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Biden: Enough COVID-19 Vaccines For Every American Adult By End Of May; FBI Director: Capitol Attack Was "Domestic Terrorism"; Texas Governor Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 02, 2021 - 21:00   ET




KAYE: They never did get to meet. He was so excited. He wanted to meet him so badly, he said he would wear a HAZMAT suit, before he got sick, if he could come and meet this new baby.


KAYE: But unfortunately, they lost him so quickly.

COOPER: Wow! Well thank you for telling that story. Appreciate it. My best to the family. Randi Kaye, thanks.

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You know, Coop, we hear stories like this. And they hit you so hard. And you wonder, are we not telling them right?

I mean, how do we get news, like we're having tonight, out of Texas, when those stories have reached everybody's ears, and we hope their heads and then hopefully their hearts? How? How can you watch a story like that and not understand the threat, and not understand what we have to do and why.


CUOMO: That was beautifully told. And thank you for telling it. Appreciate you, pal.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Now look, first, the good news. There is good news that we are ahead of schedule, in terms of when we may get back to normal. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Now, that would be two months earlier than expected. So, President Biden has to hold himself to his word. If he can do it, countless lives could be saved.

There is only one thing that we can do to mess up this accelerated track for herd immunity. And that is to give the variants a chance to catch up, and to create cases faster than we can vaccinate people, and increase the chances that any deficiencies in the vaccine can be exploited, and maybe even waste people who've been vaccinated.

That's why the Head of the CDC just said we must be careful, especially if relaxing any protective measures. So, what did Texas announce right after that?

The Governor announces they are throwing all caution to the wind, and reopening 100 percent. The same governor who did not prepare the state for bad weather, is now leaving it exposed to a deadly virus, just as hope is on the horizon.

This is about denial. It is about defiance of reality. And that combination is hurting us as much or more than COVID. Another effort to distort the obvious was blown to bits in Washington D.C. today.

The man put in place by Trump -- no, put back January 6th, that's what this is about. Because that's the greatest form of denial that we're going to see right now is where the Party of Trump wants to take our past.

The man who heads the FBI, at Trump's urging, told the GOPQ today that "No, what you're seeing here, the infamy of January 6th, this was no mere protest gone awry." It was what they used to care about most on the Right, the worst kind of planned violence, terrorism.


CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: It's behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism.

The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it's not going away anytime soon.


CUOMO: That's it. That's the truth. That's it.

The FBI Director, Christopher Wray, whom every Righty, in the room he was in today, applauded, when he was picked. He sat there and told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "This was domestic terror, and tolerating it would make a mockery of our rule of law."

So then what does the "Law and order" bunch do? They go into denial, and insist on questions about Nancy Pelosi and Antifa, that "Wasn't this really just a protest with some pockets of bad actors, you know, skirmishes, nothing planned?"

They will say anything to ignore the obvious reality of January 6th. They're always curious about investigating when they don't like the truth. You tell the truth, and they don't like it, "Well now we got to keep looking, don't we? Do we really know everything?"

The truth is as obvious as the gush of all those Blood-red Hats that stormed the Capitol.

I wonder why they changed from the days when they hated anyone not calling out terror as that, and only that. Don't you remember?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Radical Islamic terrorism is a fact. We have a president that nobody can understand, he doesn't want to use the term.


Radical Islamic terrorism, and I'll tell you what, we have a president that refuses to use the term. He refuses to say it.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): We'd like a Commander-in-Chief who calls the enemy by its name.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): He still refused to mention "Radical Islam."

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): As long as we have a Commander-in-Chief, unwilling even to utter the words, "Radical Islamic terrorism," we will not have a concerted effort to defeat these radicals before they continue to murder more and more innocents.


CUOMO: Yes, where's that now? Why didn't they keep that same energy, now that they're told this is domestic terror? They didn't have to be convinced before. It's obvious now. They can see it.

Remember this, from the last hearing?


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Agents-provocateurs, fake Trump protesters.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You call them "Insurrectionists?" I mean, folks who I walked by, when I was on my way to the House chamber, were standing there peacefully.


CUOMO: Yes, then, it's what they did after.

The Judiciary's Ranking Member, Senator Chuck Grassley, he used most of his opening statement today to spin the hearing toward Antifa violence. Christopher Wray had to shut it down.

Listen to this.


WRAY: We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with the 6th.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by "Fake Trump protesters?"

WRAY: We have not seen evidence of that, at this stage, certainly.


CUOMO: Obviously, that was Senator Dick Durbin, referring to what Senator Grassley had said, and Wray shut it down.

And you know, who agrees with Wray? The Trump supporters who have been charged for their role in the attack on the 6th? They are proud to own that they did it in the name of Trump. They dismiss the idea that this was about any other group.

Get this. It used to be that these people on the Right were fine with doing anything to anyone even connected to the planning of a terror event, let alone a perpetrator. Remember? "Waterboard?" "Got to do it." "Torture?" "Need the answers." "It's about the -- the bigger good. You got to protect the homeland, got to protect ourselves."

Now, Senators Mike Lee and Josh Hawley, the guy who says that "I walked past," you fist-pumped a bunch of people, who some of them then became part of an insurrection. That's what you did, OK?

Now, these senators on the Right are most concerned about whether the FBI is infringing on the rights of the insurrectionists.


SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): We have to make sure that the civil liberties of the American people are protected.

Are you geo-locating people through the FBI, based on where they were on January 6th?

HAWLEY: Are you saying that you don't know whether or not the Bureau has scooped up geo-location data, metadata, from cellphone records or cell phone towers?

You said that you're using the relevant authorities. What -- what authorities are they?


CUOMO: Try to find sound to those cats, Hawley's new, of anybody on the Right, wanting to be careful about how you go after terror. "Be careful."

I mean, come on. How could it be any more ugly any more obvious, trying to rein in the FBI from finding those who sought to kill them, our lawmakers and our former vice president? Is the pull of power so strong, that you don't even care what was going to be done to you? Why are they so afraid of the truth?

A key witness to the truth is here, the Head of the House Intel Committee, Lead Impeachment Manager, at the Trump first impeachment trial, Congressman Adam Schiff.

Good to see you, sir.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good to see you.

CUOMO: So two things that I want your take on from today when this was called domestic terror. What does it mean to you in terms of this collective denial of seeing January 6th for what it was, on the Right, what motivates it?

SCHIFF: No, look, it's a continuation of the big lie that led to the Insurrection.

You had, obviously the President, the former president, out pushing this lie about the election, and it was rigged, and it was stolen, and he actually won a landslide. That contributed and a lot of the Members in Congress contributed to that lie. And that led us to January 6th.

Now there's a new big lie. And the new big lie is that "No, it wasn't really Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol. It was Antifa masquerading. That was a false flag operation."


And Republican members that are willing to do that, willing to feed that kind of nonsense, that kind of conspiracy theory, continue to do a disservice to the country. And it's dangerous because there are lots of people that believe that.

And so, I was glad to see Director Wray today so forcefully shoot that theory down. Will that be enough to make it go away? Probably not, and --

CUOMO: Not by what happened after it.

Let's play that for the audience, Chairman, because we were referring to Senator Grassley's opening statement, and what he decided to try to cast as the potential reality of what January 6th was about.

Here, listen.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): It's been a relatively frequent sight at summer's violence events to see individuals acting in coordination, holding the "A" symbol for Antifa.

In light of these ever-present Left-wing threats, I'm concerned about resource-shifting talk among our colleagues across the aisle.


CUOMO: See, that's the real concern. To me, the politics are obvious and odious.


CUOMO: And the people can decide. Everything's obvious to me.

Here's what's not obvious. How do you stop the growth of right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism, if you have this pushback from the Right that "We don't want to shift any resources from those bad guys on the Left," as if we were talking about Democrats and Republicans, and not neo-Nazis and nationalists?

Are you worried that we may not be able to fight back against these people the way we should?

SCHIFF: I am worried about it. In fact, we're investigating that issue in the Committee right now.

That is, in the -- in the weeks, months, years leading up to January 6th, why is there such a fear among the Intelligence professionals, at the Department of Homeland Security, or in terms of resource allocation within the Bureau, that they couldn't go after domestic terrorists of the white-nationalist variety? Because that was discouraged because that was viewed as an attack on Trump supporters.

We did see, and you'll remember very well, Chris, Bill Barr, out there, hyping Antifa as the threat the country needed to worry about, when the threat that was metastasizing was the threat of white- nationalist domestic terror.

And so, we didn't have the resources, potentially, that we should have because of that political pressure. Comments, like you just quoted, contribute to that, that resistance to putting the resources where they need to go, to being clear about the threat that we face, not being equivocal about it.

If you can't diagnose the threat, if you can't speak directly to threat, you can't respond to the threat.

CUOMO: Now, obviously, you're always invited, always have a platform on the show to discuss this. There is something that's a little ahead of where we are in the argument right now. But we may not be having the argument had you gotten this past back in 2019.

House Resolution 4192, after we get through the fog of them trying to create fiction about what happened on January 6th, your Party wasn't crazy about some of your solutions to this that makes these things criminal under our laws, so you don't have to fit domestic terrorist under other laws.

I think it's time to re-approach that. It's going to be hard with people on the Right, tough sell on the Left also. You are welcome back on this show, once this part comes down, to make the case for what you think will keep us more safe, Chairman.

SCHIFF: Well, Chris, I appreciate that. And of course, we know with the backdrop of the Trump administration, where they would have used any authority they had. So we would need to make sure that there are very strong civil liberties and privacy protections in anything we do.

But I think you underscore as indeed, I was trying to, in that bill, a couple of years ago, the fact that, as you quoted these Republican Members, they obviously don't equate the threat from international terror with a threat from domestic terror, that domestic terror, particularly of a white-nationalist variety, they want to treat differently.

And I think we need to give the same priority, although not use the same tools, but give the same priority to domestic terrorism, take it just as seriously as we do any other threat to the country. And that I think is what we need to do, whether we use a legislative approach or we use just an executive approach.

CUOMO: Well, when it comes back up, you have a place to argue the case, right here. Congressman Adam Schiff, be well.

SCHIFF: Thank you. You too.

CUOMO: All right, breaking Pandemic news. As I said at the top of the show, the White House has moved up the timeline, on vaccine availability, for every, American adult, two months ahead of time, May.

But as the President and the CDC Chief remind us, it's not a guarantee. It won't get here as fast as we want, then back to normal, if we let our guard down.



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.


CUOMO: So, why would the Governor of Texas not just ignore this, but go a 100-miles-an-hour in the opposite direction? When we're so close, why open up 100 percent?

We're going to talk about potential consequences with somebody, who is fighting the fight, to keep the rest of us safe. While the lawmakers talk, people like the nurse you're going to meet, know the reality of who's dying, why they're dying, and what can be done.

A hero joins us next.








CUOMO: OK, so we want to talk about the realities that are going on in this country when it comes to the Pandemic. And here's the good news.

The U.S. will now have enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May, two months ahead of schedule. Major promise by President Biden today, after announcing that drug-maker Merck will now help produce rival Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine.

Businesses can get together. Can politicians?

The partnership made possible by the White House's use of the Defense Production Act. Remember, everybody was asking Trump to do it, and he wouldn't? That speeds up the Administration's previous goal of having enough shots by two months.

We can't forget, however, there's always a delay from getting the shots produced to deliver to in your arm. The President echoed the CDC today and its warning to Americans about holding on to mitigation a little longer.


BIDEN: Now's not the time to let up. I've asked the country to wear masks for my first 100 days in office. Now is not the time to let our guard down. People's lives are at stake.


CUOMO: He's right. Time is a killer.

Just about eight percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. A look across the country shows how far off we are from where we need to be. The majority of states are still in the teens when it comes to partial vaccinations. The fully vaccinated percentage, of course, even lower.

Spring surge seems inevitable, why? States are easing up on measures. And look, I get it. Everybody's had it. We all have COVID fatigue.

But what you see in Texas and Mississippi, getting rid of everything right away, right in the time, where it's most sensitive, in this race between variant and vaccine, listen to the Governor, and the reaction he got.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Effective next Wednesday, all businesses, of any type, are allowed to open 100 percent. Also, I am ending the statewide mask mandate.



CUOMO: Look, nobody likes what we're doing. But how can you cheer when you've had so many die, and so many feeling the toll right now in Texas? Here's somebody who knows. Brittany Smart, a Texas ICU nurse.

Thank you for joining us right after your shift. I appreciate you.


CUOMO: So, you are there. When you hear that the Governor believes you are ready to have no more restrictions, what are you afraid that will look like in your place of work?

SMART: I felt like we finally hit a point, where we all started breathing a little bit easier. We kind of saw a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. And I kind of feel like that was shut down. I think we're all pretty exhausted. And I'm scared of what this is going to look like.

CUOMO: How much easier is the job now than when you guys were at peak?

SMART: Oh, man! When this first started, I went to New York. And I remember saying I thought I was in a third-world country, like I've never seen anything like it. And then I said, "Yes, this is only New York."

And then I got back to Texas, four months later, and I was like "Oh my Gosh, this is happening here too." And it was -- it was absolutely devastating.

I think it's going to continue to look like this. And it might even be worse, because we're exhausted now. Now we're tired, and we really thought it was coming to an end. It's -- it is not going to look good.

CUOMO: So just to be clear, it's not like, you guys are playing cards all day long, because the cases have dwindled so much, so that the idea of not having to mask up anymore makes sense to you.

SMART: Yes, we're still not allowing visitors. We're still masking up. We're still taking all the precautions because we still have COVID patients.

It's not like the COVID patients are gone. It's not like they're not dying. It's just that we no longer need a refrigerated truck outside is the deal, you know? Our morgues have finally let up just a little bit, so we can actually take care of these patients, after they die, and allow them to be buried properly.

We don't have people in the hallways anymore on stretchers. We're not putting dead bodies in empty rooms at this point.

So, we're breathing a little bit easier, but it doesn't really -- it is not better. It's -- it's just, it's finally easing up a tad bit. It's a little nerve-wracking to see that we're going to take away the mask. I don't think it's safe to do that right now.

CUOMO: When you heard about this, what is your biggest fear about what happens between now and this burst of vaccines that will help get more people protected?

SMART: My biggest fear is that we're going to -- we're going to lose more people and we're going to lose them faster because this variant is a lot stronger.

CUOMO: You know that already?

SMART: And it's going to spread a lot faster.

CUOMO: Have you had any experience with the variant or is this what you're hearing?


SMART: So, I have -- honestly whenever we test people for COVID, we don't test the variants. We don't know what. We just know they're COVID-positive. So, I'm not sure if I've taken care of someone with the variant.

I just know all of our infectious disease doctors had been like, you know, we're nervous, because with the variant, we're not sure exactly if this vaccine is going to cover that variant. But we want all the protection we can get.

And I think it's important until we know exactly what we're fighting, to continue to protect everybody in the best way we can.

CUOMO: I am amazed by what you guys have been capable of doing. So many of you are so young, and you weren't ready for what these situations brought. And yet, you've handled it so amazingly, that you changed our collective fate. And I hope you know that that's felt about what you do every day, all across this country.

And you and I have a mutual friend, which is how I found you.


CUOMO: And no wonder birds of a feather flock together. You're both amazing people. And I will stay in touch. And you will always be able to get me, and let me know what's happening in Texas, with these new measures relaxed, and I will tell people the truth.

SMART: Awesome!

CUOMO: Brittany Smart, stay healthy, keep your energy up. And thank you for saving people.

SMART: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Take care. SMART: Thank you.

CUOMO: Can you imagine, and all we do for people like that is make it harder, then we celebrate them, then we make it harder. Why?

The Supreme Court active now, they may soon rule on a very, very important case, voting rights that will impact communities of color, particularly. I think you can say fairly that the Voting Rights Act is under attack again in a way that we've never seen since its inception.

If Justices weaken a key provision that blocks racial discrimination, what will be in place to stop any kind of suppression move? We'll take it on next.









CUOMO: Conservative Supreme Court justices seem ready to uphold an Arizona voting law that Democrats argue makes it harder for minorities to vote.

One Arizona GOP lawyer making the case today before the court that Republicans need these rules, fair or not, to win. Listen.


AMY CONEY BARRETT, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's the interest of the Arizona RNC here in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct voter ballot disqualification rules on the books?

RNC LAWYER: Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us. It's the difference between winning an election 50 to 49 and losing.



CUOMO: Sounds pretty honest!

Let's discuss why that seems so popular with the justices and what the politics are at play. David Gregory, Laura Coates, good to see you both.

Laura, why is it so simple for so many of the justices, in terms of saying, "Yes, I think this is fine, what they want to do, in terms of carving up the community?"

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think he said the quiet part out loud.

The idea here that the only way to win, they believe, is through suppression, in some way, shape, or form. And that -- if that's the only way a party can survive, perhaps the party should not survive, if that's the tactic you use.

The Supreme Court's looking at this because they haven't been particularly friendly, as you know, in recent times, to the Voting Rights Act.

Number one, gutting Section 5, the formula that actually provides for the preclearance by the DoJ on these issues, the idea of also upending the idea of the intent-based test, meaning they gave a real benefit of the doubt to jurisdictions about whether they had a racially-motivated intent to adopt things.

And what's left now is the results test, meaning if you didn't have the intent to discriminate, or to create this inequity, if the result is to have this effect, still, then you can still fall under Section 2, and still infringe upon that aspect of it.

The court is already leaning towards the idea of "Well, this exists in other places, the ability to have a person's vote only count if it's actually in the precinct."

And the other way is the idea of saying only certain people can actually take your absentee ballot, and place it there for you. Looking across the country and saying "This happens in other places. But of course, these lawyers have pointed out that the reason they're doing it is to capitalize in respect on the disparities that are already there."

CUOMO: So Dave -- oh good. We have David back now. For a second, I lost his shot. They were showing me. And I was trying to tell the Control Room, "Why would you show me when you can show Laura Coates, who's speaking all this intelligence right now, and I look like a hat rat."

All right, so look, Section 5 was always going to be a tricky test with any kind of conservative court, because preclearance with the federal government when elections are so closely held by States, OK.

But now you've lost the intent test. And you've lost the determination test, which is, you know, what does this law in fact, do on a regular basis?

What do you think the chance is, Laura, quick follow, then I'll come to you, David, if the court moves to allow this move, what does that mean for the future in all these different suppression rules on the books?

COATES: Well, frankly, they are looking like they're inclined to do so to uphold the idea that precinct rule, as well as the absentee rule. However, they refused, in their questioning, to go as far as either of the Republican lawyers in this case.

They tested the parameters. They put out hypotheticals, the idea that you couldn't just have a carte blanche, if you had a time, place and manner, even exhausted the notion of "OK, if you tell everyone, they have to vote between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M., at a country club, is that OK?" And they conceded that's not in fact, the case.

Also, second thing was the Supreme Court was reluctant to say, "Listen, even if you did not create the disparity, you can't capitalize on what you know, to be racial disparities, in order to win an election. That would run afoul to the results test."

So although they may be inclined to support that aspect of the Arizona laws, the reasoning for so does not suggest that they're willing to throw away the results test of the Voting Rights Act, which is a good thing.

CUOMO: Right. Well, you got to have some -- then you don't have any Voting Rights Act. Really, if you don't have that, there's really no federal protection.


CUOMO: David, one light issue and then one heavier issue.


The light issue is Republicans vote early, more than Democrats tend to. That's not what this is about today. But that is one of the major directions of this new kind of burst of laws across the country.

Why would they want to get rid of early voting when they vote more often early than Democrats?


The part that you played of the Republican argument, out of Arizona, was so telling that it came up, in part of this, because it is zero- sum politics. And you've actually heard this from President Trump as well being at a competitive disadvantage.

Republicans, you know, this has been an issue. I've talked to Republican officials about this over the years, because I've been covering this issue of supposed fraud, voter fraud for the years. And, of course, Trump's just the ultimate in spreading the lie about it.

But it's -- it is voter suppression. The more people vote, in an increasingly-diverse America, the worse it is for Republicans. Even though Republicans, when they lost the second go-around to President Obama said "We got to -- we got to expand as a party," well, that's not what they did.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: Certainly under Trump, they've gotten narrower as a party. So, it doesn't make sense to me. And it just -- it goes to the fundamental question, which is that why don't you have a straight-up contest here? Everybody should be able to vote.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: And -- and the -- what animates, where the Republican grassroots, is this notion that there's widespread fraud that's benefiting minorities in this country. And it just hasn't been borne out by the facts.

CUOMO: I appreciate it. I'm short on time.

But I'll tell you what. If they allow this law, I bet you it's going to be one of the main arrows used by those, who want to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate, because they'll have no other way federally, to overturn any of this legislation, if the filibuster is in place, because they'll never get it done.

David Gregory, Laura Coates, thank you both very much.

Now, we have to get back to something, because if something matters once, it should matter until it's fixed, and that is exactly the case on the border, separated families, the desperation of unaccompanied minors, how they're kept, how we can do better.

Everybody cared. When I went down there -- I go -- I've been going down there for years. Everybody says they care. Nothing has changed for the better. Now, I know that the Biden Administration is not going to like that I said that.

Undoing what Trump did, I get why you did it. But doing it really fast and throwing out what was there had implications, and they were not replaced with policies to handle what would come next. Hundreds of kids have not been reunited with their parents. Many, many more are coming. And we are in a bad place to deal with it.

I have a lead attorney in the effort to reunite migrant families on where this effort stands. It's time to talk straight about how to get straight on the border, next.









UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you receive a briefing about the border today?

BIDEN: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you learn?

BIDEN: A lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a crisis at the border, sir?

BIDEN: No, we'll be able to handle it, God willing.


CUOMO: President Biden is facing a brewing crisis at the southern border. I understand why he doesn't want to panic anybody. And I don't even know if you'd care if he did try to panic, because it's been the same way down there for years.

And there're just waves of interest. And then you guys go away on it, even though nothing has changed. His administration doesn't call it a crisis. And that's OK.

But border crossings are up. And officials are grappling with how to handle the influx of families and unaccompanied children. And that flow is coming up for two main reasons. One is natural. One is manmade.

They've had bad natural disasters down in Guatemala, and in Ecuador. And it's sending people up here -- Honduras, up here.

But it's also because tearing down all the Trump programs, and not replacing them with anything, sent a message that it might be easier. And that is a reason that the flow is up. We got to deal with it.

We've shown you before what it's like along the border. It's horrible. Migrants, asylum-seekers, squalor, why? Because they don't have what it takes to process the flow. And Congress won't give it to them. Under the last administration, what they did was made it easier to get rid of people without knowing their real situation.

More than 70,000 people were subject to the so-called "Remain in Mexico" policy. Many waited months, if not years, in these kinds of conditions, under the threat of extortion, sexual assault, and kidnapping. You know, horrible things happened.

So Biden called for an end to that policy, and has allowed a gradual entry for some of those migrants. But a lot of them are coming in. So border crossings were already going up, at the end of Trump's term,

but now they're new highs. I'm not saying it was wrong to end that program. That was inhumane. But what do you replace it with?

In January, U.S. border officials made about 78,000 arrests and detentions along the Mexican border. Officials tell us that when it comes to families and the kids who were crossing alone, they are overwhelmed.

Trump sent back the unaccompanied kids. They'd fly them back. But it was too -- it was too rash. It was dangerous to just send them back to Social Services in places where you don't know if you can trust the people. But what has it been replaced with?

OK. Now the Left-flank says "I don't like seeing them in these temporary structures." Then do your damn job, and come up with a better solution, because they don't have anywhere to keep the kids. They're going to wind up back in the border facilities, because you don't have the space, you don't have a solution.

As of today, more than 1,300 kids are in CBP custody waiting to be placed by HHS. They say "Well, maybe we'll put the HHS people in the actual border facilities, and that will help." Yes, maybe, but human beings aren't housing.

That takes us to our guest, Lee Gelernt, OK, the Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, and a lead attorney in the effort to reunite migrant families.

Lee, friend of show, good to see you, Counselor.


CUOMO: What do I got wrong?


GELERNT: So, I think that you're hitting it right that look, there are people coming. They're fleeing real danger. They're going to come. The Biden Administration needs to do something about it. And I think they need to move quickly.

But what I want to emphasize are two points. First is these are not historical -- historically-high numbers. We've had way higher numbers, for example, during the Bush 2 years, where the numbers were twice as great.

The second point is I think we have the resources to deal with this. And I think that the point is the one you made, the Biden Administration needs to move quicker to create capacity. There is no question that the federal government has the capacity to act humanely.

I mean, we cannot, as you said, take the Trump approach, where we're just going to send little kids back to danger. So the question is how are we going to do this?

Not everyone's going to be allowed to ultimately stay. But we have to give people their hearings. We said after World War II, we will never just send people back to danger without at least letting them tell their story, looking at their case.

So I think the question is, is the Biden Administration going to quickly build more capacity? They have plenty of resources to do it. Are they going to take the help of the NGOs, down on the border, who want to help?

And the other thing that I think is dangerous is the Administration keeps leaking numbers, in a vacuum, without talking about their capacity?

If someone didn't know anything about baseball, or baseball stadiums, and you've said "50,000, people want to go see the Yankees game tonight," you'd say like, "How can that 50,000 people going to?" "Well the stadium seat's 54,000. And we have hundreds and hundreds of ticket standards."

I mean we have the capacity to do this. So, the Biden Administration, just leaking the numbers, saying, "Look, how many people are coming?" Well, yes, but we have the capacity to deal with it. We've dealt with it before. There are ways to make it more efficient. And so you're right, both points you're making are right.

CUOMO: But some of the ways we used to do it --

GELERNT: It was just --

CUOMO: --we don't want to do it anymore, you know? You don't want to treat these people --

GELERNT: Well --

CUOMO: --like livestock, especially in a COVID environment.

They're saying our beds are at 94 percent because of our, you know, our quarantine restriction, not quarantine, but our separation restrictions. Why would they lie? If they don't have say -- if they don't have the capacity, why would they say they -- they don't?

GELERNT: Right. Well, so I think that's the critical point. Not that they're lying about how much of their current capacity they've used. But why not create additional capacity? There are plenty of --

CUOMO: Yes, I'm with you.

GELERNT: Exactly. So, I think that's your point. That's the critical point. They've been in office six weeks.

CUOMO: Right.

GELERNT: I think people are ready to give them a little bit more time. But ultimately, people are going to get impatient, because the federal government, when they want to do something, can do something. And this is --

CUOMO: Absolutely.


CUOMO: Well Lee?


CUOMO: Let's do this. Let's stay in the loop. This is a new phase. You tell me what you're hearing. And I'll tell you what I'm hearing. I'll call you right after the show. We'll get on a thread with each other.

Because you're getting the Left-flank of that Party that wants to get high and mighty about not treating kids this way.

Then do your damn job, and free up the funds, or give new funds, do what that you need to do, through the federal law, to make better situations, and stay on it with your committees. But just saying "We don't like it like this" will never make it better.

Lee Gelernt, you'll make it better, because you stay on it. And you do the right things for the right reasons. You're a friend of the show.

Now, I also wanted to do this -- look, I'm telling you, I know that situation. I've been living in for 20 years. And I know the people from different administrations who were there.

The problems are real. They're not new, and they're not being addressed. It's a new administration. I totally get it. But the choices they make early on are going to reverberate, so we have to stay on it.

I also want to drill-down on this renewed fight about the minimum wage. I don't think it's being talked about right. $10 versus $15, "Well $15 is much more than $10." What is $15 an hour in a midsize city, for instance? What does it do for you? Is it more or is it less? Is it enough?

I will take you through the truth, next.








(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: My argument to you is that the politics around raising the minimum wage to $15 are miscast. It's all about less or more "Well $10, what about $10? Well, $15 is a lot more than $10." The reality lies elsewhere.

The minimum wage was born from the sweatshop era. It was to stop the grievous and heinous exploitation of kids, women, new immigrants. It was a basic "Don't treat these people like livestock" line. It wasn't the standard that we accepted as a reasonable living wage. It was never meant as that. But it's become that.

So instead of the optic of $15, being so great, because it's a third more than $10, some on the Right, want that to be the evaluation. But let's look at the reality of what we say is enough, for a fellow citizen, or a family, in most cases.

$15 bucks an hour times 40 hours a week, $600, that's if you get 40 hours a week. Many employers skirt requirements to pay more, by offering less hours, to avoid triggering benefit requirements like health care. The ACA requires 30 hours, plus you got to give them health care. So they don't give you that.

So, let's say you're one of the lucky, and you get 40 hours, multiply that by 50 weeks, right, a year, not 52, because people get sick, you need time off, and you're likely not getting paid vacation time. So in the end, you're making $30,000 a year before taxes.

Now, please, "In my day, I was making, I started out at," please! Account for inflation, and the apportioned cost of living. The buying power of all workers, let alone minimum wage workers has not improved in decades.

So, let's continue. Pick a city, St. Louis. You're single, no kids, Federal Income, FICA, state local taxes takes out a little over $6,000, so you start with about $24,000.


Rent in St. Louis, about $7,500, OK, for the year, obviously. You want to eat? The USDA says the basics will run you about $3,000, basics. Assuming you already have a car, gas, upkeep, parking insurance, right, about $5,000. Clothes, internet, if you're going to spoil yourself, cell phone, about $2,800.

Again, you'll likely get insurance at 40 hours a week, but you're still looking at another $2,600 for doctors, co-pays, medicines, supplies. You can make it work, assuming there is no surprise bill of more than $400. There's no margin for much more than survival.

And remember what I said, that's a single adult with no kids. Even just one kid, and the math between left, right and reasonable, does not come out. Even if nobody gets new clothes for a year, you don't get anywhere. Cut out internet, and cell phone, no toys, no Netflix, no cable, you're still $23,000 in the hole. Hello, credit card debt!

So, your kid is old enough that you don't need childcare, and you live close enough to work that you walk, still in the hole. That means even with all the cuts, you're now living without, you're facing a choice between which doctor's appointments you skip, and how many meals you miss.

The simple truth is this is a big, complicated conversation. But it's a conversation we have to have, and we'll continue to have on this show. But for any of it to go anywhere, we have to start with the reality, and what we think is right.

We'll be right back.