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House To Vote On Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill; Third COVID-19 Vaccine On Verge Of Emergency Authorization By FDA, Could Start Going In Arms As Soon As Next Week; Biden-Ordered Airstrike Sparks Calls For Updating Current Authorization Of Military Force. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 26, 2021 - 21:00   ET




STANLEY TUCCI, CNN HOST, "STANLEY TUCCI: SEARCHING FOR ITALY": It's cheese. It's buckwheat. It's polenta. It's completely different than the diet of the South.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Stanley Tucci, thank you so much. I don't want to - everybody, tune into an all-new episode "STANLEY TUCCI: SEARCHING FOR ITALY" airing Sunday, 9 P.M., right here on CNN.


COOPER: And that's it for us. The news continues. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Did I just hear you say "Balogna?"

COOPER: No, I said "Bologna." Did I say "Balogna?"

CUOMO: Yes, that's what I heard.

COOPER: It was a long day!

CUOMO: You know? I have to tell you, that series, I'm hearing a lot about it.

COOPER: Yes. No, I'm hearing a lot of good things.

CUOMO: Everybody loves Tucci. But the magic is when somebody tells you the story of a people through their passions.

And obviously, one of the immutable truths, as Mike Nichols once told me, the famous director and producer, we both knew well, one of the immutable truths is that everybody loves Italian food.

COOPER: It's true.

CUOMO: So, Stanley showing how it really is part of our culture--

COOPER: Yes. CUOMO: --as Italians, Italian Americans, you really wind up dealing with each other, and dealing with moments, and dealing with rituals through food.


CUOMO: So, he - they're doing a beautiful job. But I loved hearing you say that. "So, what would you be eating in Balogna?"

COOPER: Don't you have a show? Don't you have something to do?

CUOMO: I do. But who wants to pass up a chance to talk to you? Have a great weekend.

COOPER: All right, sure, you too.

CUOMO: Thanks, as always, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

There really is more light ahead of us now than darkness. There will be tough times. We're not out of this. But there is cause for hope. The FDA is on the verge of authorizing a third COVID shot for emergency use. That means we get to use it now.

Now, you know the talk about the Johnson & Johnson one. It's a single- dose vaccine, OK? So, J&J got the advisory panel's approval tonight. So it could be going in arms as soon as next week.

The other plus of this is so it's one-shot, doesn't need to be stored as cold as other things, right? So, you can keep it a little bit more easily. You waste less of it. It's good. And it has held up well on most present variants.

Look, you have to be careful about these things. They know it's safe, but they don't know everything. So, from the President, we heard both optimism and caution about the road ahead.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a third vaccine to make even more rapid progress in getting shots in people's arms.

Cases and hospitalizations could go back up with new - as new variants emerge. And it's not the time to relax. We have to keep washing our hands, staying socially distanced and, for God's sake, wear your mask.


CUOMO: Woof! Lucky he isn't at CPAC! You get stoned for speaking science, in what has become the Trump trunk show, where former conservatives have turned into conspiracy junkies with a demagog as their dealer.

Many of the lawmakers that are at CPAC are actually skipping out on the House debate tonight that's going on right now for Pandemic relief. Talk about choosing politics over your duty to people!

While the GOPQ debates who loves Trump the most, tonight, the House is expected to debate and vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. Now, Democrats are the inside story here. They are moving forward, it seems.

But the minimum wage could still prove to be a major sticking point of division in that party. Speaker Pelosi says they will not rest until a $15 minimum wage gets passed. But I don't see how that gets passed as part of this.

Why? The Senate Parliamentarian, OK, that is the person that decides what meets the rules in the Senate for different procedures, they say the minimum wage doesn't pass the test to be included in what is called reconciliation, which is a shortcut process that Democrats are using to avoid a filibuster by the Right.

House Democrats, House Democrats, on the loud-Left flank, they say "No. Madam Vice President, reject the Parliamentarian, as your role, as the President of the Senate." The White House says "No. We're not going to do that. We want to stick by tradition."

So, how does that play on the Left? Democrats say "Well, maybe we'll try to add it on as an amendment." Not likely to pass!

So assuming the Left can make peace with one another about the minimum wage, even without the wage hike, this bill would be a huge boost in direct aid to small businesses, another round of direct payments, $1,400 in a check to those making less than $75,000 a year, $2,800 for couples making less than $150,000 a year.


Families with kids, you would be eligible for an additional $1,400 per dependent. There's also additional help for the unemployed, hungry, the uninsured, among other funding.

Now, it is important to note that absent from the voting - I know I said it. But think about it. We are in the middle of a pandemic. They have delayed help for a long time. And the House is going to be minus a dozen Members from the Right.

They all signed letters saying they can't attend due to the ongoing public health emergency, meaning the Pandemic. It's a lie, because they're at CPAC. If there's an ongoing health emergency, why is it OK for them to be there? They're just lying, because that's OK in their ranks.

Senator Ted Cruz, in the middle of a Pandemic, talking to this crowd, listen to what he says.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Now they're saying everybody can get immunized, we can have herd immunity everywhere, and we're going to wear masks for the next 300 years. And by the way, not just one mask, two, three, four, you can't have too many masks. How much virtue do you want to signal? This is just dumb.


CUOMO: Agreed. What he is saying is just dumb. It's actually more than that, because he's not a dumb guy.

For Senator Ted Cruz, and an emerging number on his side, it's not about ignorance. It's arrogance. He actually believes that this is the way to go. Play to the lie, play to the division, mock science, mock safety, look in the face and laugh of what got us here.

He's echoing the same nonsense that harnessed the denial that led us into the depths of this problem, you know why? His goal is to sound just like this guy.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we have done.

We're going down, not up, we're going very substantially down, not up.

We have it so well under control.


CUOMO: I remember it's not that it was early. It was a lie. It was wrong. And he knew it. That's why the faces behind them were always the interesting ones to watch, right? Everybody like this, because they all knew it was a lie.

That was the past, but you have to remember it because if you don't learn the lesson, you make the mistake again, as we see with Cruz right now. However, he's not in control, which means that doing the right things, for a period.

And having a rollout for the vaccine, is helping get the Pandemic under control, because look, "15 cases" ballooned to nearly 30 million, half a million lives, gone, half a million families broken, unable to mourn, largely forgotten. We didn't have our first memorial until just a week ago. You must remember the pain and the loss.

And now, there is some hope for a brighter future ahead, if we do the right things. So let's bring in the better minds, Manu Raju, and Van Jones.

So, Manu, that's good on the vaccine. The fight that we're watching is on this Pandemic relief battle. What is the state of play in the House right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're expecting a pretty late night, a very late night, this could stretch into past midnight in 1 A.M., 2 A.M., on the East, to pass this bill.

We do expect it to pass very narrowly. The Democrats have a very small majority here, and they need a majority of Members who are present in voting to pass this bill.

And that means, according to the number three Republican - Democrat in the House, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, they could only lose three votes total, and we expect they probably may lose one, if not two, maybe even three. But that's it.

But still the Democratic leaders are confident. They say they have the votes. They believe they will get it through.

And despite the concerns about the Senate Parliamentarian's ruling that this will be stripped out, this $15 minimum wage will be stripped out, they are still including that in this bill because their party, mostly on the Left, are pushing this, and are strongly behind the $15 minimum wage.

So, that will be part of this larger $1.9 trillion package that affects virtually all aspects of the economy. But then the tough part will begin after this very narrow vote when the Senate will strip that out. And they'll have to figure out whether they can get 50 votes in the Senate, to get it through.


And in the 50/50 Senate, they need 50 Democrats to join hands and vote with the - for this. And Kamala Harris, the Vice President breaking that tie, getting it through the Senate, next week.

And all in the anticipation and hope for the Democrats to get this done by March 14th, and that's the date, Chris, when so many people's jobless benefits are set to expire.


RAJU: So a lot - not much time here. But Democrats are confident they can get it through, but just on their own, because Republicans are going to vote en masse against this.

CUOMO: They're not even voting. They're not even there.

But let's not rush past this step because this is a real battle. As Manu has heard, I'm sure, Van, you too, and me, some on the Left flank feel that they've been duped, that the Senate let this happen. "They knew it would go this way. They're not really fighting. They're not doing what they could."

Let's listen to a couple of voices on the Left about how they feel about the politics of this minimum wage.


KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, the President was also disappointed in that outcome. He supports a $15 minimum wage.

He's supported it for many years. He believes it's critical and that nobody in this country should work full time and live in poverty. So, he was also disappointed in the outcome, but he respects the Senate's process.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Democrats are unified about raising the minimum wage. And if we can't do it through a reconciliation bill, we'll figure out another way to do it. There may be things in this reconciliation bill that we can do to set the stage.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): This is an advisory opinion from the Parliamentarian. There is precedent in our history. Vice President Hubert Humphrey disregarded the Parliamentarian's advisory opinion twice.

Voters are not going to understand if we go back, as in two years, and say, "You know what? There's a - there's a Parliamentarian, who told us we couldn't do it. So, I'm sorry, we couldn't deliver what we promised."


CUOMO: So Van, where do you come down on this? And where do you think it ends up?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that the progressives are correct, in that it is very, very hard. This is why people voted.

People crawled through broken glass, voted in the middle of the Pandemic, stood in long lines. People worked incredibly hard to get the Democrats, a majority, Black voters, young voters, progressive voters. And I think it's suicide for this party, not to do everything it can to deliver on the stuff that's going to make a long-term difference.

Obviously, this package is needed. But the reality is, in two years, the checks that are coming, will have been spent. And what do you then say to a mid-term Democratic Party base, if you haven't fought till the last dog barks, to deliver on some of this more structural stuff?

Americans have not gotten a raise in more than a generation. We're at $7 an hour, it doesn't make any sense. So, I do think that this is not just progressives trying to be woker than now.

I think that this is a big - this is broadly popular in both parties, and it's needed in Red states and Blue states. I don't think that the progressives should just roll over on this one, because I think they're speaking for the majority of Americans, not just for the woke- Left.

CUOMO: 56 percent, in the most recent poll says they believe in a minimum wage.

Manu, how much echo effect is there to the words of Representative Jayapal? What is the chance that the Left flank will say "No, you know what? You're not getting our votes."

RAJU: I think--

CUOMO: "Because we vote on this bill, you're sending it over there. You know it's DOA so."

RAJU: I think very - I think very little, Chris.


RAJU: Because they know that there are so many other things in this bill that they view is very significant and central to getting this economy back going, whether it's money for state and local governments, whether it's $1,400 in relief checks, for individuals, under a certain income threshold, whether it's extending jobless benefits, nutrition assistance, and the like.

There are so many provisions in this massive proposal that they can't afford to just simply sink it over the $15 minimum wage. And in the Senate, there just is not the enough support in order to get this through.

There is, as Congresswoman Jayapal is saying, that, certainly there's precedent in the Senate to overturn the ruling of the Senate Parliamentarian, but that has not been done since 1975. And Senators on both sides are very reticent in going down that path because it could create chaos in the way the Senate operates.

And on top of that, you have the more immediate problem. If they were to take that route, overrule the Parliamentarian, then you could probably - you're probably going to cost you the votes on the back- end, for Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will vote against the bill because this parliamentary maneuver was done. So, there simply is no path to getting the $15 minimum wage.

Now, there is some talk though, Chris, about some incentives to penalize companies, and tax them, if they do not provide a $15 minimum wage for their employees. Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden are all talking about that, as an amendment. But that still runs into the same problems--


RAJU: --within the Democratic Party, getting enough support and also, does it pass the rules?

CUOMO: Van, the importance of this issue, to people who think like you, within your party, was made clear to me today. Somebody said, "Look, I don't have to tell it to you. Stevie sung it to you." And they were talking to me about "Living for the City" that Stevie Wonder wrote in 1973.


The lyrics of the key part are on the - you know the song. I know the song. But you know?

"His father works some days for fourteen hours And you can bet he barely makes a dollar His mother scrubs floors for many And you'd best believe, she hardly gets a penny Living just enough, just enough for the city."

JONES: "Just enough for the city."

CUOMO: About kids whose clothes are clean, but they don't have much, who are stressed, who don't see any better days, and we all know how that song ends with people getting caught up in the game, and winding up victims of circumstance.

They say that's just as real today. And if the Democrats don't do something about it, and I don't know how you can claim you did, if you didn't do the minimum wage, you're not keeping your promise.

JONES: I can't argue with Stevie Wonder. I can't argue with you.

Listen, this is a big deal. There is real pain at the bottom for both parties. People want to be able to work, and they want to be able to earn their way, out of poverty. And you need the rules to do that.

And so, I don't know what the options are. And obviously, it's tough to see progressives want to blow up the whole deal.

But if we don't show backbone, and strength, and resolve, you know, I'm always for the people at the bottom, folks in prison, folks who are working hard, who don't have anything. And this is one of those issues that it really - it's - this is not just politics. This is - this is real people's lives on the line right now.

CUOMO: Manu, you're smart as hell, but you're too young to really embrace that song. You got to--

RAJU: I love Stevie Wonder.

CUOMO: --you got to get religion on it. And--

RAJU: What are you talking about?

CUOMO: --you got to listen to it when especially when the guy says, "New York City, just like I pictured it."

Manu Raju, Van Jones, god bless, have a good weekend, and thank you.

RAJU: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right, the big news on this third COVID vaccine matters. It's on the verge of approval. We don't want to get ahead of it. But all the indications are it's moving the right way.

Johnson & Johnson, one and done, the efficacy rate is not as high as the other two brands in the testing phase. What is the difference? Why does it matter? And the big question is what does this vaccine mean for variants? Sanjay, next.









CUOMO: Good news Friday, you don't hear that too often. Why? Well, we have taken another step closer to a third vaccine in the United States, after an FDA panel recommended it for emergency use.

We need to take it in with other encouraging trends. Like what? Well, vaccine numbers overall are getting really ramping up by a multi- factor, OK? So, they are ahead of their 100 million doses in a 100 days rate.

75 percent of the 94 million doses so far have been administered. That means, as you see down there, about 7 percent of the population already fully vaccinated. I know that's not where we need to be. But it's much farther along than we were two months ago, if you think about it.

Vaccine hesitancy going down, now at 55 percent, among U.S. adults, up from 34 percent, in December. 34 percent said, "Yes, I want it." Now it's over half. Do we have to do work on that? Yes, especially in the hardest-hit communities. And that's a problem we're not really dealing with yet.

As you go down the socioeconomic scale, people are more hesitant about the vaccine. They're getting less attention. They're getting less supply. And that's going to be a problem. Know that now.

COVID cases, dramatic decline, hospitalizations, down, deaths, down. Could this be the beginning of the end? Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

Good to see you, Doc. Let's start macro, get to micro.


CUOMO: Macro, is this a real move towards baseline of no more Pandemic? Or is it just a temporary low?

GUPTA: You get right to it, Chris, I mean, that is the - that is the question. I think that we - my guess is that the metrics that matter will continue to go down.

People are concerned and, I think, understandably so, about these variants, in terms of overall case numbers potentially going up again. They've plateaued, right? They've been going down, they sort of plateaued. I don't think that's because of the variants yet. Because when we look at the variants around the country, maybe 10 percent of the country, you know, as has - you see these variants. Florida's the highest, 20 percent. So, I don't think that's what it is, so far.

I think some of it's the surge that came off the holidays, and things like that, that's sort of starting to flatten out. And we'll see what happens to these numbers over the next month.

But what we're going to look for, and I think we've been saying this all year now, Chris, is the lagging indicators, hospitalizations, and the tragic deaths. What I think is we're not going to see the proportional increase in hospitalizations, and deaths, and that's going to be the good news.

So even if the cases go up, the hospitalizations don't go up proportionately, that's going to be a really important indicator, Chris.

CUOMO: The J&J single shot, assuming it gets authorization, they say it could happen next week, it could start getting in there, how soon until you see it make an impact on herd immunity?

GUPTA: That may take a while because, somewhat surprisingly, they're going to only have about 3 million to 4 million doses that are coming out right away. They say 20 million by the end of next month, end of March, so that that'll make an impact.

If you look sort of, in the April timeframe, you're talking about 220 million shots between Moderna and Pfizer, that'd be 110 million people, and maybe 20 million more shots from Johnson & Johnson, which would be 20 million people, so that's 130 million. It's still not herd immunity. But the thing is, Chris, I got to tell

you herd immunity is this thing everyone pays attention to. But that's not that important sort of a switch. You're going to see improvements all along.

So, will Johnson & Johnson make an impact right away? Probably not. But it'll make an impact earlier than sort of mid-to-end of summer, when we will reach herd immunity.


CUOMO: How much does the mask-mocking that we're seeing from Ted Cruz, and the other geniuses, right now, on the Right, how big of a mitigator effect is that to our progress, if they keep pushing that "Mask is a nonsense" thing is, you know, "They're just overboard on the Left?"

GUPTA: Look, it's totally ridiculous.

I mean, Chris, the thing is that, if you leave aside the vaccines, and the monoclonal antibodies, and all the things that we're spending tons of money on, billions of dollars, masks alone, especially high- filtration masks, in riskier situations, when you're around a lot of people, for example, would probably work faster, and more completely than even the vaccine would.

I mean, there are people who say that it could essentially bring this Pandemic to an end, in four weeks, if people wore high-filtration masks, when they were in public like that.


GUPTA: Look, we've been saying that all along. We are - we are the home run nation, right? We like the touchdowns, the home runs and knockout punches. That's the vaccine, I get it.

But it also means we don't lean into the basics. And the basics are really important. I mean, lot of countries around the world that are doing so well, they don't have vaccines. They didn't have vaccines when they were doing so well. It was the masks.

So, the fact that we still mock it is so painful, because it could be helpful now, but it also really makes me think we didn't learn one of the most valuable lessons for that - for later.

CUOMO: Let's pull up the efficacy, full screen number three, efficacy one month after vaccination.

So moderate to severe versus severe only, you see Pfizer's two doses, two doses for Moderna. 66 percent, should people be worried about the difference in efficacy one month after vaccination with the single- shot versus the other two?

GUPTA: Well, Chris, I mean, when you look at the - so, if you look at the right side of the screen now, I mean, the idea that 85 percent protective against severe disease, I think that's critically important, and no hospitalizations, or deaths, at a month out with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CUOMO: That's really the key, right?

GUPTA: They're looking at vaccines that are--

CUOMO: Because that - well so that means that--

GUPTA: That's the key.

CUOMO: --you may still get sick, but you're not going to get that sick and you're not going to die. Literally zero!

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, and look, I don't want to minimize moderate illness. I mean, it can be pretty bad for some people. I mean, you, my friend, know as well. But the severe illness, the hospitalizations, the deaths, that's the sort of thing.

Like my parents, both got vaccinated. They're in their late 70s. They're in Southern Florida.

They were worried for a year, they might get sick, they might have to go to the hospital. They were worried about that. And if they went on a breathing machine, they knew the odds were going to be against them. They wake up in the morning now not having to worry about that.

So, regardless whether it's the Johnson & Johnson, or the other two, I really do think that's the key.

CUOMO: So, the timeframe now, based on Fauci, and your same calculations, if things hold, late spring, into the summer, you'll start seeing big numbers here, of people who have a big degree of protection, and we'll see where that takes us.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appreciate you. Have a good weekend to the extent that you got one.

GUPTA: Yes, have a great weekend, you too.

CUOMO: All right, so CPAC, why am I talking about it? Because it is the laboratory for the pain to come in this process. They won't even vote on the Pandemic bill tonight, in the House, because they would rather be at the Church of Trump.

No matter what he does to that party, no matter how he splinters off what used to be the Republican Party, they are pushing his big lie at an annual conservative gathering. Do you remember the party of "Character counts?"

A new segment for you tonight to boast - bust open some of the lowlights, as Michael Smerconish and I will debate right and wrong. What is working for them? Or is it really working? Next.









CUOMO: For conservatives, or what used to be conservatives, at CPAC, 2024 can't come soon enough. They want to start right now.

What does that tell you about the level of cooperation you'll see in Congress, even on the Pandemic? Well, here's your answer. A dozen of them didn't even show up to vote on the bill tonight

Senators Hawley, Cruz, they're making clear that Trumpism is the future of the party, lies about rigged elections are the order of the day. It's all over the place. That's why I wanted to bring in my friend, and mentor, Michael Smerconish.

Let's take a look at what they're doing.


CUOMO: Well, it's true! Let's take a look at what they're doing and why it makes sense for them or not.

Number one, keep pushing the big lie, Exhibit A.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You know, on January, the 6th, I objected, during the Electoral College certification. Maybe you heard about it.


HAWLEY: I stood up.


HAWLEY: And I said, I said we ought to have a debate about election integrity.

T. W. SHANNON, (R) FORMER OKLAHOMA STATE LEGISLATOR: The reason that people stormed the Capitol was because they felt hopeless because of a rigged election.

DEROY MURDOCK, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Democrats, not Republicans, installed ballot drop boxes on sidewalks, where nobody oversaw them. How many fraudulent ballots got deposited in these boxes unchecked and then got counted? Who knows?


CUOMO: Why does this work?

SMERCONISH: So what's most offensive to me is Josh Hawley, and I have to say this, Chris, because as you know, the expression, "All politics are local," he said at CPAC today that he was fighting for the rule of the people.

Well, I'm "The people," five people, under my roof, as Pennsylvanians, voted lawfully by absentee ballot. He wanted to disenfranchise us. What's most galling is that he kept with that plan, even after the events of January 6th turned violent.


This all now transcends the typical Left-Right debate over ideology and issues. We're talking about the rule of law being threatened and the ability to conduct elections lawfully in the future, going forward.

I mean, I worry about 2022. I'm sure you do. I worry about 2024 because they're just refusing to accept the result of an election, despite the whole record.

CUOMO: That's the play, though. The play is chaos. And they feel the same way about the rule of law that you do.

They're saying that you are the problem, because you rigged it, all five of you, in that Smerconish household. You cheated. You cheated, because you don't believe in the Party anymore, so you wanted to kill Trump.

And it is us or them existential, trial by combat. And that's what they're teeing up, which is why he gave the power fist, to a bunch of people, who would then become part of the Insurrection. That's your party.

SMERCONISH: Right. So what - so what court judgment - what adjudication of the--

CUOMO: They never gave it a chance.

SMERCONISH: --60 or so that there were?

CUOMO: No evidentiary hearings!


CUOMO: They never gave us a chance.


CUOMO: You shut it down. You rigged it.

SMERCONISH: You know that that's all - I know, you're too smart for this, and I appreciate the role that you're playing.

But the Middle District of Pennsylvania heard their evidence. That was the court where Rudy Giuliani had to face the judge and say, "No, we're not asserting fraud." That which they were saying under the glare of lights was totally different from what they were saying in courtrooms. And that's what the record shows.

CUOMO: And so many real Republicans, so many real conservatives - I had Matt Schlapp on, earlier in the week. Left killed me. Killed me!

And I say "Bring it on," because conservatives and Smerconishes said, "You know what? I just want you to know that guy's not speaking for me. I just want you to know that. That guy, I don't know why he's in charge of CPAC. I don't know what's happening over there. But that's not me. I'm telling you."

And that makes it worth it, because those are the only minds that you can hope to change and bring back to reasonable.

OK, proof number two, Exhibit B of "No, this is all about chaos. And that you guys, everything you say is crazy sauce."

Ted Cruz, one of the smartest guys in the Senate, says this about masks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRUZ: Now, I want to understand how this virus works. So, when you walk in, you got to put your mask on. Sadly, I've got two. You walk in. You got to put your mask on. You sit down. You take your mask off. See, apparently, the virus is actually connected to elevation.


CRUZ: Now remember, this is all about science. It's actually - it may not be elevation. I think it's - it's that there are hormones that are released in your thighs when you're sitting.


CRUZ: So you can sit at the table, and there's no virus being transmitted. But if you stand up, "Put the mask on!"


CUOMO: In truth, he's better as a comedian than as a politician, to be honest. His face alone is funny. And he said, "You have to wear four masks." For him, that is true, because it's one for every face he's shown to the public. He's a constitutionalist. Now, he's a renegade chaotic person.

But this "They're lying to you. You never needed a mask. And the proof is it makes no sense how they have you use it" effect?

SMERCONISH: So, here's the reason this one's appalling.

It's appalling because that mask that he's being asked to wear isn't for him. It's for you. And it's for me. And it's for everyone with whom he comes in contact. That mask is so that he doesn't infect us.

He's arguing today at CPAC for his right to infect you and me, and I'll tell you what it reminds me of.

It reminds me of the Tea Party, at the time of the Affordable Care Act, having been proposed, when the Gadsden flags were all raised, "Don't Tread on Me," people thumping on their chests about individual freedom and liberty, what were they fighting for?

They were fighting for their right not to be insured, so that they could then show up in an ER, without insurance, and burden you, and burden me, because we're responsible and we have insurance. It's completely illogical. And, and, it's actually at odds with the individual freedom that they maintain they're arguing for.

CUOMO: It is fundamental though, to a disinformation campaign. Up is down.


CUOMO: And everything is - you know, Orwell fell short, as it turns out, on what doublespeak was.

"They've always been lying to you. Everything they say is a lie. And if you don't agree with me," now, here's the last one. I want to skip and go to point four. And this is the capper on it that shows you what that party is now going to be.

Not only is the Left crazy. But anybody, who is not down, with Trump, and the perversity that's coming out of my face right now is the enemy, even if they say they're a Republican. Listen.


CRUZ: And the media desperately, desperately, desperately wants to see a Republican civil war.

John Boehner made some news. He suggested that I do something that was anatomically impossible.


CRUZ: To which my response was "Who's John Boehner?"


DONALD TRUMP JR.: Speaking of bombing the Middle East, have you seen Liz Cheney's poll number?


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): What's true in Florida is true for conservatives across the nation. We cannot, we will not, go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.


CUOMO: So, we're making up the civil war, and then they attack other Republicans, you know, in succession. This is where they are. I really believe the question has been answered about where the party is going. And you just saw it, the good, the bad and the ugly.

SMERCONISH: Brace yourself. I think I'm with Cruz on this one. I mean, to the - to the extent that he is saying "There is not a civil war, within the Republican Party," I think the civil war is over. I think there's already been surrender.

Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, and even Mitch McConnell, they just don't have the juice. The enthusiasm for the base is all playing itself out in Orlando. And that's the concentration that then will drive primary voters. So, to the extent he's saying "We're trying to gin up a civil war," he might be right.

CUOMO: Except that wasn't his point. His point was that there is no division. Your point is "There's division. It's just ended. It's over. You now basically have a three-party system." We'll see what kind of legs real Republicans can get underneath them.

Michael Smerconish, as always, we benefit from your insight. I wish you a good weekend, brother. I'll see you on TV.

SMERCONISH: You too. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

CUOMO: Tonight, questions following the U.S. airstrikes in Syria. This is the first known military action taken by President Biden. There was no congressional approval. Is that OK?

This is not a matter of how you feel. It's a matter of law. Now, I think it is wrong for presidents to take power from Congress, even if Congress is willing to throw it to them, because they don't want to own any hard votes.

We have a former Member of Congress, who's also a former Defense Secretary, to talk to us about what this meant, what we saw in the Trump administration, and what the right way is. Next.









CUOMO: How does the United States of America decide whether or not to use military action?

Well, by what we've seen in recent years, the President decides, does it. And if it's going to be a really long time, at some point, he thinks about talking to Congress, and they usually will kind of give him a nod, without actually debating or having a vote. Is that the right way?

Nothing's for free, even if it was drones, even if - there were people in the region. We have people there. They're civilians. They're contractors. They're people there. And what if these kinds of actions lead to more military engagement, men and women who have courage that I don't, putting their lives at risk, for the rest of us?

Now technically, for the first 160-plus years, we followed the straight Constitution. The Presidents prepare to make war, then make the case to Congress, and your Representatives vote on whether or not to do it.

Then came Korea and the Cold War, takes us to 1973. Congress didn't like exactly what's happening now, by the way, tried to take its power back, passed a law called the WPA, the War Powers Act, narrowed the parents' ability - the President's ability to act.

The President can do it, if there is an imminent threat on U.S. people or interests. And that interests boy, boy, did that get loosely interpreted! Only one President Gerald Ford has ever bothered to even file the necessary report that you're supposed to, to engage the War Powers Act, as President.

So last night's so-called proportional response may have been the right thing to do, because they were killing people that we care about.

But was it imminent? Was it on our people? How was it in our interests? The contractors, OK, may be. Shouldn't have somebody made the case? Was it like that when Trump took out Soleimani? Was that imminent? It isn't now, either, is it?

The problem isn't that Biden, or Trump, or even Obama, or Bush, or Clinton. They all did it this way. They had power that used to and is supposed to reside with Congress.

You see, we're still operating under a pair of Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, AUMF, from 2001 and 2002. They're almost two decades old. And they justify fighting terror.

But we've had 41 million operate - 41 million, God forbid, 41 military operations in 19 countries. Is it really all about terrorism that stemmed from 9/11?

The threat that we attacked last night, Iranian-backed militias in Syria, who bombed in Baghdad, those people didn't even exist when the AUMF was written. Now, I could point out that Biden seemed to understand this, before he was in the Oval Office, just like we did with Trump's tweets, right? Take a look.

The reality is, whomever is in the office, and whatever letter is by their name, "R" or "D," they're going to use the power they have, unless Congress gets in their way.

And Congress doesn't do that, because they don't want to own a vote, ever since they took the one to go to Iraq, on bad Intel, about yellowcake, and they got hurt. And they don't want to do that anymore.

Let's discuss with someone who understands the issue much better and understands the considerations much better, Senator, Secretary of Defense, under Clinton, Secretary William Cohen.

Good to have you back, sir.


CUOMO: Now, to give myself a chance, in a debate that I am not on even footing, I just want to play what Congressman Schiff, Chairman Schiff, of the Intel Committee, said about Biden interfacing with the Gang of Eight, before they did this, and his feeling about it.

Here, sir.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Technically, yes, we were given advance notification, but it was done in such a manner that it wasn't meaningful notification. And so, we have gone back to the Administration, and we're going to try to make sure that where it's necessary, in the future that we get more effective notice in advance.


CUOMO: OK. Why is it OK?

COHEN: Well, I think he's right, that they need a bit more advance notice.

And the purpose of the notice is so that people, a limited group of people, the Big Eight, so to speak, can have an opportunity to talk to the Commander-in-Chief, to give perhaps a different perspective, on whether or not military force should be used under those circumstances.

The Commander-in-Chief feels that if he has to act at an appropriate time that he cannot share all of the details with the Big Eight, and I understand that. I've been on both sides of the issue.

But I want to go back because there was a vote taken, back during the first war in the Gulf. And that's when President Bush 41 was about to send 500,000 troops into the Gulf. And President Bush, at that point, felt that he only needed a U.N. authorization.

And I know that I made the case on the floor, and with him personally, that no, he had to come to the United States Congress, to get authority, to do that, because we didn't swear allegiance to the U.N., but to the United States Constitution. And he did. He was afraid, initially, he wouldn't get the votes. And so, he was

going to go around it, until he had to face up to the responsibility say, "No, you're making a big commitment here. And you have to have us with you now, on this takeoff, because if this goes wrong, it's all on you, without us, and we're coming after you."

So, he made the right decision. And we made the right decision to go after Saddam Hussein to drive him out of Kuwait. So that was one case in which Congress said, "Yes, we want to be on board here. We're willing to take the responsibility that comes with it."

Since that time, though, Congress has very little influence over the Executive. We can - "We!" When I was a Congressman or a Senator, we could cut off funds, not likely. We could try to restrict what the President could do when circumstances called for imminent action. So basically, Congress has given up that authority over the years.

And as a Member of the Cabinet, I was quite not happy about it. But I understood that I was with the Commander-in-Chief, I wanted more flexibility to take action. But I also understood I spent 24 years on the Hill. And I understood why it's really important that you have Members, who are also elected to a co-equal branch--

CUOMO: Right.

COHEN: --who are going to be supporting the men and women, who are going off to fight, they have to be part of it. So I think Adam Schiff is right. You need more notice than they got. And I hope that President Biden will do that in the future.

CUOMO: But--

COHEN: But I think it - yes, go ahead.

CUOMO: You - but you understand the policy and law better than I.

But it is not - it's not a notice provision. That is a workaround. Him going to the Gang of Eight is not in the War Powers Act. It's not in the AUMF. It's just an accommodation. "I'm going to give you a heads- up that this is what I'm going to do. And this is why I'm going to do it."

The mechanism is "If it's not imminent, to our interest, or our people, you have to come to us, and let us debate it, and say whether or not we're supposed to do it." That's the way it's supposed to work.

And we've had an extra, you know, an extra legislative change here, where you've just given, the Congress just given them the power to do it, my fear is, it's never for free, Secretary.

So, there's going to be escalation. Things are going to happen. Eventually, there're going to be men and women in the way of lead that's flying around. And don't you think that they should have to stand up and be counted in Congress, if people's lives are going to be on the line?

COHEN: I do. But to come back to the issue of "Imminent," what is imminent? When are our forces, our interests in danger?

In the Iranian militia attacking the Green Zone, attacking some of our contractors, or military personnel, you want to then go back to the Congress, and say, "By the way, I'm thinking of kind of responding here to make sure they don't continue to do this for the next 10 days." You want to have that as part of a debate in Congress?

Or rather, would you put that in the hands of Congress saying "The Big Eight, we think you represent your parties, and your interests, we want you to know we're about to do this. If you have real problems on this, speak up. And if you don't, we're going to go do it because we have to protect our people, and our interests, in that region, right now."

Now, Adam Schiff said he doesn't have enough information about it. He doesn't know whether it was imminent or not. He didn't know if it's the right target. Now, I happen to believe that Secretary Austin knows the right target, because he spent most of his life, as Central Command, or in Central Command, and knows exactly what's going on, and where the interests are that the Iranians are using, to make sure they don't target our people, and our personnel in the region.

So, we have more information to get. We need to know more with more specificity about how imminent it was, whether better notice, or more notice--

CUOMO: Right.

COHEN: --given to the Congress, but it should be.


CUOMO: I hear you. Otherwise, they got to change the law, instead of just giving up their power. They either do their job or don't do their job or change their job.

COHEN: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: Secretary William Cohen, thank you so much for your perspective on a Friday night. Appreciate you and be well.

COHEN: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: We'll be right back. Something you want to hear right after this.


CUOMO: You know they're at CPAC, rallying themselves up, to make sure that Trump gets as good a start on the next election as possible. Well remember his legacy. It's not just the Pandemic that dragged on because of his investment in our denial of the reality. But it's January 6th.

And no matter what they don't say, no matter how much they ignore, no matter how they try to blame it on somebody else, all their cries about being about police, and caring about law and order, are BS, after that day, and their silence thereafter.

There were killers in that crowd that attacked our Capitol. We have breaking news in the race to solve who is responsible for Officer Brian Sicknick's death.


CUOMO: We cannot lose sight of the human price that was paid on that day.

Sources tell CNN, the FBI has identified a suspect, who may have been captured on video, attacking several officers, with bear spray. As we've reported, the working theory is that Sicknick was among those exposed to it, in a big amount, and he had a deadly reaction.