Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

DHS Warns Of New Potential Violence By Domestic Extremists; Biden Issues New Orders To Battle Climate Crisis, Vowing Clean Energy Jobs And Economic Recovery; Rise In Student Suicides Raises Concern About The Cost Of Keeping Schools Closed. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 27, 2021 - 21:00   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're still in the middle of this pandemic.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's just nice to have experts, who are willing, to come on, and discuss, for however long, we want to discuss, and get actual information out to people.


COOPER: I almost didn't recognize there, you. I got to say though. You got a haircut. Finally, you cut your hair. Was that the first time since this pandemic?

GUPTA: Yes. First time since the pandemic hit.


GUPTA: I get a little - You know? I'm realizing, looking at our two- shot, here, I'm kind of starting to look like you a little bit.


GUPTA: Like the brown Anderson!

COOPER: Yes. Well, yes, you know? You go - lot of ways to go.

GUPTA: Hey, real - real quick, I got to ask, how's my man, Wyatt?

COOPER: He's great. He's really great.

GUPTA: How old is he now?

COOPER: He's 9-months-old today.

GUPTA: Oh, my god, today?

COOPER: Yes, he's 9-months-old today. It's crazy. He's sleeping. I mean I didn't want to say this out loud because it annoys people. But he's sleeping like 12 hours to 12.5 hours a night, which is fantastic.

GUPTA: I love that. COOPER: He's grown - he's grown - I know. He looks sort of like the Buddha there. He's grown since then. But he's just an absolute joy. Yes. It's incredible.

GUPTA: Well, thank you. Thank you, tonight, Anderson. That's great. Wyatt. Send me more pictures.

COOPER: All right, I will, I will. Sanjay, thank you.

Also want to thank Dr. Anthony Fauci, the new CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of President Biden's COVID Equity Task Force.

Also thanks to those of you who wrote in with your questions. To everyone who joined us tonight, I know a lot of people didn't get their questions answered. I apologize. The conversation continues at

The news continues with Chris Cuomo. Chris?




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, we're running late.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME. Let's get right after it.

What's happening in Washington deserves your attention. It may be as dangerous as the pandemic. My question is how many red flags do we need?

Homeland Security just put out a warning of more possible violence to come from violent anti-government extremists, fueled by false narratives that "could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence."

Now, this? That's what the GOP has to say about this threat. Why? The only response they've had to the threat is to keep Biden from getting ahead of Homeland Security, to head up the attack against this problem. Why?

My argument and it is why, I caution Democrats, wanting a power- sharing deal with McConnell that that is like insisting on petting a starving snake. The big mouth is gone. But the ReTrumplican chorus remains, echoing his animus, and hungry for more chaos.

Think about it! Not a word about the ton of terrorists, who say they acted not just on behalf of Trump, but because Trump told them to act. No comment from the leadership. Why?

Cruz, Hawley, the senators desperate to be outspoken, Mr. Green Eggs and Ham, himself, yet so quiet on how wrong this was. Why? The rest of you supposed Republicans, why are you so quiet on Cruz and Hawley? If you listen to them, they say "We're against violence, we're against extremism, on both sides."

But while the fight against racism, to them, is really just an excuse to riot, right, "BLM, bad! Antifa, like al-Qaeda," but the Oath Keepers, QAnon, the Proud Boys, you know, the groups that the FBI are looking at? Silence!

Yesterday, they had a chance to separate the GOP from the idea of what savaged our Capitol. And they voted to not even follow their duty under the Constitution. They just want to let Trump and this contagion continue to spread.

If they won't do anything, to speak out against it, or hold the motivator to account, they must want more of the same. Just listen to their twisted thinking.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): A trial of a former president is simply vindictive.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): It's vindictive. It's backward-looking. It's unserious. It's constitutionally sketchy.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): They hate Donald J. Trump. And they are engaging in an act that I think is petty. I think it is retribution. I think it is vindictive. And I think it's a waste of time.


CUOMO: You think "Vindictive" was a talking point for them? You know what's "Vindictive," meaning seeking revenge? A coup. You know what's vindictive? A Confederate flag paraded through our Capitol that you say nothing about.

You know what's vindictive? People forcing you to hide, you Cruz! You hid in fear. You should have hid. We get it, because they were looking for you. That's vindictive, by definition, seeking revenge.

You know what that is? Inciting domestic terror, to attack the Capitol, because you lost, that is vindictive. If you're going to have a talking point, apply it to the right things.


CUOMO: This is vindictive. They wanted it to be vindication. But it wasn't because democracy held.


This is the same Party that held Benghazi hearings, for years, who now think we have to forget all about this attack on our Capitol. They just move on, why? "Well, people died in Benghazi!" You remember that? "People died." Yes, yes, one fewer than died in the Capitol. Why doesn't it matter?

If they were not hell-bent on taking us all to hell in a hand basket, why would Mitch McConnell go from "Trump provoked this and fed that mob lies," remember, he said that, and pleading "We need time. Let me move this trial. It must get due consideration. The President must have time to prepare," why would he say that, and then immediately go to voting to dismiss the trial before it even starts? He wants the chaos.

They want to comfort our attackers by doing so. Again, just think about a better reason. Why would House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy go to Florida tomorrow to kiss the ring of the rogue former president? Why? There's only one reason. To stay close to the man who is the king of the chaos and the crazies.

Matt Gaetz, a Florida-nobody going to Wyoming tomorrow, to smear a top Republican, who spoke up against the king? The trip is a hit job on Liz Cheney. That's all it is. Why? She voted to impeach Trump. No one speaks against this guy. No one, why? Think about it.

They removed Steve King from committees. Remember him? "Need more White babies!" They did it reluctantly. But they did it after we kept highlighting his poison.

But guess what they're doing now? They are empowering someone way worse, a QAnon kook, Marjorie Taylor Greene. This woman indicated support for executing prominent Democrats. She once called the Parkland shooting a "False flag" operation.

Now, she's been assigned to the House Education Committee.

Look at this for an education.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): David, why are you supporting the red flag laws?

You are using your lobby, and the money behind it, and the kids, to try to take away my Second Amendment rights. You don't have anything to say for yourself?

If school zones were protected by with security guards with guns, there would be no mass shootings at schools.


CUOMO: Let me ask you something. Would you chase after a kid, who survived a mass shooting, asking him why he doesn't want more guns?

Seriously, think about it! I don't care how Second Amendment you are. I'm a gun owner too. Would you do that? Bragging that you are doing it with a weapon on you as you antagonize this kid?

And who's doing it? That woman thinks putting bullets in Nancy Pelosi is something to play with, and she wonders why anyone would question people like her getting a concealed carry permit. You are the reason for red flag laws, lady. This is the person that you promote my Republican brothers and sisters? The Party of Lincoln? Hello? You're promoting someone who's more like John Wilkes Booth than Lincoln. Don't you see? My fear is you do, and you like what you see.

And for the rest of you, remember where their head is. Trump didn't get us here alone. Think about those who remain, who've sent every signal that they want to be every bit of his animus and more.

Silent about the insurrection, slowing Homeland Security's ability to fight the same people that did this, silencing any who fight for the old GOP, promoting people who play at killing Nancy Pelosi, and members of the FBI, these, who want to bring weapons into Congress, but don't want metal detectors, subverting the Constitution to clear Trump, slow-walking pandemic response, who does all of these things, unless you want chaos?

GOP used to stand for Grand Old Party. Now it's like Gang of Pirates!

Let's bring in two wise men with some deadly serious advice, Van Jones, and Michael Smerconish.

First, Smerc, am I off? I mean what is the sum total of the calculus of their actions, if they don't want more trouble?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: You're off a little bit. I don't know that they necessarily want chaos. By the way, the Congresswoman, she's loathsome.

CUOMO: They just put her on a Committee.

SMERCONISH: So, don't misunderstand what I'm about to tell you.

CUOMO: They just promoted her.

SMERCONISH: Unbelievable! I mean it's - right.

CUOMO: So why? They don't want worse.

SMERCONISH: But I think - I think--

CUOMO: But they put someone, who wants to kill Pelosi, on a Committee? How do you square those with not wanting chaos?

SMERCONISH: No. What I'm saying is - what I'm saying is that this is all - this is horrible to say - good for their business because, Chris, you got to get out of that bubble a little bit.

The state legislatures, the gubernatorial mansions, the gain of seats in Congress, the probability that they will control the House, if historical precedents hold firm, add now in the data from Politico and Morning Consult today that says 56 percent of Republicans, they want Donald Trump to run again in 2024.



SMERCONISH: So, the things that you and I, and Van, are discussing that we find horrible are actually ratifying that base, and that's their bread and butter.

CUOMO: All right, one quick thing, OK?

I understand what you're saying. And we both do stories, shows on Sirius Radio. We get people from all over the country. I've been all over this country, more than most people, on this network, and certainly, you have, when it comes to reporting.

I know Trump people. I live in a Trump county. I get it. What I'm saying, how you play the game at the top, Michael, matters, and the fact that you think it may be beneficial doesn't make it OK. Your silence about insurrections--


CUOMO: I know. But you're saying, "Hey, this is good for them!" It takes you to the same place I am, brother.

SMERCONISH: I'm saying--

CUOMO: They want the chaos.

SMERCONISH: --I'm saying you would have expected - you would have expected the Party to pay a price already. You would have expected the Party to pay a price in the congressional elections.

CUOMO: I'm saying the price is yet to come.

SMERCONISH: It didn't happen.

CUOMO: I'm saying the price is yet to come. People are receptive to the animus. They are afraid.

They're afraid of culture change. They're being baited that diversity is your downfall. I know it works. That's why demagogue is a Greek word, and there was never a positive-opposite, Michael. It's effective. I'm saying it's now their plan.

Now Van, let me bounce to you. You guys want to work with them. You want a power-sharing deal. I mean it's lunacy to me. You see what they're about. It is the wasp and the bullfrog.

The wasp comes with one broken wing, gets on the back of the bullfrog says "Give me a ride across." Frog says, "No, you're going to sting me." Says "No. Why would I? We'll both die." Stings him right in the middle of the pond! On the way down, what does the wasp say? "I am who I am!"

You know who they are. Why give them a ride?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well you're reducing the entire Republican Party to its worst elements. And I think that there are people who are wise, who want to resist that. We are in a hell of a situation because we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

If we don't reach out, and try to work with the Republicans, then they say, "Well look, these guys are out to get us. They won't work with us at all. They're going to run us over. We got to stick together." If we do reach out, then to your point, some will use that against us.

I am a follower of Joe Biden at this point. I'm a Joe Biden Democrat. The only way to solve the actual problems is to get enough Republicans onboard that we can get stuff done. And until all options have been exhausted, I think it makes sense for Republicans - for Democrats to reach out.

I don't think that our viewers understand how much fear there is now on both sides. People hate when you say "Both sides."

But you - when you talk to some of these Republicans now, they have been told that this country is being taken over by Communists, who want to silence them, de-platform them, deprogram them, take their guns, and turn their kids into transgender kids and--

CUOMO: They're been hearing that for years.

JONES: And so, and now they feel that Democrats have all the power.

CUOMO: Right.

JONES: On our side, we're hearing that you've got a militia movement infiltrated by Nazis and worse that's coming for us.

And so, the people who are trying to stand in the breach, right now, are at a moment of maximum difficulty and frustration.

But I am still on the side of the Democrats, who have been trying to figure out "Are there - is there one, are there two, are there three? What Republicans can we work with, and can we start to roll this thing back?"

CUOMO: Well look, one thing you didn't just see a bunch of LGBTQs attack the Capitol, OK? So maybe both sides are being fed BS. But one of it has come to pass and one hasn't.

But, Michael, do you think there's a chance that there are enough people, willing to risk, getting kicked out of the GOP, and getting no assignments, as we see what's happening with Kinzinger, and what they're doing with Liz Cheney, to join the Democrats, in the name of progress?

SMERCONISH: We have quantitative data that says that's not the case. And the number is five. That's how many in the Senate, on that constitutional challenge, led by Rand Paul, stepped out from their Party.

May I make one other observation?

CUOMO: Go ahead.

SMERCONISH: That memo that was released today, from the Department of Homeland Security, when I read it, warning of a domestic threat, I said, "Wait, I've been to this movie before."

Do you remember, soon after President Obama's election, April of 2009, Janet Napolitano's office issued the same warning, and then it got pulled back. Why? Because it said, "You know? Returning veterans are ripe for recruitment." And there was such a hue and cry that they had to forget that they ever issued it.

It's the same story. It's been going on all these years.

CUOMO: Well?

JONES: It's a lot worse now.


JONES: It's a lot worse now because - because now you have a group of people that unfortunately did include some of our veterans, who have attacked the Capitol. And most of those people are still walking around just fine. And they're planning to do worse acts.

And so, yes, there was a warning earlier, wasn't heeded. The Trump administration pulled back rather than leaning forward on some of this domestic extremism. And now, it is getting worse.


CUOMO: Well look, fool you once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. All right? This is on us. We know what's happening. We know where everybody is positioned. What will be done next?

Van Jones, thank you. Michael Smerconish, always a pleasure, brother.

You've seen the pictures--

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

CUOMO: --of January 6th, OK? Now, for the first time, we're hearing some of the conspiracy-fueled chatter from the days before the attack.

Here's a taste.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's going to have to be some serious anarchy that goes on. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.


CUOMO: Now, it gets uglier from there. And I want you to hear it because these are real people, your neighbors, maybe your relatives. And now, we have a political system, where half doesn't want this to happen, and the other half is dead silent. "New York Times" Journalist, who captured it, joins us next.








CUOMO: All right, so we have new rare national terror warning from the Homeland Security, why?

Because the threat is very real, uniquely so, and they're worried. Domestic extremists are fired up by what they saw in the Capitol because now they have access to people in the political mainstream, to recruit, to radicalize.

So, if the threat wasn't real to you before, wait until you hear directly from some of these people.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're guilty. Treason. Behead 'em all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring in the firing squad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Biden inauguration wants to come in and take your weapons, and force vaccination, you have due process to blow them the (MUTED) away. Do it.


CUOMO: It's not exactly what due process is.

But look, it's about animus. It's about feelings, not fact. It's about anger.

My next guest, Stuart Thompson, writes for "The New York Times" and spent three weeks monitoring a unique QAnon chatroom.

Now, you can say, "Oh, QAnon!" It's spreading all over the place. People are taking little pieces of it, just as a motivator, for their anger. So, these members uploaded their thoughts with short audio recordings, like the ones you just heard.

Stuart, welcome to PRIME TIME. Appreciate you doing the work.


CUOMO: What was the theory behind the suggestion of your reporting? What did you want to see and what did you see?

THOMPSON: Well, I started off looking at "Stop the Steal," the movement that came after the election, that the election was a fraud, and going down that rabbit hole, ended up in this chatroom, which was a Stop-the-Steal-focused chatroom.

But I kind of discovered that there's major overlap there, which makes a lot of sense, if you believe in a global cabal of sex traffickers, as the QAnon movement does, it's not a big leap to say parts of the election were fraudulently handled.

And I just wanted to try to find out what these people were like. They ended up being sort of like you mentioned earlier, your neighbors, your friends, pretty typical Americans, actually. This isn't their life. They're not committing all their time to it.

But you know? They have grandkids. They are baby-sitting. They're living lives. They're working. But a big part of what they do as well is share misinformation, try to further the conspiracy, and talk to each other, on this platform.

CUOMO: Right. I hope it hasn't become typically American to discuss how to kill people that you don't agree with, and this isn't just angry talk. It is about inciting harm.

Here's more of the sound that Stuart reported and recorded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he not realize President Trump called us to siege the place?


CUOMO: Now, that was one.

But I keep hearing from attorneys, who are representing those who committed criminal acts, at the Capitol, they're calling it a cult now. Yes, they're trying to find any article of convenience to defend their clients.

I'm not - I don't care about their cases. They have slam-dunk cases, the prosecutors, if they want them. But in terms of the political ramifications, person after person says "This is what the President told us to do." Now, to some, that sounds too convenient.

But what did you learn about how active the belief in Trump and the motivation to do what he says is?

THOMPSON: There's major loyalty among this crowd to Trump.

Leading up to January 6th, they fully expected that he would announce mass arrests, and release the documents that they believed that he had it all along that would prove all of Q's theories correct. That didn't happen.

But the way that the Movement works, they just pushed the goalposts further down the road, and it became the 20th, which was "B, the big day." And after that amounted to nothing, there was a bit of a crisis over whether Trump was who they thought he would be, and who he - if he was going to fulfill the Movement. And they had to kind of address and come to terms with that.

CUOMO: Right. Now look, you and I both get the point that Michael Smerconish was making, in the last segment, which is, "Yes, the Republicans have done well by getting people, who are largely White, and afraid of culture change, and a shift in diversity dynamics, and they've harnessed that well."

What I'm saying is, "Yes, we all get that." It's that now, it's gone from a fear in how to change it through policy and politicking to taking it into their own hands.

Take a listen to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish they'd storm the Congress and the Senate and pull all them treasonous guys out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, I think the patriots should have been allowed to go in there, grab those S.O.B.s and pull them out of the building and, you know, have an execution right there.


CUOMO: And, by the way, those are women! They're the reasonable ones in the mix of our society, right? We usually depend on men for stupid things, of violence, in the absence of thought.

And that's my fear about the Party. The longer the Republican Party gives comfort to Trump, and doesn't say anything about these people, what message do you believe it sends to chatrooms like that?

THOMPSON: Yes, I mean, they are definitely emboldened by all of this. They really do believe that. And I think when you read online, what people say, it's easy to dismiss that as maybe not real.


But as we saw in the Capitol, it is very real. And when you hear their voices, you really connect with their belief. And for them, this is a big crime that's been perpetrated, and they are seeking justice. So, you can imagine how committed they are to that.

I think in the wake of Trump leaving, what they found was instead of saying, "The things we were believing in were nonsense," they say, "We were relying on the wrong person. We were relying on Trump to do it all. And now, it's up to us to do it." So that's scary ramifications from the Movement now.

CUOMO: This is the kind of thing that used to be shared around lakes and barbecues. Now, they're doing it openly and online.

Stuart Thompson, this was valuable. Thank you very much for taking the time. You're always welcome to bring your reporting here. Be well.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, President Biden, he's got all this on his plate, and he is going to be pulled in a lot of directions early on. And they have been to this point, good direction.

A thing that we haven't heard a lot about, except in the negative, now in the positive, the new president wants to take on the climate crisis. Fewer places to drill, so, how can this White House promise millions of new jobs, which was supposed to come from drilling?

One of the best-known voices on climate, in the modern Democratic Party, is here, Governor Jay Inslee. What does he think about what the President is doing? What does he think about the threats that we face, including the vaccine, and this new push to get kids back in school?

A lot on the plate for the Governor! He can handle it. Next.








CUOMO: President Biden took aim at the climate crisis today, signed off on a slew of new executive orders.


Some of the highlights: Fulfilling his campaign promise to halt new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, expanding the conservation of those same lands from an estimated 12 percent to now 30 percent by 2030.

He's also directing all federal agencies to consider climate when making national security and foreign policy decisions. Climate activists heartened but it's going to take a lot more to undo the damage of his predecessor, and to tackle the crisis at large.

Let's get some perspective from a leader in environmental action, Governor Jay Inslee.

It's interesting, Gov. Good to see you, by the way. Good luck to you in all the challenges-- GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Thank you.

CUOMO: --you're facing in the State right now with the pandemic.

INSLEE: Thank you.

CUOMO: The angle is to come to you as a specialist, and say "This is enough."

I'm going to flip it, which is how do you finesse the aspect of the other Party, which I believe is in a complete state of chaos, but on this, they got a great angle. "Every time you do something that's green, you're taking green out of their pockets, Keystone Pipeline, costing jobs, no more drilling, costing jobs."

Jobs matter more to people than the environment when you look at polls. How do you bridge that gap?

INSLEE: You just blow up their lies. Look, they have two great lies. One is that the--

CUOMO: Oh, lies! I thought you said lives.

INSLEE: --election was stolen from Donald Trump.

CUOMO: I thought you said lives.

INSLEE: No, it's--

CUOMO: For a second, I was like "Whoa! You sound like Ted Cruz!"

INSLEE: No look there's two - there are two great lies that they are relying upon. One, that we stole the election for Donald Trump. But that the second is that defeating climate change somehow hurt jobs. It is exactly the opposite.

This is a nation ready to take off in a clean energy revolution. This is perfect for the United States. This is teed up for us to do what we do best, which is develop, jobs in new industries, and we are doing that today.

Today, clean energy jobs, and the reality is, are growing three times faster than the nation's average. This is the place to create energy jobs. And it's happening.

Listen, in my state, you can't turn over a rock without finding a new company coming up with some of the largest solar cell manufacturing in the Western Hemisphere in Bellingham, Washington, the very first net- zero large high-rise apartment building, we broke ground on that Monday, the Western Hemisphere's first cross-laminated timber in Spokane. This is the future and the present.

Listen, the other side wants to shackle people to a past, of an area of declining jobs. This is a reality.

We do not want to shackle our children to the dead-weight of jobs that aren't going to exist 30 years from now. We want to give our kids the jobs that are growing. And this is the - the number one job creation engine is clean energy. And I couldn't be more tickled.

This is a hallelujah moment from my view. We've crossed the desert of denial and deception about climate change. And we have a President who understands how to create jobs. And he's doing that big-time today.

CUOMO: On the other big topic of dealing with the pandemic, two issues for you.

One is whether or not you believe the Biden administration understands how to help you get vaccine into arms faster.

And, two, this notion now floated from the Fed that - the CDC - that kids can be back in schools, even though we haven't seen a lot of changes to the problems that Democrats, you were worried about, in sending kids into schools.

What's your take on those two?

INSLEE: Well first, I am so pleased, the President, just a few days, has done the two most important things to help the states.

Number one, to increase production. Look at - the number one long pole in the tent is production. We've got to have more production.

He has ordered additional hundreds of millions of production of these doses. I don't know why the Trump administration did not do that. But he's doing it big-time. That's the single most important thing he can do.

He's willing to use the Defense Production Act. He's delivering syringes, so we get that extra dose out of the vials.

And the second thing he's done is to give us predictability. It's very hard to stand up these large-scale vaccination sites, unless you have a predictable supply. He told us yesterday that he would have a predictable supply for the next three weeks. This is really going to help us.

So again, he's moving the ball big-time. It's the leadership we've lacked for four years.

On the issue of schools, we are having success moving our children back into on-site learning.

Our educators have done a super job in remote-learning. They have been creative, innovative. I've seen it with my own three grandkids. They're just geniuses doing the most they can with remote-learning. But you just can't be as effective off-site.

CUOMO: Right.

INSLEE: So, we are moving our kids back on on-site learning. We know it can be done because we've done it. We got over 100,000 of our students, who have on-site learning, for months now in our state, with minimal to no in-school transmission.

CDC came out today confirming that scientific basis. But it's not just abstract science. It is experience, where I can take you to schools, all over my state, who shows you how to do this.


Now, we got to do this safely. We got to make sure educators are guaranteed that we have safety committees, and we have hygiene, and we space the kids. But if we do those things, we're very confident we can move back. And we're moving in this direction quite rapidly.

CUOMO: Why not move the teachers and educators up in the vaccine queue, if they're going to be back in the schools?

INSLEE: Well, it's because, listen, I know - I come from a family of teachers. My dad was a teacher. My brother, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law, all retired teachers. And I know this about teachers.

If you go to a 25-year-old third grade teacher, none of them are going to say, "Hey, I want to jump in line ahead of my 80-year-old grandmother or my 60-year-old father and mother." That's not how they feel about this.

We have limited supply. And we know that 80 percent or 89 percent of all the fatalities are in a very discreet group of people. And that's people over the age of 65. So, we want to save lives. That's the number-one priority.

Then, in our next tranche, we're going to do educators, and grocery workers, and the people who are feeding us, and doing childcare, and we're going to do that as fast as humanly possible.

And thank goodness we got a good federal partner, and a leader who's going to help states.

CUOMO: Listen, I hear you. I mean you understand the conflation involved also, Gov., we've talked about it before, is that kids don't give--

INSLEE: Right.

CUOMO: --other kids the disease as quickly.

INSLEE: Right.

CUOMO: But they can give it to adults. And a lot of these teachers either have their own issues, or they have elderly at home. So, there are a lot of cross-concerns. And I know you get that. And we'll be watching how your state handles it.

Governor Jay Inslee, appreciate you being on the show tonight.

INSLEE: You bet.

CUOMO: All right. INSLEE: Be well.

CUOMO: Pandemic developments, OK? If kids are going to go back to school, you are going to have to deal with taking care of the educators. We can't ask people to put their families at risk to educate our own, right? Kids may not give it to each other, but they can give it to us.

These new COVID variants are threatening to crush already, OK, especially the hospitals. The last thing they can take is more sick. That's why we can't be having those as our vaccine outposts, OK? And it makes the race for the vaccine even more urgent.

This 16 percent jump thing, why 16 percent? Where'd they get that number? And what will it mean? We will bring in someone who can help us understand better. That's the key. Next.









CUOMO: All right, this is a good time to take stock of the pandemic.

I know the numbers get numbing, OK? Daily deaths remain at near all- time highs. Cases steady, dropping in states, why? We saw that Christmas bubble went up, it's now coming down, all right?

Are we doing enough? No. Are we relying on the vaccine too heavily? Yes. But the vaccine does seem to be ramping up also. So, we are racing with variants versus the vaccine, right? Variants, being new forms, of the virus, that will spread cases faster, all right?

We've seen 300 cases from variants in 28 states so far. We know that's not going to go down. It's only going to go up, right? So, you need to get more people vaccinated to deal with it because so far the data is the vaccine still works even with the variant.

Let's bring in Dr. Leana Wen.

Always good to see you, welcome back to PRIME TIME.

Now, can you help us understand something I keep getting asked? Why did we not know what syringe to use to get the maximum amount (inaudible). DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER, ER PHYSICIAN, PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR, GWU: It's a good question, Chris.

And so, the way that we normally do things is there are normal syringes and needles. And the thinking with the Pfizer vaccine was that one vial will contain enough for five doses. And so, people were just using these normal syringes and needles.

But then they were realizing that if they use this particular syringe and needle that really minimizes waste that has not much space, so that's why it's called the low dead space syringe and needle, that if they use that particular syringe, they're able to extract a sixth dose and, in some cases, a seventh dose, out from these vials, which is great news, except that these needles and syringes are so specialized. They're not commonplace.

And so, I think it's - it's great that we're trying to minimize waste, but we really need to make the needles and syringes much more widespread. And, in the meantime, Pfizer should not be charging the taxpayers for that sixth dose.

CUOMO: Why would we have any other kind of needle? Like, why would you have a needle that creates waste?

WEN: This is the standard needle and syringe. It's produced in much large - much larger quantities. And I would think it's much cheaper.

And so, the specialized low dead space syringe and needle, they're used for particularly expensive medications that we really don't want to have waste.

CUOMO: I don't love numbers because I think they're overwhelming. But certain numbers pop up. 16 percent, boy, that's precise. Where did 16 percent come from? Is this about Moderna under-promising or over- delivering? I mean, where did it come from? The 16 percent by the way--


CUOMO: --Leana, I'm sorry. Leana knows what the 16 percent is. Just to remind you at home, the federal government said they have 16 percent more, they found, in quotes, because I don't know what that means, to send to states. That's the question. What's the answer?

WEN: I don't have the answer, Chris.

And I've been looking into this because what the federal government is saying, which I think is, again, great news, is that they are going to be sending the states 16 percent more vaccine than they were initially promised.

But I've been asking, and I've been told it's one of three things, but nobody will tell me exactly which of these three things are.

It could be that maybe they're calculating that sixth dose from the Pfizer vaccine. Maybe they initially projected five doses. Now it's six doses.

It could also be that there were some reserve vaccines that were just not in the calculation before for supply.

Or it could also be that manufacturing is somehow higher than initially was promised. Maybe there was under-promising and, now these manufacturers are over-delivering.

We don't know the answer. But here's what I don't understand. I don't know why this is such a big secret. We, the American people, really should know what's going on with our supply.

Taxpayers, I think, we have a right to know also how much is being produced, where are we, are we on track or not? And this should be publicly available to the states to help them plan as well.

CUOMO: I'll give them three weeks.

I counted, this is the first one. I'll give them two more to figure out everything about the numbers because you know how, when you're just getting in there, and you didn't have a team that was trying to help you, on the way out. I'll give them time to get their hands around it.

But then things like this deserve explanation, because we can't go back to any kind of degree of non-transparency.


Schools, they looked at three studies in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and North Carolina, and two abroad, Europe and Israel.

I am not blown away by that sample size to draw a global conclusion that it's OK for everybody go back to - go back to school, everywhere, although I very much want my kids to go back to school, very much.

My concern is, what has changed the notion that, "Yes, kids don't give it to each other that much, but they do give it to you, Dr. Wen, or to me, or to the old people in their homes, or the teachers, or their old people, in their homes." Has that changed?

WEN: No, I think that what's changed is these studies are showing that if proper mitigation measures are used, in these schools, so there's masking, there's physical distancing, you're also trying to keep kids in pods, and other things, if you use these measures that the rate of transmission in schools is actually lower than the rate of transmission, in the rest of the community, which means that schools can be kept relatively safe.

The problems are, though, not all schools, in fact, many schools do not have all these mitigation measures in place. They haven't had the ability to upgrade their ventilation as an example. I think we also have no idea what's going to happen with the new variants.

In other countries, where the variants really took over, schools had to close, because things that were much - that we thought were relatively safe, if you have something that's much more contagious, are not safe anymore. And so, schools in Britain are closed. Schools in The Netherlands are closed.

And I think if we are to re-open schools here, we have to keep a really close eye, because we could have catastrophic outbreaks, if we have these variants take over.

CUOMO: The variants are coming just when our will to be prophylactic, is waning the most. People don't want to stay inside anymore. They want kids back just when we have the new variants. Tough combination!

Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much.

Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back. Big story!









CUOMO: We have to talk about two things that you don't like, OK? Mental health and another reason to consider, why, kids need to get back into group settings, suicide. This is a heartbreaking reality. But really, it shouldn't come as a surprise, all right?

We have one district, Clark County, in Nevada. They're doing all they can to speed up reopening schools because they've had 19 suicides since March. That's the most - recent one of them was just this month. That's more than double what the County went through the year before. The youngest victim was 9-years-old.

Now, it is hard to firmly link the rise in suicides to school closings, OK? People having depression and suicidality is often multifactorial. But let's be honest. This pandemic has been nothing but suck. It's made everything worse, OK?

Jesus Jara joins us now, the Superintendent of Nevada's Clark County School District.

Thank you very much, Jesus, for coming to talk to me about this.

JESUS JARA, CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: Yes, thank you for having me, Chris. Appreciate it. It's a tough, tough, tough topic.

CUOMO: But we have to discuss it, you know?

If it were something physical that were taking kids, you know, every eyeball in the world would be on your district, about how to fix it, and make it better, so it doesn't happen. Mental health, people get spooked. But we have to move past that.

And suicidality can be multifactorial. But has there been any indication, from any of these families, that it was anything other than the kids being isolated and hopeless about what was going to happen with their futures and senior years and all that?

JARA: Well it's, I'll tell you, Chris, it's been gut-wrenching.

I had a conversation with a family, with one of our students that took his life after he graduated. Honors student! Great athlete!

And mom and dad really want to be part of the solution. Didn't know, didn't have the signs. And after speaking to them, as the Superintendent and, certainly as a father myself, they didn't see the signs.

And they said that it was really - to everything that the child lost his senior year led to, from what they claim, or they suggested to me was really the kid took his own life, which is really sitting and listening to the parents, it's troubling.

As a Superintendent, we've had to obviously look at the mental health. But looking at the COVID numbers of cases, that's where we all started.

But then, when you started seeing the uptick, of the numbers, it was really something that we had to act and created - put a lot of systems in place, the teams, school psychologists, social workers, the entire community, to try to find a solution to get our kids back in school for now.

CUOMO: Well, I want people to hear from one of the families of these kids just that we can understand what we would feel if we were in their situation. Listen to this dad.


BRAD HUNSTABLE, LOST SON BY SUICIDE (voice-over): Hayden was an incredible kid. He wasn't depressed. He wasn't someone who moped around.

HUNSTABLE (on camera): Social isolation is hard enough for adults. It's even more hard for our kids. And as I've been saying, COVID killed my son. I believe it. But not how - not how we think. I believe my son would be alive today if he was in school.


CUOMO: Now, I know about you. You don't just get to be Superintendent overnight. You've said you're a father. But you've been working for - with kids for so many years, and they're like their own. What is the hardest part for you emotionally in knowing that kids are

literally taking their lives in this situation?

JARA: Well Chris, I'll tell you, it's really when you see that everything has gone to the isolation, the self-isolation at home. And I'd seen - I was a former high school principal. Everything has closed down, you know, the athletics, the sports, and that's what keeps the kids engaged in our schools.


And when you see them in virtual classrooms, I substituted a class myself, to see, and when you're looking into the screen, all you're seeing is numbers, because they're not turning on their cameras. It's like you're talking to the black hole up, and you're missing that social interaction with students.

Our teachers are struggling. We all are. And, as adults, when you're coming in here, and trying to figure things out, how to get our kids safe, on our campuses, it's hard on me.

So then, I think about a 15-year-old, I think about a 14-year-old, going through the computer all day long, and without the break with the lunch room, the getting on the bus, the normal things in life, for them, that's why we are doing everything we can to help to bring our kids.

CUOMO: Well Jesus?

JARA: On to our campus.

CUOMO: Jesus, this is what I can do. If it's about money, if it's about locating different resources, let me know. I'm happy to put the word out about what the County needs, and see if communities around the country want to help.

And obviously, if this is happening to you, in Nevada, it's going to be happening other places. Things rarely happen in a vacuum, when it comes to mental health and distress. So, keep me in the loop. Let me know what you do.

JARA: Yes.

CUOMO: And god bless, things get better for you there.

JARA: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right.

JARA: We'll be in touch.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you.

Tough stuff, but we've got to talk about it.

We'll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)







CUOMO: Hard times make strong people. Let's see what these times will do to us.

Thank you for watching. The big show "CNN TONIGHT" with the big star D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: What will it do, though, for the people who are leading the country? The people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who screams at kids who were, you know, a kid who had just survived a school massacre?

CUOMO: Follows the kid, who was terrorized, by firearms, in his opinion.


CUOMO: And keeps telling him she has a gun.