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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

U.S. Carries out Airstrikes in Syria, First Known Strikes under President Joe Biden; Senate Parliamentarian Rules Against Including $15.00 Minimum Wage in COVID Relief Bill; Proud Boys Leader Speaks about Stop the Steal and Deadly Capitol Insurrection; Proud Boys Leader Says Some Of His Members Who Breached Capitol Are Unfairly Charged With Conspiracy; U.S. Carries Out Airstrikes In Syria; Biden: If FDA Approves Johnson & Johnson Vaccine It Will Be Distributed As Fast As It's Made; Key Model: Decline In COVID-19 Spreads Is Faster Than Expected. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 20:00   ET



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For about two million signatures are on pace to do so, Erin, so they are feeling confident that they will indeed make the ballot.

But again, a very different question than whether or not the Governor survives as politically -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It's pretty incredible, all of this happening. All right, Kyung, thank you so much.

And thanks so much to all of you. AC 360 starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We have breaking news on two fronts tonight: a big decision on raising the minimum wage and the first known use of military force by the Biden administration.

We begin with that with airstrikes. The target was in Syria. The message appears to be aimed at Iran.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has been working sources at The Pentagon, he joins us now. What do we know, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a short time ago, U.S. aircrafts struck a site in Syria that defense officials say belong to Iranian-backed militias operating in Syria.

The site they say was used as a weapon smuggling site by two Shia militias backed by Iran using Iranian weapons. And that is why this site was chosen in particular in Syria.

It follows three rocket attacks in recent weeks against U.S. and coalition forces, one in Erbil about a week and a half ago, another in Balad Air Base, just north of Baghdad, and then another in a green zone in Baghdad itself.

The Pentagon spokesman John Kirby released this statement just a short time ago following the strikes. He said: "This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners. The operation sends an unambiguous message, President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we've acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."

One of the other things Kirby noted is that it was Biden's decision, his directive to carry out the strike.

COOPER: In the statement, it talked about a deliberate manner that references sort of the scale of the military targets in the region. How big was this one?

LIEBERMANN: This wasn't a major military target. It wasn't a large site. It was a relatively small site. And that seems to be a key part of the messaging here, and I'll go back to the first point you made.

The message was to Iran, but they struck Syria. To target Iran itself, sovereign Iran, would be an escalation pretty much no matter what you chose to target there and no matter what scale.

To target Syria is a deliberate message at what the U.S. use as Iranian-backed Shia militias operating there that use Iranian weaponry. And because it's not a large site, it seems this target was picked specifically not to escalate the situation.

And why is that important right now? Because Washington and Tehran are trying to figure out how to move forward in negotiations related to Iran's nuclear program, especially as the U.S. wants to broaden that out, either in nuclear program negotiations or afterwards to include some of Iran's other activities in the region and that includes ballistic missiles and funding terror groups throughout what's known as the Shia Crescent.

And this area that was struck falls into that category. The message here: you can't just willy-nilly strike U.S. and coalition forces. It's a response to that and a deterrence against future strikes -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Oren Liebermann, thanks very much. Again, this is a first for the new administration. Our Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, so any word from the White House on these strikes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No word from the White House yet though The Pentagon did say this happened around six o'clock Eastern, that's about an hour after the White House called what they say is a lid, that means no more presidential appearances or statements expected yet, so we're waiting for that.

But this is a first for them, the first known offensive military operation carried out by President Biden. So it is a big deal that we are seeing this. And as Oren was talking about, we're told that this came from the top down. The decision to target these sites specifically that means it came from President Biden himself. And so, this does raise a lot of questions like where they are going

to go forward, since they just said they want to restart these talks with Iran. Those are multinational talks.

And Anderson, it was already going to be a delicate, tough dance that was going to move forward there after former President Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. So, the way this complicates that, how this factors into that, still remains to be seen because it was already going to be pretty dicey.

But what we do know about the decision behind this is that we were told by the White House Press Secretary, President Biden was quote, "outraged" by those rocket attacks in Iraq. We know that yesterday he spoke to the Prime Minister there. They vowed to hold those accountable, and so that seems to be what they were trying to do here tonight with this.

COOPER: It seems like there are a couple of different ways of interpreting. One of them we should look at is how, you know, how this reads into in terms of President Biden's larger military strategy in that part of the world. And also, is this a show of strength to Iran, and perhaps even to Americans here that even though he is negotiating with Iran, he is still looking to hold them responsible if he deems it necessary?

COLLINS: Yes. And remember, after they had said that they would like to take steps to move forward to restart those talks, you heard from a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who said they were worried President Biden was going to be really soft on Iran. They were comparing that to how they believed former President Trump acted.

So, this is a partial response to that, too. It'll be interesting to see how Republicans respond to this. So far, we haven't gotten any statements from lawmakers yet. And the other question is whether or not President Biden was actually in the Situation Room for this.

We've asked the White House where he was as these strikes were actually carried out, you know, because typically he leaves the West Wing around 6:45 p.m. That's about his daily schedule.

So, we're still waiting to see exactly where he was and how he does envision this in his foreign policy. Because, yes, there are the challenges with Russia and China, but Iran is going to be a really significant one for him.


COLLINS: Because so many people that are working for him, his Secretary of State, his national security adviser were deeply involved in the crafting of the Iran Nuclear Deal that happened under President Obama, that of course, President Trump was so critical of.

So really, this is President Biden charting his own path here, you know, I'm not sure he's going to follow exactly either of his predecessor's routes. And so how that takes us and what this response factors into that is something that remains to be seen. COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. We'll come back to you

shortly on the next breaking story as well. It affects anyone working a minimum wage job who was hoping that a raise would be part of the President's COVID Relief Package.

Its fate was in the hands of a Senate official called the Parliamentarian. Just moments ago, we learned the decision, Ryan Nobles at the Capitol for us. So how did the Parliamentarian rule?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're learning tonight that Elizabeth MacDonough, who is the Senate Parliamentarian who is tasked with the responsibility of determining whether or not a piece of legislation directly impacts the budget and therefore can be passed through a process known as reconciliation, which would mean it would only need 51 votes in the Senate decided that the minimum wage increase as part of the COVID Relief Package did not meet the standard.

So that means it is going to be impossible for senators, the Democratic senators here to pass that bill through the Senate because there was certainly not the 60 votes necessary to do it as part of that package.

So, it looks very unlikely that the minimum wage increase will be ultimately a part of this COVID relief package -- Anderson.

COOPER: And what has the reaction been from Democrats who have been pushing a minimum wage increase?

NOBLES: Well, there's no doubt that Democrats are disappointed. Almost every Democrat you talk to is in favor of some sort of a minimum wage increase, but there is a degree of relief because having the minimum wage as part of this COVID Relief Package makes it that much more difficult to pass.

There were some moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who said that they may not support the package with a minimum wage as a part of it. Now, that it is no longer a part of the package, it should sail through the Senate much easier, and even progressives who, there are some today, who are saying that Kamala Harris, the Vice President should overrule the parliamentarian and allow it to be a part of the package.

That is unlikely. The White House has said that that is not going to happen. But even those progressives have said that they will pass the COVID Relief Package without the minimum wage bill.

But one thing for sure, Anderson, though, is you know, if it is not part of this package, it's going to be very difficult to see a minimum wage increase as part of this Congress in the foreseeable future.

COOPER: And so this means it's definitely not going to be part of the COVID Relief Bill.

NOBLES: Yes, I mean, there is still, you know, a process that has to take place here, right? So tomorrow, the House is going to vote on the COVID Relief Package. The $15.00 minimum wage increase will be a part of that package, and it will likely pass the House.

It is once it gets over here to the Senate and it goes through this reconciliation process, where it will ultimately be stripped out before heading back to the Senate.

But to answer your question, as plainly as I can, Anderson, no, the minimum wage increase will no longer be a part of the COVID Relief Package when it is ultimately passed and then sent to President Biden.

COOPER: All right, Ryan Nobles appreciate it. More on the politics of this. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger joins us and Kaitlan Collins is back with us as well.

Gloria, how big a setback is this for Democrats, particularly someone like Senator Bernie Sanders? I talked to him, I think it was a week or more ago, and he said, you know, he hadn't given up hope and he wanted to get this through.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is a big setback for Bernie Sanders. It's a big setback for lots of Democrats who wanted to see this $15.00 minimum wage. But ironically, as Ryan was talking about, in a way, this really does help the President get his COVID Relief Bill through because there are these moderates, like Joe Manchin, for example of West Virginia, who is saying, you know what, I don't want it in a budget bill.

And there's other moderates saying, you know, maybe we don't need $15.00 right away and I don't want to see it part of a budget bill. I don't think we should do it that way. It was a process argument. So that takes it out of the equation.

So as a result, the President can now think that perhaps they are going to have a united democratic front, on this COVID bill, and this is not a surprise to the White House. I'm sure Kaitlan can talk about this. They have been signaling this for weeks.

I talked to a senior White House adviser last week, who said to me, Look, we don't know that we're going to get this through. In fact, we think it's likely that the Parliamentarian is going to rule against us on minimum wage. The President himself has said, you know, this might not be part of the COVID Relief Bill, but they thought they'd give it a shot. They knew there was a chance they weren't going to get it.

But in the end, it could help them pass the larger package, and they have to fight minimum wage another day.

COOPER: Which Kaitlan is ultimately what they want right now, which is just to get the COVID stimulus package passed.


COLLINS: Right. I mean, President Biden was the first one to say this. It actually caused a lot of frustration among progressives when he said the day of the Super Bowl that he didn't think it was actually going to make it in here. That this exact situation would happen, where the Parliamentarian says it can't be included. He spent a lot of time in the Senate. I think this is a big reason why

you've seen the White House really reluctant to weigh in on these fights that are happening over the minimum wage, whether or not it was going to be included, how much it should be -- you heard Manchin propose something around $11.00, I believe.

They just stayed out of it because I think that they saw this coming. And so that does raise some questions about where it's going to go from here. Biden has said he does want it to get achieved at some point. How they do that later on is still going to be a really big question for them.

And we should go ahead and note here, because there will be some chatter among progressives about this chance that the Vice President, Harris, could overrule the Parliamentarian and actually include it in this reconciliation bill.

We heard from the Chief of Staff last night, he said, that is not something they were going to pursue. They were going to respect whatever ruling they got from the Parliamentarian. And now of course, it's not going to be included.

COOPER: Gloria, does this then become a major rallying cry for Democrats, you know, going into the midterms?

BORGER: Sure. I think it does if they don't get something passed by the midterms, and this makes it less likely, of course.

Joe Biden is in favor of increasing the minimum wage to $15.00. I think Democrats are. Republicans are saying it's going to cost jobs, I mean, we know the arguments on both sides, and I think it's something Democrats can really rally around, particularly in this kind of economy.

Don't forget, Donald Trump was for an increase in the minimum wage, if you'll recall. So I think it will be something they'll be talking about heading into the midterms, but they're going to propose it way before then, because they want to try and figure out a way to get it perhaps attached to something else.

And we have no idea how that's going to work itself out, but it's surely going to end up dying in the Senate. But you might have a united Democratic Party in the Senate for COVID relief, which is really the sort of big issue for Joe Biden right now in this, unfortunately, has become the sacrificial lamb.

COOPER: How worried, Kaitlan, is the White House about, you know, moderate Democratic senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema?

COLLINS: I think that they are going to be -- I don't know if I can use the word "worried," but they're fully aware of the power that they are going to have over Biden's personnel and his policy.

We saw them flexing their muscle over the last few days when it comes to his Budget Director pick, and when it comes to this minimum wage, because even before we got to where everyone was kind of on pins and needles for how the Parliamentarian was going to rule, you know, Manchin had already thrown his weight around by saying he didn't think it belonged in here, so had Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

And so really, what we're seeing is we're talking about what this argument is going to be going into the midterms is, yes, Democrats control the Senate and the House and they have the White House, but barely, and it is really affecting them.

It's not some, you know, it's not an ideal situation, I don't think for Republicans, for Mitch McConnell to not be the Senate Majority Leader, but this is probably as next to ideal as it could get being a 50/50 Senate because they still have a lot of authority here. They can still have their moderate members play a really significant role in what Biden's agenda is going to look like.

COOPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, Gloria Borger, appreciate it.

Next, a chilling warning about a new threat to the Capitol. How the former President's election lie plays into it. In a CNN exclusive interview with the leader of a group deeply implicated in the insurrection who didn't take part, but who says he has no regrets celebrating the lawmakers were terrorized that day.

And later, a new COVID modeling why cases are falling faster than expected and the impact of a third vaccine now on the brink of approval.



COOPER: With everything else happening tonight, there's this, too. A warning about a potential second attack on the Capital, one far more destructive and deadly than the assault last month came during House hearings on the January insurrection and testimony from the Acting Chief of the Capitol Police.

When lawmakers heard and what you're about to hear is rarely set in such specific detail and so public a setting.


ACTING CHIEF YOGANANDA PITTMAN, CAPITOL POLICE: We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6th have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible with a direct nexus to the State of the Union, which we know that date has not been identified.

So based on that information, we think that it is prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward.


COOPER: This is one of the first times that law enforcement officials have publicly cited specific threats against the President lawmakers in connection with the President's expected address to a joint session in Congress.

It comes with the rest in court documents continuing to paint a troubling picture of those involved on January 6th.

Now in just a moment, here is a CNN exclusive report on the leader of the white supremacist so-called Proud Boys whose members played a visible role in the insurrection.

Also, tonight, there's new reporting on the former inciter in chief who first told the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by before encouraging them and others that morning at the Capitol.

New details on his plan to reenter politics, which begins on Sunday with the speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee or CPAC in Orlando.

And breaking news tonight Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who condemned the President after the attack, then voted to acquit him then condemned him again seems to have done another backflip telling FOX News he will support the 2024 Republican presidential nominee even if it is the former President.

Long before the man he is back to enabling speaks on Sunday, we'll be hearing from plenty of his other enablers and election lie defenders.

On the CPAC schedule tomorrow morning, a session titled "Protecting Elections: Why Judges and Media Refuse to Look at the Evidence." Reported to be among the panelists, Congressman Mo Brooks, this guy.


REP. MO BROOKS, (R-AL): Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


COOPER: That was the morning of the insurrection. Also on the agenda tomorrow, speeches from Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, both of whom stoked the election lie and going to what is expected to be a kind of Woodstock for election liars, CNN's Manu Raju reports the G.O.P. support for the big lie appears firm.

After speaking with more than two dozen House and Senate Republicans this week, he found that a wide variety refuse to debunk it. Some even argued that the former President had no part in fomenting the insurrection.


COOPER: One lawmaker from Florida, Congressman Brian Mast telling Manu, quote: "Here's how I know the President didn't play a role in that, because if the President would have told people to sack the Capitol or attack the Capitol, it wouldn't have been a couple thousand, it would have been a million," which is a statement so full of bravado that in another time would be easy just to dismiss. But this is now and now means that talk like that, potentially has

consequences. We have seen it. It means people inclined to turn incitement into violent action maybe about to see a new flood of encouragement for whatever they have planned.

And as you heard at the top, what they could have planned, would be terrible beyond words, which brings us to the leader of the so-called Proud Boys in his first interview with a major American network since the attack on the Capitol. He spoke with CNN's Sara Sidner who joins us now -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, two things stood out to me in talking to Proud Boy Chairman, Enrique Tarrio. One is his admission to testifying at a grand jury that involved an investigation into Roger Stone in the past and his reaction to the Members of Congress as they were being hunted down in the Capitol on January 6th.


ENRIQUE TARRIO, CHAIRMAN, PROUD BOYS: I'm not going to cry about a group of people that don't give a crap about their constituents. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to sympathize with them.

SIDNER (voice-over): The leader of the proud boys is talking about the Members of Congress who feared for their lives on January 6th, as a mob attacks the Capitol.

TARRIO: It shouldn't have reached the Capitol with violence.

SIDNER (voice-over): He says that now. But the day after the violent breach, Enrique Tarrio posted this, a picture on social media of Members of Congress trying to hide as the attackers began their siege.

SIDNER (on camera): You write, when the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is Liberty. Doesn't that show that you are celebrating terrorizing people?

TARRIO: I was celebrating, and I'll tell you, I'll celebrate the moment that the government does fear other people. At that point, again, and I didn't have all the information that came in why they were cowering or anything like that.

SIDNER: Do you say ...

TARRIO: But I think --

SIDNER: ... that you didn't do that now that, you know what happened.

TARRIO: No, I don't -- another thing is I will never regret something that I said.

SIDNER: They are doing the job that the people put them there to do, and if they don't like it, they can vote them out. They are still Americans. They are still human beings who felt that their lives were in danger. How can you not feel any sympathy or any empathy towards them like


TARRIO: I'm not going to worry about people that their only worry in life is to be reelected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a whole boatload of Proud Boys walking through here, folks.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tarrio was not there on January 6th, he was arrested in D.C. two days before for burning a Black Lives Matter flag stolen from a church and having empty weapons magazines that are illegal in D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're locked in with the Proud Boys in the State Capitol.

SIDNER (voice-over): But a group of Proud Boys was there. The far- right group is known across the country for brawling with members of Antifa, a left-wing anti-fascist movement.

They are also known for throwing their support behind Donald Trump, whose words to them in a September presidential debate exploded their popularity.



TARRIO: I think we've doubled in numbers since the debate.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tarrio has close ties with one of Trump's longest serving advisors and friends, Roger Stone.

Stone was in D.C. on January 6th as people rallied against the election results that showed Trump lost. Stone did not march to the Capitol and then wasn't charged with a crime. Instead, Stone was seen with members of extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who have now become a central focus of law enforcement in the Capitol attack investigation.

Tarrio had such a close relationship with Roger Stone, he revealed this.

SIDNER (on camera): You have access to Roger Stone's phone?

TARRIO: For a couple of times when I went to go see him. You know, I'd help him with like his social media posts and things like that.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tarrio's access to that phone landed him in front of a Federal grand jury, a detail not revealed until now. At the time, Stone was facing seven charges in the Russia probe, including lying to Congress and witness tampering. Trump pardoned him after he was convicted on all seven charges. During his trial, Stone was accused of threatening the Judge in the

case with a social media post, an image of the Judge and what appeared to be a target behind her head.

TARRIO: Actually, I testified in front of the grand jury. But no, there was no -- that picture was brought up on a Google search. Right? So, you used to be able to search. Not now, obviously because so much has happened.

SIDNER (on camera): Wait, wait. Back up, back up. Let's just settle though what you said. Did you just say you were on a grand jury panel?


SIDNER: You did.

TARRIO: I did.

SIDNER: It's too late to take it back now.


TARRIO: Well, yes, that's -- I mean, that's the story. It's not a secret. That's the story that came out that, you know, that -- they wanted to see if -- who was it that posted it at that point?

The actual crosshairs isn't really a crosshair, its logo of the organization that wrote the article. So it was just like a graphic. And then that was posted. I have no idea who actually posted it, but I know that I had nothing to do with it.

SIDNER (voice-over): Stone is one of the architects of the Stop the Steal rallying cry, but Tarrio does not buy into the lie that the election was stolen. He says he just wants more transparency.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump?

TARRIO: No, I don't believe that the election was stolen.

SIDNER (voice-over): And yet, he encouraged his Proud Boys to show up on January 6th in record numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's all the Proud Boys today.

SIDNER (voice-over): A group of them did show up. Here they are marching together towards the Capitol. At least eight Proud Boys Tarrio knows had been charged in the Capitol siege.

This is one of them using a police officers' shield to bust out a window in the Capitol, allowing people to flood in.

TARRIO: I condemn the actions. I don't think that he should have done that. I think it was completely wrong.

But the other seven individuals were trespassing. I think that they got caught up with the entire -- with like the entire crowd, and they made a poor decision to go in there.

SIDNER (on camera): Members of the Proud Boys didn't appear to just be getting caught up in this. Some of them were leading this attack.

You had people removing barriers who were Proud Boys. You had someone threatening an officer breaking the Capitol window. They weren't just following in this insurrection. It appears that some of them were leading the charge.

TARRIO: No, those three accusations, I do want to touch on those. The breaking of the window, we've already hit.

SIDNER: You think that's wrong?

TARRIO: The threatening -- yes, definitely. Unequivocally, I think that's wrong, but the threatening of police officers, I didn't I didn't see that.

SIDNER The Feds have. They have video of William Chrestman yelling, "You shoot, and I'll take your [bleep] ass out."

TARRIO: As of right now, I can't tell you about Chrestman because I can't locate who he is affiliated with. Like if he's even a Proud Boy.

SIDNER (voice-over): Chrestman's defense attorney said he was just following Trump's orders that day. But Tarrio says some of his Proud Boys who did breach the Capitol are unfairly being charged with conspiracy.

SIDNER (on camera): Did the Proud Boys have a plan to go --

TARRIO: Into the Capitol?

SIDNER: Into the Capitol.

TARRIO: Absolutely not.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tarrio put some of the blame for what happened on January 6th on police for being unprepared to thwart the mob, and he claims some of the Proud Boys simply walked in to record history.

TARRIO: There's nobody that told them -- that stopped them from going in. you feel like it's something that's wrong that you shouldn't do.

SIDNER (on camera): But are you blaming the police for telling people not to break the law?

TARRIO: No, I'm not blaming the cops at all.

SIDNER: So what are you saying?

TARRIO: Now, I can blame -- I can blame the police officers and the Feds for their inability to respond to this. So was it a mistake to even go into the Capitol?

SIDNER: Was it? TARRIO: Yes.

SIDNER: Do you condemn those people? Can you say that right now?

TARRIO: Okay, I can't say that.


TARRIO: Because I think condemn is a very strong word, and I think it's a little bit too strong.

SIDNER (voice-over): He thinks the F.B.I. is trying to make an example of the Proud Boys. But Tarrio also has a history with the F.B.I. after being sentenced to Federal Prison for fraud in 2012.

SIDNER (on camera): Were you ever informant for the F.B.I.?

TARRIO: I was. To put it simply, I was put in a very tough situation where the Federal government had wanted me to testify against my brothers.

SIDNER (voice-over): He said, he refused. And instead, his defense attorney said Tarrio cooperated with the F.B.I. and other law enforcement on many cases. One involving prescription drug, another a marijuana raid, an illegal gambling bust and more. But Tarrio would only admit to cooperating on one case.

TARRIO: The only thing that I actually gave them was the human trafficking ring. And again, I'm not going to apologize for it.

SIDNER (voice-over): What is next for the Proud Boys and the country? Tarrio has already made a plan.

TARIO: I think right now is the time to go ahead and overthrow the government by becoming the new government and running for office.


COOPER: Joining us now along with Sara Sidner, CNN contributor and former F.B.I. Director, Andrew McCabe.

So, he wants to run for office. So, Sara, one of America's closest allies taking a significant step against the Proud Boys, right?

SIDNER: Yes, you know, Enrique Tarrio himself says he is considering running for office, that he may actually step down from his role as Chairman of the Proud Boys at some point to concentrate on that and helping others with like minds to run for office.

But he may have a public relations problem because in the last few weeks, Canada has designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization. That might hurt his chances, but he says that Canadian Proud Boys might just fight that in court. Anderson?


COOPER: He might also have to learn different costume and take off the glasses and the hat and actually, you know, make eye contact.

Andrew, in all your years, the FBI, have you ever seen the rise of so many extremist groups at once? I mean, let alone groups that were taking their cues from someone in office, I mean, sort of the mainstreaming of these kinds of groups?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, absolutely not. There's no history of this whatsoever. Look, we've always had an issue with domestic violent extremist in this country. And, you know, that goes back decades, maybe a century. But we've never seen anything quite like this. The spectrum of different groups, different identities, their success in recruiting, their success in arming themselves and injecting themselves into the political discourse is remarkable and unprecedented. And you have to conclude that a lot of that is due to the affirmation that they've received over the last few years by the President himself.

COOPER: Andrew, I mean you've been a law enforcement a long time, how often do you see, you know, folks who talk big. And, you know, where are the iconography of skinheads and, you know, call themselves things like Proud Boys. And then when they are actually facing charges themselves, or something they've done or been accused of doing. They quickly turn and read out as many people as they can. And he now is lying and saying he was only doing it on sex trafficking, which is clearly a nod to like the QAnon folks, because that's something that they claim they're working on, which they're not.

But according to you know, court records that Sara showed, there are other things he ratted people out for.

MCCABE: You know, Anderson, it's not strange at all, to have people who were members of criminal organizations or terrorist organizations to once they find themselves in trouble. They begin talking to law enforcement and exposing their Confederates and all of the activity they've been involved in. But that is usually the death knell for their continued involvement or participation in those organizations. Many of those folks organized crime members, terrorists who cooperated, we then have to protect for the rest of their lives.

So, it's going to be really interesting to see what happens to Mr. Tarrio here, he's been exposed as a cooperator. I think most folks would assume, logically that his cooperation went far beyond what he's admitting to publicly. And that's got to really negatively impact his credibility in a group that prides itself partially on opposing the government.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Sara, he's obviously talking about a while he was only exposing a child trafficking ring. A, what is he doing, you know, having knowledge of child trafficking and bringing that he hadn't previously exposed, but b, clearly in documents it was more than that and he's just trying to kind of keep that in the good graces of QAnon.


COOPER: Sorry, go ahead, Sara. SIDNER: Oh, sorry. I just want to be clear here in talking to him it was a what he said was a human trafficking ring about immigration somebody bringing people into the country not necessarily a child trafficking, but --

COOPER: Although in the world of QAnons that --

SIDNER: -- we asked him is this causing a schism?

COOPER: Right.


COOPER: In the world of QAnon, human trafficking --

SIDNER: Yes, human trafficking is big -- yes.

COOPER: -- (INAUDIBLE) is what the border is about. OK.

SIDNER: Yes. Is one of the -- in the same in their minds. But he's also very clear in saying look, there was a schism, there were a couple of Proud Boys organizations chapters that said, you know, what we're going to break apart we're no longer going to take orders from you from the head of the organization. But he says, you know, what, I have as much support as I've ever had, we have the schism sometimes. I cleared this all up with my boys. And, you know, all things are good that we're going forward. We're looking forward to the future. So, he doesn't seem bothered by this. What the reality is amongst the people who have followed him is yet to be told.

COOPER: Sara Sidner, Andrew McCabe, Sara fascinating interview. Thank you.

Enrique Tarrios remarks about celebrating the ordeal that lawmakers went through during the insurrection speaks volumes in itself, should not go and answer.

Joining us now is one of the many lawmakers, staffers police officer in Capitol personnel who were terrorized that day, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

Congresswoman, thanks for being with us. I'm wondering what you make of what you just heard.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): First of all, Anderson, thanks for having me. What I make of it is that we're at the precipice of a constitutional crisis. And that is a contentious period of time between anarchists, individuals who are insurrectionists, and those who want to preserve democracy.


I'm going to stand with those who want to preserve democracy. But in doing that, we have to show that we have a backbone and that we're prepared. And I think the testimony that we've heard over the last 24 hours, I led a committee yesterday on the rise of domestic terrorism in America. There was hearing today and a hearing yesterday that indicates we were not prepared. I think that the Proud Boys have a right to their free speech. So, the Oath Takers, the Boogaloo Boys, just as the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.

But at the same time, we cannot concede or see power to them to tear down this government. And the Congress needs to get prepared. One, a 9/11 Commission, but in the oversight that I have, in particular, in the House Judiciary Committee, we've got to be able to insist that the FBI is effectively monitoring and overseeing violent acts that may generate from speech. And in yesterday's testimony, and we've heard this over and over again, we know that in the last 10 years, the most murders have come from white supremacist and individuals that associate with these kinds of organizations, domestic terrorists. It is also been fueled, of course, by the words of the former President of United States, unfortunately, he will have another occasion to feel those words this coming Sunday.

So, I think the responsibility of government is to protect the American people. Representatives should be held accountable. We should be held accountable by our voters. And that's what makes the change voters. But I think to accept insurrection as a tool to change government is absolutely unacceptable.

COOPER: The mainstreaming of a lot of these groups. And the idea that I mean, he's claiming his membership is, you know, doubled, since that debate, who knows if that's true or not, but they're certainly still out there even after this insurrection and the shock of that.

JACKSON LEE: They are out there and social media, it's been documented as a very strong element of their growth, their ways of communicating with each other. You know, we are a free nation. And in the midst of discussing domestic terrorism, there was an interest to ensure civil liberties and civil rights. My view of this is that you're going to have to walk and chew gum at the same time. I'm very disappointed in the level of intelligence communication that occurred by the FBI, both with local Metro Police, D.C. police and the Capitol Police, and the lack of preparedness, we can do better, we know to do better. We did better after 9/11, understood how we should handle both the issues of attacks by international terrorists, we've got to do that really to protect the American people, put aside members of the United States Congress.

These assets, the White House, the various buildings here in the seat of government, the Capitol, they belong to the American people, we see them coming all the time with their children and their school groups. What I have to say is that we cannot tolerate whether they build their population and growth by social media. We cannot tolerate insurrection and attacks and destruction. And what we saw the leader of the Proud Boys making excuses, they shouldn't have gone in, they shouldn't use the shield, they shouldn't have been beating law enforcement officers, almost a near death. And of course, one of our officers lost his life to committed suicide. So many are injured, that should not have been done and they can never compare that to Black Lives Matter who simply wanted to emphasize the importance of the stability of law enforcement and good policing. We maintain that today.


JACKSON LEE: We cannot be compared to that. And I do believe that we as a Congress will have to use our committee skills to ensure that the agencies responsible for protecting this place and protecting the nation must stand up and do better.

COOPER: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson. Lee, appreciate it.

Up next, what the new defense secretary is saying about the airstrikes tonight against targets in Syria. And I'll talk to New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman, what the military action could mean for the United States and the region. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Back to our breaking news from the top the program. The Biden administration has just taken this first military action and airstrikes in Syria focusing on an area used by Iranian backed militia groups following rocket attacks and American forces in Iraq. Moments ago, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke about the U.S. response.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're confident in the target that we went after we know what we did. And we're confident that that target was being used for the same Shia militia that that conducted the strikes.


COOPER: Joining me now with New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman, he's the author of a number of bestsellers, including Hot, Flat and Crowded. It's also fair to say few American journalists in the Middle East better.

Tom, I wonder what your reaction is to the, this military action?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, NYT: Well, you know, Anderson, the Iranians have been clearly testing divided government. There have been several attacks now in both the embassy compound in Baghdad and different bases. And they are announced I believe was last week, they're upping their enrichment of uranium for potential nuclear up into 20 percent, which is then just a short leap to 90 percent, where you have the fissile material for a bomb. So they're trying to pressure this administration into negotiating with them to restoring the Iran deal.

And the Iranians and they operate on a strategic principle called I like to call out crazy. That they think they can always out craze you. And it's always very important for a new administration to demonstrate that, you know, you can't avoid craziness. If you hurt our people, we will hurt you back. And this was the first part of that dance, I would say and quite important. COOPER: Do you think part of it also sends a message to critics in the United States that, you know, who say, well, look, if you're negotiating with Iran that's weakness, and that this is sort of a message and well, we're also, you know, we're not we.

FRIEDMAN: Definitely, I mean, the Biden administration because it is resuming the negotiations to restore the Iran nuclear deal that Trump discarded. Obviously, there's a lot of people watching, you know, are these guys going to have the spine to negotiate with them or not? So, this was very, very important.

It's also a really good interesting new cleavage appearing in the Middle East today. You know, the peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. UAE is probably the most successful Arab state, Israel's most successful non-Arab state, has created a new access of energy in the region. And I would call it the sort of the axis of growth.


You know, between October, and today 130,000, Israelis have gone on tourism and business trips to the UAE, that's in the middle of 130,000. In fact, they save the whole Christmas season for the UAE.

COOPER: And there are a lot of people from Israel having weddings in Dubai --

FRIEDMAN: Yes. I think it was one point, like Hebrew was the third most spoken language there, you know, it's quite amazing. And that's a real, you know, source of new energy inside the region. Around them, I would say is the axis of failure. And that's what the Iranians are really supervising. They basically have been creating failed states, in Lebanon, in Yemen. And what you're seeing here now is also a competition between those two new axes. And we'll have to see how the Biden administration plays into that as well.

COOPER: I also want to ask you about the former president was now speaking at CPAC this weekend, and not just him, but just the Republicans where they're at right now, because it's just fascinating. You know, we're still have the visions of the insurrection, not far in our rearview mirror. And the Republican Party has, you know, those few who did speak out, were kneecapped or quickly bent their own need to kiss the ring. And even, you know, Mitch McConnell was on Fox tonight saying he would support Trump and he was the 2024 nominee.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, you know, it's pretty clear that, you know, this is Trump's party, just as Don, Jr. told us. I think was really kind of interesting Anderson is how much American politics is now becoming like European politics. That is, we now have a far right nationalist, Populist Party. Le Pen in France, we have a center right faction within that party, we have a big center left party under Biden, and we have a farther left party.

Now, what's interesting is the Democrats as sort of a left and center left coalition can actually work together and produce legislation to address problems, whether it's coronavirus or minimum wage or infrastructure. Because they're all inhabiting effect-based universe, the same fact base universe. Someone says the minimum wage should be 15. I say it should be 13 or 10, or whatever. Someone says that we should have this much stimulus, someone says we have a little less, but they're all inhabiting the same fact base based universe.

What do you have on the right is not that? You have Trump's whole faction, the Trump cult, which is not inhabiting effect-based universe. And then you have these others like Romney and McConnell who want to but obviously don't want to, they don't want to lose power, so they need the energy of that Trump faction. Those people actually can't produce legislation to drive America forward. I mean, you have to ask, with all these stories about Trump wanting to come back, to do what? To do infrastructure, he could have done that. Healthcare could have done that.

You know, what exactly are they running for other than to be in power in order to be in power in order to be able to take the senators only elevator, you know. And what is just so frightening is when you see the already the retelling of history that the new lies, Ron Johnson, basically saying, oh, it was a kind of Antifa that actually did. I predict this Anderson, for you. But for four years of this, by the end, it'll be Joe Biden ordered the assault on the Capitol, and it was led by AOC. That they are going basically.

COOPER: The rewriting of history is the fact that it has happened so quickly. I mean, is just, I don't know why I think it's extraordinary. But and that it is so embraced. I mean, it is now kind of dogma within the Republican Party.

FRIEDMAN: You know, when you look at Mitch McConnell, what he did, you know, we're not going to have impeachment, we are going to have impeachment is too late for impeachment. We didn't impeach him for constitutional reasons, but he was totally guilty. And yes, I will support him if he's the candidate in 2024.

When I hear and see that, Anderson, you know, what I say to myself, I don't know anyone in my life who behaves that way. I don't -- maybe it's just me. I don't have any friends who are so unprincipled and so shameless, that in public would condemn a guy and embrace the guy, condemn a guy, and embrace it. I don't know anyone out of these 50 Republican senators, and I don't know how many House members who behave this way. And you really have to say like, when you go home and you talk to your wife and you say, hey, I condemned him but then I unconditioned him, like does she not say you do not have kids. Like, I just don't understand these people are living in because I don't know anyone in my world who behaves that way.


COOPER: Yes. It probably is hard to do that when your wife was actually in the cabinet of the person condemning and not condemning. But Tom Friedman always, appreciate talking to you. Thank you.

FRIEDMAN: You bet Anderson.

COOPER (voice-over): Just ahead, the third coronavirus vaccine may get its emergency use authorization from the FDA in just days. We'll discuss that or with new numbers from a key model that tracks the virus, when we come back.


COOPER: We are perhaps days away from the FDA giving you an emergency use authorization for third vaccine. President Biden today said his administration has a plan to roll it out quote as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can make it unquote. By itself a major deadline but couple that with his new data from a key model that tracks the course of the virus. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the University of Washington, new cases are down quote faster than expected. Deaths are also down. That's great news. But this report stresses that as these variants of the virus spread, the real test will come with warmer weather, whether people continue to observe safety measures like mask wearing and high rates.

Want to talk about it now with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the director of the Institute that publish that data, Dr. Course Murray. So Dr. Murray, can you explain what went into your new forecast and what stands out to you about the findings?

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, IHME: Well, the trajectory going forward, you know, we've had about five weeks of pretty impressive decline in cases and deaths per day, little evidence, it's slowing a little bit during the course of this week. But it's always hard to tell with the fluctuations from day to day. And going into the future, the trajectory is driven by seasonality, you know, improving we know this is a very seasonal virus, it should be getting better, vaccination going up. And then against that is the spread of the new variants. Particularly right now 117 the UK variant is spreading and then of course, we're worried about the South African and Brazilian variants.

COOPER: So, Sanjay --

MURRAY: You know, there are backdrop but really what will determine whether there's a spring surge is how we behave, you know, mask use and mobility going forward.

COOPER: So, Sanjay, marks 50 million vaccine doses given since the President took office. If they stay at this pace, it could make obviously big dent by the time his first 100 days are over. When you look at the numbers, you see the data from the new IHME report. What does it mean in real terms to you?


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so I think there's a few things. First of all, I mean, they're, they're exceeding expectations, right. They're supposed to be 100 million doses and 100 days so 50 million, stay 36 now. So and if you sort of play this out at this current pace, even, you'd say 100 million more people could be vaccinated in the next 64 days. So, you know, 150 million people in 100 days. But I think the more important thing is, is what you're saying, Anderson, who are these people that have been vaccinated, we can show I think this is encouraging people over the age of 65, I believe 50 percent now have been vaccinated people over the age of 75, 60 percent. And then remember long term care facilities, Anderson. You know, about a third of deaths occurred in long term care facilities and 75 percent, roughly, of those residents have been vaccinated. Point being that you get 50 million additional vaccinations out now, but allow the right people, the people who are most vulnerable to this disease are getting vaccinated.

COOPER: And Dr. Murray, your model shows increasing infection fatality rates in certain states. Sanjay showed that about 75 percent of people in long term facilities now had been vaccinated. And that's where obviously we've seen the disproportion number of deaths. So how do you explain that discrepancy?

MURRAY: Well, I think what we're seeing in California, you know, Alabama, Arizona, a handful of other states is really interesting. It you know that the surge up in death in those particular states has been larger than the surge in cases and deaths have been slower to come down that in cases. And, you know, immediately if you have to start asking, is that the possibility that this new variant identified in California, is that what's causing this change in infection fatality rates? We of course, don't know. But that's a pretty credible possibility.

COOPER: Sanjay, I know you have some questions.

GUPTA: Yes. So, I'm curious everyone asks about herd immunity? Because I mean, it seems like everything is sort of dependent on herd immunity. You know, people have said it could come as early as April. And then you said it could be winter of 2022, which I obviously did not like to hear. Why the huge discrepancy here, why winter of 2022?

MURRAY: Well, I think there's two futures out there, there's the rosy future, which says, you know, three quarters 80 percent of Americans will get vaccinated, there won't be the spread of the Brazilian or South African variants that we're also worried about. And those come together, and we couldn't easily get to herd immunity in that case, by the end of the summer or by the fall. But if those variants spread, there isn't immunity or full immunity from past infection with the old variant with to the new variants, the vaccines are less effective against the South African and Brazilian variants, we know that. Then it becomes pretty hard to get to herd immunity, and we may well have a surge next winter.

GUPTA: And just to be clear, I mean, even if there's more cases to Anderson's point earlier, you could still have a far lower death rate, because the vaccines regardless if they have less effect against the variance do seem to be very protective against people dying and being hospitalized, which is important.

But one point though, Dr. Murray, I just want to make sure we understand this, because how many people in the country have already been infected, have antibodies and may have some immunity? You say, I think here I was reading, you know, you say it's closer to 19 percent as of February 22. If you look at the CDC and Johns Hopkins data, it's closer to, you know, 30 percent or so of the country. That's a significant difference in terms of your model in terms of predicting how many people already have immunity versus theirs.

MURRAY: It certainly is Sanjay, and we're basing our assessment of 19 percent on the many, many surveys around zero prevalence, you know, people going up measuring antibody tests in the population, state by state over time. And we track those and put it all together with cases, deaths and hospitalizations. And that's where we come up with a 19 percent. Those higher numbers are essentially taking an assumption about what fraction of cases go undetected, and then they scale record number of cases. So, we believe in the lower number around 19 percent.

COOPER: Dr. Chris Murray -- sorry, go ahead Sanjay.

GUPTA: I just said it's interesting, because obviously, antibody studies sometimes can, you know, be tough, you're just measuring certain populations. It's a longer conversation. Hopefully we can have it at some point.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, Dr. Chris Murray, really appreciate it. Thank you. I'm sorry. We're out of time.

This Monday, we'll be sure to download Sanjay's podcast where we'll be continuing to discuss those with Dr. Murray. Also, that episode hits Monday on Sanjay's podcast Coronavirus Fact Vs. Fiction.


Reminder: don't miss "Full Circle". You can catch it live streaming 6pm Eastern at or watch it there on the CNN app anytime On Demand.

News continues, let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris?