Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

House Managers Wrap Case Against Trump, Defense Up Next; GOP Senators To Face Reckoning Over Impeachment; CDC Issues New Guidance On Face Masks. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 12, 2021 - 00:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Minor (ph) attorneys for the former president get to make their case for acquittal tomorrow. Our special coverage starts 11 a.m. Eastern. News continues right now. Let's turn things over to Chris for Cuomo Prime Time. Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thanks, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo, and welcome to this special, live, late-night edition of Prime Time. It is midnight in the east. The Trump lawyers are up next at the impeachment trial after House prosecutors, managers rested their case.

And we're hearing they're looking to keep arguments short and tight because really what is there to defend? The less they say may be the better after that opening day disaster, but that was largely stylistic. Look, the jury is rigged. We are not at a criminal trial. These are not members of the society simply. They are invested and interested parities. Senator McConnell told you that. He said they're not impartial.

Now you know that members of the Republican side of the Senate are meeting with the defense team. How's that impartial? They took an oath to be impartial. How's that impartial? One Trump lawyer, Castor, demolished his own client's lie that the election was stolen from him. He said voters are smart enough to pick a new administration, and they did.

The big lie, of course, led to this insurrection, and it still hasn't been retracted by Trump, so prosecutors are warning he must be blocked from ever running for office again. Not for the sake of punishment. That's not what impeachment is about. The founders knew that there was a criminal justice system. This was about how do you prevent and remove people from positions of authority not necessarily for crimes, and that's a big dispute that will be played on in the defense starting later today on the east coast, tomorrow on the west.

More on their closing arguments now from CNN's Ryan Nobles.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): He attacked the first amendment. He attacked the Constitution. He betrayed his oath of office. President's don't have any right to do that. It's forbidden.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Democratic House Impeachment Managers have wrapped their case with hours of time available hoping a shorter presentation will have a greater impact.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED States: All of my wonderful supporters.

NOBLES: On day three they tied Trump to the mob by showing that those who stormed the Capitol did so because they believed the president had sent them there.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): You don't have to take my word for it that that insurrectionists acted at Donald Trump's direction. They said so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were invited here. We were invited. Hey, we were invited here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were invited by the President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's call Trump! Yes (ph).

NOBLES: The managers showed several examples of rioters shouting Trump's name and proclaiming they were doing his bidding.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was following my president. I thought I was following what we were called to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're fighting for Trump.

NOBLES: They then showed how Trump offered his support for the mob and demonstrated no remorse for the role he played in inciting their anger.

TRUMP: My speech and my words in my final paragraph, my final sentence and everybody to the T (ph) thought it was totally appropriate.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): We know President Trump didn't make a mistake because, you see, when you or I make a mistake and something very bad happens we would show remorse. We would accept responsibility. President Trump didn't do any of that. Why not? Because he intended what happened on January 6. And how do we know that? He told us.

NOBLES: Trump's legal team will get their opportunity to rebut the democratic arguments tomorrow, but they attempted to get a head start today. Their lead lawyer, David Schoen, left the chamber while the trial was underway to go on Fox News. He promised their presentation will show no link between Trump and the actions of January 6. DAVID SCHOEN, TRUMP DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think you'll at least be moved by what you see and get a much better picture of exactly what's going on here and the hypocrisy in some of the positions taken by the House Managers in this case.

NOBLES: But Democrats believe they've provided overwhelming evidence of Trump's connection to the crime and warn that it was incumbent upon these jurors to hold him accountable because of what might happen in the future.

LIEU: I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose because he can do this again.

NOBLES: And it looks like this impeachment trial of former President Trump could wrap up much sooner than we expected.


The Trump legal team gets the case on Friday. They've indicated they may only use three to four hours of the 16 hours they have allotted for his defense. That means the question-and-answer period could start Friday afternoon. Now, there's still the opportunity that witnesses could be called. That could make the process go a little bit longer than we expect, but both sides have indicated that they do not believe that witnesses will ultimately be called. That could mean that everything could wrap up as soon as Saturday night. Chris -


CUOMO: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much. You know, just to remind the difference between this and criminal trial the defense has no burden in a criminal trial. It doesn't have to put on what they call a case in chief. That's the prosecution's burden because they are the one with the burden of proof, so here it could mean different things that they're keeping it short.

What's the most likely reason for that? Let's bring in two Republicans right now who know the jurors well - Jeff Flake and Charlie Dent. Thank you both, gentlemen, for being with us tonight.



CUOMO: So Senator Flake, I haven't talked to you about this yet. What are you hearing from your former brothers and sisters on the right about what they think of what they're apart of right now?

FLAKE: Well I can tell you the prosecution was much more - it was much more moving that I expected. I thought that I'd seen all the footage. I thought that I knew where I was. Obviously I thought that the president ought to be convicted before, but boy, the show that they put on in the last three days was incredibly gripping and moving.

And I can tell you my former colleagues couldn't help but be moved, and I think you saw that mostly yesterday where new footage came up and I think they realized for the first time, some of them, how close they really where. And the timeline knowing what the president did and what he didn't do right in the midst of it all, particularly going after the vice president as he did right when he was in danger.

CUOMO: Of course being moved emotionally is different than being moved dispositionally (ph), although -


FLAKE: That's right.

CUOMO: -- I do want to play a sound byte for you two guys from Senator Cassidy and see if you think this is a suggestion of maybe breaking ranks.


SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): There's a few things that they laid out with great care. The timeline in which you see the events unfold and during that timeline the president's inaction in calling out support for the police officers. And so, what I hope the defense does is explain that.


CUOMO: I apologize for breaking ranks. That's the last kind of attitude we need right now that's part of the problem. Charlie Dent, do you think there is chance - then obviously, Senator Flake, I want your take on this as well - but Charlie, you think there's a chance that Bill Cassidy could vote to convict?

DENT: Yes. I do because the evidence has been so overwhelming and so overpowering. Clearly Senator Cassidy was moved by it. That's why he voted the way he did on constitutionality the other day. You know, and the problem has been here - of this - of this were a little league game the mercy rule would have been invoked sometime yesterday morning.

I mean, this is just so - this, again, it was such a powerful argument. The defense, you know, has its job cut out for them. They just have a bad client. They have bad evidence, bad facts. I don't know how anybody could watch this and not be moved by it, particularly after we witnessed the images of the vice president and his family and Senator Schumer and Romney, you know, literally escaping moments before the mod was, you know, just about upon them. So I think - I think this is a strong case, and I think maybe a few could be moved.

CUOMO: If Pence had been out there right now complaining about what was done to him and why maybe it might have meant something, but to answer your question, you know, when they don't call a mercy rule is when the people who make the decision and keep the score are the parents of the two teams. They're you're going to wind up having a split decision like this.

What do you think, Senator Flake? Do you think that there is movement for Cassidy or for anybody else or is this all about staying together and showing no weakness?

FLAKE: Well I do think there's movement. It's not going to be 17, which is what they're going to need.

CUOMO: Let's see if the Senator's shot (ph) - there he is.

FLAKE: (Inaudible) mentioned Bill Cassidy he's indicated that he's listening. Anybody who listens really is going to be moved here. I also think it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Mitch McConnell will move as well. Maybe a John Thune or Rob Portman. There are some who could move here. I don't think it's going to get to 17, but this has been a moving couple of days. It really has.

CUOMO: You know, McConnell, you know, you know him.


I don't. Tough read. He really bamboozled on this one. I mean this is, you know, not quite the genius of the Merrick Garland judge switch, but him saying, hey, we should delay this until after so we can give it its due time and consideration, many votes to say it's unconstitutional twice. You know, he's a tricky read.

You know, and interesting part of this dynamic, Charlie, is we keep talking about how these guys, these men and women are scared they're going to get primaried if they go against Trump. 34 of them are either retiring or don't have a primary coming up, so what's their motivation to vote against what they know is so obvious?

DENT: Yes, I mean, I don't - look. I don't think there should be any reason why members are so fearful. Donald Trump is a diminished figure. He is disgraced. He's been impeached twice. I believe he will be a weaker figure going forward. There is - you know, and you talk to these - talk to these 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach. They feel empowered and liberated in many ways. Yes, they took an enormous risk. They risked their jobs in order to save it. They did the right thing, and I think that their vote will only look better and better over time, and I think many senators should feel the same way about a vote on conviction. They will look better. The more members who speak up and tell the truth about what has occurred the stronger they will all be.

Donald Trump can't fight with everybody and he knows that, so there are power in numbers, and that has always been the problem. You know, with guys like my friend, Jeff Flake, and me, you know, I feel at times there are too few of us speaking up, but when you hear powerful voices like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney and John Katko and Peter Meijer and others, you know, I feel much better that there is a force that's pushing back and we need to grow that force and we will further diminish Donald Trump.

CUOMO: You know, the interesting aspect of this, Senator Flake, is that the men and women who are seeking to protect in likelihood Donald Trump were not protected by him. That mob came looking for them, and they know that Trump was aware of what was going on. Kevin McCarthy called him asking for help, but he pushed back. He didn't want to do it. He wanted to just slow down the proceeding. I mean, what does it mean that they would seek to protect him from not protecting them?

FLAKE: You know, them - that's what just is unbelievable. It really is, but it's not just Donald Trump that they're afraid of. He is a diminished figure, but that base is still there and I can tell you the calculation that many of my former colleagues make. They feel they've already angered one side, the side that wants conviction, and if they were to change now they would anger two sides.

And you make a calculation. You really do. Do I really want to anger everyone? And if I can slip by maybe Trump will be a diminished figure. This will be forgiven down the road if I go against him, but right now I don't want to go against that base, so I think that's very much a calculation that they make, and it's unfortunate because I think the evidence speaks for itself.

CUOMO: Well also, you know, it's a tricky calculation. I totally get it. It makes sense, Senator. You laid it out very cogently, but Charlie, then you have the danger of the unknown. You acquit Trump. You know he's going to do his celebratory lap. You know he's going to say it's a victory. You know it's going to empower those groups. They already felt it was a righteous cause, and there's a very good chance there will be more of it. And isn't that on your hands?

DENT: Well yes, I would think so, and this is really where we get down to what this party wants to become. You know, this party really has to be about truth, and part of the reason why we are in this predicament to begin with is because for too long too many leaders who knew better simply failed to stand up and tell hard truths to people. Many leaders in Congress failed to tell their members the truth, and now you have members of Congress failing to tell their constituents the truth.

They knew the election was over. They simply had to say so and not indulge these false narratives, these lies. And I think this is coming back to bite us and that's what led to the insurrection.

So at some point we're all - the party's going to have to stand up and say are we going to be a party of truth and honesty, rule of law and democracy or are we going to continue to be taken over and bullied by these conspiracy theorists, these, White Nationalists, these Proud Boys, and these Oath Keepers and these other free radicals out there, you know, who have a foothold in the party now, and this is a - this is a battle that we have going forward. And I think the battle is just beginning, so, you know, this is not over.

CUOMO: Well Jeff Flake, Charlie Dent, I appreciate you, but we know this. They vote to acquit. Forget about being the party of law and order. Those days are gone. Appreciate you both. Let's see how it turns out. Let's hope for better days.

It's not just House Democrats arguing that the rioters took their cues from Donald Trump.


Federal prosecutors are now pointing to a statement from a leader of the Oath Keepers. These are bad people, OK? They want bad things. Will it say a single Republican juror, and how will the Trump defense team explain a way all the rioters telling you exactly what the link is between Trump and their actions next?


Federal prosecutors are turning up the heat on some of the scariest groups in the country. Remember, the number one domestic terror threat are White Nationalist extremist organizations. They were invited to the Capitol, in their opinion, by the former President of the United States.

Big moves from the DOJ against both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys for their roles in the attack on the Capitol. Let's bring in Evan Perez with the latest. What do we know?


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Chris, well let's take the Oath Keepers for instance. This is a group that was one of the first charged with the conspiracy charge by federal prosecutors here in Washington, and in particular this is a woman named Jessica Watkins, who is a leader of the Oath Keepers from Ohio.

She was part of a group that came to Washington. They went so far as to do military-style training before they travelled to Washington, but according to prosecutors she had some doubts about coming and she was waiting for Trump to give the signal.

And this was from the court filing today in federal court. "As the inauguration great nearer, Jessica Watkins indicated that she was - she was awaiting direction from President Trump." And it goes on to say her concern about taking action about - without his backing was evident in the November 9, 2020 text in which she stated, quote, "I am concerned that this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates himself it's not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units, too. If Trump asks me to come, I will."

Again, this is an indication according to prosecutors that this is what Watkins and her coconspirators were waiting for, the signal from the president in order to carry out their plan. They went so far, Chris, as to come up with an idea of moving weapons from Virginia into Washington across the river. Again, a very elaborate plan. We're seeing new details come up almost every week in this and in some of the other conspiracies.

Another one that we saw today, a group of Proud Boys, five of them, that were charged. This is the largest group that we've seen so far, and in this case, you know, the prosecutors said that, you know, they had tactical gear. They were leading a group of protestors, of rioters past the police lines.

They said that they were armed with helmets and gloves. They had a - one of them had a wooden club or axe handle that was initially disguised as a flag. Again, it gives you, as you pointed out, these are dangerous people according to prosecutors, and they're trying to roll up as many of them as they can. Hopefully some of them are going to flip and will lead to some more complex charges. Again, that's the - that's the hope that prosecutors have at this point.

CUOMO: Evan Perez, thank you very much. Appreciate it, especially at this hour. Donald Trump's lead attorney tells CNN they are streamlining their presentation. They want to wrap it all up tomorrow. Well, they have to make their argument and then there is a question- and-answer session from the senators.

Now, we know from the briefs - the briefs that they filed it's likely to lean on a free speech argument. That is not going to go well, and I bet you it actually doesn't happen the way we anticipate.

Let's bring in better minds - Elliot Williams and John Dean. Let's take one step backwards for a second, fellows - thank you for being here - and start with that's scary stuff hearing that lady from the Oath Keepers or whatever they're called saying I'm waiting for the word and the Proud Boys showing up, but the link is going to matter.

Where is the proof, Elliot, that she had any reason to believe she would every hear anything directly from the President of the United States? That's what the threshold would be at a criminal trial. It's still somewhat the threshold here. Prosecutors can't make that link.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Well again, we should be careful. This is not a criminal trial, and as Congressman Raskin said today, commonsense should dictate, and commonsense says that these people would not have been there were it not for President Trump directing them to be there or, you know, a pattern of conduct over six months or so that led the people to be there.

But look, the fact that the Justice Department is prosecuting these people kind of vindicates - from the perspective of Trump's lawyers and his supporters in the Senate vindicates the point they've been making all along which is that we don't have to deal with this here because there is a criminal justice system that can prosecute wrongdoers. These people who committed acts of violence are really, really bad, but they have nothing to do with President Trump.

And frankly I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow President Trump lawyers - President Trump's lawyers made exactly that point and just said, look, you know, bad stuff happened but the president didn't incite these people.

The president didn't directly tell these - you know, tell these bad folks to do anything, and we condemn - a wrinkled brow, we condemn all of the violence that happened. They're going to try to distance themselves, and frankly it gives Senate Republicans and out, a bit of a dodge to say that there's a process in place for dealing with it but it's just not impeachment.

CUOMO: Right. John Dean, help me understand the first amendment argument because to me it seems like that's about when Congress makes a law that abridges a freedom. If someone had passed a law saying a president can't say go to the Capitol and attack people then you'd have a first amendment debate about it. How does it apply in an impeachment trial?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well it really doesn't.


And I think Jamie Raskin, who is a former constitutional law professor, did an eloquent job today of knocking it down and showing that really is a facile kind of argument. Trump cannot use that as a defense for actions he took as president. The first amendment protects citizens from their government, not the - not government officials from their government when they're the actors.

So I don't think the first amendment argument is going to work, Chris. It is such a stretch, and it's really been pretty well-undercut by the presentation of the managers.

CUOMO: Let's listen to a little bit of Lead House Manager Jamie Raskin making exactly the argument you're discussing.


RASKIN: Incitement to violent insurrection is not protected by free speech. There is not first amendment defense to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea itself is absurd. And the whole first amendment smoke screen is a completely irrelevant distraction from the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors governing a president who has violated his oath of office.


CUOMO: You know, the problem is, Elliot, you know, you were right to remind the audience and me frankly don't confuse the forums. Don't confuse the forums, but it's all about that because this is about comfort. This jury is rigged, right, by definition. These men and women come in here with a bias. Mitch McConnell said it out loud. You know, he said we are not impartial.

They took an oath to be impartial. They then met with the defense council. So this is just about giving them cover. Isn't that easy to do?

WILLIAMS: It's incredibly easy to do, and again, you make a great point with the meeting with defense council point because there are lots of ways in which this is not like a criminal trial. For instance, a lot of the evidence we saw today would have likely been excluded from a real court (ph) as here say. The statements from Chris Christie, for instance, would likely not have made it into court.

The question comes to how seriously the members of the Senate take their oath to be impartial, and can they recognizing that this is a unique proceeding, can they put aside their biases as elected officials or their biases as members of the public and try to adjudicate this on the facts?

It's - you know, we have every reason to believe that that won't be the case. 44 members so far have already suggested what their views are going to be and some have gone even further than that. And now it's a question of, you know, as Mitch McConnell has said a vote of conscious to some extent for some of the members of the Senate.

But no, it's very easy just like you're saying, Chris, for them to distance themselves from the realities of what they heard because how could you come out of some of those presentation both on law and emotion, you know, the heartstrings and things that we saw and not think that there's undeniable link between the president and the conduct that we saw. It's just undeniable.

CUOMO: You know, I don't think it would be fair, John, to second guess it after this because really the House Managers never had a chance. The people go into the room saying that they want to acquit. Do you think that the only decision to look back on will be witnesses?

I get what the calculation was. Well then they get to bring in witnesses. They're going to bring all these people with the election was a fraud. It's going to be a circus. But wasn't the best chance to shock the conscious, to have these people in there saying I love President Trump, and I went there because he told me to. That's why I did it. And to hear from the officers about how scared they were and the families, that we did this to protect you. Wasn't that their best chance?

DEAN: I - obviously it was, and I think the House Managers very effectively used footage that would have been abysmal (ph) in a criminal trial as well. They also used some that Mr. Elliot says would not.

So I think the witness issue, and that ended up in the resolution as sort of a fallback. I think the House Managers pushed that it be in there in case something occurred during the trial where some of the evidence was contested or the defense lawyers put on an argument that was so fallacious that it needed to be knocked down with somebody who could do so like the appropriate witness. If they got that clause in there that if they need a witness they can - they can call on them or witnesses.

And I think that's what that's there for, and if it doesn't happen tomorrow when they present their case there will be no witnesses and this thing will head toward the question-and-answer session.

CUOMO: You know -


WILLIAMS: Hey, Chris. That's -


CUOMO: Go ahead, Elliot.

WILLIAMS: Chris, that's not uncommon. Now again, back to this point that this isn't a criminal trial and so on, but prosecutors at the start of a trial will always submit a witness list to the court of every possible witness they might call but are not ever obligated to - (CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Right.

WILLIAMS: -- and sometimes in the course of a trial things change, stuff happens, and then they'll decide to call a witness or not. The universe of people who could potentially provide information is out there, but they could easily have closed their case yesterday after that Mitt Romney video and been just as fine as they would have been after most - Mitt Romney being chased by - you know, by being protected by the officer because the mob was coming. That was some of the most compelling evidence anyone could have every seen.


And I don't know how much witness testimony would have created a stronger case than what we saw.

CUOMO: You know, it was interesting, I had Robert Ray on, it's not really worth playing a sound. But, you know, it's interesting. He was falling back on what they used in the first trial, which was you don't have a big felony here. You can't make the case. And he was using the Brandenburg standard. And I was saying, well, it's not a criminal trial. This is a different standard, but a lot of them they can rely just on that, that it's not enough. You don't connect him with words directing them to do what they did in a way that satisfies the law. That could be enough right there.

And it actually gave Ray, John Dean, an opening to say on the show, I really was troubled. I thought it was dereliction of duty how Trump didn't act to stop it. That was really bad. But it's not a crime. They could just play on that. I through your tutelage in that study I've done, I don't believe that was the standard for the founders. I think that they knew that this wasn't about criminal prosecution. This was about policing your own and preventing damage. But that is an arguable position among the Republicans, is it not?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It is. In fact, Chris, it was argued ad nauseam during Watergate by the House impeachment Republicans, they didn't want Nixon to be impeached for anything less than a full criminal felony or very serious misdemeanor, which they often were talking about a felony. So that was debated at length. And actually the study that was done by Hillfree Rotom (ph) at the time later, Clinton, her book, in her analysis, along with Bill Weld, became sort of the standard to guide the Committee as to what were the appropriate understanding of high crimes and misdemeanors.

And they found it was not necessarily a criminal offence and are -- under our code. Our code didn't exist at the time that they wrote those provisions. So it is a fig leaf, however, it was an argument that some Republicans in the Nixon era would have hung on if they couldn't have established that Nixon obstructed justice. They were prepared to let him have a pass, so same thing.

CUOMO: You know, Elliott, we will never -- we've never seen anything like this before. Where you have a president impeached twice sure but that's at least if it, were this jury, they're not just witnesses, they were victims or potential victims of what happened that day and they still want to give them a pass on the on the basis of this. We will have never seen anything like this before. And we will have never seen groups as ugly as the ones you know from your prosecutor life being given this kind of empowerment.

WILLIAMS: Yes. And they're not just victims. Some of them, you know, you even go as far as they were coconspirators.

CUOMO: Some of them.

WILLIAMS: -- people who, some of them who had worked or were at least aligned sufficiently with the President. You know, and, you know, back to this question of a crime, setting aside incitement and all the above what governs the President's conduct far more than anything in the Criminal Code is Article 2 Section 3 of the Constitution, it's the take care clause, it is that the President's sole duty is to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed.

And even if his conduct doesn't rise to the level of being a crime, as Robert might have been saying earlier on tonight, he clearly was not faithfully executing the duties of the presidency if he was attempting to undermine duly executed elections, after his folks had filed 62 lawsuits all of which lost. So, you know, maybe the President didn't commit a crime. But that that's not the standard. And that's not the burden that needs to be overcome here.

CUOMO: Someday, this will be remembered as the most forgiveness ever given to a politician by a member of their own party, by members of their own party. Then the only other question is the chapter that follows it. What will happen next as a result of this? Elliot Williams, John Dean, thank you both for your expertise and your time.


Now, those on the jury making excuses for the defendant will have a lot to answer for themselves. I really believe that this is more than just a trial of Donald Trump. It is a trial of that party. This big votes coming soon and we're going to turn to some of the top minds on complicity watch, next.


CUOMO: Trump's lawyers would have a tough task if they were dealing with anything close to an impartial jury. But Republican senators, they don't have to be impartial. This is a political thing and they showed that today. They took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution to be impartial. And then they went and met with defense counsel. This is politics. It's ugly, it's obvious, and it's politics.

Now, the question is how will they justify giving Trump a pass for something that is so clearly a violation of his oath of duty to take care, to execute the laws faithfully in this country and to be about law and order.

Let's talk to two top political minds Phil Bump, and the Professor Ron Brownstein. Phil, I start with you. What is your sense of how tough to swallow this is for the men and women on the right expected to acquit?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: I mean, honestly, I feel like we're so far down the path now that there's been so much self-rationalization that I don't know it's going to be terribly difficult to swallow. I mean, that, you know, everyone has sort of come into this thing with no expectation of what's going to happen. The bar is low enough that it's not going to be very hard to clear.

You know, I mean, one of the things I thought the move today was, to your point, you're exactly right, meeting with defense counsel, certainly does betrayed that this is a political effort. But I think it was a strange decision simply by virtue of how much emphasis they are expected to put on comparing this to a criminal trial by, you know, making these assertions about the First Amendment and about the constitutionality of it and, you know, about whether or not the standard has been met for Donald Trump to have incited the crowd, like they're really going to be playing this card a lot of.


We are very -- we insist upon there having been due process, and as part of this, which was not the standard that was met, and so on and so forth. And then to go and have that meeting really does belie the point. But yes, this is just about politics. It's always been about politics. That's why we know how this thing is going to turn out. And because of that, I feel like everyone has already made their peace with the likely outcome.

CUOMO: Now, we went through this issue a little bit once before, Ron, about the meeting with the defense counsel and about back with Clinton, and did they meet? Well, they did talk, but they didn't meet. I mean, it's just one of those deals where you take an oath to be impartial, but none of them expected to be that way.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, we, you know, Mitt Romney, I think was the first senator ever from the President's own party to vote to convict. So obviously, there's a political dimension here. And one of the key if not the key fact is that 47 of the 50 Republican senators are from states that voted for Donald Trump twice. There are only three senators left in the Republican caucus from states that he didn't win both times. It's a reflection of the extent to which the party has retreated into Trump country, under his presidency.

But I do think it is a little larger than that, Chris. As I said to you last night, if you look at this in a slightly larger context of all the Republicans who supported his efforts to subvert the election, two-thirds of the state attorneys general, two-thirds of the House Republican signing on to that lawsuit, if you look at House Republicans just now basically allowing Marjorie Taylor Greene under the tent, refusing to excommunicate her. And now again, after this, you know, more, it's hard to imagine a more egregious breach of the oath of office, as Liz Cheney said, and they're all going -- almost all going to exonerate him. Again, I asked the question, has the extremist conspiracy wing in the Republican Party become too big for the party to directly confront and to try to excommunicate? That seems to me the message that they are sending from these serial -- decisions. And certainly, I think from those kind of extremist voices, they are going to take this as an affirmation as an evidence of their leverage in the party that even after the senators themselves were the victims, the targets of this attack, almost all of them are still going to refuse to draw a bright line.

CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, you're the numbers guy, but you have 34 of the senators on the Republican side are either not running again or they're not up, and they are still toeing the line. So the pool must be very strong.

Phil, the other point is, are the senators in a little bit of a box because so many of them were saying the same things that Trump was saying. They were either saying nothing and allowing him to say it unchecked or they were saying, yes, there may be something wrong with his election. And of course, you have all of those state laws going throughout the country now, in many of their own states to suppress voter turnout. They're a little bit of a box.

BUMP: No, you're exactly right. I mean, if you look at what happened from election night on, it's sort of a microcosm of the entire Trump era in which Donald Trump started saying things which they could generally agree with. And then Donald Trump took them way farther down the path than they were expecting. And so right after the election, there were all sorts of senators stepping forward, even ones who now are critical of Trump stepping forward saying you're right, we need to make sure we're investigating these allegations of there having big irregularities in the vote. There were never any credible evidence of real irregularities beyond the sort of ticky-tack things that we've seen every election cycle.

But they've still understood that this was where Donald Trump was trying to take the base, they wanted to go along with the base as far as they could. And so many of them, by my count yesterday, nearly two dozen of them went along to some extent with this idea that there was fraud that need to be addressed. Some of them went much further than did others take queries. For example, Josh Hawley went much further than did others who were in the caucus. But most of them, about half of them did.

And that makes it very hard for them then to point a finger at Donald Trump and say, aha, you are dishonest to the American public and betray your oath when they themselves have foster that same argument.

CUOMO: So if these guys are now really the rhinos, right? Republicans in name only because they're really just, you know, cotton into this outside fringe and extremist element, what happens to the Republicans, run? Like, you know, there are real Republicans, you know, you and I know, a lot of them have them in our families. They are not about Trump. They like some of the policy ideas, but they don't like the ugliness where do they go? BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, that really is the question because we talked about last night, about three quarters of Republican voters are OK with Trump, OK with what he's done since the election, do not see anything wrong with his behavior. But an astonishing large number, a fifth to a quarter is not a big number in terms of the internal balance of power. It's a plenty big number to be catastrophic to the Republican Party if that one-fifth to one-quarter that says they are uneasy start to move away.

The question is do they see the common policy goals sufficient to hold them? And I think that, you know, the extent to which the party is kind of winking at this extremism and basically saying we are allowing you in the party, does put those voters under real strain.


Now what Republicans are trying to do, Chris, as you noted, is look for ways to maintain majority power without majority support. And there is a tsunami of state level efforts, 33 states from 165 bills to try to rollback access to the vote, the prospect of much more severe gerrymandering even than in 2011 because of the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County that knocked down the protections of the Voting Rights Act. Democrats face a huge choice, there one point of leverage to stop this train that's heading toward them is their agenda to create a new Voting Rights Act, new federal standards for access to the ballot, but they can't pass that in all likelihood, unless they end the senate filibuster. And that maybe the biggest decision they face over the next two years.

CUOMO: I mean, are the Republicans kind of or whatever you want to call them, I don't know what they are anymore. But aren't they making it easy decision to blow up the filibuster? If they are going to acquit here, and they do all these obstruction things, you know, the idea that will come back to bite us, it's going to come back to bite you anyway. Anytime the Republicans can play to advantage they do exactly that and beat the Democrats. We've seen it, you know, time and time again, just in recent history. Philip Bump, Ron Brownstein, I'm out of time but I love talking to you both, be well.

Almost a year into this pandemic, it's still hard to get people to wear one mask. Now we're being told the two are best and some out there could be counterfeit. Now the last part I think we should deal with because there's a good answer. Some N95's are fake. The good news is you can tell if they're the real deal or not. We'll bring in an expert give you the how to, next.



CUOMO: Mark your calendars, Dr. Anthony Fauci now says the U.S. could start letting the general public get access to COVID-19 vaccines in April. And by the end of July, President Biden declares there will be enough vaccine for 300 million Americans.

Now, a lot of you may be buying N95 masks right now because most experts say that's the one to wear, especially if you're going to we're just one which pretty much everybody wants to, right? There are fakes flooding the market. Feds have seized nearly 15 million counterfeit face masks entering the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. So how can you tell? I'll tell you right now.

First, don't confuse this issue with the N95, KN95. KN95 are these Chinese masks that meet their standards, but they do not meet the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health standards here. I'll bring in Dr. William Schaffner, he can talk about KN95 masks in a second. But let me tell you how to find out if you have the real deal or not, OK?

On the back, there should be this logo, OK, NIOSH, that's that National Institute for Occupational thing that I just read to you, OK? And an approval number that begins with TC and then you can go to the NIOSH site and check the TC number, OK? Masks should have a headband not ear loops, OK? That means that the band should be going, you know, around this way, as opposed to looping top to bottom, you know, you know what I'm saying we've been wearing these masks for a long time.

Also, no claims on there that they're OK for kids and no decorative elements, OK? So if you follow that guidance, it's been pretty good for law enforcement in terms of that's how they've been flagging them so that's that. Now, let's just talk in general about mask wearing and why it's so highly recommended. Is the doctor there?


CUOMO: Thank you, sir. It's good to have you in the house. Two key methods for lab experiments to show that you can reduce exposure to aerosols by more than 95 percent, what did you learn?

SCHAFFNER: Well, it's really quite clear as we've been saying all along, masks work. They work to protect me and they work to protect you if I wear them. And that's very reassuring. No, you have to put the mask on correctly, right? It has to be fitted nicely around your cheeks and your chin and snug that down around your nose so that there's no air around the sides and look at me breathing. This goes in and out through the mask. That means the mask is working.

CUOMO: So you got to wear it right, most people don't, right?

SCHAFFNER: Right. This does not count. You've got to wear it above the nose, please.

CUOMO: And the idea of wearing two masks, how much of a difference are two versus one if one is worn correctly and a proper mask?

SCHAFFNER: Well, it adds another layer of protection and snugs down that first mask also. But you have to make sure that they're both there. Obviously, see, I'm breathing through the mask. There's little if anything that's going around the side. The work of breathing is a little bit harder. But you do get another layer of protection. You begin to approximate what you can get from the N95.

CUOMO: So if you get the N95, you only need that one?

SCHAFFNER: That's correct. You should not wear another mask if you're wearing the N95. The important thing is we should all be wearing at least one mask when we go outside and indirect wear with others, well let's all do that. Those of us who would like to wear two, bless you. Wear two, wear them correctly.


CUOMO: Do you have to wear a mask after you get the vaccine?

SCHAFFNER: Yes, you do. You have to do that for a couple of reasons. One, at the best, the vaccines are 95 percent effective. I didn't say 100 percent. So you still need to protect yourself. And we're still not sure whether the vaccine prevents infection. There's still a possibility that we could transmit it to others and until those data are secure, we haven't blown the all clear whistle. So keep wearing the masks, even though you've been vaccinated.

CUOMO: Well argued. And thank you Dr. William Schaffner, appreciate you as always. And thank you --

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.

CUOMO: -- thank you all. It's a pleasure for me to be here with you in these important times. And stay tuned the news on CNN continues.