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Suspect In Atlanta-Area Spa Shootings Charged With Eight Counts Of Murder; Homeland Security Secretary: Domestic Violent Extremism Is "Greatest Threat"; CDC Considers Reducing Distancing Rules In School. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 17, 2021 - 21:00   ET



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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, appreciate it, Coop.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

There is no question that there has been a surge in violence and hate against Asian Americans. Anti-Asian crimes surged by nearly 150 percent in 2020. And we know the increase spiked throughout the Pandemic.

And we know, just yesterday, Trump went on Hate TV, and spewed his anti-Asian, hateful, COVID slur. And he did it, again, to deflect blame for the virus that he chose to let spread across our country.

Now, here's what we don't know. We do not know if this massacre at spas in Georgia that killed eight, including six Asian women, was racially-motivated.


CAPTAIN JAY BAKER, CHEROKEE SHERIFF'S OFFICE: This is still early, but he does claim that it was not racially-motivated.

He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it's a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.


CUOMO: Now, on one hand is, is the analysis as simple as the Sheriff makes it.

But again, a certainty here is that just what happened, just this pointless loss of life, to so many and so many families affected within the Asian and American community, is certainly fueling widespread fears in the Asian American communities all over this country. A lot of new information is emerging about the suspect today, who, according to authorities, has confessed, as you just heard from the Sheriff.

He is charged with eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, but no hate crimes. That is going to take more of a process of investigation. And he didn't help by admitting it as that. One victim did survive this nightmare.

Now, a former roommate, of the suspect, tells CNN that the suspect did feel tortured by a sex addiction, and was in rehab, last year. Investigators are still trying to pinpoint motive, as I keep repeating, because that's the key part of the analysis.

But regardless, this has to put renewed focus on what has been happening in our country. A coalition tracking violence and harassment against Asian Americans reports nearly 3,800 racially-motivated attacks against Asian Americans from last March to this one.

Now, some of you hear this stat and you say "Yes, but it's not all White people, who are attacking them!" Yes, so that makes it OK? Last time I checked, you don't really care who it is, who's hurting you, because of what or who you are. And that shouldn't be what's relevant here.

Just in the last two months, Asian Americans reported being targeted at least 500 times. The rate of reporting is even higher among Asian women.

President Biden condemned the attacks, and his Spokeswoman was clear about this.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there's no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw, during the prior administration, blaming, you know, calling COVID, you know, the Wuhan virus, or other things, led to, you know, perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair, have raised, you know, threatening have - has elevated threats against Asian Americans.


CUOMO: "Well, it did come from China. That's all he means." No, actually, the entire East Coast of this country was infested with virus that came from Europe. Does he call it "The Rome Virus?" Come on!

Another point of proof here, about what should be obvious. The U.S. government just declassified a threat assessment report for 2021 today, on domestic violent extremism. We're going to delve into it later in the show.

But one of the key takeaways is that violence on the home front, particularly motivations against minority populations has been quote, galvanized by recent political and societal events. So, how do we counter this hate? St. Paddy's Day, right? What did he

do? He drove the snakes into the sea. How do we attack the snakes that are driving hatred in this country? What do we do?

Let's take it to the better minds, Counterterror Analyst, Phil Mudd, Correspondent Amara Walker, at one of the crime scenes.

Good to have you both.

Amara, let's start with you. What is the latest that we understand and the reaction of the community, specifically the Asian community there?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I can tell you the fear is real. It is palpable.

I'm afraid for my own family. I've spoken with countless people, here in the Asian community, in Atlanta. I've spoken with Asian people, who work at spas, and nail salons, and restaurant owners.

And they tell me that they're extremely afraid for their safety. They're hyper-vigilant. They're looking over their shoulders, a lot of them telling me that they're changing their daily routines.


And I've had these conversations as well Chris, with my family, telling them, my elderly parents, "Don't go on that daily walk."

You were mentioning Stop AAPI Hate, this Coalition that's been tracking hate crimes against Asians, across the country. And a huge majority of them have been verbal harassment. About 11 percent have been violence against Asians.

But I would venture to say, any Asian you talk to, in this country, will tell you that they have experienced some kind of microaggression, or racism, whether it was "Hey, go back to your country," being spat on, being coughed on deliberately, or just being told that they don't belong in this country. And this has been happening since this pandemic.

So, these attacks of eight people being killed, across three spas in Atlanta, this is traumatizing a community that has already been traumatized, as a result of what's been happening since this Pandemic began.

CUOMO: Quick follow. Does it make any difference within the community that the suspect says "No, no, no, it wasn't a hate crime." It's about an affliction that he has.

WALKER: I'm glad you asked that, Chris, because experts that you speak with, academics, I can tell you, Asian advocacy groups, take issue with his statement because just because a crime may have been sexually-motivated, it doesn't preclude the possibility that it may have been racially-motivated.

And look, I speak from experience, as an Asian American woman. These things are deeply intertwined, sex, sexism, and racism.

You just look on the media, look in Hollywood, the perpetual stereotypes of hyper-sexualized women being seen as fetishes, and sexual objects. And these stereotypes, experts will tell you, dehumanizes Asian women, and it also makes them uniquely vulnerable to violence and racism, Chris.

CUOMO: He may not even understand his own motives, by the way, and it can be mixed motives.

Very good points, appreciate the reporting. Thank you. Stand by. And weigh in, as you hear this part of the analysis. If something doesn't square with how you understand it, pop right in, OK, Amara?

So, Phil, the idea of the simplicity of the analysis, he says that's not what it was. Is that the end of the analysis? And how do you anticipate and support within an investigation mixed motives?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Boy, it has been really frustrating today, Chris. I mean, we're just over 24 hours into the investigation. And I've seen people on TV saying, "I understand what this is. And I believe that hate crimes should be charged."

So, let's go into the investigation. Your first question is getting into the mind of somebody, who might not even, himself, understand why he did this.

I need his social media, I need his texts. I need his email. I need interviews with friends, family, former roommates. I need to go back years. I need to look at his Google search history.

And then I need to look at things that are aberrations. One friend says this. One friend says that. They don't square. How do I do a next interview tomorrow?

To understand the motivation of somebody like this, and to determine whether the motivation is clear, it's sexual, it's racist, takes a little while. We're not going to understand over time.

I will tell you that if he is honest, if we have access to his social media, to his Google search history, to his sex - to his texts, pardon me, in his emails, to interviews with friends and family, and they are honest, we'll figure it out, but not within 26 hours, Chris. That's too fast.

CUOMO: I got to tell you what bothers me about it, Phil. Give me your head on this. He can go a lot of places and encounter sex workers.

Now, by the way, I don't mean to indict these businesses, OK? I'm just going along with this suspicion of what he fed to the police, these spas, and massage players, Aromatherapy, wherever he was going.

He says, "I have a sex addiction. So I had to go to these places. I have to kill these women." He didn't have to go to these places. He didn't have to pick mostly

Asian women. He could have encountered sex workers in a lot of places. He could have killed lots of different kinds of people.

He picked these, and it makes me wonder if over time, you go to this implicit, you go to this unconscious, you go to the fact that he is just absorbing animus from somewhere, and he doesn't even really articulate it.

MUDD: Now, I think that's dead-on. Look at a couple of questions you would face.

First of all, there are stories out about whether he was going to visit locations in Florida. My first question, which I haven't seen answered "Were those places that were - that were, run by Asian Americans?" At that point, I start to say, "This looks way too suspicious."

The second point goes right to what you said. Let's say this individual believes himself, and he's telling investigators, this was a sexually-motivated crime. But let's say, after several days of investigation, we start to determine he identified sex with Asian Americans, the story starts to change.


And again, going back to the question of how quickly you determine motive, he may not know himself exactly why he did this, and we've got to pick into the brain of somebody who might not himself understand why he did this.

Amara, let's listen to something else this Sheriff said today. I'll get your take on it. Go ahead.


BAKER: He understood the gravity of it. And he was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him. And this is what he did.


CUOMO: Now, everybody's jumping all over this because it's obviously insensitive. But to the community behind you, and what you've heard Amara, how does this play?

WALKER: "He was just having a bad day." I think a lot of Asian Americans hear that, and they're hurt by it. It sounds like this Authority, I believe, that was a Cherokee County Sheriff's Department, downplaying what happened.

I mean, eight people killed, in three spas, across Atlanta. Six of the eight, were Asians. We understand six of them, all six of them, were Asian women. And so, when you downplay it, to, "He was just having a bad day," again, we're going into the realm of dehumanizing these victims. CUOMO: Yes, mitigating the significance. Would he have said the same thing, if they were all White, if the guy had said he had targeted White victims, would have elicited the same thing?

There seems to be a nonchalance here about him, or he's just not a good public speaker. It could be other things.

But again, we're sensitive right now, Phil. We're sensitive right now to these kinds of things.

It can't mean nothing, that there's been a spike in these kinds of attacks and assaults, verbal and physical, against Asian Americans, during the Pandemic, during a time when there has been a hot political rhetoric, especially out of Trump's mouth, about "Asian blame" for our sickness.

Quick take?

MUDD: No, I think that's correct. I mean, let's step back for just 30 seconds. Look, let's determine - let's say whether we determine whether this was just - that this was just sexually-motivated. If you're Asian American, do you take comfort in that?

CUOMO: Right.

MUDD: The bottom line you have to ask is with the FBI, and with state and local law enforcement, the question is, are people out there looking at this, and saying, "I don't care what his motivation is. I hate Asian Americans too, and I'm going to do something else tonight."

I think the answer that you're looking at is dead-on. It doesn't matter whether his motivation is perfectly clear. If you're Asian American, you want protection. And that's appropriate.

CUOMO: Phil, as always, thank you for the analysis.

WALKER: If I could add something?

CUOMO: Go ahead.

MUDD: Thanks.

CUOMO: Last word to you, Amara.

WALKER: Yes, yes, just, you know, just because, you know, there's this frustration in the Asian American community that we are an invisible minority, and those kinds of comments make Asians even more invisible.

There's this model minority myth that Asians don't deal with racism, when in fact, the reality is that racism isn't new, that microaggressions happen to us, on a daily basis.

And the more you downplay it, the more it makes Asians invisible, and more vulnerable, to attacks, and less likely for authorities to take crimes against Asians, seriously, as hate crimes.

CUOMO: Understood. I mean that's why we have to make sure we're on it this time.

Thank you for your head, and thank you for your heart on this. I'm sorry for the hurt that you're dealing with, even within your own family. And I appreciate you reporting on it. It will help. Thank you.

Both of you, appreciate it.

All right, there is a new declassified government Intel assessment warning, all right? And what the warning says is the biggest threat to us from inside and outside this country.

The findings have the opposition party quiet as church mice. You want to know why? The House Intel Chair is here to tell you, next.









CUOMO: What does it tell you when a set of politicians is quiet about a threat? That's the situation we have to unpack right now.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers today that the biggest terror threat to the U.S. comes from inside our borders.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, DHS SECRETARY: At this point in time, domestic violent extremism, the lone wolf, the loose affiliation of individuals, following ideologies of hate, and other ideologies of extremism, that are willing and able to take those ideologies, and execute on them, in unlawful, illegal, violent, ways is our greatest threat in the homeland right now.


CUOMO: A related U.S. Intel report warns that extremism was likely boosted by Trump, and his enablers' bogus election fraud claims that will quote, "Will almost certainly" is their language, spur more violence by domestic extremists.

So, why does the opposition party, who says they hate terror, right, why are they so quiet? Why is the opposition party once again opposing even on this? How so? A dozen from that party voted against the bipartisan

legislation to honor the Capitol Police, who kept them safe, during the infamy of the Insurrection, on January 6th, which was a terror attack. Why?

At least one of them says he's even against the language in the bill, calling January 6th an "Insurrection." Listen.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I'm all for the medals, but the Speaker's legislation contains language that was neither fair nor accurate. We now know there was no armed insurrection. Nobody had arms.



CUOMO: If they beat you to death, with a stick, if they spray something in you that makes you die, does it really matter that it wasn't a bullet? I mean how tortured a defense of that day will these people give?

The opposition goes to reality. This is laughable, except it should make you cry because Gohmert says it with a straight face. Now, is it shocking? No. Gohmert had to say similar things, just days before, on a right-wing network, discussing a failed election lawsuit. Listen.


GOHMERT: But if bottom line is, the court is saying, "We're not going to touch this. You have no remedy," basically, in fact, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM.


CUOMO: This is where we are. Do you understand?

It is all related what the Asian community is dealing with, because of what was said during the Pandemic, by the President, how they are spinning what January 6th was not at all, which was anything benign, just another protest gone awry, with the efforts to suppress the vote, this is all Us and Them. That's what they're playing at.

Let's discuss with the Head of the House Intel Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.

Good to see you, Mr. Chairman.

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

CUOMO: How do you attack a problem when half of your number refuses to acknowledge it for political convenience?

SCHIFF: Well, that's a very good question. And it's impossible, frankly. Because when we do, it then becomes a partisan issue when it shouldn't be. There ought to be a bipartisan consensus to fight terrorism, wherever it comes from, and particularly when it comes from within.

But, sadly, the GOP is no longer a party of an ideology. It's a Party of Donald Trump. And Trump has made that party about, as you pointed out, vilifying "The Other." It is the party of aggrievement and increasingly, a party of White aggrievement against everyone else.

And so, speaking out about this domestic violence threat from white nationalism, some in the Republican Party, in Congress, feel they're speaking out against their base and the President's base.

I would like to think that's not the majority of their base. But they are building a party around disenfranchising people of color. And they're unwilling to confront their demons. And that leaves us very vulnerable.

CUOMO: In this new Intelligence assessment, it seems as though Russia, but also the Trump folk, doubled down on their initial efforts in 2016.

Russia interfered again, even more so that the Trump administration didn't address the threat, but instead focused on misleading China information that was in large part fed to them by Russian agents, including Rudy Giuliani. And the White House was warned that this was happening. And Rudy said, "I don't care what they say."

What does all that mean to you?

SCHIFF: Well, there's a real consistent through line here.

In 2016, the Campaign Chairman for Donald Trump was Paul Manafort. Manafort was meeting secretly with a Kremlin Intelligence agent named Konstantin Kilimnik. And he was giving the Kremlin Intelligence, internal campaign polling data, as well as other strategic information about their targeting.

This was stuff that was very useful to the Russians because the Russians were engaged in a clandestine social media campaign to help elect Donald Trump. That's pretty graphic evidence of Manafort and the campaign trying to collude with the Russians.

Well flash forward four years, you have Rudy Giuliani--

CUOMO: Rudy put--

SCHIFF: --playing the role of Paul Manafort.

CUOMO: --Rudy put Manafort to shame, Congressman.


CUOMO: In terms of what he did.

SCHIFF: Well, and the thing is that four years later, it was all in the open.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: They didn't need to hide it anymore the way they did with Paul Manafort. Giuliani was willing to do it in the open.

And I think part of it is the President had been impeached, but he'd been acquitted. And that, I think he felt liberated to be quite overt about his efforts to cheat, as we would see with his call to the Georgia Secretary of State, his promulgation of the big lie.

But Giuliani following the leader (ph) the boss is working with people with known associations with the Kremlin, and they're only too happy to do it.

CUOMO: And warned by U.S. Intelligence officials, "Rudy, stay away from this guy. He's peddling things," and what the Russians were peddling was exactly what Rudy was selling.


All right, but now it's on your watch. And President Biden says "Putin is a killer. He will pay a price for those efforts." You do have part of the price in this S. 1, H.R. 1 People's Act bill that you're trying to get through. There is some election security hardening there.

Putin pulls back the Ambassador from the United States in retaliation. What does this mean, coming from President Biden? Is this an escalation against Russia?

SCHIFF: Well, Russia has escalated against the United States over the last several years.

And I think that President Biden is doing exactly what he should do, which is pushing back forcefully, number one, calling out Putin in a conversation, telling Putin that "I don't think you have a soul," being very straight and strong with him.

And they're contemplating what sanctions to levy on Russia, for their election interference, now made public, for their hacking of solar winds, for their other malign activities, the poisoning Navalny, the opposition leader. And so, I think that the President is doing exactly what he should.

And at the same time, President Biden is making it clear. "Look, there are going to be some common interests, like New START, like eliminate nuclear weapons, and where there are, we won't ignore those. But we're going to push back hard and you need to know it."

The Russians say they want certainty in U.S. relationship? They're going to get it. They may not like the certainty, though. And I have to say, Chris, it's refreshing to get a readout of a President's conversation with Putin, and not have to cringe, but be proud of what the U.S. President is saying.

CUOMO: Good. You can save the cringing for my last question. SCHIFF: OK.

CUOMO: We dealt with the country's business first. There is reporting that with Becerra leaving the A.G. post in California, to be the Secretary of HHS, there's an opening that the Governor can appoint, and that people are pushing you for that position.

Are you considering becoming the Attorney General of California, sir?

SCHIFF: I'm not commenting. But I appreciate the question. I am very gratified to see that it looks like Xavier Becerra will be confirmed tomorrow. I think he'll do an exceptional job. And I'm confident the Governor will pick a worthy successor.

CUOMO: You know that's not going to be enough on this show, Congressman. I know you're not commenting. But that means that you're not ruling it out. Yes?

SCHIFF: I'm not going to comment, Chris.

CUOMO: But by not commenting, you understand that that was an opportunity to say "I'm not going to do this."

SCHIFF: I am--

CUOMO: So, we'll see how it plays out. And I appreciate you. You got a better legal mind than I do.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

CUOMO: I'm not going to debate you. I'll leave it at that. Thank you for being with us tonight, Congressman. Good luck going forward.

SCHIFF: Thanks so much.

CUOMO: All right.

SCHIFF: You take care.

CUOMO: So, will the Democrats stop the country from a wave of Jim Crow laws? "That's not fair. Don't put it on the Democrats. This is about the Republicans." Only the Democrats can stop it, only.

Momentum is building within their ranks. The latest boost came today. And it is a double shot from President Biden and Georgia's first Black senator, who would likely not be senator, if the proposals that Georgia wants were already in effect. Next.










SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights, unlike anything we've ever seen since the Jim Crow era.

This is Jim Crow in new clothes.

This is Democracy in reverse.


CUOMO: That is the most junior member of the U.S. Senate making a most important case. Is our democracy going to get stronger or weaker? That is Senator Raphael Warnock. He is proof of the potential price in the balance.

The first Black man elected to the Senate, from the State of Georgia, a fact made possible because of overwhelming support of Black voters, who may be disenfranchised, who may be incapable of electing somebody like Warnock, if Georgia changes the laws the way they are trying to.

43 states have bills to restrict voting. The only single step to stopping the wave is to pass a federal law called the For the People Act, a.k.a H.R. 1, in the House, House Resolution 1, S. 1 in the Senate.

What does it do? It expands. It expands. It creates an automatic right to absentee vote. It expands our voting windows. It expands access. It expands. And therefore, it forbids you to constrict, OK?

Now, what is the challenge? The filibuster delay is, in the Senate. Why? It requires 60 votes to get to a vote on the bill. That's the Democrats' obstacle. But President Biden has finally seen the light of a potential way past the problem. Look.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Aren't you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing your agenda?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Yes. But here's the choice. I don't think you have to eliminate the filibuster.

You have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate, and back in the old days, when you used to be around there. And that is that a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking along. STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're for that reform? You're for bringing back the talking filibuster?

BIDEN: I am. That's what it was supposed to be.

It almost is getting to the point where there's, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.


CUOMO: It's interesting. I actually see the politics on both sides of that.

You either have to go for the laws or for the filibuster. No, it's false premise. There's always been a modification route, when it comes to the filibuster. The filibuster has been changed several times.

So, Biden's answer should have been "No," not "Yes." He doesn't have to choose between the two. And they have to stop talking that way, because the binary thinking is polarizing.

Needless to say, after the President gave that guidance, what did Schumer do, the next day, as the Head of the Democrats in the Senate? He introduced S. 1. Not known as a big risk-taker, he must know that this is now a little bit of a safer path. Is it?

Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren tells CNN, the plan is to put the bill on the floor. That's Schumer's job. Make Mitch McConnell use the filibuster to block it. Then people will see.


The opposition is going to do what it does, oppose, and that democracy will be in the Democrats' hands.

And hopefully, that will force, even the reluctant, to think about history here, and modify the filibuster, which the Democrats can do, on their own, if all the members in the Senate go along, right, because it's just a simple majority, and then they would have a simple majority vote to secure voting rights.

So, what's the "But?" The "But" is one Democratic senator at least, Senator Joe Manchin, from West Virginia. He's been clear on this show that he sees the filibuster as a way to protect the voice of the political party that is in the minority, and therefore he wants to protect the 60-vote rule.

But there's an odd paradox at play with protecting the minority here in the Senate, as Senator Warnock pointed out.


WARNOCK: It is a contradiction, to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to protect minority rights in the society.


CUOMO: It's true. And in fact, McConnell wants to protect his right to be a minority, so he can help efforts to suppress the rights of minorities.

The political truth is that the 50-vote may not be the number Democrats need to focus on here. After all, Warnock is not the only Democrat, who needs the support of Black voters, right? Biden wouldn't be in the Oval Office without the 87 percent support he got.

If they haven't figured that out, you better believe MAGA-Nation has.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST: Can a Republican win again, if H.R. 1 becomes law?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they allow that to happen, if it's allowed to happen, I think your Republicans will have a very hard time getting elected.


CUOMO: Look, Bartiromo, knows, of course, a Republican can get elected. Trump is just playing to the division.

Yes, if you only play to White fright, and you keep demonizing people of color, yes, you won't get elected again, if they have any say in it. So, the answer is to get their say out of the way?

Democracy is either about to become more or less inclusive on our watch. These bills in the House and Senate are the only way to protect minority voters.

President Biden, if you're listening tonight, or if this could be passed on, to you, this situation resonates with words, that mean so much to you.

The poem "The Cure of Troy," This may be the once in your political lifetime, that "The longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history can rhyme." So, hope for a great sea change on the far side of revenge.

Will those words resonate among Democrats? Because, if not, democracy will be, injured, on their watch.

Takes us to today, a lucky day on the calendar, right? Luck's not getting us out of the Pandemic. We're seeing what's happening all over Europe again. The spikes there will be our reality if we don't do the right things. That's exactly what happened the first time.

What are the odds of another surge? Next.








CUOMO: The CDC now lists five different strains as "Variants of concern," three as "Variants of interest." The good news is right now it looks like the vaccines can handle all of them.

But any lead time we had, gone. 15 states' cases headed back up. And here's the risk, doing too much, too stupid, too soon. Packed bars full of maskless people, celebrating St. Paddy's Day. This has always been the hardest variable to account for, "Us."

Let's bring in Dr. Leana Wen.

Doc, it's good to have you. What do you believe is the chance that we have another widespread surge?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER, ER PHYSICIAN, PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR, GWU: Unfortunately, Chris, I think that we are on the cusp of that fourth surge that we've been dreading.

And we see that. You mentioned 15 or so States that are seeing an increase in the number of infections already were also increasing over a high baseline of infections. And we have the variable that we now have these more transmissible Variants becoming dominant here in the U.S. very quickly.

All of this is against the backdrop of States lifting restrictions, especially mask mandates at exactly the wrong time. So, I think we are going to see a surge in the number of infections.

I think what helps this time, though, is that the most vulnerable, particularly nursing home residents, people who are older, are now vaccinated. And so, we may prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths.

But I do think we're going to see an increase in infections, just as the vaccine rollout is really speeding up.

CUOMO: So, because of what you just said, and again, because the vaccine, the surge doesn't matter as much. That's what people are saying.

WEN: Well, this is the concern. I really think that what is happening in Europe, with lockdowns and restrictions, that's not going to happen here. There are so many governors that had made it clear that they're not going to do anything with regard to increasing mandates of any kind, unless their hospitals become overwhelmed.

CUOMO: "But they don't have the vaccine like we do."

WEN: And I actually think that thankfully--

CUOMO: "But in Europe, they don't have the vaccine like we do. So, we don't have to worry the way they are."

WEN: I think we still need to worry because this time, unlike before, what we're going to see, in our hospitals, are young people, previously healthy people dying, who would otherwise be alive, if we only did the right thing.

And again, I'm not asking for businesses ought to be shut down again. I think all that we in public health are asking for is masking, physical distancing, the things that we know are helpful, and will work, in keeping us, tidying us over until the vaccines here can kick in.

CUOMO: Schools, you and I talk about them often. Have we been making a mistake lumping them all together? Should there be more of a push to open elementary schools? Because I already feel like the fall is getting iffy, again, in terms of what I'm hearing.

And so, high school is something different. There's a higher case rate. But elementary schools, should they be broken out, and a big push to get them open full-time in-person?


WEN: Yes, for two reasons.

One is that we know younger children transmit coronavirus less than older children. Older children, teens and above, tend to transmit at around the same rate, as adults do. But younger children, they are less likely to transmit to each other and to adults.

The other reason is younger children need in-person learning even more, and so one could argue that being in-person is even more essential.

And I do agree that we should now be looking at three feet, instead of six feet, when it comes to physical distancing in schools, because unless we can switch to three feet, we're not going to be able to get schools back full in-person.

CUOMO: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you for your points, of value-added as always, appreciate you.

So, attacks on Asian Americans have risen during this pandemic. Now, the shootings in Georgia have of course put the Asian American community even more on edge. Multiple Asian women murdered yesterday. No matter what the motive, it is horrific, and it reminds us that people amongst us, our own, are in pain.

A powerful voice, in the Asian American community, actor, and friend of show, Daniel Dae Kim, next.









CUOMO: In just a matter of hours, Asian American leaders, and activists, are going to speak out, at a House Judiciary panel, on the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination. It is the first time this panel will take the issue up, since 1987. And it cannot come any sooner.

And to be brutally honest, we have ignored this for a long time. The hurt is real. The fear is real. My next guest has long sounded the alarm, and lived the concern, Daniel Dae Kim, actor, activist, friend of show.

Good to see you, brother. I'm sorry, it's because we're in the middle of this. But if we don't talk about it, it's not going to get any better.

You heard about these shootings in Atlanta. They say the motive is unclear, maybe mixed. Maybe this suspect doesn't even know why he was doing what he was doing. How do all those things hit your ears?

DANIEL DAE KIM, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: Well, I think, Mr. Dunn, in your earlier segment, really hit it on the head.

Are we to take this man at his word for what his motives are? If he was "Having a bad day," do we really, and that's how it's characterized, do we even - does he even know what his motives were?

But one thing you can say is that even if he says explicitly that it was not racially-based, all you have to do is peel away a layer, to ask the question, "Why is temptation in the form of an Asian woman? Why then would you go to an Asian massage parlor, three of them, to target them?"

If this were a synagogue, say, or a Black church, would people had the same impression that clearly there's no connection to race, when seven of the eight people, who are killed are Asian, and six of them are women?

This is - this sits at the intersection of a lot of different issues, about how we feel about Asian Americans, how we feel about Asian American women, the exoticization and the fetishization that we've seen portrayed in the media for so long, so that they are now, to the point, where they can be disposable.

And that we're looking at someone - we're making - we're making someone who committed these murders already a victim by saying "He's having a bad day," and we're downplaying it.

This is similar to something that happened to me personally, Chris. And I've never told this story before. But my sister was the victim of a hate crime in 2015.

She was running, she was a marathon runner, and she was running in her own neighborhood, when a man, driving a car, came up to her, and yelled at her, to get on the sidewalk, when she was running on the shoulder.

She said she would do that. And the man then backed up, and hit her with the car. And when my sister turned around, and was shocked, and told him that "Did you just hit me?" he backed up the car, and as my sister was walking away, hit her again, knocking her to the ground.

And this man had a history of violence toward other Asian women. But when it got time to prosecute him, the D.A. was telling my sister that "We'll never get a hate crime, you should just hope for whatever you can get."

And he ended up getting convicted of reckless driving, when he used his car, as a weapon, to kill my sister. And there was no one, in the system, who was willing to help her shepherd this case, to the appropriate justice. And so this is--

CUOMO: This was 2015, by the way, not 1950. This is 2015. And the Judge said something that hit your heart when you heard the words of that Sheriff today.

KIM: That's right.

CUOMO: What did that judge say?

KIM: That's right. So, just at the Sheriff's spokesman said today that this man was having a bad day, the Judge, in the case with my sister, said, "I can understand why this guy was frustrated. I get frustrated too." And that's what he said. And that's when the verdict was brought down, that this would be reckless driving.

It also it harkens back to the Judge in the case against Vincent Chin. When they were brought to trial, the Judge said, "These are not the kind of men that you put in jail."

CUOMO: Right.

KIM: And so, they never served a day in jail, for the murder of Vincent Chin, who was mistaken for a Japanese person, when he himself was Chinese, at a time when the American auto industry was hurting, and Asian Americans were scapegoated then as well.


So, this is a part of our history, Chris. And so, I'm a bit skeptical when I hear that there's absolutely no connection between race and these murders.

CUOMO: We're on it. You're putting purpose to your pain. And you're speaking tomorrow to Congress. And you will always have a platform here. Nothing but love for you, brother, and we'll be fighting the fight with you.

KIM: I appreciate you, Chris, truly. Thank you.

CUOMO: Be well and good luck tomorrow. Speak truth to power.

KIM: Thank you.

CUOMO: We'll be right back.








CUOMO: You got to see what happened in Atlanta as an opportunity. I don't know what we're going to find out about what this shooter understands of his own motives. I am certainly not giving him any excuses.

But is there any other reason, other than the obvious here, for why he targeted Asian American women? Even if it was a sex thing, why did it have to be them? Why were they the object of his desire or his affliction?

And even if the analysis is strained--

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN HOST: I can tell you.

CUOMO: It's not your time yet.

LEMON: I am--

CUOMO: Even if the analysis is strained, you know it's caused fear with brothers and sisters within the Asian American community.


CUOMO: And we have to recognize their reality, because it's on the rise. The attacks are on the rise.