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The Situation Room

Facebook Whistleblower Unleashes Damning Revelations; Biden Hits the Road to Sell Stalled Agenda; Brian Laundrie's Sister Speaks Out; Pence Claims He and Trump "Parted Amicably" After Capitol Riot; Officials: Pipeline in California Oil Spill Displaced by 100+ Feet. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 18:00   ET


MONICA LEWINSKY, PRODUCER, FX SERIES IMPEACHMENT AMERICAN CRIME STORY: -- landscape is changing, but also how the internet has evolved and what it's meant to have stories break and be on the internet, and the harassment that people who didn't mistakes like I did endured day after day.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Monica Lewinsky, thank you so much. We know we're fans of yours here.

Our coverage continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a whistleblower unleashes damning new revelations about Facebook during a fiery congressional hearing, claiming the company misleads the public, harms children and weakens democracy, the social media giant drawing scorn from lawmakers in both parties.

Also tonight, President Biden hitting the road to sell his floundering agenda as negotiations stall here in Washington. The president says his plans are all about, and I'm quoting now, opportunity versus decay, not partisan politics.

And we are also following new developments in the Gabby Petito investigation, Brian Laundrie's breaking her silence today, pleading with her brother to turn himself in and raising new questions about her parent's involvement. We're also just hearing from Gabby Petito's parents in a brand-new interview.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin our coverage with today's explosive whistleblower Facebook testimony up on Capitol Hill. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan was tracking every minute of the hearing for us. Donie, he's up on the Hill right now.

Donie, this former Facebook employee painted a very incriminating picture of the company. DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is Facebook's worst nightmare. She proved to be a compelling and articulate witness and she receipts, thousands of documents from the company. Have a watch.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Facebook's own research shows that, right? The kids are saying -- kids are saying, I am unhappy when I use Instagram, and I can't stop.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Powerful testimony on Capitol Hill today from Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who left in may and took with her thousands of documents including Facebook's own research about the harm its technology causes teenagers.

HAUGEN: Kids who were bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. It follows them into their bedrooms. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): I think we're going to look back 20 years from now, and all of us are going to be, like what in the hell were we thinking when we recognize the damage that it's done to a generation of kids.

O'SULLIVAN: Haugen's call to action, it's time for Congress to vote to regulate Facebook.

HAUGEN: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won't make the necessary changes because they've put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won't solve this crisis without your help.

O'SULLIVAN: The hearing also took stark aim at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who posted a video sailing with his family on Sunday just before Haugen exposed some of the company's research on children in an explosive 60 Minutes interview.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing, his new modus operandi, no apologies, no action, nothing to see here.

HAUGEN: Mark holds a very unique role in the tech industry in that he holds over 55 percent of all of the voting shares for Facebook. There are now similarly powerful companies that are as unilaterally controlled. And in the end, the buck stops with Mark. There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.

O'SULLIVAN: In a statement attacking the whistleblower after the hearing, Facebook said that she'd only worked for the company for less two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with the C-level executives and it added, it doesn't agree with her characterization of the issues of child safety on its platforms. But Facebook says it does agree it is time for Congress to make laws to regulate big tech.

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): If you were a member of this panel, would you believe what Facebook is saying?

HAUGEN: I would not believe -- Facebook has not earned a right to just have blind trust in them. I came forward at great personal risk because I believe we still have time to act, but we must act now.


O'SULLIVAN (on camera): And, Wolf, this is unlikely to be Haugen's last visit to Capitol Hill. Congressman Adam Schiff, who is on the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, said that committee should speak to this Facebook whistleblower about Facebook's possible role, possible culpability and with all that online misinformation about the election, how that played into the January 6th insurrection. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Donie, thank you very much, Donie O'Sullivan joining us from Capitol Hill.

Let's get reaction from Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He chaired today's Facebook hearing. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

I know you say, and I'm quoting now, a big tech now faces big tobacco, jaw-dropping moment of truth, your words. How disturbed are you by what you learned from the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen?

BLUMENTHAL: This testimony is about as compelling and credible and deeply disturbing as it gets. This witness was so convincing because she came forth at great personal risk, but also she had documents to prove everything she was saying. And what her theory was and it's validated by the facts is Facebook is essentially using these algorithms to amplify and weaponize divisions, anger, hatred, but also teens' insecurities and anxieties to move them to online bullying and personal injury and eating disorders and even suicide.

And for any parent, this kind of testimony has to be not only compelling but also very fearsome because it shows why children are going to Facebook, why they are driven to these dark places and how Facebook is very consciously and knowingly deepening their insecurities and anxieties. So, I think it was very important.

BLITZER: There's clearly, bipartisan agreement up on Capitol Hill, including your own subcommittee during the hearing on protecting children and teens from the harmful effects of Facebook, but do you see the same sense of urgency from some of your other Republican colleagues when it comes to the pandemic and election misinformation that this site actually traffics in?

BLUMENTHAL: This site amplifies and weaponizes the misinformation about the pandemic and about a variety of other issues that are dangerous to our democracy. But to go to your fundamental question, Wolf, and it is the question of the day, can we sustain the sense of urgency? Can we continue the bipartisanship? I think the worry is yes. And I've been working on this issue for more than a decade. It is a breakthrough moment. It is a tobacco moment for big tech because these disclosures are from the tech industry's own files, Facebook's own research and surveys, which show how, really, they could have done very good financial success without making Facebook and Instagram so unsafe.

And that's the false choice that Frances Haugen depicted so graphically. Facebook's greed is driving these teens into the darkest of places because they simply want to amplify messages, more eyeballs, more users, more data, more advertisers and, ultimately, Mark Zuckerberg is responsible.

BLITZER: During her testimony, Frances Haugen says the core of the issue is that no one truly understands what she describes as the destructive choices made by Facebook except Facebook. How does Congress get full transparency from Facebook? Is that even possible?

BLUMENTHAL: That is one of the remedies we need, transparency. Remember, we asked Facebook all of the questions that were asked of Frances Haugen today. We requested all of the documents that she made available. Facebook stonewalled us. They denied, in fact that this kind of data exists, information in their files. And to pursue full transparency, we may need subpoenas. That's an issue that has to be confronted.

I think Mark Zuckerberg has to come before this committee. And if Facebook is so dissatisfied, as they indicated in that statement, and they really want congressional action, they ought to come here and participate at the table, not simply try to demean and dismiss the facts that were shown so powerfully today about their own culpability in teen suicide, teen eating disorders and other kinds of ills, like online bullying.

BLITZER: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, President Biden hits the road in an effort to jumpstart his currently stalled agenda, warning the U.S. could lose its edge if Congress doesn't pass his infrastructure plan.


I'll speak with the former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, there you see him, who just announced he's leaving the Democratic Party, starting his own. We'll discuss when we come back.


BLITZER: President Biden on the road once again today, trying to sell his agenda as progressives and moderates in his own Democratic Party are currently deadlocked over his massive spending bill.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us from the White House right now. Kaitlan, the president has spoke in Michigan just a little while ago. Update our viewers on what he said.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The president is on the road trying to sell this bill, but here in Washington, his aides are still trying to get consensus on it among his own party because, of course, this has been a debate that has been raging for several weeks now but really culminated last week where you saw the disagreements between progressives in the Democratic Party and their more moderate counterpart over what this price tag on the big social spending bill should ultimately look like.


And we do know that in a meeting with those progressive members, the president had floated a number between 1.9 trillion and 2.2 trillion, that is something that we were told progressives pushed back on, saying that they would prefer to see a number closer to 2.5 trillion, but, of course, that is much lower than initially what they had proposed, a $3.5 trillion bill.

So when they do reach consensus here, Wolf, what the question is going to be is not just about the price tag, but what is actually contained in this bill and what they have to scale back or water down or even potentially eliminate if they are going to go with a smaller price tag.

But today when President Biden was in Michigan, he was talking about what it would mean if they got the hard infrastructure bill passed alongside this social spending bill.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They're about opportunity versus decay. They're about leading the world or continue to let the world pass us by, which is literally happening.


K. COLLINS: But, of course, Wolf, there is a more immediate issue that is facing the president and his party, and that is when it comes to the nation's borrowing limit, because Democrats and Republicans are still tonight in the standoff over whether and how really to essentially raise it. Because as Democrats want Republicans to vote with them to do so, Republicans are saying right now they're not going to. And they want Democrats to have to use that process known as reconciliation, where they would have only Democratic votes to raise the debt limit. Of course, the president seems to think that Republicans could be bluffing here and may change their mind.


BIDEN: There's not much time left to do it by reconciliation. They can keep it on two tranches. They can keep us on the floor for hundreds of amendments. They can just delay this. I don't think they're going to end up being that irresponsible. I can't believe it.


K. COLLINS: Wolf, that remains to be seen, but we should note that White House officials are reaching out to business leaders about having a meeting here at the White House tomorrow and that would widely be seen as a way to increase pressure on Republicans to stop saying that they only want Democrats to vote for this and to actually vote with them to raise the debt limit, as, we should note, they did several times under former President Trump.

BLITZER: Yes. We see Air Force One now having landed at Joint Base Andrews right outside of Washington, D.C., the president returning here to Washington from Michigan. We'll continue to watch that as well. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the former Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, his new book, by the way, is entitled, Forward, Notes on the Future of our Democracy. And we got the book right here and we'll talk about it in a minute, Andrew.

But let's talk about an announcement you've made. You just announced you're leaving the Democratic Party. You're launching a new party along with your new book forward. How much does all of this dysfunction we're seeing right now within the Democratic Party seem to play into your decision to break away?

ANDREW YANG, AUTHOR, FORWARD, NOTES ON THE FUTURE OF OUR DEMOCRACY: Unfortunately, dysfunction is nothing new in Washington, Wolf. We've been seeing it get higher and higher over the last number of years. And we can also see and fell that polarization is at literally civil war levels right now. We're seeing it manifest in dysfunctional politics in Washington but we're seeing it in our own neighborhoods and our communities.

And that's what the Forward Party is designed to counteract. We're going to lower the temperature of the entire country by improving the political incentives so that our leaders need to be reasonable and skewed toward the middle instead of answering only to the extremes on either side.

BLITZER: Why couldn't you do that still within the Democratic Party?

YANG: The way we're going to make this happen, Wolf, is by implementing open primaries and ranked-choice voting in states around the country. One state has already done this. That state is Alaska, which is a red state, but there are other blue states that have also been considering it. So, you need to have a non-partisan, bipartisan popular movement to make this happen. It's why I declared myself as an independent earlier this week. There are going to be Forward Democrats, Forward Independents, Forward Republicans who want to bring the country together and actually change these systems so it's going to start working again, because it's not working for anyone right now.

BLITZER: In your new book, and I've gone through it, Forward, you say that you saw former President Trump's 2016 election victory as, quote, a red flag of our country crying out for help. And now the former president is laying the groundwork potentially for a 2024 presidential run as former Vice President Mike Pence last night playing down the January 6th attack. Do you think this country could elect Trump a second time?


YANG: I think you have to face facts and say that he's the prohibitive favorite to be the Republican nominee and then he may well win an election head-to-head with the Democratic nominee who was this close this past time, Wolf. And this is one reason why we have to act right now to lower the temperature of the country and actually change the political incentives so that people are able to act independently and not just follow the party line, the party leadership.

If you look around the world, other democracies have five, eight, even 17 or 18 political parties. We have two. And then if one has a massive leadership problem, it can be nearly existential for the country. We have to make this system itself more dynamic, modern and resilient.

BLITZER: And I know you are very worried about the future of democracy in this country. We'll continue this conversation, Andrew. Thank you so much, and thanks for writing this book, Forward, Notes on the Future of Our Democracy.

YANG: Wolf is in it. So, if you pick up a copy, you can find him.

BLITZER: Andrew, thanks so much for doing this. Let's continue this conversation down the road, a really important subject in indeed. I appreciate it very much.

YANG: Great to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up, relatives of Gabby Petito and the missing Brian Laundrie both speaking out tonight about the ongoing mystery surrounding her death and his disappearance.



BLITZER: Relatives of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie both speaking out tonight about the intense search for Laundrie following the death of Petito, which has been ruled a homicide. Laundrie's sister pleaded with him to turn himself in. Listen to what she said on ABC's Good Morning America.


CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: No, I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in.

I really wish he had come to me first that day with the van because I don't think we'd be here. I worry about him. I hope he's okay and then I'm angry, and I don't know what to think. I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess. We've been cooperating with the police since day one. I have been in touch with law enforcement.

I don't know if my parents are involved. I think if they are, then they should come clean.

I'd say Brian is a mediocre survivalist. It wouldn't surprise me if he could last out there a very long time, but also I don't think anything would surprise me at this point. If the FBI finds him in Timbuktu, I'd be, like, all right, well that's where he was. I've got nothing. I hope my brother is alive because I want answers just as much as everybody else.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, Petito's parents appeared on the Dr. Phil Show urging Laundrie's family to come forward with more information.


NICOLE SCHIMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S MOTHER: Somebody needs to start talking. I do believe they know a lot more information than they're putting out there.


We all want to protect our children. It's understandable, but it's also more important to teach your children right from wrong. And when something is wrong, you need to do the right thing and have them own up to it.


BLITZER: Let's dig deeper right now with our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey and CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan.

Chief Ramsey, what's your reaction to this new interview, first of all, with Brian Laundrie's sister?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, maybe she doesn't know where he is or maybe she never saw them have any kind of physical altercation. I mean, people really only show you a side of them that they want you to see to begin with, that could very well be true. But we know for a fact that they did have an altercation that turned physical. We have video evidence of that. Everything doesn't look like it did on Facebook when we initially heard about this case, where everything was kisses and love, you know? But it really doesn't matter. We still have to find him, dead or alive. We've got to find him. He's the missing piece of a puzzle. And so these interviews are nice, but they're not adding anything to the investigation.

BLITZER: Paul, Laundrie's sister also spoke to protesters outside her home on Monday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAUNDRIE: I am losing my parents and my brother and my children's aunt and my future sister-in-law on top of this and you're not helping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why your parents? You're talking about --

LAUNDRIE: Because they're not talking to us either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't they talking to you guys?

LAUNDRIE: If I knew, I would say. I don't know.


BLITZER: What do you make of the fact that she and that her parents haven't been in contact?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's interesting. I think that she probably is trying to be helpful. I think she's come forward because protesters are harassing her children. And, obviously, unlike the parents, she was willing to give a rather extensive interview about what she knew concerning her brother's disappearance. Unfortunately, she doesn't know too much.

She, at one point in the interview, said that the parent's lawyer was throwing her under the bus because the lawyer has apparently been telling the parents not to talk to the police, to keep quiet because they could wind up as suspects for aiding and abetting a fugitive from justice. Of course, we don't know precisely what the lawyer has said to the parents.

But I think that another interesting question that was propounded to her was what are the survivalist skills of Brian Laundrie. Is he capable of evading the FBI and a nationwide hunt?


Does he have the survivalist skills to go deep into the forest? He's apparently familiar with hiking the Appalachian Trail, which is 2,200 miles long. Maybe he's out there, but maybe he's dead. We just don't know at this point.

BLITZER: You're right. Chief Ramsey, with each day that passes, how much more difficult does the search for Laundrie get for law enforcement?

RAMSEY: Well, very difficult. I mean, physical evidence outdoors only last for so long, and we certainly have been looking for him for a very long period of time now. So, the longer it takes, if he is, of course, dead, then a lot of physical evidence is being destroyed on a minute-by-minute basis at this point, if he is not there and if he is under the radar but still alive, it becomes difficult too.

One of the issues if he is alive, everybody is wearing a mask because of COVID. You can really hide out in plain sight. So, we really don't know. And, apparently, they don't have a lot to go on yet because I'm talking about the FBI because, you know, they don't seem to have a search concentrated anywhere in particular. So, hopefully, someone in the public sees him and makes that phone call.

BLITZER: Chief, thank you very much.

Paul, very quickly, you have one more point?

CALLAN: No. I was saying Chief Ramsey's point is excellent. Shave off Brian Laundrie's beard and he'll become a different person in appearance and then you throw a mask on him, he's going to be tough to find.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, I'll speak with the head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, there you see him. He has just announced he is actually stepping down after serving under three American presidents. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Tonight, one the of nation's top public health officials is stepping down. The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, announced today he's departing the role after serving 12 years under three different U.S. Presidents. President Biden just called him, and I'm quoting him now, one of the most important scientists of our time.

Dr. Collins is joining us right now. Dr. Collins, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all your service over these years.

Tell us how you reached what you described as a very difficult decision to step down and why now?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: It was a difficult decision, Wolf, but scientific organizations, like NIH, need new vision, new leadership on a regular basis. Having served more than 12 years outstrips by a substantial margin, the usual shelf life of an NIH director, and I think it is time to have someone else come to this with a new perspective.

And even though you might say the timing is not great for COVID because we're still very much in the throes of that, NIH is in a very stable, solid position as far as what we are doing with vaccines, with therapeutics, with diagnostics. I have a fantastic team of people that I've mostly recruited and I think we are going to be able to continue that momentum.

And I'm not quite gone yet. I am staying on until somewhat unspecified date near the end of the year and I'll be fully engaged in the meanwhile. But if you'll allow me to quote a little bit Ecclesiastes, to everything, there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven. It felt to me like this was the right time to step aside and ask the president to name someone else to come in and lead this remarkable organization, the largest supportive medical research in the world.

BLITZER: It certainly is. You served as the director of NIH, what, for 12 years. When you look back, Dr. Collins, particularly at this last year-and-a-half during this COVID-19 pandemic, first of all, what are you most proud of and what do you most regret?

F. COLLINS: I am most proud of the way in which the scientific community, many of them supported by NIH, worked tirelessly, 24/7, to rise to this challenge coming forward with vaccines in record time, 11 months from the very first information about the virus to having shots that were ready to go into people's arms, the advances and therapeutics, things like monoclonal antibodies, the diagnostic tests you can now buy on the shelves of the pharmacy.

All of that was NIH, fully engaged, all hands on deck, and working with partners in a seamless way, particularly in a partnership that I had the chance to lead called the ACTIV, standing for Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines with 20 companies, the NIH, the FDA, the CDC all working together in a fashion that hasn't really quite happened before and built basically trust that was developed between us all and a recognition that it really mattered, that every day counted. So that was an enormous source of satisfaction.

What has been the greatest frustration, of course, Wolf is this we are still losing 1,800, 2,000 people a day, most of them unvaccinated, most of those lives that did not need to be lost because we somehow lost the information effort to get information in front of people to convince them that this is something they want for themselves, their families, their communities, that I didn't see coming. I will always be heartbroken about the way in which so many lives have been unnecessarily lost.

BLITZER: Yes. More than 700,000 Americans now over the past year-and- a-half have died from COVID. It's an awful, awful situation.

Dr. Collins, the White House says it will announce your replacement before you depart, once again, at the end of this year, but there is a chance that at the start of next year, there could be no FDA commissioner, no one confirmed to fill your role at NIH. Are you concerned about the potential leadership void?


F. COLLINS: I'm not really that earn concerned. There will need to be an acting director at NIH. It takes a while to a while to find a replacement, nominate that person and have them go through the Senate confirmation process, which, as you know, can sometimes take longer than you would like. But we have a very capable NIH team. The 27 institutes and centers were led by remarkably gifted administrators and scientists, so I am not concerned that we will be in an unstable situation. I think we will get to that.

And I already talked to the president this morning about the importance of figuring out how to begin to put together that search list of who might be the next director. Personally, I would like to see that next person be a woman scientist, but we'll see how it turns out.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Once again, Dr. Collins, thank you so much for all you have done at NIH and elsewhere over these many years. I appreciate it very much.

F. COLLINS: Thank you, Wolf. Let me just say it's been an absolute privilege to serve the public in this way. And for anybody listening who wonders whether a life of public service can be meaningful, let me tell you, it absolutely can in the most amazing way.

BLITZER: You absolutely are right, Dr. Collins, thank you so much.

Coming up, the former vice president, Mike Pence, goes on Fox News to spin revisionist history about the January 6th insurrection. Why is Pence trying right now apparently to appease former President Trump after his supporters tried to actually hunt him down and they threatened to kill him?



BLITZER: Former Vice President Mike Pence is trying to rewrite history with some misleading, and outright false claims about the January 6th insurrection.

Brian Todd is joining us with details right now.

Brian, the former vice president seems to want to re-patch the relationship with the former president.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly seems to be doing that, Wolf, even though Trump has gone after Pence since January 6th. A big question tonight, why is Mike Pence letting Trump and his supporters off the hook since it was a pro-Trump mob that had designs on hurting Pence on January 6th?


TODD (voice-over): Former Vice President Mike Pence is engaging in some bizarre revisionist history of January 6, minimizing the insurrection.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration's failed agenda, by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans.

TODD: He is talking about Trump supporters, some of whom, on January 6th seemingly had designs on harming Pence.

CROWD: Hang, Mike Pence! Hang, Mike Pence!

TODD: Pence, his wife, and daughter, were escorted out of the Senate chamber by the Secret Service that day. "The Washington Post" later reporting, rioters were within 60 seconds of actually encountering the vice president in the hallway, as he was being rushed out.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They wanted to kill him for not overturning the elections. So, for him to minimize it is, frankly, just shameful and embarrassing for him.

TODD: And regarding his former boss, who stoke much of that violence, Pence told Fox News, he harbors no hard feelings.

PENCE: The president and I sat down a few days later, and talked through all of it. I can tell you that we parted amicably at the end of the administration, and we have talked a number of times since we both left office.

TODD: The man Pence said he parted I'm accompli from, has ruthlessly gone after Pence. Donald Trump tweeting on January 6, Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country.

And this summer saying this:

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I only wish that my friend, Mike Pence, had that additional courage to send -- to send the results back to the legislators.

PENCE: Just before January 6th, Trump and a controversial lawyer named John Eastman, tried to convince Pence that he could overturn the election results on the 6, by throwing out electors on 7 states. That's according to the new book "Peril" by Woodward and Robert Costa of "The Washington Post". They write that Pence struggled over whether to try and overturn the results, consulting former Vice President Dan Quayle, who told Pence according to the authors, Mike, you have no flexibility on this. You have no power.

In the end, Pence refused to go along with Eastman's alleged plan, and a bipartisan group of former officials and lawyers is now urging the California Bar Association to investigate whether John Eastman violated ethics rules. He says the claims are hyperpartisan and political.

Analysts say Pence could be downplaying January 6, so that Trump's base would support him in his own potential run in the White House.

TIA MITCHELL, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: If you are not seen as the Trump guy, that could be very hard for your political future. I think that is what you see with Vice President Pence, saying things that minimized January 6, but perhaps maximize his ability to stay on former President Trump's good side.


TODD (on camera): And what might be yet another political headache for Mike Pence as he navigates whether to run for president in 2024, a member of the House Select Committee investigating January 6 says Pence will be investigated by that committee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much. Let's discuss with our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, he says -- Pence says January 6 was just one day in January. He seems to be minimizing the enormity of what happened.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, at one level, this is just sort of a pathetic act by Pence, to try and ingratiate himself and demeaning, to personally, you know, a -- by minimizing a rally where they were chanting "hang Mike Pence".


But this was part of a broader effort in the Republican Party, to normalize what went on in January 6th. It's not just Pence. It's everyone in the Republican Party, which is of course completely under the thrall of Donald Trump, who are trying to minimize what went on here.

So, Pence is just doing what Republicans everywhere are doing.

BLITZER: Well, Pence also, in his interview with Sean Hannity last night, he said the media is using January 6th to demean Trump voters, right now. He is blaming the media, right now.

TOOBIN: And by implication, he is saying, well those were just ordinary Trump voters in that mob, attacking the capitol. I think most Trump voters, but look, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and the days immediately after January 6th, they expressed outrage. They were angry. They were horrified by what went on.

Since then, nothing from then. Because, the whole Republican Party now it's picking up on Trump saying, well the January 6 people, we love them as he said, the day of the event, this is now the official Republican Party position that, you know, this wasn't really so bad.

BLITZER: But at least he did the right thing, as president of the senate, vice president of the United States, and he up certified the Electoral College results and said that Biden was the president. Many attended the January 20th inauguration, which Trump refused to attend.

TOOBIN: He did the right thing on January 6th, because under the law he had no choice. But, he spent now, and apparently forevermore, minimizing the good that he did and trying to defend the indefensible, which was this insurrection, and the people who supported.

BLITZER: Well, as Brian Todd said, he is looking at the Republican base out there, and if he wants to run for the Republican nomination in 2024, apparently he believes he has no choice.

TOOBIN: Yeah, to go by the forwards that to me define the Trump era, shocking but not surprising. It is shocking, but not surprising, that the January 6th insurrection is now becoming something that Trump supporters say, well, you know it just wasn't so bad.

BLITZER: Well, it was very bad. It was awful.

Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very, very much. Coming up, critical new details of what may have caused that oil spill

disaster that his killing wildlife, and closing beaches in southern California. Officials have just revealed what divers have discovered.



BLITZER: Major new developments tonight in that disastrous oil spill off the southern California coast.

CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal is working the story for us, joining us from Huntington Beach right now.

Camila, I understand underwater divers, investigators, have new information tonight on what may have caused this truly massive oil spill. What are you learning?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, we now know that it was a 4,000-foot section of this pipeline, that essentially moved about 100 feet. It appears as if something had pulled it, and the CEO of Amplify Energy saying it now looks like a semicircle, and in the middle of that you have a 13-inch split. That is of course, where all that oil was leaking.

We know that it is not leaking anymore. But, there is still a lot of questions as to how this could have been prevented, and as to the timeline of all of this. Because, here is the thing, the Coast Guard got reports of an oil sheen on Friday, but the cleanup did not begin until more than 12 hours later on Saturday. So, really so many questions around this cleanup, and when it started.

All of those efforts are still ongoing as I speak. Take a look at the crews here, they have been here since 6 in the morning local time, and they're picking up that oil with their hands, with wreaks, with shovels, and they are not done yet. So, it is a long and difficult process here, a similar one happening in the ocean.

We actually spoke to two locals here, who told me they went out on a boat yesterday, and when they saw this, they are describing it as these thick parties of that oil, they said, look we are no experts, but we just do not see how animals there could have survived that.

So, a lot of the locals here, they are angry. They are shocked. They are really wanting accountability, and unfortunately, they are not likely going to get any answers because the scope of this, and overall what this happened, or the damage that it caused, is not going to be seen for weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Camila, is there any sense how long Orange County, where you are right now in Huntington Beach, I know the area well, will remain under this state of emergency?

BERNAL: Look, we don't know exactly when they are going to open the beaches up again, we know that it is under an emergency, that was declared by Governor Gavin Newsom who is actually here at the moment holding a press conference, and he declared the state of emergency essentially to be able to bring in all these resources that you see here behind me. Because, people are saying, we need to get this cleaned up, and we need to do it fast. Of course, there are so many effects of this, it is not just the environment, it is the economical aspect of all of this too. So, a lot of work to be done.

BLITZER: Awful situation indeed, Camila Bernal, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.