Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Joe Biden Warns Unvaccinated Are Looking At A Winter Of Severe Illness And Death Due To Omicron; Former Homeland Security Official, Ken Cuccinelli Talks To January 6 Committee; Dominion Voting Wins Key Decision In Lawsuit Against Fox News; Activist Group Has Turned "Parental Rights" Into A Rallying Cry For Conservative Parents; Warrant Issued For Alec Baldwin's Cell Phone. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. COVID cases are spiking, the new strain is surging, and so are concerns that winter of 2021 could soon look like March of 2020. Concerns we should say upfront, but not a cause for panic. Certainly, though a new call to action.

Already in New York where the positivity rate has doubled in just four days, long lines are forming at test centers, the same in other big cities. That's Miami there on the right. The Mayor in Miami reinstating emergency hospital provisions last seen at the start of the delta surge.

Now, this is happening nationwide, and yes, it is yet another heavy burden on healthcare professionals and on everyone.

The new omicron strain worries all of us and yet again, it raises questions about what steps we can and should take to meet it.

In a moment, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Leana Wen join us with some answers.

We begin with CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations climbed around 40 percent this past month, deaths says the C.D.C. forecast to rise in the month ahead. The delta variant is still rampant, omicron on the rise.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is here now and it is spreading, and it's going to increase. For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death on the unvaccinated for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they will soon overwhelm.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Very soon, it is going to be the dominant variant. We've seen that in South Africa, we are seeing it in the U.K., and I'm absolutely certain that is what we're going to be seeing here relatively soon.

WATT (voice over): For the vaccines, this variant is now the most complete escapee, say researchers in a new preprint study, although vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe disease or death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is reassuring that these infections seem to be less severe, but that's really only true probably if you're a healthy person who has been immunized and ideally immunized with three shots.

WATT (voice over): Meantime, "Hamilton," among the Broadway shows canceling performances once more after cases amongst the cast, just two months after reopening.

Princeton and NYU just joined Cornell and others moving what is left of the semester back online, a depressing dose of deja vu.

Officials in Philly are warning don't party with people outside your household over the Holidays.

DR. CHERYL BETTIGOLE, PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER: It is hard and it feels impossible, and it feels unfair. These gatherings when we get together with friends and family are when we infect each other with COVID.

WATT (voice over): Pro sports teams demonstrating how the virus is spreading, Odell Beckham, Jr. scored Monday night, next morning, joined a long list of players and staff testing positive or quarantining after exposure.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: They are really a window into the community spread and kudos to the sports leagues because they are actually doing a fantastic job of surveillance testing and the rest of the country, we are driving a car down a dark road with the headlights off while looking in the rearview mirror.

WATT (voice over): This afternoon --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have 15 yeses, zero no's.

WATT (voice over): C.D.C. vaccine advisers unanimous in recommending the C.D.C. change its guidance to say that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferred over the J&J. Why?

Well, those very rare blood clots connected to the J&J that can be fatal.


WATT (on camera): So Anderson, what has changed since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was authorized, recommended earlier in this year? Well, it turns out that those very rare clots aren't quite as rare as estimated. I mean, we're still talking fewer than one in a million people who get the Johnson & Johnson get the clot and die from it.

Also, there have been studies that show the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not as effective as the Moderna or the Pfizer. And also, early in the year, remember, there was a fear that there will be a shortage of vaccines. That fear no longer exists. We have enough vaccines, we just don't have enough people to put them into.

So now with a glut of vaccines, we can be a bit more choosy. And, you know, one of the advisers who is also a doctor said during the meeting today, you know, at this point, I can't recommend the vaccine -- the Johnson & Johnson -- that I know can lead to a condition that can lead to a death.

So he says, he is telling his patients just to steer clear of Johnson & Johnson. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still available, though, will still be available for anybody who still wants it -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Nick Watt, appreciate it. Thank you.

More now on the implications of all this especially as it impacts on daily living. Joining us, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, author of "World War C: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One." Also with us, CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health."


So Sanjay, you heard Nick Watt call this a depressing deja vu. You see college exams being moved online, some sporting events and Broadway shows canceled. Is that the correct reaction to what we've learned over just the last few days?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, we're still very much in the midst of a delta surge, Anderson. I mean, obviously, omicron is getting a lot of attention in the news. But, you know, if you look at the map, and see just how much virus is still transmitting in various places, I mean, we're still in a significant shower of virus.

So, you know, at some point, if the numbers come down low enough, then you know, I think you may be able to have a little pullback on some of these mitigation measures. But when you have this much virus still circulating, you have 120,000, roughly new cases per day, 1,300 people dying per day, hospitals starting to become overwhelmed, 67,000 people in the hospital now in the country, I think for the time being, we're still sort of very much in a significant surge, it's on fire.

So yes, you have to do everything you can to try and control it.

COOPER: Do you think more shutdowns for lack of a better word may be coming?

GUPTA: I think it would be very hard to implement those. I mean, you know, I think the country has sort of reacted to these in the past. But I think what we have learned, you know, over the past couple of years, is you've got to see what's happening with hospitals.

When hospitals do start to become overwhelmed, they cannot take care of all the patients that are coming in, they can't take care of patients who are coming in that do not have COVID, that are totally unrelated to COVID. That's when hospital administrators raise their hand and they say, you know, we need to put the brakes on here. We cannot handle all this anymore.

So, it gets to that point in various places around the country. It may be targeted areas that have the shutdowns. But you know, we'll see. I mean, we're in the winter months now where viruses spread more easily regardless.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, the Philadelphia Health Commissioner is asking residents not to get together with other households for the Holidays. Just yesterday, Dr. Fauci said if the family members of vaccinated, they should feel comfortable gathering at home.

I mean, what -- you have young kids. What would you do? Do you have friends and family come over? And what do you say if they're vaccinated, like is just two vaccinations enough? Or if somebody is not boosted? You know, should they be in that circle of people who can come in?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think different families are going to make very different choices for the upcoming Holidays. I would urge people to be extremely cautious, especially because we already had a surge of delta, and now we have a surge of omicron on top of that, and we really don't know what's going to happen with omicron.

We have not yet seen omicron, for example, ripping through our nursing homes. We don't know what's going to happen with these very vulnerable populations. I think, it is time that we implement the tools that we have, not have a shutdown, don't tell people not to get together over the Holidays, but let us really use the tools that we have.

And here is a helpful two out of every three rule that I'd like to use, which is you need three -- two out of these three things in order to get together safely indoors -- vaccination, testing, or masking.

So you could have everybody who is vaccinated and boosted, you also test them that the day of, then, you don't need masks. But if you don't have testing, you should ideally have vaccination and masking.

If not everybody is known to be vaccinated and you want to get together, ideally, you have testing and masking. So two out of every three. Vaccination, testing, and masking can help us to be extra safe come this Holiday Season.

COOPER: And when you say vaccinations, I mean, you mean vaccinations and boosting?

WEN: I would certainly feel a lot more comfortable getting together with somebody who I know to be both vaccinated and boosted and that is because with omicron, we know that with two doses of the vaccine, it doesn't protect you very well against symptomatic infection. And if I'm getting together with other people, I would want to make sure that those around me don't have symptomatic COVID. COOPER: Sanjay, why aren't State and Federal officials on the same page here? Or are they?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, you know, if you look at the C.D.C. guidelines, I think they've been pretty, pretty clear on this. But let me show you, I think, as you have data emerging on this, in terms of the protectiveness, I mean, we're still learning, we can look at how well these vaccines alone without the booster protect and then see what the booster sort of does.

Initially, when you look at the -- you know, up to nine weeks, you do get good protection against delta and omicron. But clearly, as I was talking about, it does sort of start to diminish significantly for omicron by you know, week 20 or so.

But then if you get the boosters, you know, you get a pretty significant within two weeks return of some protection still will diminish, but it's a lot better than at 20 weeks. I think this data is emerging still, Anderson, which I think is part of, you know why you're feeling like there's a little bit of dissonance in terms of the types of messages people are giving.

They are trying to figure it out, but I think it's pretty clear that we're still in a very significant surge as much as we'd like to believe that you know, we were starting to look at this in the rearview mirror.


COOPER: If somebody -- I mean, you know, it is all well and good to talk about this stuff kind of theoretically. But I mean, for everybody at home, and I mean, all of us, you know, it gets down to like these hard to figure out questions like if somebody wants to come over to your house tomorrow, you know, to hang out with your kids or whatever it is, or somebody, you know well, and your friends and you want to see them, do you insist that they have, you know, a booster or do you ask -- do you ask if they've been tested? Or when they -- you know, they were tested three days ago, does that even matter?

I mean --

GUPTA: I think --

COOPER: Not that anyone wants to come over my house, but I'm just kind of curious.

GUPTA: People definitely want to come over and visit you, Anderson. I mean, and it is the Holidays, people do want to get together. I mean, I do think that the idea of testing, as close to the time as you may visit somebody is very effective.

I mean, you know, we have these tests, we've been ordering them these antigen tests. You and I have talked about them. What they can help answer, I think, is the question you're really trying to address, which is, are you contagious? Obviously, if you're sick, you should stay home, you shouldn't be visiting anybody and people who are sick should not visit you.

But let's say somebody is vaccinated and is still wants to figure out, you know, to make sure, I think testing offers a significant benefit. We also keep a CO2 monitor. This is a sort of poor man's indication of ventilation, it measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. If it starting to go up, it's an indication to me that there is not enough ventilation. I open doors and windows.

I get that this seems somewhat sort of, you know, thrown together. But, you know, basically, you have to think of the virus as being this airborne thing that moves around like smoke. People who are vaccinated are less likely to get infected, but if they do get infected, they can spread it, you have to assume that.

So, you know, it sometimes can feel like a hodgepodge, but I think there are ways to get together safely.

COOPER: But just quickly, to be clear, if somebody is vaccinated, they are -- are they less able to spread? Are they less likely to spread it? And if they're vaccinated and positive, are they less likely to spread it?

GUPTA: So if someone -- first of all, if someone is vaccinated, I think they are less likely to become infected, but they can still become infected. If they do become infected, they can get a high viral load, high enough that they could spread it, but the window of time that that occurs is going to be narrower.

So again, that's a lot, less likely to get infected, narrower window of time of spread. But yes, you have to think especially with that map that I showed you, as much virus as we are being showered in right now, you have to assume that people could potentially be spreading, which is why the testing and the ventilation, and all these other things help.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay and Dr. Wen, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, the Republican Congressman who wanted to serve on the January 6th Committee and everything we learned this week that makes him look more like a potential witness. Keeping them honest, ahead.

And later, breaking news in the Dominion Voting lawsuit against FOX News, a Court ruling that FOX's coverage of election fraud may have been inaccurate.



COOPER: New developments tonight in the January 6th investigation, the House Select Committee announcing a subpoena for James P. "Phil" Waldron, the retired Army Colonel who circulated a PowerPoint presentation laying out how to overturn the election and who is still out there peddling election lies to state lawmakers.

Also Ken Cuccinelli, former second in command at the Department of Homeland Security telling CNN he spoke with the House January 6 Committee last week. He tells us that when asked by members, he identified topics he discussed with the former President, but declined to answer more detailed questions about the discussions.

He says the Committee also wants to know about his conversations with former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. As you know, the Senate report on January 6th has already placed Cuccinelli at numerous Oval Office meetings, which plans to overturn election results were discussed.

We also learned that the former President and longtime confidante, Roger Stone, will appear before the Select Committee tomorrow. His lawyer today saying Stone will take the Fifth.

Now, meantime, everything else we have learned so far this week continues to grow and impact the process of holding Meadows in contempt of Congress, it revealed a lot including the remarkable fact that Congressman Jim Jordan, the man who is next in line to chair the Judiciary Committee if Republicans take the House was himself pushing a plan to overturn the election.

And just to remind you, here is the relevant portion of the text he forwarded to Mark Meadows.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I want to display just a few of the message he received from people in Congress. The Committee is not naming these lawmakers at this time, as our investigation is ongoing.

If we could queue the first graphic. This one reads: "On January 6th 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all."

You can see why this is so critical to ask Mr. Meadows about.


COOPER: Now, yesterday, Congressman Jordan revealed that he was the one who sent that to Meadows, so the guy touting the very same playbook, the former President was pushing Mike Pence to spearhead, the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee fronting for a legal fig leaf to cover an attempted coup.

The same Jim Jordan who is rarely at a loss for words, unless the question concerns his conversations with the former President that day, something you would think he might remember.


QUESTION: On January 6th, did you speak with him before, during, or after the Capitol was attacked?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I'd have to go -- I spoke with him that day after -- I think after. I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don't know. I'd have to go back and -- I mean, I don't -- I don't -- I don't know that -- when those conversations happened, but what I know is I spoke with him all the time.



COOPER: Well, you take that, his continuing embrace of the election lie, and yesterday's revelation about him pushing that justification for overthrowing a free and fair election and you've got all the makings of a potential witness for the Select Committee.

Amazingly, however, he wanted to be on the Committee. House Speaker Pelosi said no, and ever since, including this week's contempt vote against Mark Meadows, House Republicans have been crying foul.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand Pelosi didn't want Jim Jordan, for example on the Committee, but I can assure you, Republicans didn't want Adam Schiff for Jamie Raskin on the Committee.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We have a January 6th Committee that Nancy Pelosi is leading that is nothing but a political witch hunt on Republicans and Trump supporters.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Did she set the Committee itself to be one-sided? Yes. More so than any Select Committee before? Yes, she did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vote would have probably been different, if it had been more legitimate of a Committee.

MCCARTHY: We warned you from that moment in time she was playing politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As they proven yet again today, over and over again, they only care about attacking their political enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That it really has turned out to be nothing more than a partisan Committee, just to investigate the former President.

MCCARTHY: I think it's very clear to the American public, this is a sham.


COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, it is not. But it might have been so far from what we know of the Committee. It's been diligent and focused on facts, not tangents and seems to have bent over backwards to accommodate witnesses even when they are trying to obstruct or delay the Committee's work, like Mark Meadows.

The two Republicans who do serve on the Committee have distinguished themselves across party lines.

Joining us now is "Washington Post" opinion columnist, Dana Milbank. His latest piece is titled "Meadows texts show Trump did what G.O.P. falsely claimed Clinton did in Benghazi."

In it, he writes this about Jim Jordan, quote, "Jordan, in his addendum to the Benghazi report wrote that the Obama administration quote, 'so blinded by politics and its desire to win an election, disregarded a basic duty of government, tell the people the truth.'"

It continues, "Five years later, with democracy itself on the line, Jordan and his colleagues are fighting the truth as if their very survival depends on it."

Dana, thanks for joining us. When you see Jim Jordan now compared to the Jim Jordan of the Benghazi investigation, I mean, how do you explain the difference?

DANA MILBANK, OPINION COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you can't explain it. I mean, look, your viewers are not going to be shocked to know that there is hypocrisy in politics. There has always been some element of, you know, where you stand depends on where you sit on which side of the aisle.

But there is something more going on here, and I think this really reveals the sickness, because not only have people like Jordan sort of forsaken their professed principles to the truth and to the importance of the executive and cooperating with legitimate Committees of Congress.

But he is doing so in order to sabotage democracy itself.

Look, it is absolutely essential to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th, so that we don't have another coup attempt, because you can be sure the people who attempted the first time are trying to learn so they can get it right the next time.

So you have Jim Jordan and the others, who are basically using a campaign of lies to destroy the investigation into January 6th, of course, in service of the Big Lie of the election itself. So I, I think we need a call this sort of thing out. So we have democracy is basically on a knife's edge right now, it really could go either way and this just can't be allowed to stand.

COOPER: I want to read something else you wrote. You said, "The differing responses to the two tragedies show the rank hypocrisy in the Republican Party and the sickness that has taken hold of it."

I mean, essentially, you're saying that what they were arguing with the Republicans were arguing or trying to say happened in Benghazi is what actually happened is what the President Trump actually did during the insurrection. Can you just explain that?

MILBANK: Well, sure. I mean, there were years that all we heard about was Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, at least until we found out about Hillary's e-mails, but the whole idea was, you'll recall, there was supposedly this stand down order. The Republicans alleged that the military could have come to the rescue of the Americans at the consulate in Benghazi, but somebody gave a stand down order and that wasn't allowed to happen.

In fact, that was not the case. There was no stand down order. And certainly Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with assigning the military to do anything. But here you have a case where even more people died and it wasn't just a diplomatic outpost, it was the capital of the United States being attacked.

We know that the President was being called upon to do something to stop the attack by his own supporters, and talk about a stand down order. He waited three hours or something before even saying they should go home and we know The Pentagon was slow walking these desperate pleas to have the National Guard come out there.


So basically what was alleged to have -- falsely alleged to have happened in Benghazi is exactly what happened on January 6, so where is the outrage?

COOPER: What would have happened if Jim Jordan was on the January 6th Select Committee? I mean, obviously, you know, he is big on trying to grab attention, derail things. What do you think would have happened?

MILBANK: Well, look, as you illustrated there, he was very clearly all about sabotaging the Committee as was Jim Banks, the other member that Nancy Pelosi objected to.

Look, Jim Jordan participated in a Stop the Steal rally. How can you have somebody like that investigating January 6th? I think it was a tactical mistake of Kevin McCarthy to boycott the Committee entirely, because now you have legitimate serious people like Cheney and Kinzinger joining with the Democrats to actually get to the bottom of it.

And even though we're seeing a whole lot of stonewalling in terms of the testimony, they are getting a hold of the documents as we see from these -- the Meadows text messages.

So it appears they will be able to put together the story and this needs to be told in full accuracy.

COOPER: Yes. Dana Millbank, appreciate it. Thank you. Really appreciate it.

MILBANK: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, breaking news, Dominion Voting wins a key decision in a lawsuit against FOX News. Details on that ahead.


[20:30:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More breaking news tonight, a Delaware judge is allowing Dominion Voting to press forward in a major defamation case against Fox News. After finding the network's coverage of election fraud may have been inaccurate. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis writes in his ruling quote, given that Fox apparently refused to report contrary evidence, including evidence from the Department of Justice the complaints -- the complaints allegations, support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion side of the story out of the narrative.

Now that ruling is going to now allow Dominion to attempt to uncover extensive communications within Fox News in the interview the network's top people under oath. This comes just days after the January 6 committee released text messages from some Fox News host to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging the former president to stop the Capitol insurrection.

Joining us now, former Nixon White House counsel and CNN contributor John Dean, and former federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, this is a big deal.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's a very big deal, but it's not a surprise, you know, it's a basic principle of libel law is that if, if CNN puts Mr. A on the air and Mr. A says Mr. B is a child molester, Mr. B sues us. We can't say, oh, well, it was just Mr. A, who said that we were just the transmission. That's what this case is about. Fox said no, we didn't say that Dominion is corrupt are the people we interviewed said that.

The judge said, first of all, some of these people Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, or Lou Dobbs, among others, some of those did say that Dominion was corrupt. But by putting Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell making these outrageous false allegations on the air, without allowing Dominion to refute them, that's libel. And that's what Fox is going to have to defend.

And I don't know how they're going to defend it. I think it's a very good case for the plaintiffs.

COOPER: John, legally, how difficult is it to prove individuals knew their statements were false, or that they were intentionally leaving out relevant information.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's not easy. In fact, it's very surprising most of these cases get dismissed at this very early stage with a motion to dismiss, I think that probably handles overwhelming number of defamation cases. Because the standard is very unique, they have to show actual malice that that was employed, meaning that they either knew it was false and went ahead with it. Or they did it with reckless disregard. They had some indication that yes, they still went ahead.

And this case has not been decided on any substance get just on the pleadings, and in it made the basic bar and got over that, which is going to be a nightmare for Fox, as Jeffrey says they're going to now dig in deep and it's not going to be easy.

TOOBIN: But John, this case is the definition so it appears of reckless disregard. Most cases, your right gets dismissed because most competent, ethical journalistic entities, put the other side of the story out. What that -- that's what Fox didn't do. And you have Giuliani saying he's admitted already, that he didn't check out these allegations. So that means Fox didn't check out the allegations. And you can't just put libelous false information out without allowing the other people to return. And plus Dominion says that they lost all kinds of business because of this, which is certainly understandable, given the fact that a lot of Republican, you know, will never hire them again. I mean, it's a very good case for the plaintiff.

COOPER: So -- we are the people who are who said those things, not, you know, who were Fox personalities who were Fox employees. Are they personally liable?

TOOBIN: Not in this case. There are other cases percolating through the system. Certainly there are cases against Giuliani and Sidney Powell. They have incredibly difficult cases to defend, because they were putting all this stuff out here.

COOPER: I mean, there were wild, wild things.

TOOBIN: Totally wild things. And, you know, reckless disregard for the truth, as John said, is the standard. But I don't see how you can look at what Giuliani and Powell did. And now what Fox did without concluding it was reckless disregard.

COOPER: John, now that Mark Meadows has been officially referred to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress. His fate is essentially in the hands of Attorney General Merrick Garland. What do you think the Justice Department's next move is? So they haven't been exactly quick on all (INAUDIBLE)?

DEAN: Well, you know, after the Steve Bannon case, it's very difficult to believe that they're not going to proceed with a criminal prosecution. There really is no difference between what Bannon did and what is happening right here with Meadows. Meadows has got this fuzzy connection of executive privilege, that is what they held him in contempt over. They held him in contempt over information that there is no executive privilege. And he just defied them. He, he played with them, he didn't show up. He was very contemptuous in his behavior.


So I think that I would weigh it very heavily in terms of justice going forward and prosecuting.

TOOBIN: In many respects, Meadows case is weaker than Bannons, because Meadows actually participant, you know, gave over some material and then pulled back.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: In addition -- COOPER: And wrote a book.

TOOBIN: -- and wrote a book. I mean, you know, that's what's known as waiver in the law. You can't write a book about conversations with the president or about a set of circumstances and then say, oh, well, I'm not going to answer a subpoena on the same subject.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, John Dean, thanks very much.

Up next, the moms group bringing the mask wars and other so called parents issues to communities across the country. Leyla Santiago reports next.


COOPER: As we've been reporting school boards have become flashpoints in the culture wars gripping the country with angry parents facing off over everything from critical race theory to mask mandates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to tell you that your time is up. The people of the state and this district are rising up and you have awakened a sleeping beast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe the reason why we have people in the hospital all this mask wearing. Do we ever think of that? Did we ever think of that?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't care about your children as a matter of fact they hate them. They hate your kids. They hate my kids. They hate your kids. They hate my kids. Get it?


COOPER: What was once a scattershot operation is becoming much more organized. One example is group Moms For Liberty. According to its website, the group quote, welcomes all that have a desire to stand up for parental rights at all levels of government. Now it started in Brevard County, Florida, but its chapters have spread nationwide.

CNN's Leyla Santiago takes a closer look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paper and cloth mask do not work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Parents beware of terms like social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion.

TIFFANY JUSTICE, CO-FOUNDER, MOMS FOR LIBERTY: If they ignore our input, we will vote them out.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At rallies and school board meetings across the country, heated debates on everything from masks to critical race theory to book banning are being hashed out.

JUSTICE: I think COVID has allowed all of America to see behind the education curtain.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): It turns out one of the driving forces behind many of those debates stems from a group founded by these two Florida moms, Tiffany Justice and Tina Deskovich, they launched Moms For Liberty in January, a group they say is designed to fight for parental rights in schools and in government.

JUSTICE: And so, we just thought we could take the skills that we have learned in the inside information that we learned about the public education system to help parents advocate more effectively.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The founders say the group is conservative but nonpartisan. Yet many of the issues they're fighting for align with beliefs of Republican lawmakers like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, including eliminating mask mandates in schools.

JUSTICE: I don't think there are --

SANTIAGO (on-camera): (INAUDIBLE) 520 counties, and they looked at schools that had mask mandates and didn't and it showed that the masks did work. There are multiple studies that show this happy to let you look at them if you would like they're right here. But when Moms For Liberty are going into the school board meetings to voice their frustration and citing things like masks don't work.

JUSTICE: Because they don't.

SANTIAGO (on-camera): That's not what the science shows.

JUSTICE: OK. I'm going to have to disagree with you on that.

Masks are not source control. They do not stop transmission.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But later, Deskovich did acknowledge that certain masks do work to a degree.

TINA DESKOVICH, CO-FOUNDER, MOMS FOR LIBERTY: I mean, we all know that N95 masks do have a level of protection.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Another CDC study in Arizona shows schools without mask mandates. We're about three and a half times more likely to have a COVID-19 outbreak over schools with a mask mandate.

Another big concern for Moms For Liberty, critical race theory. A concept typically taught in law school that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the U.S. The Moms For Liberty New Hampshire chapter offering a $500 bounty for anyone who turns in a teacher using CRT in the classroom. The governor of New Hampshire signed a law in June banning CRT in the K through 12 curriculum.

(on-camera): You support or do not support the $500 reward?

JUSTICE: Do I think it was the best way to handle this situation? Personally, probably not.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But ultimately they say they stand by the mom's fighting against CRT.

(on-camera): Where is this actually being taught?

DESKOVICH: Mecklenburg, North Carolina.


DESKOVICH: There's one, I mean, I hear in the news all the time. It's not being taught. It's not in K through 12 schools.

SANTIAGO (on-camera): I had a hard time finding it. Did you --

JUSTICE: I'll help you after this interview.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): We did follow up after the interview. They told us they'd get back to us today. We're still waiting.

But in a statement to CNN, the superintendent of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools told us quote, our schools do not teach and do not promote a doctrine of critical race theory.

JUSTICE: My name is Tiffany justice, and I represent Moms For Liberty.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): So what is Moms For Liberty's goal, a chapter in every school district showing up at every school board meeting across the country. And in 11 short months, they're on their way. They say they're now in more than 30 states with more than 160 chapters mobilizing 70,000 plus members.

(on-camera): Do you consider you got your organization a force to be reckoned with for the next election?



SANTIAGO (on-camera): Would you consider yourself a political machine?


SANTIAGO (voice-over): As for funding, they'll tell you T-shirt sales.

DESKOVICH: At this point, it's about half of our funding.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And small donations because their organization is so new tax records still are not available.

DESKOVICH: It's truly just organic word of mouth and some gentle marketing with the T-shirts.

SANTIAGO (on-camera): But word of mouth will only get you so far. Right? I mean, this does take money. Where does the money come from?

JUSTICE: What do you think we're spending money on?

SANTIAGO (on-camera): You tell me.

JUSTICE: I mean, you're saying this takes money. We're telling you that this is word of mouth.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): To meet the financial needs, the organization has been open about its need to raise money. They established three political action committees and at one of their major fundraising events sponsors included Florida Republicans running for office still they insist they're not pushing the Republican agenda rather a parent agenda, one that's against mask and vaccine mandates, as well as CRT.


CAPRI CAFARO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I liken it back to the growth of the Tea Party movement.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Political commentator Capri Cafaro.

CAFARO: It is possible that an organization like Moms For Liberty could have an impact on the midterm elections, and maybe even going into 2024 particularly because it is encapsulating in a very important demographic in the electorate, which, you know, are women and mothers.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Support Our Schools, a new group of parents in Florida called Moms For Liberty, a danger to democracy.

JULIE SCHOLLES, CO-FOUNDER, SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS: That disinformation that they have been putting out and the vitriol towards marginalized groups is a true danger to society because we need to, we need to work together.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The Moms For Liberty arguing they're not alone. It's an entire movement of parents organizing with eyes on Election Day.

JUSTICE: 2022 is going to be the year at the parent at the ballot box. So if legislators are watching this, hopefuls are watching this start paying attention to parents.


SANTIAGO: And Anderson, the Moms For Liberty are now joining other organizations, they recently joined forces with a new organization out of California that calls itself a coalition as they fight vaccine mandates in California. And if the issues that they raise are an indicator of where the conservatives will have their focus next, I should note that during our interview, they repeatedly brought up literacy rates in the United States. Anderson.

COOPER: Leyla Santiago, thanks very much.

It is a busy night and more breaking news a search warrant is issued for Alec Baldwin's phone nearly two months after the fatal shooting the "Rust" movie set. What investigators looking forward, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: There's breaking news on the investigation to the "Rust" movie set shooting. According to the Santa Fe New Mexico court documents a search warrant has been issued for Alec Baldwin cell phone. The warrant states that officials are looking to obtain messages call logs, photos, videos and social media messages in relation to the movies production, as well as any evidence relating to the death investigation or cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Earlier this month in an interview with ABC News, Baldwin, describe what he says happened the moment the gun went off.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I'm holding I'm sure well, how about that? Does that work? You see that? Do you see that? Is that she goes yes, that's good. I let go the hammer bang, the gun goes.

Everyone is horrified. They're shocked. It's loud. They don't have their earplugs, and no one was the gun was supposed to be empty. I was told I was handed an empty gun. As if they were cosmetic was nothing with a charge at all. A flash round, nothing. She goes down. I thought to myself that she faint. The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me to probably 45 minutes to an hour later.


COOPER: Joining us now criminal defense attorney Sara Azari. What are investigators looking for in these phone messages?

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, Anderson, good to be with you. They could be looking for everything that Alec Baldwin denied in that interview, right? That's what was my concern a few weeks ago, when we unpacked this interview. You know, the idea that he didn't pull the trigger, the idea that he doesn't have any knowledge of how the live ammunition ended up on site. You know, all of those things could be in communications he's had with other crew members and text messages and e-mails that they're looking for. And of course, you know, he knew that they're looking for this information, because right after the incident, when he was interviewed, they asked for consent to search his phone. And of course, he said, take a hike and come back with a warrant.

So, you know, it's unclear exactly what they're looking for Anderson, but I think, you know, of course, they're looking to see if he had knowledge of how the live ammunition ended up on set. And also, there might be an admission that he did pull the trigger, contrary to what he said in that interview.

COOPER: Why would (INAUDIBLE) say, you know, get out, you have to get a warrant in order to get the phone just for the inconvenience of turning -- to try to see if they aren't that serious about getting it? AZARI: I mean, no, you know, obviously, this is a person who carries exposure, both civilly and criminally. I mean, typically, I'm the girl that says, take a hike and get a warrant. But this is a different case, Anderson because there's inevitable discovery here, there are so many individuals involved, who may be cooperative with the police who have turned over their phones and communications. There's also the idea that the e-mails, for example, can be subpoenaed independently from the domain host companies like Google, like Microsoft Exchange, et cetera.

So, this is a little bit different. What I would have done would have said, look, you know, this is my clients phone, he's an actor, there's private information, contacts on this phone, you know, let's agree to a forensic expert who can go through a period of time that you're interested in, the types of information you're interested in, and we'll just extract those. But instead, he said, come back with a warrant, of course, they're going to get a warrant.

The bigger question, Anderson is why they took so long to get the warrant, because now there they've given him the opportunity to potentially delete some things, which is also a concern as I read in the affidavit to the warrant.

COOPER: I mean, is there a way to find out if somebody has deleted something? And what would you do if even if somebody had attempted to delete something? I mean, if there's no warn are they allowed to do that?

AZARI: Right? Well, he knew that this potentially his phone carries evidence and so he had that knowledge right after the incident, so anything that he's deleted after that that point in time is problematic especially if it can be proven that the content is material to this investigation and relevant to this investigation. So it really depends on when and what he deleted. But yes --


COOPER: We should your point out, there's no -- we know there's no information about any deletions at this point (INAUDIBLE) --

AZARI: Correct. Correct. But typically -- correct Anderson, but typically, you know, when they do a forensic search of the phone, they can tell that there's a deletion, what date the files were deleted, and potentially what types of files, where they photographs where they mess -- with their messages, emails, et cetera. E-mails are encrypted. So it's a different story.

But, you know, they can tell and if it can be later, if it pops up what those things were, and they are material to this investigation, given that he knew that that this evidence was something that authorities wanted. It's problematic for him.

COOPER: Yes, it could be helpful for him though, if it backs up what he has been saying but --

AZARI: One hundred percent. COOPER: -- (INAUDIBLE). Sara Azari, appreciate it. Thank you.

We'll be right back.

AZARI: Thanks, Anderson.



COOPER: You miss "360"? You can always listen to our podcast, go to or any of the major platforms and search for Anderson Cooper 360.

The news continues. Let's hand over Michael Smerconish in "CNN TONIGHT." Michael.