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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Senate Poised To Decide On Key Voting Legislation; Supreme Court Clears The Way For House To Get Trump White House Documents; SEC Investigating Sen. Burr, Brother-In-Law For Stock Trades After Senator Had Briefings On Covid In Early Days Of Pandemic; Senate Deciding Now On Key Voting Legislation; Douthat: "Let's Not Invent A Civil War." Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 19, 2022 - 20:00   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are not sure now how deep or how long this current wave is, or whether another one's on the horizon -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Miguel, thank you very much -- from Lexington tonight.

Thanks very much to all of you for joining us around the world. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Tonight, a President on the defensive tries to regain the initiative and a former President's battle to keep his White House documents away from the January 6 Committee ends in defeat at the Supreme Court.

That is in addition to the current President's voting legislation on the line, but expected to fail just moments from now in the Senate, which is taking it up as we speak.

So there are a lot of things in play right now, and the President went into his part of it with his job approval number 13 points underwater. More people disapproving by 13 points, 54 percent to 41 percent approving the job that he is doing in CNN's latest poll of polls.

It is a low outmatched in modern times only by the former President. The figure reflects his decisions on COVID, shortages, inflation and more broadly speaking, it speaks to a question President Biden was asked this evening when he spoke to reporters in the East Room, does he now after a year on the job, think he over promised in what he could accomplish when taking office.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact of the matter is that we are in a situation where we have made enormous progress -- you mentioned the number of deaths from COVID. Well, it was three times that not long ago. It's coming down, everything is changing. It's getting better. I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to

make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn't get anything done. Think about this. What are Republicans for? What are they for?

Name me one thing they are for.


COOPER: Well, the President came back to that theme over and over again, hitting Republicans on what he says is their lack of policy or vision, beyond just standing in his way. He did acknowledge that his signature Build Back Better legislation was unlikely to pass as is, but he was optimistic it seems about getting major pieces of it done this year.

As for the package of voting reforms on the line tonight, he expressed hope of salvaging major portions of it as well and express confidence in his point person on it.


QUESTION: You put Vice President Harris in charge of voting rights. Are you satisfied with her work on this issue? And can you guarantee, do you commit that she will be your running mate in 2024 provided that you run again?

BIDEN: Yes and yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you care to expand?

BIDEN: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Do you care to expand?

BIDEN: No, there is no need to. I mean, I asked the question, is she going to be my running mate, number one. And number two, I did put her in charge, I think she is doing a good job.


COOPER: The President also made news on the Ukraine crisis with a series of remarks aimed at showing Western solidarity in the face of a Russian invasion, but also raising serious questions in Kiev about the portion of this answer.


BIDEN: I think what you're going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It is one thing if it is a minor incursion, and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera, but if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the force amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine and that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, the White House is trying to clean up those remarks and a Ukrainian official tells CNN's Matthew Chance, he is shocked by Biden's comments saying they give quote "The greenlight to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure." We'll talk about that tonight.

We'll also talk about the inconvenient fact for a President on the ropes in a midterm election year that as he was talking to reporters, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was on the Senate floor defending his decision to buck the leader of his own party on the filibuster. You see the sign there behind him, a poster reading, "The United States Senate has never been able to end debate with simple majority."


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WY): Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on a fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart.

Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out.


COOPER: Well, it certainly is not making it easy on the President tonight. We will be joined shortly by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

With us now, CNN senior political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, co-anchor of the "State of the Union" and also Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS" here on CNN.

Dana, what are you hearing from your source about how the President did? How they think the President did and how Democrats are feeling tonight?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, people I checked in with just when it comes to the political calendar are some House Democrats, those who are in the most competitive seats and the word I had back was a couple of things.


Number one, they were happy that he was open to the notion of breaking up his massive spending bill that is stuck in the Senate and doing so piecemeal, which he revealed today in his press conference, because it shows a willingness to change in order to get things done.

And just on the performance part of it, the fact that he spoke for almost two hours, I was getting texts during the press conference from some political operatives saying make it stop.

But from another political perspective, it was -- the response I got was, well, it shows that he has stamina, which is -- which is a big deal for a lot of Democrats right now who are hearing from their constituents, a bit of concern, and that was no question.

In fact, I know from talking to people at the White House, Anderson that was one of the reasons they let him go. He looked like he was willing to do it and they were eager to show that he could.

COOPER: I'm putting that aside, Fareed, just in terms of what the President actually said, how big of a problem is the President's comparison of a Russian invasion of Ukraine versus what he called a minor incursion of Ukraine by Russia.

And now, the Biden administration now saying, well, he was referring to what -- and this is a quote, "To the difference between military and non-military paramilitary and cyber-action." I mean, that's -- with the stakes this high, I would think you'd be specific if that's what he actually meant, no?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Yes, I think he freelanced a little there, and I think it was not helpful. But I think what he was trying to signal Anderson is what most people are expecting is not, you know, a kind of Russian blitzkrieg across Ukraine ala World War II.

What is the most likely scenario is that the Russians will use some kind of hybrid warfare, foment a crisis in Eastern Ukraine where remember, they have a lot of Russian irregulars, Russian troops in civilian plainclothes, uniform or you know, not uniform force the Ukrainian government to have to try to assert control, and then the Russians will come in in some kind of manner to support.

So it's a fairly complex reality, and I think he was trying to convey that, look, there is going to be some kind of incursion, but it doesn't mean it's an outright invasion, and all of them are bad.

You know, so it is a very delicate game he has to play because you don't want to draw such a definitive line saying we will respond in this way because you know, that that is itself -- you are then in danger of being called on.

There's a wonderful line in International Relations Theory, which says, there are two things very expensive in international life, threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed. So be very careful what your threat is and what your promise is because you could be called on it.

COOPER: You know, this Ukrainian official who talked to CNN's Matthew Chance saying or expressed his opinion CNN's Matthew Chance is saying, you know, that he gave a greenlight to Vladimir Putin. Do you believe he did?

ZAKARIA: No, I think that's absurd. And I think, look, you have to remember Ukraine has its own politics, they have their own, you know, situation and the Ukrainian leader himself is somewhat, you know, by every account, a volatile character.

I think what Biden is trying to convey is the complexity of this challenge. Let's say, Ukrainians who speak Russian in Eastern Ukraine who are allied with Russia, do something provocative. The Russians in some ways short of an invasion supporting, what Biden is trying to convey is that is still bad. That is still a Russian incursion into Ukraine. That is still a Russian violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.

COOPER: Nia, as we mentioned, the President said he had to be more realistic about his domestic agenda. I want to play a little bit of what he said about the fate of the so-called Build Back Better legislation. Take a look.


BIDEN: It's clear to me that that we're going to have to probably break it up. I think that we can get -- and I've been talking to a number of my colleagues on the Hill, I think it's clear that we would be able to get support for the for the $500-plus billion for energy and the environmental issues that are there, number one.

Number two, I know that the two people who opposed on the Democratic side of least, support a number of things that are in there. For example, Joe Manchin strongly supports early education.



COOPER: How big of a concession was that for him?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Listen, it was a big concession. I think a lot of Democrats are saying, what took you so long? Because if you remember, the last few months, they've been wrangling or trying to get this Build Back Better infrastructure plan passed without much success. And Joe Manchin has always been a roadblock and very vocal about some of the problems that he had with the size and scope of the bill.

So months after wrangling with Joe Manchin, here he comes now to say, well, listen, we'll sort of tailor something for Joe Manchin, for Sinema as well.

I think the question going forward is, is this going to work? And will he have something to unveil to the American people soon that will actually impact their lives, right? There is a lot of stress in this country, a lot of discontent with the way this country is going with the some of the decisions that Joe Biden is making. So I think that's the big question because there have been a lot of bills that he has actually passed, right?

The coronavirus rescue, package as well as his other infrastructure plan, but there still is this discontent because Americans aren't feeling it in their everyday lives, and so I think that's going to be the big question about the midterms, too. Has he delivered on making the lives of Americans better?

COOPER: Yes, not feeling a whole bunch of different ways.

Dana, the President also made news on the midterm election, saying he was asked if he believes the midterm results will be legitimate. Let's play a little bit of his response.


BIDEN: Well, it all depends on whether or not we're able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election.

No matter how hard they make it for minorities to vote, I think you're going to see them willing to stand in line, and defy the attempt to keep them from being able to vote.

I think you're going to see the people who will try to keep from being able to show up, showing up and making the sacrifice it needs to make in order to change the law back to what it should be.


COOPER: Dana, what did you make of his response?

BASH: Well, particularly the first part, Anderson, what he said, was -- actually the entire thing, but the first part was probably the most jarring to hear a President of the United States who is not Donald Trump, even suggest ahead of time that an election isn't legitimate.

Having said that, the important thing to keep in mind is what he was trying to say, and that is, in places like Arizona, in places like Georgia, especially, that will determine why votes will determine not only the Governor's race, but this balance of power in the Senate. You have another Senate race there.

And the laws that were put in place in Georgia were such that the legislature, the Republican-led legislature has the ability to take the power away from the Secretary of State to determine an election. That is what he was trying to say. But it's not exactly how he said it, which is why it was so jarring.

The people who know what he was trying to say get it, but still, with this kind of language, given where we are with the Republican Party, and how you have a former President trying to continue to sow doubt and claim that the election in 2020 was stolen, which is a total lie. That is an area where I know talking to Democrats, I believe the President needs to be a lot more nuanced.

COOPER: Nia, what do you think?

HENDERSON: Yes. Listen, I think this President has a problem with precision and clarity, and we saw that particularly, you saw a press conference that went on and on and on, much longer than anybody anticipated that it went on. I think it was one of the longest. Maybe President Clinton has him beat.

But in part that was, you know, it showed his stamina, but I think he sort of gets himself in trouble the longer he goes on. I thought the sort of short answers are better, and I think it just emphasizes this idea that people wanted to Joe Biden in the presidency to regain a sense of competence, clarity, and normalcy. And so when he flubs answers like that, as well as the answer on

Ukraine, I think, again, it sows some doubt about his capability for his presidency.

COOPER: Fareed, yes, I mean, Fareed back to Ukraine. I mean, Secretary State Blinken, he is set to now to meet with Russian Foreign Minister in Geneva on Friday. Do you think the President's comments will impact those negotiations?

ZAKARIA: Yes, I think what Tony Blinken is trying to do is to figure out whether there is a path for a diplomatic resolution here or whether Putin is setting up the negotiations to fail and it's not entirely clear yet.


I mean, Putin does not want war. He wants a crippled Ukraine that can never be part of NATO. And, you know, he is trying to essentially get the results of a war, by which I mean, he wants a completely different, much more favorable disposition between the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. He wants Ukraine to be essentially a kind of colony of Russia.

He feels that Ukraine has become a de facto member of NATO, even though we don't call it a member of NATO. There are NATO forces there. There are NATO advisers there and NATO equipment there in a stealth capacity and some advisers and capacity and things that the Russians exaggerate the degree to which that's true, but there is some truth to it.

And so the question is, is there some way to address some of Russia's concerns? Or does it really want to fundamentally and militarily alter the situation on the ground? So I think that, you know, it's not so much that Biden is making this more difficult or less difficult.

Let's be clear, I mean, sometimes I think we miss the forest from the trees. The big problem here is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin wants a Ukraine that is subordinate, humbled, a colony of Russia, the Ukrainian people don't want that. That's the fundamental issue. We're just trying to help the Ukrainian people achieve their own aspirations.

COOPER: Fareed Zakaria, Dana bash, Nia-Malika Henderson, appreciate it.

Next, what it means now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for the House Select Committee to receive Trump White House documents that could shed light on the attempt to overturn the election.

Later, CNN's Drew Griffin investigates questions of insider trading against Republican Senator Richard Burr and the reaction his questions to the senator got.



GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin with CNN. We wanted to ask you about those stock trades back in February of 2020 --




COOPER: Some more breaking news tonight, as we mentioned at the top, the Supreme Court tonight just cleared the way for the National Archives to send more than 700 Trump White House documents the January 6 Select Committee. It is a significant defeat for the former President. We'll talk about the implications momentarily.

But first, CNN's Jessica Schneider with what the High Court actually decided. So, what exactly does this entail?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this entails that the Trump team can no longer block these documents and the Committee, Anderson expecting the 700-plus documents to be handed over very soon from the National Archives.

So the Supreme Court, they said in what was a fairly short order tonight, that Trump and his legal team, they cannot block these records that they've actually managed to keep from the Committee for several months.

This is actually a decision that we've been waiting for from the Supreme Court since just before Christmas, December 23rd. And tonight, it was only Justice Clarence Thomas, who publicly disagreed with the decision. Also of note, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, he wrote separately here to clearly state that this order, it doesn't settle the question of whether a current President's decision to assert or not assert executive privilege, takes priority over a former President's assertion that issue will actually be left for another day.

But the Court saying here in this particular case, since the lower Courts essentially decided that Trump's arguments were just too weak to assert privilege, even if he had been sitting President that means that Trump cannot block his record.

So this is, as you mentioned, a significant win for the Committee. It now means that they'll receive and review 700-plus documents. Anderson, this includes a plethora of documents -- call logs, visitor logs from the White House on January 6th, a record of Trump's movements and meetings that day, plus some key records from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. That includes talking points and draft speeches.

So the Committee here will suddenly have a lot more information about Trump's actions and state of mind that day, Anderson, something that they've been trying to understand more about. COOPER: Yes, well, we'll see what is actually in those documents, I

guess at some point. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Perspective now from CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman; also, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, I mean, how significant is this? We don't really know the significance of exactly what is in these documents, but I'm wondering what you make of it.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's an extraordinary rebuke of the former President. First of all, this is just the back of his hand. It's just a one-paragraph opinion with only one dissent, all three Trump appointees voting with the majority.

Plus, you remember when this was argued, there was a lot of controversy over who gets to exert executive privilege. Is it only the incumbent President or can a former President exert -- assert executive privilege? The Court said, it doesn't matter because even if Trump had been the President asserting executive privilege here, he still would have lost the case.

So it is a thoroughgoing repudiation of his legal position, and in further years, this will strengthen Congress's hand in investigating the executive branch even well into the future.

COOPER: Were you surprised that Justice Clarence Thomas dissented?

TOOBIN: Not at all. What surprised me is that there were not more of the conservatives who dissented. Clarence Thomas is the most right- wing member of the Supreme Court. He is the farthest from the center of the court, at least on the right side.

And what surprised me is that Neil Gorsuch didn't dissent because they are usually in tandem on almost every issue.

COOPER: Maggie, do you have any sense from sources what information these documents are likely to contain? I mean, Jessica Schneider was talking about call logs and movements, but it's not like the former President, you know is on e-mail and TikTok and Twitter -- well he was on Twitter a lot -- but you know, he is not somebody who communicates with devices directly.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Now, not only, Anderson does he not communicate directly in terms of, you know, text or e-mail you know, if he uses text in responses at all. I know he receives text and that that could be interesting to people. But he also uses aides' phones to make phone calls. He doesn't always use his own phones. He doesn't always use his own cell. He doesn't always use the White House phone into his office or what was his office. So it's not going to be that complete a picture. This has been very closely held about what is actually in these

documents, I think that it might end up being that there is less there than people are hoping, but I agree with Jeffrey that what this means is, it is not just a rebuke of the former President, but it is a rebuke of this approach of trying to slow everything down with this really broad scale, lack of cooperation with this Committee, basically just saying, we're not going to acknowledge subpoenas over and over and over by any number of people.

COOPER: You know, Maggie, I talked to somebody who had been worked -- who had worked at the National Archives long ago who said that, you know, things like Signal, you know, all these encrypted apps. It's not clear that -- and all this information has to be voluntarily turned over by White House staff to the National Archives.

It's not like there's a -- you know, National Archives police who go up and are scooping up all these documents. It's really just up to Mark Meadows and all these people, I guess, to hand over their records. Is it -- for all we know, they didn't?

HABERMAN: Right, look, Mark Meadows, I will say, I would put him in a separate category, Anderson, because he did turn over a bunch of documents before he then decided he wasn't cooperating with the Committee right after he had published this tell-all book about his former boss.

So he is in a different group, but he did turn over a bunch of things. However, you're right. A lot of this is the honor system. The White House is certainly not the only governmental entity I've ever covered where a lot of people use encrypted apps and try to keep their comms off of official lines. But this is certainly the most significant and highest office in the land. And we're talking about an event of national significance, where there is just unlikely as much work has gone into this -- the January 6 Committee and the report they're planning on putting out, it's still not going to be a complete picture.

COOPER: Jeff, obviously -- go ahead.

TOOBIN: Well, I just was going to say, it is maybe worth mentioning that, you know, we are all taking for granted that the Trump White House used all these sort of official communications, through unofficial means.

Hillary Clinton was not elected President of the United States because she used a personal e-mail, but the Trump White House obviously felt that it was fine to use Signal and even more secretive means of communication than Hillary Clinton ever used.

COOPER: So Jeff, the legal problems that the former President faces, you know, there is not just Washington, but in New York, the State's Attorney General, Letitia James, is claiming in new court papers that the Trump Organization, quote, "Used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions." Now, the former President always denied any wrongdoing. And idea that

there were, you know, multiple sets of books and he did say one thing to tax authorities and others to bankers. Where do you see the New York investigation going?

TOOBIN: Well, this was a really extraordinary filing by Attorney General James. I mean, the scope of the lying at least that she described, it was -- was really breathtaking and we are talking about differences of hundreds of millions of dollars in certain cases.

You know, understating documents when you want to pay -- understating valuations when you want to pay taxes, overstating them when you want to take tax deductions, or when you want to get bank loans, including just sort of surreal lying about things like the size of his Trump Tower Triplex.

You know, in certain circumstances when it was helpful, he said it was 30,000 square feet. In other circumstances, he said it was 10,000 square feet. Now, you know, you can argue about valuations of real estate, but the size of the apartment is the size of the apartment.

I think there is real possibility for a prosecution here. This is both a civil investigation by the Attorney General of New York and a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney, but it is all the same facts, and you know, I think the former President has some real problems.

COOPER: But Jeff, you're talking about an investigation -- even if there were charges to the Trump Organization, isn't that a monetary fine?

TOOBIN: Not necessarily. I mean, that's the civil case that Attorney General James could file, but the District Attorney who is investigating the same thing could file criminal charges.

Now there are problems with this case. It is not clear that the banks relied on these fees. It's not clear that the banks lost any money, so what kind of fraud would it be if nobody lost money? But the false statements at least if James is correct, could easily be the basis for a criminal investigation of the former President if in fact, the facts are what they say.


COOPER: Maggie, do you have any sense, you know, based on, folks, you've talked in the former president's orbit? Do you have any sense of what the former president is more concerned about the January 6 committee or prosecutors in New York or I mean, is he concerned?

HABERMAN: I mean, I think he's in a general a state of concern whenever he is under investigation. My sense is that he is most focused on the ones in New York. As we know, we have there's January 6 committee, there is other than New York investigations, and then there's the Georgia investigations. You know, there's been not a ton of movement from Georgia. That may happen, we don't know. But New York has generally been where his focus is, in part, because that relates to his business, that relates to where he was from, and it's also just the area he knows the best.

On January 6, you know, so far, folks around him have taken note in my conversations with them, that the Justice Department with the exception of this, you know, Steve Bannon and the criminal contempt are not cooperating with the subpoena and not responding to it. They've generally done very little the Justice Department and that's actually aggravated a number of Democrats. But that's something that the former president circle is taking pardon.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, a CNN investigation about the questions of insider trading against Republican Senator Richard Burr for selling stocks after getting briefings on COVID in the early days of the pandemic. We'll see what happened on CNN's Drew Griffin asked the Senator about it on Capitol Hill, next.



COOPER: The CNN investigation now in the early days of the pandemic back in February 2020 Members of Congress got closed or briefings on the situation. Then came some serious questions, namely did some lawmakers profit from their knowledge of the pending COVID crisis and sell stocks to make money. The lawmakers deny wrongdoing and Justice Department investigation brought no criminal charges. The stock trades by Republican Senator Richard Burr are still being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin caught up with Senator Burr on Capitol Hill. Here's his report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Carolina Senator Richard Burr in a Senate office building last week had no interest in talking about his perfectly timed stock sales.

(on-camera): Senator Burr?


GRIFFIN (on-camera): It's Drew Griffin with CNN. We wanted to ask you about those stock trades back in February of 2020. You know, the SEC says that you had material nonpublic information when you made those trades?

BURR: You have to look at what I put out.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): I did look a t what you put out. How is that not insider trading?

(voice-over): What he put out in March of 2020 was his explanation for why he sold off more than $1.6 million in stocks weeks before the pandemic market crash. He claims he made the trades relying solely on public news reports. But the Securities Exchange Commission isn't so sure, and in October publicly released details of an investigation of the senator and his politically connected brother-in-law for insider trading. According to the SEC, in early 2020, Burr was getting confidential briefings about the severity of the coronavirus in his positions on Senate Intelligence and Health Committees.

According to a memo from attorneys for the SEC, on February 13, 2020, Senator Burr possessed material nonpublic information concerning COVID-19 and its potential impact on the U.S. and global economies. When he called his own stock broker at 8:54 a.m., directing the sale of $1.65 million in stock, virtually all the stocks he owned.

At 11:32 a.m. that same morning, Burr then called his brother-in-law Gerald Fauth, a Trump appointee to the national mediation board. The two men talked for just 50 seconds, the SEC claims Fauth hang up and immediately called two stockbrokers directing the sale of several stocks in his wife's account, though his lawyer said in a court filing that he had planned his trades days in advance and initiated the trades with his broker the day before his call with Burr. A week later, the stock market began to crash.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: True carnage. This was a disastrous day.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): One point six million dollar stocks you dump, and you don't warn the rest of the public. You didn't warn your constituents in North Carolina.

BURR: You ought to focus on your ratings, because you're the lowest, you're the lowest in media and maybe this is a great example of why.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): If that's not insider trading is at least immoral?

(voice-over): And while Burr was quietly selling off his stocks just a week earlier, he had co-authored an op-ed claiming the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats like the coronavirus.

Trevor Potter is with the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog.

TREVOR POTTER, PRESIDENT, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: The news here is that there's a live investigation going on. They have laid out their timeline of what they think happens and they could well bring charges we don't know yet.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Burr is one of at least for U.S. Senators whose pre pandemic stock sales were under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice. Those criminal cases have all been closed with no charges. But the SEC said in November, its civil investigation against Burr, which could result in fines was continuing, though the SEC will now not comment on the case.

Burr has stepped down from his chairmanship of Senate Intelligence, he'd already announced his retirement. His brother-in-law has denied wrongdoing but President Biden dropped his re nomination to the National Mediation Board. Potter with the Campaign Legal Center says legal or not, politicians profiting off trading stocks is a part of a bigger problem.

(on-camera): They're getting rich up here, by and large people that are elected to office and come to this town seem to leave with a lot more money than they can.

POTTER: Well again, that really causes Americans to wonder what's going on and to be suspicious about whether members are feathering their own nest with insider information. They may or may not be. But the fact that somebody is making a killing in the market is going to cause people to wonder where that information came from.


GRIFFIN: There are two Senate bills seeking to end that suspicion. Both would ban members of Congress from buying and selling stocks while in office.

BURR: I call this hearing to order.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Trevor Potter says don't expect either one to get much legislative attention.

POTTER: Members of Congress never want to put restraints on themselves.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In fact, just last month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the richest members of Congress seem to shoot down any idea of a stock trade ban for members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why shouldn't they be banned?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Because this is a free market and people -- we are a free market economy that should be able to participate in that.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But it is Richard Burr seemingly perfectly timed pre pandemic stock trades that have raised the most attention from regulators.

(on-camera): How is that not insider trading?


COOPER: And Drew Griffin joins us now. Senator Burr didn't seem very concerned obviously, it's even if it's not illegal, is that the Senate worried that this looks like insider trading?

GRIFFIN: You know, look at his actions. Burr actually asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate him Anderson, probably knowing that those internal investigations in the Senate often in fact, almost always go nowhere. The spokesperson for the chair of that committee today wouldn't even comment on if there is or ever was an investigation on Burr's stock trades in the Senate. Its part of a bigger problem on Capitol Hill say critics, these elected officials get rich. There's little to no oversight on how or an explanation of why. And with Congress policing itself you're almost guaranteed inaction. And that's no matter which party is in power.

COOPER: Drew Griffin, appreciate it. Thanks.

For all the concern about political polarization coming up next, we're taking a critical look at the talk of civil war in America. Is it overblown? That's next.



COOPER: Returning to our top story tonight, Senate vote on voting rights. Joining us now Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.

Thanks for being with us. If the vote fails, as expected --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: -- do you see tonight as a major setback for voting rights? And do you think a failure to get something done on this issue hurts Democrats in November?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, we're still in the middle of it. Anderson, we had the first vote, which would allow us just to simply get on the bill. Senator Manchin and Sinema voted with us on this, because they actually do fully support this bill. And that's important to know, it is much needed right now with all of the voter suppression laws that are being passed across the country that will greatly hurt voters, and make it harder for them to vote.

And so next up, there's going to be a debate and then we'll look at the rules of the Senate. And if that does fail and changing the rules, because we have no support on the Republican side to change them. Then I guess I'll quote Martin Luther King, he once said that disappointment is finite, but hope is infinite.

So, in answer to your question, we will march on and we will fight this we will do everything we can to take on these discriminatory voting laws, whether it's in court, whether it's at the state capitals, and whether it is continuing to get work done in Congress.

COOPER: As you know, though, at state capitals, many state legislatures are dominated by Republicans who are actually passing these laws. What does come, I mean, is there anything that else can be done by Congress to tackle voting rights?

KLOBUCHAR: There are some things and you've probably heard about them, that Republican colleagues may discuss, including the Electoral College situation, but none of that will replace what we are working to do. And what we tried to do and are trying to do tonight, and that is make it really clear their federal standard. So you can't suddenly in Montana, say, hey, 8,000 people that use same day registration for 15 years, we decided you're not going to be able to do that anymore. We should make that the law of the land.

Instead, what we've seen in Georgia 70,000 people who registered to vote in the runoff election last time, suddenly that right was taken away. And so, what you've seen is with surgical precision state legislators discriminating across the country and passing laws that make it harder to vote, we know what it is, as my friend, Reverend Warnock says some people don't want some people to vote. And that's what this bill would have done, it would have upheld our democracy.

I just came back from Ukraine, where we proudly wore lapel pins with the American flag and the Ukrainian flag on a bipartisan basis to show the world that we support democracy. Well, we also should be supporting our democracy at home.

COOPER: Let me ask you about Ukraine, you know, asked about Vladimir Putin's plans to invade. As you know, President Biden tonight said quote, my guess is he'll move in. I'm wondering if you agree with that assessment. Also, the way the President characterize it is seems to have upset at least one Ukrainian official talk to CNN saying that, that it seemed like the President was giving a green light to Vladimir Putin for an incursion?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I started my morning today with Democrats, Republicans that went on that trip with the President. And I think he was very clear about this. There's going to be consequences. And I didn't hear the news conference. But one of the reasons we went on this trip is that we wanted to make clear there was no divide between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to sanctions, not only economic sanctions, but also sanctions against individuals in Russia, that we stand with our allies.

And I don't think anyone knows what Vladimir Putin is going to do right now. But what I do know is that the vast majority of Ukrainians, they stand true to their democracy, and they're outnumbered, yes, but they have stood up against Vladimir Putin now for years, they've lost 14,000 Ukrainians, and I think a lot of Americans don't know that 14,000 people killed since he took over Crimea and started to invade in part of eastern Ukraine.



KLOBUCHAR: That's what we've seen. And I think it's very clear there's going to be severe sanctions if he does that and I know the President believes that as well

COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

COOPER: The President's first year in office has been marked with concerns about deep divisions in the country the possibility of future unrest, breakdowns, even more norms and possibly civil war. We've had guests in the program talking about that. But are those fears overblown? Our next guest New York Times columnist Ross Douthat recently wrote a somewhat contrarian article entitled, Let's Not Invent A Civil War, saying if your definition of civil war implies that we're always just a few mass shootings or violent protests away from the brink, then you don't have a definition at all. You just have a license for perpetual alarmism.

He went on to write, it's worth asking whether the people who see potential insurrection lurking everywhere are seeing a danger rising entirely on its own, or in their alarm or helping to invent it.

Ross Douthat is here with us now. Ross, I really appreciate you joining us. I find your article in some ways refreshing because it runs very counter to the kind of the drumbeat about possible civil war in our future. And I certainly hope you are correct.

You write, and I'm quoting the entire theory of looming American Civil War, which assumes something not yet entirely in evidence, a large number of Americans willing to put their lives not just their Twitter rhetoric on the line for the causes that currently divide our country.

There still seems to be a lot of support out there for what those people did on January 6, isn't there?

ROSS DOUTHAT, OPINION COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, there is a certain kind right there, there is a very powerful idea on the American right, that the people who stormed the Capitol and riot it on January 6, were misunderstood patriots who meant no real harm, and were essentially tricked into committing acts of violence by some sort of nefarious FBI plot like that, that is literally the narrative that you would end up with, if you switch the channel over to --

COOPER: Right.

DOUTHAT: -- Fox News and watch Tucker Carlson talk about it. That's not exactly a sort of celebration of armed militancy. It's basically an argument that we're not the violent ones, the other side, just the violent ones. And if you watch to the end of, you know, the extremely controversial Tucker Carlson documentary about called Patriot Purge that basically advances this narrative that the riots on January 6, were something that basically the protesters were tricked into, it ends with an admonition of your enemies wants you to turn violent, Don't be tricked by them.

Now, you know, you can disagree completely with the Tucker Carlson read on the situation. But that is not actually a call to arms. It's basically a way of backing away from what happened run January 6. And I think that's I just think that's generally characteristic of the dynamic in our politics. There are a lot of people who really like to talk about 1776 and crises, crisis of democracy, right. You just had Senator Klobuchar on making comparisons between, you know, today's voting rights debates and the Jim Crow era. There's a lot of people who like that kind of rhetoric.

But the number of people who actually want to, let's say, get arrested, or go to jail for this kind of thing, doesn't actually seem that large. And most of the people arrested and charged on January 6, really didn't intend to commit acts of violence. There really was this sort of small core of rabble rousers, and then a lot of people along for the ride, I think that --

COOPER: Well I mean, there's hundreds of people who --

DOUTHAT: -- (INAUDIBLE) agree as a whole looks like.

COOPER: Right, there's hundreds, you can't really characterize what they intended to do. There's hundreds of people who stormed into a building they weren't allowed to be in. Some of them have tasers, some of them had baseball bats, some had just used metal poles. And, you know, more than 100 officers were injured. There's no telling what they might have done.

But the I mean, the argument you're making, you know, I used to talk a lot with General Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA National Security Agency, he was always very adamant about what he called the thin veneer of civilization. And he wrote in your newspaper back in 2018, I had learned that the traditions and institutions that protect us are inherently fragile and demand careful tending. Do you not see them as fragile?

DOUTHAT: So, I think there's a really important distinction here, right, which is that in your opening comments, in our discussion, you said, you know, a lot of people are worried about deep I'm paraphrasing, but deepening polarization, increasing unrest civil war, and it's not the concern about deepening polarization and unrest that I'm arguing with, it's the leap from the idea --

COOPER: Right.

DOUTHAT: -- that, you know, you're going to have a world with, you know, mass protests, or you're going to have a world with what we saw in the summer of 2020. You know, Kenosha, Wisconsin on fire, that that kind of thing. Those kind of phases where the veneer cracks a bit and you have real conflict and real tumult, those have always been part of American history and they aren't desirable and it's OK to say they're bad. I'm concerned about polarization too. But the language of civil war is designed to evoke this much more extreme, frankly, hysteria and concern and a much more extreme response.


And if you look at if you look at the United States right now, right, like, yes, we have depolarization, deep divides, we often seem to live in alternative universes. But what actually drives civil wars, well, we aren't regionally divided, we aren't -- we're actually less ethnically divided than we were 10 years ago, because the Republican Party is winning more black and Hispanic folks. So there's, there's just a lot of ways in which --


DOUTHAT: -- I think the veneer could crack.

COOPER: You also point out in your article that that the definition that people are using of civil war, those who are writing about this, it's different than what people kind of envision when they think of civil war, they're talking about more sort of isolated groups attacking just like in the '70s. There were large, you know, large numbers of explosions of property, mostly from left wing groups.

Anyway, I just thought it's interesting to hear a contrarian view and I wish we had more time. So I'd love to have you back because I think it's a, you know, it's important discussion to have.

DOUTHAT: I'm always here with the contrarianism, Anderson.

COOPER: I know that's why I like reading you. Ross Douthat, I appreciate it. Thank you.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: A reminder don't miss "Full Circle," our digital new show gives us a chance to dig in some fun topics, important topics, have in-depth conversations. You can catch it streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Or you can watch it there and on the CNN app anytime On Demand.

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