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Sen. Ted Cruz Admits "Mistake" After Cancun Trip While Texans Freeze Without Power; Winter Blast Disrupts Nationwide Vaccine Shipments; Nikki Haley Blames "Liberal Media" For GOP Identity Crisis. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 18, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. The news continues. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Perseverance, easy to say, tough to do! But that is the order of the day. Amazing how we can still imagine--


CUOMO: --of knowing what we don't know. And that's what Space is all about. Brother, be well, always good to see you.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Breaking News. Texas is a world of fire and ice. Take a look at this, an apartment building in San Antonio. This is live picture.


CUOMO: This has been going on for hours there. That's an apartment building complex. Everyone was told to evacuate. At this hour, no injuries reported. Thank God. No word on the cause.

Now, fires are actually common during cold snaps, may be a little counterintuitive, but there are a lot of reasons for that. What is uncommon is firefighters not having enough water to put it out. What you're seeing here is the toll of the water outage. That's why it's been raging for hours.

The Chief there says the hydrants are frozen. So, just when they get one to open up, and they start their water supply, they're running out. And they're not having enough water to control it the way they need to. So, it continues to burn.

One building in the complex, near collapse, firefighters are worried about it jumping to nearby buildings. So again, it's not just about statistics and politics. It is reality. We were warned of this risk just last night, and now here it is. And we hope that it is not a sign of more to come.

The people in Texas, Oklahoma, the surrounding states with this cold snap, they are suffering too much already, and now, for too long. The latest count, 13 million Texans are without water for days. We're hearing scary stories of desperation.

Our first guest tonight is boiling snow, for H2O. And that comes with a lot of, you know, a lot of different variables that can go bad fast.

As for why this continues, you got bad weather, you got bad infrastructure, and yes, bad leadership.

Governor Abbott started by blaming blackouts on green energy. He knew this was a deception, because he knew that Texas relies primarily on non-renewable energy. Now he says people deserve answers. Great! So give them to them.

You know them. You know that you were warned about needs for winterizing infrastructure, and it didn't happen. You know that you can't easily borrow power from other states, as is often the case, because you have your own grid to avoid federal regulation.

And then, on that point, we see this other storm of strong and wrong from former Secretary of Energy and former Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. I said the first part slowly, because put that in your mind based on his quote. "Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business."

Perry was in charge of what he wants people to be suspicious of from the federal government. So, you're saying you were shady? He was the Head of the Federal Department of Energy. Perry also falsely blames frozen wind turbines, just like Abbott did for the mass outages. That is demonstrably false.

Fact, wind is a fraction of Texas' power. The gas and coal infrastructure, which are the majority, they weren't winterized. So literally, the works are frozen. That's the problem. Why forward a farce?

Now that takes us to a farce in full effect. Flyin' Ted Cruz, he's been totally shamed, exposed for going full-Trump.

That means lying about leaving Texas for Mexico, to avoid the cold, and avoid his duty to the Texans he serves, and then denying what he obviously did, despite tonight, being outed by his wife.

New information! First, remember, though, he said he was just a chaperone. "School's canceled for the week. Our girls wanted to take a trip with friends. Wanted to be a good dad, I flew down with them. But you know?" like - like he was just going down to come back. Then, the texts from the wife come out. Busted!

"The New York Times" got ahold of these messages sent by Heidi Cruz to friends. And they reveal what you would all suspect. They were planning a trip. They pushed it off to Sunday, because their home was "Freezing." They even reportedly invited others to join them at the Ritz.

Got to say "Damn!" What does it tell you when even his friends go bad, on Ted Cruz, leaking texts, like this, supposedly among friends? So what happens next?

We see Flyin' Ted scrambling back to Texas and with a new spin.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The plan had been to stay through the weekend with the family. That - that was the plan.

I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane.


But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously, of fighting for the State of Texas.

Look, it was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, I wouldn't have done it.


CUOMO: He must be worried though, because he went running back to Fox tonight to get a pass. I wonder who he's going to blame? You think it's going to be the media, or the Left, or both? Who's going to get blamed for what he did?

Next time, though, instead of reading Dr. Seuss, maybe Flyin' Ted should read some Sir Walter Scott, on the Senate floor, especially this passage. "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"

Now, Senator Cruz is going to be fine, right, but what about his constituents?

One particular image has become a symbol of the hardship. You've seen this, haven't you? This ceiling fan draped with icicles? It was taken by our first guest tonight, Thomas Black, of Dallas. He and his girlfriend are running out of food. They're running out of water. They are boiling snow to get water now.

Thomas, good to see you. How are you doing tonight?

THOMAS BLACK, TEXAS STORM VICTIM: How's it going, Chris? As of now, we're managing, you know? But the gravity of the situation becomes more apparent, by the minute.

As you mentioned, we are boiling bathtub water. And really, I only knew to do that, because I had a pouring of outreach, giving me tips on how to weather this out. And without them, as a Texan, we're just not inherently prepared for something like this.

CUOMO: If you have the ability to get on the internet, and you're going to boil snow, Google it, take a look. There are different variables, different things you have to look out for.

And look, you shouldn't have to be able to do this in the first place. This iconic photo, which I'm sure was never your intention, how did the water and the icicles get on that fan?

BLACK: Again, the lack of preparedness. There's pipes busting. Our infrastructure just isn't ready for something like this. And I think, ahead of time, we could have been won by about this, we could have been prepared by this, we could have had the energy structure to help us manage better, but we just don't.

CUOMO: This is all from your apartment building. What triggered you to start documenting the experience and putting it on social media?

BLACK: Because I think that any Texan, every Texan's blood should be boiling, that this is even the reality that we're living in right now. I'm thankful that this is starting to catch on to everyone around the world is seeing that we are in a bad situation, and it's getting worse.

Here, let me tell you something that might be a little bit PG-13. We're having to use the bathroom multiple times before flushing. And we should have to do that here.

CUOMO: What are you hearing about from other people in the building? How bad was it for people when they didn't have heat? I know there has been some power restored, thank God it stays on. But what were you hearing?

BLACK: Well a lot of the stories are, you know, people are having to, all migrate to other neighbors' houses that do have power. And with COVID being a thing that, that's just another cause for concern, grouping people up together, that are from different households.

In particular, downstairs, that's where the flooding is really bad, I'm pretty sure these guys are having to evacuate.

CUOMO: We keep talking about how things are getting better. And I think it's a little insensitive of exactly how bad it still is. What do you want people to know?

I mean, look, you're so together, you're so cool, you communicate so well. But this has got to be really bad still, even with the power, no?

BLACK: Absolutely. I can - I can put the face on, of positivity, and in trying to get this because I think that, as Texans, as Americans, we can get through things. But we do need help, you know?

And that help should be coming from the top, you know? It shouldn't have to be at the local level, like I have me, and organizations like NV Gaming banding together to take care of our local community. We shouldn't have to be doing that. And that's just, you know, that's just the truth.

CUOMO: What is the night like for you after we get off?

BLACK: Really just, again, just playing it by ear.

We woke - we've been woken up numerous times throughout the nights, over the past three days, to alarms, various alarms, alarms that I've never even heard - heard that sound before.

And it's just being ready to be in our game. "Do we need to pack up our stuff now? Do we need to put things together and get out of the building?" We just - it's just a very uncertain reality that we're living in right now. And with the pipes busting, I don't know if we can handle the fire here.

So I mean, yes, I do play it cool. But yes, it's kind of scary.

CUOMO: And you see what's happening in San Antonio, God forbid. But if the firefighters have trouble getting access to water, a bad fire can become a catastrophic fire.

BLACK: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Well listen, please, let's stay in contact. Thank you for putting--

BLACK: Thanks, Chris.


CUOMO: --images to the realities. I appreciate you for that, especially in a time of distress. You know we're a call away. Let us know what's going on.

BLACK: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Let us know what you need, and please stay safe. Best to you and the family.

BLACK: Have a good one.

CUOMO: All right be well, Thomas Black.

Look, it's phenomenal to me how together he is, in that situation, because even with power restored, you heard what he's doing, it's just a horrible way to live, especially if it didn't have to happen.

That firsthand look at the crisis on the ground has to go hand-in-hand with the accountability and how to get it better. Our next guest is Judge Clay Jenkins, the highest-ranking elected official in Dallas County. He too is demanding accountability from Texas leaders and power regulators.

Welcome to PRIME TIME. I assume, Judge, you were never fooled by the idea that this is a green-energy event, as the Governor wanted you to believe.

JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, (D) DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: No, this was a completely predictable event, Chris that was - there was a report issued by the federal government, and the state government, in 2011, saying this would happen. I testified and spoke before the legislature, two years ago, saying that this would happen. And it happened. And it's because Governor Abbott refused to weatherize the generator

plants or modernize the gas lines, as the report from his own legislature told him was necessary.

When you choose to tell a regulated company that they don't have to do something, they're selling commodities, so you're instructing them not to do it. And in that effort to get the lowest price, for big commercial users, they failed to protect residents from losing their power in extreme weather.

CUOMO: The argument that "No, no, no, we didn't have enough money to do everything. And because we had to spend so much money on the wind turbine infrastructure, we didn't get to use it for the coal and the gas. And if we had, none of this would have happened," do you accept that?

JENKINS: This is a deregulated market. So, they're not building wind energy or any other type of energy.

Companies are building infrastructure based on the specs that the Governor's office gives them, of what is required. They didn't put weatherization in their specs, so the companies built a cheaper product, so that they can sell energy at a higher profit. This is not about the taxpayers building anything.

CUOMO: Now, in terms of looking at this, going forward, you are saying that the Governor is aware of what happened here, and what we're seeing now are secondary effects of the systemic inequality at play.

Power is not coming back as quickly in lower-income areas and minority areas. Why is that?

JENKINS: Well, I don't know exactly. But what has happened in the past with power is the older the infrastructure - and the Governor has refused to replace it, as the reports and the legislature had requested.

The older that infrastructure is, the harder it is to cycle, and roll, and come back on, the easier it is to break. And the older housing stock tends to be where the most vulnerable populations live.

CUOMO: Now, right now, the Governor's office says they're working with FEMA. They're trying to do everything they can. What else is needed? And what are you worried about in terms of how this will be handled in the next few days?

JENKINS: Well right now, our big problem is drinkable water. 10 million, that's one-third, of the Texans don't have a safe drinking water source other than bottled water or water that they boil, because the energy going to the water treatment centers failed.

FEMA worked with us quickly. We got generators on our water treatment, here in Dallas, and we saved our water supply system. And so, we're in pretty good shape. But some of our other smaller cities, within my county, are on boil water notices. So, that is a huge concern. And then Chris, as it thaws, you're going to have pipes breaking all

over Texas. And you're going to have people in need of plumbers. There's just not enough plumbers to go around. I'm very worried for our citizens, both their comfort, and their pocketbook.

CUOMO: And the contagion because you have people, as you well know, Judge, crowding together into where somebody has power, and where they - because you have people moving around as they can.

Are you worried about the combination of not being able to vaccinate people and having people crowded together, that you may have your own kind of homemade Variant here of spread?

JENKINS: Well, we're doing everything we can to keep that from happening. We'll be back up and operational on vaccinations on Sunday.


I reached out to the Department of Defense, and the Biden Administration asked for a shooter team from the Army. They're coming down. And as soon as the weather clears enough, for them to get here, they'll join my team. And together, we'll catch up with those vaccines.

CUOMO: Will people be able to get to you?

JENKINS: People will be able to get to, as the weather here in DFW, with - is getting above freezing tomorrow for a little bit. And then, it will get well above freezing on Saturday, so that by the time we start on Sunday, the roads should be clear.

A lot of the people getting dose, Chris, are second-shots, people above the age of 75, so we need those roads to be safe, before we can operate. If it's not safe for you to get there, we won't operate. But as soon as it is, we'll operate, and we'll get you caught up, and get you your shot.

CUOMO: Do you have the supply? Has the federal government been able to get you supply in this weather?

JENKINS: The federal government is shipping supply directly to Dallas County in a partnership between Dallas County and the federal government. That supply has not arrived yet. However, we have some backlog supply from all the entities that weren't able to get it out this week.

So, our Army team and also doctors, who were taking their - it's their day off on Sunday, even without the Army, we're going to have 61 shooters already, from doctors and pharmacists, who are coming in to help us, on Sunday, because, this community will come together, even when our state utterly fails us, as they have, in this disaster.

CUOMO: I mean it is terrible. It's a real demonstration of why people do have to put faith in their government, and want it to be responsible and accountable, because this is when it matters most. Judge Clay Jenkins, please see the program, as a platform, to let us know what your needs are, and how they're being met, in these very, very important days ahead. We're a phone call away.

JENKINS: Thank you so much, Chris. Good evening.

CUOMO: God bless and be well.

JENKINS: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, this winter blast that we're seeing in the South is impacting our Pandemic fight. That's why I was asking about how it's going for them there. You're seeing vaccination delays in different places, including where we just were, in Dallas.

Dr. Fauci says things have slowed to a grinding halt in some places. A key member of the Biden COVID team is here. What is their plan to get back on track? Next.









CUOMO: So, FEMA says more than 2,000 vaccine sites are out of commission because of the winter storm. Those that could be up and running, like in San Diego, where it was in the 60s today, they're shutting down also. Why? Can't get supply, so they can't keep their appointments.

Once again, we see governors say if the Feds can't do it, let them go get the shots.


GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): Us and other states, sort of trying to take this one into our own hands, where we're currently talking to the National Guard about, and they will do this, about going down to Kentucky and Tennessee, which is where this stuff is currently located, and bringing it back.


CUOMO: Andy Slavitt is the White House Senior Adviser for COVID response. Andy was a regular on this show during COVID. And it is good to see you.


CUOMO: Is it fair criticism that you guys got caught flat-footed on this storm?

SLAVITT: I haven't heard that criticism. Certainly everybody in the country is crippled to some extent or another by this storm. We have accumulating backlog of vaccines that need to be boxed and shipped, as soon as the weather allows.

We can't have people riding on the - getting on the roads, and going into work, and boxing them, and delivering them through UPS or FedEx, either to sites like in Texas, where they're not open yet, or even to get them out to places like San Diego, because the - everything needs to be boxed and sent forward.

So we're going to have - we're going to keep these vaccines safe and sound. And then we're going to get them out to people and catch up just as soon as the weather allows.

CUOMO: Was this unavoidable? Or was this something where there's a lesson learned about what to do the next time you're hearing about weather?

SLAVITT: Well, for sure, there's a lesson in everything. And we're absolutely going to look at an after-action after this.

But remember, we don't keep redundant capacity in production of vaccines. If I had twice the capacity, I'd be producing twice the vaccines, and we'd be doing this twice as fast. So, we're literally putting out every single vaccine that we have.

Now there's, if an administration site is closed, we don't want to ship a vaccine because as you know, they had - they can't sit for more than 72 hours.

So, the best thing to do here, perspective, where they understand it, not put people in harm's way, keep the vaccines safe and sound, and remind people that if they have a second appointment, and it's delayed by, say, a week or so, it's no problem. They will get their vaccines.

And then, we're just going to have to ask everybody in the country to work double time next week. Presuming the weather improves, that's going to mean longer appointment hours, it's going to mean more shipping hours. And we're going to ask everybody to do their part and pull together.

CUOMO: If it's all hands-on-deck, what do you think of Governor Baker of Massachusetts saying that he and other governors want the National Guard to go to Kentucky and Tennessee to pick up and bring back to their states the next batches.

SLAVITT: We've totally been talking to Governor Baker and other governors all along the day. The problem you have is that they can only pick up vaccines that have been packaged and are ready for delivery.

So, we can't get people into those factories right now, because the roads are closed to box them. So everyone's going to have to just wait a little bit until the weather turns. Then we'll get McKesson in there to box them up, which isn't - isn't as simple as it sounds.


Boxing these things is actually quite a scientific deliberate process that we can't just send anybody to do it. But people can't - have to be able to get on the roads get in and do that. And then, we'll be able to get them to the sites they need to get to.

CUOMO: How do you know if any vaccine goes bad? If you do have these 2,000 vaccine sites without power, how do you keep this stuff as cold as you need to?

SLAVITT: Well, the vaccines that are - that are already out there that are already in the - out in the field, we are trying to contact folks that hopefully those things, those are - those number of vaccines are hopefully getting into people's arms.

But in places like San Diego, they're going to work through whatever backlog that they have, for the next few days, places. And then the ones that are in that we have control of, those are the ones we could be sure are keeping safe and sound.

So far, this week, there hasn't been a single vaccine that we're aware of that spoiled. Last week, we shipped 20,000 vaccines to a site that had closed without our knowledge. And so, we got those back, and we recovered them, and those are going to be OK. But those are the kinds of things you got to pay attention to in this--

CUOMO: Right.

SLAVITT: --in this climate.

CUOMO: That'll be something to watch in Texas, obviously.

So, I've been hearing about something I wanted your take on it. You guys are making an effort - look, we know the inequalities. You and I used to talk about the systematic inequality that's a play with COVID, all the time.

The poor, minorities get more sick. They don't get treated as well. They have to go back to work. And now, with the vaccine, we're seeing that as well. So, there has been an effort to get vaccine into those areas. But into the areas isn't the same as into those underserved arms.

And I was told that there are now these aggregating sources online, these bots that are finding out where you can get open appointments, so that tech savvy people can learn of where appointments are, and drive into areas, where they don't live, to get vaccine.

So you'll still have a problem with that population not getting the vaccine into their arms, even if it's in their neighborhood. How do you deal with that? Or can you do that? Can you aggregate--

SLAVITT: So we are--

CUOMO: --doing it the same way?

SLAVITT: Yes. Yes, so it's a great point. A couple things. First of all, we are asking the pharmacies, and the community health centers, in communities, to make sure they reserve a high percentage of appointments for people who live in the area.

One thing we know about health care, and Chris, you and I've had this conversation before, as you've said, is if you do nothing, the structural disadvantage - the structural disadvantages will hurt the disadvantaged, and help everyone else, because they just have the resources to take care of it.

So just saying I am blind to it means you're going to fail. So, what you have to do is you have to do extraordinary things.

So, in North Carolina, they had a big event, we - at Panthers Stadium. They reserved the morning - all the morning appointments for people from low-income communities. They brought people in from churches, and they had a tremendously successful event.

Likewise, we are asking the pharmacies, we are asking community health centers to do the same thing, because they're the ones that are going to have to do that.

This is what happens in a shortage. I mean, this is not surprising behavior. These aren't bad people, who are out looking trying to find these vaccines. But the system has to not allow it, or we will continue to hurt the people that are getting hurt the most.

CUOMO: One last thing for you, and thank you for being with us tonight, especially in the middle of this crisis that's been added layer with the - the weather, Variants. How much of a shot in the hope are the Variants?

The latest news about Johnson & Johnson saying it may need to be a two-shot regime to adjust to the Variants. The single-shot is such a big hope for people. Are these Variants proving to be more of an obstacle? And will they change the outlook for our calendar or timing of prophylaxis?

SLAVITT: Look, there's two issues with the Variants. The first, and probably the most immediate, issue is despite the fact that we see the case counts going down, and hospitalizations going down, that can be deceptive.

As we've learned, over time, with this virus, precisely the time when you think you're going down is when the next wave can be building. And this wave, if it's based on the Variants, could be quite extraordinary.

The good news is unlike last time around, we are taking people in long-term care facilities, and they're getting inoculated very quickly. So, my hope is that we will have people over 75 largely vaccinated before then.

The second thing, and the long-term thing, is science needs to just adjust and stay ahead of these Variants. And it can do that.

I've talked to all of the major pharmaceutical companies, all of our scientists, in the government, who are focusing on this, and they all say the same thing, that even if these - even if these vaccines diminish a little bit, at one of these mutations, they will be able to continually update them.

And we are used to being - we are used to mutations. We're used to mutations with the flu. This is a much higher percentage of success than with the flu vaccine.


So, I am confident, and we are going to be releasing guidance next week that not just our vaccines, but our monoclonal antibodies, and all of our science and technology can stay ahead.

But we have to have an adaptive, quick process. We can't just lay on our laurels and say, "Oh, this thing is over."

CUOMO: Any thinking about with the speed of the Variants, moving to just one shot, and get people with one shot as many as you can, and don't worry about the second shot, right now, just to get some people as much protection as you can?

SLAVITT: Yes, well I think one of the things that you probably noticed with this White House is we don't do science, and we don't pretend to do the science.

So, what do I do? I ask Dr. Fauci. I ask Dr. Rochelle Walensky. And they look at the data. And their view, and I've - and I've run this out with the numbers, is people need to continue to get their second shot. The second shot does add significantly to their immunity.

And what we have to do is we have to get more quickly through our first doses that we have in the field. But no one is advising people to skip their second shot at this point.

I know the CDC is looking at data. And if someday a scientist comes to me, and says, "You know what? We've changed our opinion. We've learned more. We think there - we think that there's a different approach that works better," we'll adjust to it.

But I think the backwards way of doing it would be, for us, in the White House, to be making policy that disregards the science.

CUOMO: One more quick thing. It's worth the time. There are a lot of questions that I keep getting about people about what the vaccine allows them to do.

"If you have a vaccine, you have to no longer wear a mask." Fauci says "No, you got to wear the mask," because we don't know that you could have it, and not be infectious, meaning you don't feel sick, but you could be contagious. OK.

If people are hanging out with other people, who have the vaccine, do they need a mask? And can businesses say "You've been vaccinated, Slavitt, come back to work," or "We only want customers in here, who've had vaccines," what do you have on that?

SLAVITT: Well, look, and I know - I don't mean to make this sound flip. But the number one thing people will be able to do with a vaccine is live.

And beyond that, we still have open questions. We still are wrestling the question of is - are you still communicable if you have - had the vaccine. I think people think that we are not communicable. But no one's definitive yet. And so, I think people want to be sure of that, then that's why people are suggesting masks.

The one thing that CDC did come out with is that people don't no longer have to isolate, if they're exposed to somebody, if they've had the vaccine. So, my guess is that the CDC will keep looking at the data, and make their pronouncements, as they learn. And it probably will be a little bit slower than everybody wants.

But at the same time, I think, our philosophy is look, let the science and the data speak for itself. Hopefully, people will be as careful as possible. But the reason people should take the vaccine primarily is it is - is it will keep us all alive.

And then, I think we'll be able to take a look, a few months from now, and look back and say, "OK, given where we are now, and given what we now know, we can now make some significant changes." And I think we all look forward to that. I just couldn't tell you, when that'll be and what that'll look like.

CUOMO: Andy Slavitt, I appreciate the straight talk. You're always welcome here. And you'll be invited on the regular. Be well, and thank you.

SLAVITT: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, in terms of just like the tone of leadership, in these times, that's why Senator Cruz is relevant. We have much bigger problems than him telling you the truth or not.

But look, he flew to Mexico, because he wanted to get away from the freezing temperatures, even though his duty was to be there for his constituents, right? And then, he decided to just lie about it, and figured he'd get away with it. And he probably will, with everybody on the Right. That's where we are these days, right?

Let's bring in the better minds and figure out where we are in the state of play, next.









CUOMO: All right, we have new insight tonight into the Republican Party's division, its infighting, and what that means for the rest of us, in terms of the state of play in Congress.

The latest Quinnipiac poll, listen to this, it shows more Americans believe that the QAnon Kook Representative in Congress is more representative of the GOP than the number three leader Liz Cheney. That point stands even among just the Republicans, even among them, even among them, 23 percent to Cheney's 18 percent. A plurality, notably, did not offer an opinion.

So, what does it say that more identify with the Kook than an established leader, within the Party, who was willing to impeach Trump? Let's bring in some better minds, Michael Smerconish, Scott Jennings.

So you take a look at that poll, Scott, and you take a look at how Abbott went in a crisis. I had never seen anything like that before where he went to playing this very low-percentage "Blame green energy" game that he had to know was going to get blown up.

Is that the state of play, get Trumpy and get Trumpy fast because that's what people want?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, I think it's indicative that a lot of people in the Republican Party look to see how you're going to calibrate yourself against the people they hate.

So, in the case of the Cheney-Greene poll that you cited, I think they're looking at Marjorie Taylor Greene, and lot of folks have never heard of her, or had never heard of her. And maybe they don't know what she stands for, or maybe they - maybe they do.

But they see that the media hates her, so they have decided to calibrate on her behalf. And they see Cheney getting praise in the media, for standing up to Trump, and so they've decided to calibrate against her.


And so, in the case of Abbott, he's going to go out, and position himself, against the green energy, because he knows a lot of Republicans reflexively don't like that. So it - so it's not a Party that necessarily is standing for anything

other than triangulating their supporters against the people that they don't like. It's a - it's a crazy game, but that's what's being played.

CUOMO: It's pretty ugly game, isn't it, Michael?

I mean, look, even the suggestion that the media, as if it were a monolith, hates Marjorie Taylor Greene, no, she's a QAnon conspiracy advocate. That is a detestable quality. Scott should feel the same way.

But what does this mean about what's working for them?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "MICHAEL SMERCONISH PROGRAM" ON SIRIUSXM: It's funny that you referenced the media because Nikki Haley, in a bid to try and bring herself back, in good favor with the base, after having been critical of former President Trump, you see what she did in that Wall Street Journal editorial?

What does she say? She says, "Oh, this is all a media creation, that there's a civil war within the Republican Party."

Gone are the days where anybody seems to make a pitch for the middle, at least on the Right side of the aisle. Joe Biden, running for president, spoke of unity. We could debate whether he's playing that way, vis-a-vis, the stimulus relief package.

But the Republicans aren't even talking about a bid for independent voices. It's all about consolidation.

CUOMO: So, well where does that take us, in terms of, we see the state of play. You got Crenshaw, the Member of Congress, and the Governor, literally in the middle of a crisis, there, playing politics with it.

So I guess, Scott, let's assume you're right, which is this is what works in your Party, then doesn't that reasonably lead us to the conclusion that they will be as recalcitrant and as much about opposition as possible, to the Democrats, in terms of doing any kind of deal?

JENNINGS: Well, first of all, we don't have to assume. This attitude of positioning yourself as the Chief Bludgeoner of the Media is what delivered Donald Trump, I think, the nomination in 2016, and is what continues to put him at the top of the Party.

I mean, look, Donald Trump's done terrible things lately, including inciting an insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. And yet, you see where he sits. And it's because he continues to antagonize the press, which is what Republicans want their leadership to do right now.

It's become less about policy, and achieving the long-standing conservative goals that a lot of us have, and more about just bludgeoning the media so.

CUOMO: Do you like that?


Not really, because, I have this sort of the quaint notion that the purpose of political parties is to win elections, so that you can govern and then achieve the objectives that your platform says you should achieve.

And so, Trump certainly did achieve some outcomes. But I think he would define his greatest success as having a fight daily, and bashing the media on the regular. And his people love it. And Republicans love it right now.

So, I don't - I don't love it, because I don't know where it takes us as a policy matter. I don't know what - when the Republicans do regain control, what are we going to do? Because we're not - we're not saying what we're going to do. We're just saying we're going to bludgeon the people we hate.

CUOMO: Michael, I want to play some sound for you. You knew Cruz was a little worried. He was playing it cool. But he ran right back to the mothership, at Fox, to get a pass.

Here's what he said.


CRUZ: We lost power for two days. Our house was dark. We had no heat. Actually, the fireplace behind me, we were all huddled around the fireplace, because it was the only heat in the house.

And after a couple of days, after the girls being really cold, at being in the teens and the 20s outside, our girls asked, said "Look, school has been canceled for the week. Can we take a trip and go somewhere warm?" And Heidi and I, as parents, we said, "OK, sure."

And so, last night, I flew down with them to the beach. And then, I flew back this afternoon. I had initially planned to stay through the weekend and to work remotely there.

But as I - as I was heading down there, you know, I started to have second thoughts, almost immediately, because the crisis, here in Texas, you need to be here on the ground. And as much as you can do by phone and Zoom, it's not the same as being here.

And so, I returned this afternoon, and I'm here working to make sure to do everything we can to get the power turned on, but also fundamentally, to ask the questions, why did this happen?


CUOMO: What's your take on that Mike?

SMERCONISH: The flight home had to be pure agony, because he knew that a perp walk awaited him, when he landed in Houston. The justification, the rationale that he offered, perfectly acceptable, for somebody in the private sector.

But just beyond the pale, and it's mind-boggling to me, I have to say it's worse than Chris Christie on the beach, it's worse than Pelosi at the hairdresser, it's worse than Newsom at French Laundry, because people weren't suffering life-and-death consequences, when in those three circumstances, they violated the norm of what was being asked of the rest of us.

I don't know if he recovers from it. I just don't know.


CUOMO: I just, you know, and also look, I got to - you want to talk about the media? I mean, you can't have outlets - anyway, look, we'll leave it for another day.

But what he did was very obvious. And I'm just surprised by Senator Cruz. I thought he was smarter than the play he just made here.


CUOMO: And it's why people hate politics. You know he knows he's lying.

Michael, thank you. Scott Jennings, as always, appreciate you. All right.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.








CUOMO: Here's something that we can do on live television. There are a couple of good reasons to have kept Smerconish and Jennings. There a couple of things that have developed today that we got to get their take on, so I'm going to bring them back.

And I want to talk first about the Capitol Police, OK? They have been rightfully hailed as heroes. They were up against insurmountable odds and things that they could have never seen coming during this Insurrection.

And you've seen it more and more playing out the infamy of January 6th. And there but for the grace, and there but for the guards, who knows what would have happened to the Members of Congress.


We saw officers attacked, beaten, a 140 were hurt. Brian Sicknick died. That sacrifice amplifies the news that we're learning tonight.

Six Capitol officers have been suspended without pay. Another 29 are under investigation for their actions during the riot. Congressman Tim Ryan says one of the suspended officers took a selfie with one of the rioters. This is, you know, the guy you see here.

So, let's bring in my guys here.

And I want to just talk about this in terms of its significance, Michael. The obvious question is why were they suspended? And how do the answers to those questions wind up shaping what this means, in terms of security?

SMERCONISH: So, it's a breaking story. And I don't know all the particulars.

But of course, the first thought that pops into my mind is how the military is now taking a look at those, who they felt comfortable in deploying to protect the Capitol, after the events of January 6th.

And Chris, this issue, for me, harkens back to a memo that was issued on Secretary Janet Napolitano's watch, several months into the first term of Barack Obama. You'll remember it. It was a memo that had its genesis on President Bush's watch. And yet, Obama was blamed for it, as if there were aspersions being cast on the military.

The guy who wrote that memo was trying to send up a flare, and let us know that there's reason to be worried that some elements of returning soldiers are ripe for outreach by radical elements.

So maybe it's all come first - full circle, maybe Napolitano was onto something, when she warned us about this, back in 2009. But it's a serious matter that deserves attention.

CUOMO: The Republicans have been curiously quiet about January 6th, and for obvious reasons, doesn't play well. But the idea of extremism in the ranks of those, who are supposed to be protecting us, what does that mean, on the Right side of the aisle?

JENNINGS: Well, I think, to me, what it means is, we do need a Commission to study what happened on January 6th. I know that some people have thrown out the idea of a 9/11-styled Commission.

I don't have all the answers on what it should look like or what style it should be. But there needs to be a thorough understanding of the events, leading up to it, what happened that day, these issues you've raised with the Capitol Police, all of it.

All of it needs to be fully documented, so that we can A, never let it happen again, and B, to your point, just now, make sure the security forces and the security protocols and procedures at the Capitol are protecting the Members of Congress, the staff and the public, who may be in the building, in the case of another event.

So, I could - put me in the camp for "We need a full vetting of this," and it may take a bipartisan big commission to do it.

CUOMO: Fellas, thank you for letting me hold you over for this. I wanted to get your take. This is important news. It's also important to contextualize it.

This is not about demonizing the law enforcement officers. But for them, that day, that would have been one of the bloodiest days in American history. So, we needed them. They did their job. They're heroes. We just have to make sure everybody deserves that label.

Michael Smerconish, Scott Jennings, thank you.

Right back with some good news. We are not just the worst that you see of us. There are Ameri-CANs, there are capabilities, there is greatness in our desire to know what we don't know. And we saw it in intergalactic fashion today. Next.









CUOMO: I hope you are as pumped about this as I am. It's so Ameri-CAN, for what we are really capable of. Our greatest days absolutely could be in front of us, because there's so much we still don't know.

Today, NASA's rover, Perseverance, successfully landed on Mars. You're going to see the pictures it sent back in just a moment.

But just think about this. The rover and its team certainly lived up to its namesake. It took them six months to get there, nearly 300 million miles, breaking new ground, literally, as the heaviest rover NASA has ever attempted to land. It's over a metric ton.

Uncertainty, anticipation, led up to the moment that was just sky- high, especially in the so-called seven minutes of terror. That's when the rover decelerates, from 12,000 miles an hour, to zero, in just seven minutes. No chance for do-overs.

So, if you get it right, it's like the moment of a lifetime. Listen.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life!




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, the descent stage has flown away to a safe distance and Perseverance is continuing to transmit direct through Mars Reconnaissance orbiter to Earth.




CUOMO: That is the power of what can happen when you come together, and you persevere, when you push through the difficulties. Amazing!

Think about this. Those men and women figured out how to get something going all the way, 300 million miles, across our galaxy, the Milky Way, our solar system, to Mars. And it took just as long for our Congress to figure out how to get a relief bill done. We can do better than that. We don't even know what we don't know yet.