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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
COVID Cases Surpass 200 Million Worldwide; Bill Gates Speaks To CNN; Source: Gov. Cuomo Has Lost Institutional Support From NY Assembly Members; A Battle Over Democracy At The DOJ; Trump Loyalist At DOJ Circulated Draft Georgia Letter With False Election Fraud Claims; Is FL Doctor The Super-Spreader Of COVID Misinformation? Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 04, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Donations for the most part, $10.00 and $20.00, one though was $15,000.00 and it all added up to so much for Kelly. She plans to put the money into savings accounts for each of her three girls, pay off the rest of her apartment lease, and she says make sure to pay it forward to others.
Thanks so much for joining us. "AC360" starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. There is breaking news tonight on several fronts. New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo facing the possibility of impeachment, losing support of the very state Assembly members who could make it happen.
One legislative source telling CNN, it is very possible they'll go through with impeachment proceedings unless the Governor resigns.
First, though there's breaking news in the battle against COVID. Late today, a White House official confirmed that the administration is developing a plan to mandate vaccinations for almost all foreign visitors to the country with some exceptions.
We've also just learned that Defense Secretary Austin is expected to seek to make vaccination mandatory for all active duty troops perhaps even this week. Those two pieces of reporting comes global cases today cross the 200 million mark and with the F.D.A. now working as quickly as possible to give full approval to Pfizer's vaccine.
Meantime, driven by the delta variant but also by growing pressure from private employers, more people are rolling up their sleeves, up 26 percent from three weeks ago. That's good news. And while defiance on masking and other mitigation measures is still burning hot in states like Florida and Texas, one red state governor Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson now says he regrets approving a statewide ban on mask mandates and is working to amend the law.
A lot to talk about with our first guest tonight, Bill Gates, who we've talked to at critical points all throughout this pandemic. His foundation, of course, has donated billions of dollars to the cause of global health and fighting infectious disease, including development in Moderna's mRNA vaccine technology.
And Bill Gates joins us now.
Bill, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it.
BILL GATES, CO-FOUNDER, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Great to talk with you.
COOPER: There is a lot to get to regarding the pandemic, but since we last spoke, there's obviously been a lot of reporting about more personal topics, and they may impact the foundation.
So, I want to just ask you a couple of questions about that, and I know, you feel some things have been misreported, so I'll just start there.
Obviously, in May, you and your wife, Melinda, announced you were ending your marriage after 27 years. On Monday this week, the divorce was finalized. Just on a personal level, how are you doing?
GATES: That's definitely a very sad milestone. I mean, Melinda is a great person, and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness.
We are communicating and working at the foundation. And so that partnership, we're going to try and continue.
COOPER: The foundation said that there's going to be like a two-year trial period to see if you two can continue to work together. That is -- that's your hope that you can.
GATES: Yes, Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that help the foundation be better. We've always enjoyed our work together. You know, two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organization. So you know, that would be definitely the best thing for the foundation.
COOPER: There's a couple of things in the reporting that have been out there I want to ask you about and I think it's no one's business what happens in a person's marriage. "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" both reported in recent months that Melinda was concerned about a relationship you had with Jeffrey Epstein, who at the time, you met him in 2011 had been already convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor.
"The Times" reported she hired divorce attorneys around the time in October 2019 when that contact with Epstein became public. Can you explain your relationship with Epstein? Did you have any concerns? Was there ever any concerns you had about it?
GATES: Oh, certainly. You know, I had several dinners with them, you know, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through context that he had, might emerge. You know, when it looked like that wasn't a real thing that relationship ended. But it was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give them the
credibility of, you know, being there. There were lots of others in that same situation, but I -- I made a mistake.
COOPER: There has been reporting about workplace behavior in the past. "The New York Times" reported six women from Microsoft, the company you created, your foundation, and the financial firm, the managers of your fortune said that your behavior at times created an uncomfortable workplace environment.
I know, a spokeswoman for you acknowledged you had an affair 20 years ago with a Microsoft employee that she said ended amicably. Do you have regrets?
GATES: Oh, certainly, I think everyone does. But, you know, I'm -- it's a time of reflection and you know, I -- you know, at this point I need to go forward. You know, my work is very important to me. You know, within the family, we'll heal as best we can and learn -- learn from what's happened.
COOPER: Just on a personal level, I'm sorry for what you and your family are going through.
Let's talk about your work. You've been so involved in the fight against COVID. Let's talk about where we are right now, because I mean, this is probably the question I've started off with you every time we've talked over the last -- I mean, this entire pandemic.
Where do you see us in this pandemic? I mean, the delta variant is surging, only about half the country has been fully vaccinated. Is this where you thought we would be on August 4th, 2021?
GATES: No. Things are better than I expected in terms of how effective the key vaccines are, you know, including Pfizer and Moderna, but also some that are ramping up now, like Johnson & Johnson.
So, the good news is the ability of the vaccine to prevent severe disease and death, even against the latest variant and the ramp up of that manufacturing that's going in an unprecedented pace.
The bad news is that this delta variant is uniquely transmissible. The beta variant, which we saw in South Africa with a foundation funded study there, it had some ability to evade protection. But now, delta, even though it doesn't evade as much as beta, it is so transmissible that even countries that had been able to hold out infection like Australia or China are now having a tough time maintaining that.
And, you know, we're seeing, sadly, you know, a bump here that if we don't get the mask wearing back in the right places and don't get the vaccine levels up, we're going to have quite a wave in the fall, and that's a disappointment.
We wanted to be, you know, near the end than we are, but delta is very bad news. COOPER: You know, Professor Michael Osterholm was on our program a
couple of nights ago, and he said something which I -- I should have really known, but the way he said it really kind of woke me up and certainly made me start wearing a mask again, even though I've been vaccinated.
He said that, you know, I kind of still visualize COVID is as, you know, droplets in the air, and I was still thinking about that six feet -- you know, idea. He was saying, look, if you are in a room where somebody is smoking and you're 20 feet away and you smell smoke, that's -- it's in the air, it's aerosolized, and that's what COVID is.
So, if you're 20 feet away, and you can smell smoke, if you're 20 feet away, it is possible that you would be breathing in somebody's COVID.
GATES: That's right, particularly if people are talking loudly. You know, there is a big contrast, infection on planes has been quite limited; infections in bars or at parties or events where the sound level is high, so people talk above that, you've had some stunning superinfection events there even, you know, say choirs where people are vocalizing.
So yes, to our surprise, you can aerosolize at quite a distance and the mask is very effective, both preventing that person who is infected from spreading out those particles, but also for the uninfected person not to draw those particles into their lungs.
COOPER: If 80 percent of the country was fully vaccinated right now, would the delta variant have just petered out? I mean, would COVID have just sort of -- I mean, obviously, viruses don't just disappear, but would it have not transmitted to the point where it was just sort of out there, but not a danger?
GATES: It looks like we would have had to gotten to 90 percent. You know, the vaccination does block transmission, but not nearly as well as it blocks severe disease and death. And so, you can have vaccinated people be part of a transmission chain. And that, you know, just underscores that, you know, protecting those people at risk or old or sick is super, super important.
But also, we can make it less likely just by driving those percentages. So, you know, 70 percent is clearly not enough. Israel has done a better job than the U.S. at getting their vaccine levels up. They've had a few breakthrough cases, but as a percentage of their population, nothing like what we're seeing in the hotspots right now.
COOPER: The administration is using this line now repeatedly saying this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, trying to stress for those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated. Children under the age of 12, obviously cannot get vaccinated at this point. They are getting swept into this new wave of infections. What should be done now?
GATES: Well, the statistic I wish people would have to stare at every day is the number of deaths and the percentage of those deaths, which are unvaccinated people, which basically every day would be over 95 percent.
We're running at 200 to 300 deaths a day right now. The I.H.M.E. model shows that unless we get mask wearing back as we move into the winter, that could go as high as 1,500 a day, so not you know, the highest peak which is over 3,500 but still very high and very, very tragic.
And so the two parameters that will determine how bad this fall is are, the mask wearing behaviors in the right places and the percentage of people that we get vaccinated.
COOPER: A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that more than half of unvaccinated Americans still believe that the vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Last month, the Surgeon General had to issue an advisory titled "Confronting Health Misinformation." Is there anything you think will work to combat the misinformation that's become ingrained in some parts of the country?
I know, you're wrapped up, in you know -- you're -- me, too, are wrapped up in misinformation?
GATES: Well, every day, hopefully we're thinking as credible as we can, listening to the unvaccinated explain, okay, what is their hesitation? And seeing, you know, who would they trust? What would change their mind in order to help them take that step?
I do think seeing the statistics of how much the deaths are overwhelmingly in the unvaccinated would be a key thing that you just read about, you know, day in and day out. You know, the hesitancy towards vaccine before it was administered in almost 60 percent of people has not -- that number has gone down as everyone has heard about friends getting the vaccine, and of course, overwhelmingly being, you know, very benign, and then protecting them, particularly from severe disease.
So, this is a communications challenge like none we've ever faced. But it's a matter of life and death.
What measures you can use, and which ones actually get you more vaccination versus create more resistance. You know, each context, we need experts who really can sympathize with what the thinking is. Because, you know, particularly amongst the elderly, it does surprise me that we're not at like 95 percent of people over 60.
COOPER: Obviously, corporations increasingly are saying you have to be vaccinated in order to work at our corporation. Is that something you support? And do you think the Federal government or state governments, or the very least Federal government should mandate, if you want to get on an airplane, you have to be vaccinated; if you want to get Social Security, you need to be vaccinated; if you want to get whatever benefits they give, you need to be vaccinated for.
Is that something that the U.S. can and should do?
GATES: Well, certainly, if you take a case like nursing homes, where, you know, we are seeing transmission primarily through unvaccinated people. There, you can make a very compelling case. If once you get far beyond that, the question is, will it work to get
people to be more -- to seek out the vaccine? You know, one elderly care home said hey, if I require it, but the others don't, you know, I simply just have less workers.
And so you have to step back and think through this whole system. But, you know, I would hope that we can get to 80 percent. I would hope we can get to 90 percent, but you know, today we're -- we were stalled out for a little bit. Now, a tiny bit of acceleration, as people realize delta has change the rules.
You know, like the State of Arkansas now saying, you know that local mask mandates maybe should not be banned. You know, people are seeing the numbers and, you know, when people see bad numbers, when they see deaths, they ought to be open minded to what tactics can help get people protected.
COOPER: I need to take a short break. I want to pick up this conversation after the break. So please stick around.
Later, also, a live report as the lawmakers who once supported New York's Governor continue lining up now in favor of his impeachment.
Also, keeping them honest, a visit to a Florida doctor who experts are calling the ultimate super spreader of COVID misinformation.
COOPER: And we're back with Bill Gates, talking vaccines, the delta variant and the enormous challenges that we all now continue to face not just against COVID, but with anything at the intersection of public health and partisan politics.
So Bill, Dr. Fauci today warned that if more Americans don't get vaccinated, there is what he has called ample chance that a variant more aggressive and pervasive than the delta variant can emerge.
I assume you agree with that. Could it already have formed? I mean, variants are -- I mean, there is nothing to stop there from being a new variant that goes after children more aggressively, right? I mean, there is no -- there's no way to predict what a variant is going to do.
GATES: Yes, sadly, there could be a worse variant. If you took the evasion from antibodies capability of beta, and you combine it with delta's transmissiveness, you would have an even worse variant.
Now, there may be biological reasons why those features can't combine and still be transmissible in the lungs, but we don't know. And, you know, we were caught unaware again. The amount of sequencing of the virus that was going on was too little. You know, some of this was caught because the U.K. did good sequencing. Some of it was caught, beta, in fact, by the trials, the foundation funded in South Africa.
But yes, the -- you cannot assume that there won't be a worse variant.
COOPER: We learned only, too, the Biden administration, they are developing a plan to require all foreign visitors be vaccinated. Obviously, that would require that citizens of other countries have access to vaccines.
I know global vaccine equity is something you're obviously very concerned about and have worked a lot on, which areas of the world are you most focused on?
GATES: Well, it's tragic that we weren't able to make enough vaccines for the whole world so that, you know, time difference between the first person getting access to the vaccine, the last person could be as much as two years.
You know, in the future, we should have so much manufacturing capacity that we can do that in less than six months. There are countries that have had horrific epidemics of COVID without much vaccine.
You know, India, because of a partnership that our foundation funded with Serum has had 400 million of those vaccines, so far, a billion by the end of the year. That's the second source for AstraZeneca, you know, so thank goodness in the spring of 2020, the right things was done, all the knowhow was transferred in and that same thing is happening with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.
So we hope that over the next six to nine months, the supply issue get solved.
In the meantime, you know, whenever you have an elderly person, you know, in South America or in Africa, who dies of COVID, you know, it's an injustice because other people who are at far less risk got the vaccine before they did.
COOPER: Along those same lines, what do you think about the right answer is on booster shots? Israel has already started administering third doses to people over 60. The World Health Organization today asked for all booster doses to be halted until at least the end of September, so more doses can be distributed to developing nations.
Obviously, officials in the U.S. haven't made a decision on boosters yet. What is the right thing to do?
GATES: In the next few months, the boosters should be reserved for people who clearly have antibody waning that is people who have weak immune systems, like people living with HIV, and that's a pretty modest percentage of the population.
The beauty of that is, then we'll be able to get a lot of supply out to the world and really understand the benefits of a booster in which, you know, there's different forms of boosters that we could use.
I do think over the next two or three months we study boosters, if we can't get the overall vaccine coverage up, there's a good chance that sometime in the fall, countries, including the U.S. could decide to make that third shot in some form, broadly available and encourage people to get it.
We have seen some waning of coverage. You know, for example, elderly people who got vaccinated in January, there's both U.S. and Israeli data that shows a reduction in antibodies and a slight increase in risk.
So, although it's not urgent now for the broad population, we may get there.
COOPER: Yesterday, President Biden made a plea to some Republican governors, he said quote: "I say to these governors, please help. But if you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives."
When you look at the State of Florida that is experiencing such a surge right now and the Governor there signed an executive order threatening to pull funding from schools that implement mask mandates, does that make sense to you, especially for children under 12 years old?
GATES: Well, I've never understood being against masks as strongly as some people are because if you look at all the measures where there is a certain cost to every one of these measures, and there's a certain benefit in terms of saving lives and presenting diseases, I think wearing masks is one of the lowest cost and highest benefit things in this whole picture.
You know, no one wants schools to be closed in the fall. And I think if we get vaccine levels up and wear masks in a lot of indoor situations where you have a meaningful amount of COVID, I think we will be able to run schools and have most businesses open.
And, you know, I think the value to that is incredible. So, we're caught, you know, where in some cases they -- it is the states that have the loosest mandates will pay the highest price.
COOPER: In New York, Mayor de Blasio is only requiring one dose of the vaccine for the city's mandate to restaurants and gyms and entertainment. Is it -- is that better than nothing? Should they require full vaccinations? And could it potentially be dangerous so people don't follow through and get their second dose?
GATES: You need a second dose. That is very, very clear. I'm not sure how many people stop after one. I think once somebody gets one, they'll realize, okay, you know, I might as well get the second thing, but we should be constantly looking at the data to make sure you know that people are following through.
GATES: France is talking about, you know, checking for full vaccination in order to get into restaurants. I don't think we'll do that for restaurants, but certainly for healthcare workers and elderly care, some educational context, I think local officials should be looking at that because we want the economy to be largely open and schools.
You know, the deficits we have in learning, which are way more in the inner city, those who can least afford to have that educational eruption, it's a horrific thing. It's actually been hard to dimensionalize, but it's almost a year of learning in many cases.
COOPER: In May, President Biden asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to try to come to a definitive conclusion about the origins of COVID report back to him in 90 days. That deadline is just a few weeks.
How important you think it is to understand how this happened? How it started? I mean, is that critical in terms of preventing it in the future?
GATES: No, the source isn't going to change the need for masks and vaccines and the need to have a very different regimen. So that, you know, all countries could get on top of the cases very quickly and be more like Australia, than Europe, or the United States ended up being.
And so, you know, I'm involved in a lot of discussion about breakthroughs in diagnostics and therapeutics, the scaling of vaccine factories and that less than six months, eradicating flu. You know, we need to resource, the preparedness for the next pandemic. And we can get a lot of benefits out of that.
People don't like flu and the common cold. And, you know, we can build tools that over time, we'll get rid of those as well.
COOPER: From a justice standpoint or just a moral standpoint, do you want to know how this started?
GATES: Yes, it's the -- you know, I wouldn't -- I would continue that investigation. The last paper I saw showed evidence against the lab leak. But, you know, yes, we should investigate these things. But it's not directly tied to the particular actions to save lives at this point.
COOPER: Yes. Bill Gates, I really appreciate your time. It's always a pleasure and I always learn something. So, thank you.
GATES: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, our breaking news on New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo. What state lawmakers are saying about impeachment and the increasing pressure on him to resign?
COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, there's breaking news regarding yours Governor Andrew Cuomo. As we mentioned a source in the New York State Assembly says that Cuomo has lost institutional support from wall makers. According to a CNN count, 80 members of the assembly Democrats and Republicans say they will vote to impeach. Only 76 votes are actually needed.
Now this is more Democrats are calling for him to step down after the explosive 165-page report from the state attorney general. They found Governor Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women. He denies the allegations.
The leader of the New York State Democratic Party is among those calling on the government to resign saying the findings were quote, extremely damning and upsetting. There now four local district attorneys who've requested investigative material from the New York Attorney General's office. This is a prelude to potential legal action.
CNN's Erica Hill joins us now with more. So, what more do you know about the Governor's waning support in the state legislature?
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is certainly waiting, as you pointed out the sheer number of assembly members who have said to CNN that they would in fact vote to impeach 80 of the 150 members, both Democrats and Republicans. You also mentioned Jay Jacobs, because that's what that was really important when that came out earlier today.
Anderson, he's the chair of the New York State Democratic Party and he said in a statement that it was tough for him. He in that statement said that he had called the Governor and he intimated that he too had urged the Governor to resign. But it basically sounded like that fell on deaf ears. And that's why he put out this statement calling on the Governor to resign.
In fact, he said specifically he's lost his ability to govern both practically and morally. We know there are a lot of this happening publicly. It's our understanding that there is urging privately as well. But as of tonight, the governor standing strong and determined to remain in that job.
COOPER: What about possible criminal investigations at the county level.
HILL: So as you mentioned, there are four district attorneys in the state and the counties of Nassau, Albany, Westchester, just north of New York City and here in Manhattan where the district attorneys have now reached out to the New York Attorney General, based on the findings in this investigative report. And they're specifically asking for some of those materials.
I can tell you here in Manhattan, the DA actually asking for the contact information as well as investigative materials related to both trooper number one who of course, had been on the governor's service detail on his Protective Service detail and also the woman who is referred to as executive assistant number one, they were both referenced by the Manhattan DA and all of them are saying they want this information because they need to determine whether some of these events that were outlined in the report that occurred in their jurisdictions, whether there was in fact any criminal activity.
COOPER: All right, Erica Hill, I appreciate it. Thank you very much More on this no doubt.
Up next, there more breaking news. Fresh evidence of how thoroughly the former president tried to corrupt the Justice Department to stay in office, who would be henchmen were and who went to the mat to stop them. We'll be right back.
COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight and yet more evidence of just how few people actually stood between the former president and his desire to use the power of the federal government to remain in office. Two stories in the space of 24 hours, one on the senior Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, Acting Assistant Attorney General, he drafted a letter which though blocked by superiors amounted to instructions for overturning the will of Georgia voters. It's remarkable. The other story concerns a different senior Department of Justice official and another draft letter this one threatening to resign over precisely that sort of coup like behavior.
More now from CNN's Evan Perez. So, talk about this draft resignation letter.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is a letter that was prepared by Patrick Hovakimian who was a -- the chief of staff to the then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Rosen was essentially facing firing by the President because the Justice Department kept telling the President kept telling the White House that they could not find evidence to support his claims that the election was fraudulent.
And so, this letter was written on January 3, as Hovakimian knew that Rosen was possibly going to be fired that day by the President. I'll read you just a part of the letter in which he says, acting Attorney General over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the President's direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice law enforcement powers to -- for improper ends.
And what was that -- what was happening at that point, Anderson, was he and other officials were facing the prospect that if the President fired Rosen that they would then also resigned. Hovakimian along with a number of other officials were planning to all walk out which is something frankly that would recall the 1970s the Nixon era Saturday Night Massacre. Of course the letter never got set because Trump never fired Rosa.
COOPER: I mean, essentially he was resisting a coup.
PEREZ: He was and that was what the President was trying to do. He wanted the Justice Department to intervene to essentially encourage, as you mentioned, that letter from Jeffrey Clark, Jeffrey Clark wanted, essentially to send this letter to Georgia to try to get them to convene a special session to look into irregularities, that that's what he said. The letter never got sent, obviously, because there was no proof of that.
COOPER: So the meeting at the White House that prompted him to write this resignation letter out of fear that the Rosen would be fired. Do we know what actually happened at there at the meeting?
PEREZ: Yes, I mean, look, it was it was like a scene from one of the former presidents reality TV shows. You had Jeffrey Clark, who was another official at Justice Department, also who the President was talking to behind the scenes. And Jeffrey Rosen both went up to the White House, where the President essentially had these men vying for the job of Attorney General. The President was looking for someone who was going to do his bidding. Rosen was not willing to do that. And eventually, Rosen and other officials talk the president out of firing Rosen, keeping him on the job.
But I mean, it's an unreal, just an extraordinary episode to happen inside the White House, again, just a couple of days before the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was carried out by people who were believing the President's lies about the election.
COOPER: Right. And if they had found some henchmen at the Department of Justice to go along with that, I mean, that was --
PEREZ: A course of history right?
PEREZ: A course of history would have been changed.
COOPER: It's incredible. Evan Perez, thank you.
Just to amplify both the factual absurdity but also the real danger of that letter we mentioned a moment ago, which was drafted but never sent to Georgia. According to ABC News, this draft by assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark included the following passage, quoting now, the Department of Justice is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for President of the United States.
In point of fact, at the time of the writing of it, Attorney General Barr had already publicly stated nearly a month earlier that the department had not and I'm quoting here, seeing fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election. In other words, this senior Department of Justice official who frankly none of us could pick out of a lineup was you know, he, by the way, he was the one the former president was considering to replace the acting Attorney General. This guy was flat out lying.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
Chairman Schiff, I appreciate you being with us.
It really is stunning. I mean, as Evan said, the course of history, I mean, it could have very easily our democracy could have crumbled here. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): That's absolutely true. We find again, and again, just how close we came to losing our democracy. Here you have Bill Barr, who, you know, during his long tenure, the department did so much to tear down the independence of the Justice Department to use it to the President's ends.
But even he got to a point where he said, you know, I can't manufacture claims of fraud that don't exist. But there were other people in that department, including Jeffrey Clark, who were apparently willing to do so. And he just wasn't some senior level official. He was the head of the whole Civil Division of the Justice Department.
And here he is asking the acting Attorney General, to urge Georgia to convene a special session, basically to try to appoint a slate of electors who don't represent how Georgians voted, and on the basis of bogus claims of fraud. It's really breathtaking, and just shows how very close we came through the use of this fraudulent but purportedly lawful process to losing our democracy.
COOPER: This report from ABC News -- yes, that's the guy. This report from ABC News detailing the contents of a draft letter written by Jeffrey Clark's, we mentioned that he was the high-ranking Justice Department official who is apparently more on board with then President Trump's strategy to overturn the election than the acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen.
The draft urge, as you said, the Georgia legislature to go into special session over the election results. It's completely over the line and you look at each of these events individually. And then you look at them in totality, the attempts to interfere with the results, the big lie, the insurrection, they are all part of a piece.
SCHIFF: Well, they are. And, you know, look in terms of all of the former president's conduct, among the most egregious and, frankly, among the most worthy of investigation with an eye to potential prosecution is what the former president tried to do in Georgia. There he was on the phone in a recorded conversation, asking the Secretary of State to find 11,870 votes that don't exist.
You know, anyone else doing that would have been prosecuted already. And the evidence that you're referring to tonight, these internal letters and other discussions going on by Clark, no doubt at the urging of Donald Trump to try to give the Georgia legislature a reason to convene and overturn the results would be more evidence in that case out of Georgia.
So, I certainly hope that the U.S. Justice Department as well as Georgia, officials are studying the President's conduct, because it seems to cross the line into illegality. And it is very much deserving of investigation.
COOPER: What's also so concerning about this is, you know, it is not just this, you know, again, this official who nobody recognizes who, as you said, was running the civil, the civil wing of the Justice Department, so had an important position. But there were -- there are millions of Americans out there, and we're out there and who still are out there, who would have backed the Justice Department deciding to go into illegality, and to basically start a coup. There's a lot of American to, to this day would have backed what the -- what that guy wanted to do.
SCHIFF: You know, it's tragic, but it's true, because they believe that the lie, the big lie, the President was pushing out and not just the president, but a lot of the people I serve within Congress, were pushing the same lie. And what Jeffrey Clark was trying to do was trying to push the same lie on Georgia, had the Justice Department issued that letter, it would have been part of the big lie, and given it more credibility with millions of Americans.
As it is what they did already has done such damage to our democracy, it has gotten us to a place where a very significant number of the American people believe that if they lose in an election, if it doesn't go their way that it's somehow legitimate, by definition is fraudulent, just because they didn't win. And as we saw on January 6, all too many are willing to use violence to achieve what they can peacefully through their franchise.
COOPER: Are there any legal consequences for trying to get the Justice Department to interfere with an election outcome? I mean, I know its uncharted territory, and basically everyone is desensitized to everything the former president has done or is doing or will do. But I mean, you got to ask, is there any accountability? And if so, will like what would that look like?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think the you know, the strongest case, just on the public record, involves the former president, and in particular, that recorded conversation. But there, there are also others that may very well be at risk, you know, this acting head of the Civil Division, if he knew what he was doing was an attempt to fraudulently overturn the election, then there is certainly risk to him.
And, you know, this whole sorry chapter really needs to be fleshed out and made public. Is one of the things that the January 6 committee were intent on doing and providing a comprehensive report, but it's also important work the Oversight Committee is doing.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Schiff, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
COOPER: Straight ahead, confronting COVID misinformation at the source.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): I'm Randi Kaye with CNN. Can I give you a cup of questions?
JOSEPH MERCOLA, OSTEOPATHIC PHYSICIAN: No. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Our Randi Kaye tracks down a doctor who one group calls one of the biggest spreaders of COVID misinformation. We'll hear from him ahead.
COOPER: As we mentioned our conversation with Bill Gates, the Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that more than half of unvaccinated Americans think the vaccine is more dangerous than COVID. The Biden administration has come down hard on vaccine misinformation. But one Florida doctor has seemingly gone to great lengths to perpetuate it.
"360s" Randi Kaye now with the story, the hunt to find him and the reasons behind his actions.
MERCOLA: It's an unproven vaccine that's just been accelerated eliminated virtually every safety study.
KAYE (voice-over): He is the ultimate super spreader, not of the coronavirus experts say but of misinformation about COVID-19 His name is Dr. Joseph Mercola.
IMRAN AHMED, FOUNDING CEO, CENTER FOR COUNTERING DIGITAL HATE: It is very likely that most people in America if not you know the vast majority of people in America have seen misinformation that has originated with this super spreader of lies and misinformation.
KAYE (voice-over): That's exactly why the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit tracking misinformation about COVID online put Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic physician at the top of its disinformation dozen. A list of 12 people the group says we're the source for sharing 65% of all anti-vaccine messaging on Facebook and Twitter from February 1st through mid March.
AHMED: So in a pandemic, misinformation that has a life that -- has a cost that's paid in lives.
KAYE (voice-over): We tried to track down Dr. Mercola to ask him about the misinformation he's been posting. Like masks may not work. Vaccines could be dangerous, and vitamin C and D can prevent or treat the coronavirus. We first tried to find him at his office in Cape Coral Florida outside Fort Myers.
(on-camera): I'm looking for Dr. Joseph Mercola.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not here.
KAYE (on-camera): Not here. Is he -- is he here today? Can I leave a message?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he's not here.
KAYE (on-camera): Will he be here tomorrow? If not today or?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. He's not normally not here.
KAYE (on-camera): So even though his office is listed here, he's not -- he doesn't work out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
KAYE (on-camera): OK. OK, thank you.
(voice-over): Next stop more than 220 miles away Ormond Beach, Florida, which Dr. Mercola calls home. We found his house behind a large gate and tried making contact through the security access pad.
(on-camera): Hello, this is Randi Kaye from CNN. I'm hoping to get a word with Dr. Mercola?
(voice-over): Later we spotted Joseph Mercola riding his bicycle. Once he stopped, we thought this was our opening to get some answers as to why he's pushing false claims about masks and the vaccine.
(on-camera): How are you?
KAYE (on-camera): I'm Randi Kaye with CNN. Can I ask you a couple of questions.
KAYE (on-camera): We just want to talk to you about vaccines and what you've been saying about them. Do you feel responsible for people who didn't get vaccinated possibly got sick and died because of what you told them about the vaccine? What do you say to families who lost loved ones? Are you spreading misinformation?
KAYE (on-camera): Why won't you speak to us? Here's your opportunity to speak with us and answer questions.
(voice-over): So despite all his bravado online, Mercola suddenly had nothing to say. Though after we e-mailed him questions, he responded saying I encourage every person to fully educate themselves to make individual decisions about medical risk taking. Throughout the pandemic, he's been quite outspoken.
MERCOLA: I wanted to go back to this cert -- the reason why the mask may not work.
KAYE (voice-over): In his e-mail to us, Mercola challenged any suggestion that he belongs on a disinformation list. Still by fueling the narrative that vaccines are dangerous, who knows how many of his followers chose to skip the vaccine. This was Mercola on a podcast in April last year, saying vaccines are --
MERCOLA: Just being fast tracked with abandoning all safety precautions to the whim.
I'm sure will cause enormous disabilities and premature deaths as a result of implementing this.
KAYE: What Mercola hasn't made clear to his followers is that according to the CDC, the vaccines are safe and effective. And of the more than 345 million doses administered, there have been an infantile, small percentage of serious adverse events conclusively linked to the vaccine. Though he told us via e-mail that over 400,000 adverse events and 6,000 deaths from the COVID-19 vaccines have been filed, a majority of which were filed by medical professionals. To be clear, the FDA has not established a causal link to these deaths.
Earlier this year Mercola posted this outlandish claim that vaccines quote, alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch. The CDC has said vaccines don't interact with your DNA.
Mercola also posted an article he authored that states aerosolized hydrogen peroxide can be used as an at home remedy to treat coronavirus. According to the FTC, there is no study known to exist that supports that. Yet via e-mail Dr. Mercola said the approach is one that many clinicians I've discussed have found provided a significant improvement to their patients.
The danger in all of this is that Mercola is misinformation has reached the Center for Countering Digital Hate found he still has 14 accounts on mainstream social media with more than 4.3 million followers. His website promises to deliver trustworthy natural health information and has had more than 37 million visits since January.
AHMED: He wants to replace those doctors as the source of health information for people, because then he can recommend his cures.
KAYE (voice-over): His cures, apparently they include vitamin C and D. After Mercola posted an article headlined, Vitamin C And D Finally Adopted As Coronavirus Treatment, which has since been removed. The FDA requested Mercola quote, take immediate action to cease the sale of such unapproved and unauthorized products. After noting he misleadingly represented the supplements as COVID-19 treatments.
In his email to us Dr. Mercola said he has responded to the FDA letter and asked to meet with them. And just today Mercola announced he is removing all articles from his website within the next 48 hours.
MERCOLA: The last week has brought a tremendous amount of reflections to me, and a lot of unacceptable threats to a company. So the course of action I have now forced to take is to remove my entire archive of articles. Twenty five years worth of blood, sweat and tears coming down.
COOPER: So Randi, does that actually mean he's shutting down his website and all the misinformation or information that he puts out there?
KAYE: No, that will stay up Anderson. He said he will continue to post articles but they will now only stay up for 48 hours and then they will be removed. But what he didn't say if is if he's going to share those articles and all that misinformation on his social media platforms, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter.
So, we reached out to those platforms to ask them what they plan to do about all the misinformation that he's posting and what they've already done. Twitter tells us they have removed tweets, they've also applied misleading information labels to some of them. Facebook says they have removed pages they've also banned some of his pages. And YouTube says they've removed some videos but still not enough strikes against him to remove him fully from the platform.
But Anderson I should tell you to give you just to give you an idea of how many people follow this guy and believe his information -- hi is misinformation I should say, his new book, which I won't even tell you the name of is now number one on Amazon's bestseller list. And I've spoken with experts about this and they say that that book they've looked at it is full of nonsense, Anderson.
COOPER: Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thanks.
The news continues. Let's hand things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?