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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Biden At CNN Town Hall: "This President Should Step Down"; Ex- WH Aide: Trump Called COVID-19 "A Good Thing" Because He Didn't Like Shaking Hands With "Disgusting" Supporters; DoJ Doubles Down On Possible Sedition Charges For Protesters. Aired 9:15-10p ET
Aired September 17, 2020 - 21:15 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COOPER: We've also invited President Trump for a CNN Town Hall. We look forward to having the President join us before our Election Day perhaps.
BIDEN: Thank you.
COOPER: We also want to thank our drive-in audience, for being here, and for their questions, and thank you to PNC Field for hosting us.
Stay tuned for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" coming up next.
BIDEN: And can I see my family that's out there?
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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.
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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.
Joe Biden calling for President Trump to step down because of what he calls his failure to get this country together, and moving forward, in a time of crisis, suggesting the failure is something Trump knew he was doing.
In his first prime time Town Hall, since winning the Democratic nomination, of course right here on CNN, Joe Biden says Trump knew how deadly COVID was and did nothing and that that is "Close to criminal."
Now, Biden got an eye-popping endorsement today from one of Mike Pence's former top aides, a former White House Coronavirus Task Force member, who was working there just a month ago, and she is letting loose on President Trump.
We have some of her sound, and we're going to talk about the impact of all of this with our power team, David Axelrod, Abby Phillip, and Miles Taylor.
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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.
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CUOMO: Good to have all three of you. Miles, good, your shot there is in check.
Abby, let's start with net effect of the night, for Biden in the Town Hall, needle-mover or not?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I think one of the things that you saw in this is Biden's ability to just stand there and answer questions, in a coherent fashion.
And one of the reasons the bar is that low for Joe Biden is because President Trump has made it that low. He spent several weeks, talking about how Joe Biden isn't mentally fit, to run for the presidency, complaining that he thought that Biden was taking performance enhancement drugs.
And I think what the American people saw tonight was a Joe Biden who could answer a wide range of questions in actual - actually a great deal of detail.
He took a question from, a tough questioner, who was a Trump supporter, about regulations and about environmental regulations, and he was able to handle those questions. And I think that that is probably one of the more significant things to come out of tonight, especially as we're going into a period of the debates.
CUOMO: Under the "You can't make it up" category, Axe, you've got the President who pronounces Yosemite "Yo, Semite," and Thailand "Thighland" questioning the ability of his opponent to speak in coherent fashion, crazy days certainly, but important and in crisis.
Do you think that Joe Biden moved the needle with anyone that matters, any of the paucity of undecided or galvanizing his own group or fence- sitting Trump voters?
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's really hard to say. I did notice one thing that was very pronounced, which was a real populist edge to his rhetoric tonight.
He described the race as a race between Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he grew up, and Park Avenue. And he talked about guys who inherit their money and squander it versus the hard-working people, who grew up in the town that he came from.
And I think this is - this was very deliberate. I think you're going to see more of that. He is - it is an appeal to those White working- class voters who are very much the core of Trump support, and Biden is getting more of them than Hillary Clinton. He is trying to cement that support, and this is part of that effort. CUOMO: Miles, I want to play you a piece of sound from Mike Pence's former aide, who was working with the Coronavirus Task Force, Olivia Troye.
This - I want sound bite number two in the Control Room.
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OLIVIA TROYE, VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE'S FORMER LEAD CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE AIDE: Towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID would become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when.
But the president didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in election year and how is this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success. The truth is he doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself.
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CUOMO: Let's deal with just the premise of that, Miles.
One, do you know Troye?
And, two, that understanding of in the White House, we knew, we had it wrong. Everybody had it wrong. Fauci, everybody else was surprised by this, in January. But then, moving into February, they started to develop a different understanding that was met with hostility at the White House and certainly Presidential level.
MILES TAYLOR, FORMER SENIOR TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL, ENDORSED BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO DHS SECRETARY KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, so, Chris, I'll tell you this.
First on Olivia, she is, honestly, one of the most hard-working, honest public servants I have ever met in my entire career.
So, when the Vice President's office asks the Department of Homeland Security, "Do you guys have anyone you would recommend be the Homeland Security Adviser to the Vice President of the United States," the one person in a department of 250,000 people, we recommended was Olivia Troye, because her background was immaculate. Her service was extraordinary, and her qualifications were unmatched.
CUOMO: So, when they say, Miles, so--
TAYLOR: And so that's who we recommended.
CUOMO: --all right, good.
So, when they say Troye, "Troye hates Trump. She is just another deep, embedded statist, part of the conspiracy against him. Never liked him. And now she's out in the middle of a crisis, shows how much she cares," what's your response? TAYLOR: Chris, I'm going to tell you my response. I had lunch with the Vice President of the United States, in the West Wing of the White House, and he told me, to my face, "Olivia Troye is doing an incredible job as my Homeland Security Adviser."
Today, they sent out Keith Kellogg, the Vice President's National Security Adviser, to say Olivia was a disgruntled employee. Keith Kellogg told me, this year, "Olivia Troye is doing an incredible job. I am so glad that DHS referred her to us." So, it's bogus. This is what they do when someone criticizes them, Chris.
But bigger picture, I would say this, look, when we talk about accountability, in American society, we think, these days, especially after the summer with civil unrest, about things like body cams, on police officers, you should think of Olivia Troye as the body cam, in the West Wing of the White House, giving you a real-time testimonial to what is happening in this Administration.
She is the body cam for the American people of how this President is making decisions in a moment - in a moment of extraordinary consequence, just like when a police officer does something that's very important, in a moment of extraordinary consequence.
As this President made the most important national security decisions of his tenure, Olivia Troye was there, as the body cam, and now she is telling us what she saw, and America should listen.
CUOMO: Abby, we've heard this before that the President was worried that the pandemic would get in the way of the strength of the economy and that's why he didn't want the pandemic to get too much attention early on, played it with the hoax line, and everything else, right up until the resistance to masks. No?
PHILLIP: Well, he said it himself, Chris. I mean the President told Bob Woodward, on tape, that he wanted to downplay it because he didn't want to cause panic.
And it wasn't just panic among individuals. It was panic in the markets that at the time he was saying publicly he was very concerned about that. He talked about it all the time around that same period of time.
So, it's very clear, based on the President's own statements that this was a driving force for him, in fact, when he repeatedly said that he didn't want to bring Americans off of ships offshore, where there was Coronavirus present on those ships, because he didn't want the numbers to go up, so that he would look bad.
These are all things that are in the public record that are out there that he said himself that point to the President being very concerned about the impact on the economy, about the impact on - well, frankly, the economy being the biggest thing that is important to him because that is what he knew he needed to run on.
It's still actually, based on the polling, he still has an edge there, but that edge is eroding, and that is what he was principally concerned with.
CUOMO: Axe, does this matter to his base or any Republican voter?
AXELROD: What Olivia Troye has to say?
AXELROD: I don't think - I think his core base is implacable. There aren't that many moving parts in politics.
But the fact is, Chris, the President is behind. He is 7 points behind on the average nationally. He is behind by less but significant margins in many of these battleground states, and time is running out. And he needs to move voters.
When stories like this surface, it only creates more difficulty, more headwinds for him, in trying to win back some voters he's lost and win some voters that he's never had. So, I think it's problematic for him.
But I just want to say one thing in reaction to what Miles said. It was an interesting analogy to call her the body cam of this operation. The difference is, of course, she is a human being. She's not a piece of equipment. And she did something very, very courageous.
She is sophisticated enough to know that by coming forward, she would make herself a target, and she has made herself a target, and felt it was enough consequence to take that risk.
And it, in my view, is a heroic thing to do, because it is unpleasant to be in - a target of the abuse that she already has begun to take and will continue to take because they have to try and discredit her. Her testimonial is too powerful.
No matter - this what's - no matter how hard you work, the President was going to do something detrimental to keeping Americans safe, it was awful. It was terrifying. That is powerful, powerful stuff.
CUOMO: There is another piece of sound from her that I think is actually going to make it easier to discredit her in this bizarro world that we're living in right now.
Let's play the first sound bite.
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TROYE: When we were in a Task Force meeting, President said "Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people." Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about.
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CUOMO: Now, Miles, people will hear that. He will say exactly what he said after "The Atlantic" reporting, which is, "I would never say anything like that. They know I love them. And that shows you everything you need to know about her."
It may actually hurt her with his team, where ordinarily if someone comes out like that, and talks about Joe Biden, he's got a real problem on his hands. How do you analyze that dynamic?
TAYLOR: Well, two things, Chris.
One, I want to echo what David just said. And that is what Olivia did was brave. In no way is this going to be beneficial to her career--
TAYLOR: --to her future, to her personal life. And I think that's - what she did was very impressive.
Second, in terms of the quote itself, I think that Olivia has said what many of us have heard, in the Oval Office with Donald Trump, in meetings with Donald Trump, or in events with Donald Trump, and that is he shows callous disregard for the people that he claims to represent, and to support, and he shows callous disregard for human life.
And we've seen that when it comes to migrants at the border or American lives that are under threat from natural disasters. Donald Trump cares about one person, and one person only, and that's Donald Trump. And I don't say that lightly, Chris.
This is the President of the United States. I went in to serve with him. I went in as a Republican, but I left feeling that he was the least compassionate leader I had ever worked under, in my entire life. And Olivia Troye had that same experience.
And David's right. She's not just a body cam. She is a human being. She's a human being, and you watch that video, and the emotion you see in that video is not coached, it's not from a director.
That's from a woman who had a very real experience in this Administration, first-hand, saw this President, and left feeling like they weren't doing enough to protect the American people, and the President didn't care.
CUOMO: Abby, do you think there was anything tonight that showed a potential avenue of future strength for Biden or a potential vulnerability for Biden?
PHILLIP: Well, I do think that the - there were a couple of questions about the economy, about people's wages, about healthcare workers. And there's so much talk right now about--
PHILLIP: --social issues and about all kinds of ancillary things.
But the central issue for many Americans remains the economy, their economic future and their economic stability. And I did feel like Biden was able to turn a lot of these questions back around to that core issue, repeatedly in a way that I thought was pretty effective.
The second thing that I thought was effective and will become more important is when he's asked about, how do you work with people across the aisle? He had an answer for that.
He said, "You know, I don't judge people's motives." He basically said "I don't burn bridges with people. I've been able to do a lot of deals, over the years, in my career, by being able to work with people across the aisle."
I think the American people are going to be looking for, "What is the alternative? If Trump is one thing, what is the antithesis to that thing?" And I think Biden began to articulate that case for himself, tonight, with some of these questions.
CUOMO: Axe, final word from you, with a little bit of shading on, does Biden get hindered in that effort by being part of the Obama/Biden Administration when you had such a culture of opposition coming from the Right, so it was very difficult to get things done? But that is something he'll have to defend.
AXELROD: Yes, look, I mean, you can't have it both ways. He very much is running on that record and that legacy.
But, in Washington, at the time that he was serving, he was known among legislators as someone who they could talk to. He did have a relationship with McConnell and others. Whether or not the politics will allow them to cooperate with him, if he gets elected, is another question.
But he spent 36 years in the United States Senate. He understands the art of dealing with fellow legislators and understanding what their needs are and what their perspective is. I think that could be very helpful to him if, in these very polarized times, they feel they have the room to maneuver.
CUOMO: I don't do a lot of panels on PRIME TIME. But I like you three. This was very - this was very helpful. I honestly can say I couldn't anticipate any of your answers, so thank you.
All - these are all big moments, man. As we get down now, you're getting fewer and fewer at-bats, so they matter more and more.
David Axelrod, Abby Phillip, Miles Taylor, thank you for the perspective and the analysis on an important night.
All right, so obviously all of this is happening under the cloud of what? The pandemic. 20,000 more of us could die from COVID in the next few weeks.
And remember, you can politicize that number as much as you want. "Oh, but they're mostly old people. They're mostly 55-plus. They're people, so for young people, for most people, it's all OK."
Tell that to the families that people, by the way, in that age range happen to be the fathers, and the mothers, and the centers of the family, and the matriarchs, and the patriarchs, and the people you want around as long as you can have them. But that's where we are.
Director Robert Redfield of the CDC said, "Wear your mask." The President never says that to you. He said it once, "It's a patriotic duty." Never said it again! And now, when Redfield said it, he is trying to shut him up again, and shut out science. Why?
Let's ask special guest tonight, his own former HHS Secretary. You're going to hear it straight from Dr. Tom Price, next.
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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.
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CUOMO: It seems pretty clear at this point that President Trump believes he can own the pandemic response by generating the vaccine. Let's get some perspective from his own Surgeon General, who said this.
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JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We don't need to wait until we get a vaccine or some miracle drug to get this virus under control. We can do it right now.
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CUOMO: Now, what is the Surgeon General talking about? The same thing that the CDC Head was talking about, the same thing that Tony Fauci and the other Task Force members have told you.
What you hear from lawmakers, even Republican ones, who aren't within earshot of the President. You can wear the mask. Socially distance as called for and deal with hygiene.
Let's ask somebody who understands the Trump Administration from the inside, in fact, the very agency that could be helping lead the way during this pandemic. Tom Price, Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services, before leaving in 2017, amid controversy.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
TOM PRICE, FORMER HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Hey, Chris. Good to be with you.
CUOMO: Let's look at the past through this lens. Had you not gone through that scandal, and having to admit what happened with the planes, and paying it back, you probably would not have been dismissed, certainly from the Trump Administration. You'd be there now. Is that a source of regret for you?
PRICE: There's a lot more to that story, and that's not why I was called, to be on this--
CUOMO: I know.
PRICE: --on this show, this evening. But I don't know that I would still be there.
There are a lot of individuals who come through the Administration. I think what's important about this issue, right now, is that the incredible privilege that I had to work at HHS and lead HHS with 80,000 employees, literally across the world.
The American people, your viewers can be incredibly proud of the remarkable work that's being done, CDC, NIH, FDA, throughout the entire globe on health issues. And so, it was a remarkable privilege for me to be able to serve at HHS, and it will be one of my highest honors.
CUOMO: The spokesperson there, until very recently, Michael Caputo, suggested something else. He suggested that scientists within that agency and others were working to thwart the President to keep people in the dark, to keep this pandemic out there, to help political ambitions of getting rid of the President.
Do you buy that?
PRICE: No. What I saw were incredibly dedicated people, whether they were political appointees or whether they were career individuals. These are folks that especially who have been there for a long time could be doing all sorts of other things.
But what they've dedicated, many of them, dedicated their lives to, is making certain that the health and wellbeing and the safety of the American people are improved. And so, it was a great honor for me to be able to serve with them. And the CDC was right at the top of that list.
CUOMO: Do you agree with Dr. Redfield in his recent analysis of the plus/minus on vaccines and the absolute science behind masks?
PRICE: Well, I thought Dr. Redfield was very clear, and I commend him for what he said. We are dealing with a new infectious disease. You remember Chris, when it came out it was called the Novel Coronavirus.
PRICE: And that was because it's new.
All of us, all of us, in the world literally, are immunologically naive because our bodies haven't seen this disease before. And so, when you have a new infectious disease, we're watching Public Health 101 play out in real-time before the American people and before citizens of the world.
And when you have a new infectious disease, one of the things that you have to do initially is to mitigate the spread of the infectious disease. You need to be able to detect it. That's the testing.
But the mitigation is key. And one of the major mitigation activities that you could do is to socially distance, to physically distance, and to wear a mask. This is not - this is not rocket science.
This is something that public health has known for years. If you look back at the pictures from 1918, what did folks had on?
CUOMO: That's exactly what they did.
PRICE: They had masks on.
CUOMO: That's right.
Then why do you believe the President has taken such an opposite tack having the rallies? Sure, his campaign staff will say, "Hey, you want a mask?" He never encourages people to wear masks. He did once in public. But since then, he's been quiet about it, and intentionally so.
Why does he take that tack?
PRICE: Yes, I don't know. But what I will tell you is that the role of physicians and the role--
CUOMO: Well it matters, right?
PRICE: It's incredibly important.
PRICE: The role of physicians and the role of scientists is to provide the best information that they have, and the most honest and candid information that they have. And that's my goal, at this point. This--
CUOMO: Do you think people should be wearing masks?
PRICE: When they're unable to physically distance, and when they're not within their cohort, if you will, that they know is safe, absolutely.
CUOMO: If they go to a rally should they wear a mask? PRICE: I - if they go to a rally, if they go to a protest, if they're in a group of individuals that they don't know, and they're not able to physically distance, then it's Public Health 101 to wear a mask.
CUOMO: Would you hold a rally right now, if you're going to have a book come out, or do whatever and they say "Hey, we're going to pack this house for you tonight. Masks are optional," would you be OK with that?
PRICE: I haven't attended an event since the beginning of this that hasn't respected the imperative of this disease and making certain that there is - there is mitigation activities going on. Whether it's wearing a mask--
PRICE: --whether it's social distancing, whether it's just a few people in a certain area. This, again, this is not difficult stuff. This is stuff that we've known for over--
CUOMO: I agree.
PRICE: --a 100 years.
CUOMO: I agree.
PRICE: And it's imperative. And the American people understand this in their gut.
And that's why I think you're seeing some of the good trends that we're seeing. We're seeing decrease in hospitalizations, decrease in transmissions, decrease in deaths. And that's because folks, I think, are paying more attention now.
We're having a little bit difficulty on the university campuses, and we need to - we need to get our young constituents to be able to recognize the imperative of their role in all of this.
PRICE: A lot of personal responsibility needs to be held. But we're doing better as a nation. And I think we need to celebrate that.
CUOMO: Yes, except we are doing better despite the constant messaging of the President of the United States, Doc. And I get that you don't want to talk straight politics. I understand that. But I think the truth, I don't think, I know the truth demands it.
CUOMO: We all know that the science says we should wear masks. The President says otherwise.
So, telling the truth to the American people says, Science 101 says, Medicine 101 says, wear a mask, and it is wrong for the President to suggest and encourage otherwise. I think you need to say both parts, if you want to tell people the
truth. Do you agree?
PRICE: Well, I think - I think what I'm inspired by is the work of the Surgeon General. I'm inspired by the work of the CDC Director. I'm inspired by the work at NIH, and the individuals there, and the folks who have been very clear on this. There's been no ambiguity--
CUOMO: But they have been frustrated--
PRICE: --on what has to occur (ph).
CUOMO: --and silenced by a president who gets upset when they say what you are saying right now, which is why Redfield got slapped down.
PRICE: And that--
CUOMO: I'm asking you again. Do you want to point out that the President shouldn't be doing that and that he shouldn't be discouraging mask use?
PRICE: I'm past the days of trying to decide why individuals in the political arena do what they do.
CUOMO: Not individuals, Doc.
PRICE: What I am - what I want to do--
CUOMO: The President. The President
PRICE: --what I want to do is to be very, very clear, Chris. Chris, what I want to do is to be--
CUOMO: The President, Doctor.
PRICE: --very clear that this is a new infectious disease. We need to mitigate the challenges of this disease. And one of the major things that we can do, everybody, in a personal responsibility standpoint, regardless of what the President says, regardless of what--
CUOMO: How can you say regardless of what the President says, when you don't even want to say--
PRICE: --certain officials has been saying, is to wear - is to wear a mask.
CUOMO: Doc, I got to tell you. You know I've known you for a while. I have respect for you as a clinician. What I am saying is this.
I get that you don't want to get in the political morass, but if you don't want to get people to a better place, then you keep playing the game where you don't want to get in Trump's face about this. But people don't wear masks because they believe he doesn't think you need them to.
PRICE: And-- CUOMO: You have an odd political symbiosis between people who don't want to wear masks and who support the President.
PRICE: Which is precisely why I am here right now.
CUOMO: Why won't you say he shouldn't say it?
PRICE: Which is precisely why I am on the air right now, and that is to encourage individuals to recognize the science, to follow the science, to follow the physician's recommendations.
CUOMO: And the President tells them they don't have to.
PRICE: And to do the things--
CUOMO: So now what?
PRICE: And to do the things that need to be done to mitigate the challenge of this disease.
CUOMO: And the President says you don't have to. "The mask is optional."
CUOMO: "Come to my big rally. It's going to - it's going to disappear by the way."
CUOMO: "The virus is going to disappear even if we do nothing."
PRICE: If I were at that rally, if I were at, I told you, if I were in an area where there was no ability to physically distance, and there were a lot of individuals there, I would wear a mask and would encourage every single person to do so.
CUOMO: And what would you say to the person who is telling people to do otherwise? I'm not letting it go, Doc. It's too important
PRICE: I think, Chris, I think that that is belying science. The science dictates, the public health activities dictate that--
CUOMO: I agree with you. But you won't say that Trump is belying the science.
PRICE: --that these mitigation activities--
CUOMO: And his people respect you. They need to hear. "OK, now I'll wear a mask. I get it. He says Trump is wrong to tell me. All right, I get it."
PRICE: I think they've - I think they've gotten that message, Chris. CUOMO: All right, one other thing for you. The President is saying that he is going to have a great plan. You were at HHS. That's where a plan would have had a significant home in generation.
Why three years in should Trump supporters and other voters who are thinking about voting for him have trust that he is going to come up with a plan when he's had all this time to come up with a plan and hasn't?
PRICE: Well I think the contrast to where we find ourselves right now is that there are real challenges in the healthcare system, and the question is what is the - what is the answer? How do we get ourselves to a better place in terms of our healthcare systems?
PRICE: And what the Administration, I think, has been working on, and I know individuals, my old friends, former colleagues in the U.S. House and in the U.S. Senate, they've been working on issues to make certain that we don't put the government in charge of things because we know that when that happens then people are further removed from being able to communicate with their doctor and being able to get the treatment that they need.
CUOMO: Fine. But that doesn't mean you don't have a plan. Why doesn't he have a plan 3.5 years in?
PRICE: You'd have to ask folks that are there now. If I had been - had the privilege of sticking around for a period of time, I believe we would have been able to move a plan forward. However--
CUOMO: They should have had a plan right? Should they have a plan?
PRICE: Oh, I had a plan. As you and I have talked about before, I had a plan when I was in the United States House of Representatives.
CUOMO: Right. But he didn't make that plan, your plan, and he hasn't come up with any other plan except to say he's going to have a plan. That's not enough.
PRICE: And he--
CUOMO: Is it?
PRICE: No. You got to have a plan. You can't beat something with nothing.
CUOMO: There it is. That's right.
PRICE: And so, I encourage my colleagues to talk about the imperative of greater choices. We've been working on a plan through Job Creators Network and Physicians for Reform that's called a "Healthcare for You" to make certain that we contrast it with Medicare-for-All. Medicare- for-All is a one-size-fits-all program.
CUOMO: I got you. PRICE: But what we want is "Healthcare for You" for individual patients all across this land.
CUOMO: I get it.
PRICE: That's the key.
CUOMO: Well this is what we need to do.
CUOMO: When the President puts out his competing plan, then we'll have two plans to compare. I want you to come back on the show, and help me go through both of what you see as the pluses and minuses.
Doctor, I appreciate you, Dr. Price, coming on. I appreciate you as a clinician. That's why I'm chasing you about the accountability because we need to start telling people--
PRICE: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: --the truth and what to believe and what not because we're getting sick literally. Doc, thank you for being with us.
PRICE: Thanks. Take care.
CUOMO: All right.
Now look, they're not easy conversations. I'm sorry that it has to be difficult, but it shouldn't be difficult. The truth should be simple.
If the science is "Wear a mask" and the President is ignoring that, then you have to say he is wrong to ignore it. I get that it's upsetting. It get that it hurts your partisan standing. It's making us sick. Doesn't happen here. It's how it is.
The Department of Justice is doubling down on the idea of charging protesters with sedition, OK? Now, sedition is not a catchall. It's a specific thing. It requires specific elements, and it is a big deal.
In a memo sent to U.S. attorneys, nationwide, Deputy A.G. Jeffrey Rosen writes, "The Attorney General and I recently discussed with you the need to consider the use of a variety of federal charges when they may be appropriate, including seditious conspiracy."
Seditious conspiracy, let's try that out on former U.S. Attorney, who was fired by President Trump, Preet Bharara.
Good to have you right now.
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, HOST, "STAY TUNED WITH PREET" PODCAST: Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: Let me ask you this. What do you see behind this move? Do you see this as a logical legal move or something else? BHARARA: I see it as something else, and that's based on the track record of not just the President, but the Attorney General of the United States, who doesn't work for the President, but works for the public, for the American people, trying to, in some ways, echo through his position, and through legal positions, the rhetoric of the President.
Sedition is a big deal crime to bring. As you say, it's a very specific statute that has specific elements, and it's not typically used in this fashion. In fact, it's almost never used in this fashion.
I haven't done all the research, and I plan to go back and take a look.
But more likely, it seems like this is another example of the Attorney General doubling down on what the President says, and does and, in effect, on some occasions, tries to help the President's allies, and on other occasions, tries to make war on the President's adversaries.
And it's whole - he's wholly talking about these protests and rhetoric about them, and who is at fault, he overemphasizes one group of people and underemphasizes another group of people, namely White supremacists.
So, it seems to me it is part and parcel of a political message rather than something that's legally sound.
CUOMO: What happens next?
BHARARA: That's a great question. We don't know.
CUOMO: But I know you volunteered your services to one of the municipalities in question. Why?
BHARARA: Well, again, I don't know if the report is true.
There is a report that the Attorney General asked people in the Civil Rights unit - in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to look at potential charges against a former U.S. Attorney, current Mayor of the City of Seattle.
That strikes me as preposterous, and so I hope it is not true. It would seem not to be true because it's not based on any fact or really principle that I'm aware of.
There is also confirmed evidence, I think confirmed by the Justice Department itself that the Department had been looking at figures, political figures, officials in Portland, Oregon.
BHARARA: And bizarre to me because I've seen rhetoric coming out of the Attorney General in a gaslighting form, where he says, "You know, here's a problem in America today. You can't just say you don't like your adversary. You have to say that they need to be charged with a crime and put them in jail."
Number one, that's what the President does. That's what the President says on a regular basis, going back to 2015, talking about Hillary Clinton.
And that's what it appears that his own Justice Department has been contemplating doing with respect to political adversaries and enemies and thorns in their side in Portland, and potentially in Seattle.
CUOMO: Well it's another promise made--
BHARARA: And that kind of attack--
CUOMO: --another promise made, promise kept. He used to say "Lock her up." Maybe now A.G. Barr will find a way to make that promise kept.
Preet Bharara, I got to run. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
BHARARA: Thank you so much.
CUOMO: We'll be right back.
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CUOMO: CNN's "Champions for Change" series shows you people making positive changes, like a young man who is reshaping harmful narratives. Watch this.
TONY WEAVER JR., FOUNDER, WEIRD ENOUGH PRODUCTIONS (voice-over): The United States is in a place of reckoning, in that what some people interpret as rising racial tensions that are recent are actually things that have been present in our country for a really long time that I believe are actually woven into the fabric of what this country is.
WEAVER JR. (on camera): Black students are dealing with something especially stressful right now. They see pictures and videos of people that look like them being killed and assaulted by police around the country.
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): When I think about kids, right now, it makes me realize that there's a lot of work that needs to be done. WEAVER JR. (on camera): When I was younger, I was dealing with a lot
of bullying and I wanted nothing more than to not exist. I can't rest knowing that there are kids that look like me that want nothing more than for somebody to look at them and say, "I believe in you, you're worth something," and they don't have it.
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): When I started Weird Enough in 2014, I was struck by the fact that media portrayals of Michael Brown were having a tangibly negative impact on the way that I, as an individual, was treated on a predominately White college campus.
WEAVER JR. (on camera): So, I had a thought process that maybe media representation can have a positive impact as well.
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): My work is rooted in creating a new world of diverse and original stories, featuring characters and heroes that help young people find the hero in themselves.
WEAVER JR. (on camera): I'm really excited to see everybody.
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): The Weird Enough team is scattered around the globe.
WEAVER JR. (on camera): Our thought was, what if we could take that same amazing feeling that you get when you watch an anime, and translate it scientifically to the way that young people behave in school, and the way that they develop?
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): So, we have a program where we take an original comic series that we created called "The Uncommons" and we partner it with lesson plans and curricula that can be used in school but also any kid or any parent or caretaker can access from home, too.
AMARA BOWMAN, THIRD-GRADER: Roman has very, very, very great power.
What I like most about "The Uncommons" is that it is about Black heroes that save the day. My favorite character is Iris because she is mostly curious and funny. She is a Black girl and a hero. Kind of like me.
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): Our characters do fight giant monsters, but they're not the type that are the size of buildings.
WEAVER JR. (on camera): They are different types of monsters. Insecurities, fears, past failures, things that people spend their entire lives running from.
DR. YOLANDRA HANCOCK, PEDIATRICIAN: This doctor approves of Tony Weaver's message.
When we have books that can speak to what messages we are trying to encourage in our children, there is one thing for me to say it as a mommy, but there is something completely different when my daughter can look at a book and see herself.
And the messages speak to some of the challenges that she has as a little Black girl growing up in this country.
HATTIE MITCHELL, FOUNDER, CRETE ACADEMY: There has not been, in my experience, a curriculum that represents our Black and Brown kids in a positive way.
When Tony introduced his literacy program in 2017, he also just spoke to the kids about being a young Black entrepreneur. So, they were inspired that this young kid with a cape, who is super cool and has a high-top haircut, looks like them.
WEAVER JR. (voice-over): For me, my cape is a way to unapologetically bring myself into any space I enter, my way of saying that I'm not going to allow any people to minimize who I am. But what's a cape for me might be different for a different young person, so I encourage them to find--