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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Florida Gov. DeSantis Takes On Dr. Fauci In Reelection Messaging: "Fauci Can Pound Sand"; Ex-DOJ Official Clark Meets With January 6 Panel For Nearly Two Hours; Sen. Cruz Calls Biden's Plan To Nominate First Black Woman To Supreme Court "Insulting." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 02, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, again.

Topping this hour of 360, the important but increasingly bizarre place that we find ourselves in, two years into this pandemic. Important, because the latest surge is quickly and sharply receding. And that is certainly great news.

The green on the map indicates declining cases. And there's a lot of it tonight.

Public health experts, including current government officials, are now expressing optimism, about "Getting back," in the words of Surgeon General Murthy, yesterday, to quote, "Some sense of normal." He says he feels that more so now, than at any point, in the outbreak.

Now comes the kind of bizarre part. The growing optimism, is also tempered, by attacks, on officials and experts, driven by the denial of reality, and fact. And no one is immune, so to speak, not even children's vaccine developer, Dr. Peter Hotez, who's with us tonight.

Yesterday, for that work, at Texas Children's Hospital, Dr. Hotez was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday evening, he was attacked on Fox. Short time later, the vicious emails started, hitting his inbox. He joins us now.

Along with us, CNN Medical Analyst, and former Baltimore Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, who has faced similar attacks.

So Dr. Hotez, first of all, congratulations, on the nomination. It's for your work, on developing and distributing COVID vaccine, worldwide. To be clear, it's not the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Can you just explain what you're working on?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, AUTHOR, "PREVENTING THE NEXT PANDEMIC: VACCINE DIPLOMACY IN A TIME OF ANTI-SCIENCE," DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE - BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. This is from our Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development, at Baylor College of Medicine, where we've been developing global health vaccines, for more than two decades.

Mostly vaccines, for parasitic diseases. But we took on Coronavirus vaccines, about a decade ago. And now, have developed the low-cost recombinant protein vaccine. It's a vegan vaccine, made in yeast, similar to the hepatitis B vaccine.

It looks really promising. And we've provided it with no patent, no strings attached, to vaccine producers, in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and now, Southern Africa. And India's the furthest along, where they have 250 million doses.


HOTEZ: And they're known as Biological E. And they've now released the vaccine, through Emergency Use Authorization, with the Indian regulator. So, we think this will be an important step, to vaccinate the world, because it checks so many boxes, for what you want for a global health vaccine.

COOPER: So, after all that, you were attacked on Fox, last night, compared to Alex Jones, called a quote, "Misinformation machine constantly spewing insanity," among other things.

I know you received emails, like this one.

"Patients have the right to refuse any treatment. Shut your pie hole if you're not going to support our Constitution. You all communist traitors can go to China if you like communism. We are not having it here ever."

Anyway, these kinds of things go on and on. And another one, "Soon the Republicans will be back in charge and investigating your sorry ass. You will be charged with treason and other crimes against humanity. You will be sentenced to hang by the noose until dead. I will celebrate the day I see you hanging from the Gallows."

What is your reaction, to the ongoing war, on science, and people, like yourself?

HOTEZ: Yes. I mean, this has been going on, because I've been defending vaccines, for a couple of decades.


But I think the new version of this is that it's coming from the political extremism, on the Right. It comes from the nighttime Fox News anchors. Steve Bannon, Representative Greene have attacked me.

And increasingly, it has an anti-Semitic - they know I'm Jewish. And many know I'm Jewish. And so, there's a lot of Nazi images, and Nuremberg kinds of things. So, it is quite distressing.

And the new part is that they're not only working, to discredit the science. And that's why so many Americans are refusing, to get vaccinated, and needlessly losing their lives. But now, they're attacking the scientists. They attack Tony, of course, Dr. Fauci. But I'm right up there, as well. And it's really disturbing.

Because of course, I got my M.D. and PhD, in the 1980s, with the goal of making vaccines, in the pursuit of humanitarian goals. And we're doing that. But I'd never dreamed that we'd be so vilified, and seen as enemies, of the people, which by a significant percentage of Americans.


Dr. Wen, I mean, in Florida, Governor DeSantis is fundraising off misinformation, selling $39, quote, "Freedom Over Fauci" flip-flops that say, "Fauci Can Pound Sand," on the soles. There was a campaign email recently, had the subject line, "Fauci for Prison."

What do you make of DeSantis, using misinformation, and raising money off this?


But I mean, this is obviously a major problem. I mean, here we have people, like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hotez, who are literally saving millions of lives. They are getting attacked. And, at the same time, science itself is being discredited, as well.

And there's a real cost, to what's happening, to this attack, on science. We saw a "Financial Times" analysis, this week, for example, that found that if the U.S. had comparable rates of vaccination, to leading European countries, that about half of our hospitalizations, this winter, could have been averted.

So, you think about the number of people, who got ill, and are dying, because of this type of misinformation, and direct attack, on science.

COOPER: And Dr. Wen, I mean, you've also been threatened. Last fall, a man, in Texas, was indicted by a federal grand jury, for sending you threats, because of your stance, on the vaccine.

You wrote an Op-Ed, for "The Washington Post." You're advocating, for lifting restrictions, and a return to normalcy. You're still being attacked.

Why do you think it's time, first of all, to lift restrictions? Let's start with that.

WEN: Well, we cannot live in a perpetual state of emergency. There is a place and a time for that. And I believe that we best preserve public health authority, for when those times are most needed.

By the way, I am not advocating that we lift restrictions, right now, for the entire U.S. There are many parts of the country that are still being overwhelmed, with patients that hospitals are still really full. And so, we certainly should not be lifting restrictions there.

But there are other places that are clearly trending in the right direction. And we need to give people hope. We need to have an off- ramp, for these same restrictions that we're putting in.

There are definitely people, who aren't happy, with this point of view. They're saying, "Look, we may have new variants come up in the future. So let's guard against that." I agree that we should prepare for that.

We should have better treatments. We should have more testing. We should make sure that we have high-quality masks. We should do everything, to protect the most vulnerable, including those who are immunocompromised.

But, at the same time, we also have to recognize that in fact, this may be the best time, if we have a law coming up, to lift these restrictions, because of the possibility of new variants. Let's give people some semblance of normalcy, for now.

COOPER: Dr. Hotez, Pfizer, as you know, has started submitting data, to the FDA, on the smaller dose of their vaccine, meant for children ages six months, up to five years of age.

The CEO of Pfizer says he believes children, in the age group, will need three doses of the vaccine, that it's best for parents to be able to begin the process of getting their kids, the first two doses, while the company waits for more data, about the third dose.

Do you agree with that?

HOTEZ: Well, I think what's happening, Anderson, with this Omicron wave, there's been so many cases that allows you to get a signal, whether these vaccines are working, and confirm that they're safe.

And so, I think what's happened with this Omicron wave, there's enough confidence, in the data, to move forward, and put it in front of the VRBPAC committee, and the ACIP, to see if they agree that two doses is giving sufficient protection, to move forward, with the expectation that it would improve even more, with the third dose.

So, it's a little bit unconventional. But it may make sense, if there's sufficient data, to give some strong evidence that two doses is having an important effect. And with Omicron, because there's been so many cases, that possibility may turn out to be the case.

But we'll know, when we have the VRBPAC meeting, we'll start to see, the public will start to see that data, because the system is very transparent. And so, it's not a guarantee that we'll move forward, on this. But I think it's a possibility.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Hotez, thank you. Congratulations on the Nobel nomination.


Dr. Wen, thanks, as well.

Coming up next, breaking news, on Russia's reaction, to American troop deployments, in the Ukraine crisis. A report from the region, and conversation with a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who recently traveled to Ukraine.

And later, what does it say about the state of race, in America, in the NFL, that a former Head Coach, Brian Flores, is now suing the League, alleging racial discrimination. We'll dig deeper, ahead.


COOPER: There is breaking news tonight, on the Ukraine crisis.

Reaction from Moscow, to President Biden's decision, to deploy 3,000 additional troops, to bolster three NATO allies, Germany, Romania and Poland, the Kremlin spokesman, telling CNN's Matthew Chance, the U.S. is, quote, "Continuing to pump up tension in Europe," end quote.

More now, on the reaction tonight, in Ukraine, our Senior International Correspondent, Sam Kiley, is in Kyiv, for us.

Sam, what is Ukraine's response, to the U.S. troop deployment?



They say, it's a very important step, in the right direction, and sets off some of the pressure that they're coming under, from the Russians, who continue to expand their troop presence, in the east, and importantly, in Belarus.

But, at the same time, Anderson, they're also saying, "Now we need some serious strategic weapons," in particular, surface-to-air missiles.

So far, the only lethal aid that they've had, from the U.S., and from the U.K., have been shoulder-launched anti-armor missiles. Nothing that would make a great deal of difference in the long-term, Anderson.

COOPER: And what's the Kremlin said about the developments?

KILEY: The Kremlin have said that this is yet another provocation, coming from NATO.

They've been characterizing NATO's movement, East, since 1997, as an act of aggression, effectively, and saying that all of this points to why is that it's so important, to Russia, to have a system agreed, with NATO, and the United States, as the sort of lead NATO partner that Ukraine will never be allowed to join that international military organization.

Of course, a position that's been recently rejected, in writing, after it was rejected verbally, by both NATO and the United States. COOPER: Sam Kiley, appreciate it. Thanks, Sam.

So, perspective now, from leading lawmaker, on the issue, Massachusetts' Democratic congressman, Seth Moulton, served on the House Armed Services Committee.

I spoke to him, shortly before air time.


COOPER: Congressman, after you traveled to Ukraine, in December, you were critical, of the Biden administration's strategy, and approach. I'm wondering, if you think President Biden has corrected course, when it comes to Ukraine and Russia.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I do. I wrote a letter, to the National Security Advisor, back in December. And today, they're really following those recommendations. So, they're may be a little bit late. But I think they're doing the right things.

And look, Anderson, imagine if President Trump, were in power today? He wouldn't be doing any of this. In fact, he would literally be believing Putin, over our own Intelligence agencies, and broadcasting that to the world, because that's what Trump did.

So, we're in an immeasurably-better position. The White House, Democrats and Republicans, in Congress, and all our NATO allies, are aligned here, on standing up for Ukraine.

COOPER: There has been a disagreement, over the use of the word, "Imminent." Ukraine's President, Zelensky, had taken issue, with the United States, describing the invasion as imminent. This afternoon, the White House walked back that language, saying that the word sent a message, they weren't intending to send.

Does that make any sense to you? I mean, seems like "Imminent" is a pretty clear word of what message they were trying to - and trying to send.

MOULTON: Well, look, it does make sense, because the Intelligence reports, change, over time.

And, I think, we all agree that Putin has not made a final decision here. I mean, there still is time for deterrence. There still is time, for diplomacy. And then, really, the two have to go hand-in-hand.

COOPER: President Zelensky warned that, if Russia invades Ukraine, quote, "This is not going to be a war of Ukraine and Russia. This is going to be a European war, a fully-fledged war."

Do you agree with him? What do you do - and if so, what are the implications of that?

MOULTON: Well, we don't know. But that is certainly my fear. There's no question that all of NATO is very concerned about what's going on here, especially our Eastern European allies, and NATO. And if Putin learns the lesson that once again, he can be aggressive, invade foreign countries, and essentially be rewarded, for that, have success? Then, our NATO allies do have a reason to be concerned. Who knows, who will be, next?

And that's why it's so important that we are extremely strong, on not just responding, to an invasion, or responding, to an incursion, but absolutely doing everything we can, to deter and prevent any sort of invasion, from ever starting.

COOPER: Do you think there is a diplomatic solution that both sides would accept, or that all sides would accept?

MOULTON: Look I - as a Marine veteran, I'm very - I'm a huge believer, in diplomacy, as most veterans are. And I think that we can come to a diplomatic solution here. Is it difficult? Absolutely. There's nothing obvious.

But, think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In some ways, I think that's a decent analogy here. The ultimate diplomatic solution, included some deals, behind-the-scenes. It included some things that worked, ultimately, to our strategic advantage, but were hard for people to see at the time.

That's the kind of situation, we're in, right now, where it's not obvious that a diplomatic solution is on the table. But I can assure you that the administration is working as hard as they can, behind- the-scenes, to figure out what that diplomatic solution is. Ultimately, that's of course what we want.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman Moulton, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MOULTON: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, still to come tonight, the January 6 committee, is getting people, to talk. But will the former Vice President be one of those people?

The latest, when we come back.



COOPER: Behind-the-scenes, and despite the best efforts, of the former President's allies, the January 6 committee, does seem to be making headway, in getting people to talk, or as was the case today, getting a former Justice Department official, who may not want to talk, to at least show up.

Jeffrey Clark is his name. He met with House Select Committee, two months, after he was held in contempt, for failure to cooperate.

Jamie Gangel joins us now, with the latest. So, what do you know, about Jeffrey Clark's meeting, with the committee?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, it was less than two hours, Anderson. So, I'm going to say that he did not cooperate very much. And that it is likely he took the Fifth, a lot.

I do think it's important, just for context. Look, Jeffrey Clark is not a household name. But he is critical in this investigation, because he was working, apparently hand-in-hand, with Trump, to try to overturn the election. He was trying to bring the Justice Department into this.

I want to say one thing, about taking the Fifth. And that is that would not have come, as a surprise, to the committee today, when he showed up.

My understanding is that they formulate very specific questions, and that it can be equally revealing, maybe not equally revealing, but revealing and interesting, when a witness won't answer a question.

COOPER: I know you're also paying close attention, to developments, involving the former Vice President.

GANGEL: Right.


COOPER: We know the committee has been interested in speaking to him. Do we know where, tonight, those negotiations stand?

GANGEL: I think they're still negotiating. We don't know yet.

There are some people, from Pence world, who have told us that there is no chance in hell that he is going to testify.

There are other sources, in Pence world, who've told me they are trying to work something out that the former Vice President doesn't want it to be a circus. Maybe he would go in privately. Maybe he would answer questions in writing, which is something the committee does not want.

But here is one thing that's happened, as we've seen in the last couple of days. Trump has been attacking Pence, openly, over and over. Not the first time.

But you have to say, is that really the best strategy, for Trump, right now? I mean, Pence has been, by and large, unfailingly loyal. But are those attacks going to have an impact, on whether or not Pence, does cooperate, in the end?

COOPER: Yes. Jamie Gangel, appreciate it.


COOPER: Want to get some perspective, from Michael D'Antonio, CNN Contributor, and Biographer of the former Vice President, who co-wrote "The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence."

Do you see a tipping point, here, with the renewed attacks, by the former President, on Mike Pence, and members, of the former Vice President's inner circle, speaking to this - the committee?


And Jamie's observation, about whether this is the right time, for the former President, to be so aggressive, in his comments about Mike Pence, is spot-on. Mike Pence was loyal, to a fault, many would say. And now, he's watching to see whether Trumpism, is going to sustain itself, or whether it's now going into a decline.

And if he sees that the former President is not quite as powerful, as he once was? And Trump's lashing out, I think, indicates an insecurity on his part. Then, perhaps the former Vice President would think it's in his interest, to cooperate, with the committee.

So that, he can say, "Look, I was loyal, as long as I had the duty to be so loyal. And then, in the interest of the country, I did my duty, and responded to the committee's call." So, this is a very perilous time for Donald Trump.

COOPER: Well, I mean, it's perilous, for Mike Pence, if he wants to be president, which I mean, it seems in a very difficult road, to see how that might even happen.

But given that Trump is the gatekeeper, and in order to, even win a primary, he would have to appeal, to a lot of the former President's supporters? That would seem to argue against the idea of testifying at all.

D'ANTONIO: Well, you're precisely right about the primaries. And so, that is the tough spot that Mike Pence is in.

If he believes that Donald Trump is going to run again, then he's sort of paralyzed, isn't he? He can't quite make the move that he might like to make, to move toward the middle, and be out there, on the fringe, staying loyal to Trump, and resisting.

So, this all comes down to where Mike Pence places his priorities. Is it with his ambition? And he is supremely ambitious. And a lot of folks don't realize that that he has wanted to be president forever. Or is he a person interested in his civic duty?

COOPER: What - he wasn't - I mean, he hadn't - his career wasn't really - his political career wasn't really going anywhere, at the time that then-candidate Trump, picked him, to be the Vice President.

D'ANTONIO: Well, right. That was the deal with the devil that Mike Pence made, against his wife's wishes. She thought that Donald Trump really was not the person, for Mike, to associate himself with. And I think she's been proven right, in the long-term. But, at the moment, he was a failed governor of Indiana. He really was going nowhere. I think he saw this, as a kind of last chance. And it may have been a ticket to nowhere.

COOPER: Yes. Michael D'Antonio, appreciate your time, as always. Thanks so much.

D'ANTONIO: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, Senate Republicans claim racial discrimination, by President Biden, as he vows to put a Black woman, on the bench.

And we take an in-depth look, at the current front runner, how she answered one powerful GOP lawmaker, when pressed on matters of race, in her career, next.



COOPER: Republican senator, Ted Cruz is, of course, standing by his condemnation, of President Biden, for promising to nominate a Black woman, to the Supreme Court. Cruz considers that, quote, "Offensive."


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): You got to understand, racial discrimination is wrong. Period. Full stop.

The Democrats are so casually racist, that they'll make that promise. And not only that. It ends up being insulting to African American women that there are - there are Black women, who are very talented jurists, who may well be the appropriate nominee.

But when Biden starts out, by saying he has a quota system, he diminishes the achievements of those African American women.


COOPER: Well, Cruz is not alone, among Republicans.

Senator Roger Wicker said, the nominee will be a beneficiary of, quote, "Affirmative action." Senator John Cornyn calls it unfair to whoever is chosen. And Senator Susan Collins argues that the promise help politicize the process.

Yet, other top Republicans worry that a messy confirmation fight could damage them, in the midterm races.

With me now, is CNN Political Commentator, and former Democratic South Carolina State Representative, Bakari Sellers. He's host of "The Bakari Sellers Podcast," and Author, of the new children's book, "Who Are Your People?"

So, Bakari, do you share Senator Ted Cruz's concern that this is an insult to Black women? [21:35:00]

BAKARI SELLERS, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "THE BAKARI SELLERS PODCAST," AUTHOR, "WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?": No. I wanted to laugh at one of those good hearty belly laughs at the intellectual dishonesty that is Ted Cruz.

I mean, the fact is you have Wicker, Ted Cruz, and Senator Kennedy, from Louisiana, who are doing more than a disservice. I mean, not only do we have to look at the lack of diversity, they have, on their own staffs, including the few women, they've actually hired, in their own offices.

But the fact that they can form their mouth, to talk about this process, and denigrate this progress, and actually talk about reverse racism, and talk about discrimination, when they've stood idly by, while they've watched discriminatory practices, both from the 45th President of the United States, in his past, and throughout this process, whereby we not only nominated, but selected Supreme Court jurists before.

This has never been an issue for this party. It's never been an issue for Ted Cruz. I've never heard Ted Cruz come out, and forcefully defend diversity, until now. And it's so tongue in cheek that you cannot take this man seriously at all.

COOPER: You made the point, a while ago, or a couple of nights ago that for generations, the assumption upon selecting a Supreme Court nominee was that, I mean, they would be White.

It wasn't even a question. It wasn't even an assumption. It was just a fact. And no one certainly really ever seemed to, of Ted Cruz's disposition, ever seemed to raise an objection, or concern, about that.

SELLERS: Never. And you won't hear Ted Cruz push back on Ronald Reagan in 1980, talking about nominating a woman to the Supreme Court. And, to be completely honest, this conversation about race, has gotten so infantile.

COOPER: And, by the way, President Trump, also promising to nominate a woman.

SELLERS: Yes. And if we looked at the list, of President Trump's choices, we recognize that that wasn't the most diverse list that you could have had!

So, I mean, there are these steps that people could have taken, to show some - to show some truth, and veracity, behind their statements. But they haven't. And this is where this conversation becomes so - it becomes so misinformed.

It's so frustrating, because the fact is, when you have people, like Senator Kennedy, when you have people like Senator Wicker, and Senator Cruz, who were actually put in a position, to vote on these individuals? That is the problem, because they do not understand the issues of race, in this country.

Dare I say? And it will - and this is going to make its rounds, I'm sure. But dare I say, one of the cruelest - one of the cruelest jokes that this country has ever played, on Black folk, was replacing Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas.

But this will go over their head, because they do not understand Thurgood Marshall's role in history, or the role of race, in this country, and replacing him with Clarence Thomas, and how that set us backwards.

And so, these conversations are too complicated, it appears, for people, like Ted Cruz, to understand. And that's the travesty. Because now, he thinks diversity is the butt of all of his jokes. And he acts like he wants to be the next Jay Leno, or what have you.

COOPER: Senator Lindsey Graham, notably, pushed back, on the criticism, from his Republican colleagues, saying he wants to see the court look more like America, which is not really a revolutionary statement. It's something that, you would think a lot of Republicans, frankly, would just embrace. Full stop.

SELLERS: I mean, you would think. But then, you would have to - you would have to start with the question, Anderson. And this is where these conversations go sideways. You literally have to start with the question of, do you value diversity?

Do you inherently see diversity, in having people, from different ethnicities, backgrounds, geographical backgrounds, educational backgrounds? And do you think that matters? Do you think it's important to have a Black woman's voice, in the room, when discussing these issues that come before the court?

And then, you'll have a response, from many well-meaning White folk, and many well-meaning Republicans, and senators, who say, "Oh, the race should not matter. I am colorblind."

Well, that's a perverted anti-intellectual statement. Because you want to see somebody's fullness, in the wholeness, of the diverse experiences they bring to the table. There is value, in having that person in the room.

It's very difficult to get through that conversation. And people don't want to have that conversation, about the value of diversity. And that is what Lindsey Graham was talking about. He actually hit the nail on the head.

There is a great value, to having a woman of color, a Black woman, in the room, making this court, reflective, of what this country's promise should be.

COOPER: Bakari Sellers, I appreciate your time, tonight. Thank you.

SELLERS: Always. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: The White House not showing its hand. But one name is surfacing, as the front-runner, among the potential nominees.

Our Jessica Schneider introduces us.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, D.C. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS NOMINEE: It is the beauty and the majesty of this country that someone, who comes from a background, like mine, could find herself, in this position.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was less than a year ago, when Ketanji Brown Jackson, referenced her unusual road, to becoming a federal judge, during her confirmation hearing.

Now, she's on the shortlist, to take Justice Stephen Breyer's seat, on the Supreme Court, someone she clerked for, in 1999.

BROWN JACKSON: Justice Breyer plucked me from obscurity.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): If confirmed, she would be the only Supreme Court justice, with a background, in criminal defense.

BROWN JACKSON: I had the privilege of serving as a federal public defender.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It wasn't just Jackson's professional life, representing criminal defendants, who couldn't afford lawyers, in Washington D.C. that touched on the criminal justice system. It was also personal.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Two of her uncles worked in law enforcement, in Miami, Florida. Her uncle, Calvin Ross, eventually became the Chief of Police, for the City of Miami.

Her younger brother was an undercover narcotics officer, in Baltimore, and served in the Maryland Army National Guard.

And, on the other side of the blue line, another uncle was sentenced, to life in prison, for a drug crime.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In far too many cases, the punishment simply does not fit the crime.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Obama commuted the sentence of her uncle, Thomas Brown, in 2016. She helped, by sending his file, to the prestigious law firm, WilmerHale, which then submitted the clemency petition, to President Obama, in 2014.

Six years, before Ketanji Brown Jackson, became a judge, she has never publicly discussed her uncle's run-ins with the law. She has never even been asked about it, during her confirmation hearings, one for the District Court and one for the Federal Appeals Court.

But she has said, her personal history might be beneficial, on the bench.

BROWN JACKSON: The more experiences that can be brought to bear, on our complex legal problems, the better.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jackson also pushed back when Republican Senator John Cornyn specifically asked about the role, her race plays, in her professional life.

BROWN JACKSON: I don't think that race plays a role in the kind of judge that I have been, and that I would be.

I've experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues, because of who I am. And that might be valuable.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Even before Jackson, became a judge, she tackled inequities, in the criminal justice system. As Vice Chair, on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Jackson and the six other members, decided unanimously, to lower federal drug sentences.

BROWN JACKSON: I say, justice demands this result.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The reductions had wide-ranging impact. They were retroactive, meaning 30,000 federal prisoners, got their sentences lowered.


But she also has this very professional interest, in serving those, who often are more marginalized, before the law, being a public defender, working on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. And that is an incredibly important perspective that is often left out of judicial nominations.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, ahead, the lawsuit, by a former NFL Head Coach that's overshadowing the build-up to Super Bowl 56. Why he is claiming a pattern of racial discrimination, and pressure, to lose games, on purpose? That's next.



COOPER: The Houston Texans say tonight that Brian Flores is still in the running, for their Head Coaching job.

That comes, despite his explosive lawsuit, claiming more than one case, of racial discrimination, committed against him, around the National Football League. He was Head Coach, to the Miami Dolphins, until last month.

Tonight, our Randi Kaye, looks, at the accusations. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN FLORES, FORMER NFL HEAD COACH: I understand the risk. Look, I love coaching football. I'm called to coach football.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Miami Dolphins' coach, Brian Flores, loves coaching football. But says, the color of his skin, has made it tough, to land a job, as Head Coach, in the NFL.

Flores filed a lawsuit, this week, against the NFL, and its 32 teams, alleging racial discrimination.

FLORES: Many have come before, and done a lot, to create change, in this country, for people of color. And I just felt like, in this instance, it was my turn to step up.

KAYE (voice-over): Flores says, he's stepping up, after he claims the New York Giants, interviewed him, for a job, as Head Coach, even though they planned to hire the Assistant Coach, from the Buffalo Bills, Brian Daboll, who was White.

According to the lawsuit, text messages, between Flores, and Bill Belichick, show the Patriots' coach, gave it away, by congratulating the wrong person, since Flores hadn't even been interviewed for the job yet.

Belichick writing, "I hear from Buffalo and NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to."

"Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll? Just making sure."

"Sorry. I effed this up. I double checked and I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I'm sorry about that."

FLORES: It was humiliating, to be quite honest. There was disbelief. There was anger.

KAYE (voice-over): Flores, and his lawyers, argue, his interview, with the Giants, was just a formality, so the team looked as though it was considering a minority candidate, when it really wasn't.

The League mandates Teams interview minorities, under what's called the Rooney Rule.

The New York Giants are pushing back, saying, "Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour."

And it's not just the Giants, Flores accused, of discrimination, in its hiring practices. Flores claims, in the lawsuit, the Denver Broncos feigned interest too. And after a similar bogus interview, in 2019, gave the Head Coaching job, to a White candidate.

The Broncos denied the allegation.

FLORES: Just the entire process doesn't feel like you're an actual candidate. And that's unfortunate.

KAYE (voice-over): Flores' lawsuit argues the NFL is "Rife with racism particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators, and General Managers."


According to the NFL, the majority of the League's players are Black. But the NFL has just one Black Head Coach, and three coaches of color.

The League denied the allegations, from Flores, saying it's "Deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organization."

FLORES: Thank you.

KAYE (voice-over): Beyond race, the lawsuit also accuses the Miami Dolphins' team owner, of offering to pay Flores, to lose games, on purpose. $100,000, for each game lost, so the team could benefit from a higher NFL draft pick.

FLORES: There were several conversations about, "We don't" - you know, "Take a vacation. We don't need to - don't need to win right now."

KAYE (voice-over): The Miami Dolphins deny Flores' allegations. Flores meanwhile, was fired, after leading the team, to its first back-to- back winning seasons, since 2003.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach, Florida.


COOPER: Awesome!

Winter Olympics competitions kicked off today. Before the Opening Ceremonies, on Friday, China's implementing a new strategy, to promote positive images, of their nation.

We'll have a report, from Beijing, on that, next.



COOPER: Well, some competitions, already underway, at the Winter Olympics, before the Opening Ceremony, on Friday.

The Games come against a backdrop of political tensions, and especially after the White House called for a diplomatic boycott, of the Games, weeks ago, as a statement against China's human rights abuses.

But now, China is taking an interesting approach, and promoting a favorable image, of the nation, by paying foreign influencers, to spread positive propaganda. CNN Correspondent, David Culver, is in Beijing, with the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): That's right, it's the Bobsleigh track.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the site of the Beijing Winter Games that China wants you to see, as told by a Russian YouTuber. He's just one of many foreign influencers, granted access, to China's Olympic venues, ahead of the Games, and posting videos that shower praise, on the host country.

As the Olympics kick off, get ready to see a surge, in China-related posts, on your social media feeds. CNN found some of it, is even expected to come, from inside the U.S., paid for by China.

VIPP JASWAL, CEO, VIPPI MEDIA INC.: What we're doing is we're acting in the advisory capacity, of promoting awareness, engagement, a bit of excitement, and support, for the Olympics, and Team USA.

CULVER (voice-over): In a U.S. Department of Justice filing, from December, Vipp Jaswal's New York-based company disclosed that it plans to develop a marketing initiative, to create awareness, of the Olympic and Paralympics event.

The listed client? China's Consulate General in New York. The Chinese government paying $300,000, to target audiences, outside of China. And that's just to Jaswal's company. He'll use platforms like Instagram, Twitch and TikTok, all of which are blocked, inside China.

JASWAL: They don't need to audition for anyone's approval. They just need to present their side of the story that is not heard, through politicians or the press.

CULVER (voice-over): Jaswal says the roughly nine or so influencers, he's recruiting, will not focus on politics, but rather the Olympic spirit. They'll join a steady stream of posts, made by foreigners, telling the so-called "Real China story."

But, on these profiles, you'll struggle to find any criticisms of China's human rights record. Instead, it's the positive spin.

CULVER (on camera): A lot of these western influencers, will come to iconic spots, like this one, the Forbidden City, which is beautiful, and they'll show the best of China. That work, in turn, gets promoted by state media.

CULVER (voice-over): Take then, Russian YouTuber, for example. He tells CNN, he was invited, to see the venues, and is not being paid by China, nor told what to say.

But state-run China Radio International, picked up his story. Then, dozens of other state media outlets began reposting the article, amplifying his praise of China. It's part of China's wider strategy, to promote positive foreign voices. In fact, a report in China's official Guangming Daily, suggested foreign influencers, who are friendly to China, be used to help bolster the official narrative. It also characterized foreign athletes, and their coaches, as a "Rich mine," to tap into.

That same strategy extended into controversial topics, like Xinjiang. It's where the U.S. alleges China's committing genocide, against its Uighur Muslim minorities. Claims that China strongly denies.

But scroll through the posts of these foreign influencers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no proof of genocide.

CULVER (voice-over): And you'll see, they echo the official narrative, painting a rosy picture, and denying to any wrongdoings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's totally normal here.

CULVER (voice-over): Those videos, then shared widely, by Chinese state media, and embassies, around the world.

Promoting China abroad is not without risk. Jaswal, says he's faced personal attacks, and death threats, for doing business with China.

JASWAL: I'm an American citizen. I'm a patriot. My mindset, going in, was I was promoting an event that belongs to the world.

CULVER (voice-over): But the world is fractured. And even during a global sporting event that's supposed to unify?


CULVER (voice-over): China's social media blitz, they do little, to sway minds.



COOPER: David Culver joins us now.

Is there any way, to quantify, these influencers are actually having an influence, on anyone outside of China?

CULVER: Hey there, Anderson.

Difficult to say the direct impact, these influencers have, outside of China.

But Chinese officials, they know the vulnerabilities, and the potential influence, an uncensored social media has, outside its borders. In fact, many Chinese officials, and state media outlets themselves, very active, on Twitter and Facebook, even though those platforms are blocked here. We did reach out, by the way, for comment, to several influencers. Those, who got back to us, they maintained, they are not paid by China, which Anderson, in some cases, may be true. But they, at times, see the benefit, of their work being amplified, to a population, of more than 1.4 billion people.


CULVER: Anderson.

COOPER: David Culver, from Beijing, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The news continues. Want to turn it over to Don, and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."