Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

McConnell: Greene's Conspiracy Theories A "Cancer" For GOP; Biden Meets With GOP Senators In Test Of Bipartisanship; Source: Trump's New Impeachment Defense Team Will Focus On Constitutionality Of Trial. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 01, 2021 - 21:00   ET





CUOMO: --is she a 11-years-old today, going on 19, but she let me leave last night, to get ahead of the storm, and come to the city, even though that meant I would miss her actual birthday.

COOPER: Oh wow!

CUOMO: Good thing we had a couple days of pre-shopping. I should have pulled Uncle Anderson into that. But I'm sure, you know, she likes you better than me, so I just.

COOPER: Well happy birthday Cha Cha.

CUOMO: There you go!

COOPER: That's awesome.

CUOMO: All right, Cha Cha? Doesn't get better than that, the man himself! I love you, Cha Cha. Anderson, I love you too. Thank you brother.


CUOMO: All right, I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Family first, right? Family first! But your family as well, and I have some new insight for you.

We are in a two-front conflict right now, all right? The first front is the battle within the GOP. I say it's first because it has a huge impact on the second front, all right?

So, the Party of Lincoln is looking more like the Gang of Wilkes Booth right now, right? Why can't Senator Cruz or Rubio or House Minority Leader McCarthy, why can't they lead and say this? "Loony lies, conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country." Somebody who suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on

9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.'s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen the Party.

Now, I would wager every one of you agrees with what I just said. But you have not heard this from the majority of GOPers in Congress. Here is the question. Is that about to change? Why might it change?

Because I just read a quote from Senator Mitch McConnell. He's the guy who just said that. He just said it. The media is amazed at his amazing candor. Seriously? One, he is stating the obvious. Two, the only amazing thing is how long it took. And, yet, relatively, he is ahead of the curve.

Because what is truly amazing is that there is a Re-Trump-lican who actually thinks Democrats drink the blood of babies, and that QAnon kook got put on multiple committees as a reward. Then this Taylor Greene speaks with the ousted former president and comes out emboldened saying she'll never apologize for conspiracy craziness.

The question is will McConnell win this time? Will he cause a move in the Caucus to reject the radical and reintroduce reality? Now, the bad news is, he tried that and lost on impeachment.

And he turned tail, as he will do, man. When I say "Pet the snake" I mean it. This is the wiliest of the wily. So, if he's saying this maybe he sees advantage in it. Then again, let's see if he starts saying, "Well not all baby blood conspiracies are bad," and then we'll know that the festering continues.

But we have to examine it, because what's happening, in that Party is key to the second front that President Biden is fostering. He is trying to move some Republicans back to reality tonight himself. He had a big meeting at the White House tonight, and he did 10 GOP senators a solid just now. It was his first office meet in the Oval, and it was with them, and it was for two hours.

Now, many came away reporting, "Well, but there is no deal, so," I think it's the wrong analysis, OK? I'm told by both sides they knew they weren't going to get a deal. Biden wants $1.9 trillion. The GOP may get close to half that number.

The meeting was about something else. And Senator Susan Collins put her finger on it.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): It was a very good exchange of views. I wouldn't say that we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two-hour meeting. But what we did agree to do is to follow-up and talk further.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Look, I know everybody is tired of talk. But we've got to get to a better place, right? Here is the "If." If Biden can get 10 or more real Republicans to do deals, the Senate can keep the filibuster, right, which why is that good?

Look, I'll talk about that another night, OK? I have very distinct analysis on where the filibuster came from, why it's always been a malignant force in that Senate, and why it certainly is now. But a lot of the Democrats want to keep it, and certainly the Republicans do.

So, if you get this group of Republicans to be open, to doing deals, you can keep the filibuster, and you may be avoid all-out opposition again. And maybe, just maybe Biden can move the culture.

Two problems for him, an identity crisis, as I've been saying, on the Right, and promises, to go big on the Left. On his own flank, you got Schumer and Pelosi laying out the groundwork today for passing relief without any Republican votes using a budget reconciliation shortcut.


Now, I get the strong move on that. But I must discuss with you tonight, the cost to making that move that could make a big difference, and no one has told you about it. It could mean cuts to your own health care. I'll tell you why.

But also, the Democrats moved unilaterally today on that poisoned influence on the Right.

The House Rules Committee announced plans to consider a resolution, on Wednesday, OK, to kick this head conspiracy QAnon kook Taylor Greene off her committees, Education and Budget, since GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy in the House still hasn't taken any action.

And, by the way, Taylor Greene heard what McConnell said tonight, and rejected it. Here is what she says you need to know.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): These are not red flag incidences. They are not fake, and it's terrible the loss that these families go through and their friends as well.


CUOMO: First of all, yes, we all know that. The truth isn't in question. You are.

Now apologize, say how wrong it was to spread lies, lies you knew, you were spreading, you, in the videos, calling these kooks "Patriots," reveling in the radical nature of it all. "Jews with lasers!" "Drinking baby blood!"

If McConnell, the wiliest of the wily knows that this must be put down, where are the rest of you in that Party? How can you have silence be your presence on this issue? Is truly Adam Kinzinger the only one among you willing to stand up for his own Party?

And I must insist, there is a price to what you're doing, what one of your own, once called "Pusillanimous pussyfooting," remember that, back in the Nixon days?

Not only are you hurting the ability to deal with the pandemic crisis but you may have created another, my brothers and sisters. You released the Kraken! You opened Pandora's Box! Pick your metaphor.

You now have extremists that are in the mix, and they have access, online, to rank and file Righties and they are radicalizing them. That's what that woman is. She is a radical. She's been radicalized. The numbers are growing, as are the threats.

And here is more proof for you that this is just for them about the hate of America. Not the love of Trump, all right?

CNN had its breaking news just moments ago that some of the rioters, who stormed the Capitol, on behalf of Trump, didn't even vote for him. There are at least eight facing criminal charges. They didn't vote at all in the election because they're not about us. They're about hate and them, OK? They're arguing to overturn the election, why? Chaos!

Let's bring in the better minds to speak to the state of play. You got David Gregory, and Michael Smerconish.

Good to have you both.

Michael, good to have you. I want to test David's connection, and make sure it's strong. He had some WiFi issues.

David, let me start with you.


CUOMO: What do you make of Biden's big meeting tonight with the senators and what that is supposed to project?

GREGORY: That he wants to try. That he wants to try to negotiate with Republicans in good faith.

I think he is speaking to the American public right now that wants to see government work better, that wants agreeable disagreement, if there is going to be disagreement. But there's a bigger game here.

The President wants to try to bring Republicans along, knowing that if they don't come along, he can go his own way, because he feels like he's really in sync with the American public that wants a big deal.

He also knows if there is an improvement in the economy, which ultimately there will be, when the virus is under control, he wants to be on the right side of that bet. And if Republicans don't get onboard, and do something big, they're going to be on the wrong side.

So, he has learned from, back in 2008, this is the thinking that they were too afraid politically. He doesn't want to be afraid here. He thinks bigger is better, when it comes to helping people out, in the country.

And the bigger reward will be when it starts to pay off in the economy, even if he gets some nicks here, for going his own way, and leaving Republicans behind.

CUOMO: What's the chance, Michael, that this works and you get some phalanx of somewhere between 10 and a dozen Republicans who want to make deals and separate from the toxic part of the Caucus?


I am disappointed in the fact that the overlap between those who voted against that Rand Paul measure pertaining to impeachment, and those who showed up in the Oval Office today total a grand number of three, in other words, three supportive of both meeting with the President and being willing to vote against Rand Paul. That doesn't speak well for cooperation long-term.

But I think it's in the President's best interests to do exactly what he did today, to be perceived as fulfilling that campaign pledge of unity. And I'd love to see something come from it.


CUOMO: David, how does Biden make the Left happy? They want big. They want muscular politics. They are tired of the oppression and the toxicity and they can go on their own. And that's what Schumer and Pelosi are kind of preparing to do.

GREGORY: Yes, look, they want to go big.

I think they're tired. I think liberals - Liberal Democrats feel like their leadership has gotten played that they don't play power politics the way that the Republicans do, the way Mitch McConnell does.

And they believe, as an ideological matter, in the full power of the federal government, to help the most people, particularly during a pandemic. That's what the Left wants.

And look, Biden is delivering, not only on this package, but on executive orders, on his - the ordering, the sequencing of issues, on equity, climate change, down the list. He is delivering, for the Left, in terms of what they think are priorities.

He wants to be seen as trying to do what he knows how to do, which is negotiate with Republicans. But on this one, I think he won't hesitate.

I think, again, I think the bigger play here is that when the economy gets better, he will be seen as having done something big, because he's willing to negotiate on some of the margins here, maybe even on the minimum wage, maybe on who gets checks, what the threshold is.

But I think he's being told, we know this, by his Treasury Secretary and others, the economy needs stimulus of such a magnitude to make a real difference.

CUOMO: There is a problem, Michael. I'm sure - I'm sure you're aware of it, although I'd love to catch you not being aware of it. If they do it by reconciliation, there is other legislation that triggers automatic cuts for any spending that will increase the deficit.

So, if the Democrats push it through by reconciliation, some of those automatic cuts happen to Medicaid and Medicare. There will be a price for forcing it through that way. How does that play?

SMERCONISH: Well, I think that's the reason why you saw the President go the extra mile and spend so much time with the 10 folks, who came over to meet with him today.

I would just add to what David said by saying that any risk of alienating some, on his Left flank, for the reason you've just articulated, is outweighed by the President cutting a deal and trying to placate those 10 Republicans.

He is far better-served, I think, the country is far better-served, if he can get it done through a conventional vote than through reconciliation for the reason you've identified.

CUOMO: Yes. I think that - you know the old expression "Hoisted on your own petard," where your own bomb blows you up?

I love the power move. I didn't like the way they were negotiating with McConnell on the power deal. I thought it made him look stronger than he should be. However, there is a price to going it alone, in this situation.

Now, David, what do we to make of McConnell? He comes up here, throws the only straight punch at a QAnon person that we've seen from the Party, in leadership, and he says Liz Cheney was brave for what she did with her vote on impeachment. He says nothing by accident. What's the play?

GREGORY: You know? I'm going to stick to where I've been the last time on this program. I think he is trying to lead with some example.

He's not going to - he's not going to - this is not the hill he is going to die on politically. But he is going to - he is going to set an example that he hopes and other people will follow. He is not going to take part in trashing Liz Cheney, a conservative.

And again, the notion, John King pointed this out, on our air, earlier today, that Republicans are spending more time trashing Liz Cheney than they are this QAnon Congresswoman. That's ridiculous. That makes no sense.

And so, McConnell wants to show some adult leadership where he can, and hope that some others might follow, because he does not want Trump to play this "King" role or "Kingmaker" role out of office.

CUOMO: I mean that's why, I think, look, the former president gave him an opening, Michael, last word to you. But her meeting with him, the QAnon lady, coming out of there,

afterwards, emboldened, you know, I get why certain people on the Right, and certain things that play to White fear, Republicans have to be careful about alienating. But QAnon can't fit in that mix, can it?

SMERCONISH: She is a symptom. She's not the problem. I think you've got to go deeper here and say, "What is it about the 14th Congressional District in Northwest Georgia that would cause people to vote for her?" And, Chris, there was not a Jekyll and Hyde that took place here.

CUOMO: True.

SMERCONISH: She ran as the person that she is. And consequently, we've got to say like "What the hell is it about that constituency that would know these things about her and vote for her nonetheless?"

CUOMO: You had a good interview, by the way, with the guy who ran against her. Can they see that?


CUOMO: Can people go online?

SMERCONISH: Yes, they can.


And listen, Dr. John Cowan, Christian, conservative, pro-life, for the borders, for Donald Trump, it wasn't enough to get him elected. She beat him, 57/42. And, when I said "How come?" he said, I think the voters wanted a grenade like her in Washington. And that was an attribute.

CUOMO: Back to the expression "Hoisted on your own petard," she is going to blow up right in the middle of their Caucus.

Great talk, appreciate it, Michael Smerconish, David Gregory, appreciate you both.

All right, now, another urgent matter for us.


CUOMO: The nation's top infectious disease expert is sounding like a weather forecaster, OK? Did you hear what his COVID prediction is for the near-term future? Listen to this.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: I see that Hurricane 5, Category 5 or higher, 450 miles offshore. And, you know, telling people to evacuate, in that nice blue-sky day, is going to be hard. But I can also tell you that hurricane is coming.


CUOMO: What is he talking about? What's the hurricane? Who needs to pay attention?

We have the Chief Doctor with answers about what our future is going to look like, and why, next.




OSTERHOLM: You and I are sitting on this beach, where it's 70 degrees, perfectly blue skies, gentle breeze. But I see that Hurricane 5, Category 5 or higher, 450 miles offshore.

And, you know, telling people to evacuate on that nice, blue-sky day is going to be hard. But I can also tell you that hurricane is coming. So, I think we have to understand that because of this surge, we do have to call an audible.


CUOMO: Now, that's Michael Osterholm, all right? He's an Epidemiologist, who advised the Biden transition team, on the COVID-19 threat.

Now, I got to play with this metaphor. I think he means to say we're in the eye of a hurricane. We had that front wall come through, all these cases, all this disaster. But now, is there a backside? Now, we know in every hurricane there is. It's about how strong it is. Is that true here?

Is it an apt metaphor that we're facing a huge surge of viruses from what's called these variants? And on that score, did you hear about the news from South Africa? That's bad for all of us, even people like me.

Let's get some perspective from Chief Doctor Sanjay Gupta.

Doc, do you agree with Dr. Osterholm?


CUOMO: Do you believe there is something of that kind of scale coming because of the variants?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I think we're going to see a lot more cases because you have a lot more, just a much more transmissible variant here. So, many more people will become infected.

I think the question is going to become, "Is that going to lead to the corresponding few-week-later uptick in hospitalizations and the corresponding few-week-uptick after that in deaths?" I don't know that we know that yet. It's certainly clear that if it's more transmissible, more vulnerable, people may get infected, and that could lead to a problem. But it's not clear that this is - this is overall that the variant is any more deadly, or any more lethal. So, that's what we're playing with.

You got the vaccines out there. There's a lot of hope around that. We got to get those vaccines - people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Could it lead to the situation where even if people are getting infected maybe they're just developing more mild or moderate disease, but not the more severe disease?

CUOMO: Now--

GUPTA: So, that's really going to be the big question.

CUOMO: Good news/bad news.

Good news is you wear a mask. You are careful about where you go. You play on the safe side. The risk goes down tremendously. It really is in our control. It always has been. And we've been failing all along.

The bad news, the idea that we're a vaccine away from even this South Africa variant going away is not helpful from the numbers. You have a full screen for us of what we're learning about how stubborn this variant is, even to vaccine.

GUPTA: Yes. So, we can put up those numbers.

And let me just emphasize the point that you just made about the masks though, as well, Chris. I mean, you're right. We talk about the vaccines. We've always put all our eggs in the vaccine basket. That's our culture.

Masks would make a huge difference and, I would say, especially high filtration or N95 masks, if we wore those regularly, whenever we're out in public, we'd probably have a much quicker sort of impact on this pandemic.

But that aside, Chris, to your point, take a look, this sort of tells the story. The vaccines still are effective against these variants, but not as effective as they are against the more dominant Coronavirus that's circulating right now.

Novavax, we see that data starting to come out, 60 percent effective against the South African variant. That's 2b data. So, we're going to see bigger data set.

The Johnson & Johnson one is the one that we're really paying attention to. Across the board, in the United States, 72 percent effective against moderate disease, but 57 percent against South African variant disease.

The good news there is that if you look against severe disease overall, whether it's the variant from South Africa, the U.K., Brazil, or what is circulating predominantly here in the United States, it was 85 percent protective against people getting really sick, going to the hospitalization, and dying.

That's why we're saying earlier that what is the real metric that we're looking here ultimately? How many people are becoming infected or how many people are actually getting sick, and requiring hospitalization?

I think we could still potentially see a significant impact on hospitalization, and severe disease, if we can get people vaccinated fast enough. And that's still been a little bit of the issue.

CUOMO: Last point. Fauci spoke about people in South Africa experiencing high rates of re-infection, meaning even someone like me.


CUOMO: And I got to tell you, I heard this from people in France, too.


CUOMO: I just, out of nowhere, I had a number of guys, who I met during all the terror stuff from France, saying that they got COVID twice. And I had heard that that was like, you know, an aberration.

Is that changing that, even people like me, who've had it, and still have antibodies you can get sick from the variant?


GUPTA: Yes, I'm sorry to say, Chris that does seem to be increasingly likely, still maybe not common but increasingly likely. And here's why. What they've done is they've done these studies, where they look at convalescent plasma.

So, that would be like your plasma. You've had COVID. You got antibodies. They take your plasma and they're testing that now in the lab against this South African variant. And what they're finding is that those antibodies aren't as effective against the variant from South Africa, as they are against the circulating Coronavirus now.

So, they are seeing reinfections in places around the world. They saw it in Brazil. They're seeing some of that in South Africa, and in Europe, as you mentioned. So, that's the concern.

And so, Chris, it also makes the case that someone like you should get vaccinated when you can, because a lot of people say, "Look, I had it. I'm good to go. I don't need to get vaccinated." Not the case. You still need to get vaccinated, and this is precisely why.

CUOMO: Yes, this is scary news! And I know it's going all over the place in the long-haul community.

GUPTA: I know!

CUOMO: I mean it's the last group of people. I mean I'm one of the lucky ones. But the last thing they need is to know that they could go into that hole again. Dr. Sanjay Gupta?


CUOMO: As we figure out what the Administration will do to adjust to these realities, we've got to talk about it, see what makes sense, what doesn't. Thank you, brother. All right.

GUPTA: Any time, Chris.

CUOMO: Vaccine versus variant, it's all about how quickly the federal government can get to those in need, all right?

We showed you the President meeting with a group of Republican senators at the White House tonight, in an effort to get help to come faster by doing it together. The group is backing a smaller COVID relief plan than what the White House wants.

Let's bring in White House Senior Adviser Cedric Richmond.

It's good to see you.


CUOMO: So, how do you see the state of play here? Nobody expected a deal tonight. But where are the Democrats' heads in terms of the best way forward?

Muscle it through, through reconciliation, and let the Republicans make the show of trust. Let the Republicans come forward and show that they can do a deal. But let's get done what you have to get done now, especially for the pandemic.

RICHMOND: Well Chris, exactly what you said. The President is focused on making sure that he gets the best results for the American people.

We didn't pull $1.9 trillion out of the sky. What we did was go line by line, and figure out how to meet the challenges that the public was facing. And at the end of the day, when we met all the challenges, it added up to $1.9 trillion.

And so, look, we are very grateful that the 10 Republican senators came over. We are looking for ways that we can enhance and strengthen the American Rescue Plan. And we're looking for areas where we can compromise.

And so, one thing about this President and the Vice President is they are always going to put the American people first. But this plan meets those challenges. And that's where we want people to end up.

CUOMO: What about urgency?

And the word is, and you can tell me if it's the, you know, if I have it wrong, that they'll give you pandemic funding right now that they'll make a deal at the numbers that you like for what you need for vaccinations, for unemployment, that they'll even work on with checks with people who need it.

They just don't want to all go in on this big thing because there is too much from the Left that isn't related to the pandemic in it. Is that something you are considering?

RICHMOND: Well, that's just something that's not true.

Everything in this package is designed to help people, who are suffering from the pandemic, whether it's child care, whether it's the earned income tax credit, whether it's child tax credits, which would lift 4 million kids out of poverty this year. And it's all based on the pandemic.

So look, we are more than willing to keep engaging. But at the end of the day, what the President and Vice President won't do is compromise their values or let the American people down.

The fear here and I want to be crystal clear, about this, the fear here is not going too big. It's going too small. Even when I was in Congress, we did too little too late. And we never got our hands around this pandemic.

And so, now we have this pandemic. We have an economic crisis. And what the President is saying is "Let's grab and handle both of them because that's what I promised the American people."

CUOMO: How long can you wait?

RICHMOND: Well, I think that's why we had the Republicans in here today because we don't want to wait.

The truth is families can't afford to wait. And even those families that they are saying, "Make enough," those families are holding money because they know that come March, the foreclosure moratorium, the eviction moratorium, that ends, and all those bills become due.

So, we are headed to a cliff. It's a race to a cliff. We want to help the American people before they hit that cliff. And so, that's our sense of urgency. That's why we are proceeding with the process that we are. But there is no rule that Republicans cannot join us in helping the American people in the path that we're choosing.


CUOMO: What is the most aggressive stance you guys would take in terms of making a deal right now? What are the areas where there could be a different state of play than there is right now that might get you a bipartisan agreement?

RICHMOND: Look, one, I'm not going to negotiate on CNN although I love CNN, and I love you and Don Lemon.

CUOMO: Not enough, evidently, not enough.

RICHMOND: But I'm not - I'm not going to negotiate on CNN.

But what I will tell you is, at the end of the day, this is not about this Administration. We're not trying to get kudos.

We are terrified of the future, facing America, if we don't act now. 4 million less jobs, this year, if we don't pass this American Rescue Plan. And so, I'm not just saying that. Bush and Trump economists agree.

Over 400 mayors, Republican and Democrat, are asking us to help and help right now. So, we don't have the luxury to wait. And that's the sense of urgency we're trying to press upon the Republicans and our Members of Congress.

CUOMO: Couple more things. I'm 90 percent joking--


CUOMO: --about you not negotiating here.

The 10 percent pushback that I think is serious is the more you people are transparent with what's going on, what the issues are, and who wants what, I think the better-served you'll be.

People are so tired of it being a small group, who knows things and everybody else finds out later within Congress, let alone in the country. The more, they know, the better.

There is a price tag to doing it through reconciliation, as you know, Cedric. But for the people at home, there are some automatic cost- cutting maneuvers to any spending bill that goes through this mechanism that increases the deficit, which this certainly would. And some of those cuts go to entitlements. How do you get around that?

RICHMOND: Well Chris, you are partially right. But it's only on permanent measures that affect the budget. So, this is emergency spending. And everything in this bill is sunset. So, even if you talk about the child tax credits, if you talk about the enhanced earned income tax credits--

CUOMO: Yes, Medicaid.

RICHMOND: --all of that sunsets after a portion of time. Because it's not permanent, it would not trigger those automatic cuts. And look?

CUOMO: Even the minimum wage stuff?

RICHMOND: Minimum wage doesn't affect the budget, in a sense. It will not deplete from the budget.

What it will do is actually add money to the economy, put money in the hands of people that are busting their rear ends, to keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and clothes on their back. And so, that would not be a negative to the budget.

So, we've looked at it, Chris, and I know what you're saying. But because these are not permanent, because it's emergency spending, it would not hit those triggers.

CUOMO: All right. That, look, that's an important issue.

Now, one other quick point of politics. So, the Vice President goes to West Virginia. The reporting is that Senator Manchin wasn't informed or asked to collaborate, and it looked like you went into his backyard, and went after one of your own. Is that the message that the Administration wanted to send to the Senator?

RICHMOND: Absolutely not. Our Vice President is an absolute rock star and we send her everywhere we can sending her--

CUOMO: West Virginia?


CUOMO: You lost by a million points in West Virginia.

RICHMOND: Well that doesn't mean we quit, Chris. What it means is we have to go take this message to the American people. And part of it is taking it to people, who generally don't support Democrats.

And because we have such a great Vice President, she is volunteering to make sure that people understand the message of what families are going through, what hard-working Americans are going through. And so, no, we didn't just send her to West Virginia. She's going everywhere because this is important to the American people.

And so, look, everybody knows the respect we have for Senator Manchin. So, this is not playing politics, as though people would want to say. This is us putting our best foot and our best people forward, and the Vice President is absolutely one of them.

CUOMO: Cedric Richmond, I appreciate you coming here and making the case to my audience. You have an open invitation. The more we hear, from you guys directly, the more people know what they're dealing with, the more we can test power, people can get to a better place.

Appreciate you for taking the opportunity.

RICHMOND: Well thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, be well. Good luck doing the people's business.

All right, so one of the biggest obstacles to Cedric Richmond, and everybody else, in the White House, trying to get stuff done, on the pandemic, etcetera, etcetera, is the impeachment. Look, I mean they didn't cause the problem, but they have to deal with it.

The trial is creeping up, and the defendant's legal team literally just fell apart. They literally just left. Once again, as when it comes to Trump, we've never seen anything like it.

Now, what matters to us, and why I would even bother talking about it is the "Why." Why did they leave? And what does that suggest that this trial is really going to be about?

I have a former Trump White House lawyer, who understands the problems that his Party and this country are headed toward in this trial, next.



CUOMO: We're learning more tonight about what this trial is going to be about, OK? And just remember, it's the second impeachment trial. The case for why, he is the worst, is on display.

A source close to the case tells CNN that the ex-president's newly- assembled legal team will focus on the constitutionality of the case.

Democrats plan to go back months to argue how Trump incited the Capitol riot. Trump's case is notable because five lawyers left this week and, in part, it appears because they refused to push his lies about election fraud.

Let's talk Trump strategy with one of his former White House lawyers, Jim Schultz.

Good to see you on PRIME TIME.

Question, Counselor, if you got a call from the former president, and he said, "I need you Jimmy, come help me," would you take this case?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Chris, you know the answer to that. I'm not taking this case, nor would any lawyer that's, you know, that's the problem he's had from the beginning. And we saw Butch Bowers, who's an incredibly talented lawyer just leave the legal team from South Carolina.


And I got to tell you, this new team that signed up, now they're signaling that it isn't going to be about election fraud that it's going to be about the Constitution and the constitutionality of the proceeding.

I'm heartened to hear that that's going to be the argument, and then they're not going to perpetuate this false narrative of election fraud overturn the outcome of the election.

CUOMO: What does it mean that men and women, who get paid, to make arguments, walked away, but that the elected leaders, from your Party in Congress, who raise their hand, and take an oath, will not go after the arguments about the election fraud the same way?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think everybody should be looking at the election fraud issue through the lens of, look, it was a false narrative. And I think we should be moving away from that narrative, and moving towards the things that we need to do for this country.

I think paid lawyers, they're going to stand up and make, and I hope that Bruce Castor from Pennsylvania is getting a good retainer on this thing, and he got the money up-front, because I think it's very, very, you know, it's important that people have counsel. And Bruce has decided to take on this case. And I understand that. But

I'll tell you, it's not something I'd want to take on.

CUOMO: Do you really believe that on the eve - relatively, the eve of this trial that the former president met with that QAnon kook, and she came out of there, emboldened, saying "Trump's got my back?" Why would he send that signal to a Party that is in complete disarray because of that element?

SCHULTZ: Look, the one thing he has going for him, going into this trial, is that he had 45 folks say that we don't believe that this - that they don't believe that this - that this proceeding is constitutional.

You start getting into things like that, people start scratching their head, and thinking about how they're actually going to vote.

You start talking about false narratives, and election fraud, people are going to start thinking about how they're going to vote. When folks start asking "What did you know" and "When did you know it" people are going to be questioning their votes.

And I think, as it stands today, the President stands to be acquitted, and not convicted, before the Senate. But that could change on a dime, depending upon how this narrative plays out.

Remember, this is a political proceeding. This is not a legal proceeding. So, the politicians are going to do what they feel is in the interests of how it's going to play back home for them and how, and the political implications of what they're going to hear during this trial.

So, I wouldn't be so sure and so confident, if I were former president Trump, going into this trial, and having, and pulling stunts like he did this week.

CUOMO: What do you think happens in the near-term with your Party in terms of how it deals with what's within the ranks right now?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think the Party - look, I've always said I am bullish on this Party. I think we've got a - we've got a bright future ahead of us.

The best thing we have going for us is the agenda of the Democrats coming in that just came in, and come into this Congress. They have everything now. The House, the Senate, the Presidency, it's on them. I feel good about 2022, and taking back the House in 2022. We only have a five-vote margin.

So, look, I think this Party has to - has to really look back, and learn from mistakes that it - that it made over the last number of years, of this presidency, and move on, and get back to lower taxes, good - lower taxes, good government, taking on China, all the things that - all the policy initiatives, quite frankly, that were taken on during this Administration that Americans voted for Donald Trump to begin with, in 2016, and voted again for him, a lot of them, in 2020. CUOMO: I don't think they voted for a lady who was saying that "Jews are shooting lasers from space to create fires."

SCHULTZ: Certainly did not.

CUOMO: And I can't believe how quiet--

SCHULTZ: This nonsense just has to stop.

CUOMO: --McCarthy has been on this. McConnell spoke up. Let's see if they follow suit. People in your Party, angry about everything, except QAnon. Jimmy Schultz, thank you for the legal analysis.

SCHULTZ: They really should.

CUOMO: Appreciate you, brother.

SCHULTZ: Take care.

CUOMO: All right, GameStop, GameStop is a metaphor, right, little guy versus the big guy?

How the system will protect itself and who is going to pay? That's going to apply in a lot of different levels, all right? This is getting into very precarious territory, stretching into a second week, much bigger than a business story.

My next guest thinks that this is all about Wall Street chaos as a crime story. He says what's happening on the Street is a robbery. Who is it? The Founder of Barstool Sports. Why he's so fired up? Next.



CUOMO: GameStop shares fell more than 30 percent today. Trading was halted briefly. Now, it's still up more than a 1000 percent from a month ago. And we'll have to see that it moves very quickly, it can move a lot. We'll see.

Robinhood, the trading app platform that we had the guy on last week, they are continuing to limit how much of the stock people can buy. Now the reason why, certainly an outrage, right, you got a mixture of passion and fights over profits, but look, it has to be that Robinhood had liquidity issues.

I know the guy said here he didn't that he had enough money, it was OK, it can't be true. And we're going to have to see what regulators say. But there are bigger questions emerging about how this is going to end.

Now, one guy who is absolutely putting his money where his mouth is or really, he put his money there first, so he's putting his mouth, where his money has been, is the Founder of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy.

Good to have you on the show. DAVE PORTNOY, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, BARSTOOL SPORTS: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Why is this resonating way beyond a business story?

PORTNOY: It's beyond business because you had - this story went viral. The GameStop stock went viral and the others around AMC, so every day people were investing in it.

It wasn't just Wall Street. It wasn't even just day traders. This is the general public. We were getting emails from people who have nothing to do with the stock market, who were investing money to get on this trend. And then, right when they got on it, is when it plummeted, because Robinhood stopped it.

So, a lot of people lost a lot of money, and people who weren't used to being in the stock market, and people who, I guess, weren't expecting to it go down that way. So, it became a much bigger story because it involved everybody, not just traders.

CUOMO: Let's talk about the good guys and the bad guys here. I saw you on another program. You were heated-up.


You were talking about the anger towards the elites, and the big- shots, and the Wall Street types. And that's - that is catchy. People are angry. And I watched now on these chat rooms, you know, a lot of followers of yours, that's working for them.

What is your message about the anger and people seeing going and investing in big groups to fight off the elites? What is the message there?

PORTNOY: Well, I mean, my main message has not changed. And I've heard what everybody said.

And I saw the interview you had with Vlad. And I saw the interview he had with Elon the other night, and his tune has changed. He went from saying "Not validity, no outside pressure" to, now "It was a liquidity issue and the free money."

CUOMO: There had to be a liquidity issue.


CUOMO: It had to be. It had to be that he couldn't make the call on covering the margin accounts. And he had to - he didn't have the bandwidth. He didn't have the personnel. And he decided to play it safe. But nobody told him to do it. He wasn't forced to do it. So, that was always going to be his problem. But it's how it resonated. Speak to that.

PORTNOY: Yes. Well he should have said that in the beginning.

CUOMO: Yes. PORTNOY: But it makes it seem like he wasn't telling the truth in the beginning.


PORTNOY: And the facts of the matter is anybody who looks at the people involved, you have the Melvin Capital, you have the Citadel, you have Steve Cohen, anybody, when you look and connect dots, if you are a rationally human - thinking human being, you think "I got screwed." And you think the little guy got screwed.

And if it was the reverse, and the big guy and the hedge funds were making billions, nobody presses the pause button. That's what everybody thinks. That's what I think, and that's what I still think because it's just rationally how you expect it.

Nobody's protecting - I've never heard, "Oh, the big guys are making too much money too quickly, so we've got to stop." I also still haven't been answered why when you said you couldn't buy the stock, or are you allowed to sell it?

What I read in the interview, and heard with Elon is he - is Vlad said, "Well, people get very angry and upset, if they have to hold the stock, and you can't sell it." Well what did you think they're going to do when you cratered it? So, there's a lot of things to me that still just don't add up.

CUOMO: Right.

PORTNOY: And again, if you're using logic and reason, they'll never add up.

CUOMO: Now, here's my concern.

You have a lot of followers. And I think it's good that you've put money into a fund that people can see online, that you're donating to small businesses. I think you put up like 400 grand, 500 grand, and now it's at like $34 million, when I checked, before the show.

Good to help small businesses. They follow you. You take a hit. You've taken them before. You know the risk. You've got the capital behind you. You can take a big hit. A lot of these people are putting a lot of money that they need on the line. Are you worried about them?

PORTNOY: No, because here's the thing. Everybody's putting - everybody knows the risk. When you say things like that, I've heard it many times, we're treating these people like infants.

I mean it's very straightforward that the stock market can go up and down. What is different here, and I didn't know this to be honest either, I didn't know that you could stop trading like how they did. I don't think anybody knew that you could do that. So, for a lot of people, the rules changed.

We're fine doing risk. We're fine putting the money in. But we think we're playing under a set of rules that exist one way, and in reality, they didn't. We didn't know that. I didn't know that.

But as far as people risking their money, I've been doing this almost for a year. And I've heard every old-school trader, and old Wall Street say "It's going to end in a tear of - in tears, and you're leading these people to doom." Facts are we've been more right than anybody else.

So, it's a risk. You have to know. And I always say in the same breath, "Don't put in more than you can lose. Never do that." That's rule one of trading, gambling, investing, anything.

CUOMO: But it's intoxicating, right? I mean that's when it gets risky, is that it seems like it's going up. Look where the stock is right now. We both know there's no argument on the fundamentals. There's not even any rational P/E ratio argument to be made.

What happens when it comes down if the investors that, you know, you're rallying up don't have the timing--


CUOMO: --or the wherewithal to get out before the big guys can?

PORTNOY: Well, and that's exactly what happened because they pressed pause. But the rally is already coming. When it comes to my attention, it's already coming, and the internet is a new age, where everybody already hears this stuff.

But I have just a different fundamental belief. It's not my job. I can say my opinion, and I believe that people listening to me have minds that work and can decide what they're going to do with--

CUOMO: No, but you're persuasive.

PORTNOY: --their own money.

CUOMO: Dave, you're persuasive. When people talk about you, you're not just another guy mouthing off. They listen to you. They believe in what you're telling them. You're giving them a sense of cause.

I'm not saying this as a criticism. I'm offering it as a word of caution because they are going on what you say, and in a way, that's what you should want. But you know that they're playing with pros out there now, and somebody's going to lose, because this stock can't stay where it is.

PORTNOY: Well, it only didn't stay where it is because there was devious behavior involved. I think it would have. But, again, that's me. If you look at my profile on Twitter, the number one thing it says, "I'm not an adviser. Don't take anything." I'm pretty clear with that.


But if people want to follow what I'm doing, if I wake up and I see a deer, outside my door, and I say "I'm going to buy John Deere because I saw a deer, and I think it's a sign," and somebody wants to jump in on that, well, then you're a moron, if that's truly why you believe that's going up.

I believe people are smarter and can make decisions for themselves.

CUOMO: Look, I always hope you're right. I always bet on people. Let me ask you something. What are you doing right now? Are you staying in those stocks? Did you make this move to Silver that was all over the chat boards?

PORTNOY: I didn't do Silver. I still have the others. I actually said today "I think I'm paying the highest price just to make memes." I like saying "I'm holding it. It's going to the moon." And meanwhile, it's going down, and I don't know what's going on.

But if you watch the stream, I openly say that. So, I still have AMC. I still have Nokia. I've gotten killed on those. I've gotten absolutely murdered.

CUOMO: So, why do you have them?

PORTNOY: Because I'm not going to get rid of them. I like being part of the movement right now, and I like making memes about it.

CUOMO: All right, well you can do that. Not everybody can.

Dave Portnoy, thank you for tracking this story with us. I appreciate it.

PORTNOY: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right. We'll be right back.


CUOMO: Thank you for watching. It's time for the big show, "CNN TONIGHT," and the big star, D. Lemon.