Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Giuliani Denies Wrongdoing After Feds Raid Home & Office; Delta Lifts Capacity Limits, Resumes Selling Middle Seats; Pence Remains Loyal Even As Trump Criticizes Him; How Fox News Framed Biden's Speech To Congress; Oscar-Winning Actress Olympia Dukakis Dies At Age 89; U.S. Investigating Possible Directed Energy Attack Near White House; Conspiracy Theorists "All In" On GOP Ballot Audit In Arizona. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired May 01, 2021 - 16:00   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.


And we begin with the shock waves on team Trump over the FBI raid of Rudy Giuliani. One Trump adviser telling CNN, quote, this was a show of force that sent a strong message to a lot of people in Trump's world that other things may be coming down the pipeline. Another adviser told me, quote, very bad for Trump world.

Giuliani for his part remaining defiant, saying this is all politics.


RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Obviously, the assistant U.S. attorneys hate me and they hate Trump, which is probably -- which is probably the whole thing. I mean, to believe I'm some kind of Russian agent? Look at my career. Look at my background and my career.


ACOSTA: According to "The New York Times," investigators who conducted the raid were looking to evidence related to Marie Yovanovitch, the same Marie Yovanovitch who former President Trump fired as ambassador to Ukraine and who later testified at his first impeachment trial that she was a victim of a smear campaign.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he's read about me. Clearly no one at the State Department did.

What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those planes were suspect coming from where they did from individuals with questionable motives.


ACOSTA: "The Times" says Giuliani wanted her out because she was blocking efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family in Ukraine. Now investigators want to know did Giuliani get her fired to help Trump, or just help Ukraine or was it help Ukraine or maybe both? Either way, it is another sad twist in the life of a man who went from a national hero who transcended politics after 9/11 to a peddler of lies about an election.


GIULIANI: A situation like this, a tragedy like this, instills a lot of feelings of anger and hatred and I ask the people of the city not to have those feelings right now or ever.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: The day since this devastating attack has led him to be called America's mayor. He's the mayor of New York City, ladies and gentlemen, Rudy Giuliani!

If we're wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let's have trial by combat.


ACOSTA: Joining us now is a man who spent years covering Rudy Giuliani, Andrew Kirtzman. He's the author of the book "Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City." He's also working on a second book on Rudy Giuliani. I'm sure plenty of material these days.

Andrew, can you pinpoint a moment where America's mayor changed into the man we see now, spinning lies about election fraud, fueling conspiracies, FBI raids. It's unbelievable.

ANDREW KIRTZMAN, AUTHOR, "RUDY GIULIANI: EMPEROR OF THE CITY": Yeah, it's an extraordinary story. You know, there were a couple of days of junctures during Giuliani's career. One was right after 9/11, right? Left the mayoralty a world hero, one of the most beloved men on the planet, and I think he was faced with a decision right there. Should he remain a statesman above it all or does he go it a different direction?

And he went into a different direction. One was to make a lot of money, right? And another represented a whole bunch of kind of foreign dictators and, you know, the list of his clients around the world was a mile long.

And the other as time went on and he became a little less relevant was to throw his lot in with Donald Trump. And he's gotten himself into a lot of trouble because of it.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

And in 2019, Giuliani claimed to have insurance against then President Trump. Let's listen to that and talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: I see things written like, he's going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, he isn't, but I have insurance.


ACOSTA: Andrew, I keep thinking all of these clips on Fox News are going to come back to haunt Rudy Giuliani. Do you believe there's any scenario in which Giuliani would cooperate against the former president?

KIRTZMAN: Look, I mean, nothing focuses the mind more than the prospect of jail, right? But I think there's a long way from here to there. And Giuliani is a true believer -- he's probably the last true believer who believed in the Ukrainian conspiracy.

Even at the time it seemed like the only person in the administration who actually believed in what Giuliani was doing, walking through, you know, Ukraine looking for dirt on Joe Biden, was Donald Trump. And the both of them have kind of become kind of a singular kind of force together in their conspiratorial kind of projecting. And, you know, again, to this day, I think it's just Donald Trump who really believes in what Giuliani is saying.


And would Giuliani throw Trump under the bus? Well, first of all, that implies that there's something there, right?

And secondly, you know, it's hard to believe. Giuliani always thinks he's right. He thinks Trump is right. And before he, you know, throws him under the bus, I think it's going to be a long way until then.

ACOSTA: And Giuliani is not known to be the best when it comes to technology. He's known for butt dialing reporters, leaving voicemails for the wrong senator he was trying to contact.

Here's what President Trump's other -- former President Trump's other ex-attorney Michael Cohen said about Giuliani.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: We have no idea how expansive that this investigation is going to ultimately reveal itself because Rudy's an idiot. And that's the problem. Rudy drinks too much. Rudy behaves in such an erratic manner that who knows what's on those telephones or what's on his computers.


ACOSTA: From what you know, could there be a concern with how confidential, even possibly incriminating, this information could be, and I guess potentially mishandled by Rudy Giuliani?

KIRTZMAN: Look, I think the issue isn't so much Giuliani's use of technology but his judgment. And Rudy Giuliani's questionable in this case, for a national security official to tell him he's about to go meet with a Russian spy and then to go ahead and do it anyway and to use the information on behalf of Trump, I mean, it's a puzzling decision.

So what he has -- the conversations he's been having both internationally and nationally have been kind of over the top. So I'm sure there's a lot of interesting stuff on his laptop.

ACOSTA: And this relation -- getting back to this relationship between Giuliani and Donald Trump, do you think this could be the moment where that relationship comes to an end? Or is this ride or die with these two guys?

KIRTZMAN: Right. Well, Donald Trump's interest, as you know better than anyone, is Donald Trump. How long -- one of the questions is how long will Trump stick with Giuliani, right? I mean, Trump so far is a very supportive about Rudy Giuliani but if things get a little too close for comfort, you will see Trump distance himself.

And one of the extraordinary things about the Giuliani story, and I have been covering Giuliani for a better part of two decades, is that Trump has cut loose so many aides who have gotten him into trouble. Giuliani led to not one but two impeachments, and they're still buddies. They're still kind of each other's alter egos. It's an extraordinary story.

ACOSTA: Yes, I'm waiting for the day Donald Trump refers to Rudy Giuliani as the coffee boy, that day may never come, but that might be the tell right there.

All right. Andrew Kirtzman, thank you so much for your time and your insights. We appreciate it.

Now to the coronavirus. The TSA says it's extending its mask mandate for all travelers in airports and terminals. The mandate was originally set to expire May 11th but now lasts until September 13th.

Meantime, one pandemic era is over, no more empty seats empty middle on airplanes. Delta, the last major airline to enforce the policy, is putting all empty seats up for sale beginning today.

And CNN's Pete Muntean has more on that.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: The era of social distancing on flights is over. Delta was the last major airline to cap capacity on board, and now every seat on every major airline can be filled.

(voice-over): The newest changes to pandemic-era air travel will make it look more like before the pandemic. Delta Air Lines just resumed selling middle seats starting Saturday, something all other major carriers did months ago.

RANJAN GOSWAMI, VICE PRESIDENT, DELTA AIR LINES: It is safe to get back out there, to go out into the world and see folks in your life. MUNTEAN: Ranjan Goswami heads Delta's in-flight operations. Its latest

estimate that almost 75 percent of Delta passengers have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Airlines say they could not continue capping capacity without a serious increase in fares.

GOSWAMI: The vaccination rate is really helping. We know our customers are feeling confident about it, or they wouldn't be booking in such large numbers.

MUNTEAN: The latest modeling from the CDC says leaving middle seats empty reduces the risk of coronavirus exposure by as much as 57 percent. But the airline industry slammed the report for not considering the impact of masks now mandated on planes by the Biden administration.

Harvard University found masks and heavily filtered air on board makes transmission coronavirus transmission rates very low, regardless of where you sit.

DR. LEONARD MARCUS, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: It's the many things together at the same time do greatly reduce the risk of air travel and in particular provides a safe opportunity for people given the ventilation, given the wearing of masks, given the disinfection the planes, given the individual and personal hygiene attention that does allow for that middle seat to be occupied.


MUNTEAN: Industry groups think flying will look more like normal as more people get vaccinated. Some airlines are now bringing back in- flight food and drink service, something flied attendants fear can blur the message.

SARA NELSON, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: As these policy U.S. are going away and we are seeing fuller aircraft, it's more important than ever we're vigilant about the mask policies.

MUNTEAN: New ideas to bring passengers back are coming to all corners of the aviation industry. Plane maker Airbus envisions a future of seats arranged in pandemic-friendly pods. This design from the University of Cincinnati imagined a productivity class, part plane, part coffee house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm excited to see a future and some of these ideas may take us and where the industry may go in the future. So, every crisis turns out to be an opportunity.


MUNTEAN (on camera): Delta says capping capacity on board cost $100 million in March. That's when the pandemic air travel started to surge and numbers remained high. The TSA has screened more than a million people each day at America's airports for seven weeks straight.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport. ACOST: All right. I want to get Dr. Leana Wen in here with me to talk

about all of this. She's a CNN medical analyst and former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Dr. Wen, briefly, your thoughts on Americans traveling more, airlines filling their planes, no more empty middle seats. These restrictions are being lifted. Now the cruise lines making plans to set sail again, maybe in July. Are you concerned we can travel safely again now?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think we can travel safely, especially for people who are fully vaccinated and I actually wish the CDC would come out and just say it in this kind of clear way and say if you want to travel, get vaccinated. Once you're vaccinated, it's safe to travel. If you're not yet vaccinated, you have to take a lot of precautions and ideally limit your travel to nonessential travel only.

But if you're fully vaccinated, your risk of getting coronavirus and spreading it to others is extremely low. So you should go and try to resume as much of a pre-pandemic life as you're comfortable with.

ACOSTA: And, Dr. Wen, you took strong issue with President Biden's address this week, not with the content of the address but with how things looked as he was giving his address to Congress. Let's talk about that.

WEN: Well, I just thought that it was a missed opportunity. I think that we expect our presidents to model good public health behavior. When caution is needed, that's what you should be projecting. Well, when hope is needed, then that's when the president should be doing as well.

Now, the former president, former President Trump, modeled all kinds of terrible public health behavior, holding maskless rallies in the middle of the worst surges, so maybe President Biden is overcorrecting here.

But I think that kind of overly cautious approach also has a danger as well. One is that it makes mask seem performative. Indoors around unvaccinated people, you should be wearing mask especially if your not vaccinated yourself.

But the other issue is and I think here's where I wish President Biden had taken this opportunity to only have vaccinated people come to the joint address to Congress, and then he could have said, everybody, if you're vaccinated, maybe we also give you a coronavirus test on top of that, if you're negative, we can all take off our masks, we can hug one another.

We can have basically pre-pandemic normal and wouldn't that be a message the American people could really see and say now that you're vaccinated like the president, you can go about life just as before. That's why vaccination is so important.

ACOSTA: Let me just ask you about that, Dr. Wen, because one of the I think precautions people might be taking and thought that was going into what happened the other night is we just don't have the caseload down in this country. We don't have enough people vaccinated in this country.

And is there -- instead of just writing it all off this was performative and this is virtue signaling and so on, isn't some of it just modeling good behavior because we're just not at that point where everybody can just let it rip?

WEN: Absolutely. If you're around people of unknown vaccinated status or know people are unvaccinated, I do think it's a good idea for everybody to wear mask and distance, as was the case. What I'm suggesting is you could instead have had a room of only vaccinated people.

And in that setting, the risk of somebody already having coronavirus is already very low. If you can cut that risk even further by having testing and then really show -- I mean, think at this point there's really a danger of the counter-narrative brewing of what is the point of getting a vaccine if I still have to keep my masks on, if I still can't do much of the things that I wanted to do? What's the point of getting vaccinated?


I think to some people who are eager to get the vaccine, they can't really hear this message because they're saying the vaccine saved your life, isn't that enough? But I think there are a lot of people who are young and healthy who need that extra incentive. And to be able to tell people you can get back to pre-pandemic normal and the president, in fact, is modeling this in safe ways will be a very important signal too.

ACOSTA: And President Biden was also wearing a mask earlier about some of this. Let's listen to what he had to say about it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The likelihood of my being able to be outside and people not come up to me is not very, very high. It's a small precaution to take that has a profound impact. It's a patriotic responsibility for God's sake.


ACOSTA: What do you think about this notion that it's patriotic? Isn't it still a patriotic duty for people to wear their masks?

WEN: I absolutely agree it's our responsibility and obligation to one another to keep others safe as well. In the right setting, if you're on a Zoom call with nobody else around you, don't wear a mask. If you're outdoors where the next person is way more than six feet apart, don't wear a mask.

Otherwise, it does become a performative issue and I think it's important for us to say, here are the important parts where we need to be wearing the mask, the important times, and that includes indoors around unvaccinated people.

ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Leana Wen, you're definitely sparking a lot of discussion on all of this. Of course, we will be talking about it further with you. Dr. Leana Wen, thanks so much.

Up next -- from burgers and lies to bogus book story, a look back at a head-spinning week of right wing conspiracy theories.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: We need to hit the pause button and address what has been another mind-boggling week and disinformation. Chew on this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say goodbye to your burgers if you want to sign up for the climate agenda. That's the finding of one study.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can't have a steak on the grill or hamburger on the grill July 4th weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans would have to cut red meat consumption by a whopping 90 percent. That means only one burger a month.


ACOSTA: But hold on. Here's the problem. It was a nothingburger.

Fox News issued a correction saying there was no secret Biden burger ban on the horizon. The whole thing was spun out after a "Daily Mail" story based on an academic paper that was published one year before Biden became president. But that didn't matter to some on the far right, the same bad faith actors who are always peddling this bogus red meat.

What's really said is that even prominent Republicans are still repeating this lie, even after the story was debunked. House Republican Kevin McCarthy repeated the lie on Fox News after Biden's speech to Congress.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: He just continues. He wants control of your life. He's going to control how much meat you can eat. Can you imagine that?


ACOSTA: Now, you may want to laugh this off. As the old saying goes, a lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is still lacing up its boots, but the lies these days are moving at the speed of light while spreading so much darkness. Take, for example, the uproar over this "New York Post" story that

claimed that copies of a children's book were being given to migrant kids in their welcome kits. That tale from the border didn't just border on B.S. This was USDA grade A bullshit.

And the reporter who wrote the story resigned claiming she was forced to make it up. But the damage was done, pumped out over the airwaves at the bullshit factory also known as Fox News.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're being given a book -- everyone is being given a vice president of Vice President Kamala Harris's book. And my question to you is, would there be any of the acceptance of this that there is now if this had been happening under the prior administration?


ACOSTA: And from there, the lie kept spreading. Prominent Republicans like the House Minority Whip Steve Scalise who suggested that the vice president is profiting off of the problems at the border. His tweet is still up. I just checked it.

And then there are the lies that put people in danger like this medical vice from Fox News's doctor of disinformation, Tucker Carlson, who sounds like he went to medical school at Trump University.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk, or in the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, would you please take off your mask? It's repulsive, don't do it around other people.

As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal. Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart, call the police immediately, contact Child Protective Services.


ACOSTA: Now, imagine, just imagine if 911 dispatchers or the people at Child Protective Services were answering calls about kids wearing masks instead of car accidents because people were deceived into believing it was a sort of child abuse, remember, lies, big lies can have terrible consequences.

Just four months ago, we all witnessed the fallout from the big lie about the election and it should serve as a lesson and it should have served as a lesson on how lies can kill. They travel at the speed of light and spread to much darkness. But don't take my word for it.

Listen to what one police officer told Don Lemon about what he experienced on January 6th. [16:25:01]


OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, DEFENDED THE CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: It's been very difficult seeing elected officials and other individuals kind of whitewash the events of that day or downplay what happened. A lot of us are still experiencing the emotional trauma and some are still grappling with physical injuries as well.


ACOSTA: Rioters sprayed that officer with chemicals. They beat him with pipes, tased him several times. They even tried to steal his gun and he says -- talked about shooting him with it. And yet, even after all that, we are still hearing lies from the far right about the insurrection, lies about the election, resulting in new voting laws around the country, by the way, and lies about practically everything.

Why is that? Why is that? Perhaps because the lord of the lies is still waging his own losing battle against the truth from exile and it's still he still has a beef with democracy.


TRUMP: At 10:30 in the evening, everyone thought the election was over and that we had won. All of a sudden, late in the night, they closed up the tabulation centers and they came out with new numbers. This election is a disgrace to our country.


ACOSTA: It all leaves a pretty bad taste in your mouth, doesn't it?

Joining me now is former Republican congressman from Virginia, Denver Riggleman. Before he left Congress, he became one of the loudest voices warning against conspiracy theories infiltrating the GOP.

Congressman after seeing these false stories about a Biden red meat ban and that bogus Kamala Harris book story, what is going on with the Republican Party at this point, do you think?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R-VA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I think and thanks for something me. And I think so many -- have become -- the only words I have are mean susceptible. Anything that's put on certain social media channels, people on there gravitate to them since it sort of validates their life view or their good against evil view, or fact that they believe things are becoming apocalyptic, they automatically grab on to them.

And, Jim, I've been telling people that most insanity and revolution are not mutually exclusive. And the fact that we're allowing this happen, or that we have people that are pushing this on a grift or pay-to-play has really gotten to me. I'm very frustrated.

And I was saying in the past few weeks, even saying things with the book or the red meat ban, that is just really small potatoes based on what's going on in sort of the encrypted chat rooms right now and some of the other areas that people migrated to.

And I think this -- we need to still be very worried and really on point trying to identify these grifters and these disinformation hooks.

ACOSTA: Yeah, I think those are just the casual lies compared to what we've been experiencing over the last few months.

Let me ask you this. Former Vice President Mike Pence reemerged this week in South Carolina and made a point to praise his former boss, despite everything that happened around the insurrection. Let's listen.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you for the privilege of serving as your vice president and the privilege of serving alongside President Donald Trump. It's the greatest honor of my life.


ACOSTA: Has he just forgotten that Trump on the day of the riots slammed him for lacking courage to dispute the election results. There were people in that pro-Trump crowd chanting this.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


ACOSTA: Mr. Riggleman, how do you explain this?

RIGGLEMAN: It's politics. I don't know if I'd be as amicable. I don't think I'd be as forgiving, but I think that Vice President Pence is going to run for president in 2024. I think he needs those supporters.

And I've been telling people that that politics of this are what get to me also. There's not an integrity things here. It's whether you win or lose.

And, you know, there's just a video with Lin Wood, Jim. I don't know if you've seen that or not, where he doubled down when he still thought that Vice President Pence, you know, should face a firing squad, that there was case law to support that. This video was only a couple of days ago.

So, again, that is still out there. It hasn't gotten better. And I'm just not sure why at some point, you just don't step up and say, listen, you know, I'd like to be president and I want to run again, but what happened there was completely wrong. It wasn't the honor of my lifetime to be threatened while people storm the Capitol based on fantasy by the way. I mean, there was nothing true about stop the steal or anything of

that -- to that matter. But, you know, I just find it again amazing that politics --


ACOSTA: No, it was all a crock. It was all a crock.

RIGGLEMAN: Absolutely. And, you know, now, people are using election integrity as a cover for stop the steal. and I just find it amazing that you just can't come out and say this is B.S., and not only B.S. but people died because of it. And I guess I feel like I'm the one taking crazy pills. Like I've become some fact-based (ph) pariah or radical in the Republican Party --


And I just find it amazing that you can't come out and say this was B.S. And not only B.S. but people died because of it.

I guess I feel like I'm the one taking crazy pills. I've become some fact-based pariah or radical in the Republican Party.

Because I look at the data and say, this is the data, here's what happened, here's the people that did it. We had seven white nationalist groups involved in this, seven, at a minimum. We know that.

At some point, we have to identify the people that are facts based and those who are using fantasy to try to win elections.

Again, that's very dangerous.

ACOSTA: And President Biden struck a very optimistic tone about the United States in his addressed the Congress.

Here was the reaction on FOX News afterward. Let's listen.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, "HANNITY": We don't have a revenue problem. We have a government spending problem. And Joe wants to make it far worse on human growth, hormone and steroids, frankly.

Joe Biden wants you to know that the health care system is broken. Well, you broke it, Joe. You have leftists' authoritarianism, statism, or freedom and capitalism.

America, you will get to decide. We are at a crossroads.


ACOSTA: That is certainly not the posture we're seeing from the hard right, people like Sean Hannity.

How much does this rhetoric we hear night after night on FOX further divide the country, do you think?

RIGGLEMAN: It does. We can't have a normal facts-based discussion between the center left and center right on where the country could go.

You know, Jim, I could say, listen, the words "election integrity," they seem innocuous. But they take these innocuous words and put new definitions on them, like Stop the Steal. They try to wrap other things around them. That's the issue that you have right now.

We can say the crazies in the party's specific. But I said before, the far right is in a hold-my-beer moment.

When you're using hyperbolic words or saying things that aren't true, how do you have a normal discussion?

I think the real separation in the country is now we have a party that doesn't have credibility to have these discussions in a policy based way.

There are things I disagree with the president's spending plans. People know that I'm a fiscal conservative.

What I don't get is that we can't have a policy discussion without we automatically go to -- and you said at the beginning of the program -- we automatically go back to memes, like Kamala Harris books or some kind of bizarre meat ban.

And instead of looking at policy and things like that, you know, we sort of have the idiot savants of the far-right role of running around and screaming on FOX and people are believing them.

That's the issue. We've got to stop this thing. Enough.

Again, I'm going to try. But right now, as you know, there's a segment of the Republican Party that's trying to stop it but we haven't been successful to this point.

ACOSTA: All right, former Congressman Denver Riggleman, thanks for joining us. Appreciate you trying to stand up for the truth and coming on to talk to us about all of this. We appreciate it.

Coming up next, it sounds like something out of a sci-fi film. Mysterious energy attacks that cause vertigo, pounding headaches and nausea. And officials are investigating one near the White House.



ACOSTA: And this just in. An Oscar-winning actress, Olympia Dukakis, has died. She began her acting career in theater. She won an Academy Award for her role in "Moonstruck." Dukakis played Clairee in "Steel Magnolias," starring alongside Julie Roberts, Sally Fields and Dolly Parton. Her brother, Apollo, wrote on social media, "My beloved sister,

Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health, she's finally at peace with her Louis. Her husband, fellow actor, Louis died three years ago.

She was born in Massachusetts to immigrants from Greece. She was a cousin of former governor, Michael Dukakis, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1988. Olympia Dukakis was 89 years old.

Such an amazing career. She will be missed.

The U.S. is investigating a string of possible mysterious invisible energy attacks that leave victims with pounding headaches, vertigo and nausea. One possible attack happened near the White House.

CNN senior national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt, has more on details on what federal investigators are finding.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called Havana Syndrome, from where the strange, debilitating attacks against U.S. personnel were first noticed.

Now, sources telling CNN about at least two more on American soil. Similar, mysterious incidents, including one late last year right near the White House.

AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Thank you for your attention on this issue. It's critically important.

MARQUARDT: The country's top intelligence official saying she is focused on the attacks, believed to be the result of directed microwaves. The Pentagon is also investigating.

Multiple sources telling CNN that defense officials briefed Congress earlier this month, telling lawmakers that the White House incident in November happened near the grassy oval area known as the Ellipse, just south of the White House. An official from the National Security Council was sickened.

Another incident first reported by "GQ" happened across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, in 2019, also seemingly targeted at another White House staffer.

Similar attacks have struck U.S. diplomats and CIA officials not just in Cuba, but China and Russia as well.

Including Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer, who says he was hit with an attack while visiting the Russian capital in 2017.

MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, FORMER CIA SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I woke up in the middle of the night with an incredible case of vertigo. The room was spinning. I wanted to throw up.

MARQUARDT: Polymeropoulos served in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Because of the Moscow attack, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and had to retire from the CIA.


POLYMEROPOULOS: I've had a headache every day since that night in Moscow. It's never gone away, day or night.

MARQUARDT: A study this year by the National Academy of Sciences found the most likely cause of the symptoms was directed pulse radio frequency energy. Symptoms include ear popping, vertigo, pounding headaches and nausea.

Alongside the Pentagon, the State Department and CIA have also launched investigations.

WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I will make it an extraordinarily high priority to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the attacks.

MARQUARDT (on camera): And who is responsible remains a major question. U.S. officials have said it could be Russia or China. They simply do not know.

I want to underscore how extraordinary an attack at the Ellipse would be. This is the Ellipse, just south of the White House that you can see right here.

This is one of the most secure places in the country. You have U.S. Secret Service, Park Police, D.C., Metropolitan Police.

And yet, a White House staff may have been targeted just steps from the White House.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


ACOSTA: Disturbing stuff.

Coming up, the epidemic of the big lie. The shocking number of Republicans who still don't think Joe Biden won the election fairly. A new CNN poll.



ACOSTA: We are now more than 100 days into President Joe Biden's term and Republicans won't admit he won the election. The big lie has spread so far it's yet another recount popping up in Arizona. Take a look at this.

Keep in mind, election officials s in the state have already conducted two audits, found not fraud, and certified the election.

But this latest circus act was demanded by Republican State Senators and is fueled by the need to keep election conspiracies alive. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins me now.

Donie, CNN has a new poll on this lie that Joe Biden didn't win the election. What does it tell us?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Jim, look at these numbers. Essentially, what it shows is how successful this conspiracy theory has been.

And 70 percent, 70 percent of Republicans do not believe that Joe Biden had enough votes to win the presidency, that he didn't legitimately win the election essentially.

It's really quite remarkable who you think -- when you see that number.

As you mentioned, in Arizona right now, votes have been checked and checked again.

This so-called audit, which has been described as farcical, even by Republican election officials in that state is still giving Trump supporters, some Trump supporters, online and offline, the false sense of hope that the election could still be overturned.

I met one this week in Texas. Have a listen.


O'SULLIVAN: Were you disappointed when Trump lost the election?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was disappointed in the lack of truth and the -- and the election fraud that took place in it. It's come out in Arizona and it's going to be a domino effect for the truth. What happens after that, I don't know.

But I know that the truth is there's only so many voters in one county that can vote and the numbers far exceed that. It's common-sense mathematics.

O'SULLIVAN: But there's no way now that the 2020 election result can change, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not making that call. It's not my call. We'll see what the institution decides once the truth comes out.


O'SULLIVAN: And, Jim, look, this is silly stuff, frankly. But it can't be ignored, unfortunately. These are the exact same conspiracy theories that helped fuel the January 6th insurrection.

ACOSTA: Donie, let's turn to Florida. Even though Donald Trump won the state in 2020, the state legislature just passed a bill adding restrictions to voting.

Walk us through those changes again. O'SULLIVAN: Yes. So essentially. what we're seeing is this conspiracy

theory is being used as cover to pass laws across the United States to restrict access to voting.

Take a look what's in this Florida law. New I.D. requirements for vote my mail, limits to vote by mail. Voters must request a ballot every election cycle. Expands partisan observation during the vote count. And it adds more restrictions on drop boxes.

Essentially, Jim, a lot of Republicans were freaked out by the high turnout in November and are using the conspiracy theory as cover to pass these restrictive laws.

ACOSTA: They won but they want to change the restrictions anyway in some of these states.

All right, Donie O'Sullivan, we'll have more to talk about later on. Thanks so much. We appreciate that.

Coming up next hour, new information on the Rudy Giuliani raid and why it may all center on a key President Trump firing. We'll get reaction from Trump's former nationals security advisor, John Bolton, It's coming up very soon.



ACOSTA: Before streaming video and the Internet and cable TV, there was a shot-in-the-dark experiment called late-night television.

A new CNN original series, "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT," examines not only how it keep night owls laughing but shapes the way many Americans keep up with politics.

CNN's Tom Foreman has a preview.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, they have been on a collision course. Politics --

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I don't know if he's ready for a second term but definitely ready for the second grade.


NOAH: I'm so proud of him.


FOREMAN: -- late night --

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: Apparently, the first rule is safety in numbers.

FOREMAN: -- and comedy.

UNIDENTIFIED LATE-NIGHT HOST: President Trump says it's bad. Sassy Trump says it's good. And nerdy Trumps says bazingo.

FOREMAN: The notion is not really new. Steve Allen, Jack Parr and Johnny Carson all took swipes.

JOHNNY CARSON, FORMER HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW: Well, let's get right into the news. Nothing could be funnier than that.


FOREMAN: But in 1992, when then-Governor Bill Clinton played saxophone on "The Arsenio Hall Show," the link between politics and late night grew tighter and the comedy tougher.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You deserve better than tyranny and corruption and torture chambers.

JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Yes, you do. Yes, you do.


FOREMAN: No one ran harder with that idea than Jon Stewart, who starting in 1999, turned "The Daily Show" into a nightly skewering of political players.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jon Stewart became the voice of sanity and the voice of reason. "The Daily Show" put him in the role of straight man.


FOREMAN: Similar shows soon appeared, some hosted by Stewart's former contributors.

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT": I don't like that man Ted Cruz.


OLIVER: I do not like his far-right views.


FOREMAN: Now late night and politics are so intertwined, when Jimmy Kimmel's newborn son arrived with a serious heart condition, the host went on air to plead for affordable available health care for all, taking both parties to task.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make. I think that's something that, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that. Right? I mean, we do.


FOREMAN: And he made it clear, late night is not just playing for laughs anymore.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


ACOSTA: Be sure to tune in. The all-new original series, "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT," premiers tomorrow night at 9:00, only on CNN.

And we're back in a moment.