Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

Trump Goes On Trial For "Incitement Of Insurrection" Tomorrow; "QAnon Shaman" On Trump: He Was Not Honorable; Georgia Seizes Vaccines From Clinic For Vaccinating Teachers Early. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 08, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Kind of an inside joke around here. Brian Stelter, thanks very much.

A reminder, don't miss "FULL CIRCLE," our digital news show. You can catch it streaming live, at 6 P.M. Eastern, at, or watch it there, and on the CNN app, at any time, on-demand.

News continues. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Appreciate you, Coop. Happy Monday.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

The question is simple. Did Trump encourage or stir up the events of January 6? If you think he did, that is called incitement. And it is why he was impeached.

It's hard to argue his constant lies about the election being rigged, lies about proof that didn't exist, lies about biased judges, some of whom he put on the bench, and bad politicians, many of whom he supported, and were from his Party, did not make people distrust to the point of this insurrection. That's why almost all the senators in his Party don't want to have to answer that question.

We are hours away from the first ever second impeachment trial of a President in United States' history. And his Party wants to pretend the trial is improper, so they don't have to be on record ignoring everything that most will see as obvious.

Trump's lawyers argue this is all unconstitutional and political theater by Democrats. Two points.

First, this was by far the most bipartisan impeachment in our history. 10 members of Trump's own Party formally accused him of a high crime. Second, if that's what you think, why don't you go to court?

If you don't think the Constitution means what it says, about a trial, following the impeachment, go to court. They can't. Do you know why? Because this is not about the law per se.

Despite all the familiar terms like "Trial" and "Jurors," "Convict," this is a political process. It is about votes and integrity. Trump seems to have the former in his pocket. And these senators appear to have too little of the latter.

And so, the trial will begin with a four-hour debate on the constitutionality of it all, which really means why they don't want to do what the overwhelming number, of legal scholars agree they must do, including Chuck Cooper.

You know him? He's a big-shot conservative lawyer. He's represented House Republicans, John Bolton. Even Ted Cruz, he was an advisor to his campaign.

He says, "Look at Article 1 Section 3 of this Constitution." In there, it says the Senate has an option for more punishment than conviction, quote, "Disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States." And that punishment can only be imposed on a former officer like Trump.

So, if there is a, an option to disqualify, how can it be unconstitutional to create that option, right? That clause can only apply to someone who is out of office.

So, here is the problem for the GOP-Q, and for Trump. Their argument on the law is weak. But their argument on the facts is weaker. OK?

They couldn't even spell "United" in his brief, let alone cogently argue that Trump was trying to keep us that way. They're arguing the people who criminally breached the Capitol did so of their own accord and for their own reasons.

So, you don't think this encouraged them?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we fight, we fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

And we're going to the Capitol.

We're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.


CUOMO: He used the word "Fight" or something like it 20 times, in that speech, on January 6.

And then, during the coup attempt, he went home, to joyfully watch, and attacked Mike Pence, to keep whipping them up, stirring them up, encouraging them, tweeting, "Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done," which is not even fair. It's not even true. Pence had no ability to do anything.

A big problem, though, with their factual argument is that you know who disagrees with that argument? The people who attacked the Capitol. That's why I've been having their lawyers on the show.

Some of the suspects rounded up have told, as you know, you've heard it here, they've told authorities their actions were motivated by their support for Trump, and felt they were being asked by him to take action.

They say they did what he said to do, and stopped when he said to, and I have new proof of that, for you, tonight, on the eve of the trial.


His lawyers are also going to say "It's not true that Trump didn't act swiftly enough to stop them." If so, why were his aides said to be struggling to get him to understand how serious the attack could become?

Why did House Minority Leader McCarthy apparently urge him to denounce what was happening, and they got into a heated exchange. Trump didn't even attempt to secure the safety of his own Vice President.

But finally, he was convinced to say something.


TRUMP: Go home. We love you. You're very special.


CUOMO: "We love you. You're very special."

That's the message to people rioting and trying to overturn our democracy, murdering a Capitol police officer, maiming others, maim as in losing fingers, may be an eye, a guy pleading for his life, injuring more than 100, sending Pence and lawmakers running for their lives.

Trump acted swiftly? You know when that video was? More than three hours after the first barricades outside the Capitol were breached.

And there's a facts question that you guys don't hear enough. Why did Trump try to phone Senator Tommy Tuberville during the attack to try to slow down the certification vote? Remember? He accidentally first called Senator Mike Lee, who then handed the phone to Tuberville or Tuberville.

His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani also mistakenly called lead for the same reason. And that's on tape.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: Senator Tuberville, or I should say Coach Tuberville, this is Rudy Giuliani, President's lawyer. I'm calling you because I want to discuss with you how they're trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends to try to just slow it down.


CUOMO: "Slow it down while under attack," does that sound like you're trying to put down an insurrection or benefit from it?

Now, does the former president have a case on the law or the facts? And how will senators from his Party justify ignoring all of what is just too obvious? Let's bring in the better minds, Norm Eisen, and Michael Smerconish.

Good to have you both.

Norm, the idea, of anything happening, in this four-hour debate, tomorrow, to stop the trial, what's the chance?


The Majority Leader, Senator Schumer has made clear there is going to be a trial. The House Managers are ready for a trial. And there is going to be a trial. This is a futile constitutional debate that the GOP Minority is forcing. They've already lost it Chris.

Over 150 constitutional scholars left, right, and center, even Chuck Cooper, he was my main adversary, when I was co-counsel in the previous impeachment, representing John Bolton, wouldn't produce him, even Chuck Cooper says it's baloney.

They're doing this because they don't want to face the reality. Donald Trump incited an insurrection. They don't want to talk about that. They'll talk about anything else. That's why we're having this debate.

CUOMO: Michael, your take?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH," CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "MICHAEL SMERCONISH PROGRAM" ON SIRIUSXM: So, I find the case for incitement to be compelling. Now you know where I'm coming from. But I don't think the jurisdictional battle is frivolous. And Norm didn't use that word and neither did you.

But everybody keeps talking about Chuck Cooper. You know what I found significant about this Op-Ed? He said that "Scholarship on the question has matured substantially since the Rand Paul vote." The Rand Paul vote was January 27. You mean all these constitutional minds have matured in the last 10 days or so?

I hate to say it, Chris. But I think that many people are looking at this, and suiting up in their usual jerseys, determined by who the litigants are. And as evidence for that, I point out to you that in December of 2019, Matt Gaetz proposed the idea of impeaching a former president, Barack Obama.

And Sal Rizzo, the fact-checker at "The Washington Post," went out, and surveyed the academic community, and it was a mixed bag. And I think it's a mixed bag. But I have to say, I find that the well is now being poisoned, because people are saying "Ah, it's Trump. Sure, we can go ahead and have this trial."

CUOMO: Right. He's got two problems, Norm, and you should address him.

One is when was Obama impeached? You know, Trump was impeached in office, and it's an extension of that. And the second thing is Michael ignores the analysis.


The analysis is not about the scholarship changing. It's that Section 1 of Article III says they have an option to disqualify. How can you have that option, if you don't have a trial, and the only people who are eligible for that are people who've been removed?

Why isn't this resonating?

EISEN: Well, we can go back a lot further than Obama and Matt Gaetz to see the origins of this, Chris.

When the Constitution was debated, the example that the Framers pointed to over and over again, was the Hastings impeachment. Guess what? An ex-official, when they voted on Belknap, in the 19th Century to impeach. Guess what? An ex-official. John Quincy Adams said "I could be impeached to my dying day."

So whatever the back and forth, this is not a closed question. And that's why it's not resonating. That's why it's being seen as partisan ducking and dodging by the Republicans.

And the mere fact that the - I think it is a false symmetry to say that both sides are taking their political - their usual political sides. No, this is not a closed question. You can impeach an ex- president.

CUOMO: Why not argue the facts, Michael that, you know, "OK, fine. You're supposed to have a trial."

SMERCONISH: Because the facts - because the facts are not on his side.

CUOMO: Why not? Because--

SMERCONISH: The facts are not on - the fact - no, but Chris, the facts are not on Trump's side. I began by telling you both--

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: --I find the case for incitement to be compelling.

CUOMO: Right. Why?

SMERCONISH: I think Donald Trump incited that rally. So you know the way that it works.

CUOMO: You heard him say?

SMERCONISH: If the facts are on your side-- CUOMO: You heard him say?

SMERCONISH: --you argue the facts.

CUOMO: I want--

SMERCONISH: If the facts aren't on your side, then you argue the law.

CUOMO: You heard him utter the talismanic words that make up the Brandenburg test? You heard him say--

SMERCONISH: I think I did.

CUOMO: --"I want you to leave here right now. Go down to the Capitol, attack the cops, and go in there, and find the Members of Congress," you heard him say that?

SMERCONISH: I really did, Chris. And you know what? With a little cover your ass, CYA, use of the word "Peaceful" thrown in the mix, just to protect himself. It's not just January 6. You've got to look at the totality of what he was doing from November 3rd through January 6.

So I'm a believer. I just - I just I'm getting incensed at the idea that everybody's on the same page on the jurisdictional question, because I don't think that's the case.

CUOMO: I don't think they're on the same page, either. And if this is you incensed, you got to come spend more time with me, Michael, because that's not nearly enough, if you're incense.

But Norm and I did this on the radio today. So, for those who listened, I don't mean to repeat it. But I want another bite at the apple because he beat me so swiftly on the show today.

Norm, if this were a criminal case, again, I don't think you make the Brandenburg test.

And I don't understand why they're not leaning into that as "Look, this guy's got a big mouth. Arguably, he's a liar. But he was not giving directional indicative language to these people any more than he ever has, when he was telling people at his rallies, "I'd like to punch that guy in the face," and "You should go after fake news." He's a hothead and a demagog. That doesn't make him guilty."

EISEN: Well, Chris, that's the problem with using the more borderline arguments like the "Ex-president" argument. It occupies the airspace that they could be using for arguments about the First Amendment. It is in their briefs. They do. The Trump team does argument - does argue it.

Look, as we talked about earlier today, it's a rare TV appearance, by the way, when I'm the calmest one of the three. As we talked about earlier today, Chris, the case here is an impeachment case for a high crime and misdemeanor. That's the word that the Constitution uses, "High crime." Brandenburg is for an ordinary crime. The Supreme Court has said, when you're judging government officials, you don't apply that same Brandenburg test. We've invested them in public trust. We need to hold them to their oaths.

So, the Brandenburg issue is really beside the point. Maybe that's part of the reason that Trump's lawyers aren't pushing it harder.

Now, I do think when you put the whole picture together, yes, I agree with Michael. Those words, when he said, "We fight, and we fight, and if you don't fight, you're not going to have a country anymore"--

CUOMO: Right.

EISEN: --that comes on top of months of incitement, telling people their democracy was stolen. It comes on top of the President's inaction and gleeful gloating, as the--


EISEN: --attack was going on, his delay, telling the protesters he loves them, and that it was a great day, after they did a deadly riot.

CUOMO: Right.

EISEN: So and what - and Chris, above all, as we discussed earlier, the protesters understood exactly what he meant.


They said over and over again "The President ordered me to come here, and that's why I'm here." And as soon as he told them "Go home," you see them saying, "Why are you leaving?" "Oh, the President told me to leave."

CUOMO: Now--

EISEN: So, I think it's a compelling case in context.

CUOMO: I'm out of time. But one of the reasons to understand why it's cogent from Norm, and cogent from Michael, is context.

You could have this jurisdictional issue, absolutely, if it were a true legal process. And it isn't. It's politics. And they have the ability to say they want to do it, and they did. And you may get away with this, under this Brandenburg test, because it's so specific about what you have to do.

But it's not the test. It's about votes and political will and the sense of his abuse of duty. That's what these guys just did beautifully for you. I hope you understand it better, especially on the eve of the trial.

Norm, Michael, thank you both.

CNN has new video that speaks exactly to this issue, OK? I had this guy's lawyer on, the "QAnon Shaman." Remember, all of you got angry? You said, "Why are you having this guy give a defense?"

It was never giving him a defense. He's always going to be in trouble, legally, for what he did. But why he says he did it would matter. Remember? Now, it is the best evidence they have.

That suspect, Jacob Chansley, is making his first public comment since his arrest. We've got that exclusively for you. His lawyer's here to give the message, about, why he did it and why he stopped doing what he was doing, next.









CUOMO: We have video that shows rioters were looking to Trump for guidance, even as they were inside the Capitol. Why does this matter?

Trump's lawyers argue he could not have incited the insurrection because he was being metaphorical, when he talked about fighting, and quote, "Of the over 10,000 words spoken," on January 6, "Mr. Trump use the word "Fight" a little more than a handful of times."

Well, he certainly couldn't fit 20 times in his hands. So if anything, they were huge-handfuls, right 20?

But while they claim the Democrats are cherry-picking facts, notice how they only mentioned one speech he gave, and they ignore the months of fomenting that led to the "Stop the Steal" rally, which in and of itself, was a protest with a very definite point of view of doing something to change the outcome of the election.

The video you will see shows how these people hung on every word Trump spoke or tweeted. You don't have to even look far into the crowd for an example. It's as clear as the horns on this guy's head that - a recognizable member of the mob the "Shaman."

This idea that because some people showed up to D.C. with plans to cause trouble ignores the fact that for people like him, Jacob Chansley, January 6 wasn't the first time they heard Trump's call to arms.

This is Chansley, November 5, two days after the election, all fired- up, at a pro-Trump protest in Arizona, the same day Trump said this.


TRUMP: So, we can't have an election stolen like this.

We can't let that happen to our country.


CUOMO: Then, two days before the riot, Chansley was back in his get-up for a rally in Georgia. At some point, he did change clothes to a shirt and tie. But the message he heard was this.


TRUMP: That was a rigged election. But we're still fighting it.


TRUMP: And we're going to take it back.


CUOMO: And then, here he is, six-foot spear in hand, trying to take it back, just like Trump had been telling him to, for months, at that point. If there were any question of whether Trump could have stopped this, in its tracks, which is also fundamental here, Chansley explains why he left the Capitol. Listen.


VOICE OF JACOB CHANSLEY: Donald Trump asked everybody to go home. He just said - he just put out a tweet. It's a minute long. He asked everybody to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think so?

CHANSLEY: Because do we (BLEEP) day. We (BLEEP) won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did we win?

CHANSLEY: Well we won by sending a message to the senators and the congressmen. We won by sending a message to Pence, OK, that if they don't do as they are - as they - their oath to do, if they don't uphold the Constitution, then we will remove them from office one way or another.


CUOMO: His lawyer can fight to get him the special organic diet that he's requesting from jail, or say he was only following orders. All that's for a judge to rule on.

What matters in terms of the impeachment, is what role Trump's months of lies, played in laying the foundation for the attack on our democracy, as experienced by one of the people who did that.

Chansley's attorney Al Watkins is here. Counselor, welcome back.


CUOMO: So, your client has something he wants to say.

WATKINS: Yes, I shared with you verbatim, the statement that was prepared by my client, dictated to me by my client. And he has asked that I - that I cause it to be released to - to the world. Actually--

CUOMO: Would you like to read it?

WATKINS: I would love to read it except I don't have it. You have it.

CUOMO: All right. Here is--


CUOMO: I got you where I want you then, Al!

So, here are the main points, OK?


"I am deeply disappointed in former President Trump. He was not honorable. He let a lot of people - peaceful people down. I have to leave judging him up to others." Also says "I deeply regret and I'm very sorry, I entered the Capitol building on January 6 2021. I should not have been there. Period."

He should have led with that. So how - why does he believe that the President wasn't honorable and let down a lot of peaceful people?

WATKINS: One of the things that you've missed out, and others are missed out on, is the propaganda, and the talk, the talk by Trump, which was never comprised of a complete sentence ever. No - no subject, no verb, direct object, followed by a period.

That Trump talk, that propaganda was going on non-stop, not - not since November, but since prior to Trump assuming the office, Trump's tweets, his social media exploitation, what he said day in, day out that we all permitted, included untruths, misrepresentations, out-and- out lies. Not every now and then. Every day. Not once a day. Multiple times, daily.

You couple that with a protracted period with COVID, social distancing, the absence of humanity, around a lot of people, who get their news from TikTok, and from social media, and from this, internet--


WATKINS: --coffee klatch. And it was a mess. It was a mess that created an environment on January 6, which was not one month in the making, for people like Jake, for millions of Americans. They truly did hang on every word of their President, our President,

the person that we permitted day in, day out, to speak to us, in ways and in fashions that simply weren't true.

CUOMO: Does Jacob now believe, Chansley, your client, that the election wasn't rigged? Does he now know that he was being lied to?

WATKINS: So, this is a process. The answer is yes. The process though, is not something that Jake is going through alone. The process of unwinding from years of Trump, years of lying--

CUOMO: I think it sound like he's being deprogrammed from a cult.

WATKINS: Well, I've likened the entire thing to 1978, and Jim Jones, down in Guyana. This is very real for these people. And these are our brothers, and our sisters, and our families, and there are millions of Americans.

The unwinding process is not going to be completed at the end of this week, whenever this impeachment trial is concluded. It's not going to be over by the time of the next election. It's a process that's going to require patience, and compassion.

People who are introspective, like my client, and smart, like my client, and alone, unable to exploit that - that time alone, he's moved through it more quickly than - than most of my white-collar crime defendant clients.

CUOMO: That says something, especially for a guy wearing horns on his head.

Al Watkins?


CUOMO: I appreciate you bringing this comment here, and especially on the eve of the trial. Thank you for taking the opportunity.

WATKINS: My pleasure.

CUOMO: All right.

Now, again, I don't care about his defense, and what this means for him in court. I think he's got trouble, OK? But on the eve of this political trial, the question of whether or not Trump was relevant, as a motivator, to people who did the worst things, there's your answer.

Now, another big topic, COVID relief. Who gets the $1,400 check? There's not enough discussion about this. That's all most Americans care about, when it comes to the talks going on in Washington. But you're not hearing about it. Why?

Here's the reality. Democrats are not on the same page about this. The checks cut under the last administration went to individuals making up to $75,000, OK, couples, $150,000. Centrists, let's put Joe Manchin, in that bucket, in the Senate, they

want that lowered to $50,000 for individuals, a $100,000 for couples. That may just be talk given what happened, what just happened in the House.

Ways and Means put out its part of the plan today. It keeps the higher thresholds that the more liberal wing of the Party has been calling for, but has a structure in there, where the checks get smaller for individuals making between $75,000 and $100,000.


As for the real-world impact, we know higher-income jobs have come back quicker. Lower-income workers have not seen the rebound. At the same time, there are millions of Americans, right in that $50,000 to $75,000 a year range, who find themselves sitting in food lines these days, OK?

Meanwhile, you have Biden's team spending the weekend saying that they are open to all ideas.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's still being negotiated at this point in time.

JANET YELLEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm prepared to negotiate on that.


CUOMO: I think he's going to have to tell them what he wants. I think he's going to have to figure it out. Because my understanding of these deliberations is that people are far apart.

And there's this drumbeat of people that the Right keeps bringing ups where - who say "I didn't need the money, and I got it anyway. Why is my kid getting this? Why is this one getting it? Too many people are getting the check." So, this is going to be a problem, all right?

The question becomes, well what does it mean, for the ultimate plan? I don't know. But I think it's going to have to be Biden, not leaving it up to them to figure it out themselves. I don't think it's going to happen. Is that going to happen this week? No. It's impeachment, this week.

So, let's talk the reality of what is to come with "The New York Times'" Tom Friedman. This is a huge week, in our process of deciding our why, what are we about in this society? Next.








CUOMO: Democrats have to make the case. It's got to be overwhelming. And Republicans have to show their true face. That's the name of the game, as we await the start of the second impeachment trial, for former president Donald John Trump.

Let's bring in "New York Times" Foreign Affairs Columnist Tom Friedman, Author of many books, including bestseller "Thank You for Being Late."

Good to see you, brother.


CUOMO: So, what is your take on how this plays this week? Where are we a week from today? We just learned today "No time-off for the Sabbath." So, where are we, a week from tonight, when I'm begging you to be on the show? I'm begging you, why? What's the headline?

FRIEDMAN: Chris, I think the best that can come out of this is two things.

One is that through the presentation of the evidence of this trial, for the first time, many, many Americans are actually going to see the speech that President Trump gave, at that rally, inspiring those people to, to march on the Capitol, and take it over. They'll all make up their own decisions.

But I think we, in the news media, got to remember, this is the first time a lot of Americans are going to see that. And, at the same time, this is the first time, as you guys have been showing, that they're going to hear those rioters say, "We came here for Trump. And we left when Trump told us not to - told us to leave."

So, I think that there's going to be a lot of Republican senators, really squirming there, making a procedural legal argument, while this really vivid evidence is presented at that trial.

And I think, for whatever, I think it's going to actually influence how they look at the precedent, after this trial.

CUOMO: So, you think their key moment is actually tomorrow. They have to get as many people, on the Right side of the aisle, politically, to think that this is illegitimate, and not even get to the facts. FRIEDMAN: Well, I think we know this is - the President is not going to be acquitted.

There is nothing that the majority of Republican senators, there's nothing the President could do that they will convict him, because they all want to get reelected, and preserve their free parking at National Airport and their $174,000 salaries. And they will do whatever the base says.

And to me, the most important thing, Chris, of the Trump rally, is where Donald Trump Jr. comes out, and says, "Wait a minute. This is not their Republican Party. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party."

And I would say to all those senators, who are going to try to hide behind the procedural question, that when they do that--

CUOMO: That's Trump, by the way. You may want to pick that up.

FRIEDMAN: Yes! Exactly!

CUOMO: Hold it far away from your face.

FRIEDMAN: No, it's - sorry.

CUOMO: I'm kidding. I'm kidding.

FRIEDMAN: Sorry, I'm--

CUOMO: It's your pizza.

FRIEDMAN: It's - they're to hide behind the procedural book. But what I would say to those senators, Chris, is "You are all living on borrowed time."

Because as soon as this trial is over, Chris, Trump is going to have a real coming-out party. He's being a nice little boy in the corner right now, not saying anything, because he doesn't want to mess up the trial, his case, any more than it is.

But when this is over, what Donald Trump Jr. said at that rally, "This is Donald Trump's Party, not their Party," that's really going to come out. And then you're going to see, every day, he's going to say something.

There's going to be another Marjorie Taylor Greene, whatever her name is, out there, saying crazy stuff. And every day, those Republican senators are going to be asked, "Do you agree with this? Do you agree with that?"

They're just living on borrowed time. They're in Donald Trump's house. And they're going to be reminded of that, assuming--

CUOMO: Then why not convict him?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think the--

CUOMO: And disqualify him?

FRIEDMAN: --a very good question. And that is what I think Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell actually believe that, that this is their time to actually separate the Party from him.

But the problem is they've spent four years, allowing him, basically, to warp the base of the Party, to get them to believe in this big lie. And having done that, they've lost control of the Party. It is his Party. They are just renting rooms in Donald Trump's Party.

CUOMO: It's interesting. We have full screen here from Senator Murkowski. "I think we're in a place where Donald Trump has gone." You disagree?

FRIEDMAN: Boy, if you look at the base, I just don't - I just don't see that, Chris. He still clearly has a hold on this Party.


The only hope, I think, for the Republican Party, Chris, I thought of, you know, the Democrats actually should make the Republicans a proposal, very simple.

"Here's the deal. Either you agree that we get rid of the filibuster, or you agree that for the next four years, all your votes will be in secret, because you're clearly a Party that can only tell the truth in secret, about Cheney, about Taylor Greene.

So, here's the deal, you know? Either agree, to hold all your votes in secret, or we're going to get rid of the filibuster. But we're not going to go on with this madness, where some guy sitting in Mar-a- Lago, calls the shots in this - in this Senate in this Congress."

And I think that's what Biden has really understood very, very well. I've been so impressed that, just the cool, methodical way, he goes through his, you know, goes through this process. And it's incredibly healthy, and it's inspiring to me.

CUOMO: Well, I want to tell you something. I think Biden's got trouble coming his way.

But just for some context of the point you're making right now, the poll, I know, I know how you guys feel about polls, but I'm just saying, Senate convicting Trump, and barring him from federal office in the future, February 5th, and 6th, this was done, U.S. adults 56 percent approved, 43 percent disapprove, margin of error is about five points.


CUOMO: So, look, for what it's worth, those are the numbers. I think, because of those numbers, I just can't get my hands around the secret- vote thing. I know that they would be less malignant, if they were in private.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. CUOMO: But I think that you have to stand up and be counted, as an elected official. And the definition of integrity, you know, what do you do when nobody's looking this is like the obverse of that. You got to do the right thing when everybody is looking, you know? That's the integrity of public office.

So, and I don't think they can hold private votes anyway, can they?

FRIEDMAN: I'm being actually facetious. But the point is integrity left that Party, Chris, a long time ago. They sold their soul to Trump.

And that's why you're seeing those with a shred of integrity, like Rob Portman, Shelby, others, now to saying, "You know what? I don't want to fight that base. But I just don't want to be part of this show anymore."

This Party is going to fracture. I don't know when or how. But this can't go on the way it is. And we're going to see that fissure appear, Chris, as soon as Trump has his coming-out party.

Because every day, he's going to say some crazy thing, and reporters are going to be sticking microphones in the faces of those senators, and saying, "Do you agree with this? Do you agree with that," and every day is going to be hell for them. And he's going to turn up the heat. They're just living on borrowed time now.

But you know what I've been thinking about Chris, as I was listening to your show, the lead-in here? I was thinking like, what are they doing in China today?

You know, Chris? Do you know that it takes 4 hours and 18 minutes to take the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai, and it takes 21 hours to take the train from New York to Chicago? And they're both about the same distance.

I can't - I'll tell you something they weren't thinking about in China this week. They weren't thinking about some knucklehead. They weren't spending the week thinking about a knucklehead, who claimed 9/11 didn't happen. They weren't thinking about some guy who's a "QAnon Shaman."

I don't know. They were probably thinking about some bad stuff, with the Uyghurs and all of that, oh, for sure. But I guarantee you they weren't wasting their time on this nonsense.

And how do we do this, week after week, month after month, and think we are a serious country. We are so deeply unserious as a country right now. And we need to put this crap behind us, OK, and get focused on the future, because right now, we are going to be falling farther and farther behind.

And that's what's really on my mind. And that's why I am praying for Joe Biden, because I think he's a serious guy. He's trying to do the right thing. And I think he is cursed by a Republican Party that is chasing a

madman, who actually encouraged people to sack our Capitol. You have to stop and repeat that. They sacked our Capitol, on the basis of a big lie.

And now, a Republican majority is going to sit on their hands, and be just fine with that. Shame on them! Shame, shame, shame on them!

CUOMO: I can add nothing. That sums it up in all its sadness, and its different dimensions.

Tom Friedman, thank you very much for the perspective brother, especially on the eve of this historical event. Once again, living history with you is a privilege.

New update, on the race to vaccinate America. Now, this is something that is going well for us and, by extension, Joe Biden.

I think he's going to have trouble with this relief bill. I think the Democrats have to figure out what they want, who's going to get the money, and come united fast. I don't think it's happening fast enough.

Now, how about this question? A clinic in a state decides to vaccinate teachers, because they want to get kids back to school, and they don't think it's fair, for the teachers to not be treated with prophylaxis.


The State finds out. They punish the clinic, and have their supply seized. Right call, wrong call, happened in Georgia.

A member of the clinic is here next. It matters for them, and it matters for you wherever you are. This is going to keep happening. Next.








CUOMO: Who wants good news? I do. Good! On the vaccine front, we just learned from Pfizer, it is now ramping up production to double current vaccine output.

A company spokesperson told CNN, efficiencies, that's that extra-dose thing, by the way, and upgrades in its production process will help cut down the 110 days it usually takes to make a batch. From 110 days to 60, how many doses in a batch, up to 3 million.


Nationwide, of the roughly 60 million doses distributed, that is Pfizer and Moderna, and we're waiting for others to come online, right, more than 42 million, or 72 percent, have now been administered.

The efficiencies are going up on every level. We were in the hundreds of 1000s. Now there are at over 2 million a couple of different days. Very important!

Shots going into arms, is moving toward the Biden goal. He's vowed 1.5 million doses per day. The average last week was 1.3 million, up from 1.1 million, the week before. There's some really big spikes in there also, and then some lows, communities all over are working to speed up.

The effort, however, has backfired on one Georgia clinic. Why? The Medical Center of Elberton was recently stripped of its vaccine privileges for six months. Guess why? Vaccinating teachers too soon!

The clinic says they thought they were doing it all right. They say they swiftly vaccinated all of the area's known health workers in mid- December.

Then, the state changed things up, expanding the first phase to include people aged 65-and-older, and first responders. The expanded group was known as 1A+. And it wasn't eligible to get vaccinated until January 11th.

But by then, the clinic says they'd already given teachers a dose. Within two weeks, state health officials deemed they were in violation. Most of their vaccine vials were seized, and their vaccination privileges, like I said, suspended six months.

That takes us to Dr. Jonathan Poon, a physical - a physician at the Clinic.

It's good to see you, Doc.


CUOMO: What am I missing here? I get it. So maybe you didn't do the teachers in the right order. But you had a policy argument for it. You didn't underserve anybody else.

What do the state officials think? They wouldn't come on the show. I asked you to come on the show. You wouldn't come on. So now you're going to complain, and say, I'm not being fair to your position, you should have come on.

So Doctor, from your position, what did you do wrong?

POON: Well, we think that we did everything, just like the book. This was something that we took very seriously early on, and tried to prepare with all the county officials, and our clinic, to get ready for this vaccination rollout.

And so, we had already had a lot of meetings beforehand, discussing who was going to be in that essential-worker phase, and using the state guidance and CDC guidance. We were convinced that the teachers were part of that central group, just like their guidelines had stated.

And so, just like you said, we had received our vaccination shipments very early, because we were ready with the ultra-cold freezer. And so, as soon as we received them, very next day, we started vaccinating our clinic, and was able to make sure that all the health care workers in the county were vaccinated.

And then, per the CDC guidance, we were able to roll straight into the next phase, which at that time was 1B, because the state guidance at that time did not include a 1A+. And so, we were not prepared for that when they made that change.

But just like you said, we had already vaccinated all the essential workers in the county, which included teachers, by the first week in January. And so, when 1A+ rolled out, we had already started vaccinating some elderly 65-plus, and we're going right ahead.

CUOMO: All right, so this is the best I can come up with. And again, I invited them on. They didn't want to come on. This is the best I could figure out.

"No, no, you are being sneaky. You're being sneaky, for a good reason, Doctor. You're trying to help more people. You want to get teachers protected, so you can have more kids back in school. That's a good policy reason.

But you don't get to make the policy. The State does, following the CDC. And you didn't follow it. You went around them, because you weren't supposed to start any phase until they told you, you could, even if you had exhausted your population of the existing phase.

And you went around that, and are now pleading ignorance, because you wanted to do what you saw as the right thing. But you didn't follow their rule."

Is that fair?

POON: Well, if the state believes that I think that's misguided. We took every precaution to try to follow the guidance available. We were very well-prepared with the county officials on how we're going to roll this out. And we read all the guidelines available.

And, certainly in the state guidelines, they did outline, the 1A and 1B priority group. But in their guidance, there wasn't any wording about proceeding from one phase to the next. And so, the only guidance we had was from the CDC website.

CUOMO: I get it. POON: And on their one website in bold font, we were able to find that the phases were to be transitioned very seamlessly that and in fact, they would even expect that some phases could go simultaneously that did not have to roll--

CUOMO: Right. On the CDC site, it says that.

POON: --back-to-back, so.

CUOMO: Now, let's talk about the penalty here. OK. You went a little bit faster than other people. You're too efficient! Shame on you! Six months? What will that mean to your community, if you're not able to vaccinate where you are for six months?


POON: We were vaccinating 60 to 70 patients a day. And we were hoping to ramp that up, and vaccinate even faster. We felt like we got such a great head-start in December, and we had such great momentum, in January, that we were looking to finish this very early.

But not being able to vaccinate our patients does mean that a lot of them are going to have to look elsewhere. And some of these options just aren't very convenient.

Some of them are going to be located outside. A lot of them are going to require online registration. And in a rural county, with an elderly population, that's a very difficult task, especially when not everybody has internet access.

And so, we were trying to afford a very convenient and very safe place. We had our own trailer, which was right adjacent to our property that was going to be isolated, just for the vaccine patients, and so therefore--

CUOMO: So, let's do this.

POON: --they would not even have to come in.

CUOMO: You're going to appeal. I'm going to stay on the story. I'll correspond with you. And I'll keep covering it and find out what happens. Dr. Jonathan Poon, thank you.

POON: Thanks so much for having me.

CUOMO: Good luck. We'll be right back.

POON: Thanks.


CUOMO: Time for the big show. "CNN TONIGHT" and its big star, D. Lemon.