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Cult Expert On How To Deradicalize Trump's Most Extreme Followers; Biden Coronavirus Team Nervous About What Trump Team Hasn't Told Them; CNN Reality Check: President Trump's Many Broken Promises. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 19, 2021 - 07:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: More than 90 people face federal charges for their role in storming the U.S. Capitol. The perpetrators say it was President Trump who fueled their rage and actions. During the siege, Trump supporters echoed his words.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats are trying to steal the White House. You cannot let them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't get to steal it from us.

TRUMP: We're bringing our country back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want our country back.

TRUMP: This is our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our house. This is our country. This is our country.


CAMEROTA: Experts say they see cult-like behavior in Trump's most extreme supporters. So how do you deradicalize these people?

Joining us now is Steven Hassan. He's a mental health professional who has been helping deprogram people out of cults for decades. He, himself, was a cult member of the Moonie's cult in the 1970s before he was successfully deprogrammed. He's also the author of "The Cult of Trump." Mr. Hassan, thanks so much for being here.

What we just showed there, do you consider those people cult members?

STEVEN HASSAN, AUTHOR, "THE CULT OF TRUMP," CULT EXPERT AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL: I do. I think they were deceptively recruited by an authoritarian political cult.

CAMEROTA: When you -- I've read that the characteristics of a cult leader -- let's just put these up for everybody -- narcissistic, lies a lot, grandiose self-image, stokes fear, paranoid, talks a lot about enemies, harasses critics, always needs praise, lacks empathy, claims absolute authority, blames the media, rarely admits mistakes or wrongdoings.

And so why do people follow leaders with such odious characteristics? How does that happen?

HASSAN: Essentially, people are wired to follow legitimate -- I mean -- excuse me -- to follow authority figures they believe are legitimate and to conform to people they identify with. But as someone who has studied brainwashing and mind control, the good news is that even though people can be radicalized, they can also be helped to come back to themself. And that's what gives me hope for our country.

CAMEROTA: Before we get to how that's going to happen, I just want to show a little bit more of what happened inside the U.S. Capitol just so that we understand.

Some of the people, Mr. Hassan, that you see here were once elementary school counselors. Some of these people were firemen. One of them was an Olympic swimmer.

How is it that they lose control of their own sort of judgment and that a cult leader -- or in this case, President Trump takes over their mindset and allows them to risk their lives for him?

HASSAN: So, in studying all the thought reform brainwashing models, I have developed a bite model of authoritarian control, and it basically talks about controlling behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions to create a new identity that's dependent and obedient. And this is a radical personality change in the mental health literature in the APA DSM-5. It's called a dissociative disorder -- questioning of identity.

And the bottom line is all of America needs deprogramming because we've all been negatively influenced by Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: But for the people who were willing to go in there and storm the Capitol, how did they radically change their personality? What was it? What tool was it that President Trump used to get them to do that?

HASSAN: So, I need to say that in 1974, I was fasting for Richard Nixon during Watergate. I was programmed to believe that democracy was satanic and God needed to take over America. And I saw people from my cult -- Sean Moon brought a busload of people to D.C. So I could have been there if my family hadn't cared enough to rescue me.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. I mean, so you know what you're talking about. But again, help us understand what turns it. What made you do that?

HASSAN: So, it's a systematic social influence process but it starts with deceptive recruitment. And in my analysis with my book "The Cult of Trump," what I realized is that there are authoritarian cults that are influencing -- were influencing Trump and were bringing their base to follow Trump. So they're already programmed -- many, many people -- not all, but many, many people. But remember, you know, as Americans, we're kind of taught to obey the

President of the United States. That status of the office is huge. So come Joe Biden's inauguration, I believe there will be a huge drop off in followers of Donald Trump when they realize that they've been lied to. Biden won the election -- confirmed.


CAMEROTA: Yes, I agree with you. I think there is something in our DNA that we do give a lot of authority, obviously, to the president and do tend to believe our president.

And so, for those people that we showed in the U.S. Capitol, how do you begin to deprogram them?

HASSAN: So that's what I do for a living and family members contact me. And I've written books, I've done videotapes, I've done courses to educate the family. Because it's the family, friends, and former members that once we educate them we coach them on how to interact and empower the person to start thinking for themselves. The most powerful technique is asking a respectful, thoughtful question and being quiet and really waiting a long time for an answer, and then following up.

CAMEROTA: Here are your tips -- how to help free someone from the cult of Trump, you say.

Always act with respect, kindness, and warmth. Avoid conflict or harshness. Keep the dialogue open and civil.

Be collaborative, rather than competitive. Don't get angry. Don't tell them; help them make their own discoveries.

That all makes sense but it sounds like you're saying it has to be done one at a time. There are millions --


CAMEROTA: -- of people who believe that the election was rigged.

HASSAN: Yes. No, we're going to need a top-down approach in terms of -- I mean, if Congress would like me to come and testify and people can grill me. Republicans and Democrats can ask me. I can bring my colleagues along.

But the bottom line is people who have love and respect for the actual members, they're the ones who will have the power to deradicalize and help them recover because we're going to have a huge need for recovery.

CAMEROTA: Steven Hassan, the book again is "The Cult of Trump." Thank you for explaining all of this. Really interesting to talk to you.

HASSAN: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: CNN is learning that the incoming Biden administration is concerned about the lack of information they are getting when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. We have new reporting, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, CNN has learned about a sense of nervousness among Joe Biden's coronavirus advisers. The source says their concern stemmed from what President Trump's team has not told them.

CNN's Sara Murray live in Washington with this reporting. Sara, what have you learned?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (via Cisco Webex): Well, John, of course, the hour is getting closer when Joe Biden officially takes the helm of the U.S. government and then is in charge of this crisis -- hundreds of thousands of Americans dead, a very slow vaccine rollout, and these new variants that are popping up all across the globe.

And me, MJ Lee, and Kristen Holmes are hearing that there is a sense of nervousness around some of Biden's advisers, essentially because they don't know what they don't know. You know, they've written all of these plans for how they want to speed up vaccine distribution, how they want to increase vaccine supply, and how they want to be able to better surveil these new variants that are popping up in the U.S.

But at the end of the day, right now, they're still relying on the information that the Trump team is giving them and that they're able to (audio gap) before they take office. And we've heard a number of complaints from the incoming Biden team that they don't feel like they've gotten full cooperation. They don't feel like they have a full grasp of exactly what they're walking into.

You know, the outgoing Trump team insists that they have been very collaborative, especially when it comes to the health officials.

But you really don't know what you're walking into when it comes to being able to figure out across all 50 states what the problems are on the ground. Being able to figure out what exactly is going to work to be able to increase a supply of vaccine in the country. And being able to scale up a system that really doesn't exist very much in the U.S. right now to monitor all of these new variants that are popping up and determine whether they're going to be a risk, potentially, to the vaccines that we're currently creating.

So that's what's awaiting the current Biden administration. And obviously, you can see why there might be some nerves setting in as the hour draws closer, John.

BERMAN: Very interesting. All right, Sara. Thanks so much for your reporting. Sara Murray in Washington.

Joining us now is Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus adviser to the president-elect and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Professor, great to have you on.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services --


BERMAN: -- Alex Azar, in his last day in office -- he says about some of these concerns and some of the things that the Biden administration is saying -- he's saying you guys are just trying to make yourselves look like heroes. You're running us down to make yourselves look better.

Do you have a response to that?

OSTERHOLM: Well, as someone who has been advising the Biden camp on this issue and just trying to call balls and strikes, I can tell you we were quite surprised last Friday when we learned that, in fact, there weren't these extra doses of vaccine behind held back for a second dose. Something that significant, only to find out last Friday, makes you very concerned that there's still more to be learned that you don't know that is going to create a real challenge as we go forward over the weeks ahead.

CAMEROTA: Are states, right now, running out of vaccine doses? Do we know the answer to that?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, we have the tale of two cities right now. There's all the news reporting about all these extra doses that aren't going into people's arms when, in fact, those numbers actually are often misunderstood. In many cases, that vaccine has been allocated to a state but it has not arrived. Some of it is vaccine that was being held for long-term care facility vaccinations that hadn't been used yet, or in the hospitals.

So the reporting that there's extra doses out there just sitting there really isn't true. It's actually what you just said, Alisyn. It's the fact that we're short of vaccine. There are many locations in this country that could use many, many times more vaccine every day that is available.

We have right here in our own community had to cancel a major vaccine initiative -- actual events around giving vaccine because we didn't have the vaccine and only learned about it several days in advance that it wouldn't be coming.

So you're right. The real challenge we have right now is not having enough vaccine.

BERMAN: And it couldn't be coming at a worse time, in some ways.

I know you have major concerns as Joe Biden takes office tomorrow about these new variants that we are seeing establish a presence in the U.S. How will that impact the next few months?

[07:45:05] OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, John, when you look back on the history of this, it actually will be a year tomorrow. On January 20th, 2000 (sic) I put out a document -- in 2020, I put out a document saying that this would be the next pandemic. And, you know, when we look back on April and 32,000 cases a day were considered to be -- oh my God, it can't get worse than this. And look at what's happened and happened and happened and keep going up higher and higher.

Right now, we have a base of over 225,000-250,000 cases a day. Now we're going to suddenly see these variants come into play that based on the experience we've seen in Europe -- in particular, South Africa -- these variants can substantially increase the number of cases.

Our best guesstimate right now is less than 30 percent of the U.S. population actually has had this virus, meaning 70 percent of us are still vulnerable to it. And these variants could make the numbers of 250,000 seem as if, you know, I wish we were back at that number again.

I worry desperately in the next six to 12 weeks we're going to see a situation with this pandemic unlike anything we've seen yet to date, and that is really a challenge that I don't think most people realize yet.

CAMEROTA: No, we don't realize that. That is a terrifying alarm that you're sounding. Is there anything that the Biden administration can do to prevent that apocalyptic image?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think when you just look at perspective.

First of all, you may recall actually on this very show back some months ago when we were at about 30,000 cases a day, I predicted we'd be at 200,000 by Thanksgiving. People thought that it was impossible. We were there. I think now I'm issuing the same warning and people will look at me and say it's impossible.

So the first step is just to get people to understand this will happen. We are going to see a major increase in cases. The challenge is how many.

And you know what our hospitals have been like when we've been averaging 250,000 to 300,000 cases a day and 4,000 deaths. Imagine again that those could be baseline numbers that will be far from what we will actually experience.

And so, the first thing is just wake up and understand what's happening. Second of all is we can't make the vaccine go much faster than it is right now.

I know that the Biden administration will do everything it can to move vaccine out there, but that's not going to make the difference. The difference is going to be are we going to react now or later? And what I mean by that is the old commercial -- the oil Fram commercial will be pay me now or pay me later.

We will, in this country, take dramatic steps just as they have in England and Ireland and other places to deal with these variants. And the question is how soon will we do it? Do we -- do we put the brakes on after the car is wrapped around the tree or do we try to put the brakes on before we leave the intersection?

And that's the challenge. I just don't know if we're really prepared to even have that discussion yet.

BERMAN: The outgoing Trump administration announced yesterday that they were easing travel restrictions on a number of countries from coronavirus. The incoming Biden administration said no, you're not -- or, at least, when we come in we're putting them back in place.

What's the right answer from a medical standpoint?

OSTERHOLM: You know, at this point, I wouldn't change anything that we're talking about in terms of restrictions. Let's take a look at them and see what's really meaningful. But I think this is just another -- what I would call is an example of a distraction.

You know, we have got to stay focused on preventing cases right here in the United States that are causing the challenges that we have right before us. And in my mind, it is a global issue. We have to deal with that. But keep our eyes focused on the ball, which is what's happening right here in the United States now.

CAMEROTA: Michael Osterholm, we hear you loudly and clearly and it is really unsettling. Thank you very much for sounding the alarm --


CAMEROTA: -- as you always have on our program.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We want to take some time now to remember some of the nearly 400,000 Americans lost to coronavirus.

Father Rene Rodillas died just 2 1/2 days after diagnosis. The Utah Catholic priest emigrated from the Philippines in 2007. Members of his flock in Ogden remember him as joyous, caring, and prone to spontaneously breaking into song during his sermons. He was just 58 years old.

James Dakins was a manager at a big box retailer in North Carolina where he'd work for 20 years. An evangelical Christian, Dakins was proud of the souls he's saved. His wife and children remember him as a loving, outgoing man who cared about others and always wearing this goofy grin, they say. He was just 48 years old.

El Paso police detective Camerino Santiago had worked for the department for 24 years and is its first coronavirus casualty. Former colleagues recall his good heart and dry sense of humor. Santiago was 67 and had planned to retire at the end of this month.

We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: President Donald Trump's chaotic presidency comes to an end in 28 hours. He will reportedly release a video today touting his administration's accomplishments. So did he fulfill his promises?

John Avlon has our reality check.


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (on camera): Four years, and one clear way to gauge a president's success or failure. Not simply whether they won reelection, but whether they left the country better than they found it. And by that measure, history will be brutal to President Trump because our country is more divided, more in debt, and less respected than it was before he took office.

Let's look back at some of his inaugural promises to the American people.

TRUMP: We will bring back our jobs.

AVLON (on camera): In fact, the unemployment rate in America is two points higher than it was when Trump took office, and that's after it spiked over 14 percent after COVID-19 first hit.

TRUMP: We will get our people off of welfare and back to work.

AVLON (on camera): There are more than twice as many people who filed for unemployment benefits than when he took office.

TRUMP: We will bring back our wealth.

AVLON (on camera): In fairness, Wall Street has done very well under Trump, with the Dow Jones up 56 percent. But the national debt, which Trump promised to eliminate over eight years, it surged by over $7 trillion. The deficit grew a stunning 429 percent on his watch.


TRUMP: We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

AVLON (on camera): Unfortunately, no. Infrastructure week never happened, with Trump storming away from a $2 trillion bipartisan deal.

TRUMP: We will make America safe again.

AVLON (on camera): Hate crime incidents rose almost 20 percent from 2016 to 2019 -- the most recent figures available.

Despite all of the flag-hugging, the percent of people saying they're proud to be an American plummeted over the Trump years.

And when it comes to foreign policy, the 2020 Pew survey found that Trump is less trusted by people in 13 allied nations to do the right thing than the autocratic leaders of Russia and China.

In one of the few areas where we can say America first on the world stage is in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Now, for those folks who say that all of these numbers would look very different it hadn't been for the pandemic, remember Trump was deeply unpopular before COVID hit. In fact, his Gallup Poll approval average of 41 percent is the lowest of any president on record.

And none of that includes his two impeachments or the more than 30,000 false or misleading claims. Or the chaotic management style that led to a 91 percent turnover of senior White House staff, while having more than twice the number of people in his inner circle indicted in the last four presidencies combined.

Now Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson to refuse to attend his duly-elected successor's inauguration. And he's apparently recorded his own video farewell address where he'll tout his record.

But we already have the first lady's farewell address. It is full of true and worthwhile sentiments, but we thought it was missing some crucial context.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: To focus on what unites us. To rise above what divides us. To always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others before yourself.

AVLON (on camera): And that's your reality check.


BERMAN: I think that's such an important and interesting way to look at it. And yes, it is worth going back and looking at the promises made-promises kept, but when history writes about the Trump presidency, I think the first two lines are going to be the twice- impeached president who oversaw the death of 400,000 Americans in his last year in office. And it's hard to get beyond that.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And also, the platitudes that any of the leaders or the first lady speak are only soothing if you don't have videotape. If you have videotape or a memory of as long ago as two weeks, they don't make any sense in that context, actually.

BERMAN: Yes, and if you just look at some of the numbers, they're historic. I mean, he leaves the presidency with the lowest approval rating after one term of any modern president.

Melania Trump -- and I do think it is worth noting -- every first lady in polling has left the White House with a positive net approval. She's leaving with a negative net approval. It just doesn't happen. They are leaving this in an historically poor position and I think it will be reflected.

CAMEROTA: It seems like the country is ready for this transition.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And we have reached the final day of Donald Trump's presidency. Twenty-eight hours until Joe Biden takes office. This morning, Joe Biden leaves Wilmington, Delaware for the last time as president- elect. He arrives in Washington, D.C. this afternoon.

We've just learned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will go to church with President-elect Biden tomorrow morning at Biden's invitation. It appears the deprogramming may be underway.

We also have new details about what Biden is planning to say in his inaugural address.

As for President Trump, we have new details about his last grievance- filled day in office. He reportedly plans to issue many pardons this afternoon, along with a videotape praising his accomplishments.

BERMAN: This morning, flags, not Americans, fill the National Mall, which is locked down after the Capitol insurrection.

President Trump, we know, will snub the Bidens -- an historic snub. Departing presidents welcome incoming presidents to Washington in the White House. The Trumps can't be bothered to do that.

This is pictures from four years ago when the Obamas greeted Donald Trump and Melania Trump, both of whom were birthers -- had expressed birther ideology. But the Bidens -- the Obamas, I should say, looked past that and welcomed them to the White House because they felt America needed it. The Trumps do not feel similarly this morning.

An historic day ahead for Joe Biden who will become the nation's 46th president tomorrow.

CNN's MJ Lee live in Wilmington, Delaware. MJ, very interesting to learn about Mitch McConnell. And we're actually getting even more announcements from the presidential transition today.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. This is a new detail that we are just learning about what.