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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Georgia DA Granted Special Grand Jury To Probe Trump Election Interference; About 8,500 Troops On Heightened Alert As Biden Meets With European Leaders Amid Ukraine War Fears; Former A.G. Barr Had Preliminary Discussion With January 6 Panel; After Omicron Surge, What Comes Next?; Covid Deaths Surpasses 2,000 A Day For The First Time Since September; Pres. Biden Caught On Hot Mic Calling Fox Reporter "A Stupid Son Of A Bitch"; Florida Bill Seeks To Ban Some Schools From "Encouraging" Conversations Of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 24, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Burkina has been wracked with violence linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, killing thousands and displacing one and a half million according to the U.N. Civilians took to the streets honking car horns, cheering in support of the military as one dictatorship replaces another.

Thanks for joining us, AC 360 starts now.



Tonight, President Biden talks to NATO allies about imposing massive consequences if Russia invades Ukraine, as 8,500 American troops go on heightened alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe. We've got live reporting from Ukraine and Washington tonight.

First, though, there's breaking news and a story that was big from the start when a Georgia District Attorney requested a special grand jury to investigate possible election related crimes by the former President.

Well, tonight, we just learned that that request is now approved.

Here with more, CNN's chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. So how big a deal is it that the special Grand Jury now has been given a greenlight?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this investigation hasn't gotten as much attention as January 6 in Washington or the Manhattan District Attorney, but this is a very serious criminal investigation and the fact that a district -- that a grand jury has been impaneled means there will be subpoenas, possibly search warrants.

And this is a big problem for the former President because it all starts with that highly incriminating tape where he appears to be trying to coerce the Secretary of State Raffensperger of Georgia to commit the crime of election fraud.

COOPER: And part of the initial investigation was centered on that phone call, which took place January 2nd, and now that a special grand jury has been granted, I mean, do they go wider than that? Or do they still focus on that? Are there other investigative avenues they go down?

TOOBIN: Look, there has -- it has to be broader than just the phone call because there have to be other people who have talked about the effort that the President made to corrupt the election in Georgia. There are also other parts of it that we really don't know anything about at this point, like the mysterious departure of the United States Attorney in Georgia in the middle of this. Why did he leave? What was the connection to the election?

It certainly seems like there was a connection to the election. This way, the Georgia -- the District Attorney in Fulton County can start subpoenaing people, can get people's testimony, can get documents that round out the picture that is at least started by the infamous phone call.

COOPER: And are those subpoenas that people actually have to respond to? Or can they drag it out like they do with Congress?

TOOBIN: Well, they can challenge them in Court, but the big difference between Congress and a District Attorney is that she is an elected officials who is going to be there, more or less indefinitely, whereas Congress is dealing with this deadline of the election and the likely turnover of the House of Representatives.

The District Attorney has a four-year term. She is going to be there. And yes, they can challenge it in Court, but it is much harder to run out the clock when a District Attorney is conducting the investigation as opposed to a congressional committee.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Now the Ukraine crisis, speaking briefly today after his video conference with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, President Biden said everyone was on the same page.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a very, very, very good meeting, totally unanimity with all the European leaders.


COOPER: According to the White House, they discussed quote, "preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia, if it invades." Also ways of reinforcing security on NATO's eastern flank.

Now, to that point, this afternoon, The Pentagon announced 8,500 American personnel are now on heightened alert. According to The Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, the bulk are intended to bolster a NATO Quick Reaction Force. But as of today, no final decision has been made about deploying that.

Reporting from Washington and Kyiv for us tonight. CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, respectively. We will also be joined later by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor and the former Supreme Allied Commander retired General Wesley Clark.

Let's start with Dana Bash. Dana, do you have a sense of what precipitated the troop readiness order?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you heard Admiral Kirby say at The Pentagon that every single day, Russia adds more and more troops to the already enormous amount of power that it has at the Ukrainian border. And so far, the U.S. response and the E.U. response has been soft power, it has been diplomacy, has been threats of sanctions.

And the change starting last night after the President met with advisors over the weekend at Camp David, and today was we are going to make clear to Vladimir Putin that there is hard power involved and that is through the through the prism of NATO and what the Pentagon via the administration was trying to signal is deterrence is going to be in many forms, and we're going to try to meet the moment that Vladimir Putin is putting out there.


And the other really important thing is, it is not just the announcement very carefully. Kirby was very careful to say there is no mission yet, but it is pretty clear things are going to happen quickly. It's also through NATO, which is one of the many things that Vladimir Putin goes bonkers about. He doesn't like the idea of NATO. He doesn't like the idea of the Alliance.

And the signal that is being sent by the administration with this move today is, well, you don't like it, you're going to see a whole lot more of NATO towards the border, closer to the border of Russia on the eastern front of NATO than you want. So basically, you're going to be getting exactly what you asked for if you invade Ukraine.

COOPER: And Dana, a source tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has requested a briefing for all senators next week regarding the situation between Russia and Ukraine. What's your understanding of current congressional support for the choices being made right now?

BASH: There is a split among Democrats and Republicans; pretty cleanly that most Democrats want to have legislation to bolster what the administration is doing to say if the Russians invade Ukraine, these sanctions are approved by Congress.

But the Republicans want to do is say we want the sanctions in place now. We want to do them preemptively. Don't wait until Vladimir Putin attacks Ukraine in any way, shape, or form. That is the split and there was a discussion among four senior Democrats, four senior Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to try to work that out.

But you heard the Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, Bob Menendez, who tried to write this language say that they're going to write the mother of all sanctions legislation against Russia.

COOPER: Clarissa, I'm wondering what the reaction has been in Ukraine to the moves by the U.S. for the last 24 hours.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Anderson. You know, the Ukraine was very upset last week that they thought President Biden wasn't taking this threat seriously enough, when he sort of accidentally said that potentially a minor incursion wouldn't bring about the same sort of swift and robust response that a full on invasion would.

But now, Ukrainian officials are concerned and upset for a different reason. They are very upset about the fact that the U.S. has decided to withdraw families of yet embassy personnel and also allow for any nonessential embassy personnel to also leave Ukraine because of the mounting threat.

They believe that that is contributing to an atmosphere of panic. We have heard from the President today, we have heard from the Prime Minister, we have heard from the Foreign Minister, really trying to assure other countries that there is no need to follow suit, that this is essentially an overly cautious reaction.

And in fact, we even heard from one the National Security Director and defense counsel, he said today, we see no reason to make allegations of a full scale invasion against our country. This cannot even be done physically.

So basically saying that it is not even possible for Russia to fully invade Ukraine. The question becomes really, Anderson, is it at this stage that Ukrainian officials believe firmly that the U.S. is overplaying the threat now? Or is it sort of the reverse that Ukraine is trying to underplay the threat somewhat, because they are concerned about the effect that it's having on people here that it might lead to panic, that it might increase anxiety, that it might deter foreign investment? And difficult to know from here and Kyiv where exactly the truth lies -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Clarissa, I mean, is there a sense where Russia is more likely to respond to American threat of troops and weapon movements as opposed to economic sanctions or, I mean, how would the U.S. move, you know, putting 8,500 troops on heightened alert be with how would that be interpreted?

WARD: Well, it's always difficult to know how President Putin is going to react to anything, but I think Dana hit the nail on the head when she said he is bonkers about NATO.

NATO encirclement has been a mantra of his, for many years now, a big part of how this whole thing started is essentially born out of his desire to rewrite security arrangements in post-Cold War Europe, and one of the demands that the Russian side made in these diplomatic talks was that NATO foreign forces withdraw from countries like Romania and Bulgaria.

Now, you're talking potentially about thousands of U.S. troops going into countries like Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic States. You can imagine how that is going to be received in Moscow even with assurances that these troops are not there in a combat role, that they are there as a deterrent, that they are there essentially to bolster or reassure other NATO forces.


But make no mistake, this will be seen as an act of aggression. It will be seen as a very serious threat, and it will also be seen, I think, by President Putin as a marked shift in the way this White House has previously dealt with Russia.

As for how President Putin chooses to respond to this threat, that remains to be seen -- Anderson.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward and Dana Bash, thank you.

More now on diplomacy and what the options are for NATO and the U.S. if Vladimir Putin decides to invade. Joining us is William Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and CNN military analyst and retired Army four star General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

General Clark, we are going to start with these 8,500 U.S. troops. What is the purpose of a possible deployment like that? I mean, is it really just to send a message to Russia or there are actual tactical reasons for it?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, there might be tactical reasons, but the first purpose is to send a message to Russia. It is a message of NATO resolve. The 8,500 U.S. troops that are on alert would be matched by at least 8,500 troops from our allied nations and there is nothing that signals resolve better than deploying troops.

Now, if you want to make a difference, you've got to put airplanes in. We need a NATO composite Air Expeditionary Force into Romania. That way we could actually backstop our allies, and we could prevent any spillover of Russian actions in Ukraine, but I suspect that will come. I'm sure it is being planned.

COOPER: Ambassador Taylor, I mean, thus far, do you think Russia is engaged in diplomacy in good faith? Is it a stall for time as they apparently are moving more troops into position?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Anderson, I don't think you can say that they are operating in good faith. What they have been doing is they have been willing to sit down and talk with First Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman and President Biden has been involved. Of course, Secretary Blinken has been there to see the Foreign Minister.

So they've been going through the motions. They've got demands, as your report just indicated that are untenable, that they're that are not serious that will violate principles that NATO, and the United States, and Europeans have lived by, which is a principle of sovereignty.

We're talking about Ukraine as a sovereign nation, it gets to choose, and this proposal, these proposals from President Putin would deny that clearly.

COOPER: General Clark, I mean, part -- you know, one of Russia's huge concerns is Ukraine joining -- ultimately joining NATO and there is a path forward for that for Ukraine. How likely -- I mean, do you think this -- what's happened makes it more likely that down the road, Ukraine would be allowed to join NATO or less likely?

CLARK: Oh, I think it makes it more likely, I think what Putin has done is energized, all of the alliances to recognize that we need strength and resolve to cope with Russia.

You know, when we started NATO enlargement back in the 1990s, we actually invited Russia to join. Now Russia wasn't quite there as a democracy, but we were prepared to work with it. But the Russians insisted no, they wanted to view NATO as an adversary.

I went to Russia. I talked to Generals over there. They told me, we want our countries back in Eastern Europe. So they're not your countries and this is the fundamental problem.

So is Russia negotiating in good faith? Well, they certainly want anything we'll give them. But this is about the structure of the world, whether nations have the right to choose, whether a nation's borders are sacrosanct, whether other nations have the courage to assist in this of that nation in self-defense, if necessary.

Putin is raising all those issues. He's headed to get an answer he won't like, but he does have the military power to cause a lot of damage and kill a lot of people. I hope he doesn't do it.

COOPER: Yes. Ambassador Taylor, from your knowledge of Ukrainian forces and their capabilities and obviously, it has been bolstered over the last several weeks with different kinds of weaponry. What would an invasion end up looking like?

I mean, we've talked to some people who, you know, say this could be another Afghanistan; for Russia, there is such antipathy toward Russia among parts of western Ukraine and elsewhere. What do you think are the capabilities of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian forces?

TAYLOR: Anderson, the Ukrainian military is much stronger, much stronger today than it was when Russia invaded the first time in 2014. It is better led, it is better equipped, it's better trained. Morale is high among the military.

You asked about the civilians. The morale is also very high among civilians. Since 2014, when Mr. Putin invaded the first time, the Ukrainian people have come together, exactly as General Clark said, he has generated the opposite of what he was interested in.


General Clark is exactly right that Mr. Putin has done the opposite of what he is interested in doing, which is he has united Ukrainians, certainly the military and united the civilians on east and west, no matter what language they speak, he has united them against him.

So they will resist. General Clark is of course, right. The military is an imbalance. The Russian military is very strong, they will have a battle on their hands, but they could prevail if they decide to go, if he decides to go.

Mr. Putin has the decision. We hope he is deterred. We hope that he will cost up, he will take a look at the cost and benefits and decide it's just not worth it, better to sit down and have that conversation with President Biden and Secretary Blinken to talk about it.

But if he does go, if he is not deterred, then he will have a fight on his hands. First with Ukrainian military as we just said, but also the Ukrainian people will resist, will fight the real warfare. They will fight in the villages, on the streets, in the towns. It will be very difficult.

It will be -- a former Defense Minister that General Clark and I both know said that the Ukrainian military will make it hard, but the Ukrainian people will make a hell for an occupier.

COOPER: General Clark, do you agree with that?

CLARK: Absolutely. But you know, Anderson, we've got to make one other point here, and I know Ambassador Taylor would agree with me on this. What Putin is doing is illegal. It is against international law. He is behaving like a war criminal.

And you know, we need to go to the United Nations and call him out for it. He will become an international pariah. Russia will be treated as a rogue state. It's the end for Russia if he does this. We need to make sure he understands that and then we need to be able to follow through.

COOPER: General Clark, Ambassador Taylor, appreciate your expertise, both of you. Thank you so much.

Coming up next now, now that we've learned that former Attorney General William Barr is talking to the House January 6th Committee, we will talk about what he might be able to tell them about the scheme to overturn an election using the Justice Department's help.

And later, with the latest COVID surge thankfully showing signs of easing in some parts of the country, we'll talk to a leading infectious disease specialist about whether it also signals an end finally to the larger pandemic.



COOPER: In addition to the breaking news out of Georgia on the greenlight given to a grand jury investigating possible election related crimes by the former President, there are other developments tonight that are not likely to make the former President feels more secure about his legal future.

CNN has learned from a source briefed on the talks that former Attorney General William Barr has had a quote "preliminary discussion" with the house January 6 Select Committee. Another source tells us that Barr told the committee he didn't know much because he'd resigned in December. The fact is, he was on the job until the 23rd of December, by which time the former President's pressure campaign on the Justice Department to cast doubt on the election had already been underway for several weeks.

Additionally, when asked about this over the weekend, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson used the plural saying quote, "We've had conversations with the Attorney General already," end quote.

Let's get some perspective from CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman; also ABC News chief Washington correspondent, Jonathan Karl, who interviewed former Attorney General Barr for his fascinating new book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."

So Maggie, how big a deal is it that former Attorney General Barr has willingly had conversations, I guess, with the committee and is now in the mix with the investigation?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly is a significant voice, Anderson, who could be speaking to them about the former President's mindset up until the time when Barr left his job, as you said he left toward the end of December. He was replaced in the final weeks, but he did have a front row seat to what was happening with Trump.

He tried disabusing Trump of these claims of election fraud. He looked into some of these things that Trump wanted looked into. And so, I do think he could be an important voice that way. It's also important that he is voluntarily speaking to them. There has been such resistance from people who are still close to the former President, to being involved with this committee at all under pressure from the former President and his loyalists.

And so, I do think you put all of that together, and it is a real reminder that there are a number of senior former officials who saw things who are willing to speak.

COOPER: Jon, it is really fascinating, because I mean, Barr in some of his public testimony in the past when he was the Attorney General, he was anything, but you know, forthcoming parsing words, you know, and do you think -- I mean, what version of Barr do you think has actually -- has talked to the committee? I mean, he's certainly been opportunistic many times in his political career. I know he has a book coming out in March. What do you think he's -- which Barr is it talking to the committee?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Anderson, the fact that Bill Barr had been somebody that was seen as the ultimate Trump loyalist, somebody that did battle for him against the Mueller investigation, the Russia investigation. The fact that Bill Barr really was the most popular figure among the Trump faithful in the Trump Cabinet.

The fact that that is who Bill Barr is makes his potential testimony on this subject even more powerful. Bill Barr, as he told me in an interview that I conducted with him last summer, but he has never said in a public forum, he has never said this out in front of the cameras. He told me that he looked chapter inversed into the allegations that Donald Trump was making about election fraud and he found that they were all BS.

He looked into the allegations in Georgia, of ballots under a desk, nonsense. He looked at the allegations of big dumps of ballots in the middle of the night in Michigan and found them to be nonsense.


He looked over and over again at these allegations about rigged voting machines, and his conclusion was it was all BS. And then there's one other really I think, under-appreciated point, which is although he was going on January 6, Anderson, Bill Barr was the first major person in the Trump inner circle to put out a statement condemning what was going on, on Capitol Hill and he did it while the riot was going on, because he was frustrated that Trump was doing nothing to stop it.

And the day after, January 7th of last year, he put out a statement claiming -- putting the responsibility for that attack on the Capitol for that insurrection directly on Donald Trump. He said it was a betrayal of his oath of office and a betrayal of his supporters.

So, look, I think that somebody who had been such a loyalist to Donald Trump coming out and saying that in a nationally televised public forum would be incredibly powerful.

COOPER: Maggie, I mean, is there any reason to think the Barr has any loyalty to the former President? Do we know what -- I mean, do they have a relationship now?

HABERMAN: They don't have a relationship now, and they haven't had a relationship in quite some time. I think that, you know, there are things that the former President accomplished that I think that the former Attorney General, you know, supported, he certainly was against, as Jonathan said, he was not in favor of the Mueller investigation. That's part of why the former President brought him in the first place, it was to end that moment in time.

And there were things that they agreed on, but there were a number of things they didn't agree on over time. And that began, you know, frankly, long before Election Day. Their relationship is nonexistent now. And Barr has been, you know, very, very, you know, clear on where he stands on Trump in that statement, in his interview with Jonathan, that's not something as we know, that the former President takes very well to and it's not as if the former President has been willing to, you know, assimilate to criticism better since he left office.

So I don't think that that factors into his decision at all.

COOPER: And Jon, you write about an exchange that took place between then President Trump and Attorney General Barr before the resignation. Can you talk a little bit about it because essentially, it was the moment that Trump said to Barr you must really -- in fact, let's -- we're going to put it up because it said, he talks about -- this is the scene before Barr's resignation.

Barr had come out saying essentially, there was no evidence. The President said did you say that? He says, "Yes," Barr responded. The President says "How the eff could you do this to me? Why did you say it?" "Because it's true." And then he went on to say, "You must hate Trump," Trump said referring to himself in the third person, "You must hate Trump." That's amazing.

KARL: Yes, this was an extraordinary meeting and I spoke to several of the people that were there in that dining room right off the Oval Office right after Barr had said publicly an interview with the Associated Press that there was no evidence of widespread fraud, nothing that would come anywhere near changing the results of the election, and Trump called him to account for that.

And according to one of the individuals there who had been in a lot of meetings with Donald Trump, this was the angriest they had ever seen him because Donald Trump believed that Bill Barr should because he was appointed by Trump be his loyal lawyer, his personal attorney, and he wanted Barr to use the power of the Justice Department, not just to declare there was fraud, but to help him in his effort to pressure the states he was contesting to overturn their election results.

And when Barr came out and did the opposite, you know, Trump was beside himself, a very heated meeting. And again, another reason why Barr would be such an important witness because he can talk not just about the fact that there was nothing to the allegations, but that Trump put pressure on him as Attorney General to try to use the power of that office to overturn a presidential election.

Now, what's interesting Anderson, as I'm told, in this initial conversation that he has had with the Committee, that the Committee spent much of the time talking about the things that happened after Barr left, you know, the effort to install Jeffrey Rosen and essentially a coup at the Justice Department, the executive order to seize voting machines.

But I think where Barr's testimony is potentially most powerful is what he saw while he was Attorney General, and the Committee I am told, has not yet asked him if he would testify publicly. That request has not come, it was not raised. They haven't asked him if he would be willing to do so. I think that's going to be one of the most important moments in this investigation. COOPER: Jonathan Karl, appreciate it. Maggie Haberman as well.


With the omicron surge easing in big parts of the country, the question now, are we getting closer to pandemic's end? Can we even ask that question? We'll talk with an Infectious Disease researcher, next.


COOPER: Omicron COVID cases remain high in the U.S. but they're going in the right direction according to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. is now averaging about 706,000 new COVID cases down double digits from a week ago. The cases are up in the 15 states you see there on the map in orange and red in that map, including some in the west and south. All cases have fallen in the green states, including California in those in the Northeast.

Here's what Dr. Fauci said this afternoon on CNN about the latest numbers.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: We projected in the next week or two or more, we're going to start seeing the same peak and coming down. How long that takes to get down to the baseline that you would feel comfortable with that we're in an arena that we can actually live with that type of activity. It's very difficult to predict.


COOPER: Over the weekend, former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb said that some areas face a hard month ahead he doesn't think we'll see a national peak until February.

Joining us now for some perspective is Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He's also a former member of the Biden transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Professor Osterholm, early on you predicted the viral blizzard that Omicron variant cause. What are your expectations for when this surge will end?


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CIDRAP: Well I think collectively as a nation we still have a few weeks left, but as you've already alluded to, there are some areas of the country that are really seeing the number come down quickly now. What we're not sure is how long that tail is going to be meaning increase cases, even after we see the peak of the surge. If you look in South Africa right now, cases, they're still about 15 times higher than they were before Omicron started.

So clearly, the numbers are going to come down a lot. But I don't think there's going to go away quickly, in terms of large numbers of cases yet.

COOPER: On Friday night, I spoke with the data cruncher who's suggesting and wrote an article suggesting that once the Omicron surge subsides, it may be game over, that the combination of people who are vaccinated people who've been infected already, as well as the development of therapeutics may mean that life can start to go back to normal. Do you agree with that? And what do you think is going to happen after the surge (INAUDIBLE).

OSTERHOLM: Yes, let me just remind you, we were in the very same place a year ago, vaccines were flowing freely, we are came off the January peak, and I heard lots of people saying that it was over with. And you may recall, Anderson, I, at that time felt like, it's possible that the darkest days of the pandemic could yet still occur, all because of the variants. No one can predict these variants, right now, what's going to happen? You know, three months from now, after a quiet three months, we might see a new variant, like Omicron emerge, again, where we actually see a substantial reduction in the protection of our vaccines, or previous infection.

So, we still are really at the mercy of these variants. And we just don't know, we have to be honest and just say, we don't know.

COOPER: And are we at the mercy of the variance, mostly because the rest of the world is not as vaccinated that there are places -- many places where people have not been able to get the full regimen of vaccines, and therefore, variants can emerge there that will then quickly come here?

OSTERHOLM: Well, they surely can emerge quickly there. But look, what's happened even just in the United States in the last few, three to five weeks. I mean, we've seen unprecedented activity right here, we're seeing that throughout many of the high income countries around the world.

The other thing that we have to take into account is the animal populations. You know, we were all stunned to see the data this past fall from the white tailed deer population in Iowa, where there incidents there of SARS-COV-2 virus infection, obtained from deer who had been killed by cars actually parallel that of humans. And we went up when humans went up and came down when human levels came down. And we have no idea how they got so infected, that's now been demonstrated a number of states. A number of animal species have become infected with this virus. And we just don't understand, well, they serve as the new reservoir for another variant with a spillover back into humans again.

So, between humans transmitting the virus to humans, and potentially these animals transmitted to humans, we just have to be mindful of the fact that a new variant could emerge tomorrow, that could surprise us just like Omicron did.

COOPER: So, when does it possibly become not a pandemic, but endemic?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, Anderson, I'm a card carrying epidemiologist for 46 years. I've written a lot about this in the medical literature. And I can't tell you, I don't know what endemic means, isn't endemic if we go the next three or four months, relatively quiet, and then all of a sudden, a new variant emerges. And we have an Omicron redo. What does that mean is that now go from pandemic to endemic back to pandemic, they're just words. I think what we have to be mindful of is we're not done with this virus, yet. We need new and better vaccines, we need to have therapeutic drugs that are readily available to everyone around the world when they get infected. If we do things like that, no matter what variant emerges, we can take it off the table. We're not there yet. And we need to keep working on those to get to the point where we can say, you know, we can take care of this.

You know, if we were doing this interview in 1983, we would have recognized at that time, anyone who had a diagnosis of HIV, it was a death sentence. Today, HIV is largely a chronic disease treatable with drugs. I think you're going to see that with COVID in the next six to 12 months, more and more of that. But for now, at least over the months ahead, we've got to be aware of these variants can surely throw us a 210 mile an hour curveball. We just have to be ready for.

COOPER: Yes, it took 14 or 15 years to go from a death sentence with HIV to the to the drugs.

OSTERHOLM: We're going to be faster here. If we actually do the kind of programmatic work to get testing in place and to get the drugs distributed, we can do a lot better.

COOPER: Michael Osterholm, I appreciate it always. Thank you.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, breaking news out of the White House. President Biden is caught on a hot mic cursing reporter. What happened coming up.



COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. President Biden was caught in a hot mic today with some choice words for a Fox reporter.


PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS REPORTER: Will you take question on inflation then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, thank you. Thank you all.

DOOCY: Do you think inflation is a political liability around the midterms?

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: That's a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: The President's profane comment came as reporter shouted questions at him after he gave remarks on efforts to lower prices for Americans at a White House event.

Joining us now CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. So you were right near the Fox reporter when he asked the question, what was their reaction in the room?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Honestly, Anderson, it was kind of hard to hear President Biden when he made that comment, because I was standing next to Peter Doocy of Fox News who posed that question to President Biden, you can see us there and then we're being ushered out of the room by the press aides at this time when we were asking questions. And I'd actually asked Biden a question about this call that he had earlier today with eight European leaders about what's unfolding in Ukraine. And he said he wanted to have questions on the topic at hand, which of course, this was an event focused on economic competitiveness and focusing on that, and whatnot. And then Peter Doocy, of Fox News asked his question about inflation, which obviously is tangentially related to that. And that was the President's response.

But it was actually hard to hear him to the point where I don't think Peter Doocy even heard the President make this comment because it was only after we left the room that I told Peter, what we had heard the President say on this microphone, which you couldn't always hear because we were kind of far back from the President. That of course, it was on a microphone it became quite clear on another audio channel, what he had said under his breath.


COOPER: Seems like the President has been responding under his breath a number of times in recent days?

COLLINS: I don't think a hot mic moment is that unusual for President Biden, of course remember he had that famous one after the Affordable Care Act was passed when he was vice president and talking to President Obama. But this matter at hand inflation, of course, is a moment where President Biden could have potentially used this opportunity to talk about something that is very much a real concern for Americans. Inflation is at a 40-year high. It is something that definitely registers on people's radar. It's a moment to talk about that. And that is part of why this council that the President has formed, he was meeting with today, members of his cabinet, top members of his administration, it is important inflation is important to people.

And so, yes, it's not certainly the last time that the President has had a hot mic moment if, of course, any of his aides would admit that Anderson, but I do think it will be a question for the White House in the coming days of, you know, how they tried to handle this, what you hear from the press secretary Jen Psaki, for example, when she speaks to reporters tomorrow about this.

COOPER: And what Peter Doocy have to say about the comments. COLLINS: I think he kind of laughed it off. I think a lot of people would probably look at this moment and laugh it off. Peter Doocy made a comment about needing a second source on the President's comment on him saying hadn't been fact checked yet. But I think at the moment, it is a question that people is legitimate. People do want to know about inflation. They do want to know certainly what the President himself wants to do. And of course, Democrats want to know about this Anderson, it is something that you've heard Senator Joe Manchin and others talk about being potentially a political problem for them going into the midterms. But of course, you saw very clearly how President Biden felt about that question tonight.

COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.

Florida State lawmakers advanced a bill banning some schools from speaking about sexual orientation. Next, we'll talk with a mother of Matthew Shepard whose murder was motivated by anti-gay hate.



COOPER: The new state bill at Florida that would ban conversations on sexuality and gender identity at some schools is facing pushback. Last week a Florida House Committee Passed the Parental Rights and Education Bill it's also been called the Don't Say Gay Bill. The bill requires implementation of quote, procedures to reinforce fundamental rights of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children. It lets parents take legal action if they believe a school is violating their rights.

Cheston Buttigieg husband, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted that the bill will kill kids in his words, and that the governor is purposely making like Florida, a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive it. He also cited a survey from the Trevor Project that found that 42% of LGBTQ youth considered attempting suicide last year.

Joining us now is Judy Shepard, mother, Matthew Shepard, a gay university student who was beaten tortured to death. She start a foundation in his name.

Judy, thanks for joining us. I'm wondering what effect you think this bill could have on students.

JUDY SHEPARD, MOTHER OF MATTHEW SHEPARD: But I'm sure those kids feel isolated enough without having the schools tell them that they can't learn anything about the gay community, their contributions to history or that gay kids and kids, they're just people like everybody else that they happen to love is who they are. Its unfortunate that learning more information about what that means, so they don't feel all alone is happening more places than just Florida unfortunately.

COOPER: To those who say that, you know, sexual orientation or gender identity is not age appropriate to be teaching in primary school classrooms or in even with older kids that that it should all be age appropriate. What do you say to that?

SHEPARD: But I think that that's, I think that's not what really happens. I mean, I, I'm sure there are children in kindergarten, who had friends who have two mommies or two daddies, they are not unaware of the existence of the community and what that means. And I just think it would be beneficial to everybody, if there was a way to talk about it in a way that doesn't make it scary or seeing different.

I understand parents wanting to know what their kids are learning. I'm a parent. But I sure want Matt to know what the world was like and not try to shield him for the things that were going on. And if he had questions about at an older age, or even in elementary school, about what being a member of the community was about, I would have wanted to have someone to talk to, because if you -- your parents are scariest people, you're going to tell those things, too, in my experience anyway.

COOPER: It's interesting. I wonder under this bill, if a same sex couple has a child in a classroom in first grade, say and is that does it mean that -- I mean, can the teacher acknowledge that not all kids have the same kind of parents, not all kids have two parents or, you know, different sex parents?

SHEPARD: That's as an excellent question, and it certainly would lead to the unintended consequences of such a broad reaching bill. I don't think that today's society is still back so far that we fear this is in existence, we see it everywhere, mainstream media, everywhere, it's everywhere now. And I would want the kids to learn something if they had questions at any age, in a safe environment. And there are safe places to go on the net. But there are certainly places that lead you some places you shouldn't be as well.

COOPER: As we mentioned, the Trevor Project did a national survey on LGBTQ youth mental health. In part found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. The survey also found that those who had access to spaces that affirm them reported lower rates of attempting suicide is certainly what Chason Buttigieg tweeted. Do you think a bill like this could lead to harm for kids?


SHEPARD: Well absolutely, it's their reelected leaders telling them that they're unworthy, that they're somehow wrong and not giving them opportunity to actually become themselves. And it also gives no outlet for the districts to counter bullying. We know that bullying is a huge issue in schools for the gay kids who happen to be at that school. There is no school that doesn't have gay kids. That's just ridiculous to think. And think that you're somehow even unintentionally harming them by ignoring their existence or telling them that they're wrong by not talking about the gay community at large, is very damaging to their self-esteem, and to their hopes for future.

COOPER: The bill also seems to make it impossible or very difficult for if a student at school says something to a counselor or teacher about feelings they're having, or the -- what they think if they think they're gay, that that teacher has to tell the parents it seems like that is also a difficult subject.

SHEPARD: Oh, gosh, I just think that would be, I think that would be just so hard on the individual. They're looking for someone an adult to tell a confidential story to or ask a question of that they are afraid to ask their parents and it may actually be nothing. But for the teacher, whoever the adult is to assume that they then need to tell the parents, as a parent myself, I would not I would not want that to happen. The child went to the counselor rather than me first for a reason. And I want them to explore and feel safe and comfortable no matter where they are. And if they're forbidden from doing that, and putting the teachers themselves at risk --


SHEPARD: -- that is just a road we shouldn't be going down.

COOPER: Judy Shepard, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

SHEPARD: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll be right back.



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