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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Sources: Classified Documents Found At Mike Pence's Home; 18 Dead In Two Mass Shootings In California; Sources: U.S. Finalizing Plans To Send Abrams Tanks To Ukraine; More Questions About Santos Claims As New Interview Surfaces; M&M's Replaces "Spokecandies" With Maya Rudolph After Backlash. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 24, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking News: We are getting new images in tonight of the catastrophic damage left behind after a tornado tore through Pasadena, Texas, which is just outside Houston.
Officials are now digging through the debris looking for anyone who may be trapped. Homes and offices have been ripped apart, cars overturned.
So far we understand, officials are reporting just one injury, which is incredible given that devastation.
Thanks so much for joining us.
Anderson starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with much more on the news that CNN was first to report, documents with classified markings found at the home of former Vice President Pence.
CNN's Jamie Gangel who broke the story joins us in a moment.
First though, the irony of classified documents ending up where they did of all places.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS:Did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not.
MUIR: Do you see any reason for anyone to take classified documents with them leaving the White House?
PENCE: Well, there would be no reason to have classified documents, particularly if they were in an unprotected area.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So that was the former Vice President in November talking about the former President saying there is no reason for anyone to take classified documents with him after leaving office.
Here he is three days after the first batch of Biden documents was reported suggesting that he knew how to handle such things, and then Vice President Biden did not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The handling of classified materials and the nation secret is a very serious matter, and as a former Vice President of the United States, I can i can speak from personal experience about the attention that ought to be paid to those materials when you're in office and after you leave office and clearly, that did not take place in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Nor apparently in his. That said, just as with the Biden documents, they are small in number and there is no evidence of anything nefarious, such as willfully taking them or obstructing government efforts to retrieve them, which of course, is in stark contrast with the Mar-a-Lago documents.
The former President, by the way posted this on his social media site today. Quoting now: "Mike Pence is an innocent man. He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone." He is certainly not saying the same about President Biden nor will Congressman James Comer, the New House Oversight Chairman be backing off his Committee's investigation of the President.
Chairman comer saying today: "Former Vice President Pence's transparency stands in stark contrast to Biden White House staff who continue to withhold information from Congress and the American people."
Now, this is the same Congressman Comer, who you'll recall just last week said that investigating the former President would "not be a priority" for his Committee. And for a number of Republicans, the news today helps blur What are real distinctions between the former President's case and apparently the other two, an opportunity to blame the system, instead, as a Member of the House Intelligence Committee appeared to do today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE WALTZ (R-FL): Clearly, the process is broken.
We've got to take a hard look at GSA and how they and the Intelligence community pack these documents, get them to wherever the President of Vice President is going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That certainly may be true, it may also be true that over classification is a problem as many on this program across the political spectrum have said also. Clearly, the whole subject is messy, which is not to say it's all the same mess or that some messes aren't worse than others.
Joining us now, CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel with the latest in the story she first broke. So, do we know how documents got in to Mike Pence's home and if they were secured in anything resembling a secure location.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it appears the classified documents, Anderson, had been at the Vice President's residence and were inadvertently packed up along with personal items in the final days of the Trump-Pence administration.
In case you're wondering, a hat was also found in one of the boxes. The hat was unclassified. We're told the boxes were first moved to a temporary house, the Pence's were renting in Virginia, then moved again to their new home in Indiana.
You do have to wonder Anderson, how does this happen? They were marked. There were clear rules about how you treat classified records. I don't believe there are any guidelines on the hat, but to your point, it is not just that the system was broken. There was human error here of the people who packed these boxes up.
COOPER: I want to play something that the former Vice President said earlier this month after classified materials were found in an office used by President Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Our staff reviewed all of the materials in our office and in our residence to ensure that there were no classified materials that left the White House or remained in our possession and I remain confident that that was done in a thorough and careful way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So if what he said there is true and his staff searched his office and residence after Biden's story broke, how did they miss these documents?
GANGEL: They didn't search very well. Look, these boxes were taped up according to the Pence team, so either they missed the boxes completely, or they opened them, didn't see them and taped them back up.
Again, these were not in a secure location. The only thing that we can say is when they discovered the classified documents, they did put them in a safe in the Pence home until the FBI came to pick them up.
COOPER: And could the discovery of the documents in Pence's home have any impact on the investigations into President Biden and the former President?
GANGEL: So apart from the investigations, I think there is no question for Biden, this is a political gift. It turns out apparently, he is not alone, in perhaps inadvertently taking classified documents. It appears, he is also not alone in needing to do multiple searches.
For Trump, as you said earlier, it is a very different case. He clearly wanted to keep those things as souvenirs or for whatever and thought giving them back, but it may help him legally.
So, you know, the issue of intent, which we've looked at with Trump, it just may be that Merrick Garland decides that there were so many of these cases that the Justice Department may decide not to bring charges.
COOPER: So it is the third high-profile case of mishandling documents.
COOPER: Is there a sign of more systemic issue with how material is maintained under the Presidential Records Act?
GANGEL: So, it is the third that we know of. Wait until tomorrow. Forty-eight hours ago, we didn't know about Mike Pence. Let's see if anyone else can find anything.
For the record, CNN heard from representatives of former Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama, all said they had turned over all the documents at the National Archives.
But look, big picture, this does speak to both human error and perhaps a problem with the system, as you said, maybe over classification, documents management, record keeping, I would not be surprised if in the coming days, the Archives reaches back out to everyone, former Presidents, Vice Presidents, and says, "Please look one more time."
COOPER: Jamie Gangel, appreciate it. Thank you.
Let's get perspective now from CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
So how worried should the American public be for the safety and security of this country with these classified documents in private homes of politicians?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think everyone should be concerned. These are serious violations of pretty clear rules. Now, how concerned you should be comes down to the damage assessment that is always done by the FBI and the Department of Justice and other Intelligence Community partners after documents like this are recovered. They take a look at those things to see if sources and methods have been compromised. Oftentimes, the answer to that is no. And if that's the case, then it's not quite as serious as it could be, but these are clear violations.
COOPER: According to a report from the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence back in 2017, potentially more than a million people have access to top secret information, many more have access to lower levels of classification. I mean, who is policing those people in real time to be sure they don't take things home with them? And also, should there be a million people who have top secret access?
MCCABE: Well, you know, a long part of the problem of over classification is probably too many people have those sorts of clearances. But there is something that I think we have to point out here, Anderson, and it is the overwhelming majority of people who have clearances don't run into these sorts of problems, because they can only look at and work with classified materials at work, in their workspace, in places that are authorized to store those sorts of documents.
When you're a low-level person in the Intelligence Community, you don't ever take anything home, and if you need to look at something in the middle of the night or on the weekends, you get in your car and you drive back into the office.
It is not the same for principals of organizations, Presidents, Vice Presidents, heads of executive agencies. These people have a need to be able to have access to classified material, to read classified material, to be briefed on classified material literally 24 hours a day. So there are constantly people following them around, handing them pieces of classified whether that's at home or when traveling, traveling overseas and when you have that much material that you're processing, it's almost --
Well, I'll say it's foreseeable that sometimes things get put down in the wrong pile. They get commingled with non-classified stuff, and you know, human beings make errors and that is how we get to the situation that we seem to be in.
COOPER: Andrew McCabe, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up next, to the White House with CNN's Phil Mattingly who has new reporting about the reaction there.
So what are you hearing from sources?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, it has been interesting. There has been public silence today that's both notable and very intentional.
Aides under strict instructions not to say anything about the Pence development, not to be seen as celebrating or welcoming the development in any way.
But behind the scenes, officials making clear that they believe there are very clear parallels here and parallels, as one official told me that are "very helpful" in the sense of demonstrating that perhaps this is a more common issue than the Biden case in isolation demonstrated.
There are also parallels in the sense of separating it even more definitively from what the former President Donald Trump has been going through. Both Pence and Biden immediately reporting these issues to authorities. Neither Pence nor Biden intending to take these documents home and making clear they weren't aware they were there in the first place.
The idea right now is that while they're not going to talk about this publicly, you're not going to hear the President weigh in on the Pence issue at all. They believe that as this continues to move forward, it will have clear benefits in underscoring that this is not just an issue for President Biden, this is an issue that's perhaps a little bit more widespread.
COOPER: Have officials given you any sense of what happens next?
MATTINGLY: I think, the big question right now going forward is the White House is clearly not going to change the strategy that they have been following, but I do think that they are very cognizant of both the political and legal dynamics at this point in time.
Politically, White House officials keeping a very close eye on the very Republicans who had been attacking President Biden for this, trying to see how they responded to the Pence developments.
Obviously, there's an idea right now that being able to hold Pence and Biden kind of separate from former President Donald Trump is effective and helpful as well.
But on the legal side of things, I think Jamie made some interesting points. There are real questions about what happens next. Clearly, there is a Special Counsel investigating President Biden, that is not going to change. But what does the Justice Department do with the Pence issue that they're now reviewing? Is there any precedent here? What happens next are open questions.
One thing we know for sure, the White House isn't changing its strategy, neither legal, nor their public strategy, not really weighing in on this, not talking about this, focusing instead on the President's agenda.
In fact, Anderson behind closed doors today, President Biden met with Democratic leaders. Their discussion was about the agenda, the President's economic speeches he is planning on giving in the weeks ahead.
One source told me, there is no discussion at all about classified documents in that meeting inside the White House.
COOPER: Phil Mattingly, appreciate it. Thank you.
With me here tonight, CNN's newest political commentator, former New York Democratic Congressman, Mondaire Jones; also CNN political commentator, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as White House Director of Communications in the previous administration.
Congressman, it's great to have you here as a contributor. So does the Mike Pence revelation -- does it help the Biden White House? MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it does. I do think that there are clear distinctions now if you group Pence and Biden in one category and the former President Donald Trump, who did not honor a lawfully issued subpoena, and as a result had to have those things taken back by the FBI, and returned to the National Archives.
I think as a political matter, it is a gift to the President that the same situation happened. But you know, just taking a step back, it is always problematic when classified materials do not remain in classified settings.
And so I think you'll see Congress take a look at what can be done to make sure this doesn't happen, or at least is less likely to happen moving forward.
When I was a former member -- when I was a Member of Congress, we went into a SCIF, a secure facility. Very aggressively, we were asked to, you know, deposit our cell phones and any other things. And we were -- it was ensured that we did not leave that facility with any classified material.
And so it is difficult to see how this has happened so often, except that they are the principals and when you're the former Vice President, you kind of walk around with this stuff.
COOPER: So I mean, Alyssa, you worked with former Vice President. Were you surprised that it happened to him?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I was surprised. First and foremost, I think Mike Pence is a man of integrity and he is a very responsible and serious person. In the Trump White House, he was somebody who I trust to do things by the book more than anyone else on that campus. And frankly, it kind of makes Biden's case for him, which is that accidents happen.
The thing that stood out to me knowing Mike Pence, just to give an example, when I worked for him, he would often have us do briefings in the Situation Room out of an abundance of caution in case we discuss something that was classified, even if that wasn't the intent, because he took classification so seriously.
So this indicates to me this was a mistake, most likely a staff error. But keep in mind the timing of this. This is you know, kind of a hasty transition after January 6th.
My guess is that he was not packing boxes, heading -- you know, getting ready for a transition in that period and staff were rushed to do it last minute, and that's how it was able to happen.
COOPER: It does, Congressman, there's certainly a lot of selective outrage on both sides. I mean, the politics obviously plays a role in how both sides react to this. We see it on Republicans and Democrats.
JONES: I think in this context, we've not seen selective outrage on the Democratic side. I thought it was remarkable that Senator Blumenthal, Senator Manchin, and Senator Durbin were quiet -- they were not generous in their characterizations of President Biden's mishandling.
And of course, it could have been a staff error. And so even saying that President Biden himself mishandled these materials, I think is premature until such time as a determination is made by the Justice Department. But we do know that Donald Trump refused request after request to the point where a subpoena had to be issued, and the FBI had to go into Mar-a-Lago and take those documents back because he refused. He insisted on keeping those documents.
COOPER: Alyssa, do you think this -- the discovery of the Pence documents, that it influences the case against the investigation of the former President's documents?
GRIFFIN: Well, it's obviously very different. I think that the Biden and the pence case are probably more similar in the sense that they're both fully -- it seems, fully cooperating at what we know at this time.
The former President, it's a different it's -- a different ballpark. I mean, he was obstructing, they were trying to get these documents for months and months, and I hope that the Justice Department looks at them based on just the facts as they play out.
But one thing I want to note to Andy McCabe's point, this may be a bigger problem than we think that it is. It's not just Presidents and Vice Presidents, who always have classified documents with them. The Secretaries of Defense, the former Secretaries of States, National Security advisers, the universe of people who have the ability to leave the complex with documents is actually quite large, and clearly there is no process for policing the chain of custody for these documents, which do expose grave National Security risks.
COOPER: Yes. Alyssa Farah Griffin, appreciate it. Mondaire Jones, thank you.
Again, welcome as the newest contributor.
JONES: Thank you for having me. Good to be with you.
COOPER: Coming up next, what we are learning in the wake of the two mass shootings in California about the crimes, the response in the communities, and the country and about some of the 18 people whose lives were taken.
Later, factchecking yet more claims from George Santos, the lying Congressman including that he once survived an assassination attempt according to -- well, himself.
COOPER: There is (AUDIO GAP) ... he was always upbeat. He would dance and sing around the house. He was always the life of the party. His family says, Valentino Alvero was 68.
My Nhan was known to her friends and families as MyMy. She was a primary caregiver to her mom who died just a few weeks ago. She loved the dance studio, and this was her first time back, her family says, since her mom's death. One member of her family told us, she always had a smile for people hoping to brighten up their day. Her kindness, she said is what's needed in this world. My Nhan was 65.
And Ming Na was killed there, too. It was a place that he loved to go and loved to dance. The local entertainment community were told he was a cultural force who will be missed. Ming Na was 72.
Three of 11 people in Monterey Park along with seven killed in Half Moon Bay outside San Francisco.
The latest now on both from CNN's Natasha Chen.
SHERIFF CHRISTINA CORPUS, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: All of the evidence we have points to this being the instance of workplace violence.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another California Community rocked by a mass shooting.
Monday, a gunman attacks two locations in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. Police say he first attacked a mushroom farm where the suspect was employed.
CORPUS: The only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.
CHEN (voice over): Before then targeting workers at a second location. At least seven adults were killed and one injured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up.
CHEN (voice over): Two hours later, this video shows the moment when the 66-year-old suspect was arrested by police in the parking lot of a substation.
Inside the car, authorities found the legally owned semiautomatic handgun they said was used in the shooting. All of this less than 48 hours after another gunman killed at least 11 people about 400 miles to the south in a dance studio in Monterey Park, California.
BRANDON TSAY, CONFRONTED AND DISARMED GUNMAN: I needed to save myself and the people inside.
CHEN (voice over): Brandon Tsay confronted that gunman about 20 minutes after the initial shooting Saturday night when the 72-year-old shooter entered a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra.
TSAY: Something happened, you know, something came over me. I just had this rush of thought and adrenaline. CHEN (voice over): Tsay wrestled the gun away. The suspect died the next day of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as police surrounded him in Torrance about 30 miles away.
A former friend who knew him for about 20 years tells CNN the man liked to dance, but was distrustful, didn't have friends and "hated to the bone" those he thought wronged him, including some of the staff at the two dance studios and an instructor at the second dance hall said the shooter was "very bad tempered."
ILIE BARDAHAN, LAI LAI BALLROOM: Overall, the guy had just a very bad temperament. Little sparks of craziness, and then back to normal, I guess.
REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): These victims who have suffered such terrible loss --
CHEN (voice over): The community is grieving and baffled.
May Hua Huang used to dance at Star Ballroom and told me she couldn't believe such violence broke up a Lunar New Year party when this predominantly Asian-American community was meant to be celebrating.
(MAY HUA HUANG, FORMER MEMBER OF STAR BALLROOM speaking in foreign language.)
CHEN (voice over): "I was shocked. I looked at the news media right away, and suddenly I felt like my heart was so tight. How could something like this happen? So horrifying."
JAN ALEJANDRO, ALTADENA RESIDENT: I hate to say this, but I'm really happy that it wasn't a racial, you know, Asian hate. That is, for me a relief.
CHEN (voice over): Yet he and others tell me how can there be any relief when so many are dead? They say something must change. The same thing many communities in America say each time tragedy strikes.
INEZ ARAKAKI, ALTADENA RESIDENT: It shouldn't have to be every week. You have a right to bear arms. But you know, this is 2023, how much more can we bear arms? We shouldn't have to live in fear.
COOPER: And Natasha Chen joins us now.
You're from San Mateo County where one of the shootings happened. How are the tragedies affecting the Asian-American communities across California?
CHEN: Well, Anderson, both in San Mateo County where I'm from, and here where I'm standing in LA County, there are large Asian-American populations, strong cultural communities, people who love to share their culture and connect with each other and they're doing that right now in mourning at a vigil.
You're likely seeing images of that at Monterey Park City Hall, just a few blocks from where I'm standing.
Now, you heard that man in my piece say that there's some form of relief because this wasn't an anti-Asian hate incident here. But there is also a complex feeling given that these two suspects seem to be men of Asian descent in their 60s and 70s.
There is a sense of pain and bewilderment at what happened here. Why did they do this? Why did they attack members of their own community and I don't just mean racial and cultural community. I also mean, in the case here in Monterey Park, his own dance community, his fellow dancers, a place where he met his ex-wife; in the case of Half Moon Bay, his own coworkers.
And so the community is just left with a lot of questions -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, Natasha Chen. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Still ahead, a potentially big development in the war in Ukraine. Sources telling CNN an announcement that might break the deadlock between Germany and the US over supplying tanks to Ukraine could be imminent.
John Kirby from the National Security Council joins us next.
COOPER: The sources tell CNN the Biden administration may now be ready to ship M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine with a possible announcement as soon as this week that would end a major standoff with Germany which has refused to ship its Leopard 2 tanks without a similar buy in by the U.S. Der Spiegel magazine earlier today reported that Germany's chancellor has now decided to send its tanks if a deal has indeed been reach, it would come ahead of a major possible major offensive by the Russians as early as the spring.
Perspective now from John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council.
Admiral Kirby, I appreciate you joining us tonight. We know there has not yet been announcement on the United States sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Can you just talk though, about what the debate has been internally about sending the Abrams? There's been a lot of reporting about concerns that they're too complex, the training is too long, the type of fuel they need, the spare parts are unique. It that or is it concerned that Russia would see it as an escalation?
JOHN KIRBY, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NSC: I think with any system, particularly an advanced system that we are providing Ukraine throughout the last of eleven months, we have always gone through a very iterative conversation about does it meet the needs that Ukraine has on the battlefield now and in the future? And if the answer is yes, then, you know, is it appropriate that it comes from the United States or should it come from another country? And then what kind of training, what kind of support, what kind of maintenance, how do we make it operable for the Ukrainians in an efficient, effective way?
And so, everything from the Patriots to the NASAMS to the HIMARS, we've been talking about the Bradley fighting vehicles. We have that discussion with every advanced system, Anderson and tanks are no different. We have talked about the fact that the Abrams are an incredibly capable system, but it's a very expensive system to operate and to maintain. It has a jet engine. That doesn't mean that the Ukrainians can't learn it. It just means that we have to factor all that stuff in with any system that we're going to potentially provide to them.
COOPER: Given -- and you may not want to go into this level of detail, but given the complexity of the Abram systems, does that limit its potential use in the Ukraine as a theater of war? I mean, in terms of supply lines, getting spare parts to it, does it have to stay closer to Kyiv? Is it limited in how it could be used?
KIRBY: Well, again, without getting ahead of any decision that hasn't been spoken to yet, I would just tell you that again, with any advanced system you have to factor in things like supply chain and maintenance time and whether -- you know, how often can you keep them operational and how do you use them effectively. And, you know, should there whatever tanks that get provided to Ukraine, certainly that will have to be factored in, whether it's an American tank or anybody else's tank. There's talk about the Brits are going to contribute these Challenger tanks. There's talk about perhaps other nations may provide Leopard tanks, the German made tanks, all of them require unique maintenance and operational skills that the Ukrainians would just have to need to become adept at.
And, yes, that absolutely affects how much do you give, how fast do you give, and on what time frame the troops are trained on them and they're used in the actual battle.
COOPER: As you know, some Ukrainian military leaders have talked about a new massive Russian offensive, perhaps coming just in months, potentially as soon as the end of January. Do you believe Ukraine will have the weaponry it needs to repel a major attack?
KIRBY: We are going to make sure that Ukraine can defend itself today and tomorrow and every other day. And we obviously recognize that Mr. Putin could be using the winter to regroup, rearm, reequip, and find manpower for his forces for when the weather gets better. I mean, the fighting is still ongoing. It hasn't stopped, but we certainly expect that as spring comes, you could see the Russians want to go on the move again. They have not surrendered their larger strategic goals inside Ukraine.
And so, we got to make sure that we are using the time effectively in front of us to make sure that Ukraine can be ready for that. As well as, quite frankly, Anderson, making sure that they are also ready and able to go on the move when the weather improves. COOPER: Russian officials have already begun framing any delivery of
tanks as an escalation of war. Is it an escalation? I mean, is it a line which, early on, the U.S. did not think that they would cross?
KIRBY: Well, we have been providing armored vehicles to them. No, not tanks, but we've been providing armored vehicles. They have every right to defend their territory and to try to take back territory that the Russians have taken from them. And armored capabilities like tanks can be helpful in that regard. But, look, let's make no mistake. The only party that's escalated the war is Russia. They started it, and they have been escalating it ever since. I mean, we don't talk about it as much in the last few days, but they're still using cruise missiles and drones to hit civilian targets and infrastructure, knock out the lights in the water while the Ukrainians are suffering through a brutal winter.
So, I mean, it is Russia that is the aggressor here. It is Russia that has escalated.
COOPER: Before I let you go, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about the CNN reporting. The classified documents were found in the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. Do you think the process for classification and retention of documents needs to be reviewed? I mean, you've been in the government a long time. You know how this works. Clearly, you know, people at the highest levels of government in both parties have not been sticking to proper procedure. Does the procedures, does the system need to be reworked?
KIRBY: Well, without speaking to specific cases, I mean, there are rigorous procedures for handling classified information and classified documents that everybody in government is expected to follow. Now, we routinely look at those procedures on occasion to see, make sure that we have them right. I suspect that routine process will continue. But by and large, I mean, there's very clear protocols on how to handle classified information and material and we're comfortable that those processes and procedures are in good shape.
COOPER: Admiral John Kirby, I appreciate it for the White House tonight. Thank you.
KIRBY: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up, more claims by George Santos, and so far, there is no evidence they're true. Details next.
COOPER: Another day, another batch of claims by New York Congressman George Santos that are raising questions. A recent interview surfaced a Brazilian podcast taped in December, soon after the freshman Republican was elected to the U.S. congress. Santos, speaking Portuguese, says he was mugged in Manhattan two summers ago by two white men in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue, and they even stole his shoes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) (through translation): They robbed me, took my bag, my shoes and watched.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A police department spokesman -- or excuse me a police department source in New York. The NYPD tells CNN there is no record of Santos reporting the alleged crime to police. He also claimed on the podcast someone once tried to assassinate him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTOS (through translation): We have suffered life attack, assassination attempt, threatening letter, having to have security guards and police escorts standing in front of our house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Santos was a no show at a White House reception today for new members of Congress, though he was invited, but he was on Capitol Hill. Senior Congressional correspondent, Jessica Dean is there.
Has there been any response from Congressman Santos about those claims that he made on that podcast? And is there any sense of whether any change in Republican leadership's patience with him?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've certainly asked him a lot of questions, Anderson, but he hasn't answered any of them. He did not want to talk about any of this today. There was another part in that podcast where he said that he would donate his salary to charity. He would not respond to any questions about that either. He did come in and out of his office, but again, not really responsive to any of the questions that we wanted to ask him.
We did hear from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just ago. He had a press conference and he was asked about Santos, if he was just keeping him on because he's worried about kind of the political reality that if they have to have a special election in that district, the Democrats could win that seat and make his small margin even smaller. And he really doubled down, tripled down, quadrupled down, whatever you want to call it at this point on Santos saying that it's not his job to remove him because the people of New York in his district elected him, that he's going to go to the Ethics Committee and if they found that he's broken a law, that they will remove him. But that has been McCarthy's stance on this and it continues to be and we have all indications that they are going to keep the course on that.
COOPER: I understand some Senate Republicans are weighing in on Santos.
DEAN: Right. So, we had a chance to ask Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana, who is known for his colorful language and replies about George Santos and what he thought if he should be kept in Congress, if he should be kicked out. He does believe he should be kicked out. But I'll let you listen to what he had to say about George Santos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): He appears to be a bunny boiler. He like every other American is entitled to due process. If the allegations prove to be true, I would boot him. He's nutty as a fruitcake, I called him a bunny boiler. I don't know if you've seen Fatal Attraction, but there are people like that out there. And again, nobody is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He saay bunny boiler?
DEAN: Bunny boiler. Yes, it's the Louisiana accent there. So, yes, we have bunny boiler. Like the movie Fatal Attraction it was his comparison there.
COOPER: Got it. OK.
DEAN: Yes. For the record, Santos did tweet those comments and said that he was saddened by them and called the language divisive. But interesting to hear from a GOP senator that he would have Santos removed. I mean, that's kind of the takeaway. And bunny boiler.
COOPER: Just lastly, Congressman Santos briefly emerged from his office earlier today to put up a black POW flag outside his office. What was that about?
DEAN: I really don't know. None of us really know. It's a great question. A lot of lawmakers have flags outside of their offices. That is not uncommon. Some have the POW flag outside their office. So, you know, you see the flags down the corridors. Why he chose today and why he chose that flag and that moment to come out with it, he only knows.
COOPER: Also, he has a staff or actually does he have a staff? I mean, are there people who actually want to work for him?
DEAN: No, he does have staff. He does have staff that escorts him to votes and is with him will go in and out of his office that we see daily. So, yes, there are people that are working for him.
COOPER: All right. Jessica Dean, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Perspective now from our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, co- anchor of "CNN STATE OF THE UNION."
I mean have you seen anything like this, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, and I feel like I should start by saying I will not be ignored Dan. That's a quote from Fatal Attraction.
BASH: The answer is no, I have not seen anything like this. And you just were asking Jessica if he has staff. He does. There are people who are working for him, but they're saying really more that they're working for the people of the Third District of New York at this point because it's a new form of political torture for them to be in this office. Because as much as we are surprised by all these revelations, they are too. The people who work for him, they're afraid to open their phone in the morning because they don't know the next thing that is going to be on there. Like what you just played from the podcast that came out of Brazil with this claim that is not substantiated about him getting attacked in the streets of New York City.
COOPER: And Speaker McCarthy is doubling down on the argument that Santos' constituents voted him in, but they didn't have an honest knowledge of who he was when they voted for him.
BASH: Not at all. I mean, they did not vote him in. They voted in a Republican, let's be honest, because although there wasn't a Republican wave across the country as the GOP expected, there was one in the state of New York. A lot of Democratic seats or formerly Democratic seats did flip. This was one of them. It was an open seat, but it did go to the GOP, and that is a big reason why he is in office. There's a lot of frustration among Democrats, as you can imagine, in New York, that this was not fully vetted and fully made public before the election. But that's just the reality.
The other thing that was really interesting, Anderson, that Jessica was reporting is that McCarthy admitted that if Santos resigns, if there is a special election, because it is New York and because of everything that we've seen, it is very unclear if the Republicans can keep it probably more likely that the Democrats would pick up that seat. And that's just the bottom line here. We have to say this over and over again, because there's a four-seat majority that Kevin McCarthy has. He cannot afford to lose any votes. You just saw a Florida Republican get into an accident. He's not going to be there for votes probably for the next few weeks. So, it's down to three. I mean, this is the kind of narrow margin that McCarthy is dealing with.
COOPER: Yes, Dana Bash, thank you. Appreciate it.
Coming up, a chocolatey delicious controversy or maybe a PR stunt. Harry Enten has the munchies. Next.
COOPER: We want to tell you a story that has been brewing for about a year now. It's not a major story. It's definitely one you can avoid talking to people about. Depending on where you get your news, it's either a sign that woke forces are taking over America, or that some folks on Fox News had instigated a moral panic about something. And I think where I'm going with this. We're talking about M&M. Yes, M&M's. It's the end of the program.
The candy maker announced on Monday its popular characters are taking an indefinite pause. And that comedian Maya Rudolph, who I'm a huge fan of, will now represent the brand, which I completely support because I support anything Maya Rudolph does. So, the tale begins last January, when M&M's decided wanted to make its decades long spokes candies more current. So, among the many changes is the green M&M. You can see there they ditched her boots for sneakers. Also, the brown M&M got her heels chopped for smaller heels, which I guess to some is a big deal. Certainly, to some folks on Fox it was. They spoke out about it. And I should point out there were others less politically motivated, who just liked the original green and brown M&M look.
And then in September, M&M introduced a purple female character. She was pictured, along with green and brown, on the front of a pack honoring International Women's Day, queue another round of outrage, and now that indefinite pause. I also mentioned I should also point out that M&M has a Super Bowl commercial coming up. And there's speculation maybe these changes may be part of an attempt to generate publicity, in which case it seems to be working because now even I'm talking about it. Which is now why I'm joined by our senior data reporter, Harry Enten, who's been studying this fish [ph], I guess. So, what's going on?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Well, I got to tell you, often.
COOPER: Is that a real laugh?
ENTEN: That's a real laugh. That's that is the real laugh. That is the laugh that you know when I'm actually laughing, sometimes they give you a Fugazi laugh. That's a real laugh. It's the laugh I get (INAUDIBLE)
COOPER: So why does anyone care? People have a lot of time on their hands.
ENTEN: I think a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands. And I oftentimes look for, signs of perhaps America's decay as a society, and maybe the fact that this has become a story is a sign of that. But you know, if candies and I know candies.
COOPER: I know M&M's. I love M&M's
ENTEN: You love M&M's
COOPER: It's one of the few candies I will eat.
ENTEN: Everybody loves M&M's. It's the number one candy in America.
COOPER: With peanuts.
ENTEN: That's number four. That's number four. So, the originals are number one.
COOPER: Are they really?
ENTEN: The one with peanuts is number four. You can see when you get, two types of M&M's in the top four of America's top candies. That's why we're talking about it. That's why Fox is talking about it, because it's something that everybody loves.
COOPER: Early on in potty training, I would give my son Wyatt half M&M for pooping. Right.
ENTEN: I have half an M&M when I'm trying to reward myself for actually paying attention, doing my work instead of watching YouTube videos.
ENTEN: So, there you go.
COOPER: It all balances out.
ENTEN: It all balances, yes, exactly.
COOPER: I'm going to start giving you a little half M&M.
ENTEN: Here we go. For every good segment I know.
COOPER: Soo, is this all part of a strategy?
ENTEN: Look, I mean, you hinted at it, right, that M&M's, Mars has a Super Bowl ad that's coming up, and they've had a number of Super Bowl ads over the last decade or so. And what we know is, according to Google searches, right, that searches for M&M jumps 50% in the Februaries in which they've in fact had an M&M ad on for the Super Bowl. Mars knows exactly what they're doing in my mind. This is part in my mind of a larger strategy that they're playing. They have played before. They have been able to gin up interest, and I believe that's exactly what they're trying to do here.
COOPER: Wow, it's a conspiracy.
ENTEN: That is one of the few conspiracy theories I believe, and I (INAUDIBLE)
COOPER: Now I'm for Maya Rudolph. Again, anything I love Maya Rudolph. She's not putting any M&M's out of work, though, by the way. She's just -- she's being brought into the team.
ENTEN: She's being brought in. And again, part of, you know, this that I think is so important to point out is that they have brought Maya Rudolph on because she's so popular.
COOPER: She got a 93% positive rate among.
ENTEN: Among those who hold an opinion of Maya Rudolph, she has a 93% positive rate. How can Mars lose in this situation, right? You love her.
COOPER: I love her.
ENTEN: Everyone, America loves her. America loves M&M's. America loves Maya Rudolph. So Mars is saying, let's bring the two of those forces together for good, and we're going to be able to sell more M&M's
COOPER: So, the spokescandies are on hold. That what I should take away from this segment? They're on hold?
ENTEN: So, this is what Mars --
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) holding pattern.
ENTEN: That they're in a holding pattern and that we'll learn about their fate in a few weeks. But take a look at this timeline that I think really gives you the understanding.
ENTEN: We're learning about the fate of them in a few weeks. Guess what's also, in a few weeks. This Super Bowl is in a few weeks. It's in three weeks. How coincidental that the two of those join up together.
COOPER: Wow. So, you are putting the pieces together.
ENTEN: I am --
COOPER: Like a guy in a basement talking into tinfoil.
ENTEN: Or perhaps like Dick Tracy at the candy store. OK, I'm putting it together. My father was a former ADA, he once solved the case at a candy store. I am solving the case of the M&M.
COOPER: Full circle.
ENTEN: Full circle.
COOPER: Full circle.
ENTEN: Like father, like son.
COOPER: Yes. Harry Enten, thank you.
COOPER: I know I said it was the end of the program. We actually have another hour "360" ahead. We'll be right back.