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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

House Republicans Slated to be at CPAC Blame Absence from Congress on Public Health Emergency; House to Vote on Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill; Interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Conservatives Rally Behind Trump At CPAC, Set To Repeat Lies About "Stolen" Election; NY Times: FBI Said To Have Singled Out Potential Assailant In Capitol Officer's Death; FDA Panel Recommends Authorization Of Johnson & Johnson Single-Shot Vaccine. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 26, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Jackson died in 2005, but now her name and her achievements live on.

Thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Don't forget you can watch "Out Front" anytime.

Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, another big night of breaking news. An F.D.A. panel recommending emergency authorization of a third COVID vaccine, the one-shot version from Johnson & Johnson. If final approval is granted this weekend, people could start getting it next week.

Also, any minute, the House will vote on COVID relief legislation. If as expected, it passes, the Senate version will be stripped of a provision to more than double the minimum wage. We are going to talk about that tonight with someone who fought to keep the pay raise in the package, Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Bernie Sanders.

Also, we will talk about the setback, but also how much else is in the bill for so many Americans in need.

Also, tonight, House Republicans who decided they had better things to do than be in Washington tonight to vote on the COVID bill, that's going to affect tens of millions of Americans, at least a dozen lawmakers who signed letters saying they could not be at the Capitol, quote, "due to the ongoing public health emergency." Oddly enough, they all sought refuge in the same place: Orlando, Florida where they are taking part of the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC.

And just to give you something of an idea of the kind of respect they have down there for the ongoing public health emergency, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone when you're in the ballroom, when you're

seated, you should still be wearing a mask. So, if everybody can go ahead, work on that. I know, I know. It's not the most fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have the right.


COOPER: One of the CPAC refugees is freshman North Carolina Congress, Congressman Madison Cawthorn. Last summer, with Republican members seeking to block proxy voting, the Democrats were asking for because of the pandemic.

Cawthorn, who was then a private citizen was tweeting, quote: "Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are." Yes, leaders.

Now to the status of the bill that Cawthorn and the others won't be voting in person on, for that, we go to CNN's Ryan Nobles and Abby Phillip.

Ryan, what's the latest?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it looks that this bill will ultimately pass, it could be late tonight, maybe into early tomorrow morning, but Democrats are very confident that they have the votes.

They would need 217 votes to pass, it means they can only lose three Democrats if it were to cross the finish line. There is a chance that maybe one, maybe two Democrats do not vote in favor of this package. And maybe one Republican crosses over and votes with the Democrats.

But right now, Democrats are expressing a lot of confidence, particularly because that minimum wage hike is still a part of this House version.

Now, when it comes over to the Senate side, it is a whole different story. But for right now, it is a part of it. So Democrats are very confident they will pass that legislation later tonight.

COOPER: And Abby, if the minimum wage increase is out of the equation, how much easier is it for the White House to get this Relief Bill passed?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it becomes significantly easier. I mean, this was one of the bigger sticking points, both from a procedural perspective, but also for some of the moderates who just maybe agree with increasing the minimum wage, but perhaps don't agree with doing it in the timeline that was included in the bill, and also perhaps at the rate that was included in the bill.

And so this takes that issue off the table and makes it, I think, much harder for them to push back on this and makes it easier for the Biden administration to say, well, all the rest of this stuff that's in here is necessary for the economy right now.

And I think that that's really kind of where the Biden administration hope to be at the end of the day.

COOPER: Ryan, there is talk from some Democrats about Vice President Harris in her capacity as President of the Senate, possibly overruling the Parliamentarian.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar went as far as to say that the Parliamentarian should be fired in order to get the $15.00 minimum wage provision through. Is any of that realistic at all?

NOBLES: Well, Anderson, the one thing you'll note about the Members of Congress who are making that suggestion is that they are all Members of Congress who have absolutely no power when it comes to making that decision. It all comes from the House side. It all comes from progressives.

Senators who would be tasked with making a decision, as bold as something like firing the Parliamentarian or overruling her have said the exact opposite.

In fact, the White House has said specifically that they do not want to step outside the current traditions and rules of the United States Senate, and even the most progressive senators. I know you're going to have Senator Bernie Sanders on later, he has not even suggested that they should take the step of overruling the Parliamentarian or firing her.

So that seems like an unlikely course of action right now. It is good messaging for progressives in the House that want to show that they are very serious about passing a minimum wage, but in reality, it is not going to happen.

COOPER: And Abby, as we mentioned, you know, CPAC is going on. You have some Republican lawmakers saying they couldn't vote on tonight's bill in person because of the ongoing public health emergency and now they're there at CPAC.

Is there any reason to think that G.O.P. leadership is going to be upset by that at all?

PHILLIP: No, I don't think so at all. I mean, look, the priority for the Republican Party and Republican leadership especially in the House, is to show fealty to Donald Trump. And that's what they're at CPAC doing right now.


PHILLIP: Beyond that, also, you know, they have shown very little interest in this bill in general. Republicans are expecting to have pretty much unanimity in their opposition to this bill, and so, they're just trying to vote it -- vote no and move on. And I don't think that they will care one way or another.

It is embarrassing, though, in part, because I think one of the messaging things for Democrats will be that Republicans didn't care enough to show up on this issue one way or another on something, you might disagree with the details of the bill, but the idea that COVID relief is not something that is of paramount importance, I think everyone can agree on that.

COOPER: Right. Where does the battle over the minimum wage increase go from here?

NOBLES: It's a great question, Anderson and it's something we pressed Speaker Nancy Pelosi about this afternoon because the reality is, in order for it to pass as a standalone bill here on the Senate side of the Capitol, especially after the ruling for the Senate Parliamentarian, is that it would need 60 votes to get through a filibuster and Republicans would certainly put up a filibuster to any attempt at a standalone bill, at least at a $15.00 minimum wage.

So, the question becomes, what avenue do you have to pass something like a minimum wage increase? Now, there is the possibility that some of the more moderate senators like Joe Manchin of Arizona may offer up a proposal with a slightly lower increase to the minimum wage, something like an $11.00 an hour minimum wage increase, and perhaps you could get 10 Republicans to get on board with something along those lines.

But at this point, those are only preliminary discussions. The other hope they have is that perhaps another reconciliation package comes through later in the year. They can attach it to that, but then again, they run into the same problems with the Parliamentarian.

There is a real problem right now for Democrats here. This is something that they have specifically gone to their voters and supporters and said that they were going to push and accomplish and that is both the White House and them on the congressional side, and right now, they don't have an avenue to get there.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles, Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

Joining us now the Independent senator from Vermont and Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Bernie Sanders.

Chairman Sanders, what happens with the $15.00 minimum wage now? I mean, the White House has made it clear they will not push to overrule the Parliamentarian, nor does it look like Democrats would even have the votes to do that. Where does it go from here?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, we're looking at an alternative, and the alternative says that if you are a large corporation making a whole lot of money, you should not pay your workers starvation wages. I had a hearing on this issue.

You know, Walmart is owned by the wealthiest family in this country. They are worth $200 billion, and yet they're starting off their workers at 11 bucks an hour.

McDonald's, Burger King, and other large corporations are doing the same thing. We think that through a tax provision, which says that if you're not paying your workers a living wage of 15 bucks an hour, you're going to have to pay more in taxes.

We think that is an approach. It is not the ideal approach. But it is an approach that will raise minimum wage for millions of workers.

Look, at the end of the day, Anderson, what is so upsetting about the Parliamentarian's decision is you've got 60 percent of the American people who want to raise that minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. The House has already passed that legislation. The President wants it. We have the votes in the Senate.

And yet an unelected staffer, if you like, of the Senate decides that 30 million people cannot get a wage increase, and that deals with the archaic and undemocratic rules of the Senate.

It's another issue. It's something that we have to deal with.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, CNN, to your point, CNN had reported that the Senate Majority Leader Schumer was looking at inserting a provision in the COVID Bill that would penalize these large corporations, and that you floated that yesterday.

I know senators, you know, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, they've indicated they would not vote for a COVID Bill that included a minimum wage increase, A, do you know that they would support that provision?

SANDERS: I don't think that that's quite accurate, Anderson. You know and it's complicated. It deals with Democratic politics, in my view. At the end of the day, the question is, will every Democrat support the President? Will every Democrat vote for a $1.9 trillion bill, which provides $1,400.00 to every working class person and their children, which greatly expands healthcare, which cuts childhood poverty by 50 percent, which opens up some programs for kids all over this country, which provides aids to cities and states all over America?

You know what, I think every Democrat will vote the right way and the Vice President will give us the vote that we need.

COOPER: How do you pick which corporations would be penalized?

SANDERS: Well, you know, we're working out the details, but here you have a situation again, going back to Walmart is I think the poster child.

This is a family that is incredibly wealthy. One of their owners spend zillions of dollars on antique cars. They've got mansions. They have all kinds of art collections. But somehow or another they can't pay their starting wage at more than 11 bucks an hour.

The same thing for Burger King, same thing for McDonald's, same thing for Dollar General.


SANDERS: So I think there is a way that we can do it. Now, to be very honest with you, I would obviously prefer to have a simple minimum wage, 15 bucks over a four-year period. That's the easy way.

But with that setback that we received yesterday, we're going to have to figure out another way to raise wages, because in my view, you know, when we talk about the economy, Anderson, I would say probably the most distressing aspect of where we are today is that half of our people -- half of our people -- are living paycheck to paycheck.

Their car breaks down, they're in serious financial trouble. Millions of people are working for starvation wages. The minimum wage today, nationally is $7.25 an hour. And to my mind the people could disagree with me if they want. That is a starvation wage. It hasn't been raised by Congress since 2007.

We've got to take care of low-income workers in this country. It is the right thing to do.

COOPER: You've said that there's no way a standalone bill on a $15.00 minimum wage would pass and that the only way Democrats will get it done is through reconciliation or ending the filibuster, meaning you'd only need a simple majority of 51 votes to get something passed.

If reconciliation is a dead end, should Democrats in your view be pushing to end the filibuster?

SANDERS: I personally --

COOPER: It looks like we have a problem with the transmission, unfortunately, on Senator Sanders, we'll see if we can get it back. I want to thank the Chairman.

Next, CPAC and what it reveals about a political party still in the grip of the lies that fueled an attack on democracy and still enthralled with the former President who incited the attack.

And later, the fast track to a third COVID vaccine when it could be available and why it is being seen as real shot in the arm.



COOPER: There's much to be said about the extent to which the only President ever to be impeached twice still dominates the Republican Party. But really who needs words when there's this? Kind of like, it's like Shoney's Big Boy, but you know, no secret sauce, more gold paint.

It now stands guard in a booth at CPAC in Orlando. It's actually apparently just a replica. Its creator says the real item is in a Tampa warehouse and quote, "is literally priceless" end quote.

I don't know what that means. Real or phony, if such a comparison even makes sense, the idea of followers worshipping a replica golden idol fits right in with moments like this.




TRUMP, JR.: Or I heard someone earlier phrase it a little bit better. TPAC.


COOPER: Get it? Donny, Jr. might actually be right about this one. In fact, he probably is.

Senator Ted Cruz was happy to second that notion, but not before first dumping on his Texas constituents who literally froze to death that other time he fled the state.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I've got to say, Orlando is awesome.


CRUZ: It's not as nice as Cancun, but it's nice.


COOPER: These kids today with their jokes. So with that as the opener, he got straight to the bottom line and kissed it.


CRUZ: Let me tell you this right now, Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.


CRUZ: And the Republican Party is not the party just of the country clubs.


COOPER: Not just the party of country clubs, an odd thing to say about a man who owns a string of country clubs and these days is actually living in one. But never mind.

He says right as DJ TJ about who the party belongs to, the conference schedule speaks loudly to that point and shot through with panels and speakers pushing the election lie, such as Senator Cruz who tried to overturn the electoral vote and Josh Hawley, of course and did the same even after the mob, he raised a fist in solidarity to, laid siege to the Capitol.

He objected that evening to the electoral count and mischaracterized it today in Orlando.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I stood up, and I said -- I said, "We ought to have a debate about election integrity." (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, that's not really what he stood up for, is it? He stood up and objected to the duly certified presidential electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona, based on false and debunked narratives that fueled an insurrection, narratives, lies to be precise, which Senator Hawley, Cruz, and so many others at CPAC or TPAC have made into their secular religion, complete now with that golden idol.

CNN's Jim Acosta attended the conference today, joins us now. Jim, besides getting yelled at, what are you hearing from CPAC leaders how they think it's going so far?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I felt like a dentist today because I was pulling teeth trying to get CPAC leaders and CPAC attendees to admit to the fact that the President -- former President Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election and to admit that he had anything to do with the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th.

You talk to people like Matt Schlapp, who runs this conference, you talk to just your regular run of the mill attendee, they just refuse to admit to any of these things.

Take for example, a bit of this exchange that I had with Matt Schlapp earlier today, just refusing to concede this issue that Donald Trump continues to lie about the election in 2020.

Here's how it all went down.


ACOSTA: Are you concerned about having the President back here at CPAC where he is going to continue to say that the election was stolen from him, when that just isn't true.

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Were there any illegal ballots cast in that election?

ACOSTA: I suppose there might have been.

SCHLAPP: So how many? You just told me that there was illegal voting in the last election. You don't know how many.

Did you sit down with the team in Nevada -- let me finish. Did you sit down with a team in Nevada, or Georgia and these states and ever go through the binders of information that good patriotic Americans came up with?


ACOSTA: But it's not enough to overturn the results of the election?

SCHLAPP: How did you know that when you don't know the number. Are you that good in math? ACOSTA: Joe Biden won by seven million votes?

SCHLAPP: I love how you're repeating --

ACOSTA: Three hundred and six elector votes. How is it that -- there's just no way that that's physically possible?


ACOSTA: And so it continued like that, Anderson. I tried to ask Matt Schlapp, well, don't you think Donald Trump had something to do with the violence at the Capitol? He refused to concede that as well.

And it just went on like this all day long talking to attendee after attendee, and Anderson, as we were talking to Matt Schlapp, you reference some of, you know, the hairiness that we got into earlier today. There were Trump supporters gathering around us starting to get irate, they were giving us hell, trying to ask us questions about, you know, all sorts of different things.

And, you know, for all the talk of their complaints about cancel culture, it seemed like they were trying to cancel us, not letting us do our jobs here.

COOPER: And so the former President is going to speak Sunday. Any -- I mean, is there a sense of what -- I mean, you know, we all know what he says over and over again, so I assume it's going to be the same thing that he would normally say.

ACOSTA: Yes. That's right. I mean, obviously, he is going to rip into Joe Biden. They see this as something of a coming out party for the former President. He is obviously going to tease this crowd with the idea that he may run for election in 2024.

He is going to peddle the big lie that the election was stolen from him when we know that's obviously not the case. But talking to advisers, he is going to bring this up again.

And so Anderson, it's once again going to be sort of a strange through the looking glass type of moment for this country, because here you have a former President, typically, as you know, Anderson, former Presidents, when they lose elections, they usually, you know, retire from the scene, or they go off to California or, you know, Florida wherever and retire and enjoy the post presidency.

Donald Trump is not going to do this. He is fixated on two things at this point: revisionism and revenge. Revisionism and that he wants to try to, you know, put across to his supporters out there, this notion that not only did he lose the -- win the election, and that this election was stolen from him, from Joe Biden, but that somehow he had nothing to do with the violence at the Capitol on January 6th, which is just a lie. It's just another one of his lies.

And Anderson, you know, for all the talk of cancel culture, it was sort of like cult culture is what we observed earlier today. They literally rolled in a golden statue of Donald Trump at the CPAC Conference. It's just bizarre to see the idolizing of this former President in the fashion that we're seeing it, but that is today's Republican Party, and Donald Trump is the head of that party until somebody pulls it away from him.

COOPER: You know, it was interesting hearing, you know, Donny Trump, Jr. talk about, you know, it's TPAC. It's essentially echoing what he said the morning of the insurrection, January 6th, to that crowd in Washington that morning, where he said that, you know, that this was -- this is Trump's Party, and that anybody who, you know, essentially doesn't bow to Trump that they're going to be primaried, they're going to go after him.

ACOSTA: That's right. And this evening, Anderson, the former President announced that he is going to support a Republican candidate in Ohio, who is primary-ing a Republican House member who voted to impeach the then President at the time.

Anderson, I mean, this is, you know, this is a party that is almost trying to ride on the back of the insurrection to 2024. We saw Josh Hawley earlier today, the Republican senator from Missouri, defending his attempt to overturn the election, just defending his decision to side with those House members who wanted to overturn the results of the election. And he got a standing ovation from the crowd.

It is -- I think it's an alarming sight to see that there's just no sense of remorse, no sense of that anybody is sorry inside this Trump movement, this Trump base about anything that took place on January 6th and that people died.

And when I tried to talk to Matt Schlapp about this and put that that some people died on January 6th, he will -- he will say again and again that Donald Trump had nothing to do with it despite the fact that we all watched this unfold on national television all day long on that day, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, they are, you know, busy trying to rewrite history.

Jim Acosta, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Perspective now from two conservative CNN political commentators, Amanda Carpenter who once served as Ted Cruz's Communications Director, and Scott Jennings, former close advisor to Senate Minority Leader and Trump critic, supporter -- critic and supporter Mitch McConnell.

Amanda, is this the Republican Party almost in name only at this point? I mean, at least compared to what it used to be?


AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's Trump's Party and I'm going to say the coverage around CPAC, it feels a little bit like 2016 where everyone is looking at the panels and looking at the outrageous things people are saying, and oh, what is Trump going to say next? But it's different, and it's different for why Jim explained. It is

different because of the insurrection and so I watch what is happening. It's just really hard to come to terms with and I've talked with many Republicans who kept going along with Trumpism until the end because after he lost in November, they thought this will resolve itself. It'll go away.

Yes, he's going to fight it. He's going to say stupid stuff. But there will be a chance to reset after the certification on January 6th, but the insurrection changed all of that.

It has changed everything for the Republican Party, because look at what is at the conference. People like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are essentially campaigning on it, and they know that it's Trump's Republican Party, but they're hoping for a second place in that poll finisher when they do those ballots, and they can count who can be a good 2024 contender.

This is a party that is okay with an insurrection. Mitch McConnell said yesterday, sure, if Trump is the 2024 nominee, I'll support him.

And so people, Republicans of good conscience who can't go along with this have to consider other options in maybe working with the Democrats more, in may be backing people like Liz Cheney to make sure she has a voice and she is not run out of the party for daring to speak her mind at a press conference because what we're doing now is not working. Look at CPAC.

COOPER: Scott, I remember you said not long ago on this program that the Republican Party needed to, quote, "get unified," get focus and dispatch with the crazy. It seems like they're at least right now leaning into the crazy.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, you can see how influential I am on these panels. I mean, I don't forget -- I don't particularly care for what I've seen out of some of these speeches, and I also don't care for the fact that it seems like, you know, for most of my professional career, Amanda's as well, you know, the Republicans have been known as the Conservative Party.

Our party had a platform, which we didn't bother to write one last year, but we were basically known as the Conservative Party. And today, I'm not sure what platform or issues we're known for.

Trump moved the party to the left on a number of things, not everything, but on a number of things, and now, we sort of define ourselves by being anti -- anti-media, anti-liberal, anti-Democrat, even anti-Republican.

I mean, Ted Cruz today is trying to lop off, you know, every white- collar worker who sits in a cubicle in America from the Republican Party, which I don't understand. We're even anti-Republican.

So instead of being anti and trying to shrink this club, I want to know, what are we going to be for that grows the club? Because right now, as Amanda just said, what we're doing is not working. We just got beat by seven million votes.

We cannot afford the politics of subtraction. We have to have the politics of addition, which is the opposite of what they're doing,

COOPER: You know, Amanda, I mean, Scott brought up what was going to be my next question to you, which is what do Republicans stand for right now? I mean, you know, because from CPAC, we're hearing about, you know, President Biden magically gaining ground in swing states on election night and Antifa members disguising themselves as Trump supporters on the day of the insurrection. I mean, what are Republicans?

CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, it's supporting Trump, right? Developing a media network. I mean, essentially, the media is the party for them. It's all they pretty much care about.

Cancel culture -- I mean, Josh Hawley talks about, he can't have his pick of book publishers, right? Like, it's just about getting privileged status in society.

I do think there is some inklings of policy debates down there about anti-masking and opening up businesses. But the speakers that went down there to talk about that, perhaps should have been in Washington where there was a great debate that should have happened about coronavirus spending relief and how we could deliver that aid to families.

But instead, people are skipping out votes in the House so that they can go down and be part of Trump's Republican Party instead of doing their job in Washington, because for a lot of the show boaters, it's about making their voice heard and making a statement and not much else.

COOPER: Scott, I've got to ask you about, you know, what are your thoughts on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? I want to play for our viewers, you know what he said after the former President was acquitted of inciting the insurrection. And then as Amanda mentioned, what he said last night on FOX.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Former President Trump's actions preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty.

This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing President who seemed determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.

President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen. Unless the statute of limitations is run, still liable for everything he did while he was in office.


As an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations, as Ron still allowable for everything you do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the President was the party's nominee, would you support him?

MCCONNELL: Oh, the nominee of the party? Absolutely.


COOPER: So, Scott, how does one figure that out? I mean, obviously, McConnell is known as a tactical master of the Senate. I don't know if there's a strategy to that or just hope that Trump won't be the nominee. And he has to say he would support him. What do you think?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think a couple things, number one, and I'm just going to sort of put on my McConnell explainer hat here. He's an outcomes-based politician. And for most of his career, he has preferred, in fact all of his career, he has preferred there to be a Republican in the White House, to sign legislation that Republicans in the Congress was sent over. That's certainly what happened for the four years of Trump. Didn't mean they always agreed or got along or, you know, are ever going to play golf together or whatever. But it did mean that he got outcomes that he preferred.

I think Amanda made a good point earlier, everything for me and for a lot of Republicans changed on January 6. But for McConnell, I think, despite all the rhetoric in the back and forth, his entire career has been defined by trying to have Republican leadership for the purpose of enacting a Republican platform. And so, you know, that the juxtaposition of those statements is difficult for me to look at to be candid with you. But at the same time, I'm looking around the rest of the party wondering who else is trying to enforce a policy outcomes- based platform, except for Mitch McConnell. And so, I'm torn about what I'm seeing. But to me, I think for him, it's outcomes.

COOPER: Scott Jennings, Amanda Carpenter, appreciate it. Thank you.

There is breaking news tonight of the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The New York Times is reporting now that the FBI is pinpointed but not yet identified an assailant. According to the Times, investigators initially struggled to determine what had happened in his class with assailants. Ss soon began to suspect His death was related to something he inhaled like mace or bear spray.

Now, the Times is reporting investigators have pinpointed a person seen on video of the riot, who attacked several officers bear spray including Officer Sicknick. Again, though they've not yet identified this person by name.

(voice-over): Up next, our medical experts discuss the effects of having a third vaccine which may be available to Americans in a matter of days. Also, how it's arriving as health officials fear cases and hospitalizations may no longer be fully.


[20:36:18] COOPER: Tonight, we're a step closer to a third vaccine, emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson for one shot dose could come tomorrow. And a member of the FDA panel that today gave the green light to the vaccine tell CNN it could be as early as Tuesday when the shots get into the arms of Americans and the country will certainly need every shot it can get.

Today, the CDC director called the current state of our fight against the virus, quote, tenuous, recent data she says suggest that case numbers and hospitalizations no longer falling. They're plateauing, which is obviously a concern. And it's still a very high numbers, quoting Dr. Rochelle Walenski, we may be seeing the beginning effects of these far more variants that were first seen in other countries and now increasingly here in the United States.

We get perspective now from our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also senior medical analyst Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist, and a former coronavirus advisor of the President's transition team.

So, Sanjay, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine we expect to be approved tomorrow. Do you think they'll be facing a sort of optics battle right now at the gate? Because in some of the numbers that have been flying around without context. Is that going to be a major hurdle?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a little bit of a battle. I don't know that there'll be a major hurdle. I think, you know, it's got to be explained well, but, you know, what people often see is one number and they pit it against another number. And they say that one's more effective, I'll have that one. We can put the numbers up on the screen. And I think it's just, you know, it's worth explaining, again. It is true that if you look at the Johnson & Johnson numbers and look at how they, you know, sort of performed around the world, that you do see a lower efficacy, you know, in places where these variants were circulating South Africa and Brazil and places like that. But, you know, obviously, the FDA Advisory Committee really paid attention to the number on the right side of the screen 85 percent protection against severe disease, no hospitalizations at a month, no deaths at all. I mean, that's, that's the sort of peace of mind I think people want from these vaccines.

Also, Anderson, it's a bit of a nuanced point, but the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was trialed at a different time. And in different places as compared to the other vaccines. In some ways it was trialed against a more serious disease. So, if you were to take the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and trial, those at the same time in the same places, they'd probably be all pretty similar. So, it may be an optics battle, but shouldn't be one.

COOPER: I mean, you've already been vaccinated. But would you get this one if you hadn't?

GUPTA: Yes, I would absolutely get it. You know, I mean, that sort of protection, and no hospitalizations, no deaths. One thing I will say is, you know, I think it may be thought full to sort of say, well, look, you have this one shot vaccine, it doesn't need the super cold storage. Maybe the CDC will say look for people who are who are more transient people who are homeless people who are less likely to show up for a second shot. And for some people's convenience for other people, it's a necessity. So that may be some thinking that goes into this.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, doctor, Dr. Gounder, do you see that as sort of the same -- that the same community gets served by the other two approve vaccines or, you know, is to Sanjay's point? Is it better to kind of focus on people who may not be able to make it for two shots?

CELINE GOUNDER, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL ANALYST: I think whatever vaccine you can get is the vaccine that is for you. My colleagues on the advisory board to the Biden-Harris transition team published an op-ed specifically on this point, about a week or so ago, because we anticipated that this was going to be the discussion, you know, is there one of these vaccines is better than the other and quite frankly, if you look at the outcomes that matter. So preventing hospitalization, preventing death, if you wait the 28 days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that is equivalent 100 percent protective against hospitalization and death and that's equivalent to what you get after two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and you wait a couple weeks after that.


So, you know, this is highly efficient, it's one dose. And I think it'll really just depend on what different providers are equipped to deliver to different populations.

COOPER: You know, Sanjay we heard from the head of the CDC today saying that the COVID case and death count decline, which we've been seeing seems now to be stalling potential leveling off at a very high number. She said it was a concerning shift. It just to me, it's such a reminder that, you know, every time we see some improvements, it feels like things, you know, are loosened in some area. And then inevitably, we see another rise and numbers are plateauing.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, it is a constant roller coaster, you know, for sure, Anderson. And I think, you know, this has made us all a bit humble in terms of saying, hey, look, we're out of the woods, or, you know, it's definitely going to continue to go down. I don't, you know, I'd like to continue to see these numbers for another week or so to understand if this is really a trend. I think that everyone's talking about the variants when we've looked at some of the models on the variants there of concern, but the numbers, at least from the sequencing that we've seen, aren't so high yet that I think they would account for this, these case rates, plateauing or even starting to go back up. If that's going to happen, I think that's going to be later in the month of March probably when that happens.

But I think the big question, Anderson, something we've been talking about for a year now, is, if the case numbers do go up, and they may, will you get a corresponding sort of increase in hospitalizations a few weeks later, and a corresponding increase in deaths. You're likely to see increased hospitalizations and deaths, but because there's increased immunity out there, hopefully, it'll be lower number, lower proportion than what we've seen in the past.

COOPER: Dr. Gounder, is there some kind of magic formula to determine how quickly people need to get vaccinated to outpace the spread of new variants?

GOUNDER: No, we don't unfortunately have that formula. And because we're also dealing with different variants, the one that is spreading most widely accounts for about 10 percent of COVID cases in the U.S. right now, that's the UK variant. And then there are others that are of concern, one out of South Africa, one out of Brazil, that are much more rare right now that may become more common later in the summer. But I think right now, the message is we're not out of the woods yet. We just need to be a little more patient for more people to get vaccinated. The vaccine supply is going to open up dramatically come the spring and into the early summer. And I think by the mid-summer, every American who wants to get vaccinated will be able to.

COOPER: All right. Dr. Celine Gounder, Sanjay, thanks very much.

(voice-over): Just ahead, how the big lie about a stolen election. You'll hear promoted this weekend at CPAC is filtered down to the former president's most loyal supporters. You'll hear what these voters have to say about the election and QAnon, when we return.



COOPER: As we demonstrated earlier in the broadcast, Republican leaders and opinion makers at CPAC are all in with the big lie about the election. And that fantasy is their new reality, one which has now trickled down to voters who not only still support the former president but believe his return to the White House is actually imminent. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now with more in this fantasy. Donie?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Anderson, yes, it is essentially becoming the QAnon caucus and we're seeing it from coast to coast. We're seeing us here at CPAC in Orlando, Florida this weekend. And we saw it last weekend in Ventura, Southern California, where we spoke to some Trump supporters, many of whom believe that QAnon conspiracy theory. Have a watch.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): These Trump supporters are in denial about what happened on January 6, and some believe in QAnon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going to happen at some point is they'll be arrests, and that'll include a lot of the line media and then there'll be military.


O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): They keep saying that for years and it's not happening. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has been years, it has been years.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): It's been (INAUDIBLE) 2017. It's been years now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're taking a 6,000-year-old death cult.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't take it down that quick.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): I understand. You're very passionate Trump supporter. Right?


O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): But you surely can admit that the people who start with a Capitol are Trump supporter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I definitely cannot. In fact, you're talking to the right person, because I can send you tons of footage that shows that that was all the left --

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- (INAUDIBLE) off the edge of the BLM dressed up as Trump supporters --

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is my hope that President Trump comes back as the 19th President of the United States under the 1776. And that he is inaugurated on March 4th. That is my hope for our future.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Some have bought into a new conspiracy theory that Trump will return as the 19th president on March 4th, why? Well, they have misinterpreted an 1871 law and believe Ulysses S. Grant, who was inaugurated on March 4th 1869, was America's last legitimate president. It may all sound bizarre, but online discussion about March 4 has been a contributing factor in the decision to keep the National Guard in Washington D.C.

(on-camera): Are you going to feel foolish on March 5th when Biden's still president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump has a different plan than play.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Everybody keeps saying Trump has a plan, has a plan. When he lost the election, they said he has a plan, he's (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh Trump did not lose the election sir.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): But he did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump did not lose the election. And that's where we differ.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's where I believe the information that Mike Lindahl has put out.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): The pillow guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of all abuse, corruption, stealing --

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): So do you -- you the man more who sells pillows than the Republican officials in Georgia?


O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): But you realize that sounds crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me just tell you that the people in Georgia are sick.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And while most of the world looks on in horror at a deadly military coup in Myanmar that's exactly what these Trump supporters hope to see happen here in the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This whole thing with Biden is just -- he's like a puppet president. The military is in charge. It's going to be like Myanmar, what's happening on Myanmar, the military is doing their own investigation, and at the right time, they're going to be restoring the republic with Trump as president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on Myanmar right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In different country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government should (INAUDIBLE) during the election.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Would you like to see it happened?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see it happened.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Really?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know why? Because the election was stolen from us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never want to believe CNN would have given me a chance to speak the truth.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a miracle. Praise God.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): I mean, but we're going to say in our news report that QAnon is a conspiracy theory. You don't believe QAnon is a conspiracy theory?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I know, it isn't. I know, it isn't. I'm not much for believing I have to know.


COOPER: Donie, just fascinating as always. I mean, you you've been covering, you know, QAnon. And folks who believe in this for, you know, for at least a year, you were at the Capitol on January 6, Has anything changed in the tone you're hearing because there was some thought, you know, you and I discussed this and about some people leaving QAnon once Biden was elected, because they realized nothing that had been promised has come to pass. But like that lady in your piece, they just changed what the prediction is supposed to be.

O'SULLIVAN: Exactly. And when Trump doesn't become president next week, the 19th President next week, they'll move on to something else as well. I will say, I found it very concerning last weekend when we were speaking to these folks, particularly when they were talking about Myanmar and celebrating the military coup there and wanting to see that happen here in the U.S.

You know, I mean, you listen to that, and it is obviously a ridiculous, bizarre conspiracy theory. But we know now from what happened on the 6th of January, that this old justice in rhetoric, a lot of it can lead to action. And it doesn't certainly does not seem that this is going away.

COOPER: Yes. Donie O'Sullivan, appreciate it.

Tonight, 11:00 p.m., we have a new CNN special report on the cult of QAnon, what's been happening to believers into the QAnon conspiracy theories since the election of President Biden. Now as I said, some have lost their faith say they no longer believe, but many more continue to come up with new prophecies about the return of Trump.

And tonight, you're going to hear from one man who says he isn't a follower of Q, but he believes many of their claims. He first reached out to me to tell me I was going to be executed.


COOPER (on-camera): You DM me saying that I was going to be executed. And that, that you were --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I wouldn't very nice.

COOPER (on-camera): When you said you were going to enjoy it. And then you followed up and you said execution bang, you're dead.


COOPER (on-camera): So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) that was a very -- not very polite, you aren't the only one I've sent that to. And I've since backed off because I can't prove anything about you, Anderson. All I know is there's a lot of strange coincidences. I would say anybody, anybody that who is high up, should be shown to the world via public execution. Hillary should be executed live, so all of us can see the end of evil. And like I said, lesser people, we don't necessarily need to see it. So I'd like if someone who's not high up in the Cabal. I don't think we need to see it. But personally --

COOPER (on-camera): But, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see --

COOPER (on-camera): -- President Obama, President Biden, you're saying they should --


COOPER (on-camera): George Bush.


COOPER (on-camera): They should all be executed publicly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, for sure. Because they're part of this.


COOPER: He later said they should have military tribunals before execution. The new CNN special report The Culture Of QAnon airs tonight at 11:00 p.m. here on CNN.

(voice-over): Up next, much lighter stuff how you can travel overseas this weekend without leaving your home Stanley Tucci, talks about his new CNN series Searching For Italy. When we continue.



COOPER: No doubt, a lot of people miss traveling during the pandemic but Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Pacific, you can take a trip overseas without leaving your couch. Just watch then CNN Original Series Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy. Stanley Tucci the actor, he's taking viewers to six of Italy's favorite places in a journey that sure would make you, well very hungry and very thirsty. I recently spoke with Stanley Tucci about his latest project and what you can expect on Sunday night.


COOPER (on-camera): This week's episode, you're taking us to Bologna. I've never been there. I'm a huge fan of Rome. I'm a huge fan of Venice. There's a ton of places in Italy I want to go to. Why Bologna? I didn't understand. I didn't realize that it's conservative for the food capital of Italy.

STANLEY TUCCI, ACTOR: Yes, it is. It's a very interesting place Bologna. Yes, it bridges the gap between the north and south and it also sort of bridges Italy from east to west.

COOPER: So if you're in built Bologna, what do you have to eat?

TUCCI: In Bologna, you would have to eat mortadella and you would certainly have fochuto (ph), you would have to parmegiana and you would have to eat lasagna or (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Which is I got to say, it's my go to spaghetti bowl and as is my when I'm in a place and I want some comfort and a sense of normalcy. I go for spaghetti bolognaise.

TUCCI: Yes. It makes you happy. It is -- it's comforting. It's incredibly comforting.

COOPER: And I feel like I know what it's going to be it's like a Big Mac I kind of I know what I'm getting I'm going to get more or less and it's hard to mess it up. So --

TUCCI: It's exactly like a Big Mac and the opposite (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: It's very polite the way you phrase that. Thank you. Do you have a favorite city at this point in Italy?

TUCCI: No, I can't say that I do. I'm more -- I'm very attracted, even though my family's from the south. I'm very attracted to northern Italy. And I like the change of seasons. And I also think that the cuisine is so interesting. You can sometimes depending on where you are, you'll be eating something that tastes distinctly German or Austrian or something that's distinctly French. If you -- if there's not a tomato in sight and barely, you know, a drop of olive oil. It's butter, it's cheese, it's buckwheat, it's polenta. It's completely different than the diet of the South.


COOPER (on-camera): Stanley Tucci. Thank you so much. And want to tell everybody tune into an all new episode Stanley Tucci "SEARCHING FOR ITALY" airing Sunday 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.


COOPER: And that's it for us. The news continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris?