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Biden Signs Executive Orders To Combat Pandemic; CDC: Second Doses Of COVID-19 Vaccines May Be Scheduled "Up To Six Weeks" Later If Necessary; Democratic Senators Call For Ethics Probe Of Cruz and Hawley. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 21, 2021 - 21:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Coop, here we go, new normal!

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

There is much discussion about what the Inaugural, yesterday, meant. Bottom line, you measure the importance of yesterday by what happens today, tomorrow, and over the next few weeks' period. In other words, we only know what they show.

For all the politics that has Biden spinning out executive orders, in all directions, we know the priority. It must be the pandemic, specifically getting people to control what they can, in terms of cases, and getting the President, and the government, to control what they must, in terms of the vaccine.

States, all over the country, are floundering. They're under-resourced and under-staffed. "A 100 million doses in 100 days," says Biden. Catchy! But that won't control the contagion. So, what will be done? And how can we track it?

Now, luckily, tonight we have a fair broker, to let us know the truth about what made things hard, in fighting this pandemic, and what is needed to make things better.

That broker, America's Doctor, Tony Fauci, President Biden's new Chief COVID Medical Adviser. He was able to survive in Trumpdom without becoming a patsy, without having to echo lies, to survive. We have him for the straight talk about what could not be said freely then.

We go forward with three goals, transparency, responsibility, and accountability. Those must be our guiding principles to get to a better place. Together, you and I can make sure that the power of the people controls the people in power.

We need to heal culturally, absolutely. But just as importantly, we need to get well physically. Only when we have a society that can hit on all cylinders, when we can live our lives, and fully function, work, school, home, then, we can deal with everything else that ails us. And if the pandemic is handled with a sense of equity, urgency,

accountability, a lot of other problems that we have will be addressed in that process.

Now, President Biden's first full day in office comes a year to the day after the first COVID case in America was identified. He sent a clear message, "This "Rounding the corner" BS stops now."


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.

The death toll will likely top 500,000 next month. The cases will continue to mount. We didn't get into this mess overnight. And it's going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear. We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.

Help is on the way.


CUOMO: Now, he already gave you a more truthful assessment than you ever heard from the last President.

In fact, the numbers aren't just going to get worse. They are worse. They're piling up all the time. We're setting new records for deaths in cases every day or every other day. And that's going to continue for a while. How much will you care? We'll see.

He is asking all of us to mask up the next 100 days, and is using the powers of the federal government, to ramp up production of PPE, and accelerate testing and vaccinations. This is not new, this idea. He didn't create it. He didn't think it up. It's been begged for, by states, and other interested parties, for months.

Another key development. A new White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in town, OK? Jeff Zients. Finally, there is someone, who is supposed to know what's happening and why. He will be the person where the buck stops.

Remember, everybody saying to me "Yes, I don't know. I think it's the CDC. I don't know." Governors saying that to us! They don't know who is controlling what they get. Now, they will. He must be accessible daily. He must be straight.

And I hope that President Biden learns this lesson from the past. He's got to lead from the front.

Just as important, as what the administration can do, is what we must watch from others, who are going to try to stop things from getting done. The Re-Trump-licans, who remain, this collective stain in Congress, they're already trying to rewrite recent weeks, create distractions, and inaction.

The test is simple. If you can't be straight about the past, and say that it was wrong, to try to decertify this election, then you can't be trusted, going forward.

Now, an example, from, just tonight, Nicole Malliotakis --Malliotakis. She's a New York Representative. She was on CNN earlier, OK? She was among those, who voted to overturn the election, after the insurrection.

Witness what must not be tolerated.



REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): I think that there are tens of millions of Americans out there, who had concerns, and wanted to have hearings on this issue.

I decided to vote along - against the certification because I did believe in those two particular states, by the way, states that violated their state constitutions.

It doesn't matter to me if it was one vote, 10 votes, or 10,000 votes. The American people deserve to know one vote that's fraudulent is one too many.


CUOMO: You don't decertify an election because you're curious about things. And she knows it. It's all BS. And she knows it. There were no hearings in Congress? Go tell that to your Senator buddy. He held one. Ron Johnson. And it was a joke.

Nobody looked at the proof. Courts absolutely looked at arguments, and proof, all across the country, all kinds of judges, all different jurisdictions, some appointed by Trump. They dismissed the proof as uncompelling and insufficient, dozens of times. And again, she knows it.

So, what's the fallback? Perverse populism. "People are worried. They've heard stories. So, I voted to decertify this election, in certain states, in their interests."

Wrong! You made them worried by lying, like this, and you did it, to disrupt the democracy. Period! So no, your claim to want to work with Biden is unacceptable until you own what you did. Period!

Every one of them must be tested this way. You are making such a huge mistake, if you just let things continue on, and hope they'll be better. There is no reason to be better, if they're not burned by what they did that was worse.

And it's not going to happen in Congress. There's not the will. It has to be us. It has to be. You have to cut them off, if they lie, deny, or defy. You're not getting a full hearing here. I'm going to let you make your case. And as soon as you go off the tracks of the truth, it's over. Last week, the top Re-Trump-lican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, admitted that Trump bore responsibility for the Capitol insurrection. He said it.

But now, this!


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't believe he provoked it, if you listen to what he said at the rally.


CUOMO: He says "I don't think he provoked it, if you listen to what he said." It is exactly what he said was provocative. And he knows it. So if McCarthy believes what he said, how does he explain so many, who did horrible things, saying they did it at Trump's urging?

Look, he didn't mean what he said yesterday. He didn't want to move forward, in some kind of interest of the people. He just lied about something that he knows is inimical to the people's interests. He can't be trusted.

And those people also said they weren't just acting on Trump. They were acting on Senator Cruz's urging as well. Not hearing anything from the Republican Caucus in the Senate about him, right? Imagine if he were a Democrat!

And then Cruz comes to the Inauguration, yesterday, a day that was supposed to be about unity, in this stupid mask. He wore the same one, on insurrection day, when he voted to overturn the election, on the basis of no proof, but polls. "COME AND TAKE IT" is sewn on it, a revolution symbol.

They carry the Trump virus, these guys, and it's just as sickening to us as COVID, in terms of our democracy.

This symbol that was waved around by domestic terrorists, who came to the Capitol, on the 6th, that's what we want in our leaders? "Come and get it?" To keep showing solidarity with the worst of us, who tried to violently take down our democracy? Don't allow it. Demand it be called out. And watch the places that do the job for you.

So while these Re-Trump-licans remain, and you have to watch this, they may slow progress, OK? But they have little ability to stop it all together.

So, what do we do? Well, here's the good news. Because they don't control, others are free to be candid without worrying about people like that, coming down on them, for mentioning facts they wanted hidden, people who sound anew like Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES, BIDEN'S CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER ON COVID-19: I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the President, so it was really something that you didn't feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn't be any repercussions about it.

The idea that you can get up here, and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is, and know that's it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling.


CUOMO: Dr. Fauci is here.

Good to see you, Sir.




FAUCI: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: Good luck going forward.


Now, as you plan to do things better, what do you identify as the major obstacle, to this point, in terms of getting the country, where it needed to be, with testing, tracing, and the vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, it's got to be unity, Chris.

We've got to be all pulling together and put aside that just extraordinary, obstructive type of divisiveness that did not allow us, as a country, to work for the common good. I mean this is an obvious, very serious situation. You know the numbers very well, Chris. We don't need to go over them. They're devastating.

The only way we're going to get around it is to act in unity. Everybody wear a mask. Everybody adhere to the public health measures. Get the vaccine out as expeditiously as possible. Do everything we can to get the doses available and to get them into people's arms.

Set the goal, which I think is a reasonable goal, of 100 million doses, or 100 million people being vaccinated, in the first 100 days, and just look at the things that you can do. How can the federal government and the states work together?

I mean, I was with the President today, and he said over and over again that we were going to have science drive what we do. We're going to be transparent. We're going to be open and honest. We're not going to blame anybody.

We'll make mistakes. And when we do, we'll own up to it. I mean that's the kind of attitude that you really need, if you want to pull together, in a very difficult situation that we're in right now with this historic pandemic.

CUOMO: What would happen before, in terms of saying, "Look, we need to be saying this. We have to say how bad it is. We have to do better than this. The federal government has to put their arms around it. They have to own it." What would happen?

FAUCI: Well, obviously, there'd be conflict there. There'd be people in the government who'll be telling you that "Well don't say those kinds of things. You're not optimistic enough. Look up with, you know, don't look at the downside of things."

None of us were trying to be pessimistic, but we had to test reality, and we had to face reality. And there were a lot of good people during the Trump group who were there, I mean, people in the trenches, people on the Coronavirus Task Force--

CUOMO: So, who was the resistance?

FAUCI: --who were really trying their best.

CUOMO: So, where was it coming from?

FAUCI: Well it was full of--

CUOMO: Was it at the agency level or what? The White House?

FAUCI: No, no, no, the agency was fine. And it wasn't anyone. There was not the leadership from above, in the sense where the President would come, and say, "We're owning this."

I mean, often I have said, Chris, the only way that you solve a problem is to own it. I mean if you don't say, "I own the problem, and I'm going to try and fix it," it's not going to get fixed. It's not going to get fixed simultaneously. You've got to go out, and try to do something about fixing it.

And then that was really one of the problems. But a lot of people tried hard.

And then one of the thing that I feel badly about that there are a lot of people in there, who were really trying hard to get the right thing done, but it was very tough, when you didn't have the leadership from above.

CUOMO: Well look, hopefully, you have a lot of people, who want to get the right things done, and you shouldn't have anybody, who is fighting the facts, because they want to hide from the reality, for their own benefit. That is something that truly made us sick.

FAUCI: Right.

CUOMO: So, I look with skepticism at a 100 million in a 100 days, why? Catchy, but the experts, as you know, say "Well we're pretty close to that, and it's not enough anyway." Too low a bar?

FAUCI: Right. CUOMO: Now Joe Biden said today, the President--

FAUCI: Well you know?

CUOMO: --"Too low a bar?" He told the media, "You guys said it wasn't possible when I said it." So what's the truth?

FAUCI: The truth is you set a goal. And, if you get higher than the goal, that's going to be great.

We're obviously going to try to get much better. We're going to try and get as much as we possibly can. If we do more than that, that's great. But at least set a goal, and say "This is where we want to be." And if we, overshoot it, if we, get more than that, that's terrific.

So, the idea, at least you have a goal. You're pushing for something. It's not just vague and open-ended. So, that's the reason why I think it's a good thing to do that. And if we do more than that, that's going to be great. I'm all for that.

CUOMO: Another thing that I don't buy comes out of our reporting. I've two new pieces of reporting.

The first one is that people within the administration say they're starting from scratch with the vaccine. No, they're not. You have an infrastructure out there--


CUOMO: --that you're well aware of. It has to be improved. But--

FAUCI: Right.

CUOMO: --they shouldn't get any benefit of a low bar here either. There is a lot going on already.


CUOMO: Are they going to scrap it, or are they going to build on it, and make it better?

FAUCI: No. No, they're not going to scrap it, Chris. They're going to - I mean, I was involved in the development of that stuff. They were not going to scrap that.


There are a lot of good things that when - with that happened with the development of the vaccine program. I mean Operation Warp Speed had a lot of successes. There were some missteps, but a lot of successes there.

Now, we're going to be building on things. We're not going to be destroying, and putting aside, saying "It's useless." We're going to take the good parts, and amplify them, make them better, and we're going to go for the goal. And that is to get, as many people vaccinated, as you possibly can, as expeditiously as you can. That's the goal. We're not going to trash anything.

CUOMO: You're hearing this. I've lived it first-hand. I'll tell you what. The pain of watching my wife, and my sisters, try to get our parents the vaccine is worse than when I had COVID. I have to tell you. You're hearing those stories from everybody.

FAUCI: Right.

CUOMO: You got to work the internet like you were an IT pro. You have to find open slots. Then you get the slot. And there's a ton of paperwork, and they don't tell you until the end, whether or not you're eligible. And then they say to you, "You have an appointment, but don't come, we don't have the vaccine."

What do you say to people who are dealing--

FAUCI: Right.

CUOMO: --with this mess?

FAUCI: We got to do better. And that's what we're saying. And in fact, that's what the President and the Vice President--


FAUCI: --said today in my meeting.

CUOMO: What makes that better?

FAUCI: Well you got to take a look at what the problem is, and try to do something to fix it.

You just can't throw your hands up and say that's the way it is. If it is the way, you're describing, and I've heard the same thing, Chris, you got to get into the trenches, and find out what the problem is and fix it.

You got to help the federal government help the states do as much as they can. Go to the states. Find out what the problem is. Hear from them in the trenches.

I think that was one of the thing that troubled me, back just a little while ago, is that we would be saying things sometimes in the Situation Room. I'd get on the phone at night, and talk to my colleagues, and they'd say "We don't know what you're talking about, because we're not getting this done."

So, what we've got to do is you got to keep our ear to the ground, get in the trenches, find out what's wrong, and do something to fix it. Face up to when there is a problem.


FAUCI: And if there's a problem, go after it.

CUOMO: Is the Coordinator Zients - am I saying his name right? Z-I-E- N-T-S?

FAUCI: Right. Right, right. Jeff Zients.

CUOMO: Is that a key fix in terms of having somebody?


CUOMO: Because on the record--


CUOMO: --I reached out to you, and a lot of other people I know, in and around the government, trying to find out points of contact, for different states, and localities, who were saying they didn't know who to ask, about when they were going to get what.

Will he be the fix--


CUOMO: --that's needed?

FAUCI: Yes. Yes, Jeff is terrific. And Jeff, in the Obama administration, fixed a lot of things.


FAUCI: He is very well-respected. He's a "Get it done" guy. So, I think we're going to be fine. I think we're going to be fine with Jeff.

CUOMO: The CDC says people can schedule their second doses of COVID-19 vaccine up to six weeks after their first doses, if they are otherwise unable to get one in the recommended time frame.

Now, that goes to people freaking out that it's so hard to get the first shot that they won't be able to get the second shot in time, and that will make the first shot useless. So, they seem to be extending--

FAUCI: Right.

CUOMO: --from two weeks, three weeks, to six weeks. You OK with that?

FAUCI: You're taking a chance. The data from the clinical trials, Chris, showed that in the Moderna trial, you should get the boost 28 days after the prime. That's what I got. And I got it exactly 28 days later. When you're dealing with Pfizer, it's 21 days. That's where the data show is the optimal effect.

Certainly it's conceivable that if you prolong it a bit, it's not going to be a big deal, but we don't know that, because the data have not been looked at, when you extend the time for the duration.

But if you're in a fix, and you have no other choice, immunologically, Chris, when you think about that, it should not make that much of a difference. I think that may be what you're hearing. CUOMO: What about the variants that as this thing starts to change the virus, the vaccine may not work. You may need something different. What does the science tell us?

FAUCI: Well, the science tells us right now, when you look at these variants, and there are a number of ones, there is ones that was dominant in the U.K. That's the one that's in several states, here in the United States. It's not dominant in the United States but it's here.

Then there is the South African one, which is similar to one in Brazil.

The critical issue, it looks like, all of those make the transmissibility much more efficient. So, it's more transmissible. Doesn't necessarily make the virus more dangerous, but you got to be careful.

And don't get into a complacency there, because if more people get infected, then more people are going to be hospitalized and, ultimately, more people are going to die. So, it may not be inherently more virulent. But, at the end of the day, it's not a good thing.


The thing that we're looking at, very carefully, is what is the effect of those mutants, on the ability, of the immune response, the antibodies that are induced by the vaccine to protect you? It likely is going to have some effect, but not enough to obviate the protection of the vaccine.

Having, said that, the data now show that we're still in pretty good shape, with regard to protection. But you got to watch it carefully. And if you need to move in the sense of maybe getting a vaccine that's more suited to the variant, then you go there. That's where we are right now.

Not a problem in the sense immediately being an issue with the protection, but something you absolutely need to keep your eye on, and be ready to respond to it.

CUOMO: Two other quick things. One, when could we see the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca in the mix?

FAUCI: Well Johnson & Johnson is right around the corner, Chris.

CUOMO: What does that mean?

FAUCI: The people from J&J - "Right around the corner" means that they're probably a couple of weeks away from getting the data looked at to have the FDA evaluate whether or not we're in a situation where we could move ahead and start thinking about getting it out into the public.

CUOMO: Single shot? FAUCI: Because the last time we checked with J&J - yes, it's a single shot. I mean it has some advantages. It's a single shot. It doesn't have as stringent cold chain requirements.

So, it would be really good to get it in the mix for a number of reasons. One, it's a single shot. And two, it's yet again another source of vaccine that we'll need to relieve the pressure of the amount that we have available.

CUOMO: February - what about AstraZeneca?

FAUCI: Yes. AstraZeneca is not quite there yet.


FAUCI: That's one that's being tested in multiple countries. It's a bit behind, but not too far behind.

CUOMO: February, 2022, if current pace holds, 892,000 doses a day, we would get to 75 percent of U.S. adults vaccinated by February, 2022. Not good enough. How do we get better than that?

FAUCI: No, no. We are going to get better than that because the way the plan to get people vaccinated that we can and should get 70 percent to 85 percent of the people vaccinated by the end of the summer, if we do it correctly.

CUOMO: OK. So, you're saying it could be radically sooner than that, if the production ramps up the way--


CUOMO: --that we want.

FAUCI: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, Chris, that's exactly what President Biden was talking about, namely, getting community vaccine centers, getting the pharmacies fully involved, using mobile units to get into inaccessible places.

When you put out all the plugs on that, you put the pedal to the floor, you can get it done. It's entirely feasible that if we really put a full court press on this, we can get that number of people vaccinated by the end of the summer.

CUOMO: Why wasn't it being done that way anyway, when the vaccine was everything that Administration was hanging its hat on? It wasn't working on masks, testing, tracing, the Defense Production Act. It was banking all on that. They had gotten this. Why didn't they plan for their own success?

FAUCI: Well, in fairness to what went on before, the production is not one that you all of a sudden are going to have 600 million doses for 300 million people right away. It takes time to get those doses available to put into people. So, you can't just have it all at once. So, you need to be fair in that respect.

CUOMO: Last quick question. Governors all over the country want to be able to source the vaccine themselves. We saw this with PPE.

To be completely transparent, seeing how people can just go back, and Google it anyway, we had this conversation many times, on and off camera, when I was watching the state and, frankly, helping the state try to source PPE. Then, it was out of desperation.

What do you say to governors, including my brother, who wants to source the vaccine himself? My understanding was that the federal government can get the most of this with the deepest pocket fastest. But given the desperation, what do you say to--


CUOMO: --governors like him who want to source it themselves?

FAUCI: Yes. I mean you can understand the frustration and the need to want to do that. But that would really upset the plan and the flow that you're going to get through Operation Warp Speed.

I can understand them wanting to do that, Chris, but I wouldn't recommend it.

CUOMO: All right. Only thing I'll say is, Dr. Fauci, you tell them.

What I will say to you and the audience is thank you for being straight with us. Thank you for being able to come on. You will always have this show as a platform, Zients, any of you, to give the people the information that they need to know, so they understand the real expectations and limitations.

Thank you, Doctor. And I hope you get a second wind.

FAUCI: Thanks an awful lot, Chris. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Be strong and be safe.

All right, good, so there you go. A lot of that we wouldn't have been able to say a few weeks - I'm telling you right now, not because Tony Fauci doesn't play straight, but he would have to balance what he was going to say with what would be done to him. You know what I mean?

"Yes. We got to do better than February 2022." He wasn't going to say that. He would have been attacked!


So, now you can get it straight, and now we can hold them to account, for what they say they're going to do, and how, and that's how we move forward. That's the pandemic.

Now, where does the democracy stand, a day after the Inauguration? President Biden is redoing a lot of what had been undone by Trump. It's not him vindictively going after Trump. Trump undid things from Biden and Obama's administration. That's a fair read.

So, is there a better way going forward? Let's discuss the process. Two great minds, next.


CUOMO: All right, here is a little "Inside baseball" for you. There are two key delays being argued, negotiated right now, and the question becomes, could these delays, could these steps backwards, wind up helping us get forward faster?

Let's bring in Van Jones and Dana Bash.

Thank you very much.

The first one of these, Dana, is McConnell stalling the Senate power- sharing negotiations because he wants a commitment from Schumer to not kill the filibuster.

The filibuster is the tool of the minority. It's of the Senate's design, and it allows the minority to stop votes and buy time. And the question is will Schumer get rid of it and have a simple majority rule for once and always?

What's the plus/minus?


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is Mitch McConnell playing hardball, as he - as he is want to do. And there is a good reason for him to do this politically, obviously, because we heard, throughout the primary season, that Democrats were listening to their voters.

It doesn't really seem that typical for voters to be out there talking about the filibuster. But people understand the process very, very well, and that the last Democratic President, President Obama couldn't get a lot of his agenda through, because of the filibuster.

So, they're saying that they want to get rid of it. It's already gone for judicial nominees--

CUOMO: Supreme Court justices, yes.

BASH: --most judicial nominees and administration officials, but not for major legislation.

But Chuck Schumer, the soon-to-be Majority Leader is saying, "No. I'm not going to do that. You're not going to hold me hostage, in this whole power-sharing agreement, which pretty much done, the same as they have on the table now, back in 2001, because you want to tell me what to do. That's not going to happen."

CUOMO: Why does Schumer have to negotiate?

BASH: So, that's where they--

CUOMO: What's McConnell's leverage? BASH: That's exactly right, none. None, except, except there's one thing, and that is that until that power-sharing agreement is done, and it passes the Senate, the Republicans still are Chairs of the Committees.


BASH: Because it kind of continues.

CUOMO: And that's how they mess with the appointments.

BASH: Right.

CUOMO: OK. Thank you on that.

All right, now, the other delay, Van, is delaying the trial. Why delay the trial? OK, well McConnell says "Let's delay it so that we can get other things done." Why do you believe McConnell wants to delay it? And what's the plus/minus for justice?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well McConnell doesn't really want to have to deal with this thing. He thinks if he can kick it further down the road maybe he can kick it all the way off the table. Right now--

CUOMO: Can't. The Senate has to do the trial. Constitutionally--

JONES: Well absolutely.

CUOMO: --they have to do it.

JONES: They have to do the trial, if Pelosi sends it over.

CUOMO: Right.

JONES: So, the question is when does Pelosi send it over? Well kick it down the road, and kick it down the road, maybe she never sends it over. That's the prayer, if you're McConnell, because he is between a rock and a hard place.

He does not want to have his Members have to take a tough vote that could either have them seem to be on record, supporting an insurrection and a riot, or going against their most recent President. So, he doesn't want to deal with this thing. It's a sticky pickle. It's a hot potato. He wants to kick it down the road.

That could be good for Democrats though because Democrats, I think, now, would be frankly much more focused, in the immediate term, on getting Biden, his team, and getting some things done.

And so, you could find some weird, shared interest in a delay, not forever, but at least enough of a delay to get Biden's team in place. So, what you're watching now three-dimensional, five-dimensional chess happening in real-time.

CUOMO: The Queen's Gambit! Loved it! I'll tell you what, though. I think time hurts Trump. I think the longer it's delayed, the more people will see that they don't need him the same way. He doesn't cast the same shadow, may work against him.

Dana, the idea of not handing over the articles of impeachment, is that the worst thing Pelosi could do, if she wants to stay Speaker, is not hand down the article?

BASH: Not if this is something that is agreed to, by both the Democrats and the Republicans.

And if she says it is in the interest of the new administration, and in the interest of the new administration, focusing on what you were just talking to Dr. Fauci about, getting a handle on the pandemic, getting a handle on the economy, and getting his people in place, in order to do that, I think she's on solid political ground.

And I'm sure she knows better than anybody where to put her feet when she is on thin ice.

CUOMO: But she's got a lot of people different than the Senate and the House, she's got a lot of people that the idea of giving Trump anything that even sniffs, has a scent of a pass is going to play very badly.

Van, Dana, thank you very much.

I bet you guys didn't know how many games are played, right? They have to have a power-sharing agreement? Isn't that what you just did? Didn't you just decide how they share power?

There's a lot of games in there and you have to follow them. So, now let's discuss it. We have a Member of Congress.

Does this Member of Congress, I bet you know who she is, believe the Republicans want to work with Biden on any level? And what does the famous AOC, from New York, believe about these two delay issues that we were just talking about?

Fresh perspective from a new leader, next.



CUOMO: Seven Democratic senators filed an ethics complaint against Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. Why? Capitol riot.

This is where the soaring rhetoric of inaugurals meets the reality. How does President Biden's call for unity fit with Members of Congress fearful of their own colleagues? That is an important point about the state of play. But just as is important, is how do the Democrats handle this new administration?

Key guest, OK, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman, New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)



CUOMO: Good to see you. Happy New Year.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Great to see you. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: No Inauguration for you. You were up, where, in Hunts Point?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, I was in South Bronx.

CUOMO: With workers, fighting for minimum wage increase, mandatory minimum wage, in the South Bronx. Why? Do you hate Joe Biden? Why were you there?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No, no. In New York City, 60 percent of all of the produce in New York City and in the region comes through the Hunts Point Produce Market.


And these workers that have been risking their lives, every single day, this past year, in the pandemic, who are loading the trucks, getting this produce, so that, you know, putting food on our tables, are struggling to feed their own kids.

And they're asking for something very simple, in a time when the grocery industry and the delivery industries, are experiencing record profits, as we all stay home during COVID. And they're asking for a- dollar raise, a $1 raise, from a corporation that enjoys plenty of public tax benefits and giveaways.

And it is frankly shocking and embarrassing that this - there is even a question here, in giving these folks a buck an hour in a raise. They deserve it. They deserve to have their issue amplified.

And the Teamsters 202 team out there has been doing incredible work. They sounded the alarm. They needed some help yesterday.

And I am so thrilled for President Biden and Vice President Harris. It's great to drop the "Elect" now, and just say that they're our President and Vice President. And I think the festivities were phenomenal. We had incredible poetry from Amanda Gorman, I believe, is her last name.

CUOMO: Amanda Gorman, the first Youth Poet Laureate. Extraordinary metaphor for the promise of this country!

You knew that people would ask why you weren't there. This was a good cause, from your perspective, of dealing with your constituency. But this was supposed to be a show of force, and unity, and you weren't there. Explain it. OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, I think we also had very real security concerns as well, as you mentioned earlier. We still don't yet feel safe around other Members of Congress and--

CUOMO: How many are "We?"

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think a very considerable amount. A lot of Members--

CUOMO: You really think that colleagues of yours--

OCASIO-CORTEZ: --do not feel safe. In fact, just today--

CUOMO: --in Congress, may do you dirty?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, well, one just tried to bring a gun on the floor of the House today. I believe it was Representative Andy Harris of Maryland. He tried to bring in a gun on to the House floor.

For individuals who don't know, guns are not allowed in the District of Columbia. And certainly the House floor is - there are separate House rules that prohibit the bringing in of firearms. Now, these are rules that date back to the Civil War.

And these are individuals that are trying to sneak firearms either illegally or in direct violation of House rules. Why does a Member of Congress need to sneak a gun on to the House floor?

CUOMO: Do you think they're bringing it in there because they want to protect all of you from insurrectionists, like we saw a couple of weeks ago, or do you think there really is a chance that you may be the enemy?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, here is what I'll say. The moment you bring a gun on to the House floor, in violation of rules, you put everyone around you in danger.

It is irresponsible. It is reckless. But beyond that, it is in violation of rules. You are openly disobeying the rules that we have established as a community, which means that you cannot be trusted to be held accountable to what we've decided as, as a community.

And so, I don't really care what they say their intentions are. I care what the impact, of their actions are. And the impact is to put all 435 Members of Congress in danger.

He tried to hand off his gun to another Member, who didn't have a license, and any responsible gun-owner knows that you don't just hand off your gun to another individual. You have to clear it, etcetera.

And that just goes to show, it doesn't matter what your intention is, if you are irresponsible, if you are trying to break rules, you're trying to sneak a fire arm, on to the floor of the House, I don't care if you accidentally set it off, I don't care if you intentionally set it off, I don't care if you don't set it off at all, you are put - you are endangering the lives of Members of Congress.

And it is absolutely outrageous that we even have to have this conversation.

CUOMO: Well you're going to keep having it because I think that there are going to be very dramatic lines drawn, and you're going to have the other side to contend with, but your own as well.

I don't know if you could hear the last segment. But as you well know, you didn't need to hear it. There is consideration about when your Speaker hands over the article of impeachment.

What do you think about the idea of any delay, let alone the possibility of a pass for Donald Trump coming from the Democrats?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I will say that I do not believe that the Speaker has any intention of giving President Trump a pass. And I say that with great confidence, because there is really no under-stating.


And as we see with these investigations, more facts are coming out every day, in fact, just reasserting and revealing how much more dangerous than people initially believed that this insurrection was. So, I do not believe that there is an intention to give a free pass.

However, I would really advise my colleagues, particularly my Republican colleagues, who certainly supported the underlying lie that led to this insurrection, to really think about what they are doing, in trying to protect Donald Trump.

Because if there is one thing that they should know is that for all the amount that they will try to protect him, he will do little to nothing to protect them.

CUOMO: No, that's always been the way.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Unless it is directly in his interest.

CUOMO: It's never been loyalty. It's always been fealty.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: That's right.

CUOMO: But now the state of play, you hold, you know, you hold the power in your hands now collectively. How much of a delay is OK with you?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that the moment we get to a point, where we are delaying - where we are almost - where that delay is coming from us, and where that delay is really starting to get in the way of justice, then we need to really start figuring out what in fact is going on.

However, hey, if they want to delay it, let's bring up a vote to expel Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley from the Senate, because if we've got time on our hands--

CUOMO: You think they should be out? OCASIO-CORTEZ: --then we should be actually bringing justice to the Members of Congress, and the Members of the Senate, who also helped support this insurrection. Because let's not--

CUOMO: You think they should be out?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: They absolutely. If they don't resign, they should be expelled from the Senate.

CUOMO: Zero chance they resign.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Represent--

CUOMO: Nobody resigns.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Then we should hold a vote.

I know we have an ethics inquiry coming up in the House. If an investigation bears out that Representatives Mo Brooks, or Representatives, for example, other Representatives that were there that day, were in fact collaborating with these insurrectionists that led to the deaths of five people, they have no place in the House of Representatives either.

CUOMO: What about just voting to decertify the election on the basis of polls or what they had heard may have happened?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well I think that there should be consequences for attempting to overturn our elections. And these investigations are bearing out. And we will see, to the full extent, what we know, from the facts of it.

But there are other consequences as well. The people often say, and people often say that the House is about relationships.

And when Democrats have a majority, there is also the question of, you know, even if Members don't get expelled, do you really want to co- sponsor legislation with a Member, who doesn't even believe in the veracity of their own election, because they were on the ballot along with Joe Biden and Vice President Harris.

And so, if they don't even believe that they should be seated Members of Congress, why should we be co-sponsoring legislation, and why should they even really be acting when they don't even believe in the veracity of their own seats?

CUOMO: I get the--

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And so, there is a spectrum here of action. And I think all of it should be considered.

CUOMO: I get the argument. It is a new phase here. The show is an open opportunity for you to say what's happening, what you like, and what you don't like. That invitation is open.

Also please, at least office to office, let me know what happens with the labor dispute and what winds up making the difference.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, absolutely.

CUOMO: And I promise you, you will come back here, and we will follow up on it, if you want. All right?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Thank you so much. Thank you.

CUOMO: I wish you safety and I wish you success in getting things done for the American people. We certainly need it. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, be well and thank you.


CUOMO: We'll be right back.



CUOMO: The Feds keep working up through the ranks of the pro-Trump extremist groups that attacked the Capitol.

There are a lot of them. They are well-armed. They are vicious. And now, they are aggressive. That list includes a leader of the Proud Boys in Florida. The FBI says Joseph Biggs wore an earpiece, and a walkie-talkie, to communicate with others.

The question is, what impact arrests like these, in the Biden Inauguration, are having on those who stormed the Capitol? We will be doing regular updates on this threat because it is not over.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is with me.

You're the man for the job. Thank you for doing it. This is a debrief. Take the time, and let me know what you're hearing, what the impact on these groups is, and what seems to be the path ahead.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Chris. I mean I think there are some QAnon followers tonight, who are realizing that they have been duped that they bought into the lie that Trump didn't lose the election.

They bought into the lie for years now that he was someway going to round up and arrest the so-called Deep State. And they bought into the lie that he was going to torch the Inauguration of Joe Biden, in some way, last minute. And those people, right now, are doing a lot of soul-searching.

But I don't think we should find ourselves with a false sense of security here that this is all going away. The same infrastructure online, the same Facebook groups, many of them are all still in place, the same right-wing media ecosystem, the echo chambers, are still in place.

And they have the same emotion and feelings in the country. People want to believe that this election was stolen, is still in place.

And actually, in the early hours, I was on air with you, before the Inauguration. And in the very early hours of Inauguration Day, I bumped into a Trump supporter. He was streaming live on YouTube. He was convinced that Trump was about to declare martial law to stop the Inauguration of Joe Biden.

And I caught up with him yesterday afternoon, after Biden was sworn in, and here's what he had to say.



WILLIAM WIETING, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I was just kind of in shock, and I thought, I had to re-evaluate everything, the way my life was going to be now, because it's so - it's so different than my expectations. And I literally was just kind of walking around like, "What now?"

O'SULLIVAN: Do you think maybe the way you were wrong about Joe Biden being sworn in, you might be wrong about the whole election rigging thing?

WIETING: No, I think this - the election is a fraud.


O'SULLIVAN: And that's the issue there, Chris, right? I mean, he can see that he bought into one conspiracy theory. But he can't accept that he has been duped by other conspiracy theories.

And I think one thing that's really important to point out, at this moment, at this sort of inflection point, is that not all QAnon believers are equal, right? There are the thugs, who attacked the Capitol, a few weeks ago, in the name of QAnon.

But there's a lot of people, I know, from traveling around the country, there're soccer moms that believe QAnon. There's people who believe in parts of QAnon that they don't even realize they believe in QAnon.

And as these people now might come to realize that they had been fooled and duped, I think for viewers watching, many certainly will have QAnon believers in their families, it's time to listen to them.

It's time to show some compassion. It's time to think about them as folks, who are leaving a cult, because if we don't do that, they might go down, even further, darker rabbit holes, online.

CUOMO: You can reach out to the duped, but not to the diabolical. And when you're talking about the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, you're dealing with ugly groups that have become inserted into mainstream politics.

O'SULLIVAN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: And, as you know, and as I'm being told, that's not going to end any time soon. But this segment must. I'm out of time.

Donie, I'll check back with you soon. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you.

We'll be right back.