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Biden Delivers First Prime Time Address After Signing Historic COVID Bill Into Law; Biden Directs States To Make All Adults Eligible For Vaccine By May 1, Eyes July 4 As Start Of "Independence" From Virus; House Passes Gun Bills That Would Expand Background Checks. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 11, 2021 - 21:00   ET




MARY JANE FAGAN, LOST HER DAUGHTER TO COVID-19: --held her until the very end, and that was pretty much it, you know? So, we are very thankful that we had that opportunity. So many parents have not been able to, and it breaks my heart.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360 (voice-over): Adeline Fagan was 28.


COOPER (voice-over): COVID also took the life of a music legend this past year, singer and songwriter John Prine. Bonnie Raitt appeared with Prine, at an Austin City Limits concert, just months before he died. They performed "Angel from Montgomery," which Prine wrote.

BONNIE RAITT, SINGER/SONGWRITER: It was just heartbreaking to all of us that this virus took one of our most beloved and treasured. You know, world - all the world - world around, there'll never be another John Prine.

COOPER (voice-over): John Prine was 73 years old.



COOPER: Our thoughts are with all those who are missing a loved one tonight.

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



CUOMO: What a year, my brother! So, nothing is the same. And nothing will be the same. And we still don't know where we're going to wind up. But the President was certainly pointing us in the right direction tonight. Great coverage!

Everybody, I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME. Excuse my voice. It's allergies and emotion.

Tonight marks one year since the start of the Pandemic. This has been the deadliest year in a century. Literally, the road started one year ago with a presidential address on our watch.

And now, a year later, literally to the hour, a very different president with a very different message, the biggest anti-poverty measure in a generation. The law aims to lift 11 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half.

But President Biden spent most of his first address to the nation, not taking a victory lap, but rallying us for the rest of the race to come.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked, denials, for days, weeks, then months. That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.

We know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth. Follow the scientists, the science. Work together.

My fervent prayer for our country is that, after all we've been through, we'll come together, as one people, one nation, one America. I believe we can and we will.


CUOMO: Biden also made a big announcement. He's going to tell all the states to open up vaccine appointments for all adults by May 1. And here's the incentive for all of us.


BIDEN: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the Fourth, there's a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard, or in your neighborhood, and have a cookout, or at a barbecue, and celebrate Independence Day.

That doesn't mean large events, with lots of people together. But it does mean small groups will be able to get together. After this long, hard year, that will make this Independence Day, something truly special.


CUOMO: Celebrating Independence Day, as a function of our codependence, of our interdependence. We have to rely on each other to get to that better place. The President said he has put government to work to ensure that on May 1, there will be enough vaccine for every adult in the country. We have a team member from his COVID effort, who's going to tell us how that'll happen and how big a challenge it is exactly.

But the President also took on something just as dangerous as the Pandemic, in his address, the disease of division. Biden tried to lift our spirits with a medicinal message about recovering our sense of collective cause that we, the people are the answer for one another.

Certainly, it was healing in a way that the bloviating and blame that started us on this poison path a year ago, tonight, never was.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a financial crisis. This is just a temporary moment of time.

I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety, of the American people.

The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.



CUOMO: And no nation was more put at a disadvantage by leadership than America.

Trump did hesitate. He intentionally refused to take necessary steps. He lied about the reality. He left States to largely figure it out for themselves at critical points. He called himself a "Wartime President," and then all but fled the battlefield.

Even now, Trump refuses to be part of the solution, even what it means just telling people to take the vaccine that he pushed for.

He is the only former living president, who didn't take part in a new PSA of former presidents, and first ladies, to encourage everyone to get the vaccine. He's still denying the reality of what we need from a leader, even a year later.

Now, when we were here, at the beginning, I was a totally different person. It felt like our future was landing on our laps that night.



CUOMO: We're waiting on the President of the United States right now, finally coming to address the nation. Here he is.

Tom Hanks just tweeted. He and his wife Rita are in Australia, OK? They don't feel great. They got tested. They have Coronavirus. We're just getting details on this huge breaking news from the sports

world. The NBA is going to suspend all games until further notice.



CUOMO: At the time, those occurrences, those events, seemed unthinkable. Little did we know how much worse it would become, for two minutes with that guy to tell him what was coming his way.

Again, yes because of the virus, but almost as toxic was the denial that we allowed to fester, and the division that stripped us of our greatest strength, our interconnectedness and sense of common concern.

Instead, we started down a path of "Us versus them" that certainly took us backward in the fight against the virus, but also took our democracy to the brink of ruin.

Imagine what it means that the Right offered not a single vote to help their own constituents in this landmark legislation. It was notable President Biden did not call out the Right side of the aisle in his address tonight.

But I have to, because they're now doubling down in a way that threatens everything that matters in our democracy. It is most frightening to think that the biggest challenge for Biden, and for all of us, may not be what we've been through, but what we're about to go through.

The same opposers are harnessing Trump's ugliest instincts when we are at our weakest. And they are trying to take us back to the days of Jim Crow, 43 states, trying to make it harder for people to vote, especially minorities.

They seem to think the way to win in the future is to rig the election so that people can't beat them again. They want to win in the future by taking us to the past. And that can't be America's destiny. The question is how to stop it.

H.R.1 is the only single step to stop it. And it is not clear whether Democrats will be able to get it passed. And that's where we begin tonight with our better minds, the two Davids, Gregory and Axelrod.

David Gregory was actually with me last year on that very historic night.

David, could you have ever imagined what the year would bring when we started there, thinking "Wow, this is huge! The NBA is not going to play!"

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH?": Right. Yes, I mean, it touched - it touched popular culture in a way that night, where all these things came together.

The sports world, a figure like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, people who were so recognizable, started to bring it home, and then looking at a President, who was facing down something that was so difficult. He didn't realize that he seemed in over his head that night, and obviously in the days and months to come.

This has been quite a year. But it's at least redeeming tonight that we have a different future that we can start to see the end of this.

CUOMO: Impact, David Axelrod, of the speech tonight by President Biden?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it was a very tough task he had tonight, because you want to speak about the ordeal we've been through, and honor the sense of pain and loss that people feel, and still be optimistic about the future.

You want to signify the progress that has been made without rolling up the "Mission Accomplished" banner, which is inappropriate at this moment.

I, yes, I give Biden an "A" for his leadership on this virus. We are in a much better place today, than we were 50 days ago, when he took office.


I think the speech was probably a "B" because he tried to do too much. It was a bit long. I think it was a bit grim, at points. And I think he didn't take enough credit. You can overreact to Donald Trump.

The fact of the matter is we are in a better place because the vaccine program is moving on an expedited basis.

The bill he passed was historic and will mean immediate help for people. And it will also accelerate the vaccine process. And therefore, there is hope, today, for people. And I would have learned more into the hope than he did.

I know he places a premium on empathy. And he is genuine and very effective at that. But I would have - I would have looked for a more muscular speech tonight. And, you know, but the bottom line is not the speech, but the actions that he's taken. And the actions he's taken have been very, very positive.

CUOMO: David?

GREGORY: Yes, a couple of points on that. I think empathy is great. And I think he - I think the President wears the presidency, so well, especially at a moment, like this, so just great credit to President Biden in that regard.

I frankly think he's got more salesmanship to do around this $1.9 trillion package. It's going to help a lot of people. And there's certainly a lot of need. But there's also a lot of questions. And it's a big target.

Yes, you can talk about Republicans not being on board. David Axelrod knows about that, from the beginning of the Obama administration, and much of the administration with Republicans deciding they were going to oppose.

But Republicans, as a political matter, have gone back to something that they're happy to be able to do with Trump out of the picture. "We just take on Democrats for being captive to the Left."

And this is a big target. We don't know how all this is going to play out. And I think Biden's got more work to do to explain why each and every element of this is so necessary, point one.

Point two, I think he should have been more muscular on getting the schools reopened, through high school, and acknowledging the science that's there, that tells us that it's safe to do so. A lot of parents are waiting for that message tonight.

CUOMO: The guy, who's going to follow you guys, Andy Slavitt, does not agree with what you just said about the silence - science being there, that we can open schools right away. It's - he's going to say it's community-by-community. But I take your point. I take your point.

GREGORY: I'm just listening to the CDC. So, I thought we were supposed to listen to them. And that's what they say.

CUOMO: They do.


CUOMO: But I don't think it's - I don't - look, I'll let him answer the question. But I got to tell you.


CUOMO: I don't think it's going to be as simple as that. Go ahead, Axe.

AXELROD: Well, I was going to say, I think David's completely right about the salesmanship. And it's very clear.

And the President said it unequivocally in his speech, they're going to spend the next few weeks really, really selling this plan, and making people understand what is in it, and what is about to happen because of this plan. And I think that's very wise.

He lived through 2009. He understands the importance of this that people really understand.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: And unlike 2009, the relief that people are going to get is going to be immediate and obvious. They're going to get checks.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: They're going to get - they're going to get cash in their pocket. GREGORY: Right.

AXELROD: And so, he should go out, and tout that, and all the other aspects of this plan. So, I don't - I understand why he didn't load up the speech on that tonight, but he should take a bow for that.

You don't have to be Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump is a great marketer, but he didn't have that much to market.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: Joe Biden actually has something to market here, and the country needs to hear it, and feel better about the future. Although in the CNN poll today, it's very clear people are more optimistic now than they've been in some time, about the end coming here.

CUOMO: Well, it's true also. That's actually a challenge. Something else to talk to Andy Slavitt about is that you got 70 percent of Americans, who believe the worst is behind us. Now, that kind of optimism is good.


CUOMO: But also, risky, if it means that they don't keep doing the things.

Just one quick beat, before I go to break.

David Gregory, I said at the top, and I believe this. I think it's an existential cause, the fight they're about to have. Pandemic is bad. It was always going to go. It's just about how much human cost comes along with it.

This spate of laws going across this country is something that I would never expect to have seen in my lifetime. This is a Jim Crow move by the Right, plain and simple. And the only chance that there is to stop it in a single stroke, you could litigate your way out of it, but could take years, is H.R.1. Do you think the Democrats can pass it?

GREGORY: I don't know if they can. I mean, everybody who wants to vote should be able to vote in this country, and nobody should get in the way of that. I think that makes common sense.

But Republicans are able to muddy this by, by in some cases, legitimate questions about making sure elections are secure, issues around provisional balloting. These are fair questions.


What are unfair questions is when you have litigants like from Arizona say "Yes, this is a zero-sum game. We got to keep our advantage by making sure certain people can't vote." That's just not the way to run a democracy.

AXELROD: Well, can I - I know you got to run, Chris. But it is elected - the biggest fraud we've seen is the depiction of the last election as fraudulent. And now, they're using this phony--

CUOMO: Agree.

AXELROD: --depiction of the last election to rig the next one.

CUOMO: Right. All I want them to do is just show me, in any of these 253 laws, where you make it safer.

What they do is abridge periods, they abridge access. That's not how you make it safer. You make it safer with more checks, with more safeguards. That's not what this is about. And everybody knows it.

And I never thought I'd see anything like this in my lifetime. Pandemic, I did, but nothing like this.

David Gregory, David Axelrod, thank you, gentlemen. It's good to mark a year with you too.

AXELROD: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: We're in a better place today.

GREGORY: Thanks. Thanks.

CUOMO: We heard the President's speech. Now we're going to go inside the strategy of how to get this done on the vaccine. That's a big deal. May 1, all of us can make appointments, in our states, to get the vaccine.

Right now, they're pushing to have enough vaccine for all adults on May 1. Doesn't mean we'll get it. But how will that work? One of the key voices on COVID with the White House is here.









CUOMO: Big promises from President Biden tonight, listen.


BIDEN: Tonight, I'm announcing that I will direct all states, tribes, and territories, to make all adults, people 18 and over, eligible to be vaccinated, no later than May 1. Secondly, at the time when every adult is eligible in May, we will launch, with our partners, new tools, to make it easier for you to find the vaccine, and where to get the shot.

We can accelerate massive nationwide effort to reopen our schools safely.

Fourth, in the coming weeks, we will issue further guidance on what you can and cannot do, once fully vaccinated.


CUOMO: Andy Slavitt, Senior White House COVID Adviser joins me now.

Good to see you.


CUOMO: What's the chance this gets done? That's a big promise. Telling the States to make appointments available, May 1? OK. Having enough vaccine for all adults? Wow!

The President said "Doesn't mean you'll get it in your arm. But you'll be able to start getting in line to get it." Still, from a process perspective, how - what's the chance that this happens?

SLAVITT: Well, heck, a lot of a worse gone on in the last couple months. So the President, to be in the position, that he is tonight, to make that commitment to the public, after 50 days is, I think, quite extraordinary.

But, I think, if you listen to what the President said, he started to describe to Americans what the end game could look like. But he did say we all have to do our part. We all have to pull together.

And you made an important point, I think, earlier Chris that if people get too complacent, and feel like "Oh, well this means it's all over, then we won't get there."

So, sometimes, the hardest part of the journey is the part where you got to keep your patients at the end. I think the President's imploring us that if we do that, we have the resources to do exactly as he said.

CUOMO: Conditional, I'll give it to you. But what do you think's the chance on May 1st, I have you on, and you're saying "It's there. People can get the vaccine, get in line," what do you think it is, 50- 50?

SLAVITT: Well, we're not in the habit of over-promising. So, I think this direction to the States is done with full knowledge that we will have the resources, a lot of modeling going on, and a lot of work still to go on, to make that happen. But we're quite confident that President's direction is going to be followed. Again, it doesn't mean that May 1st, everyone's going to be able to

get the shot in their arm. But on May 1st, you should be able to get a date, in which you'll have a shot, in your arm, if you haven't had one already.

CUOMO: All right.

SLAVITT: I think our bigger challenge, Chris, is all the people that aren't yet sure if they want the vaccine.

CUOMO: Yes, good.

SLAVITT: That worries me more.

CUOMO: Good. Thank you, you helped me into my next point.

Seven out of 10 in this country say the worst is behind us. Oh, great. I love the optimism. There's also a casualness to it that they're not in as a big a rush to get the vaccines because things are going to open up anyway. Getting the vaccine is a PI - pain in the hiney. And they don't know that they want to do it.

And the question to you is, are you guys giving them enough incentive to do it? Those CDC guidelines were too conservative.

What about the idea of a vaccine passport, where you get the vaccine, you'll get this thing, you can do more than people who don't have it. Why not incentivize people that want to do something that increasingly, they're not going to want to do?

SLAVITT: Just like the whole rest of the last year, Chris, you are one step ahead. Because I think you're talking about the kinds of things that are very much going to be on people's minds coming forward.

It's interesting, before people get vaccinated most of the talk is about, when can I get my vaccine? A lot of what happens is after people get vaccinated, as people want to go, forget it and move on. The reality is we have a lot of them, people, three-quarters of adults still haven't been vaccinated.

CUOMO: Right.

SLAVITT: And I really hope that the quarter of us that have been vaccinated will still remember that there are a lot of people out there that are not yet as safe as we are.

That bringing together, that feeling for one another, that spirit of this country, that's what the President is trying to call out on tonight. If we fail on that, we could still face setbacks.

CUOMO: No, I got you. But what I'm saying is, you go - you want me to get the vaccine, OK?

I say, "Listen, Andy, they're going to open up things anyway." "Yes, no, but you should have it. You'll be safe." "Yes, it's a pain in the ass to get." "Yes, but you'll be able to get it. Don't worry. There's enough vaccine, you can get the appointment."

Well, what can I do if I get it? The CDC guidelines, you won't even really let me travel. They say travel is already pretty safe with everybody with a mask on. With my vaccine, it should be almost foolproof.


Why not incentivize people? Don't play the science on the short side. Be a little bit ambitious, as we've been with everything else, and let people feel like it's worth getting the vaccine, because I'll be able to do X, Y and Z. "I can go back to work. I can go to places I can't go anyway. I could go travel."

SLAVITT: Yes. Yes, it's an interesting conversation. I think the President's really playing it straight. I don't think he's trying to manipulate the public.

I think what we know about people and their thoughts on vaccines are, they don't want to feel - the people who are on the fence, don't want to feel manipulated. They want to feel like they don't want to do it for the country. They'll do it for themselves, or do it for their family, if they think it's the right thing.

CUOMO: Right.

SLAVITT: And if they get their questions answered. So, we've got to do a good job at that. There's no question about that. We've got to make sure that people can get those questions answered.

And people who have older relatives, and older family, I think they get it. They may have questions about the vaccine. They want to see that it works. They want to see that it's safe. I think they're seeing those things. It is a very safe and effective vaccine.

And I think, we will, as more and more people have gotten the shot, and I think as more people want the shot, and all of the time people that have been waiting, it has built up more demand, I think that is going to help carry us over.

But I think it is not the President's style to be manipulative, Chris. I would just say that the President--

CUOMO: Wait, I'm not saying - I agree with you.

SLAVITT: --very much wants to level with people.

CUOMO: I agree with you. We've both known the President a very long time. I don't - I'm not saying he's being manipulative. I'm saying he should be manipulative in terms of saying, "I will incentivize you to get this."

You got 36 percent of people who aren't vaccinated, who are saying "Yes, I don't know that I'm going to get it." That number is expected to increase because you're having the big push of everybody, who feels like they have to get it, and that they want to get it right now. And we're dealing with under-supply.

Now you're high of supply--


CUOMO: --but will you have the demand if there is no incentive--


CUOMO: --to get it?

SLAVITT: Well, let's talk about your point about the passport thing, which you said rather quickly.


SLAVITT: And I'm not going to speak that the government is, is going to be in that business, because it is quite clearly not. And I think that would be a disincentive for people to want to contribute to this. But I will say this. Venues, concerts--


SLAVITT: --sporting clubs, restaurants, they are all, the shipping industry, I talk to all of them--

CUOMO: Gyms. Travel.

SLAVITT: --all day long, Chris, it's - gyms.

CUOMO: Living your life.

SLAVITT: And they're all saying the same thing. "We want, yes, we want people to come here and feel safe." So they are going to - those kinds of things, they will happen naturally, schools, universities, et cetera, without anything that the President has to do about it.

And I think, in fact, if the President were to do that, I think there is an instinct in this country, an instinct to people who don't trust the government very much, they would be very worried. And that's kind of the principal reason they don't want to take - to take a vaccine in many of these cases.

So, I think that is probably going to end up taking care of itself, as more and more people get vaccinated, and as more and more places want to open.

CUOMO: I hope you are right, Andy Slavitt. We'll be watching the numbers. I know you have to make adjustments in real-time. And we all want the same thing. We want to get to herd immunity. We want to get back to life. We want to get kids back to school.

You heard David Gregory. He said, "The CDC says the science is there." I know it's more complicated than that. But people have had it. And you know you're up against that, as well.

Appreciate you. You always have a platform here to make the case.

SLAVITT: Thank you, Chris. And thanks for everything you've done over the last year, and all that you've been through, and reported on to the public.

CUOMO: Thank you. All I did was get sick. The rest of the country is getting well. That's what matters. Be well. I'll talk to you soon.

All right, relief is coming.


CUOMO: It'll take time. It's going to address a lot of needs. It is a landmark legislation. The Democrats can tell you why they're so proud of it.

But this next fight, I'm telling you, I'm not into hype. I don't get panicked very easily. I see a lot of things as just being more politics, and this is how it is, and they're always really riled up in the moment. Not this.

I'm telling you, this wave of laws across the country, I'm all for election security. Who doesn't want the election to be more secure? But that's not what these laws are. They're just shortening when you can vote early, where you can vote early, who can vote early.

Every one of these laws, in these places, look at the laws, online, in the states that Biden flipped. Look at Georgia. Look what they're trying to do, and you tell me it's not Jim Crow. I have a Congresswoman from that state to make the case about what's going on.

Here's a little hint, going into break. Imagine a law that is so shockingly retardant, taking us back that Trump-loving Governor Kemp has been silent about it. His Lieutenant Governor doesn't want to touch it. How regressive must it be for them to stay away? Next.









CUOMO: You want to hear what's behind the next huge fight we're going to have in Congress? "Too many Black people voted!" That's right. So, what do you see from the opposition party? "We have to make it so they don't vote as much." That's what Jim Crow was about, after Reconstruction. By the way, that's what the filibuster was about. It was brought in by Southern Democrats, who were racists, to have a handle on the process, so there wasn't too much progress too fast.

But what we're seeing right now is laws that are regressive. And it's where they're pushing the hardest that tells the story, OK?

Right now, there are 253 nationwide bills. And they all restrict voting access and/or rights. The most have been filed in, ready, on the map, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia. Why do you think? Do those states ring a bell?

Any claim that this is about election security falls apart when you look at what they're doing. There's no security reason to simply close polls earlier on Election Day. Iowa just did that. Why?

How does cutting off money that goes to help keep elections safe and secure, like Arizona wants to do, how does that help make it safer? "Less money! More safe!" who sells it that way?

The reason I say that the opposition party are pushing this, and not that the GOP or the Republicans are, is because you got to look who's on board and who isn't.

In Georgia, for example, the Republican Lieutenant Governor, OK, he wouldn't even preside over the debate on the bill. That's how opposed he was to what's happening there. And he's a Trumper, OK?

The Governor, Kemp, he ain't a quiet guy. He's been quiet on this. Why? Because it's disgusting.


Let's get after it with Georgia Democratic Representative Lucy McBath.

Representative, good to have you.

REP. LUCY MCBATH (D-GA): Thank you so much. I am happy to be with you tonight, Chris.

CUOMO: Why is this happening, in your opinion, in your state?

MCBATH: Well, I think it's voter suppression at its worst. Here in Georgia, the Republican legislators have really instituted some very horrible, horrible voter suppression bills.

And I think because we did so well, with our - we did so well, with our elections here, the presidential election, we now have been able to bring it to Washington, two states, I mean, two federal senators, and then, of course, we were able to get an additional congressional seat, I think they see the writing on the wall.

And they're going to do whatever they can to try to make sure that they are alienating people, and preventing them from exercising the right to vote. CUOMO: It's very grave.

MCBATH: Georgia is transitioning. It is turning. We are moving Blue. And I think they see the writing on the wall. And as I say, I've said before, I think this is like Custer's Last great Stand. They're going to do whatever they can to prevent the evolution.

CUOMO: Just to show--

MCBATH: Of our politics.

CUOMO: --why it matters in real-world application, they had these - this bill - these two bills that they want, on the books, before the special elections, you don't get Ossoff or Warnock. And that means you don't get any COVID relief bill, because you guys wouldn't have a Senate. Fair point?

MCBATH: Absolutely. Having these two Senate seats, Senator Warnock and Ossoff has been very, very crucial to being able to put forth all of the help and support that the American people need under the Rescue Plan.

And so, I think that this is a threat to them. And therefore, you see the continued efforts for voter suppression. It's nothing new. It's been this way, in Georgia, for a really long time. But it's becoming far - their tactics are far more aggressive now than we've seen in some time.

CUOMO: They were quiet about the Pandemic bill, because they knew people wanted it.

They're going to be loud and proud about this, because this is the dynamic in our political culture right now. This is the "Us and them."

And you're going to have to find a way to make the people it's going to affect, to get up, and get out, and show their outrage, peacefully protest, not to be what they oppose. But this matters every bit as much to their lives and their futures as anything else that's happening in Congress right now, or really, in the last 50 years.

Congresswoman, do me a favor. You have such a close personal connection to what's going to happen with increasing safety from guns in this country. I would appreciate you staying, over the break, for the next segment.

And I want to bring in another guest to talk about the legislation there, the chance that it gets done, and where the country is right now. Shannon Watts is going to join us from "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America."

So, let's take a break, let's come back, and talk about, again, what's the chance that it gets done. Next.








CUOMO: House passed a pair of overwhelmingly popular pieces of legislation today. One would require universal background checks on gun sales.

What does that mean? Any way that you transact, buying a gun, except probably family-to-family, should have a check, on who's buying it. Another would close loopholes in the existing system.

I want to bring back Congresswoman McBath. And this is - this is why she got into public service. This isn't just law for her. This is about life.

We all should remember this story. I covered it intensely. 2012, her son Jordan, shot and killed, over loud music. But really, what he was killed over was one man's fear of who he didn't know, and what he didn't understand. And he had a gun, and it made it deadly.

With the Representative is Shannon Watts, Founder of "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense."

It was February 2020, that your son would have been 25. And I remember the letter, Representative, that you wrote to him on what would have been his 25th birthday. And of course, it broke my heart. But it also reminded me of how you have decided to turn pain into purpose with service.

And what do you see in this bill that gives you hope for better outcomes?

MCBATH: Well, what I see in this bill is a grand opportunity now with our two state senators also to help us get this bill across the finish line. I mean, this legislation is monumental.

Over 90 percent of Americans in the country believe in this legislation, believe in the ability that it poses for us, to be able to keep our families and communities safe, without infringing upon people's Second Amendment rights.

This legislation basically just puts common-sense measures, in our existing gun laws, to keep guns out of the hands of people, who should not have them, such as domestic abusers. So, that's all we're simply trying to do.

We are trying to help law-abiding gun owners also feel safe in the streets, and not ever feeling that they are in fear of having to use them against anyone.

CUOMO: We haven't had a real law, on any kind of suppressive action, when it comes to access, in 25 years. One in five gun transfers, sales, or otherwise, in for family, and stuff like that, are done without any check at all.

Now, Shannon, the interesting pushback to the story of a mom, like the Representative is, "Yes, but this bill - this bill wouldn't have saved your son's life. And why should we do this? We check all the main sales now. This isn't really needed," what do you say to that?

SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA: Well, we don't check all the main sales. You were talking about this as a first time, in 25 years, we're looking at real change at a federal level.

And what's different since 1994? 50 percent more guns in the hands of civilians. There's an internet now, and people can buy guns online. And gun deaths are the leading cause of death among children and teens in this country. In 1994, it was car accidents. So, so much has changed.

And the fact that you can buy a gun from an unlicensed dealer, in most states, without a background check, is incredibly dangerous. As Lucy said, it's how domestic abusers and other dangerous people have easy access to guns.

So, we know that background checks work on licensed sales. They will also work, when they're applied to unlicensed sales.


And 100 Americans have been dying every single day, for the last 25 years, while Congress has done nothing. So, we are on the precipice of true federal change, and I am really confident that with lawmakers like Lucy, at the helm, we'll be able to push it through.

CUOMO: A problem is that Lucy, there's one of you, right? And you got 93 percent of Americans recently polled are for universal background checks. Only 61 percent approval, that's a big number, but 61 percent approve of the COVID bill. 93 percent.

But you have zero votes for this bill on from the opposition party. In fact, two guys who did vote for it, in 2019, Mast, and Diaz-Balart, pulled their votes, this time. They will give you nothing on anything, but especially this because it plays to the culture wars.

What's the chance you get it passed without them blowing up the filibuster in the Senate?

MCBATH: Well we have to hope that we're going to be successful. And I think there again, we have to play out this battle with public sentiment. There again, the public will have to cry out.

Just as you said before, I remember this, so candidly, after the El Paso tragedy, Chris, you did the CNN Town Hall. And you said that passing gun legislation, changing this culture, has to be done through the people. The people will choose that. They will decide that.

So, this is no different. The people will be deciding what they want, what they need, to keep their communities and their families safe.

And I absolutely believe, because I've even been able to be elected on this policy agenda, people are sick and tired of being afraid that their children are not going to come home from school. They're sick and tired of being afraid. They want to have common-sense legislation to keep them safe.

So, this is going to be played out in the public arena. I truly believe that I know that all the people that have been working on this issue, on the ground, grassroots, organizers, survivors, like myself, are going to demand from the Senate Republicans, they take - they take a stand and pass this legislation.

CUOMO: Lucy, I know that you said in your letter to your son that he had dreams. And I know you think one of them was that Jordan would have gone in the public service. You're living those dreams for your son. You wouldn't have taken this turn in your life otherwise.

Who knows why God puts things in our path? I'm not one of these silver-linings people. The loss of your son is unforgivable and unforgettable. But you're putting pain to your purpose. Purpose to your pain means everything. And I respect your commitment to the service.

Thank you for joining us, Representative. I may not always agree with your positions, but I do on this, and I agree with your passion. So you're always welcome on the show.

And Shannon Watts, you guys fight the good fight. I've seen you guys all over the country doing this. Thank you for being on the show tonight.

WATTS: Thank you.

CUOMO: I just I don't--

MCBATH: Thank you.

CUOMO: I just don't know when we're going to start waking up and do what makes common sense. I'm a gun owner. It's not about confiscation. It's not a step in that direction. You saw where those kinds of lies and peddling and dark arts got the NRA. When we're going to just start being reasonable, not Left and Right, when?

Legal troubles on the agenda for the ex-officer accused of murdering George Floyd. This third degree murder charge has been reinstated against Derek Chauvin. Why? But more importantly, is this the most important development in this case, since the murder/homicide occurred? Next.








CUOMO: Half the jury has now been seated in the trial of Derek Chauvin. You'll have more than 12 jurors because they have alternates. But six is halfway home to what they need.

And an interesting choice here, once again, which is reflective of the reality that everybody knows something about what happens these days.

You're not going to find tabula rasa, you're not going to get a clean slate, especially when it comes to what we all saw in the reality of a knee pressed into the neck of George Floyd, for a long time.

In addition to manslaughter, and felony murder, Chauvin now faces an additional charge of third-degree murder. It was reinstated after an Appeals Court ordered the Judge, overseeing the case, to reconsider his decision, last fall, to toss it out.

Now, this is certainly a victory for the prosecution. The defense will have a chance to appeal, after this trial, if he were to be found guilty, on this charge. But they now have another potential avenue to conviction. And that could make all the difference. Why?

Let's bring in a better mind, Laura Coates, right now.

It's good to have you. Let's stick with where my head is right now. We already have manslaughter. Why did you need this?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SIRIUSXM HOST, "THE LAURA COATES SHOW": Well, you want to give jurors options, because sometimes, they want to be able to convict. But the elements of the crime or the actual charge that you have offered them doesn't quite fit the fact pattern for them, for whatever reason it might be.

Maybe they question about the recklessness, or the negligence, or the ideas of whether the actual substantive allegations meet the elements that are actually under the statute, and under the codes.

You give a plethora, ones that you actually can prove, you just don't throw in the kitchen sink, but things you can actually prove through the evidence, and you provide the jurors with the additional contingencies that are available under the law.

CUOMO: Now, this is interesting. I covered this law, very closely, in New York, where it is called "Depraved mind murder." It's a defined term. It has to do with almost terroristic thinking without the political agenda that you are going to do something that was calculated to hurt a lot of people.

Now, in New York, and other states, they said, "You know, you can't misapply this. It's not manslaughter-plus. This is about group- thinking." But not in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, because of the Noor case, N-O-O-R, people can look it up, they said this law can apply to an individual's actions against another individual.

And what does it allow you in terms of explaining to a jury, mindset, mens rea, intent, for Chauvin that you don't get with manslaughter, or homicide, straight murder, felony murder?

COATES: Well, first of all, in Minnesota, the third-degree charge is an unintentional crime, meaning you don't have to prove intent to kill. What you have to prove is that depraved mind.

And normally, in Minnesota, the precedent suggested prior to that Noor case, the officer who killed the Australian woman, who called about a sexual assault, in the alleyway, he was an officer, who is now convicted of third-degree murder, the idea was normally would be the idea of driving your car on a crowded sidewalk. You didn't have anyone in particular in mind that you were trying to harm, but you could have wreaked havoc.

The question was in that case, whether if you only had one victim, and the word only obviously feels odd to say, but if you had one intended victim, could you still apply that notion of just sort of wreaking havoc in a reckless way?

Well, the Court of Appeals recently said, "Actually, yes. Even if you have just a singular target, or one person is impacted, you can use this particular charge." Now this was reinstated just as of this morning in the court.


It's now you have second-degree murder, which is based on the felony murder, meaning you were committing an underlying felony, that being this potential injury of kneeling on someone's neck, and causing, obviously a loss of consciousness, now you have the ability to talk about the notion that you engage in such a reckless thing, that it would lead to somebody being harmed or you acted with complete disregard for someone's life.

And now you also have the manslaughter, meaning you were aware of, and could appreciate the risk to somebody being harmed, but you disregarded it. But in all of these things, we don't have the intent standard, only the intent to act, not the intent to kill. It's a very big deal.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

Six jurors seated. Again, somebody who was aware, but believes they might be able to be fair, has a variety of feelings, Latino background, they're continuing to go. They'll need 14, 12 to sit, two as alternates. So we're getting there.

Every time there's a development, we will cover it. And I'd love to have you. Laura Coates, thank you.

COATES: Thank you.

CUOMO: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, I have something special for you. Please stick around.








CUOMO: This is a tough night. We mark one year of our nightmare, collectively, right?

Here at CNN, in our family, it's not just tough because of what we've all lived through with COVID. The President was right. We need to be the answer for one another. And that is brought home in such painful variety today. Yes, it's a year for all of us. But there's something else today should have been.

Today would also have been the first birthday for a very special little girl to us, Francesca Kaczynski, known forever as "Beans," that's what they call her, the daughter of our dear friend and colleague, Andrew Kaczynski, the brain behind the KFILE, investigative genius, his wife, Rachel Ensign.

Beans smiled bravely in the face of another health monster, a rare form of brain cancer. She fought. They fought. They moved. They did everything. They believed. They loved. Inspired all of us with what they were clear-eyed and committed to.

She didn't make it. She fought. She died on Christmas Eve. I remember it. I remember hearing about it, and the heartbreak, and then soon after, the hope that Andrew and his wife had that they could do something for somebody else.

Beans' short life would inspire a long commitment to what people at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute do.