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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Pelosi: If Members of Congress Aided Capitol Attack, They Could Face Criminal Prosecution; Retired Firefighter Arrested, Accused Of Throwing Fire Extinguisher That Hit Three Officers In Capitol Riot; Despite Trump Administration's Promise, COVID-19 Vaccine "Reserve" Doesn't Exit. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 15, 2021 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00]

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, these thing -- these are the sorts of things that need to happen.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right, Sanjay. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Have a good weekend, my friend.

This is the last Friday you're going to head into the weekend, wondering what chaos Trump may cause you, as your President. As a parting gift, he's radio silent, so far tonight, and that's good, because we have a lot of new information, so let's get after it.

Trump's insurrectionists and we have more reason than ever, to call them that, as you're going to hear tonight, they may have only been seconds away from reaching the Vice President and Members of Congress.

I want you to watch something. It happened about a minute after Pence was hustled out of the chamber. The Trump mob demanded to know where the vote was being counted. Then, a brave lone officer saves the day by luring them away. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CAPITOL HILL RIOTERS RIOTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

(CAPITOL HILL RIOTERS CHANTING USA!)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the Congress at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You work for us!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are they meeting at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, where are they counting the (BEEP) votes? Where are they counting the votes?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey? Hey? Where are they counting the votes? Where are they counting the votes? Where are they counting?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That guy deserves a medal, especially being who he was, in the face of who was opposing him.

"The Washington Post" reports Pence was hiding less than 100 feet from that landing. Zip tie cuffs were the least of their plans. Chants of "Hang Mike Pence!"

One of them allegedly left a threatening note for the VP, thanks to Trump throwing Pence under the bus, lying that he could and failed to change the election result.

And guess who allegedly left that note? The guy with the horns on his head, the face paint, and the six-foot spear, the one who calls himself, the "QAnon Shaman." In court papers, the Feds say Jacob Chansley's note read "It's only a matter of time. Justice is coming."

And yet, the mob who Trump says he loves, they may wind up being his worst enemy, and House Managers' best hope. Why? You heard Chansley's lawyer, on this program, yesterday, say his client's defense is "Trump told me to come. He invited us to the Capitol."

Now, let's look at that. While being taken in by Trump tripe may not help the horn-headed heathen in court, it may be very powerful proof in a political trial of Trump. Why?

Because Trump is going to argue that his words could be taken different ways. They weren't directions. But here, followers like this guy are removing all doubt saying they attacked our democracy because Trump said to.

And this kooky guy is not a one-off. That would not be the strongest basis for your case, this guy. Tonight, we have a far more normal- looking person, who claims the same, for why he went to the Capitol, and did bad things.

Now, this is not about giving these people a platform to spin. It is about setting GOP-ers straight at trial about the truth of Trump's role. And what irony! Trump's most ardent followers may prove to be his undoing. More ironic still, their biggest impact will be what he denied them, speaking the truth.

Now, there's a bigger picture here. Trump brought this on himself, to be sure, but he did not act alone. And there are growing concerns about inside help from Members of Congress.

Investigators are looking into accusations some may have given tours to members of that mob in the days before. Why? Speaker Pelosi suggests there should be criminal charges, if any lawmaker helped with this.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): If in fact it is found that Members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress, and in terms of prosecution for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, I don't know about that. We'll only know what they show.

But here is what's clear. The Capitol was not properly defended. The question there is, why not? Is this about incompetence or something worse? They certainly can't say they didn't know. Why?

[21:05:00]

There's new reporting tonight from "The Washington Post" that an internal Capitol Police intelligence report, Capitol Police intelligence report, warned three days before the attack, of a violent scenario, in which Congress itself could be the target of angry Trump supporters. Three days!

Let's dig deeper with a Member of Congress who had a narrow escape that day, Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, from New York. Good to see you safe, brother.

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Good to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: First question goes to the idea of this new reporting. Did you know about this report that was made in advance?

MALONEY: You're talking about the Capitol Police report?

CUOMO: Yes.

MALONEY: No. First I've heard of it. But I -- but I have to tell you, I think the whole thing smacks of a bunch of agencies trying to get right. It's clearly a huge miss on everyone's part.

I mean I spoke to the Sergeant of Arms personally, two hours after the attack, and he told me they expected a peaceful protest, and my jaw hit the ground. I think anybody who was looking would have seen all kinds of warning signs.

So, there needs to be a dispassionate and thorough investigation. And the rest of this, I think, it's just people trying to get --

CUOMO: So, the memo that they're talking about, here's the quote from the piece that matters.

"The memo concluded that January 6 was shaping up to be a potentially perfect storm of danger because of the size of the expected crowds, the urgency of the group's mission, the call for demonstrators to bring lethal weapons, the location of the two largest protests in close proximity to the Capitol grounds, and the fact that both have been promoted by President Trump himself."

I can't think of another example of so many different layers saying the same thing, and nothing happening, Capitol Police, FBI, U.S. Intel, all of these NGOs that survey these kinds of haters, what do you make of it?

MALONEY: I think it's a massive failure. I think you'd have to go back to 9/11 to find a similar failure that was so comprehensive.

I mean those of us who were there the day before, the morning of, we could tell that something was wrong. I mean you had a bike rack up, and tens of thousands of these guys, you know, around the city, in pickup trucks, circling the Capitol, we could tell something was going to happen. Some of my colleagues wore sneakers that day because they thought they might have to run.

I mean the fact is, is that I think it was obvious for anybody who was looking that the President had assembled a mob, and brought them to Washington, was inciting them, and he sent them down to the Capitol. They did exactly what he wanted.

And it is the Republicans in Washington, who share that accountability, in the Congress, who perpetuated this lie that the election was stolen, who put their own Vice President's life at risk, by making him appear to be doing something -- something wrong when, in fact, he was doing his constitutional duty.

Those -- those actions and those -- those intentions were clear, I think. And so, I don't know how they missed it. I just don't know how it happened.

CUOMO: I mean the question is whether or not they just did a bad job, or they did a bad job on purpose. And we'll see.

How powerful do you think members of the mob saying, "I came here and did this because the President was saying I should," how powerful do you think that will be in a political trial?

MALONEY: Yes, I don't know. I think that this is one of those things, where the evidence is overwhelming that the President incited this violence.

The Members of the Senate are just going to make a political decision. I mean they're frankly deciding, are they with the mob or are they with the Constitution?

And it would be really great if, starting with Mitch McConnell, on down, they could stand up, at this late hour, for what is right. And it may be that their cynicism, their belief that the path back to power leads away from Trump, will fuel some of them to finally now distance themselves from President Trump. But I don't know.

But we've done our duty in the House. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud we had some Republicans stand with us. But we had far too many Republicans in the House who had aided and abetted this disaster, and they should be held accountable.

CUOMO: "Aided and abetted," what does that mean to you in terms of other than backing Trump, and the vote to not certify, do you think there is a chance that any of your colleagues had anything to do with making it easier for the mob?

MALONEY: I think there's enough out there to be investigated.

Colleagues of mine saw Members and staff taking people around. I personally didn't see that. I think we should look into it. It shouldn't be that hard to ask these Members what they were doing, who they were with, to check out those people. That will all be a known thing. We should look into it.

But what is clear is that they have been engaging in other conduct that is horrific. I mean it is no small thing to spread a lie that an election was stolen, to make it seem as though there is a monstrous evil being done, when in fact, it's our peaceful transfer of power.

[21:10:00]

And, by the way, they're bragging about bringing guns to the Congress. They're shoving Capitol police officers, refusing to go through the metal detectors, literally a couple days after those same Capitol police officers saved all of our lives, I mean what kind of crop-up crazy has come to the Congress, in this new season that this is what we're dealing with.

And many of them are conspiracy theorists, who are following this QAnon nonsense. So, there is reasons to look at the actions of these Members.

CUOMO: So -- yes, so much for anti-elitist. They won't even go through a metal detector. They're too good for that!

But do you believe that any of these men or women could pose a threat to you personally?

MALONEY: Look, after the events of the 6th, I don't think we're taking any chances. I don't think anything is too much at this point.

That's why, I think, you're seeing a robust security presence, on the Capitol. That's why you're going to see all of these -- all of these -- all these people in the mob investigated and tracked down.

I think Members of Congress have tough questions to answer. They should answer them. We're talking about something as fundamental as the safety of the President-elect and the Vice President-elect. And these people are going to be up close to them, at the Inauguration.

CUOMO: Representative Lauren Boebert is coming at you. Guns right advocate, so what? QAnon sympathizer, not a good sign!

She tweeted "Representative Sean Maloney made false and baseless conspiracy claims about me that led to death threats and hundreds of vile phone calls and emails. His comments were extremely offensive, shameful and dangerous."

Response?

MALONEY: Well you want to do the punch line? Or should I?

I mean the punch line is that I never -- I never said her name. They're so incompetent that they didn't bother to look at my interview with Nicolle Wallace, when I said basically what I said to you, which is that I didn't have firsthand knowledge.

But she did make a video saying she was going to bring a gun to Congress. So, if you're going to be a gun nut, you shouldn't go off half-cocked.

I never mentioned her with respect to giving tours. But she has many other things she needs to answer for. And it is her mixture of incompetence and arrogance that is the hallmark of so many of these Trump followers.

CUOMO: How do you do business in this environment, if there is literally an open chance, not that they may be out to get you policy- wise, but out to get you personally?

MALONEY: Well look and I mean, you know, I mean come on, what are we talking about?

I mean -- I mean these guys are not as tough as they -- they say they are. They're not 10-feet tall. You're talking about a bunch of people, who believe in conspiracy theories. Frankly, I wouldn't trust them to drive my kids to the airport.

So, there are enough serious people, in Washington still, that we can do serious things. We've got a pandemic taking 4,000 Americans a day.

I'm so glad the Vice President -- excuse me, the President-elect came out today, and gave that very powerful speech, laying out a real plan, to have a real national priority, around vaccine, around better testing, around all the things we should have been doing for months. That's the adult in the room.

And there are still Republicans who understand that we have real work to do. And thank god, we're in the majority in both Houses of Congress, and we can work with the new president, to get the serious issues addressed. But there also needs to be accountability for what happened on the 6th, and we can do both.

CUOMO: Well look, we've never need -- needed better out of government than we do right now, and it's never been a worse environment. So, we'll be watching very closely.

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, god bless, and be well.

MALONEY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

All right, coming up, we have another body blow to Trump's chances at trial. I want to show you the face of his potential biggest enemy, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:15:00]

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: There's a very interesting development going on in the criminal investigation. You have 275 criminal cases now open in the Capitol riot probe, right? A 100 people are in custody. Most face federal charges.

Now, that had seemed like the lowest fruit to me. They have to do this, absolutely, law and order for real, but there are much more tough calls to be made about who helped and Trump himself.

Now, I was wrong. Because what we're hearing from these people, about why they did something, it may be out of convenience to try to help their cause. I don't know that it will work in a court of law.

But with what Trump's facing, each time somebody says, "I did this bad thing, and I'll tell you why," and it leads to Trump, and what he thought, or she thought, Trump was telling them to do, it is bad. That includes the words of Robert Sanford. These are shots of the retired firefighter from Pennsylvania, in the crowd, OK? He just retired in 2020.

Prosecutors say he's the person, seen in the video, throwing a fire extinguisher at a group of officers. It hits an officer in the head, ricochets, hits two others. Court documents say Sanford had, "Followed the President's instructions, and gone to the Capitol."

He's facing four counts. Knowingly entering, or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly or disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds, civil disorder, and assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers while engaged in the performance of official duties.

His lawyer, Enrique Latoison joins me now.

Counselor, thank you.

ENRIQUE LATOISON, ATTORNEY FOR RETIRED FIREFIGHTER ROBERT SANFORD, ATTORNEY FOR MAN CHARGED IN CAPITOL RIOT: Good evening.

CUOMO: The easy call is that's your guy in the video. He did what they say he did. And your argument is he had a good reason to do it, or a justification for doing it? How so?

LATOISON: Well, I'm not going to say that it's just a convenience what Trump incited the riot, and incited the people to go down there. I mean it's accurate. This is actually what took place.

My client, Mr. Sanford, is 55-years-old. Hasn't been to the Capitol since he was 13-years-old. He's a retired -- he's a retired firefighter, who served his community for 26 years. He had just retired in March.

He is a Trump supporter. And it was told to him that there was a bus, a free bus that was going down, to the Capitol, for the rally. So you know, and I know, and everyone knows that this rally was a good mile, mile and a half away from the Capitol building.

So, he goes down there. He's got a backpack on. He's got some water, and some snacks, in his backpack, and he's simply there to support his President. He's there to do a peaceful protest.

[21:20:00]

CUOMO: But hold on a second, hold on a second. I'm with you. "There's a bus. Come on down. Go to the Capitol." OK. It was made easy.

Nobody told him to become a thug and an insurrectionist and pick up a fire extinguisher, toss it at cops, and then make his way into a melee, to get into the cradle of our democracy.

LATOISON: Well, that is partly true.

But what I'm going to tell you is that when you look at what took place, so they're there, and they're hearing, from the President, he's the Commander-in-Chief, for telling them to fight, and to stand up for your country, and to do all these things, and to protect the Constitution, and all these things.

He was there to be at that rally. Next thing you know they're being told to go down to the Capitol building. So, they walk -- he walks for 20 minutes, 25 minutes, with thousands of people. He gets down there. He's at the back of the building.

So, it's very important to separate Mr. Sanford from some of the other things that were shown. He was not walking around with a six-foot spear. He was not physically attacking Capitol officers. He did not go --

CUOMO: He hit them in the head with a fire extinguisher.

LATOISON: Well the first thing I'm going to say about that is this fire extinguisher was empty. You can see it bounces almost toy-like. There was debris and there was stuff being thrown everywhere. He was in the back of the building. CUOMO: Yes, but that doesn't make -- come on, come on, Enrique, come on, give me a break, huh? I hit you in the head with an empty fire extinguisher you're going to feel good about it? It's a crime.

LATOISON: No, absolutely not.

CUOMO: It's a felony.

LATOISON: No, Chris, absolutely not.

CUOMO: And we both -- we both know it. Look, the guy --

LATOISON: I'm not -- I --

CUOMO: --the guy did bad things. The guy did bad things. He did them knowingly. He did them wantonly. And he may have an explanation. That's the part that I care about.

What do you know about this guy that makes it legit to you that he really felt that the President wanted him to do that crap?

LATOISON: Because why else would you have someone, who has never been in trouble before? He's a family man, father of three, never intended to be a part of anything.

Unlike your former guest that was just on, he was not there the night before. He got there 6:30 in the morning. The bus left. He got there at 9 o'clock. He went down there. He wasn't staying overnight. There was a bus that was going to be there for a couple of hours, and they were leaving.

There are plenty of Robert Sanfords in this situation. We're not talking about these yahoos that ran inside the building, who put their feet on the desk, and stole things, and walked around with a spear, and were actively pummeling Capitol officers.

We're talking about people that got involved in a mob-type situation, who threw some things. What he did was wrong, absolutely. But that's not who he is as a person. He's been on the serve --

CUOMO: Then why did he do it?

LATOISON: He's been on the serve for 55 years. What's more important is what is his overall track record? He served his community. He's never been arrested. And --

CUOMO: No, that goes to sentencing. That goes to sentencing.

LATOISON: But -- but --

CUOMO: Why did he do it?

LATOISON: What I'm saying he got caught up in the moment. There were things being thrown everywhere. There was debris everywhere. He picked something up, and he regrets it. I will tell you that that no officer was hurt in that incident. That is what their -- CUOMO: That's luck.

LATOISON: --charging documents show.

CUOMO: Then it's lucky, because he threw a heavy metal item at their head.

LATOISON: I won't --

CUOMO: What I'm saying is how real -- how real is his commitment to the idea that "Trump wanted me to do this? I was doing what my President told me to do." Is that real or is that convenience?

LATOISON: It's not convenience, because when you're going to a rally that's a mile and a half away, and then you find yourself a mile and a half down at the Capitol building, you're only there because you're being told by your Commander-in-Chief and your President, to go down there, stand up for your country.

Chris, listen, Obama was my guy, OK? Now, if I went to an Obama rally, and Obama was sitting there saying, "Hey, I was disenfranchised. They stole my votes."

CUOMO: Yes? And?

LATOISON: "They did all these different things. I want you to head on down to the Capitol building," I go on down to the Capitol building because he's my guy.

CUOMO: And you'd throw a fire extinguisher at my head?

LATOISON: I'm not saying I'd throw a fire extinguisher at your head. But what I'm saying to you is that I have -- you have to put yourself, in that position, to understand that he is not the same.

He was around back. He didn't even realize there were people getting in and around front. He was not a part of any organized revolt or group --

CUOMO: And he would testify to the fact that what he did, he believes a 100 percent, in his heart, is what he was being told to do by the President?

LATOISON: Chris, what I'm saying to you is that when he did what he did, he regretted what he did.

He was very remorseful. He turned himself in to the FBI. And when he found out no one got hurt, as you may put it, he was lucky in that sense, he was thrilled and very relieved. His wife is upset. He is upset. He is embarrassed to be in this situation.

But, once again, you have to separate what people did, individuals. What he did was wrong. What he did was wrong, absolutely. And by the luck, as you put it, no one got hurt. But what he did, and who he is, is two different things.

[21:25:00]

And when you have someone, who has never been arrested before, and when you have someone that made a micro-mistake in a long life of doing the right thing, I'm saying that that matters. And --

CUOMO: Yes, it will. It will at sentencing. I'm just saying that he may have larger political significance than this will help him legally, but we'll see. I'll follow the case.

And Enrique Latoison, I appreciate you making the case. Thank you.

LATOISON: Thank you.

CUOMO: Now again, you guys can talk about this any way you want. But let me be very clear about what the value is in this.

I do not think this is going to help this guy, OK? You are what you do in the eyes of the law. And your intent is going to be pretty specific and could have been formed right in that moment.

However, if everything that Latoison says, about his own guy, is true, and there are one after the other after the other of "I don't know why. I shouldn't have done it. I shouldn't have done it. But I just felt like this is where I was supposed to be, and this is what I was told. And there were all these people around me. And they were all saying, "You know? This is it for Trump. We got to do it for Trump," you bring those affidavits or people into a political trial, and Republican has to listen after man and woman, all in their base, saying that, "But for Trump and telling me, I wouldn't have done that. That's what I thought you guys wanted me to do," it could change the tone and tenor, which is all about what senators feel like doing.

There is no burden of proof. There is no standard. It sounds like it's law, but it isn't. It's politics in that room. And that's why it matters.

And that's why a guy, who is a 20-year firefighter, who is a Trumper, who could live on your block, does something like this, and he says "That's why," this could mean a lot more to Trump than it will mean to him.

And to be clear, Trump brought this on himself. But these are the people that he said he loved. And now, they could bring him down. What could this mean? Let's bring in the great minds, next.

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CUOMO: Since this is Donald Trump's last Friday, as President, you'd think he'd be working on COVID, or talking with Republicans on next moves, or doing everything he can, to tell his supporters to stand down, as we get closer to the Inauguration? No, he already said that once. That's enough.

Instead, he is said to be planning his vengeance on the Republican congress-men and -women, who voted to impeach him, and meeting with the "Pillow guy." Let's discuss the state of play with Van Jones, and Michael Smerconish.

Van, interesting development here, Senator Lankford saying, "I didn't know that challenging the vote would be offensive to Black people," the only places they're challenging the vote are in the Black population centers. Biden won and over-performed in a lot of suburbs. They're not complaining about that.

Your take?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, that was obvious from the very beginning that there was a sort of code going on. "Oh, it's about Philadelphia! It's about Philadelphia!"

The crazy thing is that Trump actually did better in Philadelphia, and did better with Black people in Philadelphia, in 2020, than he did in 2016, where he was getting beaten was where a bunch of White suburbanites were moving at an opposite direction. And they never talked about it.

So, lest you know, we're not dealing with the world of facts. We're not dealing with the world of reality. We're dealing with some other narrative that "When Democrats win, it's because Black people cheat." That is what they were playing into, even though that was, in fact, not the reason that they lost a bunch of those states.

CUOMO: Do you want in on this?

JONES: And the --

CUOMO: Or can I ask you about something else, Smerc?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "MICHAEL SMERCONISH PROGRAM" ON SIRIUSXM: Look, there is a history of voter fraud in Philadelphia. It didn't impact this cycle, and it has cut historically, across racial lines.

I'm sitting here, doing a mental calculus, and thinking about those guys, you know the expression, who've gone away, believe me, they have been White, and they have been Black.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something else. Do you -- do you think I'm wrong about the potential value of person after person saying, "Yes, I went to that Capitol. Yes, I did what they say I did. But I did it because that's what the Commander-in-Chief wanted me to do. That's what Trump wanted me to do."

At a political trial, how powerful could that be?

SMERCONISH: Question to me?

CUOMO: Yes.

SMERCONISH: The answer is "Very powerful."

Here's what I think, Chris. I think it's more about polls than it is about evidence. The evidence that you brought forth in that last segment -- by the way, I get a real kick out of the defense that the fire extinguisher was empty, as if it's a Nerf football, come on!

CUOMO: Yes. That's like what they say in my house --

SMERCONISH: But here's the deal. It's really --

CUOMO: --where my kids hit each other, "My hand was open!"

SMERCONISH: Right.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

SMERCONISH: Right. Right. The deal is it's more about the polls.

I'm paying close attention to the polling data because I think really what's going on among Republican members of the Senate is they want to know "Can I get away with voting for conviction?" because on the merits, you can make the causation argument. And he deserves it.

They're only going to do it, if they feel they can step out with the base. And so, yes, that evidence is important, but only if it moves the needle, only if it's widely seen. And that's the value of a trial.

The trial is an opportunity, and I know it's not a legal trial per se, but it's an opportunity to showcase all of that information.

CUOMO: And it takes weeks!

Van, I mean just think about it in terms of the irony. Now look, people are saying, "Don't have these people on. They're giving these terrible excuses." I don't care about their excuses for their legal -- their legal issues. It's not going to work in a court of law.

But in terms of what it means for Trump, to hear his own, say, "I will remove all doubt. I love this guy, Trump, and I'm telling you, it was his lead that I followed" --

JONES: Yes.

CUOMO: --is that what the Democrats are looking for?

JONES: I think so.

And also, when you talk about incitement to riot, a big part of proving that up is not just your intention, obviously criminal intention matters, but the impact, the effect of your words, the overall context, everything that was going on, in its entirety, with those words have created the kind of reaction that you saw.

[21:35:00]

And I think it's inarguable that had -- they had a normal rally, where normal politicians said normal things, those people would have been much less likely to go and tear up the Capitol building, and kill a police officer.

There is a direct connection between how abnormal it is for the President of the United States, to call together thousands of people, and send them up to the Capitol --

CUOMO: Right.

JONES: --enraged. And so I do think -- yes?

CUOMO: As a Democrat, what is your concern about what Biden is stepping into here?

You got Members of Congress, on the Left, thinking that Members of Congress, on the Right, may try to kill them, not figuratively, literally. And he has to get all these big things done.

He's got the pandemic looming over everything. The vaccine thing is a nightmare. He can't just magically make vaccine. What is the calculus for them, in terms of just how much burden they can put on his plate?

JONES: Well look, we have four political parties, and not two.

You have the mainstream Democrats, led by Biden, but you also have the Left of our Party, you know, AOC, Bernie, Black Lives Matter, and others. They want a lot. They want it right now. And they see Biden more as a target often than a partner.

And then, you've got the Republican Party, but you also have MAGA, sometimes in alliance with QAnon, and sometimes even white nationalists.

So, you've got at least four political parties, all up there, in a food fight, every day, and Biden is going to have a tough time.

I think that the great strength of Biden, though, is that he's clear about why he's there, and what he wants to get done. And so, he is that steady hand, and he's going to be that steady voice in the room.

But right now, the political system is cracking and he's going to have a very tough time.

CUOMO: Last word, Michael. SMERCONISH: What kind of opportunity does he have to get out of the box if all of the O2 in the room continues to be sucked out by Trump because the eyes of the nation are on an impeachment trial?

It's really a no-win proposition for the President-elect. I feel sorry for him in that regard. He doesn't get to start with a clean slate.

CUOMO: Gentlemen, the two best-looking heads in the business, thank you very much, for helping the audience, on this Friday night, Van Jones, Michael Smerconish, thank you and god bless.

All right, one of the last great lies of this White House is also one of its most heartbreaking. The second wave of COVID vaccine was supposedly in reserve. It's not even there. Governors are furious.

What does that mean for the battle to get our nation healthy? Just how big a hole are we in with what was supposed to be the miracle cure? Next.

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CUOMO: Alex Azar just handed in his resignation letter as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He says he plans to stay until the Inauguration. But on his way out, he still sold you one of the last bogus bill of goods.

This was his promise, Tuesday.

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ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve.

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CUOMO: This was him today.

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AZAR: No, there is not a reserve stockpile.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: "We're going to ship all the things in reserve." "There is no reserve."

So, those thousands of life-saving vaccines that were on their way, mere trumpery, a bookkeeping sleight of hand, fugazi, as we say here. But while they play games, Americans are dying by the thousands. More than ever, states are now facing yet another empty promise.

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GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): This is deception on a national scale. I am shocked and appalled.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): This was a abject failure, and now they've added a final unimaginable injustice.

We will continue to do what we've had to do, clean up the mess that the federal government leaves us with.

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CUOMO: Now, what's the truth here? Look at the numbers. It's clear that states need help. We're still only getting about 40 percent of all the shots available into people's arms. That bottom number, that's what matters. Doses administered, a little over 12 million.

We need to be at 528 million doses before we're really out of the woods, life really can go back to normal. To do that by June, that was the goal, that Secretary Azar promised, that would mean more than tripling the rate of doses.

Bottom line, fixing this required three things, OK? Money, manpower and a new mentality. Forget about this, "Oh, it's just greedy governors trying to grab cash." Look at the numbers.

The "Infectious Diseases Society of America" pointed out states have only seen about half of what Congress just passed, saying, "The remainder must be expeditiously distributed to states and local health departments in order to address obstacles such as limited staffing, supplies and space that preclude getting the vaccine to the people."

For all the success of Operation Warp Speed, OK, and there was, they got the vaccines made and approved fast, there is a key snag in the supply chain that they knew about, and did nothing. People!

The companies, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, they need thousands more workers, reportedly, to make the vaccine, the shots. Hospital staffs stretched thin, already being asked to carry too much. They're trying to keep people alive, now they're supposed to do the vaccines, too?

Meanwhile, Walgreens, CVS, they say they're ready to help. CVS alone is promising a million doses a day. They're just waiting on the Feds. Why? Why are they waiting?

[21:45:00] As for the mentality, it's clear the current team isn't going to change. So, what about the team that takes over next week? Are they more willing to shoot straight? We got to take the President-elect at his word, at least in the beginning.

We certainly never heard Trump say anything like this.

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JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The honest truth is this. Things will get worse before they get better. I told you I'll always level with you.

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CUOMO: Now, that will likely be true about the numbers, and the pain, and the fear. It cannot be true about the planning. You know what I'm saying?

You can't blame Biden for what he inherits. But once he gets in there, within a reasonable amount of time, they have to start going in a better direction. Otherwise, they're just as much to blame. The response can't get worse before it gets better, you understand?

And they're going to have questions to answer. He laid out his vaccine plan today plus how new variants could speed up the COVID spread. Nobody better to dig into it than Chief Doctor, Sanjay Gupta, next.

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CUOMO: From Trump pandemonium to the pandemic, that's what matters now.

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COVID deaths rising faster than ever. At any point, the dark days that health officials have long warned about are here. But be very clear. They're here because you and I have failed to do what we needed to do.

Now researchers warn it's likely to get worse because there's a new, more contagious variant here. Doesn't mean that it makes you more sick, doesn't mean the vaccine won't work, but it means it spreads more easily, and it may be the dominant strain within weeks.

Let's discuss this with Chief Doctor Sanjay Gupta.

Good to see you, brother. What does this strain mean? Do I have it right?

GUPTA: Yes, Chris. So, it's a more transmissible strain. It doesn't appear to be more deadly.

But if it's more transmissible, it can more easily get into vulnerable populations. That's obviously a problem. It's not surprising that it will become the more dominant strain. That is what the more -- the more transmissible strains do.

Caitlin Rivers, over at Hopkins, basically said it probably doubles its proportion every week. So, if it's 5 percent this week, it'd be 10 percent next week, 20 percent the week after that. That's when it becomes the more dominant strain.

Big question, Chris, do the antibodies, either generated by the vaccine, or from -- or in people who've previously had the infection, will those antibodies work against this strain? Don't know for sure yet, but they appear that they will. Pfizer says they think they will. So, that's going to be tested now.

But Chris, these viruses will probably continue to mutate, and it is possible that the vaccine will be something that either needs to be given every year, every couple of years, or a booster shot, or something, because of that, Chris.

CUOMO: What do you make of this "Not enough vaccine" situation? Is this just about the reality of distribution, or is this poor planning? And how do we fix it?

GUPTA: Well, it's clearly poor planning, Chris, because, we're talking about some of the most precious commodities on earth. And we're not exactly sure how many doses there are.

There may be reserve doses. There may be not. That's just that's silly, I mean, considering how in-demand these are, we should know exactly what's going on. I think part of this maybe semantics, Chris.

Reserve dose versus second doses, what -- the way this went down is the Biden administration basically said "Hey, we recommend not withholding any reserve doses."

At first, the current administration said "Well, you know, that's a bad idea." And then they said "You know what? We're going to do the same thing. We're not going to hold back any reserve doses."

And then it comes out, "Well there is actually no reserve doses to hold," and that makes a lot of states angry, as you showed earlier, because they thought we're going to get a surge of vaccine doses. That's the bad news.

We also heard tonight that Pfizer basically has said the second doses, they still have those, and they're going to start shipping them. So, I guess the good news is we're going to get second doses into the state, so hopefully it will help alleviate some of that demand.

CUOMO: Is the first dose different than the second dose?

GUPTA: No, it's the same dose.

CUOMO: All right, so it's just more.

GUPTA: But what happened was there was like 40 -- it's just more.

They held back the second doses. They also held back a small amount of reserve, just to sort of even-out the surge demand in states, after the first dose. But nevertheless, that reserve is gone. Now, the second doses are going out.

CUOMO: So, how do we get more? We just need more. We're nowhere near the rate for two reasons, right? We don't have enough manpower and infrastructure to put them into people's arms. And we don't have enough doses. So, how do we get more?

GUPTA: The bigger problem is the first one right now because, even as you showed, even out of the doses that have been distributed, only about close to 40 percent have actually been used.

So, that's the big problem right now. And it is that first problem you said, you know, having enough manpower to actually push the syringes into arms, that's a rate-limiting step.

Chris, the other problem is like, "Where do you go to get a vaccine?" Right now, people watching, do you know exactly who you'd call or where you'd go to get a vaccine, if you qualify? A lot of people don't still.

This idea of having community centers, going into communities, making it easy to understand where you get your vaccine, that's going to be very critical.

CUOMO: There's nothing easy about it.

GUPTA: And that's something that we're hearing.

CUOMO: You have to go online right now, where I am, and -- and not just where I am.

GUPTA: Yes.

CUOMO: I've heard this from other people. And you basically have to sit, and hope you get lucky, and that they cancel an appointment, and you can get that cancelled appointment, and go. And then they tell you whether or not you can come because they may not have enough vaccine to fill the appointments.

GUPTA: Oh, it's -- I mean, again, keep in mind we're talking about the most precious commodities on the planet right now. That's the way they're being treated.

My parents waited at 1:30 in the morning, in Florida, to get their vaccine. 300 doses. They were numbers 288 and 289, luck of the draw, to some extent, and had to wait nine hours outside as well. So, it's been tough.

Hopefully, these community centers that we're talking about that the Biden administration is talking about will help.

President-elect Biden said, on day one, FEMA will be in charge of starting to do that, bringing in Commissioned Corps, to help alleviate the manpower issues, and maybe even retired health care workers, all these plans will sort of help.

[21:55:00]

Manufacturing will ramp up, Chris. I mean, think about it. Pfizer says they can make 2 billion doses in a year. Now, a lot of that is earmarked for countries outside the United States, but it gives you some sense of the manufacturing capacity of these large companies.

CUOMO: Yes, but they got to get it done. And they need people too. They need people to meet their own capacity.

Sanjay, thank you very much for setting us straight. I'm sorry about your parents.

GUPTA: Yes, thank you.

CUOMO: But I'm happy they got the vaccine. Be well, brother.

GUPTA: OK, you got it. Thanks.

CUOMO: We'll be right back.

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CUOMO: Thank you for watching. Time for the big show, "CNN TONIGHT" with its big star, a.k.a., the Friday Night Delight, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I thought you were going to say -- I have a -- I have a confession, OK? I have an announcement.

CUOMO: It's just between us. Go ahead.

LEMON: I am Black.

CUOMO: Openly?

LEMON: Openly Black.

CUOMO: Wow! I didn't -- I don't know what to say.

LEMON: Chris? We were just having this conversation before this happened. Am I lying?

CUOMO: Nope.

LEMON: We were laughing about it, and I said, "Yes. And one night, I'm going to come to you, and I'm going to say, "Chris, always bet on Black."

CUOMO: Yes.