Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA); Possible Sightings Of Gabby Petito's Fiancee In North Carolina; Merck: Pill To Treat COVID Cuts Risk Of Hospitalization, Death By Half; Will Seek Emergency Use Authorization; Judge Rules Conspiracy Peddler Alex Jones Responsible For Damages Caused By False Claims About 2012 Mass Shooting; Biden Vows "We're Going to Get This Done", As Dem. Lawmakers Try To Overcome Divisions To Enact Sweeping Social And Economic Agenda. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 01, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The work you do every day. Thank you. Congratulations.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks to you. And to all of you, thank you so much for being here and making it possible because without you, we'd be nothing. Thanks. Couldn't have done it without you.
It's time now for Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, when it comes to the 11th hour push by congressional Democrats in the White House to reach agreement on two huge pieces of their domestic agenda, the answer they've come up with is why not a 12th hour or a 12th day? Perhaps even a 12th week.
With the modern progressive wing of his party at odds over the timing, content, and price tag of major social welfare and green energy legislation, and with the bipartisan infrastructure bill caught in the impasse, President Biden went to the Capitol. When he emerged after meeting with House Democrats, the message was, "Take your time."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm telling you, we're going to get this done.
BIDEN: It doesn't matter when. It doesn't matter whether it's in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We're going to get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now standing with the President, as you saw there, House Speaker Pelosi whose message all week was pretty much the opposite, but that turned out to be wishful thinking on her part. Regardless of the timing though, the bottom line remains the same --
getting it done for Democrats and the President means satisfying progressive lawmakers who successfully blocked a vote on the infrastructure bill without alienating two centrist senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who have been pushing against the kind of sweeping social legislation that progressives and the President want.
The President today did not bridge that gap, at least publicly. The question now, will members of his party use the time he apparently bought for some bridge building of their own?
Joining us now Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman, thanks for being back with us. You called this last night when you said that this wasn't going to happen. What is the position of your caucus, the Progressive Caucus right now in terms of what happens now?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Anderson, thanks for having me on. Our position is exactly the same as the President's, which is we are going to get both these bills done and we are going to send them to the President's desk, and it will take us a little bit of time to negotiate because what we are clear on is we're not doing one and leaving the other behind. The President reemphasized that today.
And he also said to us, look, we've got to get all 50 senators on board, and so we are doing, you know, the work we need to do to go back and look at our priorities and make sure that we are really thinking through what we need to have in this bill, and how we can come to agreement, though, that is the negotiating process, and I'm thrilled that it is really happening.
COOPER: So does -- and going through that, seeing what you really need, does that mean $3.5 trillion is a number that's in play. I mean, is there a new number in play?
JAYAPAL: I think we're going to have to get to a number that all 50 Democrats in the Senate and all of us in the House agree to and you know, 3.5 was our number. We're going to go back and see what we can do on that, because we understand, we've got to get everybody on board.
And actually, we've been saying that for some time. We just need to have this negotiation. We need to have an offer from the two senators that you know, don't want to do 3.5. You know, look, I think that we will do the work we need to do and I am confident that we are going to get there.
COOPER: So -- but I mean, that sounds different than 24 hours ago, I mean, you sound more -- and I'm sorry to be like parsing your each word here, but as you know, that's what's happening right now. I mean, you sound more willing to say, look, we're going to go back and look at, you know, priorities and 3.5 was our number.
You know, you're willing to negotiate, what -- is it specifics you want to hear from Sinema and Manchin? Is it a -- you know, he had given the 1.5 number, you know, a while ago to Dana Bash of CNN. What do you want to-- is it the specifics you need to hear?
JAYAPAL: Well, I don't think that's the number. I mean, that's not going to be acceptable to us. This is a negotiation. And so we need to figure out how we're going to get to a number that we can all agree on.
But the key thing we were fighting for Anderson, which we feel so proud about tonight, is we were not going to leave behind families who need childcare, who need paid leave, people who need affordable housing, people who are committed to delivering real results on climate change, and we are going to leave behind immigration.
I mean, these were the five priorities of the CPC that are in the Build Back Better agenda, the Build Back Better Act, I should say, and there was this push to try to get one bill, the infrastructure bill, which is also important. We support roads and bridges, but it's no good to have roads and bridges if people don't have childcare to be able to get to work, if people don't have healthcare to be able to actually engage in society.
And so what we've achieved tonight is agreement that the two will move together. That one is not going to pass without the other. The President said that multiple times today and that we will negotiate as a united Democratic Party to get to a place where both can pass and where the President can sign this agenda into law. The agenda he ran on, the agenda we ran on.
COOPER: I think it was Dana Bash who was on the program after we spoke last night, and one of the things she said is that, you know, with Senator Manchin, that many of the things you are really focused on and really want in this, and other progressives do, would actually benefit a lot of people in his State of West Virginia. But some of those people have an ideological sort of point of view, which is, well, it's too much government, I don't want that kind of level of government, and also deficits. What do you say to that argument?
JAYAPAL: Well, the polling, Anderson, in both Republican and Democratic and Independent districts is excellent on all the components of the Build Back Better Act. The reality is that it would benefit a lot of people in West Virginia, in Arizona, and across our states, and people know that and they support it. They want affordable childcare when they can't get it right now. They want paid leave, 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. That is something that all other developed countries do, but we don't. That's in the Build Back Better Act.
They want housing. They really want us to take on climate change. I mean, people understand this. And so making sure that we have a real plan when the President goes to COP in a little bit, and has to say to the world, the United States is going to lead on cutting carbon emissions, that's in the Build Back Better Act. So it is popular, and, you know, that's what we have to continue to
emphasize. It's popular with the American people, 70 percent agree. And with, you know, the vast majority, 98 percent of Democrats in the House and the Senate.
COOPER: Just in terms of process. I mean, did the self-imposed deadline set by the Speaker, did it make sense? I mean, if the President of United States has to drive up to Capitol Hill and essentially tell his party to take a deep breath, you have more time to get this done. Does that suggest the party leadership needs to handle this process differently in some way going forward?
JAYAPAL: Well, look, the Speaker was in a tough position because there were nine House Democrats who said that they wanted that deadline or they weren't even going to vote for the budget resolution and that's unfortunate, but you know, these things happen and so, that deadline got set.
And I have said from the beginning, I think I said it on your show the other day, that's arbitrary. And the President made that clear today, six minutes, six days, six weeks, we're going to get this done. We need a little time to negotiate.
There was a lot of time to negotiate the infrastructure bill, and you know, there were skeptics like me, who said, I don't think it's going to get done, and I was wrong. I'm happy to be wrong about that. Now, we need a little time to negotiate on this Build Back Better Act, and I believe we will be able to do that.
COOPER: Congresswoman Jayapal, I appreciate it. Thank you.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Have a good weekend. More now on what's been unfolding behind the scenes. CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House, also with us, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. So Gloria, what do you make of what the Congresswoman had to say?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm with you, Anderson. It's a totally different Congresswoman, both in tone and substance. She heard the President and I bet she knew what he was going to say before he said it, if I had to guess. And we had been watching a very public negotiation where it was $3.5 trillion or bust.
And now she said to you, we've got to get to a number, get to a number. She's going to negotiate now. She says they need some more time. Nancy Pelosi sent out a Dear Colleague letter tonight saying more time is needed. The President went up there today and he said, you know, we're going to sink or swim together. Failure is not an option.
Then he told some other members, it seems like it is $2 trillion. That's what it's got to be 1.9 or two. She knows they've got to go back to the drawing boards here. And now the real work is going to begin because they've had all their public fights, and now they've got to go work it out, but this was a very different message from her. COOPER: Phil, I mean, what the progressive wing -- I mean,
Congresswoman Jayapal has said in the past is look, we have been willing to negotiate, we just need somebody to negotiate with and they haven't really been forward about what specifically they want. How does the White House, Phil, feel tonight after the President's meeting on the Hill?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, I feel like if there was one goal going into that trip down Pennsylvania Avenue, it was to serve as a pressure relief valve, right? It was basically to figure out a way to pivot into the moment after this week. This week that was built up to be kind of the be all end all for his entire domestic agenda, the warring intraparty battles that we saw play out in a very public manner over the course of several days.
And frankly, Anderson, a President who for much of the week was never in public. We didn't see him at all except for a brief event on Monday morning, and I think that's what they feel like the President accomplished.
Obviously you heard from Congresswoman Jayapal where progressives are. Moderates obviously are not thrilled by the fact that they did not get their vote and they did not get the passage of the infrastructure proposal.
MATTINGLY: But what the President was able to do today is basically lay out the parameters of what is going to come next. It is going to be an arduous process, almost certainly going to be a lengthy process. But it is a process that is now in play.
And part of the reason the process is now in play is because over the course of the last 36 hours, Senators Manchin and Sinema have started to lay out numbers, have started to negotiate with White House officials, started to make -- I think a lot of people on Capitol Hill were very skeptical where this was headed, believe that at least movement was happening. How fast it's going to be? Very open question, clearly missed deadlines, but that more than anything else, I think, is what the White House is taking away right now.
COOPER: I just want to point out that the White House is lit up for breast cancer awareness. That's in case you're wondering. Gloria, the President essentially, I mean, he did try to lower the temperature at least publicly, giving space for negotiations. Is it clear to you -- you know, is this progressives negotiating -- it is not progressives negotiating with Manchin and Sinema directly. This is all through the White House, isn't it?
BORGER: Well, it is, and the White House is very involved, and a lot of folks on the Hill believe that the President should have been involved more publicly, sooner. But you know, I think if you're a progressive, you could walk away unhappy and if you're a moderate, you could walk away unhappy.
And what the President did was he said, look, we're all in the same boat here. If you fail, I fail. If I fail, you fail. So, we have to get something done. That's it.
And I think, you know, he sort of tried to focus them. I think they knew this going in, but it was very clear that Biden is saying we've got to get this done or we're done for. And I think the Congresswoman knows that. I think Joe Manchin knows that. I think the President set out the parameters, and that's what they're working with.
And now they have to go back to the drawing boards, and they don't have a fake deadline. They can get it done behind closed doors and then come out with something that they all agree with. And now, Joe Biden is going out next week, and he is going to try and sell this plan. He is going to tell people what's in it.
So if you want to lower your prescription drug benefits, here you are, this is for you. If you want, you know, childcare or if you want all kinds of things, we're going to tell you what's in this bill now because there are a lot of folks in the White House who believe that Barack Obama did not do that enough on the Affordable Care Act, for example, and they want to make sure Biden is out there.
He always says to people work for him, let my grandmother understand what we're doing. We have to do that and they believe he's the best salesman to do that.
COOPER: Phil, is there a general sense of when a deal could be reached? Or is this just unchartered waters here?
MATTINGLY: The short answer is no. I mean, to be honest, there was a point over the course of the last several days where the mantra unofficially seemed to be survive in advance, right? Let's get to tomorrow. Let's get to the day after. Let's see if we can get to next week.
I think you have to think from a purely legislative perspective, that drafting, the scale, and scope even if it's pared back of what the President wants on this second economic and climate package is going to take a significant amount of time, not dealing at all with what the top lines end up being, the actual policy itself. And I think White House officials are very aware of that fact.
They want to move as quickly as possible, but if nothing else we've learned this week, deadlines force action. Deadlines focus individuals and minds. They don't have a deadline right now, and I think if there's any concern at all besides the fact that there is still a lot of things they've got to figure out here between the two sides of the party, it's that is this is -- it can drag and if it drags it becomes potentially problematic, but they know they need to get it done by the end of this year.
BORGER: Yes, you know, Nancy Pelosi knew that. She doesn't want to let it languish in any way, shape, or form. So it is not going to take a month. I think they've got to do it sooner.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, Phil Mattingly, thanks.
Coming up, next, the latest in the killing of Gabby Petito and the search for her fiance. Also, what an expert on domestic violence and sexual abuse makes of this video. Petito telling a police officer about the violent confrontation she had with Brian Laundrie, now a fugitive from justice.
And later, a former F.D.A. Commissioner weighs in on what could be the best COVID news since the vaccines, a new drug, a pill, not a shot or infusion that a drug maker says is already showing hopeful signs in patients.
COOPER: Breaking news now in the search for Brian Laundrie, the fiancee of Gabby Petito. Tips of some possible sightings in North Carolina and near the borders with Tennessee and Virginia, Randi Kaye is outside the Laundrie family home in North Port, Florida with the latest. So there were some posts on social media, possible sightings. How legitimate are those? I mean I'm sure a lot of people thinking they are seeing this person in a lot of different places.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Anderson. It's why I called Sheriff Len Hagaman from Watauga County in North Carolina to find out how legitimate these are. He said they are getting some reports of alleged sightings of Brian Laundrie in that area. He also said they're monitoring these social media posts where people are posting about allegedly seeing Brian Laundrie in that area.
But to give you an idea where this county is, it is about 25 miles from the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail he said and then there's also this Mountains to Sea Trail that runs right through Watauga County, so these sightings he said or alleged sightings, I should say were in Boone, North Carolina in that county and also along this Mountain to Sea Trail.
Now, he is not putting much stock in these sightings. He said it is a popular area for camping and hiking which Brian Laundrie apparently likes to do, but he is taking it seriously. Still, he has his social media expert and threat assessment specialists he said who has been in constant touch with the F.B.I. even as recently as this morning. They are reporting to the F.B.I. what they are seeing online, what the tips are that they're getting in and they will continue to monitor it as well -- Anderson.
COOPER: And I mean did the Sheriff say anything about the area whether someone could easily hide there? Is that the kind of place it is?
KAYE: Yes, I asked him -- I asked him to describe the area and asked him that very question. He said it is a spot where somebody could, quote, "disappear." He said, it's very popular with visitors. There's a lot of tourists there. There's a big university there of about 21,000 people.
He also said, there's miles and miles of hiking trails where you might not see someone on the trail for days. So he doesn't have the manpower to monitor those trails and you might not see someone for, as I said, quite some time, so he is going to continue to monitor what he can and stay in touch with the F.B.I.
COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks very much.
I'm joined now by Rita Smith, a senior advisor on domestic violence and sexual assault for the NFL and Vice President for domesticshelters.org.
Rita, thanks for being with us. Certainly, there's obviously a lot of interest around the world on this case. And I think a lot of people especially, you know, it's very hard to watch that bodycam camera footage that's come out, because we know that Gabby Petito ends up the victim of a homicide.
I'm wondering what you make of what we know about the police response, and about what we see in this video and the others?
RITA SMITH, SENIOR ADVISOR ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Well, you know, Anderson, I really appreciate you allowing this conversation to continue, because I think it's important for us to try to understand what didn't go well in this call, we have to get this right. And so you can't decide who a primary aggressor is looking at just one slice in time.
A relationship where there is domestic violence involved, and there's a perpetrator and a victim, you really have to understand the historical context of what has happened over the course of time between these two people.
And so I never got a sense that there were questions about -- has this happened in the past? Have you been afraid before? What made you so upset that he grabbed your face and tried to get you to stop? I want to ask questions about what was going on, not just the sort of blurted out kind of things like "I hit him first." But what else was happening in the context of that day that put her in a place where she was so emotionally distraught that she felt like she had to hit him?
COOPER: I think there has been a lot of focus on a particular moment where Gabby Petito is being asked if Brian hit her, and I just want to play that, and so we can discuss it more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABBY PETITO, FIANCEE OF BRIAN LAUNDRIE: I had known about this because all of our -- and I was just apologizing, I was like, I'm sorry that I get so stressed out. I have OCD and I was just like organizing some things. Sometimes, I kind of have a mean attitude, but I'm not trying to be mean, about straightening things up, so I was just apologizing, but I guess, I said it in a like mean tone and got really frustrated with me and he locked me out of the car and told me to go take a breather, but I didn't want to take a breather. And I want him to get going. We're out of water.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: You know, it's -- I mean, obviously, the police have an
incredibly difficult job in a situation like there was the 9-1-1 call from somebody and thank goodness, that person did call police, you know, and that person should certainly get a lot of praise for that person said they saw Laundrie hit her. But, you know, to your point about needing to know the context and the history, is that something that's part -- just inherently part of training for police when responding to something like this? To ask that?
SMITH: I hope -- yes, I hope it is because domestic violence is a very complex -- it's a complex case. And so you can't just look at one particular incident or one time when a victim might have, you know, left marks on somebody.
For instance, I could be being strangled and I scratched up the arm of the person who is strangling me trying to get myself free and be able to breathe again. And frequently, strangulation marks don't show up right away and sometimes not ever. There's subdural hematomas, sometimes you never see marks. But when the police show up, there is somebody with scratches all over their arms.
And so just looking at that one incident, that moment in time to say well, this is the primary aggressor. Look, he's hurt and she seems to be, you know, not. There are no markings on her, so we're taking her in. You just have to understand what else has been going on and that that clip you just showed, my fear is that when she was starting to get upset and she was identifying herself as being OCD, and she may or may not have that diagnosis, I don't know.
But at that point, it feels to me like possibly because of some other comments that were made later in the second video that she might have been just dismissed and diminished in the law enforcement officer's perspective at that point because you know, she's hysterical. She's not able to take care of herself. She can't make good decisions.
SMITH: I mean, he even made some comments like that to her later on in the call that she wasn't old enough yet. When she got older, she'd be better at making decisions. And I just -- I just worry that they're not taking the time to really understand what's happening, both now and in the past that could give them a sense of who is really in danger here.
COOPER: Rita Smith, I appreciate your time and your expertise. Thank you so much.
SMITH: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, what could become the first effective pill in the fight against COVID, the drug maker says it could cut hospitalizations and deaths by half. We'll look closer at what it might mean with the former Commissioner of the F.D.A.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: A number of big developments today in the battle against
COVID. California will become the first state in the country to require a COVID vaccine for students in K through 12 to attend to school in person. Now, the mandate will be phased in as the vaccine gains full Federal approval for those different age groups.
Also breaking news, American Airlines has told its U.S.-based employees they must get vaccinated as part of a Federal requirement because the airline is a government contractor. American did not say when this will take effect, but did say that testing will not be an alternative.
Meanwhile, the drug company, Merck, announced its experimental antiviral medicine for COVID patients cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by half. Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said they plan to seek Emergency Use Authorization for the pill in the U.S. as soon as possible.
So I want to get some perspective on all this from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. He's author of the new book just out, "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic". Dr. Gottlieb, thanks for being with us. So this --
DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, AUTHOR, "UNCONTROLLED SPREAD": Thanks for having me.
COOPER: -- antiviral pill from from Merck, how significant is this?
GOTTLIEB: Very significant. This is the most impactful result that I remember seeing of an orally available drug in the treatment of a respiratory pathogen, perhaps ever. I think getting an oral pill that couldn't inhibit viral replication that can inhibit this virus is going to be a real game changer. This drug works by mechanisms that a well-understood there's other drugs on the market that work by similar mechanisms. Basically, it works by inducing errors in how this virus replicates.
And so as the virus replicates, it makes mistakes and replication. And it basically kills the virus. So, these are druggable targets. This virus is well-understood and the mechanisms by which it replicates are well-understood. So I think we will get an oral drug that can inhibit viral replication and be taken early in the course of disease to either prevent progression or be used as a prophylaxis.
COOPER: So let's be -- just drill down that a little bit. This could be something for -- I mean, is this something that people who don't want to be vaccinated would gravitate to? I mean, is, you know, if the argument is -- I mean, I guess obviously, for those who don't want to be told what to do, there's -- that's not a hurdle that this crosses. But who don't want to have a shot, don't want the vaccine, this is not the vaccine -- I mean, is this the vaccine in a pill?
GOTTLIEB: No, this can be used in conjunction with the vaccine. And it's not an alternative to vaccination. We still have to try to get more people vaccinated. But there's going to be people who get vaccinated who are breakthrough infections, and still develop symptomatic disease --
GOTTLIEB: -- that at risk. There's going to be people who choose not to get vaccinated for whom this can be effective. But it's going to be used like we use Tamiflu in the setting of flu. People get vaccinated for flu, but some people still develop symptomatic disease, they're at high risk of bad outcomes. And Tamiflu provides an alternative to help mitigate the progression of symptoms in those individuals. This could potentially be used the same way.
GOTTLIEB: The bottom line is the mechanisms by which this virus replicates are well-understood. So we should be able to inhibit it. This isn't a virus that replicates through complicated mechanisms that are going to be hard to drug. There's multiple drugs in development, including one by the company, I'm on the board of Pfizer, another one by Roche.
I think one or more of these drugs will be effective. And it could be a real game changer insofar as it will help people who have breakthrough infections and those who choose not to get vaccinated. I think it's also going to improve consumer psychology. I think one of the things that people are worried about is the risk that they could still get a breakthrough infection --
GOTTLIEB: -- and develop severe disease. And if there's a pill that they can take, that could dramatically inhibit that outcome.
COOPER: Just personally -- I mean, as somebody who has been vaccinated, I -- for some reason, I did not realize when I first heard about this, that this was something that someone who's been vaccinated would take if they have a breakthrough infection. It -- you're talking about it changing potentially consumer behavior. It would change my behavior, it would make me much more willing to engage with other people or, you know, do some business or something or get on an airplane. If I knew that even if I had a breakthrough infection, there's something I could take that has significant impact.
GOTTLIEB: I think that's right. I think that the two things that could really change consumer psychology around this virus, and make people feel more confident to resume normal activity is getting a vaccine available for children.
GOTTLIEB: A lot of people are still worried about bringing the virus back into their homes. Even if they were vaccinated, they know that they're at low risk of a bad outcome because they're vaccinated. They're still worried about bringing asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection back into the homes where they might have vulnerable children. And then the idea of having a pill that you could take that if you do have a breakthrough infection, you can take a pill that can mitigate the risk that you develop more symptomatic disease, especially for people who are still at high risk.
Remember, the people in this clinical trial were people who had risk factors. That's the remarkable finding in this clinical trial. You saw a very profound treatment effect. And it was a population of people that had symptomatic disease, but also had one or more risk factors that predicted that they could have a bad outcome from COVID. The two most common being that they were obese, and they had advanced stage.
So, to see this kind of a dramatic result, this kind of reduction in hospitalization and death and in the population of patients at risk for bad outcomes, that's what makes this a really --
GOTTLIEB: -- dramatic finding today.
COOPER: That's great. Just finally, where do you think we are in the arc of this pandemic? Hospitalizations and deaths are down across the country which is great news. Do you expect that to continue to a point where -- well, I mean -- yes, I mean, to begin -- I was going to say we're close to getting in under control. I'm not sure if that's -- I mean, can we say that?
GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I do think that this Delta wave of infection is the last surge of infection that we're going to see in this country barring something unexpected like a new variant that pierces the immunity offered by vaccination or prior infection. That's really the tail risk right now. But the national averages that are coming down and look very encouraging are being driven by sharp declines in the south.
You're seeing rising infections in other parts of the country, the West and the Midwest. So this Delta waiver infection is going to sweep across the country in different waves. It's been a regional epidemic all along. And certain regions haven't really been affected by it yet. So we're seeing dense spread right now in the West and the Midwest, that's going to have to run its course. And I think the Northeast still is at risk.
Right now, we're not seeing rising infection levels is a presumption at the high vaccination rates here. And high immunity from prior infections going to protect the Northeast. I think that's partially true. But I think we're still at risk to see cases bump up in the Northeast here as well. As the weather gets cold, the people move back indoors.
COOPER: Fascinating. Scott Gottlieb, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. And again, the title of the new book, "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic".
Ahead, victory for families with the victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School against Alex Jones. When peddle lies and conspiracy theories about the shooting, and attorney for the families joins us next.
COOPER: Want to spend time in story brought to you last night. A major legal battle won by families with the victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting against conspiracy peddler, Alex Jones.
The person turned out the worst possible -- he turned the worst possible tragedy, I should say, for these families into a nightmare.
And before we do, though, we want to pay our respects the 26 students and educators who were killed that day back in 2012. The people that Jones defamed with his lies. There were the children who were killed that day, all either six or seven years of age and there were the educators seen at the bottom of the screen there.
Again, their loss was the nation's one of their families will always care -- one that families will always carry and that Alex Jones callously exploited. On Thursday, he was found legally responsible in two lawsuits for damages caused by his lies about the mass shooting. A Texas judge issued the default judgments after Jones failed to provide information for the lawsuits brought against him by families of two of the children killed. Jury will eventually convene to determine how much he owes the plaintiffs.
I'm joined now by Kyle Farrar, the attorney for the families, the two victims who won their lawsuits against Jones. Kyle, thanks for being with us. Were you surprised by these default rulings by the judge, because Alex Jones, I mean, he's had his pattern of, you know, refusing to answer court orders or making up excuses for years now?
KYLE FARRAR, ATTORNEY FOR SANDY HOOK VICTIM'S FAMILIES: Yes. So, I don't think I would say surprised. It's rare to get something like this where a judge orders default judgments that's exceedingly rare. We call them death penalty sanctions in Texas. But there's just been a pattern of abuse, pattern of just complete disregard for our legal system in these cases.
So there's multiple cases pending here in Texas, other case pending in Connecticut and all of them that have seen the same sort of discovery abuses over and over and over. And at some point, some point, a court just can't let it go on any longer. And we'd reached that point. So we stop that level of sanctions. It is clear that there was nothing short of that that was going to get us to where we needed to be.
COOPER: Can you just kind of, in layman's terms, explain what exactly default judgment is? I mean, you've said it's very rare. What it is and why it's so rare?
FARRAR: Yes. So what it really does is it doesn't allow Mr. Jones to put on a defense to liability. So we're going to still go to trial, as you said, about damages. So we'll assemble 12 folks down in Travis County in Austin to listen to the evidence and see what type of harm and damage has caused these parents. But in terms of defending the case on the merits, that's no longer an option for him.
So the jury -- and it sometimes works a little bit different -- but the jury will, in essence, be told at the beginning of the trial, you are to find, we have found, the court has found that Alex Jones defame these folks. And we are here only to talk about what type of harm and damage that costed (ph) him.
COOPER: And, I mean, let's just talk about, I mean, the damage because the damage is so sick what this person Alex Jones has been -- the lies he's been peddling, you know, against these families. And other, you know, so many of the families have had to deal with just complete lunacy on the part of people who have come out of the woodwork, many of them motivated by the lies spread by by Alex Jones.
FARRAR: Yes, it is, no question. And I'll tell you, Anderson, I got involved in this. I didn't appreciate how impactful these lives are to these folks, to the parents of these kids. I mean, they get death threats.
FARRAR: There's a lady servant who served a prison sentence for death threats to one of the parents. It's that pervasive, it's everyday life, right? So if they're sitting there and somebody walks by their house and maybe looks a little bit funny, they think, oh, God is this somebody Alex Jones has gotten into their mind and thinks that we're some sort of hoaxers?
COOPER: Well, they're -- I mean, I know -- there are parents who have, you know, built memorials for their kids or memorial playground or, you know, that had been defaced by people who believe that, you know, their children -- I'm not even going to, you know, go into the the details of these lives.
FARRAR: It is -- it affects every part of their life. I mean, you know, it's hard enough to sort of have to relive these things. And people fought wars trying to make sure pictures of their kids were taken down off websites where they say these are false flags or these children are still alive. That hurts and that's hard. And then it just keeps going and snowballing and snowballing and, you know, when you're -- when you just can't go about your daily business without somebody calling you a liar saying that this didn't happen, I mean, it's hard enough.
FARRAR: They've suffered the ultimate loss already in compounding and piling on that, it's unimaginable.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, he, you know, roped me into this conspiracy by saying I wasn't up at Sandy Hook and, you know, had some ludicrous glitch and video that he interpreted in some way. Where is the case go from here because, I mean, from what -- Alex Jones -- so he set -- is he still set to be deposed? I mean, does he -- or does this just move --
COOPER: -- to the trial phase to figure out damages?
FARRAR: So I think we're going to expedite the trials phase. We are set for trial in March of next year. We are set to depose Alex Jones again in October, or I guess it is October, October 22nd this year. We still have to do some discovery things. We still have to tell our story at trial.
So even though it's just damages to explain what the damages are, and how these people have been affected, we still have to tell the whole story of what they've gone through. I mean, five years of torment by this man for --
COOPER: Does he have assets? I mean, does he have seasonable (ph) -- I mean, I know he went through a divorce, I'm sure --
COOPER: -- he's tried to, you know, I mean, who knows -- you know, he has people who advertise for him, so I guess he's making money?
FARRAR: I assume he is. In Texas, it's difficult to get what we call asset discovery to figure out how much somebody has its liquid, or obtainable from a judgment. We have emotions out right now to try to get that information. We don't have it yet. So I don't have a great answer.
I mean, he called himself the greatest -- I don't want to misquote it -- but the greatest online media mogul of all time or something like that recently. So, I mean, he's at least telling folks that he's got plenty of assets, but we'll figure that out soon enough and see where we go from there.
COOPER: Yes. Kyle Farrar, I really appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate you talking to us tonight. And yes, I appreciate it. Thank you, Kyle.
FARRAR: Well, thanks for having me and as I show (ph) up, it's important to tell these folks story.
FARRAR: So I love getting an opportunity to do that.
COOPER: Yes. I just want to, as we got a break, I just want to show the pictures again of the children from Sandy Hook and the educators involved. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Talking tonight about congressional Democrats, apparently, the President is urging taking a step back from the brink. They've all been marching toward over legislation that could make or break his political future, their political future, and affect the lives of millions of Americans. Now, where we stand in the policies themselves, this is as then Vice President Biden once put it a big effing deal when he now says is worth spending more time on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm telling you, we're going to get this done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When?
BIDEN: It doesn't matter when. It doesn't matter whether it's in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We're going to get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The question right now is what kind of impact the President will have in that effort and what kind of role he'll play. Joining us CNN Contributor and Biden Biographer Evan Osnos. His latest book is titled, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury".
So we just heard some what the President had to say today about the meeting with lawmakers buying time, saying time doesn't really matter. Several House Democrats have called him out asking why he didn't get more heavily involved sooner. Do you -- why do you think -- I mean, how do you see how he's approached this?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think to his mind, you know, the power of the presidency is a very specific ingredient in a negotiation. And you can only really use it at the right moment. You use it too soon, you burn it out. And he's exhausted at that point. I mean, his political power is, he likes the face-to-face, there's no question.
When you saw him go down to the Hill today, it reminded me, Anderson, that this is a guy who, when he came into the vice presidency, he held on to his locker in the Senate gym simply because he liked to go in there and work people face-to-face, talk to them, pick up little bits of intelligence, try to work them over, persuade him. For a long time, people have been wanting him to do more. And in this process, he has been keeping his powder dry, partly because he doesn't want to take a public position that alienates either the Progressives or the Moderates.
But, you know, his arrival today at Capitol Hill, Anderson, sort of signals the beginning of these negotiations in earnest as much as we've been talking about, and this is actually where it starts.
COOPER: I mean, I guess -- you know, we heard the President saying today, you know, could take six minutes, six days, six weeks for Democrats to figure this out that they have plenty of time. I mean, obviously, Speaker Pelosi's had, you know, had a deadline set. And clearly, you know, they wanted this done. I guess, you know, some have suggested it would have maybe behooved his party if he had said that earlier, but would it?
OSNOS: You know, deadlines have this curious effect, they force things to happen, even if they are completely made up. Look, the reality is the deadline did not necessarily have to be on this day. They would have liked to meet it. Clearly, he's disappointed that they didn't get there.
You're hearing a bit from the White House that this has gone more -- it's been more difficult than he expected. But it's also worth remembering, he is willing to kind of keep at these negotiations on any subject almost to a fault. I was reminded of the fact that when he was in the vice presidency, he wants -- the White House record showed that he called the Iraqi government 64 times in a period in which Barack Obama called only four times. Biden was just kind of going back and back and back trying to solve a particularly knotty to difficult foreign policy problem.
The artificial deadline in this case is not the thing he's thinking about, but he knows they simply have no luxury of not getting this done. I mean, this is about his credibility. You heard him say today, in effect, we either hang together, we hang apart. And the message he's going to be driving -- to drive home now is we have to get this done for the sake of the party.
COOPER: And is it clear to you how much he is personally, you know, talking with Senator Sinema or Manchin? Is it -- I mean, I assumed it's mostly staff to staff.
OSNOS: Well, actually, he and Senator Manchin do get on the phone. I remember that, at one point, I was interviewing Senator Manchin earlier this year, he was describing a conversation with the President when the President called and said, when are you going to get me out on that houseboat of yours? And they sort of had this kind of sort of chummy interchange.
I'm reminded, in fact, too that, look, Joe Manchin before he went into politics, Anderson, he was a salesman. He sold carpets, the family business, sold furniture. So when he puts a number out there, like $1.5 trillion, that's not the end of the process. That's part of the process of negotiation about getting to the price he thinks he can do.
Joe Biden is the same thing. He put out a number today in various ways, he let it be known that he's talking about a $2 trillion final number. We're beginning to see essentially two lifelong negotiators begin the dance of figuring out what the final number will be.
COOPER: Well, you know, we talked to Congresswoman Jayapal at the top of the program, she said, you know, that they're going to look at now at their numbers, and 3.5 was their number. Now they're going to kind of figure out what the priorities are, again, which is movement from what Progressives had said previously.
OSNOS: Yes, that's an important development. What she said on the show tonight is really a sign of how this process is now beginning the detailed work of getting to a number. And you heard that in her voice, it's -- we're at a stage now where there's a recognition. People have sort of begun to put their cards on the table.
And the role of the President is unusually powerful. Look, it's not as powerful as it once was. I think that's one thing to remember, that Joe Biden came up in politics at a time when, if your party leader said you got to do something, everybody would do it.
Politics is different now. Joe Manchin, for instance, has his own campaign finance money. I think his critics would say too much of it comes from coal and oil and gas. But the point is, he doesn't have to fall in line necessarily when the party tells him to. So, a president has to use his power and marshal it carefully because --
OSNOS: -- you can only use it once.
COOPER: And for those criticizing Speaker Pelosi, you know, as you said, even an artificial deadline, it does kind of bring things to the surface and promotes chance. So, we'll see.
Evan Osnos, appreciate again. Evan's latest book, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury". Thanks for joining us.
Up next, we're going to check in with our reporters at the White House and Capitol Hill to see where negotiators stand. We'll talk to a member of the House Progressive Caucus as well.