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Cuomo Prime Time

One-On-One With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized After Treatment For Benign Gallbladder Condition, "Resting Comfortably"; Ousted Vaccine Expert Files Whistleblower Complaint; Whistleblower Complaint: Coronavirus Warnings Were Ignored; New York City Show Of Nightly Gratitude For Frontline Heroes. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 05, 2020 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much. As always have a great night. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME. So one day they tell us deaths soon may be doubling. The next day they say, the Coronavirus Task Force may be shut down at about the same time. More mixed madness.

Then you have the President acknowledging that re-opening our country will likely kill more of us, but we got to get our country back. How can he accept that when he hasn't even come close to doing what he can to avoid more main and death?

Our big guest, the Governor of New York, he's trying to hold back the tide the President is surfing. He says there's a safer and better way. He says he even has a plan. The question is will he be able to execute it?

And you remember the ousted vaccine Jake who said he was retaliated against for going against the Trump on this virus? He just filed a whistle-blower complaint. We have his attorney to make and defend his case. Now look, no matter what happens our standard must remain the same - facts and fierce accountability for the same, together forever as one. Let's get after it.

All right, so let the record be clear - the President knows that re- opening will cost lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that's the reality we're facing, that lives will be lost to re-open the country?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's possible there will be some, because you won't be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is. But at the same time we're going to practice social distancing.


CUOMO: Just to be clear, it isn't a question. No one thinks that you can relax the only standards that are keeping cases down and not have cased and therefore mortality go up. That's a rhetorical question. There's only one answer. Yes, it will happen.

The question is, how much? It's hard to believe that the President wants safety to be first when he's winding down his Coronavirus response team according to a Senior White House Official so on that score, here comes the spin.


TRUMP: We'll have something in a different form, but the task force for what we've done, I think everybody out there, when they're being very honest, I think the job we've done on testing will shortly be - maybe even supersede the job we've done on ventilators. We're working closely with the Governors to have everything they need.


CUOMO: Either the task force exists or it doesn't. And in terms of testing, to be very clear, no state in this country is anywhere close to where it needs to be to do the job that the President has tasked them with doing. Let's get better perspective. Governor Cuomo of New York strongly argues there is a better way than what the President is suggesting.

Always good to see you big brother.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Good to see you out of the basement. Nice haircut.

CUOMO: You like it? The misses did it.

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, it's clear that she did it. She obviously harbors a deep resentment. Good to see you right out of the basement any way.

CUOMO: Well, you need any help with the lots, let me know. I'll be glad to do it for you free of charge. Let's talk about why my wife might be upset at me. The fact that we're all jammed in the house together a couple of ago you were here and you said look, death is death nothing else equates with that.

Economic realities we can deal with. It was very popular when you said it went viral all over the place online. Two weeks later it seems that argument is losing. That economic need and a desire and a fatigue with being home is starting to win over half the states are doing some kind of re-opening. Is it time for you to shift your thinking?

GOV. CUOMO: Oh, truth is truth. Facts are facts. They don't change. I understand the political pressure. I understand the political theory that says let's re-open, let's get the economy going, and that's what it will take to help political candidates succeed. But this virus doesn't play politics. This virus doesn't respect political parties, doesn't respond to political theory. And we know what happens.

We've seen countries that have opened prematurely, opened early felt the same pressure. You have seen what happened in Germany in South Korea in China. And the numbers go up. All the reports say that. The FEMA, the Federal agency, says the number of cases per day will go from 25,000 to 200,000.

The IHME, the projection model that the White House relies on went from 60,000 deaths to 134,000 deaths projected by early August because of the accelerated re-opening. So that's a fact. You know, the virus will transmit - the virus will in fact, and the virus will kill. That's a fact.


CUOMO: The idea that it's the price of freedom that is the price of getting our country back, that it is the price of letting families get their money right and get their jobs back and have their dreams not be destroyed. How do you rationalize the price?

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, well, I understand the pressure. That's the pressure the other countries felt, and they re-opened in a dramatic way. The death toll went up, the infection rate went up, and they did a 180, the people in those countries said, close the valve.

We're losing too many people. And I don't believe it's a question of open or re-open. That's how some would like to frame it. If it's open versus re-open, everybody votes re-open, but that's not the choice. It's how do you re-open? Do you just open the gates, or do you do it intelligently?

And what we're doing in this state we're talking about re-opening, but re-opening intelligently, based on facts and data. You know the hospitalization rate. You know the death rate. You know the infection rate. You know the - rate. And monitor those numerical indices, watch what's going on and calibrate your action to the facts and the data.

That's the smart way to re-open. So that's what we're pushing within New York. Nobody's saying in New York that we don't plan to re-open. We plan to re-open based on facts and data and science, no at on political theory or whim, and not dismissing all the data and all the science.

CUOMO: What do you make of the word from the White House official that they're thinking about shutting down the Task Force? The President when asked about it said they'll have something - everything they need in some different form. What's your take?

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, they want it over, right? This entire situation has been an inconvenience and a disruption. They want it over. They want to proclaim it over. They have been looking to proclaim it over from day one right? They went to great lengths, initially to minimize it. It then became undeniable.

They dealt with it and then left it to the states. But they want it over. That is clear. But the virus doesn't care. The virus doesn't listen. This is not a marketing situation. You can't talk your way around this. That virus is there. That virus is going to infect people. People will die. Those numbers will go up, and that is going to be undeniable. So, and Governors are now making decisions. I get the political pressure, I get the political heat. We feel it in New York. But overwhelmingly the people know reality. They see the numbers.

Death is the one thing, Chris, you can't explain that away. People die, people die, and those numbers are going to be undeniable. So all we're saying is let's do it intelligently. Phase it with numerical indicators. Let's watch it, see how it goes?

We don't have to make the mistake the other countries made where you go from closed to open. There's an intelligent calibration that can be done by watching the data and then calibrating your actions and that's what we're going to do here.

CUOMO: but with every day that people re-open and people in New York start to see that, there will be more pressure and the calculation of, well, when is enough of a decrease enough? And you say you have a plan. Everybody has a plan. At the end of the day, all of the plans wind up revealing some kind of exposure. What makes your plan better than any other plan?

GOV. CUOMO: Well, I don't - yes, everybody has a plan. That's true. We've studied all the plans in this country. We've studied all the plans internationally, actually, and I think we have a very good model of data points that we are studying that we track now every day, and our re-opening is phased and calibrated to that.

We do need more testing and that is an open issue. And you just heard the President say he thinks it's going to go well, but every state will say, as you pointed out, they're not there yet. They have to come up to scale. You then have to put tracing in place, which is an enormous undertaking that's never been done before.

That he has to be put in place to gauge the re-opening. You can't really phase this and calibrate it without testing and tracing. So we're preparing for a re-opening. We have about another week before we could open some regions of the state. We do see regional variations across the states.


GOV. CUOMO: So we're responding to those, because there are different facts upstate than downstate, so we're responding to those, but we're not going to be pressured into it. It's not a question of emotion - I'm tired of staying home. I'm worried. I'm anxious.

Yes, everybody's worried. And everybody's anxious. That is not a substitute for logic and intelligence, right? And government is not supposed to make policy by political pressure, and if that's what's happening, people shouldn't be a policy maker in government and it shouldn't be because emotion has brought us to this point. Let fact and data and science bring us to this point.

CUOMO: Politics gets moved by emotion more than it does fact. You have a great saying that perception is often reality, especially in politics. People start to blame your deliberateness with their pain you're going pay a price for that your fallback will be data testing.

And I know you're making advances. I know that advances are being made around the region and that you're working with other states now to help with that. But isn't it a fair statement that even in the lighter regions in New York State in terms of traffic, you don't have enough capacity to tell anybody with any degree of certainty, here's how many cases you have on a daily bases?

We could turn it around in 24 hours. We could find out who anybody is sick touched and make it safe anywhere, just to be honest?

GOV. CUOMO: We have the safeguards on the key indicators. We went through heck with the fear of overwhelming our hospital system. So we're saying you can't have a hospital system over 70 percent capacities. You can't have an ICU unit over 70 percent capacities. You have to have a 30 percent buffer.

We know how many hospitalizations are coming in every day. If you watch that hospitalization rate, it's basically a two-week lag, but you know what your infection rate is, you can calibrate it. And we are calibrating it. You're right that you need testing and we don't have nearly the scale of testing and nobody does.

And you can't just assume that's going to happen, because that's very difficult. That's part state, part Federal. The Federal Government has to provide the supply chain for the national manufacturers on the testing side, and then you need to trace it, and that's a question of funding.

The operation the states can do. But it has to be funded and you have to have the supply chain. Those two elements are going to be key. Yes, you said fierce accountability. It sounds good. I'm not sure what it means. But fierce accountability - people are going to hold leaders accountable for what they do.

There is no doubt about that. But this is going to be a long - this is not next week and the week after. They're going to watch the death rates. They're going to see if this actually works, and they're going look back with that critical eye. So leadership matters here.

And what government does matter, and what that Federal Government does matters and if it passes legislation or not that's going to matter.

CUOMO: But that's where the fierceness comes in. Let me take a break. When we come back, we got talk about the realities about why you're making a different determination than the President?

What is the reality of what you need to test because it has been put on you? What is tracing and why does every Governor say that's the scariest part of all of this when we hear nothing about it on the Federal side?

And then you said the magic word of legislation. Is there any chance that you're going get more money, more legislative action after what the President said today? I'll explain what he said and in context why it makes it look pretty grim for you? That's the fierceness. Please thank you for staying around. We'll have the Governor with us right after this break.



CUOMO: We are back now with Governor Andrew Cuomo. You're friends and fans are coming at me on social media. Don't give him a hard time. Give me a break. So you asked about the fierceness before the break. Here's where the fierceness of accountability comes in.

We understand the plans that you have and other places have testing, tracing. You don't have the money to do what you need to do to get done what triggers the different phases of your plan? You've gotten it taken to you coming and going from the Federal Government. Just to be fair, for the audience, what you need to do is testing? Do you have the money to do it right now?

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, first, on your comment about friends and family - called me before the show and says, go easy on you.

CUOMO: My wife, who?

GOV. CUOMO: --so I had been going easy on you. Delilah.

CUOMO: Who is that?

GOV. CUOMO: From the Bible.

CUOMO: Oh, I got you. Go ahead.

GOV. CUOMO: Check. Here's the first question - you're right, the states need funding. States need funding "A" for testing/tracing. "B," states need money because we have a deficit from the Coronavirus and--

CUOMO: And you have not been given that money, so you don't have enough?

GOV. CUOMO: Right. If they don't pass a piece of legislation Chris - hold it a second. They are now - they were supposed to it this week. They're going to come back next week. If they don't pass a piece of legislation, game over.

CUOMO: But how do they pass a piece of legislation? The President tweeted today, no legislation unless there's stuff for hotels in it in immigration. Those are poisoned pills. You're not going get anything out of Nancy Pelosi with those things in it?

GOV. CUOMO: Well, if they - yes, and that's exactly right. I believe the Democrats feel burned from the bill they passed two weeks ago, the bill that the money for the small businesses but didn't do police, didn't do fire, didn't do school teaches, didn't do state and local government, right?

And everybody said, don't worry, we'll work it out. And now it looks like the political divide is getting even bigger.


GOV. CUOMO: If they don't pass legislation, they don't provide funding states will suffer. Every state - Democrat states, Republican states. They won't do the testing, won't have the money for the tracing. They won't be able to bring back their economy. It will be classic Washington divisive politics.

CUOMO: But that is what's happening.

GOV. CUOMO: And the President is supposed to be a leader. You want to be a leader in a crisis, then lead and be the bridge above the politics. Build the bridge from the Republicans to the Democrats. Don't get into this partisan fight. It will come back to the President.

And you'll see this nation in real peril. It will really hurt not just how we handle the Coronavirus, but how we come out of this economy? So if they don't get a piece of legislation passed and don't stop this politics - which, by the way, is absurd. We shouldn't bail out the blue states. First of all, it's Republicans and Democrats who are getting killed by the virus. It doesn't pick.

CUOMO: Right, but McConnell want on that. And I got to tell you, your people, Chuck Schumer he is being very vocal about testing. And the President he didn't fight for you to get the money at the state level for testing or to fill the budget hole. And you know look the House is run by Democrats. Why don't you give them a little bit of the stick?

GOV. CUOMO: Well, Speaker Pelosi is not going - she cannot pass a piece of legislation that leaves out police, fire, and state and local government--

CUOMO: She just did.

GOV. CUOMO: She cannot do it. Well, she cannot do it again and those Congressional Democrats cannot come back to their home state like New York, like California, like Illinois, and say, well, we lost again, and there's no funding to do the testing and the tracing and funding for teachers and schools.

CUOMO: They say we just gave this huge number - big brother, they just did it. They just said look at all this money we gave them. This is great. And then you come out and complained and said there are other states that need more. We can't do what you're asking us to do and they said nothing. They didn't defend the decision. They didn't say they do more.

GOV. CUOMO: Yes. They funded entities within the states - small businesses, hospitals, et cetera. You know what they gave state and local governments? This--

CUOMO: That's my point.

GOV. CUOMO: You know what this is? So far that can't happen again, and you can't fund the re-opening run by a state without funding. And this nonsense of, it's a blue state bailout - bailout? First of all, this state was doing great before the Coronavirus.

I just need help to get up, get back from the disaster of the economy given the Coronavirus, and second, you're bailing out blue states? This state has bailed out Mitch McConnell every year for decades. We pay into that Federal pot 29 billion more than we put back. McConnell goes home with 37 billion more than he puts in.

He walks around Washington with his hand out and has for decades. Florida takes home $30 billion more than they put in. That's been every year. That goes back to the '70s.

CUOMO: That's a wrong pot. Look, I'm not - I hear you on McConnell. He happened to have won that round. I don't think you get another round.

GOV. CUOMO: No, he didn't win.

CUOMO: Well, he didn't get the money?

GOV. CUOMO: Well, if there's no additional legislation--

CUOMO: But Trump just asked for hotels and immigration. Who's going give him that on the Democrat side? Pelosi is not going to give him that.

GOV. CUOMO: Well, if that's what the Republicans stick to, there will be no legislation. If there's no legislation there will be no funding and all these Governors who were talking about testing and tracing programs, that won't happen. This great economic comeback - we're back, we're back, we're back - that's not going to happen.

So it will rest as to whether or not Washington can stop this partisan bickering in the middle of a crisis and actually come together and pass a piece of legislation.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something. You seem to have changed through this process. You sound, you know, different. You know you have taken on what's happening in the Federal Government? Some say that it is evidence of a shift in ambition.

Some say that going on shows like "Ellen", where she's pumping your head up with helium about how great you are? And cover a rolling stone that you now as we used to say in the neighborhood think who you are? Do you believe that there has been a shift in your ambitions and in your sense of yourself because of all these new friends?


GOV. CUOMO: Some say I shouldn't come on this show because you harass me!

CUOMO: Too much fierce accountable? Can't take it? Want a pat on the back?

GOV. CUOMO: It's adding homonym attack. CUOMO: I don't speak Spanish on my show.

GOV. CUOMO: First up I'm a fan of Ellen. To do Ellen's show was a pleasure for me. I'm a big fan of Ellen. Yes, she said nice things about me.

CUOMO: Yes, she did.

GOV. CUOMO: She didn't say about you but she was just telling the truth. Nothing about me has changed. I haven't been in the basement. I haven't had my wife sheer my hair out of resentment. None of that has happened to me. I'm just doing my job which is what I've always done.

CUOMO: The word from the Governor in the consortium is great idea, like working with you on the policy level; you talk about yourself in the third person true or false? Not a denial. We should ask Andrew?

GOV. CUOMO: False. False.

CUOMO: Are you sure?

GOV. CUOMO: False.

CUOMO: Do you think that you are an attractive person now because you're single and ready to mingle? Do you really think you are some desirable single person, and that this is not just people's pain coming out of them?

GOV. CUOMO: I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

CUOMO: Listen here, you've got an answer for anything. You're feeling pretty good about yourself these days, aren't you? Here's what I look about it. You are ready for a fight, and you know that you have a long way to go, and I know that that's what drives your passion about sticking with these positions.

You know it's a long game. I respect that and I know it as well. I wish you well. I appreciate you coming here to ask the tough questions. We won't always be able to do it the dynamical shift. You're going to be held accountable for what happens in ways that your brother just can't do it.

But for now it is good to get more out of you I think than other people because you know I know the answers to a lot of these questions, and I know their plans. Let's just go on one quick thing. Where your party is right now?

You really think you guys are going to win in November against this President one of the most fierce campaigners of all time? When things may well be looking better from a pandemic prospective in November? You really think you got a shot to win?

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, I don't think this - first, for the record I do a lot of interviews. Nobody is more probing, annoying, and disrespectful than you are.

CUOMO: Fierce accountability was the word you're looking for Governor continue.

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, I know, fierce, fierce. Second, I don't think this is going to be the normal political campaign. I don't think it's going to be about campaign. I think it's going to be a referendum on governance and government and performance and what happens and how management in the middle of a crisis affects people's lives?

This is life and death. This is not rhetoric and buttons and balloons here my brother. This is life and death, and death totals and reactions on re-opening and how re-openings were handled? This is deadly serious, and that's what this election is going to be about. How did it work?

How did the leadership actually perform? And this it's going to change politics going forward. It's going change the way people think about government now. It's no longer about celebrity and tweets and Instagram. This is a serious business, and you have to know what you're doing?

And leadership shows and leadership in a crisis shows. And when you put pressure on people, you see them in a way you've never seen them before, and that's what people are going to react to on Election Day.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what, if you wind up being right about that, that as soon as whatever passes for a convention happens and it doesn't become who's worse and a battle of the personalities, gas on me for the rest of the summer.

Brother, I love you and I appreciate you. Thanks for helping me when I was sick and helping my family and having you back here. By the way, they're asking me, is the primary back on or not? Say yes, no.

GOV. CUOMO: In New York?

CUOMO: In New York.

GOV. CUOMO: Yes, right now by a judge's determination. Right now could be appealed.

CUOMO: Okay. Thank you very much. Appreciate the present sense impression. Be well Governor Cuomo, thank you.

GOV. CUOMO: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: All right, he's gone there, right? Good. Glad we got that part right this time. All right, so another story of accountability for you. Do you remember the scientist who was leading the race for the vaccine and then he was out, and he says it was for bad reason?

Well, he filed a whistle-blower complaint. We wanted his lawyer. We have his lawyer. What is their case? And let's have that case tested right here, next.


[21:30:00] CUOMO: Got some new information for you tonight. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital. She is said to be resting comfortably. The big question obviously why is she there? Undergoing non-surgical treatment for a Benign Gallbladder condition is the word this afternoon at John's Hopkins Hospital.

They say she'll be on the job tomorrow. The court says the 87-year-old Justice went for a test yesterday at a hospital in Washington. The testing detected an infection from a gallstone that had migrated into a duct.

She and the other justices have been hearing arguments by phone, you may have recognized, like so many staying away from the office right now. They say she'll continue to do her job from her hospital bed. She expects to remain at John Hopkins for a day or two is the wording we've been given.


CUOMO: I mean, got to tell you, forget about politics forget about even what they do on the court this is a tough person. It seems there is nothing that she can't take on and beat. Of course, we wish a very speedy recovery to the Justice.

Let's turn now to failures, missed opportunities, political cronyism, why? That is the story in a new whistle-blower complaint filed by the scientist who used to be in charge of finding a Coronavirus vaccine Dr. Rick Bright. He wants his old job back and he wants a full investigation.

He's set to testify before Congress next week. The big interview to get is obviously with his attorneys to tell this story. Not unusual for him to not come out before he goes in front of Congress but we wanted them. Lisa Banks is one of his attorneys, Counselor thank you for taking the opportunity.

LISA BANKS, ATTORNEY FOR DR. RICK BRIGHT: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: What is the theory of the case of why this was wrongful termination for political animus?

BANKS: The theory of the case is retaliation here in simple. He raised concerns about people putting science - putting politics ahead of science and safety, and for that reason we argued he was pushed out.

CUOMO: Proof of the same?

BANKS: Well, there's a lot of proof. We filed a 60-page complaint today with the OSC, and we talk about the problems he had with HHS leadership, both before and after the emergence of the Coronavirus, with political cronyism, putting politics over science, and the awarding of contracts and then again, in the fight against the Coronavirus. We saw the same problem with politics trumping science.

CUOMO: Is other than the move itself, moving him from one place to another, do you have anything that would come close to a smoking gun of, here it is right here where you should have showed up, you didn't, and now you have to pay the price, anything like that?

BANKS: We have some emails that talk about we need to get around Rick on this. He's a problem. There are some articles that there are some articles that he was talking to members of Congress and he spoke to the press at one point, and they clearly had their sights set on him.

They were not happy with him. They didn't appreciate the push back and they decided the easiest thing to do was to get him out of the way.

CUOMO: Points of pushback - three obvious ones that I see. The first would be look; we didn't just like how he was doing the job? Even they say in the whistle-blower complaint, this preceded the pandemic. This was a good man he was in the wrong position and we moved him. We may not have handled it well but this was not about animus it was about competence.

BANKS: Well, it's certainly not about competence and we can demonstrate that. Part of the exhibits that we attached to the complaint today included his performance evaluations, all of which were exemplary, including the final one in 2019 that he was given by the same supervisor who pushed him out.

CUOMO: The second point of pushback would the cronyism. Where is the proof that any of the things we are asking for, which is just testing of Chloroquine and its sister drugs - we were just asking for that. He may have been against it, but the idea that we were playing with our friends on this, there's no proof.

BANKS: Well, it was political expedience, and there are emails talking about a big win politically by pushing out this narrative on Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine. And the fact is it just wasn't true and as a scientist, Dr. Bright knew what the administration was putting out there wasn't true and he pushed back on it.

He pushed back on this idea that we should flood the streets of New York and New Jersey with this drug because he knew it wasn't safe. And the American people weren't being told the truth on that.

CUOMO: The President said I don't know who he is. Does that give cover to the idea that this was about political payback, the President saying he didn't know who Rick bright was?

BANKS: No, this was about HHS leadership, including Secretary Azar, so this doesn't specifically include President Trump. I don't know whether he was involved or not. But we know that when he was removed he was removed by political leadership.

CUOMO: HHS gave us a statement. I'm sure you're going to be familiar with what he put in it, but just for the audience. Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing critical to combating COVID-19 where he has been entrusted just spend upwards of a $1 billion to advance that effort. We're deeply disappointed that he hasn't shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor.

[21:40:00] CUOMO: The angle of attack there is not only that we put him in an important position, so we didn't get rid of him, but he's not about doing the right thing, he's about making noise, otherwise he'd be doing his job.

BANKS: He's about science over politics. That's the whole point of this. But on the NIH position, there is no position as far as he can tell. Nobody has contacted him. He knows of no position at NIH.

He has over the last few days informed him that he's out on doctor's orders feeling with some hypertension related to dealing with all this. So it's not that he hasn't shown up to work they know exactly where he is. He's waiting to determine where at NIH he's supposed to go, and when he knows that, he'll show up.

The one thing he really wants to do is continue combating this virus. That's the most important thing. It's always been the most important thing to him. He spent his entire career preparing for a pandemic and now we're in the middle of it. He shouldn't be sidelined.

CUOMO: Well, I appreciate you laying out the doctor's case. Of course the invitation is extended to him as well. We understand that this is about doing things in a certain sequence. And thank you for introducing the idea that he doesn't know about any specific job. That has not been relayed to me in the reporting thus far. Lisa banks, thank you for making the case on "Prime Time"

BANKS: Thank you, appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right. Now we're trying to show you different aspects of the front lines and the heroes, okay? This story I haven't heard anything else like. Imagine helping to save lives, volunteering to do so, and that you are told you may not be able to keep volunteering our time because you may have to leave the country literally.

This story I've never heard anything like it. I've never seen a doctor doing this kind of thing under these circumstances and be treated this way by the government that she's trying to help. It is an immigration story unlike any I've ever heard, next.



CUOMO: We all call the health-care workers on the front lines right now are heroes and rightfully so. When you look a little closer at the composition you're going to see two realities. Nearly 2 million immigrants work in our health-care system many of them are selflessly on the front lines of this pandemic treating patients and saving lives.

The government knows how crucial they are and yet some are still being denied the proper permits to help fight our Coronavirus fight. Even that said as a general proposition I've never heard of another story like this, okay? Our next guest is facing a really weird hurdle. She's been denied a green card despite helping ICU patients at Columbia University Medical Center and that does no justice to her story. And that's why we have her tonight. She goes by Dr. J. Welcome to "Prime Time" Help those of us who struggle with Italian names how do you say your full name doctor?

DR. JULIA IAFRATE, SPORTS MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IRVING MEDICAL CENTER: Well, thanks for having me. In English Iafrate it's the easiest way to pronounce that. And then in Italian it is - so whatever's good for people.

CUOMO: Now you are from Canada. You have been here a long time. You went to medical school here you were trained at the Mayo Clinic. You volunteered for the U.S. Ski Team to help them. You volunteered to help a lot of dancers that work at major companies here in New York City. You are highly certified. You lecture all over the place. How did you come to be spending 12-hour shifts dealing with COVID patients in the ER?

IAFRATE: Well, obviously COVID kind of attacked the city really quickly, and NYPD Columbia which is where I work asked for volunteers. We had to close down our outpatient clinics and they asked for volunteers to go to the front lines and I offered my services right away. CUOMO: Why?

IAFRATE: Because I'm a doctor because that's what I do. Because I know that I can help, and when there's a situation where I think somebody's in need, I always offer my services. It's just the way I was raised. It's the way I've always been.

CUOMO: Now, we met through a CNN colleague or former colleague, you came here to watch the show with another doctor, and you helped me figure out what was wrong with my neck, and then we're on social media. And then I saw you doing this volunteer work, and I said, what's going on here?

And you were blown away by what you were seeing in the hospital, and you became very passionate about how precarious our situation is. What are you seeing and why do you feel that way?

IAFRATE: I mean it's scary. You know this unidentifiable assailant. You can't see it. People are coming in and requiring help and then just pummeling downhill really quickly and really aggressively, and because we have not really seen anything like this before, it's hard for us to know exactly what we should be doing and when?

So initially I was in the ER helping out, and then once we had so many patients that are requiring ventilators, we had to move them, some of them into our ORs and turn ORs into ICUs. So my team got redeployed over into the OR ICU about two and a half weeks ago and so that's where I have been up until now.

CUOMO: How much tragedy?

IAFRATE: A lot, people that are young, people that are old. It doesn't matter. You know, some with co-morbidity, some not, some that look like they should be otherwise healthy. It's wearing away at us.


IAFRATE: The PTSD is real, for sure. I think there are a lot of physicians, nurses, medical staff that are going to be hurting for a long time after this just because of what we see every day.

CUOMO: Now excuse me for this level of analysis, but you didn't sneak into the country? You're not undocumented. You're not an illegal, as is in our political process parlance now. You have sponsorship through the hospital but you applied for a green card.

And in the middle of this it gets turned down. They don't give you any better reason than you didn't prove that you represent any unique value to the United States. And when I heard this it kind of blindsided me, because other than being from Norway, you seem to be exactly who the President has said he wants in this country.

What did you make of the idea that you didn't fit the bill of presenting unique value to this country with the volunteering for the ski team and with helping all the dancers and all of the credentials and the lecturing all over the country and now spending a month of your life, 12 hours a day that you didn't have to, to fight for the people of this country?

IAFRATE: Yes, I mean, I was blindsided, I was flabbergasted, and so was my immigration lawyer and so was my Chair of my Department and everyone else involved in this case. They ask you to be an expert in your field when you apply for a national interest waiver, which is the type of green card I applied for. You're supposed to be an expert in your field.

And I am. I've proven that time and time again. I was just blown away that at this time of all times they don't think it's necessary to have somebody like me here or they don't think I'm worth keeping here for some reason because I didn't, you know, prove specific endeavor that I undertake.

CUOMO: Now, I know you're waiting on an appeal. I know there are more steps, but emotionally, what is the hardest thing in accepting where you are right now?

IAFRATE: I mean, it's heart-wrenching I feel helpless, honestly, and I can say that's the first time in my life that I've ever felt helpless. You know, I don't know what to do. I don't know what I could have done better. I don't know what I could have done any differently, you know?

I'm putting my life on the line every day to do this and it's just - it's just blowing my mind right now that they are not appreciating it or they don't see the value in what I'm offering to do here. And it's - I'm honestly beside myself. It's like a slap in the face.

CUOMO: Dr. J, we know there is a lot more to do with the process. We know you're asking for other review. We know there's appeal. I will not leave the story. I promise you that. I've never heard of a story like this. I hear of a lot of people being denied green cards where it doesn't seem straight, but not at your level of expertise when you're doing what you're doing right now, and the only response we got so far is it's on her to prove it.

I don't know what else you could do to prove it. And there's no standard that seems to apply that you haven't met and beaten. So, Dr. J, thank you for what you're doing, and by the way, I know you won't stop doing it even though the country went bad on you.

And I appreciate that as an American and as somebody who is happy to call you a friend from what I've learned about you. Thank you for what you're doing, Dr. J, we will stay on the story. Please stay in touch.

IAFRATE: Thank you so much. I appreciate it, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Look, you tell me. You ever heard of anything like that before? With what she's doing for the country and now 12 hours a day, and she's just one of the heroes we have to highlight. They are giving their absolute all.

The least we can do is cover their stories and thank them for their sacrifice. It's happening every single night in a beautiful way here in NYC. Let's show some love. Here it is from Gotham. The people are clapping for people like Dr. J at the same time the country's telling her she's got to go. Make sense of that for me.

Ahead, we have a salute to another hero who was doing right when a big wrong came his way. We love our Americans, but you will not be an "American't" during this pandemic and not get exposed on this show a twofer next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six feet of distance with each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you, man. I got you.


CUOMO: Now, look, I know you've seen this video. I know it's going around. That's Texas Park Ranger Cassidy Stillwell. Trying to break up a crowd that wasn't social distancing and then that punk shoved him into the lake. The guy's okay. But the man accused of doing it, 25- year-old Brandon Hicks, was arrested and out on bond.

Hicks' attorney says he's embarrassed about his actions and has the utmost respect for law enforcement. Please. How does he have the utmost respect when he just did that? Look, why am I showing you this? We got to have respect for the reality, okay?

And to me it speaks to just not understanding what's going on not respecting what's going on, okay? And you don't want to ruin a 25- year-old's life about it, but it shouldn't be a joke. And there are too many celebrating it online as this is funny, watch what he did, save your laws.

That's wrong. It sends the wrong message and we have to be better than that. Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon right now.