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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump: Would Have Done Nothing Differently In This Crisis; Governor Cuomo Proposes Bill Refusing Bailouts For Companies That Don't Rehire Employees; Trump Pushes False Claims About Mail-In Vote Fraud As States Move To Expand It Ahead Of November Election. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Her dad was 65 years old.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Please join me tonight not spending any more time on this nonsense about the President refusing to acknowledge anything should have been done differently in the handling of the pandemic. Why is the media going after it? Who cares?

Have you ever heard him take responsibility for any mistake? What did you expect him to say? He has three tools in the face of criticism, "Deny, lie and defy." And then he has a rotation of robotic mouthpieces that parrot the same thing that he says.

Look, in November, this President will be weighed and measured by you. That's then. Right now, forget about what he says. What matters is how we're reopening, and what needs to be done, to make it faster and safer. Let's focus on that, all right?

I got the Governor of New York here tonight. He says, if you want to do that, stop talking about the President, focus on Congress because they hold our reopening in their hands. And he says that there's one big thing they need to do, and he's doing it already in New York. What is it? He'll tell you.

We also have the State official who is refusing to bow to the President's demand that mail-in voting be stopped, even if States and their citizens want it, you know, because a lot of us are worried about going out to vote in a pandemic.

The interesting part is Trump's threat. "If you have mail-in voting, I'll defund you." We have the truth of what a President can do, and the reality of why Trump is doing all of this in the first place.

You're ready to fight the good fight? Let's get after it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, with 4 percent of the world's population and 30 percent of the - of the outbreak, what would you have done differently facing this crisis?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, nothing. If you take New York and New Jersey, which were very hard hit, we were very, very low. And in terms of morbidity and in terms of - you look at the death, relatively speaking, we're at the lowest level along with Germany.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. CUOMO: This is how easily you dispense with this, OK?

"Relatively speaking," to use the President's own phraseology, we're third from the bottom. Trump doesn't know the truth about COVID from Covfefe. And who defines success against a virus as the "Least deaths?" How about the least cases? How about the best and fastest response?

Let's bring in the Governor of New York, my brother, Andrew Cuomo.

What are you, sick?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): No. Boy, you're fired up today.

No, I'm not sick. But I don't want to be sick. I don't want to make other people sick. Hence wear a mask. Wear a mask. It's a sign of respect. I respect you. You respect me. I thank the healthcare workers for everything they did. Wear a mask.

Why, you don't like it? Matches my suit.

C. CUOMO: No. I do like it. And I get the statement that you're making.

This is what leaders should be making. You should be doing what you're telling everybody else to do. I get it. I appreciate it. I don't think you need it right now, though, Guv, right? You're socially distanced.

A. CUOMO: Does it bother you?

C. CUOMO: No, I think that the more of that face that's covered probably the better for my audience. But in terms of just seeing what's coming out of you--

A. CUOMO: Well then I'm taking.

C. CUOMO: --you can then take it off.

A. CUOMO: Yes.

C. CUOMO: Thank you.

A. CUOMO: Then I'm taking it off.

C. CUOMO: Yes.

A. CUOMO: If you like it, I'm taking it off.

C. CUOMO: No. I don't want to deny my audience that beautiful visage that they all like so much in the Luv Guv.

All right, now let me see where your head is a little bit on the state of play.

President says you take New York State and New Jersey out of the mix, and America crushed the COVID response. They're just a couple of laggers where you guys got hit hard but the rest of the country was great.

A. CUOMO: Yes. Well, look, first, where do you begin, right? But let's take the first point about New York and New Jersey. Why did New York and New Jersey get hit is what you want to say.

The reason New York and New Jersey got hit was it was nothing about New York and New Jersey because by the time we closed the door on China, the virus had left China, and was already in Europe. And then, our Coronavirus cases came from Europe and nobody even knew.

So, the China travel ban, which seemed early at the time, was actually late. The Europe travel ban mid-March was late. January, February, March, we have 3 million Europeans land at JFK and Newark airports in New York and New Jersey. That's where the virus came from.

[21:05:00]

So, if you want to do a retrospective, what did we learn? First we learned that the whole early warning system did not work. The buzzer did not go off. China had the virus last November, December. We don't act until February, March. By that time, the virus was gone.

It got on a plane in China. It went to Europe. It went with the workers. It went to the Lombardy region of Italy. And then it came to New York, New Jersey, because that's where the flights come. So, that was the first point where we have to go back to come up with a system that corrects that.

C. CUOMO: All right. So, now you say "Well let's look forward. Don't be so obsessed with the President. Look to Congress. They hold tremendous power in terms of what this reopening is going to look like."

What is your concern about what's going to happen with this bill? It seems like it's dead in the Senate unless these few vulnerable Republican Senators can push McConnell.

What do you think about the politics? And what are you worried about in terms of the policy that should be in place?

A. CUOMO: Look, going forward, there's two big questions, right? If - what do the - what are we going to be - what are we going to be talking about eight months from now, nine months from now that was determinative?

First, have States figured out this reopening mechanism? Do you have enough testing, tracing in place?

Can you calibrate the reopening, the economic reopening, by the public health data? It's never been done before. And have the States put that system together, so that if there's a bump they can react. That's one cluster of questions.

Second question - cluster of questions, what does Washington do? They passed legislation, the CARES Act. They took care of a lot of businesses, airlines. They want to take care of hotels. They want to take care of all the businesses, right? What's good for General Motors is good for America.

States are dying. Local governments are dying. You want these states to do all the reopening. "You should do testing. You should do tracing. You have to have this. You have to have that."

States have significant budget deficits because the economy collapsed through no fault of the State.

If they don't pass legislation, Chris, that provides funding to state and local governments, you're going to see hospitals have reduced funding, police, reduced funding, fire, reduced funding, school, reduced funding, and it's going to be a significant drain on the economy.

So, you tell me what happens with that Congressional bill where they're now just playing pure blunt partisan politics. That's all this is. I mean, they literally say "Why should we bail out Blue states?"

How disgusting is that, you know? You want to talk about Americans who died, and you want to classify them as Democrats or Republicans. But it's pure partisan politics. I was afraid of this. It's rearing its ugly head.

But if they play politics with this bill, and you starve the states and the local governments, this is going to be a very different course for this nation. It's going to take much longer to come out of it.

C. CUOMO: Quickly, what is the provision you want about putting people first?

A. CUOMO: Well, the - what I fear, eight months from now, we're going to look back, and we're going to say, "Oh, look at all these corporations, got all this money from the Federal Government, and then laid off workers." That is what is going to happen. The corporations are now talking to the analysts on Wall Street, and they're prophesizing this. They need to show profits up. How do you show profits up?

C. CUOMO: Cut your labor.

A. CUOMO: You get payroll down. How do you get payroll down? You - you cut labor. They couldn't - they had a labor force. They didn't want to lay it off. But now it's home, so they can just not rehire it. And they'll take corporate money, to subsidize their layoff strategy.

My law says, very simple, "If you take government money, you cannot lay off workers. You must rehire the same number you had pre-pandemic.

You want to lay off workers? You want to get lean? You want to restructure? Do it on your own dime.

The taxpayers are not going to subsidize you to lay off workers and then have to pay unemployment for those workers. Fool me once." That was the 2008 bailout.

C. CUOMO: Right.

A. CUOMO: I was Attorney General. I spent two years chasing AIG, chasing Bank of America. They got those bailouts from the Federal Government because they were too big to fail, and they gave themselves a bonus, and they gave themselves a party, right?

This time, they're going to lay off workers, you watch.

C. CUOMO: Well hopefully it doesn't happen. Hopefully, they put in a provision like that, and we start protecting the right people this time.

And speaking of protection, obviously the major prophylaxis here, masks, as you wore tonight, testing. You said that the State actually has more testing capacity than it can use.

How, when I still hear people always saying they can't get a test, they don't know if they should get the COVID test or the antibody test? They don't know where to get tests in their area. How do you have more testing than you can use?

A. CUOMO: Yes. Let me just give you the context because I really want to be a nice and sweet and cooperative guest for you, and I don't want to challenge you. But--

C. CUOMO: Well if you've said it clearly the first time, I wouldn't have the question.

(CROSSTALK)

A. CUOMO: --context in my State.

C. CUOMO: But please, go ahead.

[21:10:00]

A. CUOMO: Well that's not exactly what I said. But I don't want to challenge you on your show.

C. CUOMO: Meh! It's a little late for that. But go ahead, please.

A. CUOMO: You know, I want people to be happy with me. Your wife--

C. CUOMO: The stage is yours.

A. CUOMO: --your wife and Mom - OK.

C. CUOMO: Just go ahead.

A. CUOMO: I said this - when with testing, first, we do about a million tests per week now in New York. New York is doing more testing per capita than any State in the United States. New York is doing more testing per capita than any country on the globe.

I know it makes you proud.

We do about a million a week. We have - there's an unlimited need for tests that we administer of certain populations. You can test - test and - all nursing home residents, all people in congregate facilities, people in prisons etcetera.

On the public testing, on our drive-thrus etcetera, we opened up about 700 sites across the State.

And we have now so many sites that we actually have more sites than we have public demand in some places. And I'm trying to get the public to come up and actually understand that the sites are now open, and they can get tests.

C. CUOMO: OK.

A. CUOMO: We have some drive-in sites that can do 15,000 tests a day. We're doing 5,000. So, we need to get up that - the public awareness to come out and go to the sites.

C. CUOMO: Good. And it's good that you allocated testing in the minority communities and housing projects because those communities are going to get hit hard. People forget about them too often. It's important that you put them first.

Now, you had video come out, before we go to break, where you wanted to encourage people to get tested, and some people are afraid it's going to hurt. So, you had video of it that I want to show the audience of you actually getting tested. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(VIDEO OF NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO TAKING CORONAVIRUS TEST LIVE ON TV)

(END VIDEO CLIP) C. CUOMO: There's you. You're kind of funny, and they were testing you.

Now, a few questions about this process.

First of all, is it true that when you were having the test administered, you inhaled, and the doctor's finger went all the way up your nose, and got stuck, and had to be released with a tool? Is that true?

A. CUOMO: No. She--

C. CUOMO: Just to - just to deal with the record.

A. CUOMO: She - she wanted to comment that I have a little button nose, and she was afraid that the swab would actually hurt because it extended my nasal cavity.

C. CUOMO: The proboscis issue.

A. CUOMO: She was speaking about the delicacy of the nose.

C. CUOMO: Of the - of the nose.

A. CUOMO: Yes.

C. CUOMO: And that's what, you know what, I understand. This is the normal swab I'm holding up here now, and for everybody at home, a very valuable object. There's only one company in the entire country that makes these up in Maine, all right? Here's the swab.

Is it true that this was the swab that the nurse was actually using on you, and that, at first, it went into your nose, and disappeared, so that in scale, this was the actual swab that was being used to fit up that double-barrel shotgun that you have mounted on the front of your pretty face?

A. CUOMO: See, I said I was going to be nice and sweet and cooperative.

C. CUOMO: I just want a yes, no.

A. CUOMO: And I was trying.

C. CUOMO: Was it this?

A. CUOMO: I was trying very hard.

C. CUOMO: Or was it this?

A. CUOMO: Look--

C. CUOMO: Which was it?

A. CUOMO: You - you - you know, first, I thought I did so well on that nasal test, standing up there. She did the swab. I did not flinch. I was a cool dude in a loose mode, didn't move anything.

C. CUOMO: Of course you were.

A. CUOMO: I was happy.

C. CUOMO: That swab is like a piece of lint going in that thing in your face.

A. CUOMO: That's not--

C. CUOMO: How could it have collected anything?

A. CUOMO: That's not true.

C. CUOMO: It was like throwing a rock thrown on a cave.

A. CUOMO: That is so not right.

C. CUOMO: Was it this?

A. CUOMO: That is just not right.

C. CUOMO: Or was it this? Tell people the truth, come on, Luv Guv.

A. CUOMO: That is not--

C. CUOMO: Come on, which was it?

A. CUOMO: This is not love. This is not love.

C. CUOMO: Listen, I just want to get in--

A. CUOMO: You're so never--

C. CUOMO: I'm going to take a break because if you're not going to answer questions, I'm going to have to reset. I thought there'd be a little bit more transparency for the audience. I'll put it to them online.

You know, this is the regular swab. This is what we're told disappeared in the Governor's nose. And then, we're told that this is what it took.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, something that everybody wants to know, second to what I just asked. What is reopening going to look like in New York State? And what would be the triggers for the State to say "No, this is what we were worried about."

Is it a number? Is it a feel? Is it a political calculus? What is it going to look like, and what changes might come, based on what, going forward? Important for everybody to know, we'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. CUOMO: All right, we're back now with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Of course, some FAQs, frequently asked questions, when it comes to testing, thank you for clarifying how you're distributing around the State, how you're focusing now on needs, minority communities.

When people ask "Should I still get a test to see if I'm positive or negative, or should I get the antibody test," what's your guidance?

A. CUOMO: My guidance. First, I want you to know I'm glad that you just moved on. I have a screen here. And I can see what you do now on that screen.

C. CUOMO: So, what are you referring?

A. CUOMO: And I am so--

C. CUOMO: When the commercial break comes, it's like nothing happened before it. What are you referring to?

A. CUOMO: Oh, I see, I see. Well that happened.

C. CUOMO: What happened? I don't know what you're talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

C. CUOMO: Just please continue.

A. CUOMO: FAQ - yes, you don't know. You don't know. I - we'll take it up here.

C. CUOMO: Go ahead, OK.

A. CUOMO: The antibody test tells you if you had the virus, and if you recovered. Theoretically, for those people, who believe there's an immunity, if you have the antibodies, then that theory would pertain if you take the antibody test.

[21:20:00]

You have the antibodies. At one time, they said, "If you have the antibodies you can't get the virus again." Now, they're changing the facts on that, and there's a - there's an ambiguity. The diagnostic test tells you whether or not you have it today. So, there are two different purposes.

We use both, obviously, depending on what you're trying to determine, if you're just trying to test the positive level of a given community, who has had it, or an individual, who wants to know whether or not they have it today. So, they're two different tests for two different purposes.

C. CUOMO: So, the context becomes how people best equip themselves for reopening. Social acceptance, you know, when you're going, you want to go somewhere, does it matter more if you say, "I'm negative" or versus "I have the antibodies."

When you're looking at what this summer will look like, let's call it a temporary new normal, what is your description for people about what you think will phase-in throughout the course of this summer, kind of a look forward between now and, let's say, Labor Day?

A. CUOMO: Well we are now reopening regions all across the State, right, except for basically New York City, Long Island, Westchester, a little bit behind that, and we do it all on the numbers.

There's no politics. There's no theory. "I believe this. I believe that. My opinion," who cares? It's all on the facts.

We literally have an equation, we have a formula, where we start to open up the economy, we start with construction, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, curbside pickup for retail, and then you watch the testing, right?

You watch the diagnostic testing. You watch the hospitalization rate etcetera, and you calibrate it that way. You start that economic activity. You see very little increase in the numbers, then you continue to increase the economic activity.

C. CUOMO: All right, so hold on. Hold on right there, Guv.

A. CUOMO: You see the numbers throughout--

C. CUOMO: I get it. I get the number principle.

But just so people can put context of experience to the calculation, you said, "If people get arrogant and casual about the distancing practices, then the rate will go up."

So, what does that look like, to you, in terms of what kind of rate going up would be enough for you to reassess whether or not you have to take remedial action, slowdown, back off, do you have any markers? How do you measure that?

A. CUOMO: Yes. It is - it's a good question.

C. CUOMO: Thank you.

A. CUOMO: The first thing we have - I was just being kind. It was rhetorical.

C. CUOMO: It was rhetorical, I know.

A. CUOMO: The--

C. CUOMO: But I take it when I get it. Go ahead.

A. CUOMO: Yes, you need to.

C. CUOMO: Go ahead. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. Go ahead.

A. CUOMO: OK, I'm sorry.

C. CUOMO: It's all right.

A. CUOMO: We have experts who are - we have experts, literally international experts, we have domestic experts, and they will watch the calibration.

You start to see numbers go up, first of all you want to make sure it's not a normal deviation because this whole system was just put in place, you have a day-to-day deviation.

Second, you want to make sure it's not a cluster situation, where you have a hotspot or one cluster, that's raising the numbers, which is actually better than just a community spread, and then you would attack that cluster.

C. CUOMO: Tracing.

A. CUOMO: If you have a community spread and you see the--

C. CUOMO: That's why you keep emphasizing tracing. You need tracing for that. Go ahead, continue.

A. CUOMO: Yes. I have - I haven't emphasized tracing, but you do. It's testing. And you see the increase in the testing. And then, what is the percentage of the increase?

Can you handle that increase vis-a-vis your hospital capacity, right, because that's the number on the other side of the equation, and then can you tamp it down, or do you need to dial back?

And that's on a case-by-case basis. Obviously, we haven't been here before, and obviously, nobody's done this before. So, you watch it day-to-day on the numbers.

C. CUOMO: How dangerous a political calculation is that?

All joking aside, you know, you start to see hospitalization rates, I think that's the metric that makes the most sense, it's the most acute metric of what's changing in a community, so, it starts to go up.

And the number is appreciable enough that the clinicians in that place start talking about it, local leaders start talking about it, they come to you. If you back off reopening, that is a dangerous political decision,

especially during the summertime. You know people are so desperate to get back. And to have things taken away from them can come with a cost. How do you calibrate that?

A. CUOMO: Yes. First, the hospitalization rate, not to be difficult, is - is one of the indicators.

But there's - remember, there's a lag on the hospitalization rate. There's about a two-week lag. You get infected today. You don't wind up in a hospital for about two weeks, so actually the diagnostic testing is the primary device.

But look, the politics on all of this are treacherous. This is one of those situations where you say "Forget the politics. Politics be damned.

[21:25:00]

Just do the right thing. Save as many lives as you can. Understand the practical reality about economic activity, and people have to work and people have to have a paycheck, and just do the right thing."

This is not about politics. You know, this is about being able to sleep for the rest of your life, looking back at this moment, and being able to say, "I did the right thing. I saved lives. I saved as many lives as I could."

You're going to get hit by both sides anyway. There is no win in this, right?

You're going to have the people on one side saying "You should have opened faster." You're going to have the other side saying "If you didn't open, you would have saved lives." That's the way it's going to be.

So, forget what "They" say. I don't care what they - there's no "They." It's this. It's this. And when it's over that I can say "We did everything we could. The government did everything it should.

We performed. We stepped up. We got the hospital beds built. We got the ventilators. We got the staff. And we saved the lives." And that's what we're going to do. So, I don't really care, frankly.

If the numbers say, we should dial back the economic activity, and the experts say, we should dial it back then we will do that.

But Chris, and I'll say to the people of this State, look, you've no - no one to blame but the person in the mirror because the economic activity will not increase the virus rate - rate if people are smart.

The mask, you want to hear a fascinating fact? First responders have a lower infection rate than the general population, nurses in emergency rooms, doctors in emergency rooms, transit workers, NYPD, Fire Department, EMT, they have a lower - they have a lower infection rate than the general population. How can that be? They're the ones who are in the emergency room with

the COVID-positive people. The masks, the PPE works. And the sanitizer works, the hand sanitizer. If people do that, the infection rate will be fine. If we get undisciplined to sloppy, then you're going to see it go up.

C. CUOMO: I appreciate your candor on what's happening. It's going to be a very tough summer for people. There's a lot of frustration. There's a lot of expectation. But there's also a lot of fear. And that's a lot to balance, as leaders.

Thank you for coming on. Thank you for having a good sense of humor about what is a very important public service message. A lot of people aren't getting tested because they're worried about it. Thank you for showing people how easy it is to get tested.

You're shaking your head in the negative, I'm not sure why.

A. CUOMO: That was not - you were beyond - don't call me. I'll call you.

C. CUOMO: What's wrong? I love you. I want you to know that.

A. CUOMO: Nothing. Nothing. I love you.

C. CUOMO: Have a - have a good night.

A. CUOMO: I love you.

C. CUOMO: What are you looking at?

A. CUOMO: I have the screen. I have the screen right here.

C. CUOMO: I'm not doing anything.

A. CUOMO: Because I don't trust you, so I had to put in the screen.

C. CUOMO: Look at the screen.

A. CUOMO: OK. OK.

C. CUOMO: Look at the screen right now.

A. CUOMO: Yes.

C. CUOMO: Yes, you did.

A. CUOMO: OK.

C. CUOMO: There's nothing. I'll see you later. Have a good night, Guv.

A. CUOMO: Yes.

C. CUOMO: Voting by mail, some Red states do it. The President voted by mail, so did the First Lady. But now it's a bad, dangerous, and illegal thing, according to the

President, why? Is this a matter of fact or is this once again about a feeling that he's projecting?

Threating to defund states that want to offer mail-in ballot applications, not even ballots themselves, during a pandemic, because people are afraid of being able to exercise their franchise safely.

At the center of the ire is the Secretary of State you're about to hear from, a message tonight, straight ahead.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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C. CUOMO: Any way you look at it, the pandemic is going to transform our life, including our elections. And that's why states are expanding voting by mail or at least the opportunity of it.

Now, the President sees this as a horrible thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mail-in ballots are very dangerous. There's tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. CUOMO: Is that true? No.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in either regular voting, which he's said in the past, and that was wrong, and he was told it was wrong, and he kept saying it. And the same is true with mail-in voting.

By the way, the President himself, along with the First Lady, both voted by mail in Florida's presidential primary in March. I guess that didn't bother him.

The Brennan Center for Justice looked into this, noting "Mail ballot fraud is incredibly rare," and that in the five states where mail balloting have been the primary method of voting, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, Washington, none has "had any voter fraud scandals." The most recent case of an absentee ballot fraud scheme, by the way, was in North Carolina's 9th District. It was a Republican, not a Democrat, who was at the center of it.

And for the President and his allies to make it as if "The Democrats are going to try and run something here," look at California earlier this month, what happened? A Republican candidate was declared the victor in an election done almost entirely by mail.

So, where's the there-there? Here it is. The President seems to think that anything that makes it easier for people to vote is going to hurt him.

More people voting, less chance he wins, in his mind, which is why he went after two key swing states today, Nevada, where Republican Secretary of State made the decision to send out absentee ballots, and Michigan, inaccurately tweeting, the State was sending out ballots to residents. That was untrue.

[21:35:00]

Then they corrected his tweet to ballot applications, and threatening to withhold federal funding, as punishment. Now, that's flawed also.

Michigan's Secretary of State responded to both tweets. Her latest response points out, quote, "Every Michigan registered voter has a right to vote by mail. I have the authority and responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise this right, just like my GOP colleagues are doing in Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, and West Virginia. Also, my name is Jocelyn Benson," and Benson is here tonight.

Welcome to PRIME TIME.

JOCELYN BENSON, (D) MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Thanks for having me and so great to see you feeling better.

C. CUOMO: Thank you very much. I'm one of the lucky ones.

So, for those who are monitoring this situation in your State, one, aren't you worried that there's going to be massive fraud if you do this because there's so much fraud all the time when people do mail-in voting, don't you know that?

BENSON: Well we've got provisions in place to ensure, just like in States that have been doing this for decades that the vote-by-mail system is secure, verified by a voter signature.

So really, as we know the data shows, voter fraud is infinitesimal. When it happens, we catch it through our security protections in place.

What we also know is dangerous to our democracy is misinformation, chaos and confusion about citizens' rights, how they can exercise their right to vote. And that's we're - really what we're trying to cut through today, as we've responded to clarify the President's misinformation about how elections work in Michigan. C. CUOMO: "But you must have a bad motive because this is all a boogeyman because COVID's not that bad, and people can go out and vote, just like they always have. It will be fine." The President says so.

BENSON: Well citizens have a choice in Michigan on how they vote, regardless of a pandemic or not. But we know they can vote by mail, they have a right to vote by mail, or they can vote in-person.

But we also know this is a time of true great uncertainty. And so, what we did, by mailing every registered voter, an application to vote by mail in our State, was to give them an ounce of certainty that our elections will happen this year, and that when they do, regardless of the health situation, they will have a protected right to vote by mail.

C. CUOMO: Are you worried that this decision will lose you federal funding as the President threatened?

BENSON: Well we have used federal fundings that we've received through CARES to mail these absentee ballot applications out, so we've received that funding.

And look, no State should print - you know, the President should not predicate funding, and certainly no federal entity should do that, based on a political agenda. That's illegal.

And, you know, but - but my focus is really just ensuring that every citizen can participate in our elections, securely and effectively, regardless of who they vote for, or what side of the political spectrum they're on. I'm fighting for everyone.

C. CUOMO: I've done a little bit of research on it with the team. Have you found any basis in law for the President to pull back money that has been appropriated by Congress for a specific use because he doesn't like how a State is using it?

BENSON: No. And, you know, it's important for us to also focus on, you know, the fact that we are in the midst of a time of great uncertainty, and a true pandemic, as we all know.

We've - are - we've got to work together to ensure, especially in a State like Michigan where, as you know, there have been residents affected by flooding today, and in the past few days, 10,000 residents displaced, we need the support of our Federal Government, not just to ensure our elections proceed securely and effectively, but that our people, all people, are protected and served effectively.

C. CUOMO: Do you feel rogue?

BENSON: I feel that I'm committed to doing my job, and that's ensuring that we meet voters where they are, communicate effectively how they can participate in this year's elections, and cut through the misinformation that we know is, frankly, probably going to escalate, in the months ahead, because of the pre-eminent role that Michigan plays in the national elections this year. So, that's my goal. Regardless of how someone casts their vote, they have a right to do it. My job is to ensure they can do that effectively and efficiently.

C. CUOMO: Has your legislature passed anything that you are rogue? Has the Governor said to you, "Secretary of State, I believe you are rogue on this. You should not be doing it this way. We don't like what you're doing."

BENSON: No. In fact, they've said, you know, the Chief Election Officer of the State of Michigan, it's very clear, especially with the constitutional right that voters gave themselves in Michigan to vote by mail, then it's our responsibility, my responsibility, to help them exercise that right.

That's really all we're doing here, as you mentioned, just like our Republican colleagues in other states. It's not a partisan issue. It's a democracy issue. And I'm proud to be fulfilling my responsibility, as a Secretary of State, to ensure every citizen has that right to vote, protected and secured.

C. CUOMO: And there has been no push by an Inspector General or an Attorney General against what you've done so far. But there is a political exigency.

[21:40:00]

In the State's March 10th presidential primary, half of the 2.3 million peoples who voted used absentee ballots.

In local elections, on May 5th, 99 percent of voters used absentee ballots, increasing turnout to 25 percent from an average of 12 percent in the last nine May elections. That tells us two things, one good, one bad.

The good thing is people want to vote, and they're worried, so they're going to use this option.

The bad thing is more people voted than usual, and that is something that is a very scary proposition with a Presidential election coming, and your State mattering so much.

How big a factor do you think that is, in what you're dealing with right now, having to stare at my big face?

BENSON: Well look, we know two things.

One, yes, voters enthusiastically embraced, in Michigan, their right to vote by mail. In elections, like in that May 5th local election, where our Office again mailed every registered voter an application to vote by mail, this is also a new right in our State.

This is the first series of statewide elections where this right is in place, so it's incumbent upon us to make sure our citizens know how to exercise it, and that's exactly what we're doing. And look, if turnout increases, if turnout continues to double, as it did in our local elections, on May 5th, that's an amazing great thing for our democracy.

And, you know, my life's work has been dedicated to ensuring that we increase voter engagement, increase the informed and engaged citizenry that makes our democracy healthy, and that's precisely what enabling vote-by-mail in our State, for every citizen, allows us to do.

C. CUOMO: Have you had a single actionable allegation or suggestion yet of abuse or fraud based on the first two primaries?

BENSON: No, we have not, no evidence of fraud, but plenty of evidence that people want to vote, and they want to vote by mail.

C. CUOMO: Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, thank you very much for being on PRIME TIME. Good luck to you. I hope the elections--

BENSON: Thank you.

C. CUOMO: --are all easy for the people to vote, and accurate.

BENSON: As do I, thanks.

C. CUOMO: All right, take care, thank you for coming on.

Look, it's all about how we deal with the pandemic effectively, safely. We need a strategy, and that's really what's missing.

How do we know? A group of top health leaders and former politicians from both parties are now saying "We got to fill the vacuum. There's no plan. We have to have one."

We have the former government officials leading this mission. What's not being done, what could be done, next.

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C. CUOMO: All right, big news here.

A bipartisan group, including top former federal health officials, they're not satisfied with how reopenings are rolling out. They want to see reopenings, but how you do it is the key, and there's not enough attention to that, in their opinion.

Here's the coordinated response they want to see, bipartisan, remember.

Adequate diagnostic testing and tracing, what does that mean? We'll ask. Continuous monitoring, what does that mean? We'll ask. Improved safety standards, same. A surge in healthcare capacity, we get that. Masks. Controls at airports and train stations. Neighboring states working in sync.

Now, some of these goals have also been put out by the Feds. Even the President ignores them. So, what makes any of these people think that there is a plan to be executed here?

The Co-Authors are here. Andy Slavitt, back with us tonight, along with former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Mark McClellan.

First, Gentlemen, thank you. Second, thank you for making the effort. Third, allow me to attack it.

Andy Slavitt, the reason that there is no plan that approximates anything like this on the federal level, even the CDC had to kind of secrete their plans out, you know, almost under cover of night, with no fanfare, is because they don't want to own the reopening protocols.

They want to put it on the states because they don't want to pretend COVID is such a big deal, which is why Trump won't wear a mask, but he'll take a magic pill. And they don't want to have the controls that you want to put in there - in their domain.

So Andy, why would they do this?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID, HOST, "IN THE BUBBLE" PODCAST, FORMER OBAMACARE ADMINISTRATOR: Well look, Chris, the most important thing, I think, we have right now is for all of us to go back, and try to enter the workplace, and move to this next stage, in a safest way as possible.

We don't think that there's a lot of Americans that sit around saying, "Gosh, I hope more people die," or "Gosh, I hope this economy stalls."

I think governors may have different methods, different approaches, different teams. But in the main, they're all trying to figure this out.

And there is, I think, a vocal minority of people, who would say, maybe at the extreme, that we should be opening at all costs or that we should be never opening the economy again.

We think there is, in effect, a silent majority of people, who don't go out and protest that have an articulated view that would encourage the governors and encourage the states to take a methodical approach.

We know there's no such thing as perfection. We know that they're not going to get it exactly right. But we think that there is a lane, to run through that - that majority of people want to take the course on and that we want to be able to help.

C. CUOMO: OK. So, Dr. McClellan, there are two points of pushback from a policy acceptance standpoint.

One is the people who say "This doesn't apply to me, Doc. It's good where I am. Our State doesn't have a lot of cases. Why do I have to go at the same rate as a New Jersey or a New York or a California?"

And the second one is "All the states are doing all this stuff already. They got all these gazillion dollars for testing. They all say they are testing enough, and there's plenty of testing. We don't need to change anything."

Deal with those two points.

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, DIRECTOR, DUKE-MARGOLIS CENTER FOR HEALTH POLICY, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well Chris, on the first point, there are a lot of states that fortunately for those states have low rates of COVID-19 infections.

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That's a good thing, and we'd like to keep it that way. That means they have a little bit of room to try out steps in reopening. And we think the steps that we outlined in this bipartisan report are the evidence-based ones, experts-supported. They are the most effective ways to do that.

It doesn't mean that they're immune from COVID-19 spreading. It just means that they have an opportunity to get this right without having a big increase in cases.

And it is true that there are a lot of resources out there now. The testing capacity is up. I wish it had been up sooner. But it's getting up now.

It still is a lot of work though for states to get those tests to the people who need them in every single community, particularly in high- risk areas, like nursing homes, in low-income communities, where people are often in housing with lots of other folks together, and makes it easier for the virus to spread.

So, we need to place extra effort in those areas in order to keep from seeing a surge in cases, in these states, where there - they've been lucky so far.

C. CUOMO: The surge in cases, Andy, is a coefficient of people's concern about the surge. Your idea of the silent majority, what if the silent and vocal majority is, "You know what? We're OK with the numbers. We understand the realities now.

Nobody wants more death. But we understand people are going to die, and we're making trade-offs. We get it. We'll do it as safely as we can, but we're going to do it now. And we're going to do it no matter what people tell us about waiting."

What do you say?

SLAVITT: There is a bit of a risk or a concern that we get, we start to get immune to these numbers. These death tolls, which were once shocking, are less shocking now, because we're getting used to them.

But I think, underneath that, people put their own safety, the safety of their families, and the safety of their communities, higher even than they've put other things in their lives that they've traditionally been very, very important to them, and are still important.

And so, we know, for example, that, you know, nine out of 10 people say they don't feel comfortable - comfortable gathering in crowds of 10 or more.

We know that and your - you know, your conversation with your brother, the Governor of New York was - was, I think, exactly right, which is people have always had the freedom to behaving in any way that they want.

We think nothing - you know, with governors saying you're now allowed to play in parks, or go to, in limited cases, to stores and restaurants, we don't think that that has to change the equation.

I mean, Mark and I, and the other people who worked on this letter think that people still will be cautious, and there is nobody that should be rooting against any State or any Governor to make a misstep.

There will be missteps. But we hope to be able to contain those missteps through some of the smart programs we're recommending.

C. CUOMO: And just to be very clear, let me plead your guys' case for a second. Andy Slavitt, and Dr. Mark McClellan, thank you very much for being on tonight.

This is an actual plan. They have lists of recommendations for how to reopen, and where, and areas that can reopen more safely, and how you should deal with what choices you'll have to make, about what you need to do to keep yourself and your family safe, based on where you're thinking about going.

So, it's all in the plan. We'll put the plan out online, as will they. We thank them for making the case to you tonight.

All right, Ameri-CANs are tonight's serving. They live over 600 miles from each other. But they are each working on special ways of helping those, who need it most, even more powerful.

Listen to this. It's not even the coolest part. You know what? I'm not going to give it away. This story, just when you see who the Ameri- CANs are, it's going to warm your heart, just their age, and their stage, and what they're doing, I promise, next.

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C. CUOMO: All right, the good news. While old people in Washington fight, young people are doing what's right.

Meet 12-year-old Jahkil Jackson of Chicago. He was honored as a CNN Hero last year for starting a non-profit that helps the homeless.

Now he's expanding his reach, giving more than 300 of his Blessing Bags to senior citizens. Each one of them is filled with hand sanitizer and other hygiene products. He leaves them outside to avoid adding to the risk of spread.

In Maryland, 7-year-old Cavanaugh Bell used $600 of his savings to buy food and supplies for the elderly. He's also opened up a Community Pantry, kid's 7, for families in need to pick up Care Packages with food and household items. A GoFundMe page run by his non-profit has raised more than $14,000.

Now, those two kids, far from each other, are teaming up. Each is sending the other their Care Packages and Blessing Bags to reach even more people.

You see, there's a lot of bad, but there's a lot of good as well. I'm telling you, ordinary people rise to do the extraordinary in times of crisis. I've seen it in natural disasters. I've seen it in manmade disasters, and we're seeing it now.

You don't look up except for guidance from above, but you don't look to leadership that way. You look to yourselves. If you want to keep one another safe, you will.

If you want to do what is best for one another, just like these kids, and let's bless their parents, right, for putting this in them, and inculcating these values in them, and helping them develop this love for one another, and for humanity.

That's our greatest strength here, our diversity, our determination to be interconnected, interdependent, especially in a time of need.

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon, right now.

Ah, going full Luv Guv, I see.