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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); January 6 Panel Moves To Hold Steve Bannon In Criminal Contempt; FBI Official Fired Under Trump Gets Dismissal Reversed, Pension Paid; Fight Continues In Congress Over Massive Spending Packages; Sen. Grassley Refuses To Talk About Trump's Statement About The "Real Insurrection", But Attends His Rally. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 14, 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: And we're in the middle of a pandemic, Biden needs to put forward a viable nominee. It's not okay, this has been nine months, and Congress needs to get its act together and get the right person confirmed.
Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 is now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. There is breaking news tonight about the right of a great harm, former F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who was fired cruelly to the glee of the former President, just hours before his retirement has been totally vindicated. He'll speak about it for the first time in just a few moments.
We begin though tonight in a similar vein with a picture of contempt in many forms, contempt for Congress and the responsibility we granted to investigate matters of national importance; contempt for the law, and contempt for democracy, which took a blow in the building you see there, it was attacked.
We've got another reminder of it late today, newly revealed video of the brutal assault on D.C. Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone, who you'll see highlighted as he is dragged out of the building by the mob, and the usual warnings apply for obvious reasons that some might want to look away for a few moments.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
COOPER: A mob of people attacking a police officer. Officer Fanone and about 140 other members of law enforcement were hurt during the attack, several, later died by suicide. The people they were protecting of both parties were threatened, some with death, if they carried out their duty to uphold the results of free and fair election.
Contempt for that, for Congress, and the law, all of it tonight is personified by Steve Bannon, one time chief strategist for the former President. Last we heard, he was being pardoned by that same President while facing charges of swindling donors who thought their money was funding the border wall.
Prosecutors say a lot of it, hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth was siphoned off by Bannon himself and used to cover personal expenses. The former President pardoned him even though he was accused of conning the very same President's supporters, which tells you a little something about what that former President thinks of his own supporters.
It came as no surprise today that instead of sitting for a deposition, Bannon defied the House January 6th Committee's subpoena. For its part, the committee vowed to move forward with criminal contempt proceedings. It also postponed depositions for three other senior allies. The former President said it would take up the Bannon matter next Tuesday.
Their next step would be to build a criminal contempt referral, which if approved by the House would then be sent to Federal prosecutors. CNN's Kaitlan Collins asked about it at the White House today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is it the President's position that those who defy congressional subpoenas related to January 6th should face prosecution from the Justice Department?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Kaitlan, I know that that has been raised as an issue, of course, by what we've seen happen in Congress. It is the purview of the Department of Justice to determine if there would be a criminal referral -- criminal -- any criminal decision, so -- and they handle exclusively those decisions, so I'd point you to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as legal analysts have told us on the program, what the Justice Department decides to do is anybody's guess. It is, however, a different institution than it was during the last administration when Steve Bannon and others could run roughshod over lawmakers knowing that the former President would keep what he liked to call his Justice Department and his Attorney General out of it.
But in the case of William Barr, trust the Attorney General to spin and distort the truth in his behalf, as Barr did with the Mueller report. Now, by the way, in case you're wondering what Steve Bannon was doing last night, instead of preparing for the deposition he was subpoenaed to give, he was headlining a rally for Glenn Youngkin, Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia.
The former President phoned in to endorse him and spread lies about the 2020 election, of course, at the same time. Even more telling though, and obscene, especially given what happened on the 6th was the pledge of allegiance to this particular flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I also want to invite Kim from Chesapeake. She
is carrying an American flag that was carried at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on January 6th.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Now, Glenn Youngkin, who by the way, is happy to accept the former President's endorsement made sure to stay away from last night's rally. He said this today about the flag's connection to January 6th, quote: "I wasn't involved and so I don't know, but if that is the case, then we shouldn't pledge allegiance to that flag."
As for what the flag symbolizes to Bannon and the former President's followers, we can't say, but even assuming it only stands for the rally before the attack and nothing else, it is not like that with some Zen-Khumbaya moment or anything, it was incitement and lies about the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And all we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at one o'clock, he let the legislatures of the state look into this, so we get to the bottom of it.
TRUMP: And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Let's have trial by combat.
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American Patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.
TRUMP: So we're going to -- we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue -- I love Pennsylvania Avenue -- and we're going to the Capitol.
We're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women and we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you'll never take back our country with weakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So it began, we all know what happened next, but just in case you're wondering whether the organizers had an inkling of where this might lead, you need only listen to Steve Bannon's own podcast the day before.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER DONALD TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: So, is it any wonder the select committee wants to talk to him? And is it any wonder the man who couldn't stop talking about what was about to happen the next day no longer wants to talk about it now?
We're joined now by Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of just two Republicans on the committee by the party's own choice, it should be said. Congressman Kinzinger, appreciate you being with us.
Your colleague, Chairman Bennie Thompson, has not ruled out a subpoena for former President Trump saying tonight, quote, "Nobody is off limits to a subpoena from this committee." I mean, is that really realistic? Potentially a subpoena for him or for even for Vice President Pence?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Yes, I'm sure it's -- you know, it is realistic. I mean, we're not going to jump to doing that immediately because obviously, that's big. There are a lot of people that know a lot, but I'm going to tell you, I know the members of this committee. We've been meeting a lot. We're talking about these issues.
We are determined to get to the bottom of what happened. I think, what you're seeing with the potential criminal referral of Steve Bannon by the Committee, hopefully if people misinterpret anything else, interpret this, we're serious about this, and anybody that is either being subpoenaed now or will be in the future, think twice before you reject a lawful order from Congress.
COOPER: So -- but I mean, in terms of moving forward to hold Bannon in criminal contempt, the Committee is going to hold a business meeting Tuesday, what happens there? And what are the next steps after that? Because couldn't this just get tied up in courts for, you know, and run out the clock on this committee?
KINZINGER: Yes, it certainly could. I mean, here's what happens. So, we have a business meeting. We refer it out of the Committee. It goes to the floor for a vote. We expect it would pass the floor. And that then is the referral to the Department of Justice.
We expect that the Department of Justice will do their job and refer this to a grand jury, and we certainly hope they will. But that will be in the D.O.J.'s hands.
Now, keep in mind, really, from a historical perspective, a subpoena from Congress is seen in essence as the equivalent as a subpoena from a court, and we know a lot of times, there are people that ignore subpoenas from court and they are held in criminal contempt for doing that. That's what we're doing here.
What we're -- you know, a criminal contempt is nothing frankly, crazy. It doesn't happen as much with Congress. But it is in essence, within our power, and it is the right thing to do. And again, anybody that gets in the future -- look, all we want is the answer. If you're running from something, I mean, I think that and of itself
says something, but the American people deserve to know the truth, and even if they don't want to know the truth today, you know, some folks want to put their head in the sand. What matters I think more than anything is in 10 years, what is the truth? What is understood? And I think that's why the work we're doing is so important.
COOPER: I understand the committee agreed to postponement Kash Patel's and Mark Meadows's appearance as they continue to engage with the investigation. The committee has also postponed a scheduled deposition of Dan Scavino. Can you -- you maybe not be able to -- but can you say why their depositions were delayed and how much more time they'll be given?
KINZINGER: Well, let me just say generally what I can say, which is as it's been reported, Dan Scavino was served just fairly recently. So you have to then go into a good faith effort with his attorney.
Some of the others that we're engaging with have, you know, seemed to try to put up a good faith effort. Now, that could be a delay tactic. In fact, it quite very well may be a delay tactic, but it is important for us, I think, to engage in goodwill, but I'm going to tell you, our patience is not infinite. And in fact, if we start to sniff that this is in fact a delay tactic, I think you can expect, in essence, more of what you're going to see with Steve Bannon.
COOPER: The committee subpoenaed Jeffrey Clark, the former D.O.J. official who is integral to helping then President Trump in his efforts to overturn the election. How important is he to your investigation? And do you expect him to cooperate? He was an official at the Justice Department, you would hope he would.
KINZINGER: Yes, I certainly hope so as well. Again, those are conversations ongoing. He can provide a piece to the overall picture, which may lead to further pieces. But I think, you know, looking at, yes, that's going to be important. There are going to be more people that will be brought before this Committee. We have people coming in and speaking to us voluntarily.
And so we're getting a lot of information, and we're going to continue to turn over every stone, get every answer we can, so that we can put before the American people a true and honest picture of January 6th, so that we can whether somebody wants to believe it or not, prove once and for all, that it was not peaceful, and frankly, that this was not anybody, but really a Trump-inspired insurrection.
COOPER: From Mar-a-Lago, the former President puts out these statements every day to his supporters, which are riddled with lies. We normally don't even actually even report on them. Today, he specifically referenced your Committee and kind of referenced you. I want to give you a chance to respond if you want, he said -- I mean, it's so ludicrous, but -- "The January 6th unselect committee composed of radical left Democrats and a few horrible RINO republicans is looking to hold people in criminal contempt for things relative to the protest, when in fact, they should hold themselves in criminal contempt for cheating in the election."
KINZINGER: It's so powerful.
COOPER: I mean --
KINZINGER: I mean, look --
COOPER: This is the statement of a former President of the United States. It's amazing to me.
KINZINGER: It's funny, because when he started putting these things out, like a few months ago, I literally thought they were parody. You know, it's like -- it's incredible.
But look, I mean, it says a lot. I didn't know that statement was even out until you just told me. That's a former President of the United States, basically, without naming me, attacking me, and I didn't even know what happened. It's like, you know, just raging from Mar-a-Lago.
Look, here's the reality. Congress, you know, is empowered by the people. Congress decided to have a select committee. Kevin McCarthy decided he wanted to pull all his people, and there were a couple of Republicans that said, this is important to get to the bottom of.
We have the power basically equivalent to the court to get to these answers, and we are dang determined to do that.
COOPER: And just lastly, someone who is investigating what happened on January 6th, and I think it's really important what you said about, regardless of what happens in the short term, 10 years from now, just for the public record and for history, that does matter, because what the Republican Party is -- so many of your, you know, fellow Republicans sadly are doing right now is, you know, is a shame and it is a stain on the Republican Party.
And it will be seen that 10 years from now, if even among those who probably don't see it today.
KINZINGER: You are a hundred percent right. We're not talking in a hundred years, when you know, we're all dead and gone. We're talking when we're not that much older. And, you know, that's what's so sad to me, is there are so many people that think well, somebody is going to come and change us, somebody is coming.
Look, here's the reality. No one is coming, except us. And when you have, you know, the 10 of us, for instance, that voted for impeachment. One decides he is not going to run again, Anthony Gonzalez and people try to put on his shoulders, you know that he wasn't fighting to defeat Donald Trump. Look, no, it's not on his shoulder.
He did his tour in Vietnam. He doesn't have to go back for a second tour. There are 190 other Members of Congress that need to do a tour in Vietnam to save this party. And if they don't, I'll keep fighting them, but they need to.
COOPER: Yes, Congressman Kinzinger, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Next perspective as well as insight into what happens next, especially if the committee decides to subpoena the foreign President. Bob Woodward and John Dean join us for that.
And later, former F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, his first television interview since being completely vindicated, which happened just a few hours ago and what it's like to have his life and reputation back.
COOPER: We spoke before the break with a member of the House Select Committee now pursuing criminal contempt referral against Steve Bannon and the fact that something so important is going to wait until next Tuesday certainly raises questions, so does the next step of decision on charges from the Justice Department. So do a lot of things including the fact that only two Republican House members have been brave enough to join the committee or that bravery is even a necessity these days when it comes to doing the right thing.
Joining us now, two leading figures from the last worst threat to democracy, Watergate, which perhaps now seems almost quaint by comparison, Bob Woodward, author of the most recently -- along with Robert Costa -- of "Peril" and CNN contributor, John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel during Watergate.
Bob, I want to start with the January 6th Select Committee subpoenas. We know several Trump allies are quote "engaging," as the Congressman said, but their hearings have been postponed. I'm wondering what do you make of where things stand right now.
BOB WOODWARD, CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": Well, obviously, we don't know. But a key element in, is it is really important to find out what happened. As the Congressman was saying, you know, Bannon refused to testify. He must be hiding something that in itself tells you something, but it doesn't tell you what he is hiding.
And you need to find out and it is really important. A committee of Congress has some leverage, but the Nixon tapes case, as John Dean knows so well, did not give congressional committees a real, a real strong hand in subpoenaing evidence they actually led -- the senate Watergate committee lost the case. It is the prosecutor that won the case to get the Nixon tapes.
So the big question is, do they have the personnel to really investigate if they've got a systematic process of isolating what they call the satellite witnesses, people who might have known or worked with some of the key figures and get them in, and you know, we should be hopeful about that. But it's got to be aggressive and systematic.
COOPER: Yes, well, I mean, John, you and I have talked about this before, the House Select Committee says they'll swiftly move to hold Bannon in criminal contempt. But I mean, has that ever worked before?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It doesn't work. Well, first of all, it's a very old statute that they are relying on written back in 1857. The language for contempt or the action is a willful default -- makes a willful default. That isn't even clear what that means. And particularly, even in Bannon's situation, he is acting on the advice of counsel.
Now, I think the stuff they'll have to debate in the House and in the Committee as to whether this raises itself to the level of contempt, but I think that's clearly what they want to do. I don't know that it will stick in the Department of Justice, which has clearly the option as to whether they will take it to a grand jury or not. So, they'll opine on that before they take further action.
COOPER: I mean, John, in your mind, is there anything that could compel Bannon to cooperate at this point?
DEAN: There sure is, as we've talked about before. I don't understand why the House of Representatives has not gotten its own rules in order, which they can do by their own resolution, and made it contemptuous action and give fines or other sanctions that they have the power to impose, and they could do that very easily.
I think in fact, the January 6th committee otter recommend it that they do both criminal contempt and the House change its rules and enforce its own fine on this behavior.
COOPER: Bob, how serious do you think this is compared to what the country went through in Watergate? I mean, how does it stack up in history?
WOODWARD: Well, we're -- we know some of it. There was a National Security crisis that Robert Costa and I discovered in our reporting for our book "Peril," that possible war with China, use of nuclear weapons by the President all alone. General Milley taking action to stop these, actually calling in the members of the watch team in The Pentagon War Room to make sure that Trump wouldn't order things that circumvented the procedure that involved the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
We got the whole response of what Trump did last year with COVID-19. And, you know, that is a story that's killed 700,000 people in this country. So, there is a lot of work to do on Trump.
I think the broad look is essential. I think what this committee is doing is important and should not get caught up in the technicalities and forge ahead, find cooperating witnesses, do it in a very systematic way. Not worry about the daily drama on television, oh, there's this subpoena or -- something like this takes months to get to the bottom of and hopefully, the United States Congress in some form is going to do that.
COOPER: Yes, John. I mean, I think there's something that Congressman Kinzinger said about, you know, it being important 10 years from now to figure out exactly what happened, like if -- you know, not day to day right now, echoing what Bob just said, but that history needs to know what happened and that they need to get it right now so that in the future, we know exactly what went on.
DEAN: That's absolutely true. You know, to this day, the shadow of Watergate influences the presidency and not in a positive way, but rather keeping people hopefully out of those areas and the gray areas.
I think the same here, Trump's incompetence is so stunning as President and I think that a lot of that is why we are in the trouble of we are in. That's why, while January 6th appears to have been much more plotted, we don't know how close it got to the President or how deeply involved in the plot he was involved, and we need to know that, and sooner rather than later. I don't want to wait 10 years. I might not hear that answer.
COOPER: Bob, I mean, just finally -- go ahead, Bob.
WOODWARD: Trump is -- no, but Trump is running right now for President in 2024, saying that the election was stolen. That is his rationale for his candidacy. And this isn't for history, this is for our political moment today. And we've done a lot of work, many have done work. There's no evidence that the election was stolen.
In fact, the election, the evidence goes the other way and we need to keep at it. Look at the whole Trump experience. I disagree with John Dean, this is a not about incompetence. This is about a man dedicated to do and execute his impulses in his own interest and failing to do what he told me once recently was the job of the President to protect the people he failed.
COOPER: Bob Woodward and John Dean, appreciate it. Thank you.
Breaking news that we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, former F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe joins us for his first interview after reaching a settlement with the Justice Department that lets him get his pension and other benefits back. Details on the deal and what he has to say about the quote, "public vendetta" end quote against him by the former President, next.
COOPER: More on our breaking news from the top of the hour. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who was fired in 2018 by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions has settled the lawsuit with the Justice Department, getting his job back, his pension back pay so he can retire with all those benefits. The settlement resolves a civil lawsuit filed by McCabe who argued his ouster was the result of a public vendetta driven by the former president who targeted him.
You may recall the McCabe was fired more than three years ago, just days or hours before planned retirement at the Justice Department's Inspector General said he'd lied repeatedly regarding a leak about Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server. Case was referred to federal prosecutors who eventually decided not to pursue any charges against McCabe and ever since the former president has continued to attack McCabe, is one of those moments in 2019.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Where they Andrew McCabe has made a fool out of himself over the last couple of days. And He really looks to me like sort of a poor man's J. Edgar Hoover. He's a, I think, is a disaster. And what he was trying to do was terrible and he was caught. I'm very proud to say we caught him. So we'll see what happens. But he is a disgraced man. He was terminated, not by me, he was terminated by others.
The AIG report was a disaster. A disaster from his standpoint, anybody reading the AIG report would say, how could a man like this be involved with the FBI and the FBI has some of the greatest people, some of the finest people you'll ever meet. But this man is a complete disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The irony, of course, is the former president is now the disaster and the disgraced person.
Andrew McCabe joins us. He's CNN senior law enforcement analyst. His first interview since the settlement was reached.
Andrew, first of all, what does this mean for you and your family?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Oh my gosh, Anderson, I can't tell you what, what this has been like going through it what this whole vindictive campaign has put my wife through, my children, my parents, so to have a settlement of this lawsuit, and one that so clearly indicates, this should never have happened. It is both an incredible relief. It's, it's satisfying, but it's also, you know, it's also kind of sad. I mean, like this should never have happened, my family should never have had to go through this.
COOPER: Well, it's remarkable. I hadn't realized that you had had I think was on a Friday night, you were having, you'd had a meal with your family, essentially retirement celebration with your family, because you were trying the next day. And the -- they've they fired you right before that consciously. You know, vindictively. What was it like to have the former president who doesn't know you, I mean, he has no idea of anything about you just pick you out of, you know, obscurity, essentially, in terms of his knowledge of you and just focus on you and attack you.
MCCABE: It was so, it was so bizarre Anderson. You know, in December 23rd of 2017, he tweeted out to the world that he was racing me to my retirement. I mean, to know that you essentially have a target on your back from the most powerful person in the world, the person that you extensively work for is a member of the executive branch. I mean, it was just a, it was like, upside down world like you can't even -- I can't even describe how terrifying and annoying and humiliating that is. But you know, that's what he subjected people through for four years.
COOPER: It's also after a life of public service. I mean, there's, I'm sure a lot of people in your position could have long ago, gone to a law firm or gone to do other work that would have been far more, you know, financially rewarding. You were serving the public. And I mean, does your settlement with the Justice Department admit any kind of political influence on their part in your firing? Because it was obviously Jeff Sessions under pressure, putting DOJ under pressure that was sort of the ripple effects of that.
MCCABE: Absolutely. I mean, this was very clearly an active of political of, you know, vindication against a perceived political enemy, which wasn't even true, but nevertheless, that's what they did. The President demanded this and Jeff Sessions complied and the rest of the Department of Justice complied as well. The inspector general delivered a truncated, rushed, unfair report that left out material evidence, the FBI knowing their process wouldn't conclude before I retired, rushed it, sped up the clock to get done what the attorney general or the president were demanding.
I mean, it's that's why this settlement. I mean, it's a great thing for my family. But I think it's a message to government employees, civil servants everywhere. This is the current Department of Justice, standing up for fairness and standing up for the rule of law. In the settlement agreement itself, they agree that members of the executive branch should not interfere in internal political -- internal personnel matters, because it creates the appearance of political influence. Well, that's exactly what happened here.
COOPER: The justification, as I mentioned, at the time of your firing was that a Department of Justice inspector general's report said you had lied about a media leak to investigators. I know you've been on the record about this many times. But can you just briefly explain to people not familiar with the case what that was about?
MCCABE: Yes, sure. I was asked in two different interviews about what I knew about a release of information to a journalist of a story in October of 2016. And in both cases, I misspoke. And then immediately after corrected the record reached out to the folks that I had spoken to and pointed them in the right direction, told them exactly what had happened. Never at any time did I intentionally mislead anyone about anything. And I think that's what today's result, finally, after all these years of saying this again, and again, again, I think that's what this result makes it clear.
COOPER: In February of 2020, nearly two years after the investigation was opened is that allegation, prosecutors declined to bring any charges, that's 20 months to the day of this settlement. Did you expect it to take that long?
MCCABE: Of course not. You know, the inspector general refers reports to prosecutors all the time, they're typically turned around to days or weeks. This went on for 20 months. And I personally believe that it was necessary, is necessary that for the Department of Justice to pursue this vindictive criminal prosecution to validate what they had done with my firing. It was an effort to keep this story straight, to keep perpetuating this myth. It was incredibly damning.
COOPER: And just lastly, on the day, it was announced that no charges would be filed against you, which was a huge day, you said on CNN, you said I don't think I'll ever be free of this president and his maniacal rage that he's directed at me and my wife. Do you feel free today?
MCCABE: I mean, I feel better, but I don't feel free. I mean, I don't kid myself to think that the President is going to put aside his horrific judgment, his constant lying and his tormenting of me and my family. I'm sure this will just add another log to the fire will probably be saying all kinds of things about it tomorrow. But you know what, I've just to the point where I don't care. I don't care what that guy has to say.
COOPER: Yes. Andrew McCabe. I appreciate it. Thank you.
MCCABE: Thanks Anderson.
COOPER: And thank you for your service.
Up next, Senator Bernie Sanders joins us live in a moment on all the breaking news coming out of Washington and the battle in Congress over Democratic priorities.
COOPER: We're covering several breaking stories coming out of Washington tonight, you just heard from Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who was fired by the former president and vindicated tonight. Also, the committee investigating the January 6th Capitol attack is moving to hold the former president's ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena. And if that wasn't enough, of course, the disagreements and fighting continues and Congress of the massive spending packages that are yet to be passed.
Joining us right now, Vermont senator and former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders, thank you so much for being with us. Just briefly, I'm wondering what you make of what you heard from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, did you see his firing at the time is politically motivated? Is this writing wrong?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I honestly don't know much about it. What I've been focusing on right now, Anderson, is the need to pass the most consequential piece of legislation in the modern history of this country, and demand that the wealthiest people in this country stopped paying their fair share of taxes so that we can address the long neglected needs of working families.
And one of the concerns that I have, you may have read this is that this legislation is enormously popular, enormously popular. Over 80% of the American people want to lower the cost of prescription drugs, 84% of the American people want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses. But you know what, one of the problems we have is that millions of Americans don't know what's in the bill. Because I think Congress has not done a good job. I don't think the President has done a particularly good job in the media. It's not a pretty bad job in talking about what is in this legislation.
So, I have a real concern. People can agree with it. People can disagree with it. But we really have got to know what is in this consequential piece of legislation.
COOPER: And the status of where Congress is right now on this and where Democrats are on this. It does seem like you know, I talked to Congresswoman Jayapal recently who said to talk about progressives need to go back through their -- the list of things that they want and figure out what are the priorities. For you what priority stand out?
SANDERS: Well, Congresswoman Jayapal is chair of the Progressive Caucus has done an extraordinary job as the whole Progressive Caucus. But the issue that we're facing here in the Senate a little bit different than in the House, is that we have 48 out of 50 members who want a three and a half trillion dollar bill. That, as I mentioned, will substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs, overwhelmingly supported by the American people, expand Medicare, build the affordable housing that we desperately need, and the embarrassment of being the only major country on Earth not to have paid family and medical leave in an aging society finally, providing home health care to people rather stay home with their loved ones, rather than end up in nursing homes.
And then on top of all of that, what we must do and intend to do in this bill is spend hundreds of billions of dollars transforming our energy system so that we can save this planet for our kids and future generations, that is what we are trying to do.
And the dilemma that we have right now is despite the overwhelming support of the American people, and the President and Congress, we have two members who have not yet on board. And I also have to tell you, what is not being discussed very much in the media, is that we're seeing they owe much money, Anderson that the pharmaceutical industry has spent against us in this effort, because they want to make sure that they -- we continue paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Do you have any idea?
SANDERS: Anybody know? They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars event 200 million on lobbying alone. They have 1,500 lobbyists in Congress for 535 members, they will probably spend half a billion alone.
COOPER: Do you think that impacting ...
SANDERS: I think (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: ... Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin? Because I mean, those are the two Democrats who are holding things up for you?
SANDERS: Well, it's not just them. You got people in the House. I think when the ruling elite of this country spends many, many hundreds of millions of dollars often lying in their ads. And when they buy, you know, lobbyists from the former Democratic and Republican leaders, does that have an impact, of course it has an impact.
But I think at the end of the day, when you have so many people, overwhelming majority, the American people saying, you know what, we got to demand that the wealthiest people and the largest corporations who in a given year don't pay a nickel in federal given taxes. Large corporations don't pay a nickel in federal taxes. People like Bezos, and Elon Musk, two the richest people in the world in a given you don't pay a nickel in taxes.
I think what the American people, whether be Democrat, Republican or independent are saying you know what, they've got to stop paying their fair share of taxes so we can address the needs of working families. So that's what this whole thing is about.
COOPER: And where do you see this moving, though? I mean, again, it comes down right now to Sinema and Manchin. They seem to have a lower number. Certainly, if it if it gets down to just, you know, what is the number priorities do have to be, I mean, there have to be some priorities (INAUDIBLE).
SANDERS: Again, I mean, I think, you know, I'm not going to negotiate on TV.
COOPER: I can expect anyway.
SANDERS: But I think there is got. But there is going to have to be some give and take. But let's be clear. I mean, we started this process in the Senate Budget Committee, which I chair at a $6 trillion amount, which by the way, is the least of what we need, if we are in fact going to transform our energy system, and deal with the existential threat of climate. All right, we came down from six to three and a half trillion. OK, that is a huge, huge compromise.
So I think at the very least in my view, we have got to be a three and a half trillion. Here's the problem that we're facing. I don't begrudge a Senator Sinema or Senator Manchin. They have views, they are more than entitled to their views. Everybody has a different point of view, that's fine. But what I do think is simply unfair, is that two members of the Senate think that they have a right to obstruct what the overwhelming majority of the American people want, what the President wants. And with 48 out of 50 members, 96% of the U.S. Senate and about equal number in House, that's just not right, you know.
I could go forward to Senator Schumer, any member of the Senate say, you know, Chuck, if you don't put this thing in there, I'm out. I'm not going to vote for it. But that's not right. What we have to do is work together, I'm Chairman of the committee, I have heard from zillions of members, and we're trying to work this out. At the end of the day, I hope and expect that we will.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, appreciate your time. Thank you.
SANDERS: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, standing by the former president side as he repeats lies about the election January 6 by or the flip flop. Our Gary Tuchman went to Iowa to try to get some answers.
COOPER: We've been trying for days get some questions to longtime Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. The reason we want to talk to him is because of the total 180 he did this past weekend with regards to the former president. In the days following the insurrection, Senator Grassley was slamming the former president for his role in the riot. But apparently always forgotten this past weekend because at a rally in Des Moines, Senator Grassley stood side by side with one term president and basked in his compliments. What changed? Well, in a word politics, Senator Grassley said so himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): I was born at night, but not last night. So if I didn't accept the endorsement of a person that's got 91% of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn't be too smart. I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sure, why not? Why not accept that endorsement? Not exactly a profile encouraged there, but hey, who cares? Then there was the question the former senator wouldn't answer when he was asked by the Associated Press to comment about the statement the former president made last week saying the real insurrection happened on Election Day. Grassley, again, profile courage declined.
So the news tonight, we found him or at least our Gary Tuchman did. He joins us from Des Moines. I know, Gary, you spoke to the senator at one of his events today. Did he say anything?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the 88-year- old senator had a lot going on Iowa today. He chaired a drug abuse hearing. He talked to employees at the United Parcel Service. He talked to constituents and he talked a bit with me, and I asked him about Donald Trump.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): That's your chance to answer that question. Do you think the real insurrection what he said was in November?
GRASSLEY: I don't think your questions even appropriate from this standpoint. I would -- I was given the chance to speak five minutes at this event.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): With Trump.
GRASSLEY: No, no. I was asked to speak two hours before he came to 23,000 Iowans.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Right.
GRASSLEY: And I took advantage of that to say about what the Biden administration is doing on inflation, nothing. What they're doing at the border, nothing. How they left Americans and Afghan, nothing. And the tax and spending spree that we have. And I had a chance to say about the last four years how I've worked to get strict construction (INAUDIBLE), how I've worked to get tax cuts, and how we've worked in conjunction with ethanol with a president that very appropriately has said how he and I have worked together to benefit Iowans. He said, I loved islands.
So I had an opportunity to be before 23,000 Iowans. And I wouldn't had that opportunity if he hadn't brought that crowd together.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So sir, was the real insurrection November or was the insurrection on January 6?
GRASSLEY: I'll take you back to my --
TUCHMAN (on-camera): It's your chance to answer the question.
GRASSLEY: Yes, I'm answering. I take you back. I'll stand by the statement I made on January the 7th. And I'll stand by the statement I made on December the 13th that Trump would or that Biden was elected president.
COOPER: That was like a minute. That was longer than his --
TUCHMAN: That was considered (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: He spoke for longer than a minute. And it was just bull. I mean, he didn't say, as you well know. I mean, he was just kind of grandstanding and hoping you wouldn't follow up with a question. He has no interest in speaking about January 6, clearly?
TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, first of all, I'm sorry, I interrupted you.
COOPER: No, I'm sorry. I interrupted you.
TUCHMAN: It's important question. Well, let me answer your question. It's OK. We're both sorry. And that's a good thing.
I will start by telling you that Senator Grassley said a number -- Grassley said a number of things critical about Donald Trump, in the days after the insurrection, but what he was referring to on January 7, that initial statement he made, I just want to read it to you. He said that Donald Trump, quote, displayed poor leadership in his words and actions, and he must take responsibility. Now he did say that he made that clear.
However, when we were talking about the real interaction comments, that interview right now, you noticed, he did not denounce that, he did not say anything about it. What he did say was he reiterated that he does believe that Joe Biden won the presidential election. It is a low bar Anderson, but these are very different times.
COOPER: Yes, remarkable. Gary Tuchman, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now someone who knows something about campaigning in Iowa, CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.
I mean, Senator Grassley just now at an age where he just wants to stay in power and doesn't care about his reputation, or, I mean, any kind of spine.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think you have to conclude that Anderson because he was very clear, not just about the insurrection, but about Trump's behavior after the election, and I'll read a little of it, he said, he belittled and harassed election officials across the country to get his way, he encouraged his own loyal Vice President Mike Pence to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the electoral college count.
But maybe we're looking at this the wrong way, Anderson, maybe we should give him credit. He's told the truth, then, about Trump's responsibility for the insurrection and his behavior after the election. And he's telling the truth now, when he stands in front of a crowd saying, if I didn't accept the endorsement of a person, I bet 91% of the Republican voters, I wouldn't be too smart. I mean, both of those things can be true. What's also true is that the only thing that he has to surrender in doing that is his integrity. And at age 88, you have to ask yourself is a few more years in the United States Senate really worth that?
COOPER: Well, I mean, that's, that's, of course, the question is, you know, Dear God, I mean, it's 88. What is the point of leaving your career like this at this stage in life, I mean, he's earned the right to be a truth teller. He's earned the right to say what he said right after the insurrection. And to him, you know, jumping when Donald Trump calls him and toting up to him and then giving that kind of ridiculous answer to Gary Tuchman, it's just sad.
AXELROD: It is sad. It's really sad. And it's says something about him of course, and you know, this is not he's not alone in this. The -- sometimes I've said the United States Senate appears to be the world's most assisted the most gilded assisted living center because nobody wants to leave. They don't they feel if they leave, that's the end of their lives. They want to stay. He desperately wants to stay.
But it also says something about Trump's control of this party right now. And there is a reign of terror in the Republican Party and people who want to get reelected, they the table stakes is to at least have some sort of passing acknowledgement that maybe there was something wrong with the last election. And remember, 78% of Republicans in the CNN poll recently said, yes, we think there was something wrong with the last election.
So, you know this, this big lie this conspiracy theory has a spread and these politicians are cowering.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, he's been a public servant for a long time, he's going to run again and maybe he'll get reelected. But if he's no longer a public servant, and he's just, you know, serving himself this point and it's sad.
David Axelrod, appreciate it. Thank you.
News continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.