Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
January 6 Committee Asks McCarthy to Voluntarily Cooperate; C.D.C.; Interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Trump Finds Little Support Among Republicans For His Bid To Unseat McConnell From Senate Leadership; Ex-Girlfriend Of Rep. Matt Gaetz Testifies Before Federal Grand Jury; Federal Judge Rules Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against Prince Andrew Can Move Ahead; Soon: Djokovic's Visa Decision Expected From Australian Immigration Minister. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 12, 2022 - 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: The 65-year-old Saget was found dead in a Florida hotel room on Sunday. He had COVID in December according to a source, called any link to Saget's death quote, "speculative." A source also tells CNN Saget seemed healthy, wouldn't have traveled to Florida if he actually had felt sick.
Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with breaking news that is not only a major step in the January 6th investigation, but could also be a clear sign of where the House Select Committee is taking it.
The Committee late today asking the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to volunteer information about communications he had with the former President and the White House -- former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows on and around the day.
Now, McCarthy as you know could have volumes to say about what the former President was saying and thinking as violent supporters assaulted the Capitol.
He was on the phone with him begging him to call off the mob he incited, only to be answered with the following, quote: "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." That's according to a Republican Congresswoman who memorialized the exchange and notes at the time.
In its letter to McCarthy, the Committee cites the exchange and says it is seeking insight into the former President's state of mind. But another passage in their letter suggests that the panel could also be seeking evidence the former President may have broken the law by obstructing an official proceeding, and they want to know what McCarthy knows about it.
Quoting now: "For example, even after the riotous crowd ultimately dispersed late in the day on January 6th, then President Trump and his legal team continued to seek to delay or otherwise impede the electoral count."
"The Select Committee wishes to question you regarding communications you may have had with President Trump, President Trump's legal team, Representative Jordan and others at the time on that topic."
The letter also signals interest in a topic that got considerable play at several points in the former President's time in office, namely his mental competence to hold office. Quoting again: "It appears that you may also have discussed with President Trump the potential he would face a censure resolution, impeachment, or removal under the 25th Amendment.
It also appears that you may have identified other possible options including President Trump's immediate resignation from office.
So there is much more of course, and we'll talk about it shortly along with the likelihood or little likelihood he'll cooperate. Here is what he told CNN's Manu Raju about it in May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you be willing to testify about your conversation with Donald Trump on January 6th, if you were asked by an outside commission?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Sure. Next question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that was then. As you know, he would later go on to torpedo a bipartisan commission, tell members to boycott the current one and strip Committee member, Liz Cheney of her leadership post.
As you also know, Congressman McCarthy has said plenty in the past, and then slunk away from it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.
These facts require immediate action for President Trump, except to share responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President- elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that was Kevin McCarthy of January 13th talking about the man who sicced the mob on him, his members, his staff and his workplace, a man who then refused to call them off.
And here is Kevin McCarthy, just two weeks later, posing and grinning with the man who might have gotten him killed. The question is, which version will the Committee get now that they've given him the opportunity to come clean? More now from CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez who starts
us off. What is the Committee's most -- what are they most interested in learning from McCarthy, do you think?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think you read some of the parts of this letter, which really go to the committee's pursuit of, you know, the frame of mind that the former President had in those days leading up to January 6th, and thereafter. It is clear, they have information and they make reference to the fact that they have information from other witnesses, including text messages, which shed some light on what appears to be a collapse of the President's perhaps, you know, wellness in office in those days.
And so one of the things that the letter says is that they know that McCarthy spoke to the President multiple times, not only January 6, but in those days and would have information not only about his frame of mind, his wellbeing, and whether or not, you know, people around him were considering removing him from office because of concern that he was not well.
And so that's what you see in this letter. And as you pointed out, McCarthy has been extraordinarily close to the President, especially during those days. He was calling for the President to intervene and he clearly had some very vivid reactions to what happened on January 6th, at least at the beginning.
COOPER: Has McCarthy or his office had a response to any of this?
PEREZ: They have not. He is the third Republican member to be asked for voluntary cooperation by this Committee. Jim Jordan and Scott Peterson are the others, both of those others have said that they're not likely to provide anything.
And as you pointed out, I think McCarthy is probably going to take that same route, given the fact that he has already told the other Republican members to ignore what his Committee is doing.
COOPER: Yes, Evan Perez, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; also, CNN contributor, former House impeachment counsel and former Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen.
Gloria, the letter, I mean, what do you make of it? It really did seem to lay out where the Committee is headed with the investigation, as we mentioned, the former President's state of mind and his intent.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it really does provide a roadmap. It tells the story of where the Committee is going to go. I don't think it is a coincidence that the Committee mentions in this letter the President's state of mind, three times, because they want to find out from McCarthy what the President's intent was before, during, and after the insurrection. And they believe, of course, that McCarthy, having had all these
conversations with the President, with his staff, can shed some light on it. But there's another bread crumb in this letter that I don't think we should overlook, and that is over the question of obstruction.
The letter asks, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you -- meaning McCarthy -- should say publicly, either during impeachment, or any investigation about January 6th.
So, is that -- are they leading towards obstruction? Are they leading towards witness tampering? You have a good lawyer right over here. Maybe we can ask him, but I think this is another important thing that the Committee is investigating -- intent and obstruction.
COOPER: Norm, what jumped out to you?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, well, I do think that the focus is on 18 USC 1512, Anderson. I agree with Gloria. It is emerging as -- and that is obstruction of Congress.
Look, it has already been charged against the lower level insurrectionists. Why shouldn't the insurrectionist in chief, former President Donald Trump, get a very, very hard look at whether he intentionally obstructed Congress in whipping the crowd into a frenzy on January 6th, and then this is where Kevin McCarthy comes in.
In doing nothing to make an appropriate statement for 187 minutes, reportedly, he told McCarthy when McCarthy begged him in that period, Anderson. He said, "Well, it looks like the rioters are more upset than you are, Kevin." Words to that effect.
So that could establish the grounds for criminal referral, the Committee has been talking about that against the President, and then afterwards as well, continued efforts and McCarthy voted against certifying the legitimate electors chosen by the American people.
So there is plenty for the Committee to learn from him. Whether he cooperates is another question.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, Gloria. I mean, do you see under any circumstances him cooperating?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't. You know, McCarthy has now led the charge against this Committee because Nancy Pelosi did not put, for example, Jim Jordan, on the Committee, who has now been asked to testify, as we know.
So, he is going to call it partisan. He's going to say, you know, I've already told you everything I have to say. There is nothing -- there is nothing left to say.
I mean, we're obviously going to wait to hear from his office. Also, politically, I might add, it wouldn't do him any favors if he wants to be the next Speaker of the House, if the Republicans gain the majority to cooperate with this Committee. So Donald Trump wouldn't like that very much, and I think it's very,
very unlikely that he would cooperate.
COOPER: So Norm, I mean, knowing that he is -- you know, again, the chances of him cooperating are slim. Why would the committee even ask? Is it just to kind of have on the record that he declined?
EISEN: Well, Anderson, we often go through this in congressional investigations, and we did when I worked on the first impeachment of Donald Trump.
There are some witnesses that you must make an effort to get, and McCarthy is so central to this. We already have a lot of information. I'm sure that Committee in their letter, they have alluded to this, has more information, corroborating what McCarthy knows about the President's possible intent to obstruct Congress, a Federal crime.
So they've got to make an effort whether they pursue him to the ends of the Earth with criminal contempt as they've done with Steve Bannon successfully so far. He is being prosecuted. We'll see if he is convicted.
Well, I doubt they'll go that far with McCarthy.
COOPER: But Norm, I mean, it is pretty stunning, you know, if the top ranking Republican in the House of Representatives does not fully cooperate with a duly impaneled investigative committee, I mean, you know, we're now also used to this that it is worth stepping back and just pointing out.
I mean, that's really extraordinary, and the whole argument is about, well, it is politicized. If, even if it was politicized, what's wrong with turning over information to a duly impaneled investigative committee? You can say, you're not happy with what the panel did with it, but it is kind of extraordinary.
EISEN: It's the rod of Trumpism, Anderson. It is extended beyond the Trump administration.
Kevin McCarthy, I didn't always agree with him on policies, but he used to be a respectable figure. I worked with him when I was an Ambassador.
This is reprehensible.
Anderson, think about it. This was an attack on the government of which he is one of the most senior officials on the actual building in which he works, and that is being investigated by the institution in which he is the House of Representatives, the highest ranking Republican.
It's an utter contempt for the rule of law, for accountability for his constitutional duty, and his silence if he refuses to cooperate goes back on what he told Manu Raju. His silence will speak louder than words, and that is, by itself powerful. That's why they're going after.
COOPER: Yes, Gloria, I mean, the timetable on all this, obviously, you know, there is a clock ticking.
BORGER: Yes, and look, the Committee is very much aware of this. You know, they've interviewed hundreds of people, but they have to wait for a lot of things.
They have to wait to see, does this Justice Department, for example, pursue contempt against Mark Meadows? Does the Supreme Court -- what does the Supreme Court say about privilege?
The archival material they're seeking is in litigation. So they also have a bunch of outside forces that they have to deal with. I think they're working as fast as they can, but I do think they're really aware of the clock. They want to get this done, which is why we see letters like this, because they are letting us know where they are in their investigation and I think we can expect some hearings somewhere down the line.
COOPER: Gloria, appreciate it. Gloria Borger, Norm Eisen as well, thank you.
Now more breaking news on how far Team Trump went to make it appear they won the election, surreal length as it happens. In any case, phony.
CNN's Sara Murray has details. So what are you learning about what Trump allies did in the weeks after the election?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, there were Trump allies in seven states that Donald Trump lost, places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, who decided they were just going to come up with fake certificates, and they were going to submit those to the National Archives, and those fake certificates say that Donald Trump was actually the winner of those states that he lost.
Now, the watchdog group, American Oversight, found these documents, and essentially, what these folks were doing is they were trying to mimic an official process that is part of the Electoral College.
You know, what happens is a Governor signs a letter essentially saying, Joe Biden won our state. They submit that letter to the National Archives. The National Archives later submits that letter to Congress. So they have it for the official counting of the electoral votes on January 6th.
Apparently, the Trump allies thought they could just submit their own certificates and that would be fine.
COOPER: And these fake certificates would serve no legitimate electoral purpose since they had no signatures.
MURRAY: They did not. You know, they are not signed by a Governor or they're not signed by a Secretary of State. Officials that are involved in the election process were not behind these efforts. This was coming at a time though, where, you know, you have to
remember Donald Trump was trying to hold on to power. He was calling Governors. He was saying, "Don't certify the elections." And he had people who were around him saying, you know, states could seat this alternate slate of electors, obviously, that's extremely constitutionally questionable. That's not what happened, but it seems to be what some of these Trump allies were getting at.
What they actually got was a public relations stunt.
COOPER: Wow. It's like diplomas from Trump University.
MURRAY: Like me writing on this paper that Anderson Cooper is the President won Michigan.
COOPER: Amazing. Sara Murray, thank you.
Coming up next, with the country bracing for peak omicron and the C.D.C. is still trying to get its message straight on what kind of mask people should wear, we'll talk with Senator Bernie Sanders about his plan for getting the best protection to most people.
Later, the former President's latest hang up, what he said in his latest interview about 2024 and why he dropped the line almost on that question.
COOPER: Despite early signs today that the omicron surge could be peaking in a number of states which got hit early with it, the country as a whole is still getting hammered.
Late today, the C.D.C. predicted it is about to get worse. The agency's latest ensemble forecast now anticipates more than 62,000 more Americans will die over the next four weeks. In other words, deaths now averaging about 1,700 a day could hit more than 2,600, and hospitalizations already at a peak are expected to climb even higher.
Meantime, in the face of a strain that has shown itself to be far easier to transmit than other variants, the C.D.C. today said that the expected updated advice on mask while offering for now at least more of the same.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: The C.D.C. continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask and we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that recommendation is not going to change.
We are preparing an update to the information on our mask website to best reflect the options that are available to people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the White House is now said to be exploring options for distributing higher quality masks to the public.
Joining us, someone with his own ideas on the matter, Vermont Independent Senator and Budget Committee Chairman, Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders, thanks for being with us. Can you just lay out exactly what you are proposing in this mask legislation?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, look, here's a simple fact. This is a mask. This is a mask. But these are very different masks in terms of their effectiveness. This is an N95 mask. This is just a mask that most people use.
The truth of the matter is, is a mask is not a mask? An N95 mask is far, far more effective in protecting the individual and also stopping the spread of the virus to other individuals.
And we are going to -- we have introduced legislation with 15 co- sponsors, which would make sure that N95 masks are distributed to every household in America free of charge.
We can save lives, save money if we make sure that all of our people have the best quality masks available, and that's what we're trying to do.
COOPER: There's usually -- you know, there's a limit on how long one mask should be worn even with an N95 masks. How -- are you talking about sending one mask to each house?
SANDERS: No, no. It would be more than one mask, but it'll be at least a half a dozen masks. But you know, it's also not only getting the masks into people's homes, it is to educating people about the need to wear good quality masks.
COOPER: When you have Republican colleagues like Senator Rand Paul who is a medical doctor by all reports, attacking Dr. Fauci and fundraising off of him in the middle of the pandemic, what does that say about the hostility in the Senate with regards to COVID?
SANDERS: Well, it says that it is quite unbelievable that at a time when we face one of the great public health crises in modern times, that you have members of the Senate instead of trying to figure out how we protect the American people and masks are not the only thing that we can do, they are attacking scientists and doctors who are working overtime, trying to help us address this crisis.
And to raise money off of those attacks is beyond the pale.
COOPER: Do you think the administration and the C.D.C. is being clear enough with the public when it comes to which type of masks people should be wearing right now? SANDERS: No, I don't, I don't, and I disagree with what Dr. Walensky
just said. Of course, we want everybody to wear a mask, and the people for whatever reason don't want to wear an N95 mask fine, then wear something else.
But the simple fact is that a whole lot of people don't know that an N95 masks is far superior and more effective in protecting the individual and spreading the virus than a common mask.
So we've got to get that word out. We have to educate. Now, if people don't want to wear that N95, fine, then don't. But we should at least educate people and make those masks available. It will save lives and save money.
But you know, Anderson, it is not the only thing that we have got to do. You know, we've got to continue to work on making sure that we have as many people vaccinated as possible. We've got to make sure that our schools are safe with the kind of ventilation systems that can keep classrooms healthy.
We need to make sure that the new therapies that are out there, so that when people come down with COVID, they can get the treatment, perhaps in a pill form that they need.
Pfizer has done some good work on this. We've got to get distribute that as widely as possible. We need to do more research and development to develop something like a universal vaccine for whatever may be come down the pike.
We are facing a major, major crisis and instead of attacking scientists, what we've got to do is all work together to figure out how we can make the American people as safe as we possibly can.
COOPER: I mean, do you think there is anything that could happen to the United States that the country would rally together as it did during World War II, as it did after 9/11? I mean, do you think there is something -- I don't -- I mean, I'm not wanting something bad to happen, but I just -- I worry about our ability to pull together?
SANDERS: Well, Anderson, I think that's a very important point, and what I would say, look, if you're watching this and you are tired of COVID, you're frustrated with COVID, you're frightened about COVID, people in your family are coming down with COVID. You can't go to work, your kids can't go to school, your kids are not getting the education they need, hey, you're not alone.
That is how the American people are feeling in general, not only America, that's how people all over the world are feeling. But is -- you know, I think you intimated this terrible crisis that we're facing, it is real. You know, people shouldn't think they're the only one who are depressed or feeling anxious about the moment. This is a terrible, terrible time.
But to throw our hands up in despair or to attack everybody is not going to solve the problem. We've got to -- all of us -- you know, I'm just thinking back, you mentioned World War II and people should remember some people do that in 1942, Hitler was on the march, Japanese Imperialism was on the march.
SANDERS: Two years later, that whole war was over. We turned that around. We can do the same with this.
We've got climate change out there. We've got people attacking American democracy. We've got a lot of problems. But let us work together to get out of this very serious moment in American history. And if we do, I think we can.
COOPER: Briefly, I just want to ask you about some other Senate business.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell railed today against President Biden's speech in Georgia. The President was pushing for the Senate to change its filibuster rules to pass voting rights legislation, compared lawmakers to segregationists. Just for our viewers, I want to play some of what McConnell said and then ask you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): To demonize Americans who disagree with him, he compared -- and listen to this, a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors.
How profoundly, profoundly un-presidential.
The President's rant -- rant -- yesterday was incoherent, incorrect, and beneath his office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What do you make of that? I mean, given his silence during the Trump administration.
SANDERS: Well, I tell you what is beneath one's office, and that is to have senators like McConnell, apologists for Republican governors and legislatures all over this country who are with surgical precision, trying to suppress the vote, coming up with extreme gerrymandering, working on legislation, which will take away the rights of independent election officials and given the partisan Republican majorities.
There is a massive effort right now, worst in modern American history, to undermine the very foundations of American democracy, and that is all built on the big lie that Trump really won the election in 2020. Absolutely fictitious, but that's what Republicans are peddling right now.
And it is absolutely imperative that every member of the Democratic caucus, all 50 of us, plus the Vice President, vote to pass the Freedom to Vote Act to overturn this outrageous anti-democratic action that is taking place in numerous states all over this country. COOPER: Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you
SANDERS: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, what prompted the former President to hang up on a reporter during an interview? It didn't seem he didn't want to be asked about a particular question. We'll see what exactly went on.
Plus, new developments on the grand jury investigation into alleged sex trafficking by Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz who testified today, ahead.
COOPER: For those who know and have reported on the former president for years are split on whether he'll run again in 2024. Now, the only person who truly knows his thinking has weighed in. In an interview airing today on National Public Radio he took aim at one of his potential opponents Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Also add Republicans who've been speaking out against the big lie. In fact, in his phone interview with NPR, Steve Inskeep the man from Mar-a-Lago said it's an advantage to keep talking about 2020, even as he continued spreading more lies about it. That is until he was confronted with 120 facts and hung up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE INSKEEP, JOURNALIST: Why is it that you think that the vast majority of your allies in the United States Senate are not standing behind you? We did have that statement by Mike Rounds?
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Because Mitch McConnell is a loser. And frankly, Mitch McConnell, if he were on the other side, and if humor were put in his position, he would have been fighting this like you've never seen before. He would have been fighting this, because when you look at it, and this is long is a long way from over. People have no idea how big this issue is that they don't want it to happen again.
INSKEEP: I want to --
TRUMP: And the only way it's not going to happen again, is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.
INSKEEP: Mr. President --
TRUMP: So Steve, thank you very much --
INSKEEP: -- if I -- one more question I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on January 6, Judge Amit Mehta, he's gone. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Joining us CNN political analyst and New York Times Washington correspondent, longtime Trump authority, I guess we could say Maggie Haberman. Maggie, thanks for joining us. You heard the interview this morning. I'm wondering what your takeaway was.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: My takeaway is that it actually felt and I think that Kaitlan Collins made this point on last night's show, it sounded very familiar to what we saw in the briefing room or at press conferences with former President Trump over the course of four years. And then the campaign before that he tries to set the agenda, he tries to say what he wants. In this case, he clearly wants to keep spreading his lies about the 2020 election and name call any Republican who challenges him.
What is interesting is he does not want to talk about January 6, and you can see that he wants to talk about the election. He doesn't want to talk about what happened that day.
COOPER: I want to play a portion of the interview with foreign presidents defends his focus on 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INSKEEP: Is it a disadvantage for Republicans to keep talking about the 2020 election in 2022?
TRUMP: No, I think it's an advantage because otherwise, they're going to do it again in '22 and '24.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, what's remarkable when you think about it is other than talking about the spreading the lies about 2020. If he does plan to run again, for President, I mean, what is the health care policy? What is his take on education policy? I mean, there's no policies being discussed. There's no issues being discussed, other than him talking to any diner who, you know, will listen in Mar-a-Lago about his lies about the election.
HABERMAN: Now, that's exactly right Anderson and look, this is frankly, very similar to 2020 when he was running for reelection, and he couldn't articulate what he wanted to do with another term. He is not articulating anything, not just about the future, and not just about policy, but about anything next to the American voter and what they will be voting on. Yes, there's a segment of his voters who will vote on this issue, but they were probably going to vote for him anyway.
This was his problem over the course of four years and its part of why he lost is that he was never at all concerned about growing his base of support. He was concerned about retaining what he had and that all you do is shrink it. This is not 2020 is not a driving issue for the majority of voters.
And so he could almost certainly went to Republican primary talking about this. It's hard to see how he casts this further (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: And since Republican Senator Mike Brown said that he accepts the results of the 2020 elections. We've seen other GOP senators Mitch McConnell, John Thune, Kevin Cramer, among others, support him. Why do you think they're willing to -- I mean I don't know, if they're really standing up to the foreign president, or at least, on this issue, at least just stating a fact?
HABERMAN: I think in my grounds his case, I think that he is in a safe seat right now. And he doesn't have to worry about an election. So he is able to say what I have to assume he believes. I think that in the case of other senators, there are some who are up for reelection. There are some who genuinely like the former president, and don't want to talk about this. And then there are people as we've seen, like, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who has clearly decided he's not going to give any attention to Trump neither negative or positive. The problem is ignoring Trump doesn't work either.
So, you know, I think that rounds is maybe among a slow growing chorus, but we're going to see how that plays out. Because at the end of the day, many of these senators still do fear him.
COOPER: What do you ask, but I mean, I'm sure you're asked everywhere you go. Do you think the former president will run? Well, what's your response?
HABERMAN: Might meet on my personal, you know, ohmmeter today is that I assume that he's going to run, he's certainly doing everything that one would do to run. But what's interesting Anderson is he's very focused on Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida in particular, there are a bunch of Republicans who have not told him that they won't run if he does, that they've just sort of left it open. In the case of DeSantis, Trump has been complaining to people that DeSantis won't say that he's not going to challenge him. That really bothers him. DeSantis. You know, there's no question that DeSantis would not have run as one is raised in 201 without Trump's help, but DeSantis has been really unwilling to sort of be the kind of subsidiary of Trump that other candidates and politicians have turned themselves into. And I think Trump is struggling with that.
So, I think that's what that conversation is about. I don't see why he wouldn't run. But you know, it's a while away.
COOPER: We played it earlier, another swipe from the former president, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. I mean, we've seen these attacks oppositely. For a long time, there's been very little traction when it comes to these demands to remove McConnell from leadership. Why would the former president keep -- I mean, I guess he just pushing this because what else is going to talk about? I mean, this is just (INAUDIBLE) --
HABERMAN: Yes, I don't think it's strategic. I don't think it's strategic Anderson. I mean, I hear an enormous amount of frustration from a lot of people in conversations with Trump for infrequent conversations with him, that he won't move off of these attacks that they consider counterproductive, even the people, you know, who share his antipathy at McConnell, and there are some, but they don't think that this is helping him. They don't think that this is a way to go forward. This isn't a strategy. This isn't a tactic. This is just something he wants to talk about.
COOPER: Maggie Haberman, appreciate it. Thank you.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
COOPER: In Orlando, Florida an ex-girlfriend Congressman Matt Gaetz testified today before federal grand jury investigating him for alleged sex trafficking. Republican denies any wrongdoing, has not been charged with any crimes.
CNN's Paula Reid joins us now with more. So, what does it tell us about the status of this investigation to the Congressman?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson this is a significant development in the ongoing investigation into alleged sex trafficking by Congressman Gaetz. And well, this is a reminder the investigation no matter what he says it's active. It's ongoing, and it could be nearing a conclusion.
Now today's witness, as you noted, was an ex-girlfriend of Gaetz's and she is seen as a key witness. She testified before the grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Orlando today. And Anderson, I want to be clear, this is not the woman who was just 17 when sources say she allegedly had sexual contact with a congressman and several of his associates. This woman is a former Capitol Hill staffer. She was linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017. And that's significant because investigators are interested in that time period because that is when he is accused of having sex with that underage girl.
Now, investigators are not only looking at whether he may have been engaged in sex with that girl, they're also looking at whether he was involved in sex trafficking, and whether he or any of his associates had tried to interfere in the federal investigation into these alleged crimes. Now let's look at the timeline here. The investigation began and Gaetz began in around the summer of 2020 under then Attorney General Bill Barr, and what started out as an investigation into these allegations of possible sex of the minor expanded to include other potential crimes, including whether Gaetz tried to obstruct the federal investigation.
And CNN is previously reported, federal investigators have evidence that Gaetz and one of his associates wanted to talk to this ex- girlfriend in the fall of 2020. So this is shortly after the investigation was opened after Gaetz had retained an attorney. So investigators Anderson, they're likely going to want to know what did Gaetz and associate want to talk to her about. What she pressured not to be truthful. Did she pressure anyone else not to be truthful, and whether she has any other evidence of criminal activity?
COOPER: And how is the Congressman responding?
[20:40:02] REID: It's interesting to be watched watch this shift in tone from his team today. Obviously he's not been charged with any wrongdoing. But in a statement today, his lawyer said, quote, we have seen no credible basis for a charge against Congressman Gaetz. We remain steadfast in our commitment to challenge any allegations, with the facts in the law. And it's a real shift in tone from his camp, which has historically just dismissed or mock to this investigation.
But the woman we saw today, heading in testified before the grand jury, Anderson based on what sources have told me she could be a star witness in any potential trial. And legal experts say this is the kind of step that you take before you charge someone and look at signals that the Justice Department could be moving closer to an indictment. But of course, any criminal charges against a sitting member of Congress would have to be approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department. And of course, this is not an attorney general known for making decisions quickly without a thorough review.
COOPER: Yes. Paula Reid, appreciate it. Thank you.
The federal judge handed down a ruling today that could lead to a British royal standing trial here in the United States. CNN's Max Foster has the new details on Prince Andrew's sex abuse lawsuit, next.
COOPER: Prince Andrew can now face a civil trial here in the United States after judge refused to dismiss a sexual assault lawsuit against him today. The British Royal and third child of Queen Elizabeth is set to come up against a series of legal proceedings could have major ramifications for Buckingham Palace.
CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster has the story.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prince Andrew's accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre says the British Prince first raped her in 2001. She says Andrew knew she was 17 at the time, and he was one of several men she was being trafficked to by now notorious late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Giuffre alleges she met Andrew at the London town home of Epstein's longtime girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, where he first abused her. The Prince claims he took his daughter to a pizza party that night, denying any encounter with Giuffre.
PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady.
FOSTER (voice-over): Then in 2010, two years after Epstein was convicted of two state prostitution charges in Florida, the Prince seen walking with a now registered sex offender in New York Central Park. Soon, negative publicity about the prints and Epstein's relationship begin to circulate. The next year, another controversial image, this one of Andrew with his arm around his accuser, Virginia Giuffre allegedly taken at Ghislaine Maxwell's home in 2001. Andrew who suggested the photo could be fake.
PRINCE ANDREW: Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored. But I don't recollect that photograph ever been taken.
FOSTER (voice-over): Between 2014 and 2015, Giuffre alleges that in the past, Andrew sexually abused her at Epstein's private islands at Epstein's mansion in New York, and at Epstein's girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell's home in London. Buckingham Palace responded that it is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre.
In 2019, Giuffre repeats her claims on television.
VIRGINIA GIUFFRE, PRINCE ANDREW ACCUSER: He knows what happened. I know what happened. And there's only one of us telling the truth. And I know that's me.
FOSTER (voice-over): That same year, Epstein dies by suicide in his jail cell as he awaits trial for federal sex trafficking charges. Then in December, his former girlfriend was convicted of sex trafficking and other crimes related to Epstein's abuse scheme.
Now, a judge says the civil suit brought against Andrew can continue after the Prince's lawyers had tried to get it thrown out. But the ruling doesn't determine the facts or validity of the case. If it's not settled, the British Royal could face trial between September and December of this year.
FOSTER: There are no good options here, Andrew, for -- Anderson for Prince Andrew here. He either does nothing that goes through default guilty judgment potentially leaving that stain on him and on the wider royal family or engages with the process and all of that detail that embarrassing detail that have come out during discovery, and potentially depositions, long depositions involving the prints drawing in other members of the royal family. Again, that's not ideal at all for the family in a year when they're meant to be celebrating the Queen's 70 years on the throne.
So the other option, the least worst option is trying to come up with some sort of settlement with Giuffre. But how does Prince Andrew pay for that? Does he ask the Queen to contribute dragging her into it? Also, it does imply some sort of wrongdoing there and acceptance of it there.
And who knows if we'll even be able to reach a settlement with Giuffre. This was her statement from a team today saying, this was an important step in Virginia's heroic and determined pursuit of justice in a -- as a survivor of sex trafficking. And that doesn't sound like someone that wants to settle. That sounds like someone who wants her day in court. So even that least worst option of settlement might not be available to Prince Andrew.
COOPER: Yes. Max Foster, I appreciate your pointing. Thank you.
In just moments we could learn the fate of tennis star Novak Djokovic is Australia's Immigration Minister considers canceling his visa. A live report from Melbourne, next.
COOPER: In just moments, we're expecting a decision on whether tennis star Novak Djokovic can stay in Australia and play in the Australian Open. Country's immigration minister has been considering canceling his visa saying a prior COVID infection in the last six months is not a valid exemption for vaccination. It also comes amid controversy after he admitted he didn't immediately isolate after positive COVID test in December, which was the basis for his vaccine exemption.
Host of the No Challenges Remaining Podcast and senior editor for Racquet Magazine, Ben Rothenberg joins us now.
So Ben, thanks for being with us. As we wait for this decision from immigration authorities, could you just lay out some of the timeline as we know it now, namely what was Djokovic doing on December 16 when he says he tested positive and in the days of followed?
BEN ROTHENBERG, SENIOR EDITOR, RACQUET MAGAZINE: Right for sure, Anderson. So, on December 16. That was the day according to a submissions in his court filings to appeal this ruling that he got a PCR test, showing that he was positive for the coronavirus. He both was administered the test and got back a result theoretically seven days later, or sorry seven hours later. Djokovic said that he did not know about the result until days later a day later. Basically he said he only learned about it after he appeared at an event at his Tennis Center getting trophies to a bunch of children, indoors and unmask. But he says he did know about it before he still decided to conduct an interview with the French newspaper L'Equipe into a photoshoot with them with a trophy they were awarding him for sportsman of the year.
So he's saying he willingly knowingly went to an engagement while knowingly COVID Positive without informing the journalist or photographer about this. So this is raising, you know, even more criticism. Obviously if its whole handling of the pandemic and safety concerns there Anderson.
COOPER: Wow, that's pretty stunning. What's the expectation of how immigration authorities might rule? I mean is there any sense?
ROTHENBERG: They're certainly building a case against. It seems like after losing this initial appeal on procedural grounds they're taking their time a bit, they're not so worried about the impending arrival of the Australian Open and just really trying to build a case and cross every T-dot every I. There certainly is a lot of evidence stacking against Djokovic now, and he still doesn't meet the criteria the federal government laid out for vaccination exemptions. This idea of a recent positive tests is not supposed to be enough to get you into the country unvaccinated.
So we still very much in a sort of purgatorial sort of Damocles moment here waiting for this ruling from the Immigration Minister.
COOPER: Yes, we'll be watching. Ben Rothenberg, really appreciate it. Thank you. We'll be right back.
ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" our digital news show that gives us a chance to dig in some important topics and have an in- depth conversations. You catch at streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at cnn.com/full circle or watch it there and on the CNN app at anytime On Demand.
News continues right now. Let's hand it over to Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.