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CUOMO PRIME TIME

President Biden Holds Candlelight Memorial At White House As U.S. Surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths; Attorney General Nominee Garland Vows He'd Make Capitol Attack Top Priority As Confirmation Hearing Begins; SCOTUS Allows Release Of Trump Tax Returns To NY Prosecutor. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 22, 2021 - 21:00   ET

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


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CAPT. "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, PILOT, AVIATION SAFETY EXPERT & SPEAKER: And we also have protocols to follow that will help us solve these problems one at a time until we solve them all.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Captain Sullenberger, an honor to get your perspective. Thanks so much for taking the time.

SULLENBERGER: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

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

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Question, what do we have more of than anywhere else? We have more of this in number than the populations of Miami, Kansas City, New Orleans, Tampa. And it's not a secret. It is something that most of you have dealt with, directly or close to it.

The answer is we have more of people who have died from COVID, than anywhere else, anywhere else. You likely know the shock of hearing that someone went from sick to gone in a flash.

I have heard these stories every day for about a year, and not just on TV. This is not about TV, for me. It has taken too much from people I care about. One of my close friends just lost her mother. Never would have happened without COVID.

Just as we think things are getting better, it was the worst for her and her family. One of the sweetest, most caring people I know, now left with doubts and pain that I have echoing through my head from people all over this country. "How did this happen? I couldn't help. I couldn't be there."

And what do we say in those moments? Nothing, right? But what do we do? We pay attention. We show respect. We certainly know better than to ignore their pain. But then you look at what we've done all together. And that is what we've done, haven't we? Half a million are gone. And many were not inevitable. These deaths came because of how we denied the reality in this country. The reality is we have more COVID deaths than we've had dead from both World Wars and Vietnam combined.

And remember, these people with COVID, they weren't willing participants in a cause. They were not aware of making the ultimate sacrifice. COVID is now right behind heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in our country. And again, it has gotten this bad because too many were in denial.

And yes, because we had a President that played to that because he thought it worked for him, and so did his Party. And yes, the media too. We haven't always played up the death count with the urgency that we did in the beginning. Why? Because it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Me included. And it was wrong.

But tonight, we do what is right. Do you know that we've never once stopped to honor the dead? We have never once come together as a nation to mourn? Because we have never really wanted to own the reality, and that's what death is. It is the real.

But tonight, that ends. It is time to say goodbye. It is time to own how horrible this has been, and still is. And we have the right president to process this kind of pain.

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JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The people we lost were extraordinary.

We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.

We must end the politics and misinformation that's divided families, communities, in the country. It has cost too many lives already.

It's not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It's our fellow Americans. It's our neighbors, our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives.

We have to fight this together as one people, as the United States of America. That's the only way we're going to beat this virus, I promise you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That is the simple, soul-striking truth that this country needs. And that's all it is.

We should all be sorry for the lost loved ones. We should all wish those families some measure of healing, and soon. And I think it's just part of the job that we do here to not let anyone forget how and why we got here.

[21:05:00] One year ago, this week, then-sitting President Trump told us COVID cases would go from 15 down to zero. He told us this would all magically disappear. We suspected he was lying. We knew he was ignorant. And soon thereafter, we would confirm our suspicions that he was dead-wrong.

But we really never grasped that we were not just making ourselves sick, but that we were killing ourselves. And that President wasn't going to tell anyone any different.

Like President Biden said tonight, misinformation has been a killer. And it has been a reality that was scripted to suit political interests. That's what's happening with January 6th.

Be honest, why were so many of you surprised by the ugly scenes presented at trial? Because so many, on the Right, decided it was wrong to talk about it, because it was bad for them, because it was bad for Trump.

So you never heard the moralizing and the messaging you did all summer long, about Black Lives Matter, right? Where - where was that interest? Where was that interest in violence? If they can't play it to advantage, they don't play it.

Merrick Garland finally got a confirmation hearing today, more than four years after the one, he was supposed to get for the Supreme Court, remember, blocked by the GOPQ.

He led the Justice Department investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. And I kept thinking to myself "How do I connect this for people?" because I remember the Oklahoma City bombing, and people were really spooked by that, much more than January 6th.

He says the current threat from white supremacists is more dangerous. And then listen to what happens. The main Re-Trump-licans, who whipped up the White mob, senators Cruz and Hawley now want to talk about revenge politics.

They questioned Merrick Garland looking very concerned, very concerned that someone might use power for bad reason.

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SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Am I right in - in assuming, you do not view, your role as Attorney General, as being Joe Biden's wingman?

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I am not the President's lawyer. I am the United States' lawyer.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I have to say I'm very concerned about the specter of political targeting because it's happened before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Oh, yes, that's happened before. Where were you for Bill Barr? Where were you? You guys are legal experts and geniuses, clerks for the highest level,

and only now you see it? Political payback? You mean like you guys running your mouths in a way that made people so angry that they came to find you on January 6th? Remember how you hid?

Remember what got us here. 500,000 of us are dead, because we chose to fight reality rather than face it.

Tonight, we remember. This candlelight vigil at the White House will finally give some recognition to the unfathomable loss of so many loved ones all across this country. Tonight, they are seen. Their loss is observed. They matter. We could only hope that what happens tonight will allow some of us to be more cautious tomorrow.

Let's bring in the better minds for a sense of our state of play, John Harwood, and Michael Smerconish.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with me on an important night.

John, the relevance, of stopping to say, "Look at all this death," why hasn't it happened?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen with President Biden, he's demonstrated to the country what a difference the change of presidents has made.

Joe Biden is a person, who has suffered in his life and has empathy for those who have suffered. We see that in small ways.

Over the weekend, he went to see Bob Dole, former Senate Republican Leader, suffering advanced cancer, about to go through chemotherapy, served more than 20 years in the Senate with Joe Biden. Joe Biden went on an announced trip to see Bob Dole. Tonight, he held that candlelight ceremony moment of silence for 500,000 people, who've lost their lives.

President Trump had a completely different approach. He tried to downplay the Pandemic because he thought it was going to hurt him politically. He was not comfortable in expressing empathy.

So, dramatic contrast in leadership styles from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

And Joe Biden is doing this on a week, when this is the time for him to deliver on the huge COVID relief bill that he has made his top priority.

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So demonstrating the scale of the loss is something that underscores the argument that he's making for that $1.9 trillion bill to try to get past the Pandemic, try to help people financially get by it, and hopefully restore some sense of normalcy to American life, by the end of this year.

CUOMO: The scale of what, Michael, what Joe Biden has to face, we've never seen a president in our lifetime come in with more on their plate. He strikes the right tone. He understands pain, obviously. And he learned that lesson the worst way possible.

But what does it mean in terms of his ability to get people to rally to his side on policy?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, no one does compassion better than he does for all the reasons that both you and John have made reference to, twice, at least, having suffered really significant tragedy in his life.

So when I watched him tonight on CNN, when he was expressing himself, I thought, "You know, here's a guy who's been there, who can really reach those folks." Whether it translates into, say, legislative achievement, or speeding up the process by which we all get vaccinated, I really don't know.

And Chris, to your opening thought as to how we'd become so inured to all of what's going on, you make me think of the image of the airplane hitting one of the Twin Towers, which the first maybe 100 times that we saw, it was overwhelming. But we saw it so often that we became desensitized to it.

I can't help but think that every time we see the death count, and every time we see the number of cases, sooner or later, it dulls our senses, and it loses its sting. So, to stand back on a night, like tonight and say, "My God! 500,000 Americans have lost their lives," I think is very appropriate and hopefully has meaning.

CUOMO: Yes, I'm right with you. I really hope.

Well, John, look, if people don't care about families being destroyed, enough to just put on a mask, enough to have the forbearance, then that just is a statement of where we are.

In terms of where things are politically, for Biden, he can't lose a single vote on anything. And we saw something that usually wouldn't be an issue like staffing within his, own side, Neera Tanden. I mean it is a little bit of an indicator that it doesn't take much for the Democrats to break ranks.

HARWOOD: That's right. And look, he has significant advantages. He is controlling the agenda, as the new president, with an approval rating in the mid-to-high 50s. So he's off to a good start, certainly more popular than Donald Trump was at any point in his presidency.

He's got majorities in the House and Senate, but they're quite narrow. So he cannot - he has to have a cohesive party.

All the signs are that early, as Democrats try to make their new Democratic president successful, he does have that unity in the House. He - they plan to vote Friday or Saturday. He can only lose a handful of votes. But it appears that he can get that package through.

In the Senate, he can't lose a single member and let - without a Republican vote. There is no sign yet that any Republican's ready to sign on to this package, so he's got to hold all 50 Democrats.

Despite the flaking of Joe Manchin on the nomination of Neera Tanden, there is no indication yet that Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, others, who are the more ideologically moderate to conservative Democrats in the Caucus, that they're going to turn against this bill and sink it.

There's some controversy over the minimum wage. Both of them have reservations about that. But it appears likely, certainly the President has said so that the Senate Parliamentarian will strike that - the $15 minimum wage provision, which would take away the reason that they would have to oppose the package yet.

It looks like he can get this through. But this is where the - you've got to deliver. They got to deliver in the House this week. Then it goes to the Senate, and we'll see if they can get it done.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, look, I have to believe that you're going to see problems in the House on that progressive wing.

And yes, you may have a Senate Parliamentarian bail him out on the minimum wage, but they're going to have problems. And that's going to be some challenge for Nancy Pelosi. But we don't have to get ahead of ourselves. Let's deal with the moment.

Michael, Trump going to CPAC, I was very interested in your qualified statement here that you gave to the Producer.

"If he's healthy, not indicted, and financially solvent, he could be the 2024 nominee." That is a real high bar you're sitting there for the Right. And I am surprised you didn't list the - uh, he say he's healthy, I guess that's the pulse test.

But what does it mean that he is going to CPAC in an environment where Steve Scalise and many others still won't say that Biden legitimately won the election.

SMERCONISH: He's laying down a marker. I mean, he's going there, and he's going there very soon, after having left office. I find it interesting that former Vice President Mike Pence apparently is not going.

[21:15:00]

And I think he wants to go and draw a line in the sand and let everyone know that until such time as he says he's not the guy, he remains the nominee for 2024, although, what a big development today with the fact that Cy Vance is going to get those tax returns and corresponding financial documents.

Chris, I was thinking of something. I was thinking about the Clinton years. And the Clinton investigation began with a business dealing, Whitewater, ended with sex. In Trump's case, it begins with sex. It's probably going to end up with business dealings. It's the complete reverse.

And I think you'd rather be Bill Clinton than Donald Trump because Americans end up looking at the intern situation, and saying, "You know, he lied about what?" in the same way that the hush money payments to, I guess, a stripper and a Playmate, go in the same category. But look out now if it has spilled into business transactions, and potentially bank fraud. Who knows?

CUOMO: Donald Trump was at the helm when a pandemic ravaged this country because of his own desire to deny it, and tap into the denial of the American people, and half a million people are dead. That is the end of any comparison of him and any president, let alone Clinton. But I take your point, and I appreciate it.

John Harwood, Michael Smerconish, as always, value-added.

Now, our next guest says, "To win again, the GOP needs to move on from Trump, not embrace him." Remember, everything that Biden wants to get done, almost all of it, he needs buy-in from the Right. So you can't just ignore what's happening there.

So, we have one of the very few Republicans in Congress willing to stand for country, over Party, even if it makes him unwanted for the holidays in his own house. Adam Kinzinger is here to make the case, next.

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CUOMO: You can't analyze the state of play in our government without looking at the Right. And the big question is whether or not Republicans will resist anything that resembles success for a Biden Administration, in the name of Trump.

He has a prime speaking slot at CPAC, right, which is the conservative stronghold. You got Republicans going to kiss that ring or something else at Mar-a-Lago? How do they move on without him? Very few are calling to do that, by the way. One of them is our next guest, Congressman, Adam Kinzinger, Republican, Illinois.

Good to see you, Sir.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): You too, my man, how are you?

CUOMO: Let's discuss what you're just going to love, which is how hard a task you have. So first, we have a member of your leadership, Steve Scalise, who was on TV, asked a very simple question, about the legitimacy of the election, and said this.

Hmm! Nothing like silence! Am I supposed to give an impression of him? So Steve Scalise wouldn't answer the question of how - there it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Election was not stolen, correct?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Look, Joe Biden's the President. There were a few states that did not follow their state laws. That's really the dispute that you've seen continue on.

KARL: I ask you.

SCALISE: Yes.

KARL: Is he the legitimate president of the United States? And do you concede that this election was not stolen? Very simple question, please, just answer it.

SCALISE: Look, once - once the electors are counted, yes, he's the legitimate president. But if you're going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own state legislatively- set laws, that's the issue at heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, here is the problem. That's not true, what he said. And I think he knows it's not true. It's hard to know, because he lives in such a silo, you know? He's such a Right-fringe, kind of inhabitant.

But there is no state that didn't follow its law in a way that was unacceptable to that state's lawmaking process, or its adjudication process through the courts. It's just not true.

But if your leadership is saying that, that's a problem for you, because your Party agrees. "Would you support if Trump formed a third party?" 46 percent of your brothers and sisters say "Yes." 27 percent say, "I'll stay GOP." 27 percent say, "I don't know."

How do you beat all this?

KINZINGER: It's going to take time. And it's going to take actually speaking up and saying the truth. And so, with - with the Whip's comments, I don't understand why we can't just say the very basic thing, which is Joe Biden's president.

You know? You see this chatter where everybody talks about, "Well, then you're disenfranchising the 74 million people that voted for Donald Trump."

Look, you got 74 million people vote for him. Joe Biden had like 81 million people. So, you're not being disenfranchised, you're actually being enfranchised. It's just more people voted the other way. That's what this whole thing is about. And that's where I get concerned is if you have concerns with how an

election was run, OK, even though the federal government's job, I mean, if you think about when the system was set up, before the days of Twitter, we just simply receive what a state sends us, and we say, "OK, good to go." That's our job.

If there's a problem with how Pennsylvania runs its elections, that's for the people of Pennsylvania to deal with, in the state legislature, not for us to come in and to implement our will.

And so, I don't understand why such a basic rationale - look, we lost, OK? Donald Trump lost. And instead of complaining about that, we need to just figure out why, and try to get more votes than the next person the next time.

[21:25:00]

CUOMO: But you also have to figure out why he's such a rare animal.

You know? I was talking about you this weekend, one of my favorite pastimes. And somebody was like "Oh, Kinzinger, he just hates Trump." I said "Is that why you voted with him 90 percent of the time?" I said, "The guy is a conservative Republican. That's what he is. You may like that. You may not like that."

This is about that, and part of character integrity, and what you want to see in a leader. Your voting record is - no Republican could really blink at it and say, "You're not a real member of the Party."

But you got censured by your state party, because you're not pure Trump enough. Your own family was chasing after you with two different letters about how, you know, all the things that only family can say to one of their own, about what a disappointment you are.

Can you win, in this Party, right now, at home?

KINZINGER: Yes, I certainly hope so. I'm going to try. And that's where - look, there's been basically Donald Trump has had unmatched, for four years or five years, the MAGAphone.

And now, we need to have competing voices. I wish it was more than just me out there. But I'm going to continue to be as loud as I can. That's what the whole - I have to do the shameless plug.

Countryfirst.com is about with oneness because it's about not propelling me, not putting me in a position. It's about saying the truly country-first Republicans, or Independents, that are country- first, or even some Democrats saying, "Look, stand up and put the country before any single person."

And I think, look, there is nobody in my Party, I think that really believes this is a long-term winning solution.

But they're hoping, I think, in many cases that somebody, like me, or there is an organic movement, away from Trump, and then they can say, "Gee, I was never with him the whole time." The problem is in this era of new media, and everything, the tapes last.

CUOMO: True. And look, you do have the mandate issue on your side that your Party is folding itself over for Trump, who has never won a majority of any election he's been in. And that's an interesting bet that goes to the kind of changing demographics, and where your Party is on it.

Does any of this give you pause, not about being a Democrat, because you don't agree with them on most policy things, but of whether or not you're in the right business. You're a natural leader. Everyone who knows you says that. But do you think there is a space for you, in the state of politics right now?

KINZINGER: So, I think that's what we're going to know, in the next few years, honestly, is, where does this Party go? What does that look like?

What does - does it continue to say "We're going to pledge allegiance to a man over a flag, in some cases," does it say, "You know what? We're going to get back to the roots of what we believe in, put it in 21st Century with updated technology?"

If that's the case, and I think that will be the case, but it's only going to happen when people are coming out, and speaking the truth. I mean, look, Chris, in my district, I got 65 percent of the vote. Donald Trump got 56 percent of the vote.

If you think the Donald Trump thing, in the long-term, is going to be the winning coalition, and not somebody like me, that's conservative, but doesn't offend people, and doesn't go out and, and attack, and say that "You owe me everything," and doesn't incite insurrections, then we'll be a minority party forever.

But I don't know what that looks like. All I know is I can rest with real peace, knowing that I'm going to fight as hard as I can to get a normal functioning Republican Party that needs to be part of this.

CUOMO: And in fairness, you didn't get brought into office, because Trump said so. He was not a fan of yours for some time, because of your lack of fealty.

We haven't heard of the Party making a move on you unless there's something you want to let us know, in terms of not wanting you on committees or anything like that. So that's a good indication.

Have you been able to mollify any of your family members?

KINZINGER: So look, the vast majority of my family, even if they disagree with me, they're good family members. These are my dad's cousins.

And quite honestly, the letter that came out, I didn't even release that. She had sent that to so many people, out of so much anger, just can't help herself, and it went out. And I'm glad the letter came out, because I think that people need to see. If you haven't experienced that division in your family, this is the best example of it. And so, look, I hold nothing against them. I mean, maybe someday I'll

have to look back, and do some more forgiveness in my heart. But I don't feel it right now. I just have no desire really to reach out and repair it. That's up to them.

CUOMO: Boy, you put a vowel, on the end of your name, and you'd know exactly how mad you are at them right now. Maybe this is an upside to not having more of an ethnic swing to you.

Congressman Kinzinger, look, I do not mean to give you a hard time about your challenge. I think that it is really refreshing to have somebody, who just wants to do what they think is right, policy-wise, and personally, in terms of the values.

It's just not a very helpful climate for you. That's why I consider it a pleasure to have you on the show to make the case.

KINZINGER: You bet, any time.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

[21:30:00]

It's true. I know you guys are going to come at me and say, "Hey, we need more guys like him." Maybe, maybe not, depending on your politics, but it is refreshing.

And now, we're seeing the opposite. Trump is going back to CPAC. That organization, back in the day, would have really had no part of someone like him, but things have changed. Why is he a good bet for them?

Again, he lost reelection by more than 7 million votes. The most votes we've ever seen someone get was his opponent. He lost the House, lost the Senate. Why is he the one that conservatives turn to for inspiration?

That is a question for the man behind CPAC, on the choice to keep the MAGA Movement going, Matt Schlapp. Next.

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[21:35:00] CUOMO: Trump's going to make his first post-presidential appearance this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, CPAC.

The same time, his former VP Mike Pence declined a chance to speak, supposedly because the former president and VP are supposed to stay quiet after the Inauguration. That's why he says he's not going.

Let's talk about who is going. Let's bring in the Chairman of CPAC, Matt Schlapp.

Good to see you, Matt. Why is this, the right move for CPAC--

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Good to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: --to give Trump the platform, which somewhat presents him as a future prospect?

SCHLAPP: Well, I mean, the reason why it's right for President Trump to be at CPAC is because he just spent four years enacting the most conservative policy we've ever seen, from any president, certainly any Republican president.

And 73 million Americans voted for him. They thought the policies helped make America strong. We weren't apologizing overseas. The Forgotten men and women had great economic prospects.

And he simply did what he said he was going to do, so why not have him speak? It seems to me that it makes perfect sense that he would come back, and talk to his followers, and faithful, and talk about what's going to happen in the future.

CUOMO: Because it makes CPAC tacitly endorsing his election farce.

SCHLAPP: Well I don't know what that means.

CUOMO: Well, he lied about the election being a fraud, and you having him there, and giving him a platform seems to be your acknowledgment of the same. If you have him on the platform, then you're saying--

SCHLAPP: So we're going to spend--

CUOMO: --"Yes. We like what we says."

SCHLAPP: I'd love - I'd love you to look at our agenda. We're actually going to spend a lot of time going through what happened in these states. You said several things in the previous interview that simply aren't true. You said that these states were simply following state law.

CUOMO: No, I didn't.

SCHLAPP: I was in the State of Nevada. That's simply not true.

CUOMO: No, I didn't. SCHLAPP: Clark County--

CUOMO: I didn't - I didn't say that.

SCHLAPP: Clark County was not following state law.

CUOMO: I didn't say that. What I said was--

SCHLAPP: OK. Well what do you mean?

CUOMO: I'll tell you. What I said was, it is not true--

SCHLAPP: OK.

CUOMO: --that any state decided that it was doing something wrong. And states get to decide. And it was adjudicated. You just don't like that you lost in the state. You don't like that the Supreme Court refused to see any merit to your claims. You don't like that when you say people voted in places--

SCHLAPP: So let me just say--

CUOMO: --where they didn't live, the numbers were lower than you suggested, and were found unimpressive to the court. You don't like those things. But those things are true.

SCHLAPP: I don't. I don't like those things. But it's still very important that we go back to the idea of legal voting, and people should be legally registered to vote, in order to vote that people - I don't think it's very controversial to say that people should vote one time.

And when you're in the midst of a Pandemic, when 50 percent of the people--

CUOMO: Yes, but you don't have a significant number of people who voted more than once.

SCHLAPP: --voted by mail that you shouldn't be able to vote in two states.

CUOMO: It's not conceptual.

SCHLAPP: That's not true. And the fact is--

CUOMO: It's not conceptual though. Matt, I hear what you're saying. I've heard you say it a lot.

SCHLAPP: Chris, just because you win--

CUOMO: I'm just saying it's just not true.

SCHLAPP: Well you had me - you had me on that you had me on this show, and you're telling me that - saying that there was widespread illegal voting is false. And I'm trying to explain to you that, for instance, what they did in the state of Georgia, when they had an illegal consent decree to buy - to mind you, not verify the signatures, of mail-in ballots, which is what they also did in Clark County, essentially, that means that you have no security on the ballot that was mailed out without unsolicited vast mail-in ballots, they were returned with no security.

You can't have an election in another country, that the State Department would accept these types of ground rules. So we got to go back to voting--

CUOMO: You have no--

SCHLAPP: --in a legal and--

CUOMO: But Matt?

SCHLAPP: --orderly manner.

CUOMO: But Matt, you're making a straw man argument. It's a boogeyman argument. There is no proof of rampant fraud. Nobody's saying the process is perfect.

SCHLAPP: Then why did a--

CUOMO: You lost. And now, you're going to keep that going.

SCHLAPP: Let me ask you this question. What - how come--

CUOMO: Steve Scalise, the other day, on TV, you here, you guys really want the conservative movement to be made on the back of a lie about the election?

SCHLAPP: Let me just go through a couple things you just said.

CUOMO: Sure.

SCHLAPP: Joe Biden is my president, OK? He won the election.

CUOMO: Good.

SCHLAPP: That doesn't mean that there wasn't voter fraud and voter irregularity in the last election. There's a Republican who went to jail for voter fraud in North Carolina.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHLAPP: It can't just be Republican - Republicans that commit voter fraud. When voter fraud occurs, no matter who commits it--

CUOMO: No. But you need to have proof, Matt.

SCHLAPP: --it should be fully prosecuted. And what happened--

CUOMO: You have to have proof that it would have--

SCHLAPP: We have thousands--

CUOMO: --changed an outcome.

SCHLAPP: We have it.

CUOMO: You don't have it.

SCHLAPP: We have it. But you're right. You're right. We do have it.

CUOMO: You can't have it--

SCHLAPP: I'd love to sit down.

CUOMO: --because you had chances to produce it.

SCHLAPP: Hey, would you sit down and go through with me?

CUOMO: You had chances to produce it.

SCHLAPP: Would you sit down?

CUOMO: Matt? No, no.

SCHLAPP: Would you sit down and go through the evidence with me?

CUOMO: Because you had your chance at this.

SCHLAPP: You won't do it.

CUOMO: Matt, you had your chance.

SCHLAPP: You've never - nobody.

CUOMO: Matt, why do you ignore that dozens of lawsuits--

SCHLAPP: Chris, let me just try--

CUOMO: --failed on this?

SCHLAPP: Let - let me--

CUOMO: Why ignore it?

SCHLAPP: You're right. They did. They did fail. But guess what, you know this, you're a good lawyer. Just because you fail in court doesn't mean you don't have a good case. It means you're lost in court.

[21:40:00]

And the fact remains that you can say it wasn't enough voter fraud. I don't think any voter fraud is acceptable. I actually think we should try to get rid of all of it. You should never be able to mail - you should never be able to vote through the mail in this country without somebody on the other side making sure it was you.

CUOMO: Georgia state officials--

SCHLAPP: And making sure that you are a legally registered voter.

CUOMO: Georgia state officials--

SCHLAPP: You must agree with that.

CUOMO: Georgia--

SCHLAPP: Chris, do you agree with what I just said?

CUOMO: I - I agree with--

SCHLAPP: You must agree with that.

CUOMO: I agree with the premise. I don't agree with the proposition of what happened. There is no proof that there was a problem based on your suspicion. Georgia said there was no fraud.

SCHLAPP: I'll sit down and show you the proof. Would you sit down with me?

CUOMO: Georgia says there was no fraud.

SCHLAPP: And go through the proof?

CUOMO: And these are your people.

SCHLAPP: That's not right.

CUOMO: They are Republicans.

SCHLAPP: That's - that's not right, no.

CUOMO: But it is right.

SCHLAPP: No, you're not right.

CUOMO: They said--

SCHLAPP: No.

CUOMO: I am right.

SCHLAPP: Nobody ever said there was no - nobody ever said there was no fraud in Georgia. What they actually said was--

CUOMO: The Georgia officials said exactly that.

SCHLAPP: --that they were going to not check the signatures on the mailed-in ballots.

CUOMO: You heard Georgia state officials--

SCHLAPP: And if you don't check the signatures on the mailed-in ballots-- CUOMO: You heard Georgia--

SCHLAPP: --you can't know if that's illegal ballot.

CUOMO: Matt? Matt, come on.

SCHLAPP: And you can't run a democracy that way.

CUOMO: Matt, listen, if you want to make things better, make them better. I'm just telling you these arguments are making things worse.

SCHLAPP: I do that every day, my friend.

CUOMO: These are your officials in Georgia.

SCHLAPP: I do that every day. And I think having--

CUOMO: From your Party, who said there was no fraud here. "Stop saying it. You're going to get hurt." And then you did.

SCHLAPP: Chris? Chris? There was widespread voter fraud in the last election.

In a bipartisan sense, Democrats and Republicans should agree in on couple things. You should be a registered voter to vote. Certainly, if you're in a registration state, you should only vote once.

And if you vote by mail, somebody at that election office should have to verify that signature, according to the state statute. That did not happen in the state of Nevada. And that did not happen in Georgia. And that did not happen in Philadelphia.

CUOMO: And if you're going to qualify--

SCHLAPP: You can say it's fine. I say--

CUOMO: If you're--

SCHLAPP: --let's never have an election like that ever again.

CUOMO: And if you're going to - look, I - nobody should argue against improvements. What I'm saying is very simple. And you know this. What Trump did--

SCHLAPP: Very good, very good.

CUOMO: What Trump did was - well, first of all, these same issues came up four years ago, you guys had a deaf ear. You said the Democrats were sore losers, and they didn't respect the process, and they were undermining democracy. So let's not get on a soapbox too fast.

SCHLAPP: And you spent four years saying--

CUOMO: What I'm--

SCHLAPP: --there was Russian collusion, and that that was not - that the election should be questioned. And Hillary Clinton said--

CUOMO: Not only--

SCHLAPP: --to Joe Biden he should never ever concede.

CUOMO: Not only--

SCHLAPP: And this is like a--

CUOMO: Not only--

SCHLAPP: --this is like hypocrisy, like I've never seen.

CUOMO: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on, no, it's not. Here's why. Not only did I say there was collusion, I will say it now that there was collusion. Collusion is not a crime. It's a behavior. And Trump's people did what they do best. They did dumb things for bad reasons.

But look, you made your arguments. I gave you your time. We'll look and see what happens at CPAC.

SCHLAPP: Bob Mueller found no--

CUOMO: You're welcome on this show.

SCHLAPP: --found no collusion, my friend.

CUOMO: He did not find no collusion.

SCHLAPP: He found no collusion, sorry.

CUOMO: Collusion is not a crime. He wasn't even looking at it as such.

SCHLAPP: He found no collusion.

CUOMO: Learn to read, my brother. It's right in the details.

SCHLAPP: He said there was--

CUOMO: I got to go.

SCHLAPP: --there was nothing inappropriate with Russia--

CUOMO: He didn't--

SCHLAPP: --in the 2016 election.

CUOMO: That he never said that.

SCHLAPP: Good to see you, my friend.

CUOMO: Never said it. Good to see you.

SCHLAPP: He did.

CUOMO: Glad to offer the platform. SCHLAPP: Yes, he did.

CUOMO: Let the people decide.

Matt Schlapp, CPAC. Let's see what Trump says when he goes there. And look, he's going to have trouble, not with CPAC. They have nobody better. They have nobody that they believe in more. That's on them. He has trouble that has nothing to do with them.

Legal peril, the Supreme Court rejected his bid to keep his taxes from a New York prosecutor. That doesn't mean that we're all going to get to peruse the former president's taxes. Know that.

But his niece says she has a case against him, and she knows him. And she knows why, or she believes why, he is so worried about this, and that it's something we have to take note of. And she also has a guess as to what happens next. Let's discuss.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:45:00]

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: The Supreme Court decided today to allow former president Trump's tax returns into the hands of a New York prosecutor. Now, that may place Trump and his businesses a step closer to legal jeopardy.

Because a big part of the theory is that they're looking to see if he played games with assets versus liabilities, meaning, it meant one thing, when he was trying to borrow money against it, and another thing, when he had to pay taxes on it, so that can be a dangerous game.

Trump, after all, has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his financial records hidden. This is a grand jury investigation, OK? They will soon have access to documents spanning from January 2011 to August 2019, including tax returns that come from his accounting firm.

They relate to the Trump Organization's employment of his former lawyer Michael Cohen, and those hush money payments that Cohen allegedly made to two women, on behalf of Trump. It's really not an allegation. He made the payments.

Meantime, Trump faces nearly a dozen investigations and lawsuits, across several states, including one from his own niece, Mary Trump, who has since been revealed as the source for "The New York Times" expose on Trump's taxes. She's also the Author, of course, of "Too Much and Never Enough."

Mary Trump, welcome back to PRIME TIME.

MARY TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S NIECE: Great to be here. Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Why doesn't he want people, let alone prosecutors, to see his taxes?

TRUMP: Well, there are a couple of reasons. It's hard to know, which is more important to him.

But probably, the most important one is that he's never actually made any money. And every penny Donald has was really my grandfather's initially.

Secondly, he's going to be shown to have been somebody who gave zero to charitable causes.

And for our purposes, the most important one, of course, is that he has most likely been committing tax fraud for decades.

So, it's a huge victory, I think, for the Supreme Courts have cleared the way for New York State to get access to Donald's tax returns, because it's a long time coming. He should have faced accountability a long time ago.

[21:50:00]

And as we learn from your previous guests, the Republican Party is going to do absolutely nothing to contain Donald. And they're just going to allow him to continue to be the Head of their increasingly anti-Democratic party that's perfectly comfortable engaging in counter-majoritarian tactics to stay in power illegitimately.

CUOMO: Well, look politically, his Party has a problem with perception versus reality. In politics, perception can be reality. And that's what they're hoping when it comes to the election fraud. All I can do is present the facts.

And to be honest with you that's an easy conversation, you know?

TRUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: I'm sure everybody will look at it through a partisan lens. But there are no good arguments there. They're easy to bat down. I could do that and my taxes at the same time. But this is different now. When the taxes come out, the perception of a prosecutor can be reality, if there is proof.

The counter Mary is, "But he says he gets audited all the time. Wouldn't they have caught him already, if he had done bad things with his taxes?"

TRUMP: Well, first of all, there's no reason to believe that he actually has been under audit for the last, what is he been saying that, for decades?

CUOMO: Forever. Yes, he says "I'm always under audit because"--

TRUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: --"because I'm a strong Christian."

TRUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: He said.

TRUMP: Sure. But that aside, it doesn't matter what he says, because the IRS knows the truth. And pretty soon, the New York Cy Vance, and Letitia James, in New York, are going to have access to those documents that show what is - what is the case.

And as we've known, since 2018, thanks to that extraordinary "New York Times" article, by Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner, Donald has been playing "Fast and Loose" with the truth regarding his finances, for decades.

And it's about time the American people have access to exactly what has been going on, and what most likely has continued going on, because let's face it, this is a very longstanding pattern.

CUOMO: Does your lawsuit stand where in terms of its process?

TRUMP: We're still pretty at the pretty beginning stages of it. We have a hurdle of statutes of limitations to get over. So once, hopefully, that gets cleared, it will be full speed ahead.

But the good thing is it's not just my lawsuit. It's not just Cy Vance, not just Letitia James. My lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, has two other lawsuits going on. We have potentially, an investigation in Georgia, looking into voter fraud. And I know that doesn't have to do with the finances.

But what we've learned is that Donald has a tendency to get away with things. So, the more we pile on, the more avenues of investigation there are, the more likely it is that we're finally maybe going to get some justice.

CUOMO: What is your sense of how your uncle deals with having so many irons in the fire against him?

TRUMP: He probably doesn't think about it very much, honestly. I think, at the moment, he's probably focused on CPAC. He's probably looking that - at that, as his way, to get back into the conversation.

And let's be clear, CPAC, his speech at CPAC is going to be an endless list of grievances, about how the election was stolen from him, how the election was stolen from his voters.

And regardless of what other Republicans may or may not say, they're going to be enabling that extraordinarily dangerous rhetoric. So, it's unfortunate that that's being allowed to happen. But it also increases the urgency of these state-level cases and these lawsuits going through.

CUOMO: I mean, look, he's the best game in town for CPAC. And he's never made the kind of money from anything as quickly as he has from his complaints about the election. They've raised $250 million in eight weeks, based on election lies. So this is profitable for him, as well. And it leads to the legacy effect.

You're the branch of the family that doesn't like him. But there is this idea of he will be able to appoint who comes next, even if that means it's one of his daughters-in-law.

Lara Trump is trying to extend the brand. Here's what she says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARA TRUMP, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO TRUMP CAMPAIGN: He has told us to stay tuned that this is not over for him. And he has indicated that he probably would be interested in running again, in 2024.

Look, he is the Head of the Republican Party. He is - is really the person that everyone will continue to turn to, in order to help them get across the line, whether we're talking about 2022 or beyond, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So, she wants to get in the game. You had said that you didn't think he'd want to run again. And look, he has to say he might because it makes him marketable. But where do you think the truth lies?

[21:55:00]

TRUMP: Well, it's not that he wouldn't run again. It's that he has no intention of actually going all the way, because he won't risk losing. But he will pretend to run, for sure, because, as you said, it's incredibly lucrative for him.

And the truth of the matter, though, is that if indeed, he continues to be the Head of the Republican Party, what we need to do is what you mentioned, alluded to, in the last segment. We need to make it clear that what the Republican Party stands for is the big lie.

And let's not forget, even more importantly, they seem to be perfectly comfortable with the fact that this man incited an armed insurrection against our country, and the Republicans have no problem with that. That needs to be a permanent stain on any Republican's reputation that continues to enable this extraordinarily dangerous rhetoric.

CUOMO: It'll certainly be a matter of fact. Mary Trump, thank you very much.

We'll be right back.

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CUOMO: Tonight, we finally do the right thing. Please, be sure to watch the CNN special, We Remember 500,000, a national memorial for COVID-19 tonight at 11 p.m. Eastern. Right now, the big show, "CNN TONIGHT" with the big star, D. Lemon.