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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Pence Defies Trump In Strongest Terms Yet, Publicly Stating That As VP He Had "No Right" To Overturn The 2020 Election; RNC Formally Censures Cheney, Kinzinger, For January 6 Committee Service; Avenatti On Guilty Verdict: I Look Forward To Full Adjudication Of All Issues On Appeal. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 04, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, again.
Topping this hour, a question. What does it say, about one of this country's two major political parties that it is considered news, when a leading figure, in that party, stands up, and simply tells the truth?
Here's former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to the Federalist Society, today, in Orlando.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: January 6 was a dark day, in the history of the United States Capitol. Lives were lost. And many were injured.
But thanks to the courageous action, of the Capitol Police, and federal law enforcement, the violence was quelled. The Capital was secured. And we reconvened the Congress, that very same day, to finish our work, under the Constitution of the United States, and the laws of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Not exactly a rousing ovation there, that, for the applause line.
Then again, it's the man from Mar-a-Lago, not the man today, in Orlando, who speaks for the party. He has been busy dangling pardons, to the very people, who made January 6 such a dark day.
And the Republican Party today actually censured two of its members, Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, for taking part in the investigation, that day.
The censure resolution, obtained by CNN, accusing the two of, quote, "Participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse," end quote. That's what they called it. "Legitimate political discourse."
(VIDEO - JANUARY 6, 2021 U.S. CAPITOL HILL RIOT)
COOPER: That's what that guy was engaged in, according to them.
Party Chair Ronna McDaniel, later tried to scuttle away, from that twisted characterization. But that is the language they all voted on.
Because sadly, today, Mike Pence is the outlier. His boss, who now says the January 6 committee should be investigating Pence? He's the mainstream. We'll talk about that, shortly, with two longtime political professionals.
First, our Randi Kaye, who talked with people, who heard Mike Pence, speak today.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Would you like to hear Mike Pence, push back on Donald Trump, about his false claims that Pence had the right to overturn the election results?
RANDY FITZGERALD, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Oh, no. I'm looking forward to hearing the former Vice President, speak about what real American leadership looks like.
KAYE (on camera): But does the former Vice President have a duty, to push back against these false claims, by the former President?
FITZGERALD: No, he's not. He's a private citizen. I don't think he has a duty to do that. No.
KAYE (voice-over): Shortly before former Vice President Mike Pence, took the stage, at the Federalist Society Florida Chapters Conference, in Orlando, members weighed in, on whether Pence should address the recent attacks, from his former boss.
JESSICA MARRA, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I don't know that this is the time or the place, for that kind of conversation.
KAYE (voice-over): This week, the former President Donald Trump, lied, once again, saying Pence had the authority, to reject the 2020 election results.
So, will Pence respond?
BOBBY PAYNE, (R) FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: I think he's too much of a man, with great demeanor, and civility, to address that openly in the public, until it's the proper time.
KAYE (voice-over): Before Pence spoke, some here, didn't see a need, for Pence, to address his decision, to certify the vote, because they agree, Trump lost. Period. FITZGERALD: Joe Biden won the election. So, I don't, you know, I don't know what more I can say. I mean, Joe Biden won the election. The role of the Vice President, in that, is very ceremonial. They counted the electoral ballots. The members of Congress voted to certify. Joe Biden won the election.
MIKE BELTRAN, (R) FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: I don't think he needs to address it. It's, I mean, what happened, right, wrong, or indifferent, we lost in 2020.
KAYE (on camera): Do you not want to hear Pence correct the record that Trump is falsely claiming that he could have overturned the election?
BELTRAN: I think Pence probably feels. I'm not - don't want to speak for Pence. But I think Pence probably feels that the record does not need to be corrected. Otherwise, he would correct it.
KAYE (voice-over): Then came the former Vice President's speech.
PENCE: And I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone.
KAYE (voice-over): We went back out to the group, after the speech, to see how it was received.
CHRISTINE PRATT, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised, with how we handled it. I though he did a great job. I think it's time to move on, from the 2020 election, and look forward to 2024.
TOM FEENEY, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I think he's made it clear, the Vice President has. And he has a difference of opinion, with the President, the President's team, over what the duties, of the Vice President, required on January 6.
KAYE (on camera): Were you happy to hear him address it?
FEENEY: Well, I think he needed to address it. This is a great audience. These are constitutional scholars here. So, you're speaking to a very educated group.
KEISHA RUSSELL, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I think Mike Pence was - did the right thing.
I think Mike Pence should have done what he felt was right. And it sounds like he did, what he felt was right.
KAYE (on camera): How do you think those - how do you think that comment will sit with former President Donald Trump, being called wrong?
RUSSELL: Probably not well. But I guess we'll have to wait and see what he says.
COOPER: Randi joins us now, from Orlando.
So, former Vice President Pence, also talked about his hope, for Republicans, to win the White House, in 2024, today. Do the people, you spoke with, want to see Pence, run for president?
KAYE: Anderson, everyone we spoke with, said they do think that Mike Pence should run for president. They spoke very highly of his character. That seems to be a big draw for them.
But remember, this is Florida. And this was the Florida Chapter of the Federalist Society. So, of course, a lot of people there, are also saying they'd like to see Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, jump into the race, for the White House, as well.
But regarding Pence, everyone there said that they were very happy, to see him, standing up, to Donald Trump. They do think that the two men will figure out their differences, at some point, and put on a united front, for the party, which folks told us, is very important, of course.
But what's key here is that even if Donald Trump makes a play, for the White House again, most everyone we spoke with said that, that should not hold Mike Pence back. They think he should still jump into the race, Anderson.
COOPER: Randi Kaye, appreciate it.
Let's get perspective now, from Democratic Strategist, Paul Begala, also CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.
Paul, I just want to play what former Vice President Pence said, today, again, to listen, for the viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: January 6 was a dark day, in the history of the United States Capitol. Lives were lost. And many were injured.
But thanks to the courageous action, of the Capitol Police, and federal law enforcement, the violence was quelled. The Capital was secured. And we reconvened the Congress, that very same day, to finish our work, under the Constitution of the United States, and the laws of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What do you make, Paul, of what Pence said, and the response?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's - the Federalist Society claims to be committed to, these are their words, I looked up their website, "The principles of limited government embodied in our Constitution."
Well, the Constitution is absolutely clear. The woman, Randi interviewed, was clearly right. The Vice President's only ministerial. He just has a ceremonial job, at the counting of the electoral votes. It's not in question.
It's as if Neil deGrasse Tyson, were speaking to a group of astrophysicists, and he said, "You know, Donald Trump is wrong. The moon is not made of green cheese. It's made of rock." And they went, "Yes, I'm not sure." It's just it's preposterous, and it's insulting.
I'm glad Randi found some principled constitutionalists there. They claim to all be. But I was really disappointed, frankly, that they didn't carry him around, on their shoulders, for saving the Constitution, because that's what that whole group claims to be about. And I'm beginning to wonder, if they really are.
COOPER: Scott, do you think the Vice - or, former Vice President made the right call, publicly rebuking, the former President, or at least just saying he was wrong? Did he have a choice?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do, actually. Yes, I think he made the - first of all, his speech was terrific, today. His words were terrific.
His actions, on January the 6th, were right on, and in accordance with the Constitution, and the laws of America, and what happened on Election Day. So, he's played this correctly, I think, all the way through.
As a political matter, this is the campaign Mike Pence is going to have to run. He's obviously running. Donald Trump, I think, is obviously running. And Mike Pence and Donald Trump are going to have a great debate, about whether the Republican Party, is going to see it the way Donald Trump did, or the way Mike Pence did.
And so, I would look at this speech, today, frankly, as something of a kickoff, of that debate. I assume Trump will have something to say, when he finally hears the Pence clip.
But this is what he, and I assume Governor Chris Christie, who looks like he's running as well, are going to argue. And it's essentially this. "I stood by Donald Trump, every step of the way. But come January 6, we had to part ways, because the Constitution mandated it. And that's where, we are, as a party."
So, I thought Pence was great today. And I'm glad he gave the speech that he did.
COOPER: Paul, I mean, we've seen this back-and-forth, between Trump and Pence, this week. The ball, I guess, is now in Trump's court, if we want to use that analogy.
Does Pence, I mean, in this Republican Party, do you think Pence has a shot?
BEGALA: Look, I'd defer to Scott. He knows his party far better than I do.
But I would note that a year ago, three or four weeks, after the insurrection, Mike Pence, who I don't agree with politically? But I know him. I've known him a long time. He has profound and deep and abiding Christian faith.
And he went to a Christian conservative group, called Faith and Freedom Coalition. And he was booed. And one guy yelled out, "Traitor!"
Now, if the Christians prefer Donald Trump, who can't name a single book, in the Bible, to Mike Pence? I think that tells you something. If the constitutionalists are at best, very lukewarm, and kind of silent, in support of the guy, who helped save the Constitution, and instead for the insurrectionist? In other words, I think it looks like a rout.
I think that people, who should be most committed to Mike Pence, seem to not be backing him at all. I think Trump has so perverted and polluted the Republican Party that it may be beyond salvation.
COOPER: Scott, I'm wondering what you made of the official RNC resolution, censuring Adam Kinzinger, Congressman Kinzinger, and Congresswoman Cheney, and the talk of "Legitimate political discourse," that - claiming that the January 6 committee is going after ordinary Americans, who were just engaged in a legitimate political discourse?
JENNINGS: Well, here we are, sitting, in the greatest political environment, of my, adulthood, for Republicans, in terms of trying to take back the House, and the Senate, in November, and really, I think, heading towards 2024.
And we have all these issues, and all these amazing things, to talk about. And here are the RNC, which I've been a delegate, to the last several conventions. I'm a proud Republican, and will be voting Republican, I'm sure, in the future, and have, in my life.
Here we are, today, changing the - changing the conversation. "Let's re-litigate January 6. Let's tell people, they didn't see, what they really saw, on TV. Let's re-litigate the November 2020 election." This is a recipe for failure.
We have all of this amazing environment, all of these issues, all of this forward-looking that we could be doing. By the way, this is a party that could not be bothered, to write a platform, in 2020. And now, we've spent more time, writing this resolution, than we spent on writing a policy platform, in the last presidential election.
It is not legitimate political discourse, to crash into the Capitol.
COOPER: Scott, when you say it like that, it sounds ridiculous.
JENNINGS: It sounds ridiculous - because it is ridiculous. You cannot crash the Capitol, defile the House and the Senate, and do - attack the police. That's not legitimate.
Now, I know Chairwoman McDaniel, put out a statement later, saying there's a difference between the people, who were protesting, versus the rioters, at the Capitol. That's not what the resolution says! And if that's what they meant? That's what they should have put in there.
So, this is an unforced error that hurts the Republican Party, in its attempt, to get back into power. And it's deeply, deeply disappointing that it happened today. This phrase, "Legitimate political discourse," will be hung around, every candidate's neck, for the next two cycles.
COOPER: Well, Paul, I mean, to Scott's point, it's also - the idea, Ronna McDaniel, came out and said, "Well, no, you know, we're not talking about those who attacked the Capitol," the January 6 committee is interested in the attack on the Capitol.
And so, when they come out with a statement, saying that the committee is going after ordinary Americans, who were just, having a legitimate political discourse, that is who they're talking about, the people attacking the Capitol.
BEGALA: Right. And Chairwoman McDaniel called it an insurrection, on the day, or the day after the insurrection. She knows better. Ronna Romney McDaniel used to be a real Republican.
And just like some of those people, at Faith and Freedom, who booed Mike Pence? Just like some of those so-called Federalists, who wouldn't even stand up to the Constitution, today, when Pence said that he defended the Constitution? The Chairwoman of the party now, is dishonestly saying, inaccurately, let me say, saying that insurrections were somehow peaceful protesters, or that, as you point out, the January 6 committee is targeting peaceful protesters. Of course, they're not.
I just - I just find it, frankly, depressing, that I'm living in a time, when the Republican Party, in a rout, prefers Donald Trump, to Liz Cheney, or even Mike Pence, for that matter.
But I think it is all about power. Scott may be right. It may hurt them in the election. It may not. I think that they seem to not care as much, about elections, as they do about power. By any means necessary! And I think it's chilling.
Scott, do you think - what about, you know, I didn't follow up with you on the Pence. Do you think Mike Pence has a shot at winning a Republican nomination for president?
JENNINGS: I actually think he has a muted chance. I mean, I think he's going to run. I think he's going to be well-thought of, by a lot of people. But I think the odds of him getting the nomination aren't as high as someone like Ron DeSantis. I think, ultimately, if Trump is to be beaten, in a primary, it's going to be by someone, who is going to be viewed as pure, on a lot of issues, but also, not having, publicly rebuked President Trump.
And DeSantis is pure, on a lot of the COVID issues, pure on the, sort of the whole Florida ethos, and the conservatism that goes on, down there. And he's been able to stay out of this fray.
So actually, I think Mike Pence's voice is vital. I think it will be part of the primary. But the ultimate beneficiary of it, politically, may be somebody, who wasn't involved, on January the 6th. And that could be somebody like DeSantis. So, we'll see. I mean, there's a lot of runway, between now and then.
And if Trump doesn't run, maybe that changes the calculation. But my assumption is he's running. And if it's a pure up - heads-up debate, between Trump and Pence, my assumption is Trump would win that debate. But if there are other people, in the mix, potentially that would - that would boomerang around, to their benefit.
COOPER: Yes. Scott Jennings, I really appreciate it.
Paul Begala, as well, thank you so much.
BEGALA: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, more on the somewhat insane notion that a staunch conservative, named Cheney, should now be an outcast, in the Republican Party. What a seasoned reporter, with inside knowledge, of her goals, and a former Republican colleague, have to say, about her future.
And later, a verdict against Michael Avenatti, accused of stealing money, meant for his client, Stormy Daniels.
COOPER: We've been talking tonight, about the state of the Republican Party, and of the former Vice President's remarks today, taking on the former President, redeemed it somewhat. The party censure of Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney achieved the opposite.
Perspective now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and former Virginia Republican Congresswoman, Barbara Comstock.
Congresswoman, you've known Representative Cheney, for decades. You continue to campaign and fundraise for her. With all the animus, against her, from within her own party, what is she focused on, right now? I mean, is she bothered, by all these attacks?
BARBARA COMSTOCK, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, VIRGINIA: No. Well, first and foremost, she's focused on her district, in Wyoming, which she's always been.
She's been a national security leader. And if you follow her, on social media, or just, in her appearances, on things, she's very engaged, on national security issues, as well as Western issues that impact her state.
And then, she's dealing with the important work of the January 6 committee. So, I know she feels, and I agree with her, that this is important, for history.
And she is much, I think, in the model of Margaret Chase Smith, who've stood up to Joe McCarthy, and by just being one of the few, who did brought her colleagues around. It went from about six people, with Margaret Chase Smith, to 67, censuring Joe McCarthy. And history is on their side. And they are willing to take on these tough positions.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean, in this unprecedented time, for Congresswoman Cheney, could her narrow focus, on January 6, on the investigation, I mean, and just the animus, being directed against her, do you think it hurts her political fortunes?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: As of now, it probably does hurt her fortunes. But her primary is not until August. So, the open question, really here, and this is a huge test, facing the Republican Party, what will the primary electorate be thinking, come August?
There was a huge sea change, this afternoon, when former Vice President Mike Pence, came out directly, and said, Donald Trump was wrong. So will that become sort of mainstream thought in the party? Probably not.
But there definitely are many indications here that the lockstep nature, in which a lot of Republicans, were following the former President, maybe breaking apart a bit.
But, as I've been speaking to advisers, to the Congresswoman, she's not backing away from this at all. This is her message. Her message, going into her primary fight here, is the Constitution, is what President Trump, his assault, on the Constitution, as she sees it.
So, the January 6 work is what she is running on. Now, it's not necessarily all she's running on. Of course, she's a deep conservative. She voted with the former President, more than 90 percent of the time. She's a very big national security hawk, as we all know. So, the question is how this conversation, in the party, develops over the summer.
But one thing she's not doing, is running away from her day job, in January 6. This is her message. It's a test to see what Republicans, in Wyoming, think of it.
COOPER: Congresswoman, I mean, do you think it amounts to much, in the scheme of things, of where the Republican Party, sadly is, right now?
COMSTOCK: Well, I mean, I do think the walls are closing in on Donald Trump. I think people are moving away, from him, slowly. They're still afraid.
That committee, it was an embarrassment that they all sat there quietly, in a voice vote, and wouldn't stand up, and challenge this. And the few who did come out, I commend them.
But it's kind of like Dorothy, when they poured the water, on the Wicked Witch. Everyone was standing there, until she did it. So, that's what's going on here.
But his grip is slipping, because there are competent conservatives, out there, who are focused, on people, in the kitchen table issues, not the Trump grievances, of the past, that are going to divide the party, divide the country, and will not allow Republicans, to win again, if he's on the ballot.
COOPER: But Jeff, in primaries, in Republican primaries, you can't be a rational, middle-of-the-road, centered Republican. You have to believe in the Big Lie. You have to be a Trumpian, I mean, in the primaries.
COOPER: Just to get to the general, don't you?
ZELENY: If past is prologue? That is true.
And one other thing that the Republican National Committee did, they did an arcane thing called the Rule 11, which that means, is the RNC will be extraordinarily sending money, back to Wyoming, to campaign against Liz Cheney.
That has only been used, when there's an effective incumbent, running against a rogue candidate. Well, this is the reverse. But the Republican National Committee, which is run by supporters and acolytes, of the former President, will be actively campaigning, against Liz Cheney.
So, you're right, Anderson. This is going to be very difficult, in a primary electorate. There are many independent-minded people, in Wyoming. The Cheney brand is a strong one. But this will be a true test of it.
And again, if this were to happen, right now, she would almost certainly probably not win. I want to hedge this, because we don't know what will happen, over the upcoming months. The primary is not until the middle of August. But this is a challenge.
One thing she cannot do? You'll remember, back in Alaska, Lisa Murkowski lost her primary race, and ran as an Independent.
That cannot happen in Wyoming, because it's one of the states, across the country that has a sore-loser law. What that means is if you lose a primary, you can't run as an Independent, in the general.
But if she loses? Do not expect that she will give up this fight. This could very much be a centerpiece of a campaign for 2024.
Again, that's hard to imagine that that would be a popular view, inside the party. That she has made this part of her mission now? It's more than a brand. It's her mission. We will see, if it works. This is the big test, for the Republican Party, without a doubt.
COOPER: Imagine if there was a national thing, called a sore-loser law? That would be interesting!
Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it.
COOPER: Barbara Comstock, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, a verdict, against attorney Michael Avenatti, who was accused, of stealing money, from his former client, Stormy Daniels. That is next.
COOPER: After 16 hours of deliberations, a federal jury, in New York, has found attorney Michael Avenatti guilty, of wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, for stealing, from his former client, Stormy Daniels.
CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now, with details.
So, what insight, do you have, on the jury's decision?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the jury has been deliberating, for the cross, three days, and for 16 hours, in total.
And there was a little bit of an unusual twist, this morning. The jury came back to the judge. They said they had a note. And the judge read the note, to the jury.
In essence, the jury wrote that one of the jurors, a female, was no longer deliberating, that, was acting on her feelings and emotions, and was not looking at the evidence.
Now, one line, in that note, is, the jury said to the judge, "Please," underlining that, "Help us move forward not going on any evidence, all emotions and does not understand this job of a jury."
So, the judge brought the jury, back into the courtroom. He told them that they took an oath, to deliberate. He reminded them of that oath. And then, he sent them back to deliberate.
And then, it was two hours, after that, the jury returned, with a unanimous verdict, finding Michael Avenatti, guilty, of those two counts.
And this count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, in prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a maximum - carries a mandatory sentence of two years. So, no matter what Michael Avenatti is sentenced to, he will be sentenced to a minimum of two years, in prison, for this.
This, of course, this trial was about him, defrauding Stormy Daniels, stealing nearly $300,000, from her book deal. Avenatti, in this case, chose to represent himself, which was unusual. And he also decided not to testify in this case.
But the jury heard, from Stormy Daniels. She was the star witness. She had testified that Avenatti told her he would never take a penny from her.
And the government showed, the jury, text messages, bank statements, showing that Avenatti had redirected money that was owed to her, to an account he controlled. They show that he falsified wire instructions, from her. And then, he lied to her, repeatedly about it.
COOPER: And he spoke to a reporter, shortly after the verdict. What did he say?
SCANNELL: Yes, it was not that long, after the verdict, was read, and the courtroom cleared out that Avenatti made his way outside. Then, he spoke to jurors, about his reaction, to this verdict.
Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, CONVICTED OF WIRE FRAUD AND AGGRAVATED IDENTITY THEFT: I am very disappointed in the jury's verdict. I look forward to a full adjudication of all of the issues on appeal. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: Anderson, I also asked Avenatti, about his decision, to represent himself, and did not testify. I asked him if he had any regrets. He told me, "Not at all. I was true to myself."
COOPER: And he's facing other charges, isn't he?
SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, this was, of course, one big moment, for him, a big conviction.
But he was already convicted, in 2020, of attempting to extort Nike, for more than $20 million. In that case, he was sentenced to two and a half years, in prison. And he has not yet started serving that sentence. Also, he has been charged, in California, by prosecutors, there, with additional fraud charges, bank fraud, tax fraud, and also for stealing nearly $5 million, from some other clients. So, there's a lot still ahead, for Avenatti.
COOPER: Well, Kara Scannell, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, the back-to-back scandals, erupting in the NFL. We'll talk with one of the former head coaches, accusing his old team, of offering money, to tank games. Plus, his view of the lawsuit, claiming a pattern, of racial discrimination, by NFL teams, when it comes to Black coaches.
COOPER: Tonight, the clash between NFL teams, and former head coaches, is growing more tense.
The owner of the Cleveland Browns, is strongly denying accusations, offering money, to his one-time coach, Hue Jackson, to lose games, in order to get a higher draft pick. Jackson coached the team, until October 2018.
He'll join me, in a moment.
But in an interview, with a Tennessee newspaper, Browns owner' Jimmy Haslam, says, quote, "Unequivocally, Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games. That is an absolute falsehood. I can't think of any individual... that I spent as much time trying to help be successful as I did Hue Jackson."
Jackson's claim, came, after former Miami Dolphins' head coach, Brian Flores, sued his old team, claiming they tried to offer him money, to lose games, as well. The Dolphins also deny any wrongdoing. Flores is also suing the NFL, claiming racial discrimination, when he tried to get coaching jobs, on other teams.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, and civil rights groups, are asking for a meeting with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.
Joining me now, is Hue Jackson.
Coach Jackson, appreciate you being with us. For the record, were you ever offered money, to purposely lose games?
HUE JACKSON, FORMER CLEVELAND BROWNS HEAD COACH: No, I was never offered money, like Brian had mentioned. I think this is a totally different situation, but has some similarities.
When you talk about incentivizing a four-year plan that led to the team not being able to play, as well, that people benefited off of that? That's different. But, at the same time, it has some of the same similarities to it. COOPER: You're saying that there was incentives, to have the youngest players, things that might end up, making a team lose, in order - so, you're saying there were incentives in place? They weren't, on paper, to have the team lose.
But you're saying they would have had that effect, and that's why you had tweeted out that the owner was happy that you kept losing?
JACKSON: Yes. Because, it's a plan. I mean, at the end of the day, the four-year plan, did not have anything about winning in the first two years.
And, I think, sports people, football people, know that, and people, who do anything for, within their contract, understand that everything you do, is for winning, or for your value. So, there's nothing that anybody would do, to put them in - put themselves in the situation, where they wouldn't win.
COOPER: Do you have any evidence, of what you're alleging, about this four-year plan, and incentives, for things that would make the team lose?
JACKSON: Absolutely, I do. And those things will come to light, at the right time. I just--
COOPER: What does that mean?
JACKSON: What I think about all is that--
COOPER: When is the right time? Because you're making - these allegations are pretty serious.
JACKSON: Yes, pretty soon, here.
Yes, oh, it's very serious. And I'm not - again, everything that I'm saying, and I've gone on record, and I'll say it again, I can back it up, 100 percent. I'm going to.
I just think people get a little confused, about my timing. Because, I've been fighting this since 2016. And I'm still fighting this, for the same reasons, just to stop the abuse of power, by the NFL, and team owners, and to stop the very, targeted racist tactics, of the NFL, and team owners. I mean, this has got to stop.
COOPER: The owner of the Cleveland Browns, who says that you were never paid, to lose, said that you, quote, "Never accepted blame for one thing." He says that he accepts blames, for things he did wrong, that you've never accepted blame, for anything you've done.
JACKSON: Can he - can he share with you the things that he said - he accept that he did wrong, in that environment, with me?
I began contacting Jimmy Haslam, and the NFL, in 2016, when I discovered that the ownership and the executive team were not trying to win the games. I was assured by Jimmy, that things would change, and they would get things straight.
But I told Jimmy that what he was doing, it's very destructive, to not do this, because it's going to hurt my career, and every other coach that worked with me, and every player on the team. And I told them that it would hurt every Black coach that would follow me. And I have the documents to prove this.
COOPER: You say you tried to bring your concerns, to the attention of the NFL, and even spoke to NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, about it. When was that? And what did he say?
JACKSON: The first conversation I had is 2016. He listened. He didn't say - really, he just kind of listened, to what my concern and complaint was. And he said, "Hue, if you need me, get back with me." And that was the end of our conversation.
COOPER: But, if you have evidence, as you say, and you say you've been fighting this, since 2016, and you met with Roger Goodell, in 2016, wasn't that the time to bring evidence forward?
JACKSON: Yes. Oh, yes. And it was the time to bring it forward. It was the time, even to, when you finish, to continue to bring it forward. And I did that. I went to the NFL, through their process, that is required by their constitution and bylaws, to report the fraud. And no investigation occurred.
COOPER: Right. But you said you have evidence now that you will reveal, at some point, when the time is right. If you've been having that since 2016? I mean, that's a long time ago.
JACKSON: Well, I had to. Oh, absolutely. But what I had to do is go through the arbitration process, with the National Football League. So, I tried to do the right thing.
I tried to first fight it in-house with Jimmy Haslam. He's the owner. I tried to bring these things, to his attention, about what was going on, what I thought was hurting, myself, as a head coach, hurting the assistant coaches, hurting the players.
And then, when this kept walking through this process, I had to bring this to the National Football League.
COOPER: There's obviously a lot of focus, on race, and the NFL, a lot of discussions about what progress has been made, what progress hasn't. Do you believe race played a part, in what the way you say that you were treated, or dealt with?
JACKSON: Absolutely. Because what I was told - you know, it's really interesting. What people hear in public is not what's told in private.
The conversations that we had in private, was, "Hue, we're going to give you everything, you need, to win. We'll create an environment for this football team to be great." So, in my opinion, that's the road I was traveling.
And I think people just got to go back to my press conference. And I said, "I came here to win. I came here to turn the Cleveland program around."
And so, when you go from that process, to look to where we were, and where we end up going, that, to me, that says it all. I don't think any man would stand up, in front of the city, the organization, and say, "I came here to win," and then start down this road of 1 and 31 (ph).
COOPER: So, with a season, where you had three wins, 36 losses that's - over three seasons, that - did that have anything to do with coaching? Or do you take any responsibility for that? Or are you saying this was all part of this plan that the owner was involved with?
JACKSON: Oh, absolutely. I mean, as a coach, you always take responsibility, for your team, when you don't play as well. But when you look at the whole fit of this, there is not much more, the head coach, the assistant coaches, or anybody could do, based on what we were getting, to play with. I mean, all people have to do is go in.
The best team I had, is the team I had, when I walked in the door, which was three and 13. They dismembered the team, within a month and a half, of me being there. And no one ever told me that that was what they were doing.
Why would - why would I, as a head coach, who, at eight (ph) made at the Raiders, after getting fired, in that situation, then take a job, where I know that they're going to take players, off the team that might not give me a chance to win? You would never do that.
COOPER: Hue Jackson, I appreciate your time, tonight. And I appreciate the conversation. Thank you.
COOPER: I wish you the best.
Up next, as the nation crosses 900,000 COVID deaths, today, stress is at an all-time high, during this pandemic. It hasn't been easy, on students, who faced a lot, whether online, or during in-person learning.
I'll show you how one school district is implementing new changes, to prioritize their students' mental health.
COOPER: A grim milestone, today. The U.S. passed more than 900,000 total COVID deaths, as the nation still battles, the ongoing pandemic.
The stress is felt by everyone, including, of course, students, who've been in school, out of school, learning online, and just about everything, in between. And it's taken a toll. According to the Chief of Safety, for Denver Public Schools, in Colorado, the school district saw a 21 percent increase, in fights, when the school year started, last fall. And educators are sounding the alarm, on a mental health crisis, across all socioeconomic and achievement levels, among students.
Now, the school system is taking a new approach, in efforts, to help students, manage their mental health.
CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why else do we think it's important to talk about our mood, first thing in the morning? Do we say mean words to them?
(STUDENTS REPLY "NO!")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, right?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A different kind of bell, rang in one Denver Public School, recently. A calming sound, for students, who educators say are still stressed out, two years, into a global pandemic.
RENARD SIMMONS, PRINCIPAL, DC 21: Good work, Scarlett (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, thank you.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): A new district-wide requirement, for all students, at least 20 minutes, devoted to mental health, every grade, every classroom, every day.
SIMMONS: And we found that they came back, a lot of times, a shell of their former selves, prior to the pandemic. And so, we understand we have to be patient. We have to persevere.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Schools are where this emotional trauma shows up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello?
CESAR RIVERA, PRINCIPAL, SAMUELS ELEMENTARY: So, that human connection piece, and being able to respond to one another, just human-to-human, that was something that some of our kids lost out on.
(STUDENTS RECITING RHYMES)
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The process is different for each age group. For these kindergarteners, red light, green light, is a lesson in what to do, when emotions boil over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we play games, like this, sometimes, we might feel those strong feelings, OK? Like mad, maybe if we don't do it the right way, or nervous. What can you do to help yourself stay calm?
(STUDENTS RESPOND WITH "TAKE A BELLY BREATH!")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Stop. Name your feeling. And take a belly breath.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Down the hall, in third grade, show- and-tell, is students sharing what was good, and bad, about the day before.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): Show hands that who likes Morning Meeting? And can somebody tell me, what do you like about it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I like about the Morning Meeting is the good things.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): What's the secret to getting a third grader to open up, about how they feel?
JACKIE RIVAS, 3RD GRADE TEACHER, SAMUELS ELEMENTARY: I think waiting is important. So, making sure that they know that they don't just have to share a good thing. Just making it very open.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): This is called Social-Emotional Learning, or SEL. And it can be controversial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop teaching SEL in Badger and the high school, and take emergency action to remove it now. You are causing harm to our children.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): In some states, parents groups, which have criticized districts, over masking, and equity curricula, are also angry about SEL. They call it a distraction, from academics, or even indoctrination.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): What is your response, to people, who say, "This isn't real school. School should be books, and timetables, and, phonics. Why am I talking about my feelings?"
KIM PRICE, DPS, DIRECTOR OF SEL: Well, I think talking about feelings is a great place to start. But we have to teach people, how to interact, with each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we really are arming them, with life skills, to be successful. And to talk about what we're going through right now, because we have to be ready to learn.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): Was that - it was hard to be online for so long?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I hated it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I failed one of my classes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, I failed my sixth grade.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Eighth grade teacher, Amanda Winters, sees what middle-schoolers are going through, up close.
AMANDA WINTERS, 8TH GRADE TEACHER, DC 21: These girls were in sixth grade, when they were last in school, before this year. Our sixth graders were in fourth grade, when they were last in school.
And so, meeting the bar that is kind of expected of a sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, whatever grader? They're being asked to meet both that kind of behavioral and developmental bar, and that academic bar. And they miss out on both of them.
So it's hard to meet the academic one, when you're still trying to figure out, "How do I stop being a fourth grader?"
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): It's 1:45 P.M., on a Thursday.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): Hi?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi?
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): I'm Evan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Evan.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): CNN. Nice to see you. How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. West High School.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): So, what usually goes on, in this room?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I teach language arts. And I teach English language development. But we also do advisory. Today, we're going to do some gratitude, and some goal-setting, for academics, but we're also going to do mindfulness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are one of the only schools that has somebody that does yoga, and plans mindfulness for us.
AMY THOMTON, STUDENT SUPPORT COORDINATOR: We're going to do some breathing. And then, we'll do a little meditation or visualization.
Now, let your breath soften.
THOMTON (on camera): And that connection with their peers, which they've been missing so much, during the pandemic, and during remote- learning? We want to make sure that we have cushioned it, so we have that 20 minutes, within there, to really focus, on the social emotional piece.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Anderson, educators, in Denver, and around the country, have told me, the most important thing, to remember, about the current state, of the mental health crisis, for American students, is that it's universal.
Doesn't matter the age, income bracket, academic achievement level. Every student is struggling, right now, with the upheaval from pandemic school.
And these educators tell me that addressing that mental health issue, first, is the most important thing. That academic achievement can't be addressed, until that issue is addressed.
Before the pandemic, social emotional learning was seen as important, by some, and a waste of time, by others. But now, these educators tell me, it's absolutely crucial.
COOPER: Evan, thanks so much.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: The news continues. Let's turn things over, now, to Don and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Thank you, Anderson, very much. I appreciate it.
So, everyone, a personal message that I want to deliver, at the top of the show. And hang on, one second. I'll just grab my notes here. A lot of folks have been watching, and wondering what's happening.