what Kevin McCarthy has done, it's not enough, and I'm going to -- I'm going to cut him off at the knees.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. And Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell had a choice when they made up their minds about Trump after the insurrection that he basically was the cause of it. They could have let him remain in exile and not do what they're doing right now. Mitch McConnell, not as much as Kevin McCarthy and some of the other House Republicans are doing.

They are breathing life into the ruins, the burning and smoldering ruins of the Trump presidency, and they are putting Trump in a position where he could be a kingmaker for Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans in 2022. That would conceivably, Anderson, tee up a comeback bid for Donald Trump to run for President in 2024.

And for people who are throwing their beer cans at the TV screen right now and saying, "No way that that's possible." I heard everybody say that in 2016. I think people need to imagine the possibility that this is part of a Trump comeback, as crazy as that sounds. He could potentially pull it off with the help of these Republicans who had the chance to let him drift off into the ocean, out to sea and never to be seen from again. Unfortunately, they did not make that choice and history will long remember that -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Carl. I mean, you look at the statement that the former President released today attacking General Milley or, you know, attacking him by saying, you know, if he was going to do a coup, he wouldn't do it with Milley. He'd be one of the last people he'd want to do it with, which I guess the former President thinks that's a diss against, you know, Milley.

I mean, it really just makes him look ridiculous. There really is no one that this man will not turn on. I mean, he has been able to weather any controversy with his base, but other Republicans outside of the base, I guess they just don't care.

BERNSTEIN: I think we need to look at how big this space is. It's huge. It's most of the Republican Party. It is most people in this country who call themselves Republicans. As I have done, you talk to Republican senators, they will tell you that 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent of people who are Republicans support Trump and Trumpism.

This is not the party of Nixon. This is not the party of Bush Republicanism. This is the party of a kind of extremism that we have never seen in this country since the Civil War. So, this is about a great cultural moment.

This is not about mere politics or mere journalism. We are in the midst -- we were in a cold Civil War. We now have a cold Civil War that has been ignited by Donald Trump, had been ignited by his destabilized mind, by his excess, by his delusion and people have gone along in his party with these delusions. And the result is that there is a party now, it actually is not tethered in reality.

It's not -- you know, it is incapable of looking at facts. But the reality is, that party is very strong, and Donald Trump and his brand of what Milley has been talking about has made that Trumpism strong and his hold on so many Americans is not to be underestimated.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein Jim Acosta, appreciate it.

Breaking news next in the investigation of sexual harassment allegations against New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Also, new developments in Arizona's so-called vote audit. There was a briefing today with the leaders of the effort that -- surprise -- didn't go as -- well, I guess, it went off the rails, you can say. Our Kyung Lah was there.

And later, Ronan Farrow, in his remarkable look at the court imposed limits on Britney Spears's life and the major break she just got in her bid to be free of it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:05]

COOPER: New developments tonight in Arizona's so-called audit of votes in Maricopa County, the state legislator behind it held a hearing which was so full of factual misstatements that the county kept a running Twitter thread debunking it.

More from CNN's Kyung Lah who joins us now from Phoenix.

So, the Arizona's Senate President, Karen Fann who you've interviewed held this hearing on the so called audit and then spoke to reporters. What happened?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Anderson, from our very brief history together, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann isn't really somebody who likes to talk to the press, but she actually did today.

And it came after this extremely bizarre Senate hearing that really just read like, Greatest Hits of Election Conspiracies, and she doubled down on something she had told us previously, that she believes this audit, this machine count that you're seeing behind me that is going weeks long now -- that it is the starting point for a national movement. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN FANN, ARIZONA SENATE PRESIDENT: This is the start of a whole new industry, probably much less a process in the future where voters are going to start asking questions.

So, that's it. If you cannot be respectful and do it one at a time then I'll call it --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Now, that was her getting up and leaving when reporters like me, we, just started asking her questions presenting her with facts -- and she took off. Now, Republicans who are looking to 2022 are watching all of this with concern. Arizona is turning into a politically purple state and they are concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Strong values and strong opinions. "The Mike Broomhead Show."

MIKE BROOMHEAD, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There's not one bit of proof of any of this.

LAH (voice over): He is the go-to for conservative talk on Arizona radio, but on the so-called audit --

BROOMHEAD: While I understand that I'm an outlier with my own people when I question what people are going to think about this audit.

LAH (voice over): Mike Broomhead, lifelong Republican.

Trump?

BROOMHEAD: Yes.

LAH: You voted for him?

BROOMHEAD: Twice. Twice I voted for him.

LAH (voice over): But Trump lost and Broomhead thinks the so-called audit is a waste of time. Instead, he thinks the focus should be on winning Republican seats in 2022.

BROOMHEAD: If they win enough seats in the House, they take over the majority in the House.

LAH (voice over): But some of his listeners, his base, now call him everything from a turncoat to a RINO to a liberal.

BROOMHEAD: When you throw people out that disagree with you, it's hard to get them back when you need them to vote, and that scares me.

LAH: Politically, what is at stake here for Republicans?

BROOMHEAD: Everything politically is at stake. We could take a completely different direction in 2022, and I think that should be our focus.

LAH (voice over): But instead, most of the Republican base is stuck in an election time warp. For months, the focus has been on this controversial review of Maricopa County's November 2020 ballots, despite two previous audit showing no widespread voter fraud.

This partisan exercise is now in this hot and humid warehouse, counting ballots again.

Arizona Republicans like Raymond Molina want the audit regardless of cost.

LAH: Who do you think in your viewpoint won the 2020 election?

RAYMOND MOLINA, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: Trump. Yes, he got the votes.

LAH: Would you vote for a Republican who did not support the audit?

MOLINA: No. No. The Republican Party has a lot of bad apples.

LAH (voice over): Not all Republicans in the state agree. Tabitha Sloan says, she is fed up with her party's focus on the audit.

TABITHA SLOAN, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: Grow up. Face the facts and move on and figure out how to come up with a candidate that can win in the process.

LAH (voice over): Arizona's Republican Party is seeing this divide play out in the turbulent months after Donald Trump's loss. Arizona voter registration data shows since January, the month of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, more than 17,000 registered Republicans left their party, compare that to Democrats who lost just 2,400 voters. Independents surged, gaining more than 52,000 registered voters.

While the numbers don't reflect why they are shifting, State Republicans worry about the big lie that Trump continues to repeat.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire system was rigged against the American people and rigged against a fair, decent, and honest election.

LAH (on camera): How do you then get Republicans to vote in that very same system?

KIRK ADAMS, CONSILIUM CONSULTING: It's a major challenge. The truth is, is if you don't believe the system is honest and works, you're not going to vote.

LAH (voice over): Kirk Adams is former Chief of Staff to Arizona's Republican Governor.

ADAMS: On paper, 2022 should be a good year for Republicans historically. But there are challenges like this that we don't know how they'll play out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I mean, Kyung, just logically, if Independents are growing in Arizona and the G.O.P., you know -- the G.O.P. is shrinking in Arizona, just logically, it wouldn't make sense to be pursuing this audit that only seems to please a very specific part of the Republican base. But clearly, where the power center is right now in the Republican Party.

LAH: Spot on, Anderson. And they are looking to that power center, but you use that word "logic." One Republican operative in the state told me that logic is in short supply. What they are looking at, what this base is looking at is trying to win the primary. You've got to win the primary and that's where Trump's support and his acolytes have an outsized sense of power, an outsized power overall.

But then when it comes to the General Election, that's when Independents come in, and these Republicans in the state who are looking to win 2022 say it is politically a bad move to keep focusing on this audit -- Anderson.

COOPER: We'll see what happens. Kyung Lah, I appreciate it.

Quickly, some breaking news now in the investigation of sexual harassment allegations against New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with the latest. So, what have you learned about Governor Cuomo being questioned?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we're told that the governor is going to sit down for questioning, he's going to be interviewed by the two lawyers running the investigation for the New York State Attorney General. That interview, the questioning is supposed to take place on Saturday in Albany.

We don't know the parameters of that interview. We don't know if there are any limitations. But obviously, what the Attorney General's Office has been looking into has been these sexual harassment claims made by women against the Governor.

Certainly, a significant development in this investigation that now the Governor, the New York State Governor is going to sit with investigators and answer questions -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, is he under oath?

PROKUPECZ: He is expected to be under oath. It is going to be recorded in some fashion. We don't exactly know the parameters. You know, you would think any good lawyer would set some when investigators plan to question one of their clients. So, we don't exactly know the parameters of the interview.

[20:25:09]

COOPER: And what does it mean, in terms of the timing of the investigation?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, so it's only been suspected that this was going to be the last part of this investigation. So, it could be that after this, within weeks, within a month or so, we would see the final report from the Attorney General's Office, which has already interviewed the women who have made these accusations, also have interviewed staffers for the Governor and those close to the Governor.

So, this would indicate that they are at the end, perhaps, of their investigation, and that this could be the final step. And then within weeks, if not a month or so, sometime, by the end of the summer, we could see a conclusion to this and a final report from the Attorney General's Office. COOPER: And just -- what would -- I mean, a final report, does that mean it could go beyond that? Or I mean, are potential legal consequences or it depends on what's in the report.

PROKUPECZ: Right. It all depends on what's in the report, Anderson. Certainly, if there's some kind of criminal finding, that is not something or if there's something that needs to be referred, it would be referred to the District Attorney in Albany because a lot of these accusations stem from an activity that occurred in Albany.

So, if there was something in that realm, in that world that would potentially be referred to the Albany District Attorney, and that's why I say, you have to realize that a good attorney is not going to put their clients before investigators without some kind of parameters. We just don't know what those are.

But it is significant, certainly, and could indicate, Anderson, that we are at the end of this investigation.

COOPER: Got it. Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate the update. Thanks.

Up next, we have breaking news from Los Angeles where county officials there are saying they've got a new mask mandate -- this, as a stark warning today from the U.S. Surgeon General about how vaccine misinformation, sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional is a serious threat to public health.

All of that, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:35]

COOPER: Breaking news from Los Angeles tonight where the top county health officials saying a mask mandate will be reimposed beginning at midnight Saturday, due to rising COVID cases and hospitalizations. The L.A. -- the positivity rate in L.A. County has risen to nearly 4% from a little over 1% a month ago.

Now the mandate means that residents will be required to wear masks inside even if they have been vaccinated. So even if you've been vaccinated in LA County, they still want you to wear masks inside. All this as the U.S. Surgeon General today issued a stark warning about vaccine misinformation, becoming what he said was a serious threat to public health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It's led them to turn down proven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to avoidable illnesses and death. Simply put health information has cost us life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: As part of his advisory, Dr. Vivek Murthy also delivered a 22- page statement outlining what he said were some of the reasons behind his warning. Quoting now, misinformation tends to flourish environments of significant societal division animosity and distrust, he wrote. For example, distrust of the healthcare system due to experiences with racism and other inequities may make it easier for misinformation to spread in some communities. Growing polarization, including the political sphere may also contribute to the spread of misinformation.

A lot to digest and all that. Joining me now CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, a former public health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, and author of Lifeline To Doctors Journey In The Fight For Public Health. Also with us is Andy Slavitt, the former senior adviser to the White House for COVID response. He's the author of Preventable The Inside Story Of How Leadership Failures, Politics And Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus response.

Mr. Slavitt, you helped to lead the COVID response from the White House not long ago. Should this push against the spread of misinformation? Should you have started long ago -- I mean before things got this far?

ANDY SLAVITT, FMR WH SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, it did. Today is the day that it reached a new level with a surgeon general putting out a report effectively saying that we have to call this out by name. We can't just accept the fact that this is part of our society. But the Surgeon General and I both spoke very frequently to the social media platforms. But it was an ongoing battle frankly. And today's the day when Vivek Surgeon General decided to make it public and tell the public that this is akin to people who pollute the water -- our water and our air and our drinking system when they pollute our minds with lies. It's very much the same. And I think it's a great move by the Surgeon General today.

COOPER: But are certain mind already made up. I mean, it's now been, you know, we've been stewing in this kind of misinformation for quite some time now. It seems like the lines are drawn, either there's people who, you know, believe in medicine and science and get a vaccine and there's those who don't for a whole slew of reasons.

SLAVITT: Well, there's about 10% of the public, this still describes himself as on the fence. They're still very open to what they hear. And what we know is that two-thirds of the people that have decided not to get vaccinated believe one of five completely false facts, including facts, like the vaccine itself gives you coronavirus or it alters your DNA, things of that nature, are believed by two-thirds of those people.

So, you know, we have to fight this battle. We don't have a choice. We have to fight this battle, not to get convince people to get vaccinated. That's really not his point. But to get people to get reliable information so they can make good health decisions for themselves and their families.

COOPER: Yes.

SLAVITT: You know, we are battling against people who are trying to poison the well. And what we really need people to do is step back, get the real facts, talk to their doctors or people they trust. And we think the record will show that most of those people will choose to get vaccinated, we have to fight this fight.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, you tweeted something interesting earlier today, you said staying unvaccinated and then going around unmasked in crowded areas is not like eating unhealthy food. No one should have the right to spread a potentially deadly disease to immunocompromised individuals and young children. Why should the most vulnerable pay the price?

In your mind, should more communities be following what Los Angeles County is doing reinstating mask if people won't get vaccinated?

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, frankly, I think that the mask mandates were lifted prematurely. I'd said so at the time. I think a lot of us in public health were very worried about what we're seeing now and what we're seeing in virtually every state have a surge in cases, we're seeing 19 states that are having a doubling of the infection rates of COVID than they did two weeks ago. Arkansas having a five fold increase from early June. We're seeing this because the public misunderstood the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people as we can now do whatever we want. Even if we are unvaccinated, we can now behave as if we are vaccinated, we can take off our masks and there are no restrictions on our lives.

[20:35:34]

I think that right now is the time for locales to follow L.A. County's lead, and to save in places where unvaccinated and vaccinated people are mixing. Unless you have proof of vaccination, that people still should be wearing masks. I mean, I'm really worried right now, because the places that are seeing the surges are places with low vaccination rates. They also tend to be places without any kind of mask mandates and are unlikely to bring back basket mandates. So we really have to do something dramatic in order to protect our country.

COOPER: Mr. Slavitt, do you think that President Biden should reach out to the former president to ask for his help about spreading the message to get vaccinated? I mean, I know he did us sort of perfunctory, the former president did kind of a perfunctory, you know, message to get vaccinated. But, you know, he touts this as his greatest success, you would think, just rationally, logically, he would, you know, be full bore behind, you know, getting his followers to be vaccinated. But in fact, he doesn't, because he, you know, he wants them to continue to follow him.

SLAVITT: Well, President Trump never needs product to open his mouth. And unfortunately, what he's saying these days is dangerous. Mailers (ph) are going out from his campaigns. I'm not sure whether the former president's aware of them or not. Pointing out that people are dying from the vaccine, basically, putting out putting false statements out.

And so, this is the danger of having a populist at a time when you have a crisis, rather than lead and give people the tough messages. He's playing to his base, he's playing to the crowd. And so are many people on that side of the aisle. Not everybody, but many people in that side of the aisle.

So, you know, I don't know the formula. I wish we knew the formula for unlocking good behavior from the president. But I think he finds advantage right now in attacking the vaccine, or -- and look, when people attack the vaccine, they don't always come out and say, I'm anti-vaccine, they usually come out and do something more subtle. And I think we're seeing that more and more. We saw it a CPAC and we're seeing it, you know, too consistently now. And I think these needs to stop. We need to depoliticize the process of thinking about what's right for our health.

COOPER: Andy Slavitt and Dr. Leana Wen, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Straight ahead, how Britney Spears celebrated a judge's ruling that she can now appoint her own attorney. We'll talk with the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow about what this all means for the singer going forward. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:41:33]

COOPER: Britney Spears was understandably in a celebratory mood after judge rule, she could appoint her own attorney that long running battle with her father in the conservatorship that controls her career and finances. On both her Twitter and Instagram account, she posted this with accompanying video of her riding horseback and doing a series of cartwheels. Coming along folks coming along. And then there's an emoji of a middle finger followed by exclamation mark she continues, new with real representation today I feel of gratitude and blessed. Thank you to my fans who are supporting me You have no idea what it means to me to be supported by such awesome fans. God bless you all.

The New Yorker magazine's Ronan Farrow has been tracking all the twists and turns in this. He and authored Jia Tolentino have explored all that in a story called Britney Spears's Conservatorship Nightmare. He joins us now.

So Ronan, I mean, it's obviously a huge moment for Britney Spears to be able to obtain her own legal counsel. I find it stunning that she all this time has had somebody who was appointed by the court who was being paid I guess by the conservatorship that she herself was fighting against.

RONAN FARROW, THE NEW YORKER: It's one of the many aspects of the story Anderson that illustrates just how vulnerable these kinds of really restrictive legal structures, structures that get applied to disabled people and people with limited capacity of one type or another. How those structures can redound to kind of what appear to be gross violations of people's basic rights. In this case, she's alleged that this court appointed lawyer Sam Ingham didn't even apprise her of her options for filing to get out of this situation.

We in our investigation uncovered various court records in which this lawyer that was a quarterback point that was chummy with the judge and seems to joke about, you know, withholding pieces of information from her, you know, not telling her that she could get married if she wanted to, was one sort of punch line in one courtroom conversation.

So understandably, people are now sitting up and taking notice, that court appointed lawyer did resign. And as you point out, she is now picking her up and counsel a former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart.

COOPER: I mean, clearly conservatorships are designed for those who can't take care of themselves. You know, obviously, you're not a medical professional. But in covering this case, speaking to those around Britney Spears, does it seem like she needed someone to control her life at the beginning of this? I mean, obviously, you know, there was very public moments. But was it -- did it make sense in the beginning and then make a turn at some point.

FARROW: You know, what we document shows someone who was in a moment of emotional and mental health distress Anderson. You know, she famously had these incidents where the republican meltdowns. We do also point out in our reporting that those tended to follow cases where she tried to get access to her kids in a really tough, difficult custody dispute. That would probably apply a lot of pressure to just about anyone. Many close people to that situation, in retrospect, think you know, she was suffering from postpartum depression.

But, you know, I think one thing that comes across loud and clear in this is that in addition to whatever intentions that were driven by her best interests that her family might have had in mind at that point, this was also a family that was warring over her fortune, and overcoming trolling her and her estate. And it is without a doubt the case that that has informed the longevity of this structure and the ways in which Britney Spears has failed to get out of it even after repeated and pretty sophisticated attempts to do so.

[20:45:17]

COOPER: I mean, it's also just so bizarre that she is paying for all of the people around her who she feels are not working in her best interest. I mean, she's -- I assume her dad is being paid by her. The lawyer who's she says isn't working for her is being paid. I mean, everybody's being paid by her.

FARROW: We point out at one point, the court appointed lawyer who's she says has not adequately represented her, and who a lot of other people around this situation told us had her father's interests at heart, not hers. Obviously, he's disputed that, but he did resign in the wake of her reporting on this. She was paying him more than her annual living costs. You know, in addition, when her father who she has been at war legally trying to remove from her life, responded to our reporting inquiries, he was using a PR firm that charges hundreds and hundreds of dollars an hour essentially to work against her interests, and those bills were being paid out of her fortune.

COOPER: That's incredible. Ronan Farrow, appreciate it. Ronan Special Catch and Kill the podcast tape is now streaming on HBO Max. It's definitely worth watching. Just ahead, there's breaking news involving the latest twists and turns in the investigation to the assassination of Haiti's president what some of the suspects knew and others may not have known. A live report from the Capitol next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:35]

COOPER: Breaking news now in the investigation to the assassination of Haiti's president that only gets more mysterious by the day. The president of Columbia, which was home to some of the suspects, now says that some of them knew the mission was to kill Haiti's leader. It's an important development because as the President also said, some of the suspects had received different instructions other than to kill.

And more than that anemone, adding to the confusion of motivation and attendance were comments from Columbia's police chief today. He said some suspects were planning to hand the president over to America's Drug Enforcement Agency or DEA. He said there's no indication of the DEAs direct involvement. The agency declined to comment on the story.

CNN also has new video from the night of the assassination, which includes an American suspect in the killing giving a radio interview just after the shooting.

Matt Rivers has the video and the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just hours after Haiti's president was killed, this video live streamed via local journalist shows some of the men accused of killing him. Here you can see two of the Colombian mercenaries that official say were part of the hit squad. The first man is holding a rifle and signals for the journalists to stop. A second then stands up rifle glinting in the sun. They tell him to stop recording.

At this point, Haitian security forces had trapped the two dozen or so alleged assassins along this stretch of road. At the bottom a roadblock, then the lookouts with the majority of the suspects holed up in this building. Moving up the street and pass the vehicles the suspects had abandoned on the road. The camera reaches that building. As it pans you can see two things, several black clad mercenaries and this man, one of the two Haitian-Americans accused of taking part in the crime. At this moment, he's actually giving a live interview to Haiti Radio Mega saying they didn't kill the president.

Someone died but we didn't do it, he says. People inside the president's house started to shoot at us and we fired back to defend ourselves.

Vincent then says most of the group believed they were going to arrest the president not killing.

The journalists to film them Maihaiko Senechal who didn't want to show his face said, the group didn't seem to have a plan.

He says they knew they were in a tough position and knew the President was dead. They were confused not sure whether to turn themselves in or fight.

Ultimately, some chose to fight and a fear shootout with police left at least three Colombians dead. The easiest way to tell who actually killed the President would be to see the footage from CCTV cameras inside the presidential residence that a source tells us captured most of what happened. But authorities have refused to release it or even describe its contents.

(on-camera): We know that there is CCTV footage from the presidential residence the night of the assassination. Why not release that footage to the public? Would that not answer so many outstanding questions about who did this?

LEON CHARLES, HAITI POLICE CHIEF: So we cannot reveal to the public anything, any more information on till the investigators allow us to do so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Matt Rivers joins us now live from Port-au-Prince in Haiti. So, are authorities any closer to determining an actual motive?

RIVERS: Well, I mean, you heard us ask that question to the police chief Anderson, he's clearly trying to avoid answering that question which leads you to believe one of two things, either authorities don't actually know what the motive is, and all of this, or they simply don't want to tell the members of the public, the press what they have learned so far.

We have learned a lot in the past few days about who these suspects are, about who allegedly financed them, organize them brought them here to the island even supplied some of the arms to these people. But in terms of the reason, the clear reason as to why Haiti's president was assassinated, we just don't know that yet.

COOPER: We mentioned the intro, there's new reporting about the DEA. Can you just explain that?

RIVERS: You know, there's still a ton of questions around that, too. So, it was a press conference given by Colombian authorities earlier today, in which they said that part of the goal here for some of these alleged Colombian mercenaries was to arrest the president of Haiti and then quote, put him on display for the DEA. Exactly what does that mean? We do not know. They didn't expand on that. They didn't give any evidence to support that allegation. The DEA, as you mentioned off the top Anderson declined to comment on this case. So unfortunately, it is just one more mystery that we don't have an answer to.

[20:55:10]

COOPER: Yes. Matt Rivers, thanks very much.

Just ahead, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos set rocket into space just a few days. Aboard with him too soon to be record holders. Details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Just five days from now Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon Chairman Jeff Bezos will launch its first ever crewed flight of its tourism rocket. Aboard in addition to Bezos and his brother will be two record holders, the youngest and oldest individuals to venture into space. An 18-year-old soon to be college student, and 82-year-old Wally Funk, an aviator who trained to be an astronaut as part of the famed Mercury 13 women back in the early 1960s. She is now finally getting her chance. The younger astronaut was initially supposed to go on the next mission but the person who paid for his -- this spot to tune of $28 million decided to take a later flight citing what we're told our scheduling conflicts.

[21:00:06]

The news continues right now. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.