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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Biden Team Expected to Begin Reaching Out and Possibly Meet with Potential Supreme Court Picks Nominees Next Week; Ukrainian Official Tells CNN Biden-Zelensky Call Did not Go Well, but White House Disputes Account; Ukrainian Officials Tells CNN Biden-Zelensky Call "Did Not Go Well"; White House Disputes Account; Health Officials Monitoring Omicron Subvariant. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 27, 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: And that has been so wide ranging because it will form, right, will, future, off the Coast of Georgia, but it is going to happen and then rapidly strengthen. It is particular storm system called a bombogenesis.
So, boom, it forms and then it moves. They are expecting though Boston to get 20 to 30 inches of snow. This is going to be a massive storm.
Thanks so much to all for watching. Anderson is next.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with the warning about the state of democracy, it comes from retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and though he spoke today at the White House with the warmth and gentle humor for which he is known, his message was unmistakable, American democracy cannot be taken for granted. It is not self-sustaining.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I'll tell you what Lincoln thought, what Washington thought, and what people today still think, it's an experiment. It's an experiment, that's what they said. And Joanna paid each of our grandchildren a certain amount of money to memorize the Gettysburg Address.
The reason -- the reason that -- what we want them to pick up there and what I want those students to pick up, if I can remember the first two line, is that "Four score and seven years ago, our Fathers created upon this, here a new country, a country that was dedicated to liberty and the proposition that all men are created equal, conceived in liberty," those are his words. "And dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," he meant women, too.
And we are now engaged in a great civil war to determine whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. See, those are the words I want to see -- an experiment, and that's what he thought. It's an experiment.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Justice Breyer did not offer his assessment of how well the
experiment is going. His choice of topic, though, seems assessment enough, as does the question he asked at the end of his remarks after calling on Americans to work harder to nurture democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREYER: I say I want you to pick just this up. It's an experiment that's still going on, and I'll tell you something, you know, who will see whether that experiment works, it is you, my friend. It's you, Mr. High school students. It's you, Mr. College students. It is you, Mr. Law School students. It's us, but it's you. It's that next generation, and the one after that.
My grandchildren and their children, they will determine whether the experiment still works, and of course, I am an optimist, and I'm pretty sure it will.
Does it surprise you that that's the thought that comes into my mind today? I don't know. But thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Optimist or not, it is hard to imagine he doesn't know the answer to that. Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the military cemetery on the battlefield where more than 50,000 Americans had fallen. Now whether intended or not, evoking that moment with memories still fresh of the attack by Americans on Americans since the Civil War certainly seems to convey where we are as a country because to borrow from Lincoln's first inaugural, the better angels our nature was hard to find in the crowds on January 6th, as they must have been in Washington when Lincoln spoke the words just a month before the Civil War began.
Nor it seems does a substantial portion of Americans today ready to strive, as Lincoln said in his second inaugural to bind up the nation's wounds. Many it seems now deny the existence of them. Some, including the former President, the current standard bearer of Lincoln's party seek other deeper longer standing wounds to tear at.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're white, you don't get the vaccine or if you're white, you don't get therapeutics. It's unbelievable to think this.
In fact, in New York State, if you're white, you have to go to the back of the line to get medical help. Think of it. If you're white, you go right to the back of the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The President said it is unbelievable to think this and that's really the only thing he said in that statement. That's true. It is unbelievable that he thinks this, a former President of the United States flat out lying to stoke racism, to divide Americans. And sadly, many of his most ardent followers have embraced this kind
of division and demonization. They've won elections on it. Others have simply learned that embracing extreme rhetoric and behavior works, even if it further poisons the dialogue and even though they may know better.
Small example, perhaps but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who always knows better and was probably born knowing better had this to say about naming Justice Breyer's successor nearly the exact same time just Justice Breyer was speaking today.
Quoting now from McConnell, he said: "The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left." Again, it's a minor thing, but as with Justice Breyer's words, it speaks to where we are.
Joining us now is Federal District Judge Vince Chhabria who clerked for Justice Breyer, also CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod; and CNN senior legal analyst, Laura Coates, author of the fascinating new book, "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness."
Laura, I'm wondering what your reaction is to the President reaffirming his commitment to nominate the first black female Justice of the Court and what you made of Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McConnell's statement?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think it is really well regarded. The President of the United States has this embarrassment of riches of qualified, extraordinarily qualified black women who have long been a part of the bar, who have extraordinary resumes, that nobody could comment on is somehow unqualified, or they don't have integrity or they are the very women who are revered for their intellect, their ability to synthesize information and their impartiality.
And I think that it's really just continuing to be stunning in this nation that nobody would believe that it would be odd to say, you need to have a woman on the bench. But somehow the idea of a black woman on the bench should be something that is decades, if not centuries delayed, and that simply can't be the case.
Every one of the people who has been presented at least so far, are people who really could run circles, frankly, around most of the lawyers in this nation, and for good reason. They had extraordinary experience and expertise and any suggestion that by virtue of saying that he wants to put and nominate a black woman on the bench, if that somehow met with some sort of coded language, Anderson, to suggest that, well, it might be a foregone conclusion if it's a black woman, they'll rule a certain way.
All you need is to hear from Justice Breyer, who talked about the benefit of having a variety of experiences and why would we not want a bench as high as Supreme Court of the United States to be able to at least offer the perspective of black women in this country, and that they're overqualified, frankly, for the position? Well, that's just the cherry on top. COOPER: David, I mean, CNN's Manu Raju is reporting tonight that
G.O.P. senators and some Senate candidates are already concluding that the unnamed nominee is certain to be far left. I mean, is that the line of attack you think that -- I mean, are they just kind of throwing that up now to see how that line of attack works? Or do you think that's what they'll use in this process?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't know whether they've concluded that the candidate will be far left, I think they've concluded that they will depict the candidate as far left because it fits their narrative, and as does the narrative that Biden is being led around by the left -- McConnell's words.
You know, I think this is their political narrative. I think they know that they probably can't stop this confirmation, but they want to weaponize it in the fall. And they want to stir their constituents and their base, and this is the language that they're going to use.
COOPER: Judge, you were Justice Breyer's law clerk during the 2001- 2002 term. I want to just ask you about him, about his legacy and I'm wondering what you made of his speech today invoking the Gettysburg Address, basically saying democracy is an experiment, not a guarantee.
JUDGE VINCE CHHABRIA, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA: Well, thank you for having me, and I really appreciate, it is very interesting to hear all the speculation about who the next nominee will be, but I appreciate your desire to at least dedicate part of the discussion to the giant shoes that that nominee will fill. So thank you for having me on.
I think with respect to his speech today, I mean, anybody who didn't watch it, I urge you to go watch it if you want to get to know Justice Breyer. That is the Justice Breyer who his law clerks and his colleagues get to see every day. You saw the Professor who is citing things that were written by people a long time ago and explaining to us why they are still relevant today.
You saw the pragmatist who is concerned about the relationship between the law and our democracy. You saw transparency, always happy to let us know exactly what is going on inside his head.
And of course, you saw the passionate public servant and the relentless optimist who closed his speech by saying that he was optimistic about the experiment continuing. Now, in response, Anderson, to your comments, I guess, I understand why you interpreted it the way you did.
I had a different interpretation. I didn't necessarily think that it was so much of a warning, as a reminder that our democracy has always been fragile. I remember having a conversation with Justice Breyer a few years ago and we were talking about this state of democracy and I said, are we going to be okay? And he said, we're absolutely going to be okay.
We have had far worse times in this country that we've bounced back from. Think about the 60s and 70s with bombs going off in the streets, for example. So, I think that you know, his point is that democracy is always fragile and then it depends on meaningful engagement and participation by the public.
COOPER: And that's really what he reminded students of and people in college.
Laura, conservative attorney, Jonathan Turley argued in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed that President Biden should not have pledged to nominate a black woman. Professor Turley invoking past controversies over these race as a college admissions factor wrote: "Mr. Biden's use of such threshold exclusions is neither unlawful nor judicially reviewable, yet it's also unnecessary. Mr. Biden could have selected a black woman for the court, while maintaining as universities do that he would consider all possible candidates on the totality of their records," end quote.
This claim came about I mean, James Clyburn was on the program last night, the Majority Whip, who said, you know, that it came about because he went up to Biden during a debate -- in a break in a debate and said, you know, you haven't said that you would nominate a black woman to the court, and that is really important and that he had made promise during debate and then continued to use that on the campaign trail.
COATES: Well, I think it was a good promise to have been made, and one that fulfills not only what I think is long overdue, as he has said, but remember, I'm really irritated by the notion that of all the presidential nominees we've seen over the course of history, for some reason, the idea of now talking about a black woman somehow means that a presidential pick is somehow not impartial or guided by the right principles.
How often have we seen, Anderson, a President in recent times say, I'm going to put someone on the Supreme Court who is going to overturn Roe v. Wade? Well, if that's not a greater indication of somebody's lack of impartiality, I don't know what it is. But somehow, being a black woman dictates and is synonymous to being not impartial, I don't buy it. I think it's an excuse and a pretext. I'm glad to see a black woman nominee.
COOPER: Judge, you know, it's interesting. I've heard you speak about Justice Breyer's -- the emphasis he put on the importance of diversity and that in his hiring of staff of clerks, that was always something he wanted a diverse background of people in his orbit. It seems especially fitting, whoever fills the seat that it might be filled by a black woman.
CHHABRIA: Yes, I agree. He always wanted to hire a diverse group of people. And obviously, I was a beneficiary of that, but I think more importantly to him, he wanted people from different backgrounds coming through chambers and participating in the decision making process, because he understood that that made a positive difference for the institution and the outcome of the cases. You can't -- if you have a country full of people from all different
backgrounds, our democracy is not going to work, our institutions are not going to work unless you have people from different backgrounds operating at the highest levels.
And so I think that will be a very important legacy for Justice Breyer, is that a number of the people who he hired, he helped elevate to the highest echelons of the profession, and they will go on to contribute long after he steps down from the bench.
COOPER: David, you know firsthand the process of what it is like trying to get someone onto the Court for a President to make that decision. Senator Hawley has already said that -- towards the effect of that the Biden is not going to get -- or the Democrats aren't going to be able to ramrod this thing through the nomination process. Senator Schumer had referenced the quick nomination process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. How do you think it's going to play out now? Or will they -- what can the Republicans do to slow this down?
AXELROD: Well, they kind of set the rules. It was Mitch McConnell who changed the rules and eliminated the filibuster for a Supreme Court nomination.
So as long as Democrats stick together, I think this nomination will come up quickly. The president said he'll nominate by the end of February. I think you'll see hearings very quickly, and I think you'll see confirmation quickly.
But, you know, Hawley and others, as I said, they're trying to weaponize this nomination for their own political purposes. Just hearing your quote of Professor Turley reminds me of the fact that Ronald Reagan promised to put a woman on the bench. I didn't hear these kinds of complaints.
And honestly, Barack Obama said on the campaign trail, I think we should have a diverse court. I'd like to see a Hispanic member of the Court and he did appoint Justice Sotomayor. But you know, and the final point on this, I worked on that nomination.
Justice Sotomayor, I remember sitting with her and I asked her what worries you about this process? And she said, I worry about measuring up.
AXELROD: And it wasn't that she didn't feel she was qualified, but she felt that there was an added burden on her because she was a barrier breaker. And, you know, I think the same will be true of this next nominee, and that's too bad, and that is really too bad because she is a splendid member of the Court, and I'm sure whoever the President appoints will be highly qualified and will add something.
COOPER: Yes, David Axelrod, Laura Coates. I appreciate it. Judge Chhabria, it was really a pleasure to have you on and what an extraordinary experience to have clerked for Justice Breyer, and to have seen him up close like that, and I'm sure you have taken that into account in how you, at your office, and how you approach your job. So I really appreciate you speaking with us tonight. Thank you.
CHHABRIA: That's very true, and thank you very much.
Coming up next, we have more breaking news. What we're just now learning about today's phone call between President Biden and the President of Ukraine with the Russian buildup on Ukraine's border, growing more ready for war.
Later, my conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, including his take on the question of a fourth shot for those already boosted against COVID.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight. President Biden spoke late today with Ukraine's President, according to one side of the call, it did not go well, with about 130,000 Russian troops now almost entirely surrounding Ukraine and this country, scrambling to keep the European allies unified, the words did not go well, or are certainly concerning. However, as we said, that's just one view.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now from the White House. You're learning more about this call with Ukraine's President Zelensky. What do you know?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is some disagreement over how the call went. One thing that both sides seem to definitely agree on is that it was long, Anderson, and a very serious call, of course, given the fact that there are over 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, and The Pentagon said today it's only getting higher, that number is only getting bigger.
I am told by a National Security official that the call between President Biden and the Ukrainian President Zelensky lasted about an hour and 20 minutes just highlighting the depth of the extensive issues that the two leaders have to discuss.
And while one senior Ukrainian official is telling our colleague, Matt Chance tonight that it didn't go well, saying that President Biden disagreed with a characterization by the Ukrainian leader about whether or not an invasion by Russia is imminent, I am told by national security official that President Biden didn't say it was definitely going to happen.
He said that U.S. intelligence has assessed if it does happen, it could very likely be in February. We've talked a lot about how the conditions, the weather conditions could contribute to when Putin decides to move. But of course, really, ultimately, officials have been pretty clear here at the White House, no one knows what exactly the Russian leader is going to do or what's inside his head.
And so they don't even believe his top aides know exactly how he wants to move here. And so, of course, this is a very serious consideration for the Ukrainians. They want to know what the U.S. side knows and what their reassurances are going to be when it comes to military assistance and whatnot.
And so, I think a big discussion still up for discussion, frankly, tonight is whether or not Putin is going to move, the Russian leader is going to actually move. And so, that is still something very serious. The White House said this call tonight was more of a check in, Anderson. They didn't expect there to be any big breakthroughs or deliverables from the U.S. side to the Ukrainians. But they essentially wanted the two leaders to talk over the phone, an hour and 20 minutes, about of course, what is a serious, serious discussion and they still don't know exactly what it is the Russians are going to do.
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.
Whatever happens next, one thing appears certain, Russia's state control media will be taking every opportunity to push the Kremlin line and make the case for invading a sovereign nation, which also happens to be a fledgling democracy, not much can be expected.
Less so, at least for anyone who still remembers Russian interference in American democracy, let alone the entire Cold War is how eagerly some of the right in this country are now defending Vladimir Putin.
In fact, it's gotten to the point that Russian state TV is now echoing some of it back. Here's a frame from one program behind the anchor. There's a screenshot from a recent Tucker Carlson program on FOX, the banner reading -- beneath reading -- "None of this benefits America." That's from Carlson.
Now to be clear, unlike Russia, this is a free country. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and there are those on the right and the left who oppose any American involvement in this crisis. That said it is striking how neatly Kremlin propaganda seems to dovetail with Carlson's talking points, so much so that a Russian independent news channel this week said this about him quoting now, "Sometimes it seems that he attends advanced training courses at the Russian Foreign Ministry."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT: Ukraine is a pretty small country, really, it's in Eastern Europe, it's 5,000 miles from Washington. It's got a population about the size of the State of California. So hugely significant? Not really. And yet, we never seem to stop talking about Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, one reason that maybe we have never seem to stop talking about Ukraine, and we have talked about Ukraine a lot over the years is because the former President attempted to pressure Ukraine to dig up or invent dirt on Joe Biden. So, that was pretty significant. And yes, I guess a lot of people talked about Ukraine then.
Another reason, of course, is that Russia invaded Eastern Ukraine against the international law. That's also a reason it's been talked about for a while. They've already fought a war and 14,000 Ukrainians have been killed over the last several years.
But Carlson has been on this jag for weeks and appears to be motivating the Republican right. In a tweet yesterday seasoned with a hint of his trademark xenophobia. Congressman Paul Gosar wrote, "What if we skip the parts where 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops die, we spend $2 trillion we don't have and we leave defeated, instead just import two million Ukrainians?"
That point of view also features highly in Carlson's segments on Ukraine, in which he accuses the Biden administration of focusing on Ukraine's borders with Russia, not on our own border with Mexico.
COOPER: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, of course, also weighed in this week tweeting about herself naturally in the third person. "With Biden threatening war with nuclear Russia, it is time for the Judiciary Committee to take up the Congresswoman Greene's first set of Articles of Impeachment."
She continues: "Joe Biden is compromised because of his son, Hunter Biden's, business dealings in Ukraine." That too, of course is part of Tucker Carlson's litany.
And if the Gosar's and the Greene's, the Lauren Boebert's and Thomas Massey's of the world were merely backbenchers as they would have been some years ago, this wouldn't be, you know, consequential. These days however, they are not backbenchers.
Last month, Ohio Republican Mike Turner who serves on the House Intelligence Committee did go on FOX and remind Carlson the stakes, reminding him that, quote, "Ukraine is a democracy. Russia is an authoritarian regime that is seeking to impose its will upon a validly elected democracy in Ukraine, and we are on the side of democracy."
But whether it's defending Putin, casting doubt on or even attacking the U.S. Intelligence Community or putting the squeeze on Ukraine, the tone is being set by certain elements in the right-wing media, a cadre of far-right lawmakers, and of course, it is the man at the top of the party who could not stop from taking Putin's side on Russian interference in the 2016 election
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others, they said they think it is Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia.
I have great confidence in my Intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: More than this and the breaking news, joining us CNN political
commentator, Charlie Dent, former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, and CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, co- anchor of "State of the Union."
Dana, I am wondering what your read is on the battle within the Republican Party on this issue? Because I mean, there is -- you know, there is plenty of people both on the left and the right, who just don't believe the U.S. should be involved in these kind of, you know, on the international stage in this way, if it's not, perhaps directly affecting the United States.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right, and that schism within each party, particularly with the Republican Party isn't new, but it has been much more profound since former President Trump was the titular head of the party because that's what he ran on.
He ran on America First. He ran on protectionism. He ran on against the last before him Republican President, George W. Bush and the Iraq War and sending U.S. troops into battle, and into arenas all over the world.
What is very different is the kind of thing that you just showed that people like Tucker Carlson and what used to be the fringe of the G.O.P. in the House, in particular used to say, which is what difference does it make? What's the difference between Russia and Ukraine? And the answer that Mike Turner gave was, oh, the difference is Ukraine is a democracy and Russia is authoritarian, and that is what America is supposed to stand up for.
That is where this divide within the Republican Party has gone in a completely different and somewhat dangerous direction.
COOPER: Congressman Dent, how much -- I mean, I don't know, is this a generational break among Republicans, you know, kind of being seen on Ukraine, those who were lawmakers during the Cold War, just after on one side, maybe younger, you know, so called Freedom Caucus members, more Trump aligned members on the other? Is it, you know, those who are tired of, you know, forever wars in Afghanistan, and you know, the war in Iraq and just don't want, you know or are now having more of an isolationist foreign policy?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, certainly, Anderson, there is a generational divide within the G.O.P. Those who -- those members who have been around for a while and who believe in strong American leadership and global engagement, I think are a diminishing voice compared to those who are newer members and have taken on this more Trumpian, isolationist, protectionist nativist approach to American leadership.
And I think it's really -- to me, it's so sad that so many of my former colleagues would stand up and more or less embrace Vladimir Putin's view and Putin, he simply wants to undermine American power and influence anywhere in the world. He wants to break up NATO. He wants to unravel the European Union. He
wants to divide the U.S. from Europe. And I always point out, you know, what the United States did after the Second World War is the crowning diplomatic achievement of this country, bringing about a peaceful stable Europe.
This was difficult, and it was something that we should celebrate. And to throw it all away, to throw it all away, as some have, as Tucker Carlson have. I mean, you know, it was Nikita Khrushchev, who talked about Americans who spoke against their country and advocated for the Soviet Union. He used the term called useful idiots.
This is not a time for Americans that behave like that. We have an obligation. Our leadership has made a difference in Europe. It is peaceful and stable and we shouldn't just assume it is always going to be this way. Putin is trying to disrupt it.
COOPER: Dana, the Biden administration right now is trying to get NATO countries and other European allies to, you know, be unified, be tough with sanctions on Russia, if they invade, those countries have gone through four years of the former president, bad mouthing NATO, they're now hearing this latest dialogue in U.S. politics. Does it hurt U.S. credibility?
BASH: It certainly didn't make it easy. And there's a reason why the first very important meeting that President Biden had with NATO allies with all of the alliances was to explicitly say in public and in private, America is back, America has NATO is back, and we will fulfill our obligations.
The bigger issue when it comes to NATO is and the EU countries in particular, like Germany and others, is I think less about America having its back and more about their concern about their own economic interests, namely, oil and gas from Russia and that being disrupted in their countries being hurt. And that is really one of the main reasons if not the main reason for the divide right now on the Russia issue.
COOPER: Dana Bash, Congressman, Congressman (INAUDIBLE), appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, the fourth shot you needed to fight COVID. My conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, next.
COOPER: Tonight, health officials are keeping an eye on a new Omicron sub variant dubbed BA.2. It's been found in 40 countries including the U.S. This is new COVID cases from the last Omicron surge are down at 33 states from last week. But at least eight states are seeing a spike including Montana, where new cases are up more than 50% from a week ago.
Earlier I spoke with President Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, who's also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
COOPER (on-camera): And Dr. Fauci I know you've laid out a best and worst case scenario for the coming weeks and months. The best case being that infection levels get to a place where daily life isn't disrupted anymore, the worst case being another variant that does disrupt life. For people who've done the right things are vaccinated, boosted and are frankly exhausted. What's your advice and message to them tonight?
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: You know Anderson, my message would be just hang in there because things look like at least for what's going on with Omicron, that things are turning around. If you look at the Northeast Corridor, particularly, for example, New York City and the Upper Midwest with Chicago, it's peeked in turn around. And the cases are coming down rather substantially. A little bit more of a lag in the southern states and in the western states.
But in general, it looks very much like it's going in the right direction. We've got to hang in there and really prevent it from going back to a surge. And the way we do that Anderson is to just continue to follow the kinds of guidelines that we've been talking about for so long. And I refer obviously to people who have not been vaccinated to get vaccinated. But for those who've been vaccinated, if you are eligible to get boosted, please get boosted because the data are really strikingly clear that boosting brings back up your level of protection, even against Omicron to a very, very high level, particularly when you're talking about serious disease that might lead to hospitalization.
So in general, I'm cautiously optimistic that things are going in the right direction. We've seen that happen in South Africa in the UK. And we're seeing it now in several cities in the United States.
COOPER (on-camera): How long are the is the booster good for do you think? I mean, because at this point, there's people who were boosted months ago.
FAUCI: You know, we don't know the answer to that Anderson, I mean, the laboratory data will clearly show that after a while the antibody levels go down. That's natural. But what we're hoping for is that third shot of an mRNA or the second shot of a J&J will induce a durable immunity that's much more so than after the second dose of a two dose mRNA. We don't know that now definitively. But we're following it both from a laboratory standpoint, and from a clinical standpoint.
And that's the reason why I've said, before we start talking about a fourth boost, let's make sure we understand what the durability of the third shot is. And that's what we're doing right now. And hopefully, as more data come in, we'll have a better understanding of that.
COOPER (on-camera): According Johns Hopkins, the U.S. is averaging more than 2,300 deaths a day from COVID. And the CDC predicts more than 62,000 additional deaths over the next four weeks, which is I mean, startling. Why are there so many people dying from COVID again, and I assume these are mostly if not all, nearly all unvaccinated people. Are these deaths because the Omicron variant --
COOPER (on-camera): -- not Delta.
FAUCI: I don't think there's any evidence that the Omicron variant is any more severe. In fact, there's even some suggestive evidence, Anderson, that the Omicron variant is somewhat less severe than Delta. But if you look at the data, it's painful to show and to realize that if you look at deaths and hospitalizations, and compare vaccinated people, with unvaccinated people, overwhelmingly it's heavily weighted towards the unvaccinated people, which is the reason why we continue to stress if you've not been vaccinated, even though, on an individual basis, if you're young and healthy, the chances are you're not going to get into trouble. We're seeing a lot of people getting hospitalized. And you yourself just said we've had over 2,200 deaths just yesterday and the day before and the day before. That means that there are vulnerable people out there and for the most part, the vulnerable people were heavily weighted towards the unvaccinated.
COOPER (on-camera): The sub variant of Omicron has been labeled by some stealth Omicron. I mean, can you set the record straight, what is known about that what isn't known and what is it your team is watching for?
FAUCI: OK, I'll tell you what's known and what's not known. It's called a B2A, it's B1 versus B2, excuse me. The B2A is the newer one, that's a sub lineage of the original Omicron, which is the B1A. So, we know one thing that it doesn't appear to be substantially different with regard to transmissibility, likely a bit more of a transmission advantage. And the reason you come to that conclusion, Anderson, is that when you look at Denmark, Denmark is being overtaken a bit by this new variant of sub lineage of Omicron, in the sense that it was fundamentally all Omicron to B1, but now it's seeing much more about 40 to 50 or more percent is the B2.
So, that's something that tells you that there's an advantage of transmission. But if you look at severity of cases, and you look at the data from Denmark it doesn't appear that the cases that are with the new variant the sub lineage of Omicron are any more severe. The UK is having an increase in percentage. They started off with just a couple of percent that's going up right now. It's very, very low percentage in the United States.
Bottom line, we're keeping a very close eye on it, looks a bit more transmissible, but not necessarily more severe.
COOPER (on-camera): Dr. Fauci, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you so much.
FAUCI: My pleasure. Good to be with you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, the culture wars are in full display in Virginia, the new Republican governor set up a tip line for parents to report schools that teach critical race theory, even though it seems he had no problem with his own children learning about it. We'll have more on that controversy, next.
COOPER: Virginia's new Republican governor Glenn Youngkin is facing pushback after his office created an e-mail tip line for parents to complain about mask mandates and report schools that teach what he calls divisive subjects like critical race theory. This comes after he banned both with an executive order when taking office. President of Virginia Education Association accuses Youngkin of trying to pit educators against parents for political gain.
My next guest Dana Milbank is taking him and Youngkin and Washington post op-ed titled Glenn Youngkin Didn't Mind If Some Kids Got An Anti Racist Education, His Own. Milbank writes, but do you know which schools do teach divisive concepts including something resembling critical race theory? The private D.C. schools, Youngkin had his children attend. And you know who was on the Board of Governors one of those schools while it was beefing up its anti-racism policies? Glenn Youngkin.
Washington Post op-ed columnist Dana Milbank joins me now. Appreciate you being with us. You write in your piece, not only as Virginia's new Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, banning the fictional menace of critical race theory from public schools, but he's also turning the Commonwealth into a little Stasi state. What do you think is motivating all this? I mean is it just playing to the far right?
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it is I mean, this is the new Trumpist element of the party. So, there's unfortunately a very hefty dollop of race baiting going on here. The idea is that people have intruded on the curriculum that they were taught for a while about, you know, essentially lost cause philosophy of the south. So this has been a natural occurrence over time. So I think this is a backlash against that.
But what it's doing is its intimidating teachers. So the idea is any parent can complain about anything now. So if you're a teacher in a public school in Virginia, and you're no, you're going to get in trouble for anything divisive, well, I think the logical thing to do would be not to mention slavery, not to mention Jim Crow, not to mention white supremacy. So that's clearly what's going on behind this. And that's, you know, what this man is doing as governor is very different from what he did as a parent.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, you're alleging the governor's being hypocritical on a personal level, because where his kids went to school in his involvement there. What is your argument on that point? I mean, how egregious do you think it is?
MILBANK: Well, I mean, look, he's not the first politician to be accused of hypocrisy. The real danger here is it's not just about anti racism, or critical race theory. He's saying anything divisive, should be kept out of school. Well, that's not what an education is about, you're supposed to deal with divisive subjects, you're supposed to deal with different points of views, you're supposed to have discussions and arguments, Glenn Youngkin chose not to send his kids to the Virginia Public School, send them to elite private schools, excellent schools here in the District of Columbia, where they do teach you to discuss and argue about divisive subjects, because that's how you learn.
So unfortunately, he's depriving Virginia public school students of the same benefits that he gave to his own children, they are getting an education, where they're not going to be taught to challenge ideas and to have a free exchange of ideas. So that's really the problem beyond, you know, whether you're talking about the anti-racism curriculum, or critical race theory, which is really much more of a high level college and graduate school thing anyway.
COOPER: Want to talk about a school mask mandates. Governor Youngkin, obviously ran on a platform which you would leave it up to localities, whether to impose them or not. It seems important, at least to have changed to a policy of overriding school districts decisions. Is this all of a piece in your view?
MILBANK: Well, I think it is, I mean, there's this whole idea that you've heard a lot from Fox News and the Trump Republican right about a war on parents. The idea is that parents are supposed to be able to make decisions for their children. But guess what, a lot of school districts in Virginia, the parents are saying, we want our kids to wear masks. We don't want our kids to get sick. He is overruling that.
So and look, you can see how, you know, this is a way for Glenn Youngkin, to appeal to the Trump base of the party without appealing directly to Trump. But I think what's important to recognize is he's playing for really from the same playbook here that the idea that there's a strong current undercurrent of race baiting going on, and it's very much what Donald Trump was doing. It's just Trumpism without Trump.
COOPER: Virginia governor's can serve only one term, they can't run for immediate reelection. Do you think Glenn Youngkin has found a winning playbook by which candidates and central right swing states like Virginia can win without fully embracing the former president? But embracing certain flash points, you know, it's part of the flash points, would that appeal to the base?
MILBANK: Yes. Right. I think you see him doing that. I think you see DeSantis doing that. And that that's what this notion of Trumpism without Trump. Because of course, Trump was really just a he was just reacting to the direction that the Republican Party was going in, generally. So I think you're seeing sort of a backlash to more of a multicultural America and these guys are taking that in the same direction Trump was just without the brand of Trump. COOPER: Dana Milbank, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
MILBANK: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Up next, there's breaking news on text messages sent between two former White House staff members while the Capitol was under attack.
COOPER: We've got breaking news in a text exchange -- text message exchange between former White House staffers during the January 6 Capitol attack. According to former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah, as the Capitol was under attack, she texted Ben Williamson, who was a top aides then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, asking quote is someone getting into POTUS, he has to tell protesters to dissipate, someone is going to get killed. POTUS, obviously is Present of United States. Then he responded, I've been trying for the last 30 minutes literally stormed in outer Oval to get him to put out the first one. It's completely insane. So there's that and new reporting about Williamson's interview with the January 6 committee.
Joining us now with latest is CNN senior legal affairs correspondent, Paul Reid. I mean, this is potentially significant. I'm wondering what you're learning about his interview with the committee and what he might actually know or have seen.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's incredibly significant Anderson and let's talk a little bit more about who Ben Williamson is, like he is a top staffer to former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. I can tell you from my time covering the Trump White House, that he was a constant presence in the West Wing. If you ever saw Mark Meadows, Ben was usually just a few steps behind.
And when it comes to the House select committee's investigation into January 6, Ben is significant because he was in the West Wing. And that text message that you just read that was actually cited in the House Select committee's letter to Ivanka Trump seeking her voluntary cooperation with their investigation. And they cite that text message from Ben calling the situation insane as one of the reasons they want to talk to her about exactly what was going on in the West Wing.
Now we've learned from our sources that Williamson, he was interviewed for about six to seven hours, and he fielded questions from congressional investigators covering everything from that video message that the former president recorded hours after the first reports of violence to Meadows conversations with the former president and even members of Congress.
COOPER: And how significant is his interview to the investigation as a whole considering he didn't plead the fifth according to reports, and his former boss, Mark Meadows has obviously been held in contempt of Congress for defying the committee. I'm essential -- he could potentially know almost as much as Mark Meadows knows.
REID: Absolutely. This is his right hand man and his value to investigators, Anderson is in his proximity to these two key figures, former President Trump and Mark Meadows. Now you also noted that Williamson did not invoke the fifth and usually that wouldn't be notable, but in the context of this investigation, several other Trump -- top Trump allies have invoke their Fifth Amendment including Alex Jones, Roger Stone conservative lawyer John Eastman.
Now, he really is a significant witness for the committee now not only for his own experience, not only for his efforts to try to get Trump to do something, but mostly for what he knows about what Mark Meadows was up to during this time, because Meadows has been an elusive witness for the Committee. He has stonewalled their efforts so far. They have of course referred him to come to the Department of Justice for potential contempt of Congress and no charges have been filed. But for now, Williamson is likely the committee's best insight into exactly what the White House Chief of Staff was up to, as the Capitol was under attack.
COOPER: Paula Reid, appreciate it. Thank you.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," our digital news show that gives us a chance to dig in some important topics, to have in-depth conversations. You can catch it streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at cnn.com/fullcircle or watch it there and on the CNN app anytime On Demand.
News continues here on CNN with Jim Acosta in "DEMOCRACY IN PERIL." Jim.