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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
January 6 Committee Casts A Wide Net With More Than 100 Subpoenas For Phone Records; Biden And Putin Hold Two-Hour Long Call Over Ukraine; Mark Meadows: Trump's Blood Oxygen Levels Were At A "Dangerously Low Level" During 2020 Covid-19 Illness; Defense Rests After Smollett And Prosecution Share Contrasting Views Over His Alleged Attack; Flooding In South Sudan Hinders School Access; The Attack On Pearl Harbor: 80 Years Later. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 07, 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 it's not just severe rain hitting Hawaii, a snowstorm prompting a rare blizzard warning there, the first in more than three years. It's what's called a Kona Low Weather System responsible for all of the precipitation. Hawaii residents are warned the damage to public and private property remains possible.
Thanks so much for joining us. It's time now for AC 360.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. A lot to report tonight in the January 6 investigation. Three big stories, all speaking to how busy the House Select Committee has been, but also how much work still lies ahead.
First, a CNN exclusive on Committee efforts to obtain phone records of some of the key players in and around the insurrection. Also, a court date for Steve Bannon's contempt case, which may not let him run out the clock entirely, but is certainly not speedy either.
Former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also deciding he will no longer cooperate with the Committee, setting the stage for contempt proceedings, perhaps as early as tomorrow.
It's a lot and we start with CNN's Ryan Nobles.
So Ryan, what about these phone records? What are they?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is an attempt by the Committee to paint a picture of exactly who was talking to whom on the days leading up to and on January 6th. This is the outgrowth of the preservation requests that the committee had put in place to many telecom companies over the summer. This is now them formally asking for these phone records.
Now, these aren't the messages themselves or the phone calls themselves. Instead, it's just a record of a number that called another number, at what time that call took place, and for how long. It will allow the Committee to piece together conversations that took place in and around that time, and then begin to ask questions to these witnesses about exactly what these conversations were about. Will it be able to paint a picture of whether or not there was any level of coordination between these different groups that were a part of the riots that took place here on January 6th, as they try and get to the bottom of exactly what happened here -- Anderson.
COOPER: And Committee members can't be happy about Meadows deciding after not cooperating, then cooperating, and now, he is not cooperating and Bannon's trial date is being set farther away than they had hoped.
NOBLES: Yes. I don't think there is any doubt there is a level of frustration from many Committee members about the lack of cooperation from some of these key targets. And before I came on with you, Anderson, I talked with a number of members of the Select Committee about that exact topic, and they did push back on the idea that this is going to make it impossible for them to get to the bottom of what they are looking for.
Adam Schiff who is a member of the Committee stressed that even though they have been met with some resistance from some of these individuals, that he described them as outliers, and that they still talked to more than 250 people who have given them a lot of information about what went wrong on that day.
Still, there is no doubt that they are running into roadblocks. You're seeing some of these key Trump allies now beginning to invoke the Fifth Amendment, which will make it that much more difficult to prosecute them for criminal contempt if it gets to that point. And also you talk about the timeline, the fact that the Bannon hearing or the trial is not going to take place until July that just makes the timeline in which that they will have information to glean from him that much shorter.
There is a strong belief, Anderson that this committee has to wrap up their investigation before the midterm elections because if Democrats are unsuccessful in their efforts to hold on to power in the House of Representatives, it is very likely that this Committee's work will be forced to come to an end -- Anderson.
COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks.
Joining us now CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former F.B.I. Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe; also Josh Green, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, national correspondent and author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency," and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Andrew, let's talk about the phone records. What kind of impact potentially could they have on the Committee's investigation?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, they can have a very important effect on the direction of the investigation, Anderson, because with the phone records, the Committee will be able to kind of dump all of those returns into a database, and what will come back is almost a graphic representation of the associations that took place on phone calls, on text messages, and possibly even on e- mails during the days leading up to and on January 6th, and that gives them a roadmap to guide their questioning of other witnesses.
So without that information, they might ask a witness who did you call on you know, one o'clock on January 6? And a witness might say they don't remember. Now, they can say, our phone records indicate that you called this person on that day. What did you talk to him about? And the witness is then in a much tougher position to be able to avoid revealing the details of those conversations.
So, it is an essential piece of any large investigation.
COOPER: Is it hard to get phone companies to cooperate in something like this?
MCCABE: It's really not the -- of course the F.B.I., you know, having conducted and presided over many, many investigations in my career, I can tell you that the phone companies, they have well-established processes to receive subpoenas and to produce the results from those subpoenas and deliver them to whoever has lawfully requested them, usually that's the F.B.I., but in this case it's Congress.
COOPER: Gloria, I mean given the fact Mark Meadows's lawyer specifically referenced the subpoenas for these communications in his letter informing the committee that Meadows would no longer cooperate, how much of that decision do you think is really about these phone records and how much of it is just not wanting to upset the man in Mar-a-Lago?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's about both, Anderson. I mean, our Annie Grayer is reporting this evening that Congressman Pete Aguilar, who is on the January 6 Committee is saying that what they have learned from these phone records is that Mark Meadows, on his personal phone was in communication with individuals involved in the planning of the January 6 rally.
We don't know what was said. We don't know with whom he was communicating, anything else, but that is a way for them to connect the dots and it is probably something that Mark Meadows does not want out there.
As for Donald Trump, of course, Donald Trump has been furious about the book. He is furious at Mark Meadows. Meadows is trying to get back on his good side, and any notion that he was cooperating with the Committee by turning over thousands of pages of documents probably doesn't sit well with the former President.
COOPER: Josh, the Justice Department wanted to see Bannon's obviously in April. Bannon's team wanted it in October. The Judge settled on July, it's a compromise. Is it good for anyone?
JOSH GREEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: I think, if anything, it is good for Bannon's team. I mean, he wanted to delay this trial, to drag it out. The government wanted it to move quickly in order to make an example of Steve Bannon and try and put pressure on other witnesses. I think a July trial date doesn't do that. And also the fact that Meadows came out and is now refusing to testify
shows that at least when it comes to the marquee witnesses like Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, the pressure tactics don't seem to be working.
COOPER: Andrew, how much you do you think Steve Bannon and frankly, any other Trump ally who chooses to go that route will be able to use legal maneuvers to jam up the investigation well into next summer.
MCCABE: I think Steve Bannon is likely to be very successful at that, but he is an individual who is really not similar to any other witness. To defy the government and to, you know, to pursue this course in which he is likely to go to trial, this is great for him, right? It puts him on the front page, and it burnishes his reputation as a bomb thrower, and everything else.
So he really has nothing to lose by going in this direction, and even if he goes to trial and loses and exhausts all of his appeals, none of that results in compelling him to actually testify and provide information.
So, Steve Bannon is essentially a lost cause for the Committee. They are never going to get information out of him, whether his process concludes before their investigation does or not.
COOPER: Gloria, I mean, in terms of Mark Meadows, it looked like he was trying to kind of walk a fine line between not wanting to be held in contempt of Congress, which can then be expensive to, you know, litigate and not wanting to get on the former President's bad side, which can be expensive also, because then whatever, you know, avenues of money that Mark Meadows has access to would probably dry up, you know, whether it is, you know, Trump fans not buying his book or going out on the lecture circuit or, you know, getting to work for the former President again, what effect could this have on other former members do you think of the Trump administration who may get called on?
BORGER: Well, look, you know, they have already indicated that they are not really interested in cooperating and you know, you have threats of contempt of Congress, against other folks. You have somebody like Marc Short, who worked for Pence who has been subpoenaed, and he is -- we don't know what he is going to say, but he hasn't been threatened with contempt of Congress yet.
So you know, they're going to come to heads because this is what they have always done, they stonewall, and I think the Committee is at a point, and I don't know what Andy McCabe would say about this, but they are at a point where they have to decide whether it is worth it to pursue these folks, if they're just going to continue to stonewall and stonewall, because they're looking at a very tight deadline.
They want to produce a comprehensive report for the American public before their Committee could, you know, be out of commission if Republicans take over the House and so, they want to get stuff done, and they can't waste a lot of time. They interviewed over 250 people, let us see what those other people produce. COOPER: Go ahead, Josh.
GREEN: One other point here, you know, Steve Bannon has sabotaged this committee by setting the bar for what constitutes loyalty to Trump to mean refusing to testify as we've seen for Meadows. So you know, I think in that sense, we are already seeing the MAGA crowd kind of take control of this Committee and try and steer it into a ditch, which I think is the other significance from today's news.
COOPER: It is an interesting idea, Gloria -- Joshua's -- that Steve Bannon sort of has set this high bar for what it means to truly, truly be slavishly loyal to the former President.
BORGER: Well, he has, and I'm sure Donald Trump loves it and that is exactly what Steve Bannon wants. And don't forget, Steve Bannon has the worst case for privilege of anybody up there because he was not serving in the administration, and yet, he has decided to make a cause out of this because it works to his benefit.
I don't think it works to Mark Meadows's benefit as you were pointing out, or to other Trump administration officials' benefit, but Bannon is kind of a special case.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, Josh, the difference between Meadows and Bannon certainly seems, you know, I guess Meadows, at least in the past didn't want to be held in contempt of Congress. Steve Bannon seems to want nothing else. It helps him for all the reasons Andrew said.
I mean, is this battle with the Justice Department, I guess, financially, I guess he has a lot of money, and it is good for his reputation in the world that he exists in.
GREEN: Well, yes, I mean, I think for Bannon, you don't have to look any further than the fact that he brought a camera crew to his arraignment and stopped in mid perp walk to do a live interview with it, to show you what it is that Steve Bannon hopes to get out of this whole experience.
I think the pressure it puts on people like Meadows is it forces him to decide, are they -- you know, is Mark Meadows going to be, you know, a true blue or I guess a true red MAGA loyalist? Or is he going to try and keep one foot in the respectable corporate Republican establishment world?
And what Bannon is doing is forcing the issue in a way that you really can't do both. You can't straddle. And now, Trump himself has taken notice of this and is furious at Mark Meadows. Mark Meadows is going to have to decide at least in the short term, it looks like he has decided against upholding his reputation and helping the Committee and instead kowtowing to Trump and sort of performing the slavish act of loyalty.
COOPER: Yeah. I mean, this guy was a Member of Congress. It's really kind of -- it's just incredible. Andrew McCabe, Gloria Borger, and Josh Greene, really appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, next, what we're learning about President Biden's call with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, with Russian troops massing on the border with Ukraine and tensions higher probably than at any moment in recent history, certainly.
We will talk about the President's leverage to deter an attack and options if deterrence fails with "New York Times" columnist, Tom Friedman.
And later, reporting you will only see on CNN from a country experiencing horrible extremes -- first droughts, now terrible flooding -- the worst in 60 years. Our Clarissa Ward is live from South Sudan ahead on 360.
COOPER: At some point, we may learn what was actually said on today's two-hour call between President Biden and Russian President Putin. But now, what we have are the accounts that each side gave of it.
The President's National Security Adviser saying that the administration does not believe that Putin has made a decision whether or not to invade Ukraine, adding that President Biden was very clear in laying out the consequences if he does.
The Kremlin for its part, saying, quote, "Responsibility should not be shifted onto the shoulders of Russia since it is NATO that is making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory and is building up its military potential at our borders.
What shouldn't be forgotten, though, in what happens -- what is happening has all the trappings of a 20th Century Cold War superpower confrontation. It's the 43 million people who live in Ukraine, real people who are now under the gun. And war, if it comes will be in their hometowns, in their backyards, sometimes as CNN's Matthew Chance found out when he toured Eastern Ukraine, and conditions more closely resembling the First World War than the last.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we've entered this worn -- of trenches that have been dug along the front line, I can tell you, I mean, it's like being thrown back to the early 20th century in the Great War because I've not seen anything like this in modern warfare.
But this is modern, the reality of confrontation with Moscow and its proxies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now, "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist, Tom Friedman, bestselling author of many books, including "The World is Flat." So Tom, how much is on the line right now for Russia and for the U.S. on the border with Ukraine?
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, certainly a war in the middle of Eastern Europe right now would be terrible -- terrible for the world, by the way, it would affect energy supplies and global gas prices. But it would just be -- it would be a disaster, I believe for Russia.
You know, Anderson, I remember it was =-- we talked about this a while back about Putin. Vladimir Putin once again, demonstrates, he is America's bad boyfriend from hell. He just won't go away.
We really want to break up. We want to date other people, we'd really like to date the man in China, and he just won't go away. And so he is always acting up, and he is always looking for dignity in all the wrong places, in all the wrong ways.
Anderson, breakaway -- the loss of Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. So, that's humiliating. And then the fact that Ukraine is becoming actually more Ukrainian, more young Ukrainians now speaking, Ukrainian and not Russian, has a big cultural religious impact for Russia because Kiev and Ukraine is deeply embedded in Russian religious history and cultural history. I get it.
But this Putin approach, marry me or I'll kill you, I don't think that's going to play with a young generation in Ukraine. And so I think it would just be a disaster all around, and I think Biden has done a good job here of not only communicating to him what the consequences would be economically to begin with for Russia, but also rallying all of Europe after a time where there is a lot of tension between us and the European allies, Anderson, I think Biden has done a good job of putting up a solid front with our allies against this.
COOPER: When, you know, Russia makes the argument that, you know, NATO is the real threat to Russia, and that, you know, it talks about NATO taking over Ukrainian territory, obviously, Russia is concerned that NATO would admit Ukraine into NATO.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, I mean, that's a legitimate issue. It goes back to the 90s. I wrote back then that I thought NATO expansion was a huge mistake, that we had a chance actually to bring them Russia, a much more democratic Russia, into Europe, into a more democratic Europe. And I think the decision to sacrifice that to extend NATO to Poland and Hungary and Eastern Europe was a huge mistake.
And it is the mistake that just keeps on giving, Anderson, because Putin basically dines out on that. Anytime his polling falls inside Russia, he simply says, you've got to rally to meet. NATO is coming.
COOPER: There -- obviously, the sanctions that the President is threatening, I mean, beyond that, what sort of leverage does the U.S. really have here?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, certainly, I mean, I don't know if they would do this, but they've talked about kicking Russia off the SWIFT international payment system, which would be a huge problem for Russia. But you know, I don't want -- in these situations, you know, Anderson, I have my princess Di rule. Remember Princess Diana said, "My problem is that there are three people in my marriage."
Well, there are three people in this story. There's America, there's Russia, and there's what I would call weaponized social media. Can you imagine if Putin sent 180,000 troops into Russia? I'm not saying this will stop him. All I'm saying is he will become a real international -- if he sent 180,000 troops into Ukraine -- excuse me. Yes, he will become an international pariah in ways that I'm not sure he fully understands, Anderson.
The next time he wants to go to France, to London, to Germany, if he is seizing another country, in the heart of Europe, I don't think you fully grasps what the blowback on that could be as well, just at the sort of popular level.
COOPER: Also, I mean, though, Ukraine has many ties to Russia, other than the part of Ukraine that they have, you know, fought over already, much of Ukraine does not want to be taken over by Russia. And certainly, it would not -- I mean, it's not that Ukraine couldn't be defeated by Russia, but certainly it would be messy.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there would be real resistance. You'd have 180,000 Russian troops in Ukraine in the middle of winter facing real resistance. You have the Russian economy being hammered. I believe anything can happen, I would predict nothing here. But, it just to me would be just a terrible, terrible mistake for the world, for Russia, and for Ukraine.
COOPER: I mentioned that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan briefed reporters today after the call between the two leaders, I just want to play some of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is a further invasion into Ukraine, a military escalation in Ukraine. Obviously, many of our partners on the Eastern front, our Baltic Allies -- Romania, Poland, and other countries will be increasingly concerned about the security and territorial integrity of their countries.
They will be seeking, we expect, additional capabilities and potentially additional deployments and the United States will be looking to respond positively to those things in the event that there is a further incursion into Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Essentially saying that the other countries that Putin doesn't want already to be in NATO would be wanting to increase their military capabilities.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, and the ones that are already there. I mean, if you don't want NATO on your border now, imagine what will happen if you invade Ukraine. I mean, all of these countries will be desperate for more military hardware and more American presence. It would create exactly the world, one would think he doesn't want, but he --
COOPER: It looks like we lost comms, but we appreciate the conversation. We'll try to get him back if we can.
Tom, appreciate it. We should note that Australia just announced their own diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympics in China.
Coming next, the new account of how ill with COVID the former President was from one of the people who deceived the public about it at the time.
COOPER: New account of the former President's encounter with COVID bolsters reporting at the time that he was very ill, indeed. It comes from his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who as you know, has a book out and seems a lot more willing to talk when a publisher is giving him some money than he is when lawmakers hand him a subpoena.
Meadows, as you know, was part of a White House effort which included the President's physician, Sean Conley to publicly downplay the severity of the former President's illness. Now, at the same time, he was trying to surreptitiously leak the opposite and was even caught (on camera), if you remember, doing it outside Walter Reed.
He and others also actively conceal the fact that the boss had tested positive a few days prior shortly before a presidential debate and several other functions.
Now, Meadows is trying to downplay that and stay in the former President's good graces. Here is what he writes about the day that former President went into Walter Reed -- and just as a reminder that evening, Dr. Conley put out a memo saying, quote: "I'm happy to report the President is doing very well." So quoting now from Meadows book, "That morning, Dr. Conley pulled me aside and delivered some bad news. Although the President's condition had improved slightly overnight, his oxygen levels had now dipped down to about 86 percent. It could be trending lower, a dangerously low level for someone his age."
Then came the former President's sort of odd limo ride in a sealed car around hospital grounds in the evening in his mask removing return to the White House.
It capped an episode that we now know for Meadows's book began with a positive COVID test on the 26th of December. Now according to a recent analysis by "The Washington Post," in the six days between testing positive and going to the hospital, the former President came in contact with and therefore may have exposed more than 500 people -- 500 -- which brings this item to mind by way of contrast, then citizen Trump attacking a doctor who contracted Ebola treating patients in Africa then returned to New York was hospitalized, kept in complete isolation for three weeks and not released until he was free of the virus.
The virus, it should be noted that it is not airborne the way COVID was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I conSidner that doctor extremely selfish, who came back and then he toured New York. I mean he went on crowded subways during rush hour, had dinner in Brooklyn, went to a bowling alley and bowls. And when all over the place, he's a very selfish person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Again, he was quarantine once he tested positive and not released until the virus free. He is of course, Dr. Craig Spencer, Director of Global Health and Emergency Medicine at New York Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center. And he joins us now.
Dr. Spencer, I appreciate you being with us. Putting aside the --
CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH & EMERGENCY MEDICINE, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: (INAUDIBLE) thank you.
COOPER: -- I don't know if it's irony or just absurdity of the former president's attacks against you knowing what you know now about the timeline of the former president's COVID test now (INAUDIBLE) was when hospitalized, and the Washington Post reporting they may have come in contact with 500 people, I'm wondering what your reaction is?
SPENCER: Well, I just start by saying that quite honestly, none of these revelations are a surprise to me. I'm an emergency medicine doctor. My job is to put together small pieces of information that are said, or things that might be overlooked or not said to really, you know, make a diagnosis put together a story, and it was very clear from those press conferences. Last year, when the President went to Walter Reed that he was much sicker than they were leading on it was clear that he was on oxygen, it was clear that he was a patient with severe COVID.
Now, granted, the president -- former president and I have disagreed about infectious disease threats since at least 2014. I have long since been vindicated. But this revelation just shows that in those days, the President was doing what we were all concerned he might be doing, which was continuing the super spreading event that had emerged from the White House and was putting the rest of the country at risk.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, he met with Gold Star families. It's really kind of incredible, the list of people he met with. How dangerous is an oxygen level of 86%? Meadow says that's what the former president's oxygen level was before he was taken to Walter Reed. And that's, yes, that's him going to Walter Reed.
SPENCER: That's incredibly dangerous, especially in a 73, 74-year-old man, your risk of dying at that point is incredibly high. And so, when we had patients whose oxygen levels dipped below 90%, they were admitted to the hospital, they were given steroids, they were often given high flow oxygen. And we treated them very, very carefully, because their risk of decompensating, and getting worse, in the first 24 or 48 hours was incredibly high.
And again, we saw this nearly every single day in March and April of last year, we saw this throughout the pandemic, we still continue to see people who come in with oxygens really low. And we always take it seriously. Because these people get sick really, really fast.
COOPER: You know, it was also (INAUDIBLE) Meadow says that the former President couldn't carry his briefcase when he walked out to Marine One that the weight was too much for him. From your experience, I mean, treating COVID patients, what are their symptoms would the President have been feeling at that stage of an illness? And what does it feel like?
SPENCER: Now, as someone who's, you know, had a had a bad illness, you know, it feels horrible. It feels worse than a bad flu, you feel incredibly weak, the fever and the malaise, you're, you know, your joints ache, your whole body aches, and it's hard just to do very basic things. I imagine that that's exactly how he was feeling, especially if his oxygen was dipping that low. You don't feel great, it's hard to muster the energy to do anything, even just get out of bed, let alone walk to a helicopter.
COOPER: I want to talk about the Omicron variant. In a small study using samples from 12 people, doctors in South Africa found that people who previously had COVID and received the Pfizer vaccine are likely to be well protected against the Omicron variant. They also found that people who only had the Pfizer vaccines were as protected. So given all the mutations that the variant has, does that surprise you at all? What does it tell you?
SPENCER: Well, I think the first thing it tells me is that we need to be eternally grateful for the scientists in South Africa that have been doing this work despite travel bans, making it difficult to get the reagents that they need. But look, I don't think that this study was too surprising to a lot of us who have seen the mutations on the Omicron variant who suspected that it was going to decrease potentially the protective effects of our vaccines. But remember --
COOPER: And by -- sorry, Doctor, by the way, I misspoke, that the people just had the Pfizer vaccine are not as protected as people in Pfizer and COVID.
SPENCER: Right. Well, this is also just you know, this was a lab study. This was in a dish. This was, you know, looking at tissue from 12 patients, so I wouldn't extrapolate it too far. But look, what we know is that people who had COVID and got vaccinated were more protected than people who had COVID and didn't. We know people who got vaccinated and got a booster are going to be more protected than those who haven't got a booster or who have not been vaccinated.
So, the study shows us that the vaccines likely are still going to work. It's important to get a booster and even if you've had COVID it's really important for you to get vaccinated. Be prepared as Omicron spreads. We know that it's already spreading here. Delta is our problem right now. But we need to make sure that we're able to ward off this coming wave of Omicron infections as well, to getting vaccinated.
COOPER: Yes. Today the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the anime convention, which was held in New York City at the Javit Center will likely provide some of the earliest data on transmissibility the Omicron variant in the U.S., of the 53,000 people who attended 35,000 have been contacted and encouraged get tested. I mean, there's usually not that kind of level of testing. What will you be watching for among this large group of people?
SPENCER: Well, we're going to be looking to see what the attack rate is, and people who were there, meaning that what percentage of people who get tested, test positive and hopefully do that sequencing to see how much of that is Omicron.
Look, this was happening at the same time, we were having 90, 100,000 cases per day, so it won't be surprising if some people ultimately test positive, it'll be unclear for a while how much of this as Omicron spread, how much Omicron is likely to be more of a super spreading virus than Delta. All indications seem to be that it is more transmissible, but we're still doing that science.
The anime convention, as well as all the research that's happening in Europe, but especially in southern Africa is going to give us a lot more clues in the coming days and weeks.
COOPER: Dr. Craig Spencer, appreciate talking to you again, thank you.
SPENCER: It was pleasure.
COOPER: Another bizarre day in court as the defense rests in the Jussie Smollett criminal trial with the former Empire actor said in court, next.
COOPER: Hours ago, the defense rested its case in the criminal trial former Empire actor Jussie Smollett. Closing arguments are set for tomorrow and it was another lively day she was saying court. Smollett took the stand at his own defense reiterating his claim that he was a victim of a racist and anti-gay hate crime and did not stage the attack for media attention. Prosecutors contrasted his testimony with evidence they say proves it was all a hoax, and new details were revealed on Smollett's interactions with his alleged attackers in the days leading up to the incident.
CNN senior national correspondents Sara Sidner joins us now from Chicago. So prosecutors grilled Smollett about this, the rope, the news he reported was part of the alleged attack, what were they trying to point out? SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They were trying to point out inconsistencies in his story and testimony. And basically what they asked him was whether or not he had taken that news, taking it off, and then put it back on once the police showed up to his house, the prosecutors intimating that basically it was done to make the crime look more severe and more serious, but Smollett answer him that yes, indeed, he did take the rope from around his neck and then put it back on when police showed up. And he said he did it because he had a conversation with a colleague. And the colleague told him that you don't want to tamper with evidence.
And so, he decided that he should put the noose back where it was during this alleged attack that he had talked about. And so, that was the reason why he said, yes, he did do that. And then the prosecutor said, but why did you go on television and do an interview for Good Morning America and tell them that you have the noose around your neck the whole time? And you never took it off? To that Smollett acknowledged what he said during the interview, because you could not it was played for the court. But he never addressed why there was an inconsistency and what he testified to versus what he said a couple of weeks after the alleged attack. Anderson.
COOPER: I mean which is one of many inconsistencies it seems in his story. How did he respond to the testimony from his -- well, the guy he says is his former trainer and the trainer's brother who said he planned this and paid them to do it?
SIDNER: Yes, so the Osundairo brothers, one of which was Smollett trainer at the time of the attack. They testified very clearly in court under oath, that indeed, Smollett had given them money and that they he had planned it and that they had just simply carried it out what was planned by Smollett and themselves. He when upon hearing that and upon hearing the prosecutor reiterate that to the jury what the Osundairo brothers had testified to, he called one of their stories, a bold faced lie that was his trainer, and said that the two of them are liars and not to be believed. Anderson.
COOPER: Sara Sidner, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now is a criminal defense attorney, Sara Azari. Sara, I'm wondering what you made of Smollett's testimony on the whole. Did you think he was very credible? I mean, as a criminal defense attorney, do you think he helped his case?
SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, Anderson, he heard his case. There are two reasons why we put up a defendant to testify and one is so he could humanize himself. And the other is to explain a story that can't be explained otherwise and argued. So with respect to humanizing himself, of course, he got up and testified in a compelling way, in a calm way. But he's a trained actor, right? So the idea that he's a self-made man, he's hustled, he's worked hard. Trust me, believe me, don't convict me. OK.
Then you get to the explanation part, which completely fell flat, Anderson. You know, the idea that on a frigid Chicago January night, they just happen to find them at this location without any planning is not plausible. You know, the idea that he says he has sex with one of them, but then they're homophobic and they hate me and they plan this attack, how do you reconcile that you can't? The idea that they met, and that meeting was about Nigerian herbal steroids? I mean, do you believe that? Because I don't, but I mean, credibility is that as a jury question. And then of course --
COOPER: He also drove by the future alleged crime scene multiple times, with the brothers in his car?
AZARI: Right, on surveillance, and he can't really explain that. And then more damning than everything, Anderson is the idea that you're a victim of a hate crime, and then you don't cooperate with the police, so that they can capture and bring the perpetrator to justice. Right. So they asked him for his DNA, and he's like, I don't believe in ancestry.com. You know, they said, OK, what about your cell phone in your medical records? No, I don't trust you. I don't trust the police. You're all maga people because of course at that time Donald Trump was in office.
So, I mean, it is really the jury has to believe some really strange extra to be able to not connect them.
COOPER: Also, he repeatedly sort of pointed out that he doesn't want attention. I mean the profession that he's in exists on attention. I mean, it's it. I mean, the idea that he doesn't want attention seems hard to believe. The prosecutor also seemed to get under Smollett skin at certain points. And he kind of snapped back at several questions. Does that play well on the stand?
AZARI: No, Anderson, because look, you know, you can be a firm, you can be prepared, you can be compelling. But once you start getting snarky with the prosecutor and defensive, it doesn't fare well with a jury, because they're going to say, well, why are you so defensive? I mean, just answer the question. That's, that's not good for him.
COOPER: And if -- I mean, if he's found guilty, do you suspect likely he would serve jail time? Would he get probation? What are the potential costs of this?
AZARI: Yes, so remember that these were initially 16 counts that magically disappeared and were dismissed. And now we're left with six counts of disorderly conduct each of them carrying one to three years with the likelihood and potential of probation but not at this stage. You know, once a defendant exercises his constitutional right to go to trial and testifies. He's taking the risk of this judge, really listening and hearing and watching the evidence.
And if the judge feels that he's lied that that his testimony was bogus, he'll get punished more so that that probation possibility is out the window.
COOPER: Sara Azari, appreciate it. Thank you. Well keep watching.
AZARI: Thanks Anderson. COOPER: Last night, we brought you Clarissa Ward's remarkable reporting from South Sudan about what some are describing as biblical level flooding there. Clarissa joins us again for another massive report that is coming up next. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Last night, CNN's Clarissa Ward brought us exclusive reporting from the ground in South Sudan on the devastating floods that are impacting Unity State and as the flooding brings food shortages and diseases, it's also having a huge impact on schools in the region.
According to UNICEF, the floods have destroyed closed or hindered access to more than 500 schools in South Sudan.
Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward joins us now. Clarissa, I wonder what the most pronounced effects that you're seeing on the ground that are a result of these floods?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously Anderson in the sort of short term, the most pronounced effects are just this devastation as a result of this massive flooding. And particularly as a result of the displacement of hundreds of thousands, some 800,000 people across this country have been affected by the flooding, many communities are still isolated, unable to get out to safety. They're building these makeshift camps. The conditions are terrible, disease is rampant, malnutrition is rising.
But beyond these kinds of short term life saving interventions that are needed, you also have to think about the mid to long term because South Sudan is a country that has been mired in a vicious Civil War for many years that ended just a few years ago, development was put on pause here for such a long time and aid agencies. And, you know, and the government here had just started the process of rebuilding some of these schools, opening 50 schools in the last couple of years.
And now all of that has once again, been put on pause. Take a look.
WARD (on-camera): It's pretty deep in here.
(voice-over): Teacher Gany shows us what remains of the local school.
(on-camera): What were you teaching in here?
KUOL GANY, TEACHER: So, here I'm teaching English.
WARD (on-camera): The classrooms are all deserted, now overrun by the fetid, stagnant waters?
(on-camera): Is the water getting any lower?
GANY: No. (INAUDIBLE) is still increasing the water. WARD (on-camera): But this water also is filthy. It's dangerous, there's disease in it.
GANY: Yes, there's diseases and there's his neck bite also. And we are drinking inside this water also.
WARD (voice-over): This is where most of his students have fled to, a narrow strip of dry land now home to some 6,000 people. Books are brought in by canoe. Classes are taught under white tarpaulin.
According to UNICEF, more than 500 schools have been hit by the floods. There are real fears that the next generation of this conflict scarred nation may be lost.
COOPER: I mean, is the international community honoring its commitment to help developing nations dealing with climate change?
WARD: Well, I mean, if you look at the pledge that was made by the world's wealthiest countries for something in the realm of $100 billion a year to help countries like South Sudan adapt to the effects of climate change to become more resilient to become more efficient in terms of their own emissions, then what we're hearing simply is no that those commitments are not being honored. And, you know, we discussed this yesterday, Anderson, just the kind of disproportionality and the injustice of this because a country like South Sudan simply hasn't been, you know, contributing to even a fraction of global emissions. There's roughly 125 miles of paved road in this country.
And yet, according to the UN, its countries particularly in the African continent, that are disproportionately playing such a high price. And it is only going to get to be a higher and higher price. If more action isn't taken, particularly in terms of the infrastructure, the pumps that are needed the diggers to help try to build up those dikes to fortify those dikes and to really help South Sudan strengthen its defenses against the effects of climate change.
COOPER: Yes and all the evidence points to this only just increasing in the future. Clarissa, appreciate it. Thank you.
Up next the date that will live in infamy, 80 years later, we remember the attack on Pearl Harbor.
COOPER: Eighty years ago today on the morning of December 7, 1941, hundred of Japanese war planes launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor and other locations in Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans were killed. The Pacific Fleet was left in ruins and the U.S. was drawn into World War II. Shocking assault was famously called a date which will live in infamy, but then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Well, today at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, dozens of survivors gathered to mark the solemn anniversary with a moment of silence and other ceremonies. And in Washington D.C., President Biden in the First Lady visited the World War II Memorial to pay their respects. In a proclamation marking National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day the President encourages quote, all Americans to reflect on the courage shown by our brave warriors that day and remember their sacrifices.
The new continuous. Let's hand over Michael Smerconish in "CNN TONIGHT." Michael?