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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

White House: GOP Jeers Show Biden Put Them On The Defense In Speech; Death Toll From Turkey-Syria Earthquake Surpasses 12K; Death Toll From Turkey-Syria Earthquake Surpasses 15,000; Combative Hearing On Capitol Hill As Dems Ex-Twitter Executives Rebut GOP Charges Of Conspiracy; Rep. Goldman Challenges Oversight Chair Comer On Biden- Ukraine Conspiracy Allegations; Sources: Initial Classified Balloon Report Wasn't Flagged As Urgent, Drawing Criticism; Poll: Most Democrats Prefer Alternative To Biden; Wisconsin Voters Weigh In On President Biden's Potential Re-Election Bid

Aired February 08, 2023 - 20:00   ET


DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS: I will always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community, where I come from, and also in communities across the world.

Thank you.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It's amazing to watch. He didn't say anything about his future. But on a radio show today, the Medical Director of the NFL Players Union predicted, in fact, even said, it's a guarantee that Hamlin will play pro football again.

Thanks for joining us, AC 360 begins now.



If President Biden picked a fight with Republicans in the State of the Union last night, he showed today that it's a fight he's happy to have, and if it was a trap, he baited Republicans into, they showed last night they were just as happy to step right in.

Both sides for reasons of their own appear to want this, the President to show voters that the GOP is in his eyes in the sway of extremism, which certainly resonated during the Midterm Elections, and Republicans appear to have wanted to reinforce their credentials with the base and use their newly won control of the House to amplify that effort.

So last night, with House Republicans using a potential default on the national debt to leverage budget cuts for the administration, President Biden framed what they want the way he wants it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans -- some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.

(CROWD talking in disagreement.)

BIDEN: Let me give you -- anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal.

(CROWD talking in disagreement.)

BIDEN: That means Congress doesn't vote --

(CROWD talking in disagreement.)

BIDEN: Well, I'm glad to see, and I'll tell you, I enjoy conversion. You know, it means if Congress doesn't keep the programs where they are, they would go the way other Republicans say, I'm not saying it is a majority of you, I don't even think it's even significant.

But it is being proposed by individuals. I'm not -- politely not naming them, but it is being proposed by some of you.

Folks, the idea is that we're not going to be -- we're not going to be moved in to being threatened to default on the debt if we don't respond.


COOPER: That of course, the woman in the white fur was Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene shouting "liar" and "you lie" again and again. Here is what the President was alluding to: A proposal by Rick Scott, a senator, a member of the Republican Senate leadership actually calling for making all Americans pay income tax regardless of how little they earn, and this --


JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: "All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again."

So that would raise taxes on half of Americans and potentially sunset programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Why would you propose something like that in an election year?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Sure. And John, that's, of course, the Democrat talking point.

ROBERTS: No, it is the plan. It is in the plan.

SCOTT: No one that I know of wants to sunset Medicare and Social Security. But what we're doing is we don't even talk about it. Medicare goes bankrupt in four years. Social Security goes bankrupt in 12 years.

I think we ought to figure out how we preserve those programs.


COOPER: Now, you hear Senator Scott protesting that nobody wants to sunset Medicare and Social Security and in a statement today, he said: "I will not be intimidated by Joe Biden twisting my words." But his proposal certainly wouldn't make each program vulnerable every five years. He clearly pushed for it and was even slapped down for it by his own leader in the Senate.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda. We will not have as part of our agenda, a bill that raises taxes on half of the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years. That will not be part of a Republican Senate Majority agenda.


COOPER: That was Mitch McConnell, Republican Minority Leader McConnell. He clearly knew the political implications of Democrats being able to campaign against Senator Scott's plan and he ran away from it. That was back in March.

Marjorie Taylor Greene ran toward it, and in an interview with our Melanie Zanona late this afternoon, didn't dispute this was actually something someone in her party, a leader actually in her party proposed.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I know that was one of those moments when you said "you lie" to President Biden, when he said Republicans want to cut those things, but there is a plan from Senator Rick Scott that would sunset those Federal programs. So it's not necessarily a lie that Republicans have talked about that in the past.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I haven't been in any meetings in our conference talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare. We're the ones in charge of the budget. We're the ones in charge of the appropriation bills.

So yes, it is a lie. We've been attacked repeatedly. My image, my pictures of me, my name, Kevin McCarthy's name.

So no, we aren't planning to cut Social Security and because I called him a liar on the House floor, we settled that issue right there at the State of the Union


[15:05:06] COOPER: So by her account, calling someone a liar settles the matter once and for all. Now, keeping them honest, neither she nor anyone else know what Rick Scott would do or how he would vote if Medicare and Social Security were as according as to what he would like to see, in fact come up for debate every five years.

President Biden last night clearly suggested the worst, painting it with a broad brush. It is an issue Democrats seem to think favors them, not least because it brings out what we saw last night, which the top Republican in Congress House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, clearly knew and warning fellow Republicans against exactly what they did.

Some perspective now. Joining us CNN political commentator, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as White House Communications Director in the prior administration, also CNN political analyst and "New York Times" senior political correspondent, Maggie Haberman; and Van Jones, CNN political commentator, former special adviser to President Obama.

Alyssa, why did Rick Scott proposed this if --

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This has been what the party has been asking itself and Tim for months since he put that plan out. I mean, he is probably the most frustrating person in the party to many people because he gave that golden moment to Joe Biden last night.

I'm not sure what went into the planning of what he released. At the time, of course, though, he was thinking about challenging Mitch McConnell for Senate leadership, we didn't even get the majority, so it never went to that and he was running the NRSC.

So that put the entire party to kind of be tied to this very bad plan that we've always -- for mainstream Republicans, it has been a rule that we do not touch these entitlements.

COOPER: Because, I mean, Maggie, it is a little rich for Republicans to be saying, well, Joe Biden is lying about this. They have been saying Democrats want to defund police when I think maybe Cori Bush in the House has talked about defunding police, but that's I think about it, among Democrats.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the way you put it is correct. I think that President Biden was painting with a broad brush, but it's because it is a brush that Rick Scott handed him.

COOPER: And he is in the leadership. I mean, Rick Scott does have a leadership position.

HABERMAN: Correct. Rick Scott is not a fringe member. He's not, you know, on the outer tier. He is somebody who is a member of leadership. He has, as Alyssa said, tried running to replace Mitch McConnell. And at the time that he put this out, there was also noise about him running for President, which made this an odder plan, frankly, because Republicans indeed have been bitten by this before and generally have tried to stay away from it. I don't understand why he put it out and I don't understand why he keeps saying that the plan doesn't say what it says. And you know, until they add an asterisk saying, but not for these programs, it is going to be put that way and I think Biden did something that was very clever as a pivot last night.

COOPER: It was interesting to hear Marjorie Taylor Greene, because she's essentially making the argument the Democrats have made about the defund police thing was like, no one really wants that. I haven't been in any meetings where any Democrats talked about defunding the police. It's now Marjorie Taylor Greene saying just the fact that 24 hours later, Van, you're just smiling -- that they are having to defend themselves.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I am just so happy tonight. This is awesome.

You know Joe Biden just got them. He got them.

He took this little thing that he knew was going to drive them nuts. He rolled it out there and we're talking about it 24 hours later. That is masterful politics. But there is a reason it resonates, because the Republican Party has been a party that you actually believe, may not care about some of these middle class programs.

There have been attempts in the past to roll back some of these middle class programs. So there is just enough truth in it to get it going, and I just think that Joe Biden did it so well last night, in that people thought maybe he's lost a step. He's old. He's slow. Can't even read the teleprompter?

And when he got the teleprompter, and he started going back and forth. It was like the British Parliament, and he got the best of all those Republicans in real time. I thought it was awesome.

COOPER: Maggie, in the GOP response, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas repeatedly says that it is time for a new generation of Republicans. She referred to the former President, she talked about a trip he took to visit the troops, which was interesting in and of itself, but she never mentioned him by name.

HABERMAN: It was an interesting speech, I thought for the reasons that you just said. She didn't mention him by name, but did talk about a new generation of leadership.

You know, there were plenty of Republicans today who were seeing that as a swipe at Trump. She has not endorsed Trump yet. She is clearly an ambitious person. She is looking at her own future with this, but it's a dicey move. And also look, it is very hard to tell.

I think she described the Democrats as the party of crazy. There was some line to that effect. I mean, she was the Press Secretary in the former White House and --

COOPER: She knows crazy. HABERMAN: And she defended a lot of things that Trump said that were often seen as crazy and called crazy, so I don't know quite who that speech made happy other than some base conservatives, but I don't think it made the Trump folks happy and I don't know that it got her anything more than just --

COOPER: I mean, Alyssa, it certainly was not a speech reaching out to broaden the base of the Republican Party.

GRIFFIN: Right, and listen, it was red meat. It was exactly what people want, the base want to hear, going after critical race theory, going after, you know, the woke left. It was something that you know, you would have expected to see on FOX News.

But what I thought was interesting was Donald Trump was Live Truthing the State of the Union last night. I don't know if anyone caught this, but he was you know -- Kevin McCarthy looks great and like a statesman, he was criticizing Biden.


He made no comments, though about Sarah Huckabee Sanders' speech. I do think she worked in the kind of interesting anecdote about visiting the troops as sort of a nod to him, like a soft nod, if he was the President, I was by his side, but going short of mentioning his name, which that's a big deal.

COOPER: Right. Also, she was the star of that story, by the way. I mean, it was her relationship with a soldier and how emotional she was and moved she was by it. That was the point of that -- ultimately that story.

JONES: Yes, I mean, I thought it was a big missed opportunity. Like, you know, Sarah is a very talented politician. She is from a family that is talented. And, you know, she's actually a warm and decent person in real life.

That speech was mean. That speech -- I mean, she insulted every Democrat in the country for no reason. If she wants to present herself, apparently, as the champion of poor kids in Arkansas, God bless you, you need to do that. They need help, but you can do that without calling every Democrat crazy.

Basically, last night, what happened is, Joe Biden and Republicans reminded everybody why we voted for Joe Biden, because Joe Biden was a unifier. Even when he was being partisan, he did it in a way to bring people together, even when he is going back and forth, he goes, guys you are with me now.

It was light hearted. It was good spirited. It was broad.

The Republicans all night long, even Sarah were negative and divisive. And so I think it actually helped Joe Biden a lot.

GRIFFIN: Can I just say on Sarah Sanders' response, it's indicative of the echo chamber that we live in, because the right wing was praising her. Newt Gingrich said, you know, this is the future star of the party. People loved it in the base of the Republican Party.

I don't know it would be as well received with Independents, with moderates, and with just the mainstream of the country and it just goes to show how differently, you know, the two sides of our country sees things.

HABERMAN: That is true. Yes. They were basically, it was as if you were talking about two different countries. I mean, what Biden was saying, was a speech that was very different than what Sanders was responding to and hers -- CRT woke -- you know, sort of all of these buzzwords, but they were very, very different visions of America, which is what we have seen consistently over the last seven years.

COOPER: Senator Romney, obviously, and Congressman George Santos had an exchange at the State of the Union. He told Santos that he doesn't belong in Congress, that he shouldn't be lurking around the aisle trying to shake hands with the President, that he should be essentially sitting in the back of the room, staying quiet.

Santos responded today, I just want to play what he said.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): It's not the first time in history that I've been told to shut up and go to the back of the room, especially by people who come from a privileged background, and it's not going to be the last and I'm never going to shut up and go to the back of the room.

And I think it's reprehensible that the Senator would say such a thing to me and the demeaning way he said it. It wasn't very Mormon of him. That's what I can tell you.


JONES: Wonk-wonk-wonk.

COOPER: I mean, it is an interesting response. I mean, it is sort of playing into --

JONES: He played the woke card. He is playing the woke card himself.

COOPER: Right.

JONES: I mean, look, this guy is terrible. And you know, it is in fact, the case that there are people who get told to go the back of the room for illegitimate reasons.

If you are a lying liar, who lies and is a big liar, being told to go to the back of the room by somebody who is a moral champion in his party is not an illegitimate reason. And I just think this guy is terrible and I can't wait for the ethics people to knock him out of there.

GRIFFIN: And we can't say enough that he has not -- he seems to gravitate to whatever camera he can find. He is loving the attention. He is relishing it.

But he's not doing the basic functions of being a Congressman. He is not doing constituent services. He has not opened his district office yet.

His constituents basically don't have representation right now, and I would just quickly note, you know, he mentions Romney coming from a privileged background. This is someone who is under investigation for allegedly loaning his campaign $700,000.00 that we are not even sure how he has and where he got it. So, I wouldn't go near that if I were George Santos.

COOPER: And I mean, Romney, whatever his politics, clearly is a person with strong religious beliefs and a very decent human being. You know, a decent human being.

HABERMAN: He gave -- Romney gave a speech, remember in 2016, and we all forget it because of everything that happened since, in which he called Donald Trump a con man. So it is really not surprising that somebody who is in some ways, you know, the extension of the Trump era, just in terms of saying all of these things that are not true about himself and his biography was very offensive to Romney.

COOPER: It is stunning the degree to which George Santos seems to be enjoying this and the sort of the little crew of, you know, trolls he has around him also all seem to be enjoying this little echo chamber.

HABERMAN: All about attention. And it is what Alyssa said, it's all about attention right now.

COOPER: Alyssa Farah Griffin, appreciate it. Maggie Haberman and Van Jones, as always, thank you.

Coming up next, a live report from the quake zone in Turkey and my conversation with World Central Kitchen's Chef Jose Andres, who is there about conditions on the ground.

Later, as House Republicans grill former Twitter executives about the company's handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story and stoked suspicions that company and the government may have helped suppress it, my conversation with a Democrat on the Committee who pushed back today and is actually in a position to know a lot about all of this from his experience in the former President's first impeachment.


REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): Let's talk about the so called Twitter files, which my Republican colleagues seem to think are God's gift to journalism.



[20:18:56] COOPER: The death toll climbed again today in Turkey and Syria, it now tops 12,000 in the worst earthquake the region has experienced in modern memory. Authorities in both countries now say the number of injured is approaching 60,000 and with thousands of buildings down, there are countless people hungry and in the cold.

In a moment, my conversation with Chef Jose Andres whose World Central Kitchen is starting to help on the ground, but first, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joining us from one of Turkey's hardest hit cities.

What are you seeing right now? What have you seen throughout the day today?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, as though people here haven't been hit with enough, today was when what remained of hope here slowly disappeared. The silence behind me is particularly staggering given 24 hours ago, this would have been the scene of intense activity, people slowly probing through the rubble to try and find any survivors.

The hope for that really is gone, the excavators falling silent. And you can see next to me, the fires burning from the rubble here simply put by people to keep themselves warm to get through the night because we are dealing with a homelessness crisis here along with the tens of thousands of dead across Turkey.

Here is what we saw today so close to the epicenter.



WALSH (voice over): It is hard to imagine how this rubble gave anyone hope. Yet for 50 or so hours after the quake, it almost did, and when it stopped, when the chances of surviving ebbed, the bodies so near the epicenter here kept coming.

The paralysis of grief when these two parents see their eight-year-old daughter's red hair, blood stained; another four year-old-girl with no parents here to bury her. Another father, simply walking behind.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)


WALSH (on camera): There has been constant intense activity desperately trying to save lives, but we are sadly now into the window where so many of the ambulances that arrive will likely be taking away people who perished.

WALSH (voice over): Up high, hope is strongest, digging furiously by hand here.

On the other side of the rubble, medics rushed forward, growing fury at how nothing here came sooner.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Why did you look for the ones at the top first? Oh, father.

WALSH (voice over): Stretchers here too late, return empty. Another body pulled out of a Syrian refugee in his 40s as the excavations gained pace, an audience of agony watches, waits.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Heaven's garden is where they have gone.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: My little lamb, her bed has flown, the columns fell on it. She is only seven. How could she move it?

WALSH (voice over): Hospital volunteer told us over 300 bodies here are unclaimed and the numbers rising fast along with tempers. It is chaos and whether any government could have moved faster, was the question dogging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he flew into town briefly.

This stadium, suddenly home to possibly thousands for who knows how long? Many refugees from Syria, now perhaps losing their homes for the third time.

That's nearly as many years as some have been alive. They have nothing but the state's generosity to rely on, which for now means 12 people in this tent.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: I don't know how long they'll let us stay here. WE have no house to go to.

Until there is a safe space, we are just waiting for our government.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Whatever they give, we will accept.

WALSH (voice over): For now, the question is what they could have done to not arrive for so many entombed here, too late.


COOPER: And, Nick, I mean, just the agony of those two women. It just -- it's just so horrific. It seems like there is a lot of anger at the government's response.

WALSH: Yes, I mean, certainly, it is fair to say that is building, often, I think it takes the place of people not quite knowing where to put their fury at the situation there in here, too. But certainly when we arrived here about 48 hours ago now, it is fair to say there was minimal government presence here. Local rescue is doing everything they urgently could, but a lot of that work being initially done by locals.

But as of this morning, the Army came in, large numbers of excavators came in. Was that to coincide with the arrival of the President? We don't know. But it has made a marked difference what they've been able to do, and still even now, as you were watching that report, just behind the rubble over here, you can't see it with the camera but there is another rescue team with a torch looking at some of the deeper recesses of the rubble here in case there is somebody alive.

I have to say though, Anderson, the smell you often get here is one of death slowly approaching and this part of Kahramanmaras so integral a city to Turkey is so utterly destroyed. It has been staggering today to see just how much of it has been completely swept away by the tremors on Monday.

The rebuilding here is almost an impossible concept to some degree without all this rubble being moved first away and there are thousands of people trying to deal right now with the awful cold here, as well, of course, with each family's own personal agony, the losses we've been seeing here -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Nick, I've just gotten word while you were speaking that the official death toll has now surpassed 15,000. Given the number of people who are still wounded, given the number of people who are still missing, it seems a little doubt that's going to just continue to grow.


WALSH: Look, I mean there have been some educated speculation just mean, it could grow far in excess of that as they slowly begin to get into the rubble here, and we have seen that just in evidence, these buildings here at one point, they were simply coming across bodies almost faster they can get the blankets to carry them away from here. And I think yes, that is a concern as we see the cold bite here, but also the excavators get deeper and deeper into rubble.

Remember, people here were fast asleep at four o'clock in the morning. So many of the bodies brought out, survivors even sometimes, people simply lying where they slept, trapped by the rubble around blankets, as they look for survivors, they look for bed clothing, frankly, as a sign that somebody might be somewhere.

So yes, those numbers are certainly going to grow.

COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it.

Earlier tonight, I spoke to someone whose organization traces its roots back to the earthquake in Haiti, Chef Jose Andres, founder of World Central Kitchen, whose people are now on the ground trying to help in Turkey.


COOPER: Chef, what are you and your team seeing there in Turkey so far? CHEF JOSE ANDRES, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Well, I've been here myself 24 hours, but you've seen the image of destruction, destruction, destruction, even in places like where we landed in Adana, after a long trip via the capital, there you can see in some parts of Adana, destruction even if Adana, it's relatively in a very good shape.

But in the neighborhoods that were affected, there you can see all the damage in the buildings. I going south towards Hatay and there we stopped being different cities. We have now different teams not only scouting, but bringing food with them to try to see the reality and the situation.

But what we're seeing is obviously on top of the destruction, people that still don't have tents, where to sleep, many families living in cars, in small buses, even in the back of trucks, trucks that they use for work, and all of the sudden, they are becoming the only place they can feel -- somehow they can feel warm.

COOPER: So in a place where there is widespread destruction, how do you go about getting kitchens up and running, getting food onto plates and to people?

ANDRES: Today, we have been able to deliver already a few thousand meals. We are going to have to exponentially grow. It's super cold, we need to understand that as the night goes under two, three, four, five Celsius degrees, so to provide food is important, but to provide hot food is even more important.

So, today, we've been able to reaching already and activating restaurants, restaurants that they are often in normal times, but in this crisis, are restaurants that we are asking them, please, we need you to become an emergency kitchen and we need to start feeding the different pockets of people that sometimes in a very random way in the middle of a parking lot, it becomes kind of a refugee situation and this is the what we are doing, it is how we are going to be delivering tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of meals in the next days, because the food need is there.

But again, it's been only 72 hours. Everybody is very much dedicated to make sure that they can rescue people that still may be alive under the rubble. That's priority number one, and food in this situation is still kind of an afterthought.

That's why organizations like World Central Kitchen and many others. Right now we see chefs coming from all over Turkey, who is arriving and sometimes starting up a car and start heating up a soup and feeding anybody that is hungry, sometimes emergencies you cannot start planning too much. You have to start cooking and start delivering the meals to the people in need.

COOPER: Can you talk about the kind of the unity you have seen on the ground? I mean, it seems like not only international groups coming in, but as you said chefs from around Turkey just descending coming with what they can to try to help -- people want to help.

ANDRES: Obviously, I was flying from Madrid when I came in. I mean, my flight were two search on rescue firefighter groups, one from Valencia and the other one from Zaragoza that they were bringing with them the dogs, super important.

We tell, those dogs they're not going to be finding so many people alive and today was fascinating because I got the text -- the phones of some of the firefighters and they were so happy because the two different groups were able to rescue two people each under the rubble.

So yes we have people and countries coming from all over the world, but again the search and rescue is vital in these next few hours, in the next few days but at the same time, the entire other humanitarian machine has to happen because people need to be taken care of, not only with food, but obviously, with medicine, obviously, with water et cetera et cetera. All of that makes it very complicated because roads are in some parts, damaged. The traffic doesn't flow easily, that's why World Central Kitchen, we are trying to get already one, two, three helicopters and the permission in the next days to fly them because there's no other way to access some places than by helicopter.


COOPER: Chef Jose Andres from World Central Kitchen, appreciate it. Thank you.

ANDRES: Thank you.


COOPER: For more information about how you can help victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, you can to

Coming up, House Republicans use their newly acquired oversight powers on Capitol Hill today to try to grill former Twitter executives about claims that big tech is conspiring with the government against conservatives. A Democratic member of the Oversight Committee who fact checked its Republican Chairman in real-time joins us next.


COOPER: A contentious hearing on Capitol Hill today as the new Republican majority in the House Oversight Committee grilled former executives at Twitter in particular about the company's handling of The New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story in the run-up to the 2020 election. One executive testified that he believes Twitter "erred" when it banned users from sharing a link to the story for about two days, but all denied Republican's unfounded accusations of a government-directed conspiracy to censor the story, as well as conservatives in general.


Democrats now in minority used the hearing as an opportunity to fact check.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY), OVERSIGHT & ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE: Chairman Comer, I noticed you blew up the cover of that New York Post story, which I appreciate you doing that because I would like to dig into this article. The very first paragraph says Hunter Biden introduced his father to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company. That is false; 100% false.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Is the gentleman sure about that?

GOLDMAN: Yes. In fact, I am sure about that. And as the Lead Counsel in the first impeachment investigation, we proved that he was actually fired because he was not prosecuting corruption.


COOPER: I'm joined now by the Congressman you just saw there, Democrat Daniel Goldman of New York, who also served as Democratic Counsel during the former president's first impeachment involving his dealings with Ukraine. So Congressman, how much of an effect, if at all, do you think your push back on the Chairman will actually have? Because what you were saying -- what you went on to say essentially is that what then Vice President Biden was doing was completely in line with what US policy and in fact European Nation's efforts were to have that Ukrainian prosecutor removed because he was not actually prosecuting corruption.

GOLDMAN: Yes. And what is really dangerous about this is that the Republicans have made it very clear that they are on a mission to destroy Hunter Biden in every way they can. But Hunter Biden is a civilian. He is the son of a president. But unless there's some link to President Biden and any misconduct, then this is a gross abuse of power by this committee for political purposes. And it's a waste of taxpayer dollars and it's outside of the jurisdiction of the committee.

The point today that I was making is that there is no link, even if you give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt, there's no link to Joe Biden. Joe Biden did everything by the book, consistent with US policy. And in fact, his actions and the actions of our allies in Europe and ultimately of Ukraine were potentially hurtful to Burisma because they wanted more corruption to be charged. And so, it's yet another example of the fallaciousness of this Republican investigation that has reached a conclusion before they figured out the facts. And what we want to do and what we did today is we brought out the facts.


GOLDMAN: And the facts are on our side. They are not on their side.

COOPER: I want to play something else you said about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOLDMAN: Chairman Comer, you have said in your opening statement that Joe Biden lied to the American people. That is a bold, bold accusation. And so far, we have seen no actual evidence of any lies or any support for Joe Biden being involved in anything having to do with Ukraine other than promoting US former policy.


COOPER: Isn't it? (ph) Because Chairman Comer said at a press conference in November that he had evidence and then proceeded to list a series of accusations against President Biden. Where is that evidence? Or do you have any sense of when he plans to make it public? Because it seems like they are just taking a shotgun approach, at least today, bringing in a whole -- I mean they are going in a lot of different directions without actually citing -- there's a lot of accusations, there's no evidence yet.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And remember that last congress, the Republicans talked on and on and on about how the January 6 Committee had no legislative purpose because there is no Oversight jurisdiction in congress unless there's a legislative purpose. And investigating a civilian son of a president is not a legislative purpose by -- for congress. So the only justification for these attacks on Hunter Biden is that it's somehow linked oversight of the president, but we've seen no evidence of that and if they have no evidence and I suspect they don't, then this entire investigation is illegitimate, overreaching and outside of the jurisdiction, and it should be stopped immediately.

COOPER: Do you think the type of hearing that we are seeing today is what we can expect from the Oversight Committee and the GOP House for the next four years? Two years, I should say.

GOLDMAN: Well, I don't know what we are going to see. But I am confident that if they bring actual witnesses who have the firsthand knowledge and they testify -- and that's what evidence is. Evidence is not what the Republicans sit there alleging and accusing and saying without any support. The evidence is what the witnesses say, what the documents say.


They are not going to find the evidence to support their claims.

And we are all much better off if they don't waste the taxpayers' dollars, waste our time with these overreaching, purely political investigations. That's not what the American people want. That is not what the American people have sent us to congress to do. We should be legislating, we should be trying to help families across the country, not attack the president's son who is a civilian.

COOPER: Congressman Daniel Goldman, appreciate your time. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, breaking news on the Chinese spy balloon that crossed over the US last week. Details about what US officials knew and when next.


COOPER: There's breaking news on the Chinese spy balloon that crossed over the US last week. On the day we learned from the Pentagon that the balloon is part of a larger Chinese surveillance program, military and intelligence sources now telling CNN more on what US officials knew and when about the balloon before it entered US airspace. Joined now by CNN's Senior National Security Correspondent, Alex Marquardt with the latest. So, what more can you tell us about when this spy balloon was first spotted?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN'S SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are learning a lot more about this timeline that it didn't just show up in US airspace, that in fact it was seen the day before. We are told that on January 27th, so the day before it entered US airspace, the Defense Intelligence Agency, so that's the intelligence arm of the Pentagon, they filed a report that is commonly known as a "tipper" saying there was a foreign object heading towards the US. Now, this is a fairly common report that is somewhat widely disseminated.


It's classified. It doesn't necessarily mean that it is widely read. But it did say that this object was coming. There wasn't any particular alarm or urgency we're told that was attached to it. The next day, on January 28th, that is when the balloon then did enter US airspace over Alaska and fighter jets were sent up to positively ID it. Again, there was no real sense of alarm, no urgency because it did not appear to be a threat to the United States. And in fact, it was seen as somewhat of an opportunity to study it, to monitor it, to try to understand the intelligence that it was gathering.

In fact, Anderson, the trajectory that it was expected to take was to cross Alaska and continue over the northern part of the globe. That's when things changed. And I'm told by US officials that's when things got strange. It took a sharp turn towards the south. Started heading through Canada, down towards the lower 48 states. And that's when a senior US official tells me the discussion started about what to do, whether to shoot it down. And it was on January 31st that the balloon then did cross into the lower 48 states. It crossed into Idaho; that's was the first state. And we are told that is the day that President Biden got his first briefing about the balloon.

They started to consider their options. And eventually, as we know, they decided not to shoot it down, not just because they wanted to protect people on the ground, but they wanted to observe it and gather intelligence. Today, the Pentagon forcefully pushing back saying this was not an intelligence failure. In fact, it was an intelligence opportunity to learn about this one -- this small part of the Chinese intelligence program.

In fact, Anderson, U-2 spy planes were sent up to watch the balloon. In fact, we are told that a U-2 pilot actually took a selfie of the pilot and the balloon. That picture unfortunately has not been published. But we are told that it has attained somewhat of legendary status at the Pentagon.

COOPER: Interesting. Alex Marquardt, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, President Biden on the road in Wisconsin after the State of the Union Address, in a crucial battleground state. Question is, will voters there support him if he decides to run again in 2024? What they are saying tonight to our Jeff Zeleny next.



COOPER: President Biden tested out his potential re-election message during the State of the Union Address last night, and as we noted, The Washington Post, ABC News poll out this week found 58% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents want someone else to run. Tonight, CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in the battleground state of Wisconsin to try to see what those voters there would think of a possible Biden 2024 bid.


NATASHA LOOS, OWNER, CEDARBURG TOY COMPANY: With any presidency, it's never all good and it's never all bad.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Natasha Loos voted for President Biden and has applauded many of his achievements, but with another campaign looming, she admits she's eager for a fresh start.

LOOS: It's always seeming like we're trying to do a lesser of two evils, and it would be -- in my opinion, it would be lovely if we could have somebody who's not in their 70s and 80s running for president.

UNKNOWN: I love that.

ZELENY: When we first met Loos at her Wisconsin toy shop two years ago, she was grateful Biden had turned the page.

LOOS: Just the tone down of the rhetoric, the not having to be glued to the TV or social media to find out what the latest is going on, has been very refreshing. ZELENY (voice over): At the halfway mark of his first term, respect for the president runs deeper than a desire for him to run again, even among his admirers.

ZELENY (on camera): Would you like to see him run again?

LUVERDA MARTIN, WISCONSIN VOTER: I'm on the fence. I'm not sure. I'm concerned about his age, not his brilliance or his competence, but certainly his age.

ZELENY (on camera): LuVerda Martin commends Biden for his commitment to diversity, restoring civility and forgiving student loan debt, but wavers on the prospect of a second term. MARTIN: You can tell the job has worn him down a little bit, which is where my concern is with him running again. But he's still there, that spark, that fire, that honest gentleman, he is still there.

ZELENY (on camera): Inside his Milwaukee brewery, Tim Eichinger said inflation and high interest rates have taken a toll, but he doesn't blame Biden and hopes he runs again.

TIM EICHINGER, CO-OWNER, BLACK HUSKY BREWING: If I was him, I'd say, "Hell, yeah, I'm going to do this again." I've been doing this for a long time. I finally have got my chance. Things are moving forward.

ZELENY (on camera): As the president came to Wisconsin to sell his State of the Union message, Jonathan Clark worked a few miles away at a custom printing shop. He still remembers Biden's words from the last campaign.

BIDEN: Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else. There's an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me.

ZELENY (on camera): Back when Clark viewed him as the right man for the job. While he praised his infrastructure law and other points of success, he said 2024 should be a new moment. If he's likely to run for re-election, do you think he should?

JONATHAN CLARK, WISCONSIN VOTER: No. I think when he -- when he ran for office last time, it was talked about being a one-term thing, and I know he didn't commit to that, but I think a lot of people that support the party were hoping that would be the case.


ZELENY: So this skepticism from Democrats is hardly a surprise to the president's advisers. A strong majority of Democrats say they do want a different choice in 2024. But, Anderson, talking to White House advisers, they believe that the speech last night and sales pitches like the one the president gave here today in Wisconsin, tomorrow in Florida will win over some of these voters. That is very much an open question. But the bottom line, it's not a sense of when he is going to run, but rather is he the right man for the job and many Democrats we talked to said it depends on the Republican nominee, and if it's not Donald Trump, President Biden might not be. COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it, thanks so much.

Up next, something we hope leaves you smiling. See how one Sheriff's Deputy simple gesture goes a long way to help a driver in distress.



COOPER: We leave you tonight with some moments of compassion. Recently, in Macomb County, Michigan, a Sheriff's Deputy responded to a report of a man possibly passed out in his car. It turned out to be something much different. Take a look.


SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: So what can I do for you today? Do you -- you say you don't want to hurt yourself, right? No? Have you ever attempted suicide or anything like that in the past? Okay. Is there anything I can do to help you?

UNKNOWN: I could use a hug.

SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: I'll give you a hug. Seems like you got a lot going on, man. That's all right. It's all right, man. It seems like a lot to take on, you know.

SECOND DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: Dude, we can get you some -- we can get you some help.

SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: Yeah, we can get you somebody to talk to and stuff.


COOPER: As you heard, a second Deputy arrived on the scene, and for the next 20 minutes, the two military veterans sat with the man. They listened, they gave him words of encouragement, and they did what they promised. They gave the man in need of a hug the phone number to the Local Crisis Center, and they went even further. Take a look.


SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: It's all right, man. It's all right.

SECOND DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: And if you need to talk, if you can't talk to them --

SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: You can call us. Call that number, dude, I'll come out and meet you. I'll sit down and talk with you. You can vent.

UNKNOWN: All right. That's what I'll do.



UNKNOWN: Appreciate it.

SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, MACOMB COUNTY: Hey, if you ever need anything, you just call, all right?

UNKNOWN: Means a lot.


UNKNOWN: Thank you.