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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated; Federal Judge Blocks New DACA Applications; Senior Biden Officials Finding COVID Lab Leak Theory as Credible as Natural Origins Explanation; Senior Biden Officials Finding COVID Lab Leak Theory As Credible As Natural Origins Explanation; Pres. Biden Says Companies Like Facebook Are "Killing People" Because Of COVID Misinformation. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 16, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Earn more trust with people, so when you talk to them about vaccines, they believe you.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Well, Mike, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.
SHIELDS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, a Federal judge just ruled that the DACA program is illegal, which means the future of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought here as children may now be in doubt. We'll look at the decision and the enormous implications tonight.
We begin, however, with the return of COVID and the tragic fact that right now, in this country, virtually none of the illness, isolation, suffering, and dying should be happening at all. Period.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: There is a clear message that is coming through. This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Unvaccinated Americans are not protected against serious illness, hospitalization and death, and we are seeing it in the data. Unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A pandemic of the unvaccinated. Right now, new cases are rising for the week in all 50 states up by 50 percent or more in 38 states, down in none. Zero.
Where just two weeks ago, new cases were averaging about 13,500 a day, they are now topping 30,000. In some areas in the country, the reports are troubling. A top official in the University of Arkansas medical system reporting hospitals there are quote, "full right now" and cases are doubling every 10 days.
In Florida, average daily hospitalizations have more than quadrupled in the last two weeks. According to a recent CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University and the C.D.C., it states that states that have fully vaccinated, more than half their residents reported nearly three times fewer COVID cases than states that have vaccinated fewer than half.
As for mortality, early analysis suggests that as many as 99.5 percent of all deaths in the first six months of this year have been in unvaccinated patients.
Right now, thanks to the efforts of two Presidents, one Republican and one Democrat, people now have easy access often without an appointment to three highly effective vaccines. Yet vaccinations as you know, have been tapering off. The reasons are many folds, but a good deal of it is driven by online misinformation, which the administration today pledged to combat and those suspicions are being stoked by right-wing media, even about something as innocuous and frankly helpful as the White House is sending volunteers door-to-door not to vaccinate or force vaccinations on anyone, but simply to raise awareness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB SCHMITT, NEWSMAX ANCHOR: I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature.
REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Now, they're starting to talk about going door-to-door to be able to take vaccines to the people.
They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They begin to go door-to-door take your Bible.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hello to door-to-door vaccine pushers.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: I honestly believe it is the greatest scandal of my lifetime by far,
CHARLIE KIRK, FOUNDER, TURNING POINT USA: There is almost this apartheid-style, open air hostage situation, like, oh, you can have your freedom back if you get the jab.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Going door-to-door? This is creepy stuff.
SCHMITT: If there is some disease out there, maybe there's just an ebb and flow to life where something supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I don't know who that guy is but consider the depravity of that last statement. More than 250,000 lost American lives just this year. Does that guy really believe they were all meant to die? They were just supposed to be wiped out because of the ebb and flow of life.
Would he volunteer perhaps in the COVID ward of his local hospital unvaccinated to help ease the suffering of a single one of those people?
Do any of these people truly think that with the dangerous new variant spreading across the country, the effort to vaccinate as many people as possible is actually just a fig leaf for taking people's guns or their Bibles away?
Maybe it's simply not wanting to see Americans die needlessly. Maybe it's not wanting the unvaccinated to spread the virus to our children who are too small to be vaccinated.
Back in January when President Biden took office and launched a campaign to get people vaccinated, more than 4,400 Americans were dying every single day. That's the entire death toll of Vietnam War every two weeks.
Now today, the average is 389. It's obviously much, much less, and that's a remarkable achievement. But it could be almost zero. It doesn't have to be 389 people dying day. It could be almost zero, and that is a tragedy all its own.
Perspective now from two experts who we have turned to throughout the pandemic, Dr. Craig Spencer, Director of Global Health and Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center here in New York, also Professor Michael Osterholm, Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Spencer Professor Osterholm, former F.D.A. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that he has seen modeling from the C.D.C. that shows a wave of infection from the delta variant moving through the population over the next two months. Is this the Category Five Hurricane you warned about earlier this year?
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, fortunately, we've actually had a number of people in this country vaccinated over the course of the past four months, so that's going to help. But we still do have 100 million Americans who have not yet been vaccinated. And among that group, we are going to see a substantial increase in cases such that I can't say that it's going to be a surge like we saw in January at all.
So, I think we have to understand that the numbers could get large. They could be very significant in some regions, but I don't think we're going to see the same kind of large surge of cases we would have seen four months ago before vaccination has done what it has done.
COOPER: And Dr. Spencer, an official of the F.D.A. told CNN today that a decision on full F.D.A. approval for Pfizer's two-dose vaccine could come within two months. Do you think that's an important step? That that would convince some of those who are undecided?
DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I think it would be helpful in convincing some of the hesitant and the holdouts. Look, at this point, we've now delivered, you know, hundreds of millions of doses of this vaccine. We know it's safe, it's effective and it has saved a lot of life and will continue to do so.
I think it's important that we go through the right process, but I think -- and I'm happy that now they're considering this and hopefully that will help get more people vaccinated, because as you know, still the majority of Americans are not fully vaccinated. We have just over 48 percent that are, meaning we still have a lot of people who are vulnerable to infection as the delta variant circulates.
COOPER: Professor Osterholm, do we yet know -- I mean, for those who are vaccinated and fully vaccinated, do we know enough about how the delta variant interacts with people who are vaccinated whether, you know, obviously, people can still become positive if they're vaccinated. Do we know about the transmissibility if people who are vaccinated transmitting it if they are positive, even if it's a mild case, transmitting it? And also the possibility of long haul or long COVID symptoms for those who have mild cases?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we do know that the vaccine, particularly with the two-dose regimen, is very effective in preventing, one, from having even clinical illness with the delta variant.
Now, remember, we said 90 to 95 percent effective, so that doesn't mean that it is going to be perfect. But in fact, even among those that do have, in fact, breakthrough infections, as we call them, typically are also very mild when they do happen.
The one exception to that are the very older population, where there we can see more severe illness just like we do with influenza vaccine. Where we are more challenged, as Dr. Spencer just pointed out, is the fact that if we are only partially vaccinated with, in this case, either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccines, then we have less protection against the delta variant, but even then, it still really does reduce substantially serious illness and hospitalization.
COOPER: But I guess, I'm just wondering, and maybe this is selfish on my part, as somebody who is vaccinated and has a child who can't be vaccinated because they're too little. If I became positive with the delta variant, is it a possibility that I would transfer that to my son?
OSTERHOLM: It in fact is possible. There have been several studies looking at this which suggests that anywhere from 45 to 55 percent of the time, you won't because of your vaccination, but there are those instances where transmission has occurred. But again, it's at a much lower rate than we would see if you weren't vaccinated.
COOPER: Dr. Spencer, are you concerned that unvaccinated people could pass the virus back to vaccinated people, which could theoretically cause the virus to mutate against that vaccinated immune system?
SPENCER: Well, I think -- and it is important, this is the most important message I think of all of this is that right now, if you are fully vaccinated, like I have been lucky to be since December as a healthcare worker, any of the vaccines that are currently available in the U.S., if you are fully vaccinated, the likelihood that I will see you in the emergency room as a COVID patient is near zero.
Now, if you are unvaccinated, the risk is incredibly high. It may be in some areas higher than it has ever been because there are not masked mandates. People are enjoying this wonderful return of summer and are a little more carefree, lackadaisical and making it more possible that you could be exposed if you aren't vaccinated to COVID.
If you're vaccinated and continue to be smart, we know there's a lot of virus out there. But again, the likelihood that you're going to get sick, end up in the hospital or die from COVID is incredibly, incredibly small.
So, just another plug for everyone to get vaccinated if you can.
COOPER: Professor Osterholm, starting tomorrow night, marks are going to be required in indoor places in Los Angeles, whether you're vaccinated or not. Is that a good idea? And do you think other are going to reinstate a mask mandate? I mean, should, you know, people who are vaccinated wear a mask in a gym?
OSTERHOLM: Well, over the course of the next six to 12 weeks, we're going to see a very difficult period with regard to the number of cases. Again, we're already seeing that in the southern states. We're seeing what's happening in healthcare systems there. And each state will really be in a situation of deciding with all of the illnesses we're seeing, will we take additional measures? My fear is that the public is pretty well done with this pandemic, even though the pandemic isn't done with them.
OSTERHOLM: And so I think this is going to be an ongoing political debate as much as it is anything else, and all I can say is, is that, again, I can't emphasize enough, get vaccinated, there's a hundred million of you out there not vaccinated that we need to get vaccinated.
So, I think at this point, that's going to be the primary message and whatever else we can do to reduce transmission, whether it's distancing, whatever, we're not going to go back to those old days. The public, I just don't think will accept it.
Look at England. England right now is that the throes of their worst days since January, and on Monday, they're going to open up completely -- Freedom Day.
COOPER: Professor Osterholm and Dr. Spencer, I appreciate it. Thank you.
SPENCER: Thank you.
OSTERHOLM: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead tonight, breaking news on the administration's assessment of whether COVID escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
And next, that breaking news on DACA. What happens now that a Federal Judge has ruled against it?
COOPER: As we mentioned at the top, a Federal Judge in Texas has just ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, DACA, launched by the Obama administration is illegal. DACA, as it is called was intended to provide a temporary reprieve for undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
Now, for most of these so-called DREAMers, this the only country that they've known. CNN's Evan Perez joins us now with the breaking news and where this may lead. So, explain what's going on.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is the latest twist for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on this program. They are employed. They live here legally, as a result of this program that was started by the Obama administration. And this Judge has said that the program was illegal, that it was never authorized by Congress, and therefore needs to go away.
However, he didn't immediately end the program. He said that, essentially, because there are these hundreds of thousands of people who rely on it, it is not fair, essentially, for them to be thrown out of it, just like that.
And so what he is doing is he is prohibiting the government from allowing any new people to enter the program. But what this really does is, is it puts another level of uncertainty for certainly for this hundreds of thousands of people that rely on this program, and this is a result of a lawsuit that was brought by Texas and a number of other states.
COOPER: So, would this be appealed?
PEREZ: Well, we expect that the Justice Department will appeal. We've asked them. They have not yet responded.
And look, the way this ruling was written by this Judge Andrew Hanen who was appointed by George W. Bush, he essentially is using the dissent from a previous court ruling of the Supreme Court which blocked the Trump administration's efforts to end this program.
He essentially is using all the dissents to try to bring this back to the Supreme Court. He almost seems to be saying, we need this to go back to the Supreme Court so that they can address whether this program is legal or not. In the end, though, Anderson there needs to be a congressional
solution to this. Congress needs to pass a law to decide whether these people can stay or not.
COOPER: Evan Perez, appreciate it. Joining us now CNN senior political correspondent and "inside Politics" Sunday anchor, Abby Phillip; also CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, let's start with the legal stuff first. The ruling saying the program is illegal, the Judge is saying current participants can remain in it. Is that correct?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's true. But you know, the legal situation of the DREAMers now is more precarious, because this case certainly will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit is a very conservative court, and it is entirely possible that they will say, yes, Judge Hanen was right, but the program needs to go away tomorrow. And then it is likely that this case may again wind up before the Supreme Court, and this is a more conservative Supreme Court than the last time they heard a case for the DREAMers.
So, you know this is a period of real uncertainty. It's not today that the DREAMers are being thrown out of this country, but they are in trouble now, and more trouble than they were this morning.
COOPER: Abby, for the Biden administration, how big of a blow is this? Because it is basically upending something that President Biden has worked on since the Obama administration?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's true. I think for liberals, in general, this is a major, major blow, but one that actually, I believe was largely expected. You know, activists who've been working on this know that the DACA program is imperiled in the courts and that's why a lot of the attention has been placed on trying to get Congress to create a pathway to citizenship, and that's something that Democrats and the Biden administration actually want to do as soon as this year, even potentially trying to do it through the budget reconciliation process.
So, there is actually a fire underneath Democrats and there has been that fire for quite some time for them to do something legislatively, frankly, by any means necessary, because they've known for some time that the courts were likely to either constrain this program or kick it up to the Supreme Court, which as you've noted, is more conservative than it has been in decades, and seems at least on its face to be unlikely to uphold the DACA program.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean, the Trump administration tried to bring this to the Supreme Court, they didn't go for it, why would they now?
TOOBIN: Well, the issue was somewhat different before the Supreme Court then. What the Supreme Court ruled was that the Trump administration didn't follow the proper procedures in revoking DACA. One of the first things President Trump did was try to get rid of this program, but they said procedurally, they didn't follow the right steps. The important point to make legally about all of this is there is no
doubt that Congress has the right to protect the DREAMers.
What all these legal fights have been about is whether and how the President can do it unilaterally. But you know, it is entirely clear that Congress has the right to protect the DREAMers. They just haven't done it.
TOOBIN: And what's especially maddening about that is that even a lot of Republicans who oppose Comprehensive Immigration Reform won't say at least they want to protect the DREAMers, they just wind up opposing anytime a law comes before them to protect the DREAMers, so we'll see if this case actually lights a fire under Congress to actually do something about it.
COOPER: Yes, Abby, I mean, reaction, obviously from Democrats has been pouring in tonight. Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro called on Congress to act this year. We should point out only Congress and I mean, we've said this, but only Congress can provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients through legislation.
PHILLIP: Exactly, and that's been the case from the very beginning. What's been interesting politically, is that, as Jeffrey was saying, even Trump claimed that he wanted to find a way to allow DREAMers to stay in the United States. The question is, at what cost?
Republicans have repeatedly increased the bar for what they say they want in exchange for that. The border wall, you know, money for certain types of border security, perhaps certain kinds of enforcement that Democrats are not willing to sign off on. So, that's where the rubber meets the road in terms of negotiations.
The Republican Party is perhaps more hard-lined on immigration now than they have been in in decades. But at the same time, the DREAMer Program is something that is broadly popular among the American public, it is just that they want in exchange for a path to citizenship, many things that Democrats say absolutely no way, and I think that's why, likely if this is going to happen, it's probably not going to happen with a whole lot of Republican support, either because it's going to go through a pathway that requires all Democrats to be on board or because Republicans just are not going to be willing to do a pathway to citizenship without other kinds of immigration-related enforcement related legislation attached to it.
COOPER: Abby Phillip and Jeff Toobin, I appreciate it. Thanks.
Just ahead, breaking news on the possible origin of the coronavirus, specifically about the Biden administration's review of what the Intelligence says about possibly coronavirus leaking from a lab in Wuhan. Details, next.
[20:26:42] COOPER: We continue our coverage on COVID right now with breaking news
on the origins of the coronavirus and a review of Intelligence ordered by the Biden administration about the possibility the original virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Pamela Brown joins us now with more. So, what are you learning about this review?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So Anderson, we've learned that several senior Biden administration officials including Biden's National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, they believe that the theory that the coronavirus accidentally escaped from the lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility to emerge naturally from an animal directly to a human. This is according to multiple sources involved with the COVID origins review.
Now, to be clear, this does not mean they believe the virus was engineered in a lab or was intentionally released, but rather it could have been studied in the lab and then escaped accidentally. They view that as deeply credible.
And this is a dramatic shift from a year ago, when as you know, Democrats publicly downplayed the so-called lab leak theory amid then President Trump politicizing the virus. It is important to note, this is the view of some senior Biden administration officials involved with the Intelligence review. Many scientists who study coronaviruses say the evidence strongly supports a natural origin for the virus, and that it is unlikely scientists were studying the virus in the lab and then it leaked out.
But from both the science and Intelligence perspective, Anderson, officials say they need more information from China, which has not been any more forthcoming during this review according to these sources. On Thursday, it's worth noting, the Director General of the World Health Organization, said it had been, quote, "premature" to dismiss the possibility that a lab leak could have spawned the pandemic and urge China to provide more information.
COOPER: And has China had a response at least to this theory?
BROWN: So, China has strongly denied the lab leak theory. A chief virologist in China had said that the possibility didn't exist that that happened. Now, of course, the W.H.O. saying this, it also prompted another response from China.
In fact, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement, that since the beginning of the epidemic, China has taken a scientific professional, serious, and responsible attitude in tracing the origins of the virus and they've also said that researchers should look at other countries and whether COVID originated from there. That has been China's view.
COOPER: Right, and most notably, they said the United States. Pamela Brown, appreciate it. Thanks.
Perspective now from Josh Rogin, a "Washington Post" columnist, CNN political analyst who has written extensively on the subject. He's also the author of "Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the 21st Century."
So Josh, you broke a story in "The Washington Post." It was April of 2020 about two diplomatic cables from the State Department that warned of safety issues within Wuhan lab a couple of years ago. It's certainly not a smoking gun, the cables, but they did warn of risky coronavirus research and bad safety procedures. And that -- I mean, if it's not a smoking gun, it's certainly, you know, a whiff of smoke.
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's just to say that there have been concerns for a long time about the risky bat coronavirus research that was going on in a series of Chinese labs, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And again, that doesn't tell us about the outbreak because those cables were written two years prior.
But what it does tell us is that we can't rule out that the lab was involved somehow so we need to investigate it, which is all that Dr. Tedros is saying, admittedly, a year late. And that's all the Biden administration is saying. And Anderson, you were there, I was there in 2020 when the issue of the lab leak theory became highly politicized for a number of crazy reasons, because Trump was using racist terms, because some of the scientists who were close to the lab called it a conspiracy theory to cover their own butts. And because the media really -- wasn't really sure what to make of all of in the midst of the election panic.
But here we are in 2021. And it seems pretty clear now that no matter what you thought about the lab leak theory in 2020, it's possible, which means we have to check it out full stop. And now we have the Biden administration, just saying that, yes, they agree with that, too.
COOPER: And from all your reporting, what stands out to you is the best evidence that the virus could have leaked out from the lab?
ROGIN: Well, first of all, some of it they published, and they have admitted that they were using techniques to change viruses that came from background of viruses in order to see how they played in human cells. So that's a piece of evidence right there, that lacks safety standards or another then there's the intelligence that was put out by the Trump administration, but confirmed by the Biden administration, SEC (ph) researchers, a secret part of the lab that they didn't tell us about, risky coronavirus research that they're doing with the military in a series of Chinese labs.
All of this is not proof. It's not a smoking gun. But what it tells us is that there's enough there that we should check out the labs. And then there's the cover up, of course, right? Why did they take the virus database offline? Why won't they let anybody into the labs? Why did they censor all the science? Why did they gel all the journalists and scientists who didn't toe the party line?
The Chinese government is focused on the labs for a very good reason, right? The cover up is covering up the lab. So, that probably should tell us that there's something to find in the lab. Now, we don't know, we have to do the investigation. But this whole idea that we shouldn't look into it, I think, is now being rightfully put aside.
COOPER: In the -- I mean, the origins of the actual virus itself are believed -- I mean, it's pretty clear it came from a bad according to, I mean, that's still believed to be correct. It just -- the idea is that they were using or working with the coronavirus in this lab, doing experiments with it and that's how it would have leaked out.
ROGIN: Well, there's a lot of different possibilities actually, right? Some of the scientists they get went through an intermediate hosts that came through the market. OK, maybe that's true. That's a possibility. We should check that out, too. Although I would say that the scientists have checked out the market theory a lot, search 80,000. And they never found any evidence that it came from the market, not any hard evidence. But, you know, the bottom line is it could have come to the lab and then leaked, it could have been worked on in the lab, it could have been manipulated, and we might not even be able to tell by looking at it.
And scientists including top virologist disagree about this point, there is no scientific consensus. Robert Redfield told Sanjay Gupta on CNN, he took a look at the virus. He's a virologist, he's seen all the intelligence. And he said it looks like it was manipulated in the lab that it came from gamma function research in the lab. And the New York Times, you know, call him a conspiracy theorist.
So this is what we're dealing with. We're dealing with a lot of unknowns, which naturally causes a lot of confusion. But that's why I say we just have to investigate all the possible theories, which is now what Tedros is saying, unfortunately, it's not happening. I don't think that WHO has any leverage to get to the Chinese labs. I don't think the Biden administration is using its leverage, although it has it. So there's still a lot more work to be done to actually just investigate both theories, which shouldn't be a controversial thing to say, at least anymore.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, unless the -- unless China cooperates and cooperates far more than they certainly have been, unless there's, you know, intelligence, human intelligence, or some sort of electronic intelligence from that lab, there's no way to know without China's cooperation,
ROGIN: Right. Well, I think setting a standard of a smoking gun is setting an expectation that's too high. We're not going to find a smoking gun likely in either way but we're -- there's a lot more investigative work that we can do. And of course, the Chinese government's not going to let us into lab just if we say pretty pleased, we have to use our national power and influence to bring to bear on the Chinese government to, you know, pressure them to let us into the lab. And then we also have to investigate our own labs and the work that we were doing.
That's what Congress is doing now. And you see, Democrats and Republicans now calling for more disclosure of how our government agencies were involved with those labs. It's an urgent matter of national security and public health.
COOPER: Yes, Josh Rogin, appreciate all the reporting. Thank you.
ROGIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, what President Biden said late today about platforms like Facebook and vaccine misinformation and the immediate pushback from the social media giant, that's coming up when we come back.
COOPER: President Biden weighed in today on vaccine misinformation ramping up the administration's rhetoric about social media companies playing a significant role in spreading false information. He wasn't hesitant when answering a reporter's question as he was leaving the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disclosing (ph) misinformation, what's your message to platforms like Facebook?
BIDEN: They are killing people. I mean, it really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And that -- and they're killing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He didn't take long for Facebook to push back. In a statement, the company said, "We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts. The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period".
The back and forth came after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration wasn't satisfied with the company's actions to date on the problem. All of this as conservatives continue to go on the attack against the White House strategy. Republican Congressman Thomas Massie tweeted out this. "This is 'Ministry of truth' level malfeasance. They're literally admitting to colluding with media to control the narrative. This is censorship".
Some perspective now from CNN Political Commentator, Mary Katharine Ham and Paul Begala, a Democratic Strategist, and also CNN Political Commentator. Mary Katharine, good to see you. We just heard the reaction from elected Republican officials, even House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted yesterday, "Big Tech and big government want the same thing to control you". But when it comes to actually scientific data and facts, why shouldn't there be an effort to help people find the truth? MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think as Facebook has said that they already sort of attempt to do that, I feel like the Biden administration sort of biting the hand that feeds them in this case.
Look, I have talked about these vaccines being a miracle the way they were developed and developed so quickly back when even Kamala Harris was saying that she was skeptical if something came out during the Trump administration. Like this has been a problem on both sides of the aisle, and it's not good. But I think this goes beyond that. This is a speech issue. And I think we would be really clear-eyed about that, if it were a Republican administration.
Now there's that thing where people say it's not a speech issue, Mary Katharine, because they're not actually -- he government's not actually censoring, they're not doing the job. They're asking Facebook to do the job. Well, this comes pretty close. This is a strategic partnership with a communications platform that the executive of the United States says it's killing people with speech. That's pretty chilling of speech. And frankly, Facebook has clamped down pretty hard on stuff. That's not just misinformation.
And we just did a segment on a story about the lab leak theory, which was a credible theory a year ago, but was called misinformation because it was inconvenient information that people didn't want to discuss. And that was actively censored on social media platforms when it shouldn't have been. So I worry a little bit about what will be actively censored now from apparently marching orders, from the executive of the United States.
COOPER: Paul, is this censorship?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, not even close. I mean, it's just nonsense.
HAM: Not even.
BEGALA: I'm sorry. But I actually took the time to read Dr. Vivek Murthy's report today, the Surgeon General, and I think it will stand up the way the Surgeon General's report in 1962 did about pollution being bad for our health. In 1964, the Surgeon General issued a report about how smoking is bad for our health.
Well, Facebook is bad for our health. They're polluting the information environment. And I'm glad that the White House has called that, but great many conservatives agree with this. They're always complaining about Big Tech. But this is critically important.
You -- we've covered this every night, something in the order of 99 percent of the people who are dying from COVID now are dying, because they didn't get a vaccine. And the vaccine is available. And we need to reach those folks.
The way the algorithm works, according both to Dr. Murthy's report and other research I've done, it promotes the familiar, it promotes something you've seen before, it promotes something that's popular, it doesn't promote something that's true. And they could change their algorithm -- that's not a garment, that's a company -- they could change their algorithm to promote things that are true from trusted sources. They don't do that. Why? Because the negative holds you on their platform longer, they make more money from hate. And that's what they're in the business of, just making money.
Well, just the way government regulates pollution and cigarettes, the government --
COOPER: But Paul --
BEGALA: -- back to make sure that Facebook is doing their job.
COOPER: Paul, can -- I'm sorry.
HAM: Pollution of information is a speech issue. That's what you're talking about.
BEGALA: Of course it is.
HAM: What you deem to be pollution of information, as dictated -- your wishes dictated by the executive of the United States, with the force of the government behind it, strongly suggesting that a private company deal with the pollution of information becomes a speech issue very quickly. And I think you would see that very clearly if this were the Trump administration,
BEGALA: I say it very clearly, Mary Katharine, but I don't have the right to use free speech to say that Anderson Cooper shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, right? There are limits to speech.
HAM: And you think that --
BEGALA: When people are dying because they can't get this vaccine and companies are making profit --
HAM: No, people are getting --
BEGALA: -- they're making a profit.
HAM: -- the vaccine and you object to their conversations that you think are problematic about the vaccine.
BEGALA: No, but I object to the algorithm from --
HAM: It is different from killing people.
BEGALA: No. No.
HAM: Speech don't kill the people. It just doesn't -- and once you go down that road, it becomes very dangerous.
COOPER: But Paul, just because people.
HAM: Actually when those words are coming out of the government.
COOPER: Paul, just because people have access to information which may be inaccurate or, you know, shades of gray in a matter of opinion, it doesn't mean that they -- I mean, they have free will, shouldn't people have information? I mean, don't we believe in a society where we believe people should have a lot of information and they can make up their own minds about things? People who are not getting vaccines, it's not that they'd never heard that vaccines are incredibly beneficial and they haven't -- they've seen the facts, they're just choosing to make a different decision.
BEGALA: Someone seeing the facts and some happened, but I think people should have a right obviously saying, well I think Mary Katharine is perhaps -- I'm not explaining my position clearly enough for Mary Katharine -- I'm not saying that speech should be regulated. I am saying that Facebook will look in the mirror and tell the truth, which is they make more money through hate. They make more money through misinformation. They're not the government. They're a for profit corporation. And so they deliver money for their shareholders, that's their job, but they are making more money by spreading more lies.
And if you read the report, the Surgeon General doesn't suggest any kind of censorship, whatsoever at all. He's simply saying he goes through what we can do as individuals, as communities and educating --
COOPER: But I think Paul -- sorry, but Paul, I think -- I mean, I've had several arguments, you know, or interviews with some Facebook people over the years.
Their argument is we are a platform --
COOPER: -- for people to have conversations and meeting and from communities and stuff, we are not the arbiter of, you know, in some cases, we do -- we have standards that violate, I get there's all sorts of problems with their standards. But that is their position. I don't know that their position is, you know, we're -- I think your argument that they're profiting because they want lies on their side --
COOPER: -- I'm not sure that's accurate, is it?
BEGALA: Their algorithm promotes anything that keeps you on the website longer And that is usually the negative -- the misinformation. In the report today, the Surgeon General says untrue stories are 70 percent more likely to be promoted by us but also by Facebook. It's, I guess, if it were a fire (ph), James Carville say it's the algorithm stupid, they are adding velocity to the lies. I'm not saying people shouldn't have the right even to say that, and bloody shouldn't get the shot because it's somehow going to hurt you. But when Facebook promotes that and -- COOPER: Yes.
BEGALA: -- accelerates that that's a problem.
HAM: It's just -- it's working a real sly and I think problematic line --
HAM: -- when the actual executive is saying that speech is killing people, which is not -- that's not a position I agree with and I don't think it's one that Paul would agree with under any other administration. And the thing is, this counteracts their actual goal, because are skeptics convinced by the idea that the government is saying to Facebook, hey, we'd really like you to shut up all these people we disagree with on this contentious subject. It will lead to other things, in other --
HAM: -- areas. Anything the government takes under its wing, they're going to expand their reach, and it's going to be bad news.
COOPER: Mary Katharine Ham, Paul Begala, appreciate it. We're out of time on that one, sorry. Appreciate it, though.
Straight ahead, breaking news on new details about what could be the next step for Manhattan prosecutors as they continue to pressure Trump Organization Executive named Matthew Calamari, that's next.
COOPER: Breaking news tonight in that continuing investigation, the Trump Organization in the wake of the indictment on a range of tax charges. According to a source, the focus now is on someone named Matthew Calamari, a top executive within the company.
CNN's Paula Reid here joins us now with detail. So, what about -- what are you learning about these attempts by prosecutors to get Matthew Calamari to cooperate?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Calamari is the Chief Operating Officer of the Trump Organization. And since prosecutors filed those charges against the company and its CFO two weeks ago, they've been focused on trying to get Calamari to cooperate.
Here's the problem. We are two years into this investigation, Anderson, and at this point, a source familiar tells me that they still don't have a cooperating witness inside the organization. And that's a huge problem for their case. We know the former president, he doesn't e-mail, he doesn't leave much of a paper trail. So they really need someone on the inside of the organization who could reveal details about any alleged criminal activity. Now, you may remember when the charges were filed against the company, there was an unindicted co-conspirator. On our reporting, we have identified that person as the company's controller. He testified before the grand jury, but they still don't have that key cooperating witness. And that's why Mr. Calamari is such a focus right now.
COOPER: And who is this Calamari?
REID: Look, he's a fascinating character out of Trump world. This is a guy who has resigned from being a security guard at a tennis tournament all the way up to the Chief Operating Officer of this organization. He's been with the former president for decades. He's repeatedly declared his loyalty.
And Anderson, it's not clear that he would ever flip even if he's criminally charged. Now, could he potentially be criminally charged? It's certainly possible. We've learned in our reporting that Calamari and his son, who also works for the company, they're both under scrutiny for possibly not properly paying taxes on some benefits they received in addition to their compensation, apartments and cars. But based on my reporting, Anderson, it's just not clear that prosecutors will actually charge him.
And when I asked the Calamari's attorney if they would cooperate, his response, his defenses cooperate about what. The crux of their defense is that this isn't a financial guy. They said, look, this is the guy he's dealing with building security with cameras. He doesn't know about financial dealings.
Look, as a recovering attorney, Anderson, I will say most CEO should have some working knowledge of the financial inner workings of a company. But that's their defense. And at this point, it's not clear they'll be charged. And certainly it doesn't appear there's any incentive to cooperate against his longtime boss, especially if he's not charged.
COOPER: All right, Paula Reid, appreciate it.
Still to come, breaking news from Haiti and the FBI's role in the investigation, the assassination of the president. Details next.
COOPER: There's more breaking news about the U.S. involvement in the investigation in the assassination of Haiti's President last week. Matt Rivers joins us from the country's capital with the latest. So what have you learned, Matt?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, we know that there are FBI agents on the ground here that have actually had the chance to at least preliminarily question some of the key suspects in this case, but they're not just here to assist Haitian authorities in their investigation. We're reporting tonight that these FBI agents are actually looking into whether U.S. law was broken here, because remember, not only do you have three American citizens that are officially on this suspect list, but it appears that at least part, if not a majority of this plot to assassinate Haiti's president, was actually hatched in South Florida. That means that the Department of Justice, the FBI, they're going to look into whether U.S. law was broken. And because so much of this happened in South Florida, there's American citizens involved, obviously that increases the likelihood that the Department of Justice could bring charges against people involved in this assassination.
Meanwhile, we did get some new reporting today, after a press conference held by the Chief of Police and Haiti's National Police Force. He told us that nearly 30 police officers here on the island are actually being investigated as a part of the investigation into this assassination, including some police officers who were at the presidential residence the night of this assassination. But all of that information, Anderson, what doesn't it have, a motive.
We still do not know what the motive behind this assassination is. We know a lot more about the suspects, but why they did it. We're still not being given those answers.
COOPER: And you're learning more I understand about plans for a presidential funeral.
RIVERS: Yes, this has been a big open question for a while. We did learn today that the official funeral for President Jovenel Moise will take place in the northern part of the country week from now, that'll be next Friday. We also know the First Lady who, remember, was injured in this assassination of her husband and she's been recovering in the hospital in Miami. She's going to be coming back for that funeral.
One quick thing, Anderson, it'll be interesting to see there haven't been very many protests yet, perhaps in part because of the fact that this funeral hasn't taken place. We've been talking to people on the island who think maybe that's out of respect for the fact that that funeral hasn't taken place yet. But there's still a political vacuum here. When that happens in Haiti, there could be protests. That's what we're going to be looking out for once this presidential funeral wraps up going into next weekend.
COOPER: Matt Rivers, appreciate it. Thanks.
The news continues. I want to hand over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time". Chris?