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Biden Hoping to Pass Bill with Bipartisan Support; GOP Mostly Silent Over Marjorie Taylor Greene's History of Racist and Xenophobic Comments on Her Social Media; McCarthy to Meet Marjorie Taylor Greene Next Week; Interview with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI); Graphic New Bodycam Video of Capitol Riot. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 29, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Biden turning up the heat on Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan, saying we have to act now, there's no time for delay. He's hoping to pass a bill with bipartisan support. But if not, says it has to pass, quote, no it's, and's, or but's.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy struggling to get the GOP in order, a party in disarray. He's set to meet next week with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who has known for making incendiary comments.

Now, CNN Tonight has obtained screenshots from Marjorie Taylor Greene's social media account. Some since remove that are full of anti-Semitic tropes, bigotry and outrageous conspiracy theories. Marjorie Greene sees a Q in the sky for an Eric Trump golf course tweet. Marjorie Taylor Greene replies to a commenter on one of her Twitter treads and calls George Soros a Nazi. That at still, that one is still up on Twitter right now.

And just so you can see what she is engaging with when she calls Soros a Nazi, here is a larger version of that graphic portraying him as a vampire going up in flames. But if those tweets -- both of those tweets, I should say, are verified by CNN's k-file.

The same source share two screenshots of two now-removed Facebook posts of Marjorie Taylor Greene's page, which CNN has not independently confirmed. Look at this, one, a fake promo for the funeral of the late Senator John McCain, a war hero who served his country and the Senate for more than 30 years.

And then there is this bigoted anti-Muslim meme that shows graphic images of the 9/11 terror attack side by side with the image of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib being sworn into Congress, and it says, thanks, Michigan. We bur the faces of the children in that photo to protect them from this kind of ugly bigotry.

Marjorie Taylor Greene's office did not respond to a request for a comment. In a previous statement about other removed posts, Taylor claimed that many people have run her Facebook page, saying, quote, over the years I've had teams of people manage my pages, many posts had been liked, many posts had been shared, some did not represent my views.

Well, let's talk about a lot of all of this and more. CNN's White House correspondent, John Harwood and CNN senior political analyst, Kirsten Powers. Hi. I mean, this is -- there's no other way to put it. It's the worst kind of human behavior possible. And the Republican Party is co-signing it and therefore it is now them.

John, President Biden is trying to get Republicans on board with this COVID relief deal but how is he supposed to work with a party standing by the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he probably can't. And that's for reasons that go beyond the fact that there is some share of the Republican caucus that is literally crazy. For a number of years, the Republican Party has positioned itself in opposition to the ways in which America is evolving in the 21st century, hence Donald Trump's throwback mantra was make America great again, go back to the way it used to be.


So, they've driven themselves into this cul-de-sac that is increasingly disconnected from facts and evidence and reason. And by virtue of the people who give them money and the people who give them votes, they have to deny things or assert things that we know are not true, like tax cuts pay for themselves, or climate change is a hoax. In that context, it is not easy to find many people who are still connected to real genuine policy debates and willing to engage in them.

And to the extent that there are those people, they usually lack the strength to stand up to the demands of party loyalty. So, the Democrats and Joe Biden are pursuing negotiations with a certain group of eight Republican Senators right now.

But they're not counting on that, and they're proceeding at the same time to move with only Democratic votes if that's what they need to, because they know they can't count on Republicans to support the package in any way near the scale and scope that they think is necessary.

LEMON: Well, Kirsten, where is the leadership in the Republican Party? I mean, you've got Liz Cheney, she's the number three House Republicans, taking rockets from Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene running roughshod through the halls of Congress. Really?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, what we can take away from this is the fact that Marjorie Taylor Greene is actually pretty representative of a lot of Republican voters. If she wasn't, they wouldn't be treating her with such kid gloves. And so, the reason they don't want to go against her is because they don't want to get the backlash from the voters. So what does that say about the state of the Republican Party, that

the Republican leaders themselves are acknowledging that there are enough people who are Republicans who share the views of this person who is a lunatic, I mean, there's no other way to put it.

I mean, she believes in the craziest conspiracies that you can think up. I mean, conspiracies that involve you believing that Democrats are running, you know, a child sex trafficking ring, and drinking the blood of children, and then cutting faces off and wearing them as masks. I mean, a person like this should not be in leadership. That's enough right there.

Then add in the fact that she has essentially endorsed violence against Democratic members of Congress. I mean, there are real life ramifications for these things. There are real life ramifications for the things the Republican leaders have tolerated, the kinds of beliefs that they have pushed with President Trump.

Where you have an attack on the Capitol, there was a man who was arrested in D.C. who came here to put a bullet in Nancy Pelosi's head, to kill the mayor of D.C., and had the guns and the ammunition to do it. So, these are really scary, serious issues.

And the Republican Party has -- is 100 percent responsible for the fact that the people that they represent believe these things, because they have refused to stand up against it when President Trump was stoking it and when other Republican leaders were stoking it.

LEMON: But John, listen, there are people who are trying to stand up, at least one person, the former president George W. Bush making it clear that he supports Liz Cheney voting to impeach Trump. Are you hearing anything about this?

HARWOOD: Well, George W. Bush is trying in a nuanced way, not nuanced if you know that he is trying to stay out of politics, but nuanced from a distance for a regular person to signal that he approves of what Liz Cheney did and he wants the public to know about it. He's reticent, he didn't stand up and say, for example, that he supported the impeachment of Donald Trump or he didn't say that he was going to vote for Joe Biden in the election. But he went to Joe Biden's inauguration.

And steps like this are trying to show where he is. That's not likely to have a great effect, because in this Republican Party, at this moment, George W. Bush is not particularly popular or revered, only by a very narrow segment of people. But that just goes to show you that he feels the need to stand up and say that, and that so few other Republican leaders are, shows the weakness of the party leadership.

This is a demonstration of a complete lack of inner strength and political strength by Republican leaders because they don't believe that they can stand up against this lunacy without losing their own jobs.

[23:10:14] LEMON: Thank you both, I've got to get to two representatives to talk

about this. I appreciate it, you guys have a good weekend. So, I want to bring in now two Democratic members of Congress, Barbara Lee of California and Dan Kildee, of Michigan. I'm so glad that you guys are here. I've been wanting to talk to you about this, because you're right there, you're experiencing all of this.

Representative Kildee, there's so much tension and rage in Congress after this horrific attack. You say you're now having a hard time working with colleagues who voted to overturn this election even after the mob's behavior. What is that like?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): It's really difficult. And in fact, it's not something I'm sure I'm going to be able to do, because the question that keeps coming to my mind is, what is the greater danger? Is it a mob that can be put down by an army? Or is it some of these cartoonish figures like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz, you know, Mo Brooks? These are cartoonish.

But what I think represents a much bigger threat is the fact that two- thirds of a party that was just recently in the majority of the House, the Senate, and had the White House, two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives, after that attack, went to the floor of the House and voted to overturn a Democratic election that was decided by a wide margin.

So when we talk about these threats, and it is important, and I'm glad you are focusing on some of the outrageous behavior of some of these individuals, because Kevin McCarthy seems to tacitly endorse it, but the bigger threat that we face is that this party, the Republican Party, has lost its mind.

And they are willing --- if they had their way, if Kevin McCarthy had had his way, if the majority had had their way, Joe Biden would not have been sworn in as president despite winning the election. They would have placed Donald Trump back into the White House. And they can't escape responsibility for taking such an un-Democratic position. That's why I can't look at these people who voted that way in the eye with any kind of respect.

LEMON: Representative Lee, it's good to see you again. Have you tried to talk to any of your Republican colleagues or are feelings just too raw right now?

REP. BARBARA LEE, (D-CA): Hi, Don. I'm really happy to be with you this evening. Listen, I'm furious. And it's very difficult, because there are these members who some are bringing firearms to the floor. Others completely accept the big lie. I serve on the appropriations committee, Don. And I chair a subcommittee that funds all of our international efforts.

And 14 members out of the appropriations committee, 14 out of 26, voted to reject the certification of Joe Biden as president. They accepted the big lie. And so, they in my respect are co-conspirators with what happened on January 6th, they proved it by their vote, as Congressman Kildee mentioned. And so, we have to figure out how to do this, because it's dangerous,

first of all. Of course, you saw they did not wear masks, many of them, when we were in lockdown. You see what they have done since then.

And so, Donald Trump is the leader of this gang. And this was an attempted coup on January 6th. And the Republicans, many of them, in fact most of them, quite frankly, need to be held responsible. And believe you me, there is no reconciliation without truth.

LEMON: What do you think, Congressman Kildee, what if this had been -- let's just say that the people in that crowd would have been black or Muslim? What do you think Republicans would be doing now?

KILDEE: Well, first of all, if the crowd had been Black or Muslim, it would have been a disaster even greater than it was, because we know what the instinct would have been for people in law enforcement. That would have been to open fire. But what they would have said, of course, is to decry this as some sort of -- what it was, I mean, they would have called it what it was, an insurrection.

Of course, that hasn't happened. Even in the moments where we've had violence over the summer, it was violence being perpetrated by the United States military against peaceful protesters. But you know, one of the things that I think it's important to point out is that this idea that Republicans are responding to their base, first of all, I kind of get that argument, it's pretty cynical, but it misses, I think, an important point.


Public opinion is not just some sort of chemically naturally occurring phenomenon. It is shaped by leaders. And these Republicans, who are so spineless that they are unwilling to help shape public opinion around the truth, but simply are responding to the lowest common denominator which is the truth -- or the falsehood, I should say, the false truth that Donald Trump has been spinning out there.

They have a responsibility to shape public opinion. It's not like these folks just naturally believe all this stuff. They believe it because, you know, these members of Congress repeat the lie as if it's true when they know it's not. To me, that's the shame of all of this.

LEMON: Representative Lee, your Republican colleague Dusty Johnson of South Dakota said the attack was, and I quote, jarring to witness, and then adding, I am hopeful that some of the anger and irritation will fade because clearly, if we're going to get things done for this country, it's going to require Democrats and Republicans working together. That's the end of the quote.

He did not vote to overturn the election. But I mean, this was a hell of a lot more than jarring. How can anger faded nobody in powers has held accountable, especially considering what Congressman Kildee just said, they are actually putting the lies out there and somehow seem shocked now that their constituents are actually believing the lies. Go on. LEWIS: Yes, well, first of all, this was an attempted coup. We cannot

allow this to happen in a democracy. We're really right on the brink of totalitarianism, OK? And these Republicans can't just say on one day, too bad it happened, but we've got to move on.

Again, we have to have this day of reckoning. We have to make sure the truth is told and then maybe we can work together to move forward. But I have to tell you, Donald Trump came to the White House on a white supremacist agenda.

If you look at the history of what he has said, what he has promoted, his vile language, his inciting violence, how he responded to Charlottesville, what he has said about people of color, and then what has fueled these white supremacist groups which now have an entree into the House of Representatives and the Senate, come on.

This is a very dangerous moment, and you just can't slap someone on the hand and say let's reconcile and move forward. We have to come to grips with the fact that these members of Congress allowed this insurgency, this attempted coup, many were co-conspirators in that, and they cannot get away with it. They must be held accountable.

LEMON: Ma'am, sir, thank you both, you guys be safe, really, I mean that.

LEE: Thank you, Don, nice being with you.

LEMON: Good being with both of you. Thanks so much.

KILDEE: Good to see you, Barbara.

LEMON: Even now, three weeks later, it's hard to believe the riot that happened on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, right. But we have more indisputable evidence tonight of just how brutal that insurrection was, devastating video from the body cam worn by a Metro D.C. Police officer. You don't want to miss it.



LEMON: So, tonight we have new shocking body cam video from the insurrection on Capitol Hill. The video shows rioters attacking D.C. police officers with weapons like batons and hockey sticks. A woman in the crowd trampled to death on the Capitol steps. And I've got to warn you that you're about to see something that's very graphic and it's difficult to watch. But it is important to understand what happened that day. Here it is.


UNKNOWN: Save her! Save her!

UNKNOWN: Move out! Out! Out!

UNKNOWN: She's dead! She's dead! Please, she's dead, I need somebody! She's dead!

UNKNOWN: Knock their masks off!




LEMON: Joining me now to discuss, CNN security correspondent, Josh Campbell, and John Scott Railton, senior researcher at the Citizen's Lab at the University of Toronto. Gentlemen, good evening. That is some disturbing stuff to watch, it's really unbelievable. Josh, you first, what do we know about the man attacking police in this video? Have they been charged?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Don, what we just saw, that video, that is now evidence, prosecutors are using that body cam footage in order to charge those who took part in that violent and deadly insurrection to include the case of one man in particular. A man named Michael Foy, this a former marine from Michigan. He was allegedly seen on that video wielding a hockey stick.

Prosecutors alleged that he used that hockey stick to assault police officers. Now he's one of at least 21 veterans who have been for taking part in those riots. I think, it's important to point out. Don, that video that we just saw is one of -- kind of a new vantage point that we hadn't seen before. We saw some of the wider shots of the Capitol. We saw some of the people taking selfies.

This is what it was like to be a police officer there trying to protect that building. And we have to point out the hypocrisy because in that crowd were people waving the thin blue line flag, you know, in support of law enforcement. But what that video showed was this violent mob moving toward these officers, assaulting them, injuring them, one officer died, just a very violent incident as these officers tried to protect that building, Don.

LEMON: As a former member of law enforcement, what do you think when you see that, of the FBI?


CAMPBELL: Yes, I mean, it's sickening. And gain, it just goes back to that hypocrisy. We know that, you know, this was inspired by President Donald Trump who spent much of his presidency indicating that he was pro law enforcement.

But again, based on that video, and the deaths that we saw, the numerous injuries, we see that this was a violent day, an injurious day for law enforcement as they tried to secure the United States Capitol. They were faced with this violent mob, doing the best that they could to try to push them back, but this was anything but pro law enforcement.

LEMON: Yes, listen, this body cam video, I'll say it again, John, it's shocking. Tell us why getting eyeballs on videos like this, this one in particular, is so important in helping get tips and information on these suspects?

JOHN SCOTT RAILTON, SENIOR RESEARCHER, THE CITIZEN LAB: It's really shocking video as your colleague has said. And you know, it's like when the blows aren't raining down, there is like a bloodthirsty under undertow of hands reaching out, trying to pull those officers into the crowd. I've really seen video that scary. I mean, as has been said, for weeks we've been looking at the backs of a lot of these people as they reach at officers, as they grab.

But we haven't really seen their faces and for the most part, we haven't seen their voices. That's now starting to change. This is one piece of body cam footage. There's going to be a lot more coming out. And it really kind of helps us understand both the perspective of law enforcement, but also see these people in a different way and get a look at their faces which is really important.

LEMON: Josh, we also have new information tonight about the suspect who planted bombs, pipe bombs outside of the Democratic and Republican national headquarters before the insurrection. What are you learning?

CAMPBELL: Yes, that's right, new information and new imagery now, Don. Let's take a look at this video, this was obtained by the Washington Post. Now, this allegedly shows the individual that planted the pipe bombs at the offices of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. We see the person there moving, this was near the Capitol. You can see him there with that hoodie on.

Now, what we learned from the FBI is that these devices were not planted on the day of the incident, they were actually planted the night before. One prevailing theory right now being that this was perhaps possibly to serve as a diversion away from law enforcement officers that were responding to the Capitol, to try to draw them away toward these devices, again, just kind of gets into that level of sophistication.

It is worth noting that right now authorities don't appear to have any leads. We'll show you the picture here that the FBI has released of the suspect. Again, the person that they believe put up this device. And not a lot of details there. It's also worth noting that this is now the third time that authorities have raised the reward in this case.

It's now at $100,000 for information leading to that person's arrest. The FBI appealing to the public that if you know who this person is, they want to hear from them, Don.

LEMON: One more, Josh, I understand that you're learning about new conspiracy charges relating to the attack on Capitol Hill. What is the latest on that?

CAMPBELL: Yes, very quickly, Don, we're just learning that today the federal grand jury has indicted two members of the Proud Boys, this pro-Trump far-right movement. They have now been charged with conspiracy. Conspiracy to interfere with officers, to engage in violence there at the Capitol. This is important because this is the first conspiracy charge against the Proud Boys that we're seeing associated with the Capitol riot.

That's significant because there have been a number of individual charges but now authorities are really laying out the case that at least on that day, there were people that were coordinating with each other, trying to get into the building, Don.

LEMON: John, the more we learn, we're seeing that the insurrection was made up of groups with very different levels of organization and planning. How do investigators start separating the lone rioters from the more dangerous groups?

RAILTON: Well, I think, you know, at the beginning we were really focused on, you know, whether it was the shiny or the hairy ones, the people in the Senate chamber who were very visible and who (inaudible) their thing. I think what we're seeing now with these conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys and previously, just a couple of days ago, against the Oath Keepers, is that these investigations are really deepening and moving away out into the groups that actually did organized work around the breaches of the Capitol.

So, you know I would encourage you, if you're watching this to think, there are going to be more violent people, individuals in that crowd, who are going to be caught. Keep your eyes on the prize, I mean, that is -- it's the groups that were really conspiring to do this thing. I think we'll learn a lot more about them in the coming weeks.

LEMON: I can't take my eyes off of that video. And if you, you know, if you have any doubt about what happened and who was responsible for it, take a look at this video. The many, many videos that are coming out from January 6th. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate it.

Some states are facing a backlash over easing coronavirus restrictions at a time when there are warnings about the spread of a highly contagious variant or variants.




LEMON: So, here's what the CDC is saying tonight. Nearly 28 million coronavirus vaccines have been administered. But the clock is ticking as experts warn that the new coronavirus variants will dominate in the U.S. by the end of March. The CDC is saying more than 400 cases of the U.K. variant have now been found in the U.S.

Dr. Anthony Fauci today is calling the new variants a wake-up call. This as we are learning more about the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He is the director of the Cardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington University Hospital. I don't -- I cannot go to bed without speaking to you every weeknight. So, it's good to have you have. I'm really concerned about these variants but hopeful about this new Johnson & Johnson one vaccine. So, let's talk.

So, you know, we are seeing states across the country, they lift some of their restrictions. New York City is going to allow indoor dining again starting on Valentine's Day. California has lifted its stay-at- home orders this week. Is this really the time to be loosening restrictions?


LEMON: Then why are they doing it?

REINER: You don't roast -- you don't roast marshmallows while the forest is still on fire. Let's look at New York City. So the positivity rate in New York right now is 8.6 percent, which is actually slightly higher than the national average of 8.5 percent. It's about twice what it was a few months ago. And it's slowly drifting down.


REINER: So, the surge in New York is far from over. This is not the time. If you look at Europe, Europe is shut down, because they understand that to defeat the virus, you have to shut down. We should be supporting our businesses with federal funds to allow them to survive and to keep their businesses closed or at very low level. This is not the time to widely open. We are not there yet.

LEMON: These variants could explode just one month from now. If by some magic that we could go back to February of 2020 and had to do it over, would you let everybody go about freely or would you lock down for 15 days to stop the spread?

REINER: Oh, I would do a lot of things differently. I would lock down for two weeks to slow down the spread. I would have sent to every household an N95 mask months ago. We can still do that. You know, masks that are much more effective against these more contagious variants.

I would have gotten antigen testing. Rapid, cheap antigen testing out to every home in the United States so you can test at home. These tests will pick up the variants. These aren't affected by the variants. They should be in our homes now. There are a lot of things we can do. Look --

LEMON: Can we do this now before the variants get out of control?

REINER: We can do it now. Absolutely. We can be testing for these. We could be isolating for them. We need better masks. The fact that, you know, we haven't widely distributed N95 masks to the community is mind-boggling. This is what we wear in the hospital to stay safe. This is what you should be wearing in the supermarket to stay safe.

LEMON: What are you saying, they should be coming in the mail from the government or just made readily available --

REINER: You know --

LEMON: -- to pick up at CVS or whatever pharmacy?

REINER: All of the above. You know, one of the great missed opportunities was in April, when HHS and the postal service wanted to send half a billion masks --

LEMON: I remember that.

REINER: -- to every household, and the Trump administration in basically a crime against humanity, stopped that, they didn't like the look of that.

But we can still do that. We can send more effective masks to every home. We can make them widely available for pickup at post offices around the country.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

REINER: More effective masks than the simple cloth, you know, single- ply cloth masks that a lot of people wear.

LEMON: I think -- listen, you're right, I see people now who run out and say, oh, man, I forgot my mask, but I can get one at the subway or the doorman has masks down there. So why can't these masks be widely available for people to give out? So, right on --

REINER: They should be.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. Have a good one. I'll see you soon.

In the race to vaccinate America, a story about letting no dose go to waste, not even during a snowstorm in the middle of a rural Oregon highway.




LEMON: In the middle of the chaos of the COVID vaccine rollout and supply shortages, a vaccinating team in Oregon got stuck in a snowstorm on a highway on Tuesday. Their doses were about to expire, so they set up an impromptu clinic, knocking on car windows and vaccinating stranded drivers with the remaining supply, not wasting a single dose.

Let's bring in Leah Swanson, the Josephine County Emergency Preparedness coordinator, and Michael Weber, the county public health director. Good evening.

I can only imagine, hey, we want to give you an injection of vaccine, yes, right, get away from my car, but it was real. Good to see both of you. Thank you for coming on.

Mike, so, you and your team were driving back from a mass vaccination clinic when about 20 of you got stuck in the storm. You had six doses of the vaccine left that were set to expire. What happened? Did you get any of the responses like I said, like, oh, right, get away from my car, or no? Tell me what happened.

MICHAEL WEBER, JOSEPHINE COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: There were a couple of folks who waved us along. I wouldn't say everybody was thrilled. But not many were actually like that. Most folks were skeptical at first, then they found it kind of funny, and they said thanks, but no thanks.


WEBER: But there were a few who said yes, and I would have been among those going, absolutely.


LEMON: So, Leah, you administered all six of the vaccine doses. Were many of the people approached skeptical? Did you find that they were skeptical at the offering?

LEAH SWANSON, JOSEPHINE COUNTY EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS COORDINATOR: Yes. So this part of our county is more anti-vaccine than some other areas of our county. And so there were definitely some individuals that were like, no, we're kind of hesitant to get the vaccine, we're going to wait and see what happens for a little while. We were surprised only one person even asked for ID. Everybody else that was excited about it was excited.


LEMON: Listen -- and I know you didn't have an issue with the temperature. It was the time that it was going to take because it looked like it was cold out there.

Mike, listen, I know it's rare, but a small number of people have had adverse reactions to these vaccines. But you had an ambulance on site too, right?

WEBER: Not just an ambulance. We actually had several physicians along those lines of cars with us, too. So, when I first made the decision to go this route, I had both the ambulance, lead ambulance driver, as well as the physician sign off on it.

LEMON: Hey, what about their second doses, Leah? How and where will these folks be able to receive their second dose of vaccine? Did you give them all the information they needed?


LEMON: Because I would imagine not all of them are from -- maybe they were, I don't know -- from the exact county where you administered them. They could have been from some far-off place. SWANSON: Yes. That was the one thing that we didn't have with us that

we couldn't give them was the CDC vaccination card. So, we got all of their information. We were able to send them those cards. We were able to call them and give any followup information.

We are working on creating another mass vaccination in our county, and they would be more than welcome to come to that event for their second round of vaccines.

LEMON: So, Leah and Mike, if you guys ever get stranded in New York somewhere --


LEMON: I will say yes to getting the vaccine. Hey, thank you, guys.

WEBER: Glad to hear it.

LEMON: Thank you. We needed a smile.

SWANSON: Thank you.

LEMON: And you guys are great for doing what you do. Thank you so much. Be well, OK? And be safe.

SWANSON: Thank you.

WEBER: Thank you.

LEMON: A pro-Trump Twitter troll unmasked and identified. Now, he's facing charges for spreading disinformation during the 2016 election.




LEMON: So, the FBI moving this week to arrest an alt-right Twitter troll, accusing him of using social media to spread disinformation in the 2016 presidential election.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has the story.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): An anonymous pro-Trump Twitter troll unmasked, charged with interference in the 2016 presidential election.

LUKE O'BRIEN, SENIOR REPORTER, HUFFINGTON POST: This was an attack on our democracy, and you could look at him as almost like a field commander in this longstanding assault on our democracy.

SULLIVAN (voice-over): Federal prosecutors say that Douglass Mackey, who used the online alias Ricky Vaughn, was arrested Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Luke O'Brien, a reporter from the Huffington Post, helped unmask Mackey in 2018.

O'BRIEN: Douglass Mackey seemed like a very average, normal, upper middle-class kid who grew up in a small town in Vermont and ran track in high school, and then he went to Middlebury College where he also ran track for a year. He graduated from college in 2011, and he moved to New York, and he took a job in the financial industry.

At some point, he was working for an economic consulting firm. He was fired from his job. And then he reinvented himself as one of the worst white nationalist trolls on Twitter during the 2016 election.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): According to charging documents, Mackey is accused of conspiring to suppress votes and using social media to spread disinformation, telling African American voters they could vote for Hillary Clinton by texts.

That same tweet, specifically, referenced during a 2017 Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Minnesota's Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar displayed a blown-up image of the tweet from a fake account.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Some of the ads have been discussed containing misinformation, telling voters that they could vote online, which, of course, wasn't true. In fact, here's one of them, targeted of course, telling people that they could just text Hillary to that number, and that's how they vote.

I just want people to understand what this is. Efforts like this are actually criminal. They are illegal.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): A similar tweet targeted Hispanic voters. Ben Nimmo is the head of investigations at Graphika, a company that analyses the spread of disinformation on social media.

BEN NIMMO, HEAD OF INVESTIGATIONS, GRAPHIKA: It's a kind of thing where particularly in a tight race, it can make a difference, if it reaches enough people.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Prosecutors say nearly 5,000 people responded to the fraudulent text code, allegedly distributed by Mackey.

NIMMO: If you conclude that all of those were people who were trying to vote and people who didn't actually go and vote in person, that is 4,900 votes that have just been suppressed.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Mackey's alleged co-conspirators are not named in the complaint, but Twitter data, shared by authorities, suggests at least one of the apparent co-conspirators has been charged for their involvement in the January 6th insurrection.

O'BRIEN: You can draw a through line from that to what happened. You had a lot of these people, Trump supporters who have been sucking down propaganda and disinformation for years, spread by many of the same people, attack our Capitol.


O'SULLIVAN: And Don, we have reached out to Mackey's lawyers for comment. And, you know, a lot like the insurrectionists on January 6th, people do this sort of stuff online, think their actions can have no consequences and they can do all of this with impunity. But as we see with this potential prosecution, that may slowly be changing.

LEMON: And Donie, you noted the connection to the January 6th riots. What are you seeing online now with QAnon followers? I mean, you told us that they were confused after President Biden's inauguration.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. Some were confused, some are slowly seeing the light, but a lot of people still believe, right, even though, you know, according to QAnon believers, they thought that Biden would never be sworn in, that martial law would be declared, and that Trump would remain president.

But some still believe and, you know, you see how the Republican Party is acting right now. They are refusing to condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has embraced all of these conspiracy theories.


O'SULLIVAN: So, you can see how that belief is going to live on. Don?

LEMON: All right. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

O'SULLIVAN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.