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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

McConnell Breaks with R.N.C., Calls January 6 a Violent Insurrection; Second Gentleman Safe after Bomb Threat; Canadian Convoy Snarls Major Border Crossing; Russia, Ukraine Spar Over Putin's Comment Calling Zelensky "My Beauty"; NY Times: New York State To End Indoor Mask Mandate; Some south Dakota Hospitals See Surge In Covid Patients; Amir Locke's Cousin Arrested In Homicide Investigation That Led To Police Killing Locke. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 08, 2022 - 20:00   ET


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): And rebuilding them from the chassis up, to rush to the frontlines, much like Ukraine is trying to build and defend a democracy in a landscape much haunted by the Russian dominated Soviet Union.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Kharkiv.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So the party that once compared itself to a big tent now looks more like the big top with members divided over what should be in the center ring and what belongs in the sideshow.

John Berman here, in for Anderson.

Today, in a very stark statement, the Senate's leading Republican criticized his party's decision to censure Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger for serving on the January 6 Select Committee. He also made how he sees January 6 abundantly and unambiguously clear.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it appropriate for the Republican National Committee to censure two sitting Members of Congress and also use the words "legitimate political discourse" in talking about January 6.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, let me give you my view of what happened on January the 6th and we all were here. We were here. We saw what happened.

It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. That's what it was. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A reminder, Mitch McConnell never says anything by accident, every syllable is carefully chosen. His use of the words "violent insurrection" is significant and carries with it potential legal implications because obviously, it's against the law, but it is significant for other reasons, too.

There are anchors on other cable networks who launched giant soliloquys asserting: You can't call January 6th an insurrection. Well, Mitch McConnell just did, and in doing so issued an explicit rebuke of the R.N.C. Party leadership, an explicit rebuke of House Republican leadership, and an explicit rebuke of these certain cable performers.

You know, who noticed? At least one person named Trump -- Donald Trump, Jr. exclaiming, "With Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?" Well, it turns out there might be a growing number of Republicans like this, it is not always for the same reasons. Republican senators who think the R.N.C.'s censure and claims of legitimate discourse are just bad politics.


SEN. TOM TILLIS (R-NC): People are willing to have a difference of opinions, but I think that we, as a party, need to recognize that people are worried about the economy. They are worried about the continuing struggles with COVID. They are looking ahead and that's what they want us to do.


BERMAN: So that's one view that is fixating on January 6 is simply bad for a Republican Party with what members believe is a winning case in other issues, which is true for even a smaller number of Republicans taking exception with the censure language purely for what it says about a sad moment in this country's history.

Senator Susan Collins for one, calling an absurd to suggest a mob of violent Trump supporters who beat, Tased, and bear-sprayed police officers were engaged in legitimate political discourse. In the very next breath though, she adds, and I'm quoting here: "Every moment that is spent re-litigating a lost election or defending those who have been convicted of criminal behavior moves us further away from the goal of victory this fall."

So even for someone not up for re-election until 2026, electoral politics is never that far away, and the relentless focus by the R.N.C. on the insurrection is a sideshow.

Just one problem though, welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly.

And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.


BERMAN: He is there still casting a powerful spell it seems over some. Here is Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who got her House G.O.P. leadership title when Liz Cheney was bounced from the spot in a Trump instigated purge.

She is okay with the legitimate political discourse, at least in so much as she equates that worst assault on American democracy since the Civil War to something far removed from it.


QUESTION: Do you think that position is problematic heading into a midterm election where Republicans are looking quite good at this point?

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Again, our position has been very clear. We condemn the violence on January 6, just like we condemn the violence that happened all throughout 2020. That's what's different than our Democratic colleagues who refuse to condemn the violence that happened in 2020.


BERMAN: So that is her take, which is so last March as talking points go. As for her boss, Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, here's what he came up with.



RAJU: The R.N.C. resolution last week referred to the events of January 6 as a legitimate political discourse. I am wondering what you thought about that?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): See that's not correct, but the R.N.C. was talking about -- they were talking about, everybody knows anybody who have broken and caused damage that was not called for those people we've said from the very beginning. They should be in jail.

What they were talking about is the six R.N.C. members who January 6 has subpoenaed, who weren't even here, who were in Florida that day.

RAJU: So you're supporting that resolution?


BERMAN: Wait, what? Okay, so by that logic, when FDR set a date, which will live in infamy, he wasn't actually referring to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was really talking about retirees in Miami ordering prune Danish. CNN has subsequently learned that he was apparently talking about current and former Republican committee members on a list of people that the Select Committee had targeted, some while looking into the fake electoral scheme, which still doesn't make a lot of sense.

The R.N.C.'s censure resolution doesn't refer to what McCarthy is apparently talking about it reads: "Whereas Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democratic-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse," and so on.

Congressman McCarthy once explicitly said, quote, "The president bears responsibility for the attack on Congress by mob rioters." A short time later, he flew down to Mar-a-Lago to make nice with the man and ever since, he has been doing all he can to stay on his good side

He purged Liz Cheney. He is promising if Republicans win back the House to put fringe members back onto committees perhaps in his words, even better ones. Those members are all in on sideshows and he is signaling he is okay with it. Mitch McConnell and others are not.

The former President is stirring the pot, and just before airtime, R.N.C. Chair Ronna McDaniel put out a new defense of her censure resolution. In it, she makes no mention of the intraparty criticism she is getting. She does, however, attack the media. As for her party, it's up for grabs.

Perspective now from CNN political commentator and former Special Adviser to President Obama, Van Jones; also former Republican National Committee Chief of Staff, Mike Shields.

Mike, as a Republican, I'm curious, why do you think Mitch McConnell felt the need to be so forceful in rebuking the legitimate political discourse notion? And you agree with him?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that this was a resolution passed at the R.N.C. that's not binding, it doesn't carry the weight of law. They have passed four other resolutions that day.

When it was passed in the room, none of the reporters in the room thought that they were talking about the violent part of January 6. But afterwards, a reporter said: Hey, we can make this connection. And now here we are on day five, Mitch McConnell is being asked about it. We're talking about it -- and it's not the position of the Republican Party.

The R.N.C. has said many, many times, including today, including yesterday, that they condemn the violence, okay, that there is a difference between the rioters and the people that are protesters.

There is study in December that showed 90 percent of the subpoenas that are public that this Committee has issued are for people that weren't even in Washington, and that is what the resolution was talking about. But now, it's been turned -- a "New York Times" story came out and said: No, they're talking -- they're saying that the rioters were legitimate political discourse.

And so now we have a fabricated scandal that we're still talking about. I mean, just remember, John, I want to add something here. The R.N.C. had a bomb placed at it, okay, a bomb was placed at the R.N.C. by these bastards who should all be in jail, and every Republican knows that that's -- that the legitimate political discourse is not talking about that it's okay to put a bomb at our headquarters, and so --

BERMAN: Well, the resolution, Mike didn't say that and Mitch McConnell apparently doesn't feel the same way --

SHIELDS: Well, the resolution also didn't say --

BERMAN: Hang on, Mike, let me get Van to get in here. Van, what do you think of what Mike is saying here?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he is, you know, Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic 4. He is stretching so far as his limbs are off the screen.

Listen, there is no way to get around the plain language of this resolution, and regardless, you are taking on -- you say, this is not binding. It is a censure against sitting elected officials in your party who have done nothing but try to get to the bottom of what you say is a violent despicable act, and they have been censured by their own party.

The only good thing about this is that somebody has finally drawn a line. Now the line is at the far edge of sanity, just saying you can't defend what happened on January 6th and that person is Mitch McConnell.

It is a good thing that Republicans are starting to speak up, and they are starting to be very clear and very forceful that this has gone too far and the R.N.C. is off the rails in the ditch, upside down with the wheel spinning and somebody got dragged back onto the road, but trying to pretend that what the plain language is different than what it is doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.


SHIELDS: Like I mean, the language is pretty clear. It does not refer to the violent protesters, but look here's what this resolution was about.


SHIELDS: The R.N.C. is a bottom up grassroots organization, right? The local grassroots folks are frustrated with a partisan committee and the fact that two Republicans went to work with Nancy Pelosi on that partisan committee, and they censured them. This happens all the time in Congress.

BERMAN: This is what Mitch McConnell said about that. Let's listen.


MCCONNELL: The issue is whether or not the R.N.C. should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That's not the job of the R.N.C.


BERMAN: So McConnell says, no, Van.

JONES: Look, that's a hundred percent correct and what is happening is, the goalposts are being moved. You said at the beginning of the show that it used to be a big tent and now, it is becoming the big top. I don't think there's a clear explanation what's going on.

And finally, McConnell and hopefully others, Chris Christie, and others, are going to say: Listen, guys, we're willing to make room for all kinds of weird people on the other side, but you've got to make room for everybody or you're not going to have a party.

And once you start having purges, which is the next step from a censure, is to try to purge people, and by the way Liz Cheney has already been purged from her leadership position. You're starting to have the kind of stuff that Republicans used to really balk at. Where is the Republican Party that stands up for individual liberty? For rugged individualism? For people taking a stand for what they believe in?

That party is dying, and instead, we're getting -- and it's not just a bottom up thing. I appreciate you trying to say kind things about the R.N.C., but it doesn't matter if it's bottom up, top, down, inside out, it's wrong to attack people who are trying to get to the bottom of the worst attack on our country since the Civil War.

SHIELDS: Van, if I thought they were trying to get to the bottom of it, I would actually agree with you. That's not what's happening. This is a partisan committee. It has issued 90 percent of its subpoenas that aren't even for people that were at the riot.

It's gone far beyond its scope, and we all know it's a political committee, because when Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader offered to put Members of Congress on it, Nancy Pelosi just said, no, you can't have those members that you've chosen. First time in history that a Select Committee has been chosen that way.

And so when Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney say we want to get to the bottom of things, rather than working with their party, and saying, you know what, if you're going to have Nancy Pelosi get rid of our members, we're not taking part in this. They said, no, we're going to join in of this entire political --

JONES: To be fair -- to be fair to Speaker Pelosi, the two members that Kevin tried to put on are actually involved in what it turned out to be part of the planning for the event. So you can't have people on the committee investigating themselves.

So I mean, we can play these games, these word games, I think you're troubled. I think I'm troubled, a lot of people are troubled that we're now having to debate whether or not something like Liz Cheney from a family like hers should be being purged and persecuted by her own party for the high crime and misdemeanor of saying she'll work with anybody, Republican or Democratic to get to the bottom of this.

BERMAN: So Mike, let me ask you, can I ask you, Mike -- McConnell and others clearly think what the R.N.C. did, what McCarthy is doing and others is bad politics, it's just bad politics if your goal is to win, do at least agree with that?

SHIELDS: Look, I think that this is something we're talking about for four or five days, and it'll be the end of it, and Liz Cheney is probably going to lose her primary in Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger is retiring from Congress. And then what we're going to see is in October, of course, is when this commission is going to start issuing things right before the election, because they're going to try and change the narrative and it won't matter.

No one is going to cast a vote in November of this year based upon this story today or anything that this commission does because actually what they care about our inflation, China's strength, the fact that kids are still wearing masks in schools, we have a really ineffective foreign policy from Joe Biden. That's what the election is actually going to be about. That's what we're going to be talking about the rest of the year.

The Democrats are going to keep trying to bring this up, though.

BERMAN: Van, what about that? What do you think or how much of a role do you think that this will all have in the midterm elections?

JONES: Well, I mean, I don't disagree. It probably won't have -- people who feel strongly on both sides are going to go vote anyway, people in the middle probably don't care as much. But that doesn't mean that just because it's not politically important in the midterms, it is politically important to the country and to a Democratic Republic, and to our system of government, that when there is this sort of an attack on the Nation's Capitol, we figure out some way to get to the bottom of it.

I don't think it is fair to blame Pelosi or the Democrats to say that they are putting forward a partisan committee. Kevin McCarthy -- look, I know, Kevin and you know Kevin, if he wanted to put forward a sensible set of Republicans to be a part of that process, he could have done so.

He put forward people who are implicated in the plot itself and those were rejected, which they should have been rejected.

BERMAN: Mike, we're -- sorry. I'm sorry, you could.

JONES: I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to filibuster, you Mike, sorry about that.

BERMAN: No. Anyway, Mike and Van, I didn't mean to cut you both off, but we're going to go to break now. I thank you for the heated discussion, the inspired discussion, I should say.

Next, breaking news, what we're learning about the bomb threat at a Washington, D.C. school the Second Gentleman was visiting.

Also, the latest on Canadian truckers protesting COVID regulations occupying Ottawa and now bringing traffic across a vital link to this country to a standstill. We'll have a live report from the Detroit Windsor Crossing.

And later, more breaking news on COVID itself. New reporting on big changes coming tomorrow in New York's mask mandate. We'll get a former top public health official's take on it and whether the same could be coming soon to the rest of the country.



BERMAN: There is breaking news tonight involving the Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, a visit to a Washington, D.C. High School and a bomb threat.

This is a picture of him being ushered out of a room at Dunbar High in Northwest D.C.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us tonight. Kaitlan, obviously, the Secret Service can't say much with someone as high profile as this, but what details are you learning tonight and exactly what happened?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're getting a fuller picture from the officials who were actually there at this school in Northwest Washington, a local high school here where the Second Gentlemen, John, had only been there for a few moments before he was called out, ushered out by Secret Service after a bomb threat had been called in at the school.


And of course, you are right, the Secret Service is often very hesitant to offer a lot of details here because they don't want to reveal how they get a lot of this information, but they did say that: "Right now, at this time, there is no information to indicate the threat was directed toward our protectee." Of course, that's referencing the second gentleman, but just to give you a sense of how quickly they moved, today, he was at that school, Dunbar High School here in Washington.

The bomb threat was called in about 2:15 PM. He was out of there by 2:18 PM. They also evacuated the students, and the staff, there is of course, a sign of precaution, but it does speak to the level of concern that they had, that he was there.

And one other thing I want to note, just to give you a sense of how protective they are with movements like this, when they released the schedule today for the Second Gentleman of the United States, they did not say which school he was going to. That's often something they tell reporters when you're on the way there but clearly, of course, you can see why they have some concerns when it comes to movements like this as it happened today.

BERMAN: Do you know where Vice President Harris was as this was happening, and how is the Second Gentleman doing tonight?

COLLINS: We believe she was here at the White House, of course working. We were told pretty soon after we had found out from reporters who were traveling with Doug Emhoff that she had been in touch with him, she had checked on him.

She believed he was okay, and we later got a statement from his Communications Director saying that he was safe, confirming that he had been evacuated and then he resumed his schedule, went back to the Naval Observatory and seems to be doing fine -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much for that.

Now something you might hear on the radio, but not see much on this program, a traffic report.


BERMAN: Sent since late last month, Canadian truckers have been filling highways and more recently, occupying the capital city, Ottawa in protest of Canada's COVID regulations.

Starting yesterday parts of what is billed as the Freedom Convoy tied up traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario to Detroit. This is a vital commercial link between the two countries, by some measures, the busiest crossing on the continent.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is there for us tonight. Miguel, what's the latest on the border? Are there any signs of this letting up?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it looks like it might be letting up just a little bit. We are on the Detroit side of that border. That's Ontario -- Windsor just across the way there and there has been -- since about noon today, there has been a trickle of commercial traffic coming over that bridge into the Detroit area. On the U.S. side, they basically shut down the bridge until the Canadians are able to deal with it.

But I want to make one thing very clear, yes, there are a lot of truckers involved here but on the bridge at least, in blocking the access to the bridge on the Canadian side, it appears to be a lot of people just in their regular vehicles, pickup trucks, small cars and the like.

So, it is not clear you move from different parts of Canada into Ottawa and now here at the bridge, police in Windsor trying to deal with the protesters as best they can making arrests where they can, trying to reason with them essentially, and keep them cordoned off so they can keep those access points open. It is -- the traffic is starting to flow, but it is very slow. All the

other commercial traffic and non-commercial traffic now going through other crossings nearby.

BERMAN: Yes. How critical is this bridge economically for both countries?

MARQUEZ: Enormously. You know, it is 40,000 cars commercial and noncommercial every day. It is over $300 million in goods that come over this bridge every day. They can they can do it for a while. It's been about 24 hours now this.

They can do this for a while without sort of damaging things, but it takes a lot. They have to go up to Port Huron. There is a tunnel that they can get through for noncommercial vehicles. But it is difficult on an ongoing basis to see that this bridge staying closed won't have an effect on the economies on both sides of the border.

BERMAN: So you made a point of noting that it's not just truckers and I think that is important to note. So, who are the others involved here, these anti-vaccine groups?

MARQUEZ: It's anti-vaccine. I mean, interestingly, all of this happening as governments everywhere are starting to bring down a lot of those coronavirus mandates. So it's anti-vaccine, it's anti- mandate, it's anti-mask. It's a little bit of everything.

It has also invited a lot of the very far right, the Neo-Nazis and others who have -- there were people who were dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa and people who have just taken the opportunity to act out in any way they want over their frustrations with the government.

So it is also attracting a lot of tension from around the world. And so it has grown. It has grown since it started in January and moved to Ottawa. It was very loud and boisterous there. Now, it is here, it is not clear how much more gas this protest has in the tank and how much longer it'll go -- John.


BERMAN: Miguel Marquez, thanks so much for being there for us. Appreciate it.

MARQUEZ: You've got it. So bizarre comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking to undercut Ukraine and apparently even the manhood of its President, Garry Kasparov joins us to dissect Putin's game when we return.


BERMAN: The 10th diplomatic standoff to avert a further Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken a bizarre and decidedly undiplomatic turn courtesy of Russia's leader.

On Monday, Vladimir Putin was speaking about the Minsk Agreements, which were supposed to end the conflict years ago. There has been disagreement between the two countries over their meeting and he took a disparaging shot at Ukraine's President and maybe even his manhood, saying: "Like it or don't like it, it's your duty, my beauty," which seems quite possibly to be a comment loaded with sexual even misogynistic implications.

Ukraine's President today responded appearing to take the comment in stride, he said, "Ukraine is a beauty," and as far as it being his duty to quote, "take it," Ukraine is very patient because that's wisdom.

Again, this is the state of affairs as more than 100,000 Russian troops are amassed near Ukraine's border.

I'm joined now by Garry Kasparov, a Russian pro-democracy leader and former world chess champion.

Garry, thanks so much for being with us.


These comments, this language from Vladimir Putin, what's he trying to do here? What kind of head games is he trying to play with Zelensky?

GARRY KASPAROV, RUSSIA PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER: First of all, this is not unusual for Putin. It's the first time that it was translated in English and other languages. But otherwise, Putin has been using this language in Russian, you know, mother's tongue for more than two decades. That's a typical, you know, slang, criminal slang. But this one very specific, one contains a profane language, you translate only the second part used by Putin. But the first one actually sounds much worse.

But that's, you know, Putin's view about Ukraine, actually had a very good article on by Nathan Hodge, who explained that, you know, Putin never accepted Ukraine and sovereignty. Vladimir Putin, a Russian dictator, democratic successful Ukraine is a mortal threat to his power and Russia. So that's why we should give him credit. He was very consistent. And since he is infamous speech in Munich, in 2007, February, 15 years ago, he has been pushing this idea that we had to return to the spheres of influence. And of course, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, independent states now, they should be under direct or indirect control of Russia. And of course, Ukraine is the biggest price, you know, for Putin's imperial fantasies. And since 2014, he has been invading Ukraine.

So Minsk was not an agreement to resolve the conflict because Putin was never willing to negotiate the return of Crimea back to Ukraine. It was put in an attempt to legitimize his cronies in eastern Ukraine, in a small part, the fact occupied by Russia and to make them Ukrainian politicians, and through these enclaves, to have a veto right, or any attempts of Ukraine to integrate into European Union or NATO.

BERMAN: So the question is, how do you stop a German Chancellor apparently agreed behind closed doors that Nord Stream 2 and may be the key to reaching Putin? Do you think it is? If not, how do you get Putin to listen?

KASPAROV: Well, the only way to talk to a mafia boss is to make sure that he will pay very high price, unacceptable price for his criminal actions, it the cost of invasion must become prohibitive. And it's getting there, but it's too slow. You have to all Ukraine, Ukraine has a pretty big army, and they can inflict serious damage to invading Russian troops. But the key of course, not tanks, but banks. And while, you know, we heard that behind closed doors. German Chancellor agreed with President Biden about sanctions against Nord Stream 2, but she dodged the question publicly.

And, of course, the fact that French president Emmanuel Macron was in Moscow, and is now doing this shuttle diplomacy. That's, you know, adds to Putin's confidence and his arrogance. What are they discussing, it sees -- is Macron trying to buy Ukraine -- Ukrainian return to the suicidal Minsk agreement by offering them 1.2 million euros or whatever the amount to make Zelensky more receptive to the idea, but it's not going to happen. Ukrainian people rejected Minsk and Zelinsky is the president of his country.

BERMAN: Listen, you call Putin a mafia boss. Why?

KASPAROV: Because that's the way he rules Russia. I always say that every country has its own mafia in Russia, mafia has its own state. Putin is in power for more than two decades, he is not going anywhere. And it's a new type of dictatorship. Unlike the ideological dictation for 20th century, it's based on control of money. Putin controls more money than any other -- any other individual in human history. And everything he does is to secure his control of this money inside Russia, or to protect the funds and we're talking about couple of trillion dollars removed from Russia to other locations, mostly in the free world, from potential actions of the democratic government. That's where you can hit him.

If he understands that his cronies will be subject of prosecution and the laws of the free world are aimed at money laundering. If Russian gas and oil export is under threat, then he'll start thinking about his actions. Otherwise, he doesn't see any real incentives to stop his provocations and aggressions. Dictators never asked what why or were asked, why not.

BERMAN: I am curious, you said Putin has always been clear about this. Right. He's always been clear about what he wanted to do with Ukraine. So why is it only now that he's putting 100,000 troops on the border? What is he see that lets him think that this is the time to do it?


KASPAROV: Look again he started his aggression against Ukraine eight years ago and his original plan was to carve a large piece of Ukraine and to create so-called Novorossiya, new Russia. He thought about, you know, a new chunk added to Russian -- Russian empire from East Eastern Ukraine from Lugansk, all the way to the south to Odessa, also connected to the Russian control anklet in Moldova, basically cutting Ukraine from Black Sea. It failed, because he overestimated the willingness of Russian speaking population in Ukraine to become Putin's -- Putin subject.

And now, he decided it's time to actually force Ukraine's hand because Ukraine walked away from Minsk. Ukraine didn't want you to become Putin's puppet through this Minsk agreement. And also Putin lost very important ally in Europe, German former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and he also lost another potential ally Donald Trump. So Putin thought its time, you know, for him to solve Ukraine problems once and for all, because situation in Russia is getting worse and worse. And if Ukraine escaped from Putin's spell and becomes successful, he knows that will be a very good example, a very tempting example for Russian people to end up Putin dictatorship.

BERMAN: Garry Kasparov, always in education. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

KASPAROV: Thank you for inviting me.

BERMAN: So one more blue state governor is reportedly ready to end a mask mandate and just as the CDC director says, now is not the time to do that. The back and forth over mask mandates when we return.



BERMAN: More breaking news this evening. The New York Times is reporting that tomorrow New York State will become the latest in a stream of blue states to end a mask mandate. According to the Times, the states will let its indoor mask mandate lapse on Thursday when it expires. And yet despite this rush in normalcy the Director of the CDC said the complete opposite during a radio interview today that now is not the time to start masking up. And she specifically mentioned schools in her comments. Dr. Rochelle Walensky cited the high number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID, quote, we're not quite there yet.

I'm joined now by Dr. Richard Besser, a pediatrician and the Former Acting Director of the CDC. Rich, great to see you tonight.

Now that the CDC and Dr. Walensky have weighed in to continue masking in schools, what's your take?

RICHARD BESSER, FMR ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: You know, John, these periods of transition are extremely challenging. And it's also very challenging when you're, you're making policy recommendations for the entire nation. You're the four states that you lift it up, were hit very early and very hard by Omicron, and are now seeing pretty dramatic declines, declines in cases declines in hospitalization. And there's a desire to try and get to a more normal life. As a pediatrician, you know, there are a couple things that I keep in mind. One is the desire to reduce as much as possible the burden from Omicron. And thankfully, young children are at the lowest risk for severe infection for hospitalization and for death. They're not at zero risk, but they're at very low risk.

But you have to balance the measures that we're asking children and families to do to prevent Omicron. Again, some of those costs, and the costs are real. You know, the Surgeon General today was talking about the mental health costs, what will it take for children to get back to a normal, where they're no longer need to be afraid of each other, to be afraid of contact? For children who speak another language? When will they be able to see a teacher's mouth so that they can more easily learn a language? These things are real. And I think that the balance that states and localities are trying to make between reducing COVID as low as possible, but also trying to get children back to being able to be children. That's what we're seeing play out now.

And hopefully, we'll learn from states that are doing different things in different places. And that'll help guide other states that are trying to make the same decisions.

BERMAN: So how about what's reportedly about to happen in New York with a Governor Hochul about to announce she's going to drop the indoor mask mandates from businesses and for customers to show proof of full vaccination is now the time for that?

BESSER: Well, you know, a couple things that you'd want to ask. And I think this is what they're asking in New York, they're asking in New Jersey, where I am, is what's happening in the hospitals. You know, Dr. Walensky lifted that up, you wouldn't want to reduce your masking or your other measures if your hospitals don't have capacity. But if you do that that will factor in there, what's happening in terms of your testing capacity, your ability to get medications to people who need it, these are things you all want to weigh in there. And what is the cost in terms of people not being able to get back to their normal life.

And so, the other piece of this, that I'm not hearing the governor's lift up enough, is that the reduction of these public health measures, we can't continue to see it as a one way street. If a new variant were to arise, if the number of cases or the burden on the hospital system were to go in the wrong direction, people need to be ready to know that the these measures could be put back in place. And throughout this pandemic, I think there's been a misconception that if things go in one direction, you know, cases go up. They come down and then we remove these barriers and there's no discussion that we're doing it because of what's happening with the pandemic and there's a chance we may need to put these back in place. That goes for what's happening now in schools. That's that goes for what's happening with indoor mask mandates. We have to be ready for the potential that things could go the other way.

BERMAN: Although people make the same type of argument flipped around there, which is that when things are getting better, you have to reduce some of the restrictions, right? Else you'll never have the credibility to put them back in place later on. You got to react to things when they're better as well.


BESSER: Well and I think this is very different from a year ago when restrictions were removed in that there are vaccines, there are vaccines available for, for any parent who wants to vaccinate their child who's five years and older, there's vaccines for adults, we need to do more to encourage people who are 65 and older to get their boosters because that is the group that is bearing the greatest burden in terms of hospitalization and deaths from Omicron. And the U.S. lags other wealthy nations by a large margin in vaccination in that population.

But for younger people, you're right, you know, as the numbers are coming down, your as people are vaccinated, allowing people to do more, and showing that you're responding to the situation, I think is something that that we're seeing many states consider, and I think it's a realistic thing to consider doing.

BERMAN: Dr. Richard Besser, always a pleasure to speak to you. Nice to see you.

BESSER: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Up next, a different view of COVID into the question Dr. Besser just asked what's happening in the hospitals. "360s" Gary Tuchman takes us inside a South Dakota hospital that's fighting a brutal surge in COVID hospitalizations.



BERMAN: As several states are moving to relax mask mandates amid decline in COVID cases, some areas are now experiencing a surge in hospitalizations. "360s" Gary Tuchman traveled to rural western South Dakota, where COVID hospitalizations are being fueled by low vaccination rates and other factors and the situation could become dire.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this intensive care room at the South Dakota hospital, this woman in her 60s is unresponsive. She has just been hooked up to a ventilator after spending two weeks in a regular hospital room.

GEORGE SAZAMA, RN, HOSPITAL ADULT INTENSIVE CARE UNIT DIRECTOR: So she kind of came in traditional if you know someone that got the virus at home and feel unwell, decided they need to come to the emergency department, tested positive, requiring a lot of oxygen.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Her condition just continued to deteriorate. So after two weeks, this patient whose face we're not showing to protect her identity was brought to the intensive care unit and intubated. She is not vaccinated.

SAZAMA: She doesn't have a good prognosis from this point.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Moments later, we see a stretcher being wheeled by nurses, another patient being rushed from a regular COVID room to intensive care in a hospital that is overcapacity.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): COVID hospitalizations are decreasing in many parts of the United States. But here in Pennington County, South Dakota, in the mostly extremely rural Western part of the state, low vaccination rates and an increase of cases at the beginning of the month are now creating a surge of hospitalizations. Dr. Shankar Kurra is the Chief Medical Officer of Monument Health Rapid City Hospital

KURRA: we are seeing a rise in the rage of 60% increase in hospitalizations here at Monument Health. And that is worrying. This is a trend that is a warning to as a dire warning that we could be at capacities that we never imagined.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): None of the COVID patients in the ICU today an ICU that has had to be expanded has been fully vaccinated. Throughout this pandemic, the governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem has refused to implement basic COVID Health and Safety precautions used in other states.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): My people are happy.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Although she does say she is vaccinated. While South Dakota isn't at the top of per capita COVID deaths, it is comfortably in the top half at 20. In neighboring Minnesota, which is that a full compliment of COVID precautions has a death rate about 26% lower than South Dakota. Not surprisingly, Monument Health one of three hospital systems in the state doesn't rely on the governor to be the chief COVID Safety spokesperson.

KURRA: We've been the main spokesperson, it's been left to the health system, to the doctors, to nurses to be the spokesperson. So in a way the burden is on us to make sure that folks understand that gravity that we're in the pandemic.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The governor turned down a request to talk to us on camera. But our communications director told us in part, Governor Noem has provided her people with up to date science facts and data and then trusted them to exercise personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

This is Jerry Morgan, an 87-year-old COVID patient at Monument hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're feeling good.

JERRY MORGAN, COVID PATIENT: They treated me very well.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): He had a high fever, had trouble breathing, was shaking and came here to the hospital where he tested positive. One day later he feels much better. No Intensive Care Unit needed for him. He is fully vaccinated and boosted.

MORGAN: I feel a strong sense of relief. I'm almost positive that if I hadn't had those I had been probably gone. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Jerry says he wishes vaccines weren't so political. His brother he says died from COVID and wasn't vaccinated. And now Jerry is also a spokesperson.

MORGAN: In the United States, 80% of people would have got the shots it would have been a lot easier to control.


BERMAN: And Gary joins us from the State Capitol. Gary, I assume the state's health systems are continuing to prioritize getting people vaccinated?

TUCHMAN: Yes, it's still a high priority getting people vaccinations but it's an uphill battle. John, case in point the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo great event big event yearly event in Rapid City last nine days just ended this past weekend. More than 300,000 people showed up. So the medical authorities had a great idea. Let's set up a vaccine booth at the rodeo and give COVID shots, give shingle shots, give flu shots, while the nine days came to an end. They total up all the COVID shots they gave and they gave a grand total of 12 shots just one or two per day. John.


BERMAN: Twelve shots with thousands of thousands of people?

TUCHMAN: Twelve shots on there. I mean, listen, people made the decisions, they've had plenty of time to get shots and it is a rodeo. It's not necessarily considered a pro vaccine crowd. That being said, 12 is an extremely low number, with 300,000 people showing up.

BERMAN: Gary Tuchman, thank you so much.

A suspect is arrested in connection with what -- with that no-knock warrant that led to the deadly police shooting of Amir Locke last week. We have details ahead.


BERMAN: A 17-year-old has been arrested in connection to the search warrant that led to the death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police Officers executing a no-knock search warrant. Reminder body cam footage released late last week shows officers shooting Locke after entering an apartment while Locke was apparently asleep, police say he had a gun.