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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Chris Christie On Republicans Not Acknowledging Biden Win; Confusion Grows As Feds Tell States To Expect Fewer Doses, But Pfizer Says It Has "Millions" Of Unclaimed Doses; Former NH GOP Chair On Why She's Leaving The Republican Party. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 17, 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]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: And just as we leave air, this evening, some new numbers, 2,995 reported deaths so far today. Another grim count that is, sadly, not over.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, John. Appreciate it.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We all know that we are under attack. And our President is absent at best and part of the problem in the main. We have cyber-attacks from abroad, from Russia, and they are being ignored.

We have political broadsides from within that this President underscores. Even the vaccine he celebrated, distribution is faltering and he is nowhere. Cronies are doing more planning on how to make things worse than to help deliver the drug that can make things better. Proof.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR-ELECT TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Listen to me now. We have no choice but to win this election. They're going to try to steal it. They're going to try to buy it. They're going to do everything they can, lie, cheat, steal, to win this election, like they did in the presidential election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to fight to make this election right?

TUBERVILLE: We're going to fight hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you all do on January 6th? Madison said you all had tricks up your sleeve.

TUBERVILLE: We got to run to it in here (ph) pardon me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This way.

(CROSSTALK)

TUBERVILLE: Well you'll see what's coming. You've been reading about it in the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats are not going to win the House--

(CROSSTALK)

TUBERVILLE: And we're going to have to, we're going to have to do it in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: This isn't some halftime talk, "You know, we're going to have to tackle. We're going to have to deal with the fact." This matters! And that's a Senator-elect, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who's a football coach.

But now he's playing politics and making his new opponent, democracy. There he was in Georgia, signaling a baseless challenge that when Congress comes together, to certify the Electoral College next month, something's going to happen.

And of course, no bad deed goes un-praised! Trump calling Tuberville "A great champion and man of courage," saying "More Republican senators should follow his lead."

You mean lie? You mean put you before the country or democracy?

Let me be clear about what they should say but they won't. "You are wrong. You have proven only your perfidy. And you have no honor. You have reduced your office in a way that I'm not sure this country recovers from anytime soon."

But you're not going to hear that. It's bad enough that I say it. Believe me, it comes with a price.

But courage is not spitting BS. It's standing up to it. And if you'll notice, Senator McConnell, other leaders on what used to be the GOP, are silent, and therefore, I submit to you, complicit.

While Re-Trump-licans destroy from within, they ignore the real threat from the virus and from abroad. Trump's own former Homeland Security Adviser is putting him on blast. Tom Bossert warns this suspected Russian hacking of our federal agencies is ongoing and its magnitude is hard to overstate. He says Trump must take action.

You're not going to hear that from anybody who's still in there, though, right? Where is their loyalty? Why do they raise their hand and take an oath about anything other than him?

However, when it comes to what to do in the face of Russian torment, Trump being absent may be our best play, because, in his last effort, he chose Putin over patriotism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: My people came to me. Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said, they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I'm told the football coach senator is Tuberville, not Tuberville.

So what? You're going to know his name fine, because he's going to be among those who must be remembered for doing the wrong thing with power they were given for people, not for Trump.

Now, luckily, President-elect Biden assured Americans today that he's not going to stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation. We'll see.

Here's what I can tell you right now. Biden will not be enough. America needs all her might, Left and Right, to take on the perils of the pandemic and of geopolitics and, frankly, domestic politics.

The only remedy for us right now, it's not going to be as good as a vaccine, but it's all we have. We have to show what is right and wrong, both. You must show people who do the job right, and show those who do the job wrong. It's the only way we're going to get out of this.

You have to make hard times better, and you have to stop those who are making them worse. And on that list of worst, Mitch McConnell has to come first. He delayed aids for months in deference to defending companies from litigation from sick workers. That's the truth.

[21:05:00]

And now, he has the unmitigated gall to say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): They've waited, and suffered, and some have died while needless political games have played out.

Struggling Americans don't just need action. They need action fast, fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: There was never a plan that was presented to the Democrats that they could have without that liability waiver until now. The hungry have been hungry for months. And McConnell is the reason why.

And the reason I say "Until now" is because you have to know why he's changing now. It is not for the hungry, because he would have done it sooner. It is for him, and the Re-Trump-licans looking to win in Georgia. He just admitted as much in a phone call that came out. "We need

relief. We're getting killed with it in Georgia." Why? Georgia matters. You lose Georgia, they lose the Senate. Biden would have no one trying to sabotage his efforts with any success.

I get the risk to McConnell's power. But our process can't be like this anymore. I know you expect it, but that doesn't make it right. You have to expect better again. You have to be open to disappointment. You have to be open to getting hurt, for wanting better, because otherwise we're only going to get worse.

Power must be for the people, not personal position. We got to, wake up to our existential threats, and hold the people in power, to account, who are not doing their jobs, to protect you from them.

They hold positions of honor. They are called "Honorable" for a reason. And they don't live up to it anymore. And that is a disgrace that you can't tolerate. When will these men and women remember that when they raise their hand, their oath is to country, not fealty to Trump?

Now, former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie is a big deal in that Party, and he is singing a different tune from the choir, when it comes to COVID.

He just put out a PSA to warn Americans, "Don't do what I did." Not easy to say in politics, by the way. Christie is saying "I didn't wear a mask. I got COVID. I ended up in the ICU. And you might too, if you ignore the guidelines and the science."

Now, you remember him from Jersey, running for President, led the Trump transition in 2016, but it is time for transition again. And I welcome the Governor back to PRIME TIME.

Governor, thanks for joining us. It's good to see you looking well. How are you feeling?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Feeling very good, Chris. Back to 100 percent.

CUOMO: Good. Thank god for that. Best to you and the family.

First one beat, and then I want to get to the ad. What do you say to members of your party's, who are in Congress, who are even contemplating doing something, on January 6th, to disturb the certification of the Electoral College?

CHRISTIE: Chris, whenever anybody loses an election, party, an individual, there's great disappointment. But elections have consequences.

And this one was clearly won by President-elect Biden, by the same margin in the Electoral College that President Trump won, four years ago, and by, even more, nearly double the popular vote.

This election, there's been no evidence put forward that's shown me, as a former prosecutor that there was any fraud that would change the result of the election. And so, it's time for us to accept that defeat, also, by the way, accept the many victories we had that night.

14 new House members, two legislatures in the state level switched, and a Governorship flipped to the Republican Party. We had a great night except at the top of the ticket. And so, we need to accept that and we need to move on.

CUOMO: And now the quick response from who I call the Re-Trump-licans would be RINO. "You're Republican In Name Only. You're not loyal. You're not about us anymore." What do you say to them?

CHRISTIE: What I say is I'm a person who relies on the facts. And the facts are that every one of these lawsuits has been thrown out of court, not because these judges and, certainly, not the justices of the Supreme Court lacked courage. It's because the claims lacked evidence.

Believe me, Chris, if there was evidence there that I believed showed that this election was stolen from President Trump, I'd be on your show tonight yelling and screaming that this (INAUDIBLE) you got to fight based on the facts. And so, name-calling won't change anything at this point.

CUOMO: Why do you think the President--

CHRISTIE: Name-calling won't change anything.

CUOMO: --why do you think the President persists, Governor?

CHRISTIE: I don't think - I've known him for 20 years, and he's a friend of mine. This is who he is. He was not going to accept losing lightly or easily, if losing came. And that's what's happening.

But I think most of his friends now have either said to him directly, personally and/or publicly that it's time to move on from what was a difficult defeat but a defeat nonetheless.

[21:10:00]

CUOMO: Is it hard to be friends with somebody who you know is lying about something as serious as an election being rigged, and saying that there's proof, that it's proven, that it happened, that he won, and you know he knows that's all bullshit?

CHRISTIE: Chris, listen, I've been his friend for 20 years. And I think you know this about me. I stand next to friends even when they're wrong, even when they make mistakes.

You pointed out, and I've been very vocal from election night forward that if you're going to claim there's fraud you got to show me the evidence. And that's what friends do.

Friends tell other friends when they're wrong. Friends tell other friends when they have a different point of view. I've said that publicly and privately. I'll continue to say it. But it doesn't erase 20 years of friendship that I have with the President. I'm not that kind of guy.

I'm the kind of guy who stands up and next to their friends, even when they're wrong, but I'll tell them when they're wrong, and I believe that. And that's what I've done in this circumstance because the President's had his chance to prove these things in court, and they're just not proven.

CUOMO: Now, you are taking a different path than he took when it comes to the pandemic.

No reason to hide it. I immediately reached out to you when I heard you were sick. I care about you and your family. I wanted to make sure you were going to be OK. And you had us worried, but you pulled through. Thank god.

You came out of that and said "I'm not playing with this anymore. I should have worn a mask before. I'm going to say it now." You're putting out a couple of different ads about this.

I want to play one now for the audience. Here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: This message isn't for everyone. It's for all those people who refuse to wear a mask. Lying in isolation in ICU for seven days, I thought about how wrong I was to remove my mask at the White House.

Today, I think about how wrong it is to let mask-wearing divide us, especially as we now know you're twice as likely to get COVID-19, if you don't wear a mask. Because if you don't do the right thing, we could all end up on the wrong side of history. Please, wear a mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The line that grabbed me in that was "The wrong side of history." You could have ended it different ways. You could have said "You may wind up sick or worse, your family may miss you." You said "The wrong side of history." Why?

CHRISTIE: Because I think that we'll look back on this pandemic, for decades to come, and see what we did right and what we did wrong.

Now, let me be clear, Chris, and you know this because we've talked all during this pandemic. I wore a mask for seven months. That's how I stayed healthy. I wore a mask. I socially distanced. I washed my hands, 10 times, 12 times, a day.

It was just those four days when I went into the White House. I was tested every day when I went in. And I was under the impression that that was a safe place to take your mask off.

The message that I want to try to convey in that ad is there is no safe place from this virus that even in the place in the world that was getting tested more than any other place, there's not a safe place from the virus. And so, it's not just that I didn't wear a mask before. I wore a mask before, but I let my guard down for just four days, and that put me into the ICU. I want folks to understand that in these, next number of months, before people are vaccinated that we need to not let our guard down for a minute.

There's no place to hide from this thing, and you do not want to get this virus. You may get lucky and have very little symptoms. But you may get unlucky and you might wind up dead.

And so, to me, the risk isn't worth taking. And I wanted people to hear me say that those four days, when I didn't put my mask on, that was a mistake, and I was wrong, and I paid the price.

CUOMO: I think you're doing the right thing. That's why I'm having you on the show about it. I applaud the message, especially coming from a Republican and one who's been close to this President.

Let's talk about why they're not wearing a mask, which will be the criticism of you putting out the ad.

It'll be "Oh, yes, you didn't wear the mask when you were around Trump because you knew he didn't want you to," because they're all about the no-Trump - no mask, mask is weakness, so you went in there, go along to get along, and you got sick, and that's why they won't wear masks because they believe if you're for him, you don't wear a mask.

CHRISTIE: Not the case. It wasn't the reason I didn't wear the mask (INAUDIBLE) there were six other people (INAUDIBLE) and I said, everybody, had the mask with me, and I said, "Has everybody in this room been tested?" And everybody said "Yes. We've been tested and we're negative." So, I asked the question.

And remember, Chris, when I walked in the White House every day, for four days, I was tested. The first thing you did when you walked through the gate was get taken to the Eisenhower building, go to the medical unit, get swabbed, and you didn't go to the West Wing until you came back negative.

So, it wasn't that - listen, the President and I have had plenty of arguments with each other, as friends, over the years and, as political opponents, and as political allies.

[21:15:00]

I fought with him for four days, in debate prep, as the guy who was playing Joe Biden. So, I have no problem fighting or disagreeing with the President. That wasn't why.

I believed that all the people in that room didn't have their mask on because all of them were getting tested, and all of them thought they were safe. And you know what? Six - five of the six of us in that room got COVID immediately after debate prep.

CUOMO: Yes.

CHRISTIE: So, we weren't safe. And so, it wasn't about "Oh, the President doesn't like masks or whatever."

That wasn't it for me at all. And I can tell you, if I hadn't spoken to the people who were in the room, that wasn't for them either. We legitimately thought because we were getting tested that we were safe.

And so, my message to people out there is you can test negative one day, but just not be detected yet to have it.

CUOMO: Right.

CHRISTIE: Or a person next to you could be testing negative one day, but they could still have it, and still transmit it. There's no--

CUOMO: But they're not guessing wrong. They're not guessing wrong, Gov.

I accept your explanation. I'm not chasing you on that. What I'm saying is the people that you want to reach, and I applaud you for doing it, and they need you, they're not wearing because they think they're not supposed to.

They think that if they wear a mask they are capitulating to the opposition, that they are proving that this pandemic was real, when really it was just about just knocking the Trump Train off the tracks. That's why they're not wearing the masks.

What do you say to them?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, first off, I don't completely agree with the premise.

I think there are a lot of people who also don't believe the science, Chris. Now, I think that's wrong, and that's why I give the statistic in the ad that you're twice as likely to get COVID without a mask as you are with one on.

CUOMO: A statistic they've never heard from their president, ever.

CHRISTIE: Right. And listen, it needs to be said, it needs to be said out loud, Chris. And that's why I'm doing it.

So, I think for the people, who are not completely believing, the science of mask-wearing, because there was some mixed signals at the very beginning, even, by folks in the medical profession, about whether or not you should wear a mask. But as they've learned this disease, they've learned that masks definitely make a difference.

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

CHRISTIE: So, what I'm saying to folks is why take the chance? Why take the risk? And my message to all the folks out there, who are watching, who maybe aren't mask-wearers today, is look at what happened to me.

And I was someone who's been really careful, and dropped my guard for four days, and wound up getting very, very sick. And I don't want to see it happen to anybody else.

CUOMO: Agreed.

CHRISTIE: Take my word. The science is right here. And we need to be encouraging everybody. And Chris, we shouldn't make it political.

CUOMO: I agree.

CHRISTIE: I know it's become political. But we, as public people, and trying to rise above the fray here, what I'm saying is I don't care what your political point of view is.

At the end of the day, the virus doesn't ask you whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, from a Red state or a Blue state. It just hits you like a truck. It hit you like a truck. You know what it's like. It hit me like a truck, and put me in the hospital.

People need to understand that. And that's why I'm out there doing it. I want to try to take the politics out of this as much as we can. And for these next five months or six months, as we're getting vaccinated, let's put on a real effort to do this so that we lose as few lives as possible.

CUOMO: I applaud you, trying to keep the politics out of it. You are right to do that. And my last question, I will do the opposite.

Should we take this ad as an indication of this is the kind of leader Governor Chris Christie is, this is the kind of leader this country's going to need and you're going to run for president in four years?

CHRISTIE: Oh God! Four years from now, I hope I'm here, Chris. I don't know what I'm going to do.

But to answer the first part of your question, it's always the type of leader I've been. I mean this is who I am. I say what I think. I say it plainly and directly. Sometimes people like it. Sometimes people don't. But this is who I am. And--

CUOMO: But you're not saying that you won't run for president either.

CHRISTIE: Of course not. Why would I? I wouldn't say that. I'm 58- years-old. So, I'm not ready to retire yet, Chris.

But also, anybody - listen, that'd be like asking, in 2012, if I came to you at 2012, after Mitt Romney had lost, and said to you "Oh, and by the way, guess what's going to happen? In four years, Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States."

CUOMO: Yes.

CHRISTIE: Trying to predict American politics in four-year chunks is a very hazardous business so.

CUOMO: I'm with you. But we'll settle on this.

CHRISTIE: OK. CUOMO: You are giving a message that this country is going to be very happy to hear from a member of your Party, and I'm happy you're putting it out there right now, politics or not.

I wish you and your family the best for the Holy Days. And thank you for coming on the show. Governor Chris Christie, god bless and be well.

CHRISTIE: Chris, Merry Christmas to you and your family. And thanks for having me on. Everybody, please, wear a mask.

CUOMO: Governor, thank you.

CHRISTIE: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So, you got to wear the mask even until the vaccines come.

Good news. Good news. A second COVID vaccine just cleared a big hurdle for approval, and a big vote, better vote than the Pfizer vote, could be going into the arms of Americans in days.

[21:20:00]

Lot of confusion, though! I told you we were going to have problems with this rollout, and we are. In fact, you will not believe what I'm going to tell you when we come back about who doesn't know what is fundamental to getting this vaccine into the country.

I guarantee you. It's a shocker. Next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: So, we're less than a week in to the distribution, and the vaccination effort is already struggling. Six states say they aren't getting what the White House promised.

Nobody seems to have a good answer why these six, Rhode Island, Iowa, Illinois, Washington, Michigan, and Oregon, only one of which was even scheduled to get enough for those first in line by the end of the year, why are they being shorted? Why now?

[21:25:00] We're not talking a handful of doses here, either. Next week's shipments are going to be cut between 30 percent and 50 percent. "Blame Pfizer!" OK. They say "No, blame Trump." Here is their quote. "We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses."

The Trump administration, doing what it does best, nothing!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR & DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's been a little misunderstanding or - or a miscommunication there.

Things are going as planned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: This is your plan? To screw it up? Tell that to the governors, who are worried, to the first line recipients, who are worried. Even the spokesperson for HHS couldn't stomach calling this "According to plan." They just said it was delayed.

And it raises the question, what is the plan? Who gets what and when? Why won't the White House, or the CDC, or General Perna, why won't somebody give us the numbers and details instead of general assurances?

Now, I teased before the break, "You won't believe it." So I now call people, who I know, very high up, involved with OW - Operation Warp Speed. They couldn't tell me who makes the decisions of who gets what in what state.

I said, "Is it the state?" "No, it's not the state." "Is it Perna?" "Well, he's more the logistics. He decides how it gets there. But he's somebody" - "Who? Is it the White House?" They don't know. What does that tell you?

So, you get the lack of leadership. Then you've got the real problem, which is time. "It's just delayed." What does time mean? More time, more disease, more death. Period!

Those doses were already planned to go into the arms of those most at risk, nursing home patients. If we can't get this right, with the Pfizer shots, what happens in the coming days with the Moderna vaccine?

If the system doesn't work, it's not going to get better by itself, right? Remember, the first wave of Moderna shots is almost double what we're talking about from Pfizer. More to do does not make it easier to do.

We're now likely just days away from getting those first Moderna shots. Great! Why? Key FDA panel today recommended it for emergency use.

Chief Doctor Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

Can you improve on my reporting? Do you know who says "Illinois gets 152,000, and they get it in the next 10 days, and this state gets ba- ba" who makes that call?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the way that it was supposed to work, Chris, was that the states were all supposed to submit their plans to Operation Warp Speed, and to the federal government, in terms of basically stating "Here's what we need. Here's who we are. Here's our demands. We know what you said is the first group of patients, people that you get vaccinated, health care workers and long-term care facilities."

CUOMO: But that's not happening.

GUPTA: "Here's how many of those people we have, so, here's what we need."

Right, so, it is - it is confusing. As you point out, Pfizer has said, "Look, we have millions of doses. They're sitting in a warehouse."

We just got a statement, just as you were talking, Chris, from HHS, basically saying "We are awaiting confirmation of the 20 million doses that Pfizer has promised." That's from HHS. I don't know what that means exactly.

What we do know is - and I talked to Albert Bourla about this. He's the CEO of Pfizer. He said the anticipation was by the end of the year there would be 50 million doses, of which half, 25 million, would be distributed in the United States, and the other 25 million distributed around the world.

So, it's confusing. We're having the same issue as you are, trying to get an answer as to what's happening here. Someone said maybe the weather is affecting this, this distribution plan.

But there seems to be some sort of high-level miscommunication in terms of what Pfizer's saying, and what HHS is saying, in terms of where the doses actually are.

CUOMO: Here's what we've both learned in this business. People don't hide data for good reason. They hide it for bad reason.

People love to show off and be transparent what they are proud of. Confusion is a function of concealment. And it always is. That's why they're not telling us. That's why nobody's owning it.

And we'll keep asking and keep pushing because this is going to matter. What's happening with these states now, states getting haircut.

GUPTA: Yes.

CUOMO: The Oregon Governor getting upset about it. We're going to keep hearing this because I'm betting on us. I'm betting that people are going to want this vaccine. And the demand is not going to be the issue. The supply is going to be the issue and how it gets to them.

Now, let me ask you about the news. We expected the Moderna vaccine to go this way, especially because it comes from Operation Warp Speed. Now, the benefit of that is there is better communication with Moderna than Pfizer, right? You have more intimate connection.

GUPTA: Right.

CUOMO: Because they were part of the program. So, does that mean that Moderna represents a better efficiency model for us?

GUPTA: Yes. Are you talking about in terms of distribution overall?

CUOMO: Yes.

[21:30:00]

GUPTA: Perhaps. Because it is, as you point out correctly, Pfizer had basically decided to say "Hey, look, we'll let you buy the doses, but we're going to handle the distribution sort of ourselves."

Moderna's all under Operation Warp Speed, as you point out. I think that that would make the case that perhaps given that it's all under one roof, maybe it makes it easier, Chris.

But I got to tell you, I don't know exactly what the problem is here. We haven't identified the real problem with the distribution here. Is there a larger problem?

I mean, we anticipated certain things like what we saw in New Mexico, where the temperature was off on some of the thermal slippers, the packaging that arrived there, and they basically had to toss out some of those doses. We anticipated the cold storage sort of limitations here.

But, right now, in terms of what sounds like hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of doses, where they are, where they're going, why they're not being distributed, will that problem be obviated because it's all under Operation Warp Speed? I don't know that I can say that at this point based on our reporting.

CUOMO: Can you choose which vaccine you get, and is there one that you would rather take?

GUPTA: Out of these two, and obviously one is authorized, the other one's about to be authorized it sounds like, I think they're pretty similar, from my standpoint.

I would not sort of have a difference or a preference in terms of one or the other. I think, for most people, it's going to be a question of what you can get. I mean, right now, the demand is obviously much higher than the supply.

The Moderna vaccine will probably make its way into places may the Pfizer one couldn't because it doesn't require the same level of cold storage. So, that's going to - that's going to be a great option for people who live in those areas. But other than that I really don't draw a distinction between these two.

CUOMO: Sanjay Gupta, I love you, brother. Thank you for helping us get through this.

GUPTA: Love you too.

CUOMO: Thank you for asking the questions. They're not going to give us the answers. We're going to have to ask for them. We're going to have to demand them, and we're going to have to pull them out.

And the better we distribute this vaccine, the sooner we'll get better, you know, we'll get better. So, we're on it. Thanks for being on the team.

All right, the COVID vaccines are ready.

GUPTA: You got it.

CUOMO: But we are squandering them, all right? And we've got a way to go with messaging, especially in minority communities. Why? Well, they have a reason to distrust.

There's a bad history with what gets offered to those communities in terms of safety, especially if they're getting any kind of preference. Often, they don't get preference for good reason. So, what are the facts? What are the guarantees?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams join D. Lemon and Chief Doctor Sanjay Gupta for a new CNN Town Hall tomorrow night. It's called "THE COLOR OF COVID: THE VACCINES." Tomorrow, 10:00 Eastern, all right?

Now, for us, one of Trump's own former top advisers is saying "Enough with the BS. You want to look at a real problem? Look at the cyber- attack from Russia. We've never seen anything like it."

So, we have brought in two former top U.S. Intelligence officials. Why is this so bad? How do they know? And what should the response be? Let's get the reality, the facts, the inside, of what we're dealing with, and then, we'll understand this silence from the man on top. Next.

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[21:35:00]

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CUOMO: Trump's own administration calls the suspected Russian hack a, quote, grave threat to everything, from the Pentagon, to the local governments, and almost every Fortune 500 company. I have never heard anything like that from them.

Andrew McCabe, welcome back to PRIME TIME.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: We are waiting on somebody else. If we can get them on, we'll get them on.

Now, am I exaggerating context or are they sounding the alarm in a different way in terms of depth and degree here?

MCCABE: No, you're not exaggerating it. They are sounding the alarm in a different way because this is a fundamentally different attack than anything we've seen in the cybersphere to date. And I say that for two reasons.

One, because of the scope of it. It's just absolutely massive. The company that's been - that was infiltrated, and whose products then delivered the back door to the Russians, has estimated that 18,000 entities have been affected by this compromised update that they sent out to their customers.

And two, because this has been an incredibly successful third-party attack, so the Russians were smart enough not to go after our companies and our government entities that are prepared to look for that sort of probing activity, so they kind of went in through a third-party actor with trusted relationships, who was able to get them inside.

CUOMO: Now, what did they attack, and what did they get, and why are we so worried?

MCCABE: So, this is an attack on a company called SolarWinds, located in Austin, Texas.

SolarWinds makes a product called Orion that many, many companies and entities use to do network management sort of stuff. And like any company that you rely on to purchase software from, you also go to them for updates of their - of their product.

So, the Russians were able to get inside of SolarWinds and able to corrupt the actual updates that were being delivered to government entities and to private sector entities across the globe. And so that was really the genius of this attack. It was a way to get into virtually everywhere in a product that was widely used.

CUOMO: So, where is the outrage from the electeds and the insiders within the Intelligence Community? How come we're not being bombarded with pressers about what they're going to do, and here's what's going to happen, and this is what happens when you mess with us? Where is all that?

MCCABE: Well, I'm sure there's outrage in the Intelligence Community, and certainly back at the FBI, who's responsible for investigating these sort of hacks. But it really is incumbent upon our elected representatives.

[21:40:00]

So first and foremost, of course, the President, and his folks, in the White House, and the National Security Council, to get out there, and message strongly and definitively that we are not going to accept this sort of hostile activity from the Russians or from anyone and that we will respond in kind. And so far, it's been absolutely crickets on that count.

CUOMO: We got Michael Daniel, former Cybersecurity Coordinator and Special Assistant to President Obama. He's now the President and CEO of Cyber Threat Alliance.

Thank you for joining us.

MICHAEL DANIEL, FORMER CYBERSECURITY COORDINATOR & SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, PRESIDENT & CEO, CYBER THREAT ALLIANCE: Yes, thank you for having me.

CUOMO: Are you especially worried about what they did here, and are you especially concerned at the lack of outward response from the government?

DANIEL: Well, I'm certainly concerned about the activity. I mean the kind of activity that we're talking about, the breadth and scope of an espionage campaign at this scale, certainly the level of national and economic security damage could be immense.

I certainly think that probably part of the government's problem is it's just even struggling to understand what has happened. It's very difficult to get your arms around these kinds of incidents.

CUOMO: Now, people at home will say "This is what happens. You do it. They do it to us. It happens. You always want to make us worried. But this is the state of play. This is just more of the same." Is that a fair nonchalance, Mr. Daniel?

DANIEL: Well, I certainly think that it is in the realm of spying that does go on, but it's done at a scale that is kind of breathtaking and audacious. But nevertheless all the indications are that it is primarily espionage, which is the kind of activity that all nations carry out.

CUOMO: So Andrew, is this a sign that they're just getting better at it or do you think they're more brazen because they're not as worried about what we can do about it?

MCCABE: I think it's probably a little bit of both, Chris. I think there's no question they're getting better, right? Our adversaries are working as hard on these problems as we are. So

every year, they get a little bit smarter. They learn from their previous attacks. They incorporate some of those things into the next round of attacks. So, there's no question that's happening.

But that's the risk that you run by not responding publicly, is you embolden the enemy to do more, to go further, to be riskier, and to victimize you more significantly. And I think - I think I agree with Michael that it's tough to figure out exactly where these things are coming from, and who to attribute them right away.

But it does seem that the Intelligence Community represented to Congress that they believe that it was likely coming from Russia. So, if that's the case, they need to get out and say something.

CUOMO: Mr. Daniel, where does this rate in terms of what you want people to know about what this kind of signals about what we're heading into?

DANIEL: Well, I think that it's another example of how difficult it is to do cybersecurity well, and the fact that you can never have a 100 percent guarantee of security, but that what you really have to think about cybersecurity is a risk management issue.

You can take steps to lower the risk, to make it more difficult for the adversaries to do, but then you also have to be ready to deal with an incident when it occurs because it's inevitably going to happen.

CUOMO: Andrew, thank you very much for doing this, Andrew McCabe. Michael Daniel, it's very good to have you. Thank you for joining us. I hope I have you again. Mr. Daniel, Mr. McCabe, be well.

MCCABE: Thanks.

DANIEL: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: You know, you think when an election is over, "Well, that's it, lame duck period. It's gone in a flash." This one's just dragging on and more and more bad things happen.

Trump will be gone in 34 days but plenty of Re-Trump-licans will keep carrying his torch, and I keep arguing to you, he's not the threat. He's definitely the threat to them, because he is their success. They've had no success except for him, and through him, in the minds of Re-Trump-licans.

But what does it mean for that Party and for what kind of right we see in the Biden administration?

A former State Party Chair has an answer that you're not going to appreciate too much in terms of whether it's going to get better or worse. She says she is no longer a Republican anymore, as of tonight. Why? Next.

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CUOMO: An interesting window into where we're at right now.

The former Chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party registered as an Independent. Why? Trump! Her name is Jennifer Horn. She's also a Lincoln Project Co-Founder.

Detailed her reasons for leaving in "USA Today," here's some of what she wrote.

"For the past five years, however, I have found myself fighting for what I thought were the principles of my party in the face of the ever-deteriorating character and integrity of party representatives.

It seems there is no assault on human dignity too great, no attack on democracy too extreme, to inspire the Republican weaklings in Congress to speak up or stand up to President Donald Trump."

Jennifer Horn joins us now.

Appreciate you joining us.

JENNIFER HORN, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY, COLUMNIST, NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER, CO-FOUNDER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: Thank you for having me, Chris. It's good to be here.

CUOMO: It's interesting, in the piece, you talk about not Trump starting the fire but him basically being a turbocharger to what was already happening.

HORN: Right.

CUOMO: What do you think the Trump effect really has been on the Republican Party?

HORN: Well, it's been terribly destructive, obviously.

Donald Trump and his idea of cruelty as policy, his embrace of racism and misogyny, and the destructive nature of his presidency, has been very destructive to the Party. But more importantly, it has been a full frontal assault on democracy as we know it. It has been much more damaging to our country.

[21:50:00] And frankly, Chris, if it was just Donald Trump, I might have stayed in the Republican Party and continued to fight for those principles that I thought our Party stood for all these years.

But it's these last four weeks, seeing the entire Party, the leaders of our Party, at every level, openly embrace the idea of overturning a free and fair election that they're just ready to completely kick the pillars out from under our Constitution.

So, it's not Donald Trump. It's the 126 Members of the House. It's the silent majority in the Senate. It's Ronna Romney McDaniel and everybody else at the RNC, who has decided that they are going to build the future of our Party on the destructive policies of a man who lost.

CUOMO: Well, he lost, but he got a lot of votes, and your Party--

HORN: He did.

CUOMO: --or your former Party did very well. One of the problems with his lie about the election being rigged is that a lot of those ballots that would have been rigged--

HORN: Right.

CUOMO: --would have been done in a way to take away a vote from him, but give it to other Republicans down-ballot. I never heard of any kind of thief like that who will steal your jewelry but leave the cash.

HORN: Right.

CUOMO: But the nonsense aside, it makes sense in terms of winning. What you will hear from people in your Party, as you know, is "Hey man, it works. I don't like what he says. But look at how we're doing. We got more money. We got more votes."

HORN: Yes.

CUOMO: "I mean he's tapped into something. And if you go against Trump, you lose." What do you say to them?

HORN: Well, first of all, they - you're right, they did get more votes but let's just remember Joe Biden got more. The American people sent a pretty clear message, in my way of looking at this. This was not a close presidential election. The Republican candidate lost by a lot.

And if the Party is - and I think that this is exactly what's happening. The Party is clearly making a choice that they would rather embrace corruption, division, hatred, ugliness, as long as it's an avenue for them to hold on tight to some of that power that they - that they have such ambition for, even though it's a bad strategy for the long run, for the long term.

Sometimes, you just have to do what's right because it's right, because it's right for the country. And I think that these, frankly craven choices that the Party is making right now, in the long run, is going to inflict terrible damage on the Party.

And I - my hope is that more people, like me, who have spent their lives, identifying as Republicans, will look at this, and see how wrong it is, will do the same thing I did. Step out of the Party, become an independent voice for those values that we have sort of fought for our whole lives.

CUOMO: The other argument is "Jennifer, look at the judges. Short- term? What's more long-term"--

HORN: Right.

CUOMO: --"than what we've gotten with these judges."

HORN: Right.

CUOMO: "Three SCOTUS judges. We've got all these federal judges that we've got in there. It's a generation of jurisprudence we just secured. We would not have done it without Trump. You got to start keeping your eye on the ball."

HORN: You know--

CUOMO: "Otherwise you're just some Lefty-come-lately."

HORN: Right. Hard - I got to say, anybody who knows me doesn't get away with calling me a "Lefty-come-lately."

But any Republican could have appointed Republican judges. The idea that somehow Donald Trump is the savior to the conservative movement is just - it's beyond ridiculous. It's beyond hypocritical.

And frankly, those people, in our Party, who have spent their lives, declaring that they're conservatives, and pro-life, and wanting to fight for strong conservative judges, they have sold their souls to a president and now a party that completely rejects any sort of idea of being pro-life.

Let's remember that we spent - this President has spent the past year ignoring a deadly pandemic. He had the information. He could have taken action to save hundreds of thousands of lives. And he chose, out of his own selfish political ambition, not to do so.

So, spare me if I am not persuaded by this argument about judges. There is nothing from this President and frankly, the Party under him that gives them the authority to speak as conservatives. They gave that up, they sold their souls for that, a long time ago.

CUOMO: How many Horns are there?

HORN: How many Horns are there?

CUOMO: Yes, how many Jennifer Horns are there? How many people--

HORN: Oh God!

CUOMO: --we think there are--

HORN: You know what? I think there are millions. Frankly, I think that there are millions, Chris. I think that - and I think that we saw that in what we did at "The Lincoln Project," frankly, over the last 12 months now.

[21:55:00]

We're looking at this narrow group of Republicans who reject the President, reject what the Party has done, and being able to persuade them to cross that line, to put their partisanship and their tribalism aside, and give the better man their support.

That's what we need to take from this election. That's what we need to build on, if we're really going to preserve that promise that is America.

CUOMO: Well I'll tell you what. For all Trump's ugly talk, what McConnell is doing with delaying relief--

HORN: Yes.

CUOMO: --to give companies liability protection, and making that issue equal to hunger, is worse.

HORN: Yes.

CUOMO: And him now saying "Hey, let's not delay it" is worse. And him saying "Let's not delay it" because he thinks it's going to hurt him in those Georgia special elections is worse. Trump is a problem, but he's going to be gone, and issues remain.

Jennifer Horn, thank you for coming on.

HORN: Exactly.

CUOMO: And saying things that won't make you popular with some people in your life.

HORN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: But I appreciate you doing it and doing it here.

HORN: Thank you very much. It's an honor to be here with you.

CUOMO: The honor is ours.

We'll be right back.

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CUOMO: Thank you for watching my brothers and sisters. It's time for the big show, "CNN TONIGHT" and the big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: So, we are friends because we're always honest with each other, right? We are.

CUOMO: This is a set-up.

LEMON: Ha! No, I am not setting you up. I am not setting you up. I succeeded (ph) to say - what did you mean "This is a set-up?" You think you know me, don't you?

CUOMO: Yes. Yes, I do.

LEMON: What am I going to tell you?

CUOMO: I don't know. I'm not a mind-reader.