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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Biden To Pitch COVID-19 Relief Plan Directly To Americans In First Official Trip As President; Donald Trump Puts Out Statement Attacking McConnell; Interview With Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); Democratic Congressman Sues Trump Over Role In Capitol Riot; Dr. Fauci Shifts Timeline For General Public Getting Vaccine From April To May Or June; Moments Away: CNN Presidential Town Hall With Joe Biden. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 16, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He has been charged with murder and elder abuse.

Something important to remember, Erin, is that activists believe that the real number of hate incidents nationally may be higher because we're dealing with an immigrant community who is often fearful to report -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: That is just a horrific thing watching that. Oh my gosh. All right, Kyung, thank you very much.

And thanks for joining us. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" is on now, special time tonight because of the Town Hall. Let's hand it over to Chris Cuomo.

[20:00:29]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, Erin. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Your clock is right. I'm in Coop's slot tonight. Why? Our big man, Anderson Cooper is in Wisconsin for the big CNN Town Hall with President Joe Biden. It begins one hour from now, but we've just received word that the President has landed in Wisconsin.

Now, the big question is obviously about the big challenge: can President Biden get the country on the same page about the pandemic? He is there now. This will be his first official trip as President, four weeks in. He is taking the pitch for his $1.9 trillion relief plan on the road.

Wisconsin: battleground state, helped secure Biden's victory, also hard hit by the weather, hard hit by the economy, hard hit by the pandemic.

Now, this is all a lead up to the House vote that is expected on the package next week. The Biden presidency will be defined in large part by his job on the pandemic, but also whether he can help us move past the pain of division.

His predecessor's ghost is still haunting us post impeachment. Trump's silence was strategic. The trial is over, so was the silence. He is now in war mode on his own party targeting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Here's what he said in part, I'm not going to show you his entire thing. If you want to see it, you go find it for yourself. "Mitch is a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hacky. He never do what he needs to be done or what is right for our country." Trump is demanding 100 percent loyalty from all in his ranks.

Even McConnell's manipulation of the impeachment trial and voting to acquit falls short. Why? Well, in a new op-ed, McConnell did say, I was defending the Constitution, not Trump with that acquittal.

"Our job wasn't to find some way, any way to inflict a punishment. The Senate's first and foundational duty was to protect the Constitution." Yes. And that's why your duty was to hold the trial, and that's why your duty was to be impartial and that's why you took the oath with your hand to God, and then had members of your caucus meeting with the defense on a regular basis.

Look, in its entirety, McConnell's argument is bogus. It does nothing to change reasonable minds about his obvious toxic political play. It's also not enough for those going full Trump, not just Trump himself, but like Senator Ron Johnson. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): That's, you know, Leader McConnell's opinion.

I don't believe it represents the vast majority of Republican senators.

When the leader of the senate Conference speaks, he has to understand what he says reflects on all of us. And I think he's -- you know, I didn't appreciate his comments, let's put it that way.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CUOMO: This, from the guy who suggested the Trump insurrection wasn't that bad, because they weren't all carrying guns. Bats and bear spray and other weapons didn't seem like an armed situation to Johnson, ask those police officers that were brutally assaulted, ask the one that died.

State Republican parties are also taking action against lawmakers who dared to hold Trump to account for the worst political violence in decades. The Pennsylvania G.O.P. could be censuring Senator Toomey next. Why? Here it from them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BALL, CHAIRMAN, WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he was doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: So you sent him there to do the wrong thing? Republicans who

don't understand that in a Democratic Republic, you actually do elect a senator to vote their conscience.

Now, will this party's Trump purity purge derail the President's efforts to save the country from the pandemic? Let's go to the better minds: David Gregory and Charlie Dent.

Charlie, I start with you, fully minted conservative Republican former Member of Congress, what do you make of Trump's backlash and what this means for McConnell and what it means about your party or lack thereof?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Chris, what's happening right now in the party is it seems that there's a battle brewing, in that many, and I put McConnell in this category, they want to get rid of the Q out of the G.O.P. In other words, we've got to get rid of these QAnon conspiracy theorists, because I think McConnell is very smart.

[20:05:06]

DENT: He understands what is going to happen going forward that if the State and local parties are going to continue to embrace this wild Trumpism, they are going to nominate unelectable candidates just as we saw after the Tea Party wave where we saw candidates like Todd Akin and Sharron Angle, and Richard Mourdock and Christine O'Donnell and seats were lost. McConnell understands that.

Hey, say what you will about Mitch McConnell, but he is about winning. And he sees this Trumpian movement and the QAnon conspiracy theorists and other radical elements as a threat to the G.O.P. ever holding power.

CUOMO: So David, you know, you can dismiss this as noise, inside baseball, let them handle it. Biden has got much bigger problems and things to deal with.

But you can't get them through with a Congress that doesn't want to do its job, right, and if half of them don't want to work. That's it. So what does this mean to him? And what finds him on this stage tonight?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he has got a big challenge, right? I mean, the dog is chasing the car, ultimately gets the car and then the challenge begins. You know, what do you do then? You have to lead.

If your argument for leadership is the other guy didn't do it, I'll lead, well, now, the pressures on and the pressure is on during a pandemic and an economic crisis, a crisis about getting our kids back to school, a kind of a different slice of the healthcare crisis in this country that is about all of our mental health through a pandemic and the President faces that challenge.

And what Charlie says I think is really important. Mitch McConnell understands, Trump lost. He was a one-term President. He needs to be excised from the party, but he has got a lot of followers that Republicans still want to keep in the fold.

How do they balance that? They won half seats. They won the Senate seats as well because there was an argument about something beyond Trump was taking on the left who is taking on the Democratic Party.

There are still people who are listening to that argument. That's where Mitch McConnell's head is. And I've, you know, felt for a long time that he has made the decision that the stand has to be taken against Trump in particular without alienating all his supporters.

CUOMO: So Charlie, what does this mean for the five, six, seven senators in terms of working with Democrats to get a deal done on this relief bill that the President is taking out onto the hustings to Wisconsin, a place that's a metaphor, not just for his own victory, but the hardship?

DENT: Well, look, I still think the American people want a deal. I would actually urge President Biden to cut this on a bipartisan basis.

Look, my own view is I think $1.9 trillion is too much. I think they could do this at $1.2 trillion, personally. But that said, you know, these deals always sound great at the outset here, but over time, they tend to smell a lot worse.

So if I were Joe Biden, I would do everything I can to make this a bipartisan agreement. He doesn't need to do this through reconciliation. He can still get a good deal that would serve the American people well, but I know he's trying.

CUOMO: David, why would it smell worse when you have the President's party saying this is what's needed, that it's all connected, everything that's in there, even the minimum wage is something that is designed to help promote a resurgence from those who are hit hardest, right?

So the overlay winds up being the poor, and minorities are hit hardest by the pandemic, and many of these things target that community.

GREGORY: Well, the President is making a bet that if he goes big here, first of all, that's the only place to go big, right? He wants an economic rebound. He wants to be able to reap the benefits of that, and going bigger rather than smaller is better.

I also have a different view than Charlie on this. I'd love to see the consensus around a bipartisan deal. And yes, maybe the public wants that if you look at the polling. I don't think Washington is working like that.

I don't think enough Republicans are going to work with the administration to cut some kind of bipartisan deal, and I don't think the administration wants the deal. They're going to deal on the margins here, but they want to drive this through because they've got a constituency to do that and they feel like going big matters and will pay off and be that the country wants it so they can roll the Republican opposition. They don't want to slow down. I've seen this play before. Mitch

McConnell and the other Republicans won't ultimately meet them halfway to have a big bipartisan deal.

I just don't know that there's the kind of leverage anymore in the country to do big things like this, that both parties feel they have to, you know, be swept into and deliver for the American people. I think the country is still too divided.

CUOMO: Well, if you don't feel like you have to deliver on the pandemic, then you're definitely right. You know, David --

GREGORY: But Congress -- but Congress has done a fair amount so far. I'm not saying it's sufficient, but they'll make that argument that they have already done.

CUOMO: Yes, they've done, too. I totally get it. I'm saying if the pandemic isn't enough of a motivation, maybe the process is in this way, Charlie, that if the President starts going out to different states that are hard hit, but red, not just blue, or has Kamala Harris, the Vice President or you know, somebody else go, could that put pressure on the Republicans that they're not used to when they hear their own people in their home states saying we're hurting, help us.

[20:10:30]

DENT: Yes, look, I certainly do think that that could put some pressure on some members, no doubt. But I think the Democrats really do need to abandon the $15.00 minimum wage in a COVID package.

With the hospitality industry flat on its back, I mean, I get making an adjustment to the minimum wage taking it up, but the $15.00 with all these restaurants and hotels and others on their back, I don't know how they recover to begin with. It's tough enough.

I mean, that's just going to make it harder. They need to separate that out. Sure, Biden can go into the red states and he can make a case and that will put some pressure on some members.

But again, the question is, what do they need the money for? They need to be much more clear. They just got what -- $900 billion in December. I mean, I could still -- like I said, I could make a case for about $1.2 trillion maybe $1.3 trillion right now that would help them for COVID related issues directly.

But I don't think that the $1.9 trillion is necessary when you have Larry Summers and others standing up there saying they're worried about inflationary pressure. They are saying it is too big, and other mainstream economists saying the same thing. I don't think he can ignore that at this point.

CUOMO: They ignored it for the tax cut, though, right? People told you, you didn't pay for it. People told you it was going to balloon the deficit. People told you it wouldn't do for the economy, what the Republicans were saying it would do, and they were right. Anyway, this is politics. We'll see how the President does tonight on

the big stage. David Gregory and Charlie Dent, as always, thank you for the straight take. Appreciate you.

Minutes away now, from our exclusive CNN Presidential Town Hall with Joe Biden. You know what? It's not hype, of course, we're enthusiastic. We're happy to have it here on CNN, have our main man, Anderson Cooper moderating this, but it really matters.

We're in the middle of a crisis, this President hasn't been able to get around the country, because he's been playing it the way you're supposed to play it. And he's got to get out there and make the case to people. How will he be received? What will be the feel after tonight? What will be the feel in that room?

What issues and how will he pitch them to people? How will he make people feel differently about their responsibility here, and about their chances? And what is the right way for them to get back? That is his duty of persuasion. Can he do it? We'll be live in Milwaukee with a preview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:16:59]

CUOMO: We are moments away from a big night here on CNN, our Town Hall with President Biden in Wisconsin, the 46th President, hoping to make inroads with the American people on his nearly $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Plan. Let's bring in Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, it's good to have you out there. Why Wisconsin?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, it's a key battleground state. It's a state that President Biden won by less than a percentage point, so this is the White House's choosing to have this here. This is where he's coming in.

It's his first time interacting with voters, Chris, since he took office directly answering their questions. Of course, he is going to try to use this opportunity, according to the White House to pitch that economic relief plan that is being crafted right now in the Halls of Congress.

And it's been after this combination of him trying to sell Republicans on it and Democrats, meeting with both of those sets of lawmakers in the Oval Office. But tonight, the White House says he is trying to sell it directly to voters.

And of course, you've got to look at the context surrounding all of this, which is that it still doesn't have any congressional support in Washington from Republicans so far. That's a decision the White House implied today that those Republican lawmakers could come to regret voting against a big Coronavirus Relief Bill.

But also, it's still going to go on to the Senate after it goes through the House. There are Democrats who are still divided over what they want the final version of this to look like including that $15.00 Federal minimum wage increase.

So it's still not clear what the final results of this is going to look like Chris, but President Biden is going to be hearing from voters tonight on what their concerns are not just about this, but also potentially vaccine distribution.

CUOMO: I want to talk vaccine distribution, but quick follow, any word from the White House that there's going to be more of this? Biden and/or the VP going out on the hustings, talking to people in red and blue states?

COLLINS: I think that's going to be a lot of what you're seeing. I think they've been more hesitant than what you saw over the last administration to travel as much. They are trying to be very cautious about the restrictions, of course, given most people are advised not to travel right now.

But he is going to Michigan later this week, in just a few days, and I think you are going to start to see more of these trips, an uptick in these kinds of trips from not only the President but also the Vice President, like you said.

CUOMO: People are desperate to be heard. It'll be interesting to see if that happens.

All right, you mentioned vaccine. There is news about the J&J vaccine rollout. What can you tell us?

COLLINS: Yes, so this is the one that's been so critical that so many Federal health officials and State health officials have been talking about because it hasn't been authorized by the F.D.A. yet, we should be clear about that. But it is one that is a single shot vaccine. It is not one that requires two doses like the ones that have been authorized so far.

But here's the catch. We are now hearing from Federal health officials that that rollout of how quickly that's going to be out there is going to be slower than they had initially anticipated. They believe that once it was authorized, they'd have somewhere in the single digit millions of doses to go out that is still the case, but they thought they were going to have a lot more by April and May than what they are now expecting.

[20:20:08]

COLLINS: They were expecting somewhere between maybe 20 million and 30 million doses of that vaccine starting in April. Now they think, Chris, it's going to be fewer than 20 million and that makes a big difference because you heard people like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said just last week, he thought by April could be essentially open season where anyone who wanted a vaccine could get one.

Now today, when he was on CNN, he is pushing that timeline. He says, to mid-May to late May to early June for what that's going to look like. So of course, that is what so many people want to know, which is when they're going to be able to get this vaccine. CUOMO: Oh, that is a question the country over, everything is so

different, not just by state, but by community. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much for being with us on a big night.

All right, so straight ahead, after this show, you're going to have this first CNN Town Hall with President Biden in his first trip as President, of course, only here.

Now you're not going to want to miss our next guest. He just filed the first civil action against Trump over the Capitol attack. It is a top House Democrat on a lawsuit that could pave the way for many others or not. Interesting conversation, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:25:09]

CUOMO: We are minutes away from history, the first Town Hall for Joe Biden's presidency. It's in Wisconsin and he is making the case directly to people in that hard hit state that his Relief Bill is the right way and that they must take the pandemic seriously and take it on together.

Anderson Cooper, our man will be hosting it only on CNN straight up at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now while that's going on, one of the challenges to President Biden is what's happening on the other side of the aisle. Donald Trump is there. He is making trouble, but he has trouble of his own, certainly, of the legal variety.

He is now facing a civil lawsuit, accusing him of conspiring with Rudy Giuliani, as well as with hate groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, all together to incite the January 6 insurrection.

One response from Trump's spokesman was to point out that Giuliani is quote, "no longer representing Trump in any legal matters." We've heard that before.

Now, Mississippi Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson filed this suit in his personal capacity. The NAACP is representing Thompson in court. Congressman, good to have you.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: Let's talk strategy, then we'll talk merits. Why this way?

THOMPSON: Well, it's an option that's available to us, and clearly, the actions of January 6th, we should be able to shut down completely. If we are successful in our lawsuit and hold those individuals accountable, I think from a punitive standpoint, we will put them out of business.

We can't allow the riotous activities, just because people disagree with the outcome of an election. People should not have overrun the Capitol to stop the confirmation of the election. That's just not who we are.

So my lawsuit takes on the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and we bring that forward to this day to get us some remedy.

CUOMO: Right. You don't take on any act here. You're actually motivating the act. I get the grievance, but it's about the method.

In the law, you know this, but for the audience, there's a concept called standing which means Bennie Thompson in his private capacity as a citizen has a right to sue. What is your right to sue these parties for what happened on January 6?

THOMPSON: Well, I was in the gallery at the time that it was the confirmation of the votes was taking place. And all of a sudden, in the midst of that process, the Capitol was raided.

Individuals broke through security, broke windows, broke doors, someone ultimately was killed before my very eyes, all those kinds of things.

And I'm carrying out my congressional duties, but those members of the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, spurred on by Trump and Giuliani and his other people wanted to stop Members of Congress from doing their constitutional duty.

CUOMO: The KKK Act is a very interesting mechanism. It was meant to provide civil remedies for Federal officers who were kept from doing their job. And so therefore, you have to make the point that Trump didn't do his job in his official capacity because of his intentions towards insurrection.

So in the lawsuit, you say Trump delayed delivering his incendiary remarks to the crowd at the Ellipse in order to afford the defendant, Proud Boys, an opportunity to arrive at the Capitol and overcome its initial defenses. How do you prove that?

THOMPSON: Well, I think we will prove it in court. One of the first persons to enter into the Capitol was one of the leaders of the Proud Boys. They broke the window with a shield. It's clear from the photos that we have. So we'll have our day in court.

I'm clear this insidious behavior played out in front of millions of people. And you know, it's all because of the stage that was set by Donald Trump after he lost the November election.

He encouraged people to come to Washington, indicated that it was going to be wild and in his speech, just before people left that area, he encouraged them to go to the Capitol. He said --

CUOMO: I understand. I understand it and I covered it, but your burden is different. Your burden is to show that he delayed in a way to give opportunity and advantage to who you name as defendants. Do you have proof that he delayed?

[20:30:22] THOMPSON: We absolutely have. We'll provide it in court. And that's

why we're pursuing it like we are. I'm convinced that he acted irresponsibly. We bring in this action. I look forward to having my day in court.

CUOMO: The KKK act, obviously, that is the name it was born out of that time, but it also it puts a feel to this entire civil action. What do you personally believe that that insurrection was about when it comes to race, when it comes to white fear and white hate?

THOMPSON: Well, when I look at what was said, by the people breaking into the U.S. Capitol, they had Confederate Bell flags, which is, you know, was a symbol of the Confederacy that was fought over slavery. So, people coming in calling themselves patriots breaking into the United States Capitol, we can't condone this kind of action.

And we have to put a stop to it. One of the ways we can put a stop to this kind of action is by taking those individuals to court. And if the court sees a way out, they'll have to pay. So clearly, we're looking to have our day in court, I appreciate the NAACP, joining me and representing me in this instance, that oldest civil rights organization in the country.

They've fought for fairness and equal opportunity. And so, this is one of those measures. I disagree with Trump. But I'm not going to try to break in the White House or anything else, we settle our differences in America at the ballot box. The Trump administration could not accept defeat, they went to court last in pretty much every court in the land, but they still somehow wanted to stop and stop the election, the confirmation or the election, and then we just can't have it.

So, this lawsuit is my humble way of giving accountability to somebody who has put a real stain on the reputation of the United States of America. We can't go to other countries talking about the goodness and greatness of our country, when they see people over running our hallowed halls of the Capitol. This is not who we are. And so we have (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: As a human reminder of that, your reputation precedes you, anybody can Google your name and see where you come from and what you've been through. What was it like for you in there? How bad did you think it was going to get?

THOMPSON: Well, it was getting bad. And as time went on, when we saw the Vice President, the Speaker and other leadership being whisked out of the area, and the only people left were members of Congress who didn't have security details. And we could hear that glass breaking the doors being beat on we could see the furniture being moved to block the doors from the people who had broken in.

My wife called me wanting to know what was going on. And I really couldn't tell him, because I'm unable to see on outside. She said, when I'm looking at people breaking into the Capitol right now. I said, well, I'm inside the Capitol, but I can't see it.

So for that time, all of us with our gas masks own, trying to follow the advice of security to get out of this area. But we were unable to get out because of the rioters who had broken in and tried to stop the counting up of the Electoral College votes.

You know, Emmett Till a 14-year-old young man was killed in my district (INAUDIBLE) a lot of atrocities have occurred in my state. And so, all that was going through my mind at that time, that is it coming to an end over an election. I thought elections were way that civilized people resolve their differences.

But obviously, those individuals who attempted well succeeded in breaking into capital had a difference opinion. I resent that. I know this country is greater than what I experienced that day and I'm prepared to go to court and defend that greatness.

[20:35:11]

CUOMO: Well, Congressman, I'm very sorry, what you had to be through that day, I'm even more sorry for what your wife must have experienced, because she knew what kind of people will break it in there and what they were saying, and she knew you were on the inside. Send her our best and our regards, and we'll see what happens with your lawsuit Congressman. Bennie Thompson, thank you very much for being with us.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. We're taking closer to the big town hall. Man, this country is in a paroxysm of pain. And President Biden has to take it all on and it starts on that stage tonight. This is his first trip out on the hustings. Wisconsin's hard hit. They've got economic problems. They got pandemic problems. And this January 6, has reverberated all across this country. Everybody's afraid, everybody doesn't know what happens next. How will he handle it?

Tonight is a first step. Don't get a second chance to make your first impression. What will the President do? We'll be covering it? Stay with CNN.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[20:40:25]

CUOMO: In about 20 minutes, President Joe Biden is going to take a first step and trying to get this nation to refocus on the pandemic and see it as a collective common cause. You'll see it here live only on CNN and the first town hall of Biden's presidency. After a week of impeachment proceedings, and just the poll of Trump, we all need to take stock of where we are in the fight for our lives.

Nick Watt is tracking it all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a little bit of a shock,

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Snow and subzero temperatures. Slowing vaccinations from Illinois to Texas, and delaying the delivery of doses.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Sometimes by a day, sometimes by two days.

WATT (voice-over): A momentary blip.

ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: The critical issue is that the demand far outweighs the supply. That's the issue.

WATT (voice-over): Dr. Fauci had said everyone would be eligible for a shot by the end of April. Now says Johnson & Johnson will deliver fewer initial doses than the administration thought. So --

FAUCI: That timeline will probably be prolonged maybe into mid to late May and early June. But it may take to June, July and August to finally get everyone vaccinated.

WATT (voice-over): Meantime, over 53,000 new cases logged yesterday lowest tally in four months. New case counts and hospitalizations are falling faster now than at any point in this pandemic.

FAUCI: We've just got to be careful about getting too excited about that because we do have the challenge of variants.

WATT (voice-over): That faster spreading variant first identified in South Africa now detected in eight U.S. states. The variant first found in the UK, now confirmed in 40. We're told masks and mitigation still required to keep overall case counts falling.

FAUCI: We've got to continue until we get it so low, that it's no longer a threat.

WATT (voice-over): But it's complacency creeping in despite warnings not to more than 5 million people flew in the five days over the holiday weekend.

(on-camera): This in East Los Angeles is a newly opened vaccination site run by FEMA and the governor of California his office. They hope when they're up to capacity later this week, to be delivering 6,000 shots a day into people's arms, this part of the Biden administration's pledge to speed up this vaccination rollout. Chris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: All right. Our thanks to Nick Watt.

As for why Dr. Fauci is saying it could take longer for most people to get a shot. Johnson & Johnson won't have as many of their one shot vaccines ready by the time they get emergency authorization in the coming weeks. Why? Well, we got to find out. But here's what we do know, they're going to start off with less than 10 million doses available.

They planned on having between 20 and 30 million by April, but now it doesn't look like they'll even hit the lower end of that target. The disconnect is that while Dr. Fauci is pushing things back, the White House is saying more supplies coming to states next week. They still aren't saying where that increase is coming from. Questions like that have a bipartisan group of governors saying they need better communication from the Biden team.

More details about the numbers and a better explanation about the plan to send some shots straight to pharmacies instead of state health departments.

Let's dig into what we're facing with Chief Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It's good to see you, brother.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You too, Chris.

CUOMO: Let's work a little bit in reverse. This is going to be something where I hear a lot of pharmacies versus state run vaccination places. What's the plus minus?

GUPTA: Well, I think the pharmacy is for many communities, not all but for many communities, it is something that people are used to, it is a place they can make appointments, and it's easily accessible. But, and we know that about a million doses initially were planned for around 6,500 pharmacies.

So it's not a huge sort of percentage of the overall allocation of these vaccines. But those numbers are likely to go up. The down is that there are many communities and particularly hard hit communities that may not always have access to these pharmacies.

So you don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul here. You want to make sure that community health centers and places where, you know, communities that don't have a large amount pharmacy are located can still get access to the vaccine. They figured that out in West Virginia it's a model that a lot of people are now paying attention to get to see if that works in other states around the country.

[20:45:10]

CUOMO: Best reckoning as to why we have confusion around supply, Johnson & Johnson, but also this issue of more that the Biden administration is saying is coming from where?

GUPTA: Yes. So essentially, I spoke to the Chief Medical Officer of Johnson & Johnson right when they announced the phase 3 data and asked specifically about supply. And the answer was vague, you know, we'll have several million doses at the time and authorization is given if it is given, but they also said they could ramp up quickly after that.

There does seem to be a disconnect there. I don't know why the projections are coming in lower than they originally thought. You know, that that's, that's something that we need to dig into and see if it's a manifestation of a larger problem here.

I think, overall, you know, if you look at the numbers, they still say 100 million dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of June. And total 600 million between Moderna and Pfizer by the end of July. But what pace? How quickly are those going to come in? As far as why they ramped up to now 13.5 5 million doses a week. That's what they're saying they're going to be allocating to the states.

When you talk to people like Andy Slavitt about that. They say it's mostly about forcing efficiencies in these vaccine makers. You know, there were other problems, enough reagents. You know, in the beginning, there was just not enough people to actually administer the shots. But on the production side, I keep hearing the same answer that it's really about getting rid of bottlenecks, forcing more efficiencies, and seeing how much they can ramp up the production.

CUOMO: What do you make about governor saying they're not getting good enough information from the Biden administration?

GUPTA: Well, that that that's a that's a problem. And I can't, you know, I hear what they are saying. And I've talked to people who are responsible at the state level for administering these vaccines. The problem is that, you know, you make appointments, if you're not confident, you're going to get those vaccines.

That's a problem, because people show up for the appointments, they can't get the vaccine, I haven't found real evidence that that's happening as much as it was before. Because there does seem to be more confidence that the vaccines are going to show up in the numbers that they say are coming. It's not enough. I mean, we obviously have a much higher demand than supply.

But, you know, clearly, over transparency probably is key here, because this is going to be a thing that they're going to have to figure out for several weeks to come. And obviously, there's still these gaps in the overall communication.

CUOMO: Now, in terms of like, the promise versus the delivery, schools have to be at the top of the list for what this Biden administration has to do better on. Yes, I know the vaccine. I see that as a separate category. You know, vaccination is part of schools.

But whether it's getting teachers to the top of the list and making that a national directive to states or dealing with ventilation, because it's easy to say if the schools can reopen if they can do it, right. But many of the schools can't afford what they need to do it right, including ventilation, which is so key. Then, you know, what is the ability to walk this talk about opening schools?

GUPTA: Yes, no, I think you're absolutely right. And look you, and I've been talking about this for a year now. I mean, in some ways, we're having the same conversation. Three points I think you just made. One is that it's become clear. If you listen to Rochelle Walensky, you read the guidelines carefully, that despite the fact that there's a lot of provocation on this issue. The CDC is not saying that vaccinating teachers is necessary for schools to reopen, but not mandating that schools open, but they're saying the vaccination is not mandatory.

With regard to, you know, the studies that show schools have reopened safely in several areas. The study, a lot of people paid attention to Chris was this Wisconsin study, 17 schools in rural Wisconsin, they had very low transmission within the school. Why do I bring this up at this point? Because we went back and looked at what was happening in the community around those 17 schools at that time, Chris.

And those schools, those communities, rather, were in the red, meaning they had very high viral transmission. And despite that, the school was able to open an open safely with much lower transmission than the rest of the community. Ventilation is the third thing you bring up. And it's very interesting. I've been talking to lots of people about this.

Ventilation means different things to different people open a window versus completely redoing your HVAC system, some cost nothing and some can be very expensive. The other thing is how do you know if you have enough ventilation, it can be challenging. This is a CO2 monitor, Chris, I don't know if you can see that --

CUOMO: Yes.

GUPTA: -- very well there but basically, it's about 100 bucks, and it measures CO2 levels and we're hearing more and more about these. If you have a CO2 level inside that is less than about 1,200 or so. That is considered pretty good I am told. Basically what it means is if you have several people in a room about 2% of the air is exhaled air.

It's actually been exhaled from one of those individuals in the room, which means one out of every 50 breaths, you're going to breathe in someone else's exhaled air. A lot of information I'm throwing at you there, but I'm giving you a sense of how they determine adequate ventilation. How long people should be in a room with certain levels of ventilation? Do you flush your room in between classes, for example, to improve ventilation and get rid of some of that carbon dioxide?

[20:50:26]

All these things are things schools have to figure out. It's not easy, but this is what they're going to have to do.

CUOMO: What is the monitor say about where you are in your room? How's your level?

GUPTA: Right now, mine is 700, 700.

CUOMO: So you're OK.

GUPTA: Which is good.

CUOMO: All right, good.

GUPTA: I'm OK.

CUOMO: All right. We only got one of you Sanjay. Make sure your --

GUPTA: Appreciate the concern.

CUOMO: Dr. Gupta, thank you very much. As always.

All right, back in a moment with more town hall pre-game. This is big. It's his first time out of the House. He's taking his message onto the hustings. He's going to a place that was key for him, but is just as critical in terms of the need in this country. It's going to take the stage in minutes with our man Anderson Cooper, you get to see this defining moment for the president on CNN.

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[20:55:25]

CUOMO: All right, we're now minutes away from CNN live town hall with President Biden, where voters will be able to address him face to face about their hardships and concerns. You got COVID relief, of course, is going to be top of mind for many. His proposal is a nearly $2 trillion bill. It's been under negotiation and review for weeks. But that doesn't mean it's about a deal. This is really about looking within his own party for what they want to force through what's called reconciliation. Is that the reality?

Dana Bash joins us now. Good to see you, my friend. Exciting night.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you.

CUOMO: In terms of the reality of how this relief bill gets done, what is the percentage chance it is done by reconciliation, meaning Democrats alone?

BASH: Well, I think the chance that it's done through this special process reconciliation is almost 100%. It doesn't mean that it would have to be only Democrats. But it means that it is much more likely that it will be only Democrats. It just depends on what the final form looks like.

If the President and the administration bring down the price, if they take out some of the policy proposals that Republicans say they believe actually hurt small businesses during a pandemic, like the $15 minimum wage, maybe. But then, then there's a question of how much he's he the President is going to anchor the base for home and even himself, you know, Democrats across the board who think that that is a basic living wage, that should be part of this kind of relief bill.

So, it's possible Republicans will come on board, but at this point, it sounds like Chris, they're just trying to negotiate among Democrats to make sure they don't lose any moderates, mostly in the Senate. And progressives in the House.

CUOMO: You think Trump being back in fire breathing mode on his own party makes it less likely? Even the senators that moved against him when it came to impeachment would do anything on a bill with Democrats?

BASH: I actually don't think so. And for a lot of reasons. The most important reason is that if they -- these Republicans are being, you know, true to what they believe the former president wants, they would support a bill that has the payments in it, but which the former president at the end of his term was suddenly fighting to have. So, I'm not so sure that they're actually related. I think at this point, the decision about whether or not to support

this kind of huge bill has to do with their own voters and their own, you know, kind of balance about whether or not they feel the push to help big time at home, or whether they feel the push to, or maybe the poll is a better way to say it against voting on such a huge, huge price tag.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean, look, the politics of perception here are going to be -- did he go big? Or is it big deal, right? He wants to avoid the second, he wants to be the first.

Now we're talking a lot about substance. That's great. But this is politics. This is his first step out of the House. And this is going to be also a lot about style. Joe Biden is going to be looked at very closely tonight, by critics, and also people looking for a reason to believe in something better as well. How big are the stakes?

BASH: Very big. And talking to people around the President leading up to this tonight. They understand that of course, so much of it is about substance but as you said, he's excited to do something like this, because as you all know, Chris, he is genuinely a people person.

And although this is going to be socially distant and not a typical town hall where he can actually get face to face, like he enjoys doing, it's going to be at least something closer than being in the White House and just having, you know, people work for him around him. It's quite different.

But he also understands that he's going to get tough questions.

CUOMO: Right.

BASH: And that's something they say that he's looking forward to.

CUOMO: There'll be tough in the man we see warming up here. Dana Bash. Thank you. With Anderson Cooper, thank you for watching. The CNN Presidential Town Hall with Joe Biden starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome. We are live in the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is a CNN Presidential Town Hall, the first with President Joe Biden.

[21:00:00]

I'm Anderson Cooper. President Biden is just four weeks into his presidency and facing multiple crises.