Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

Biden Condemns Anti-Asian Hate: "Hate Can Have No Safe Harbor In America"; Ex-Wife Of Trump Org Executive Working With NY Investigators; CDC Cuts Distance Needed In Schools From Six Feet To Three Feet. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 19, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is certainly a lot to talk about and take in. That's why we're going to bring you a one-hour special, Monday night, "AFRAID: FEAR IN AMERICA'S COMMUNITIES OF COLOR."

Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera, and Amara Walker will join me for a conversation, focused on the shared fear and concern felt by so many right now. That's Monday, 9 P.M., here on CNN.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Coop. That will be a great Special. Thank you very much.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Question, how should a President deal with hate? Here's the answer.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying.

They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.

It's been a year of living in fear for their lives.

Words have consequences.

Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit.

Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It must stop.


CUOMO: No "On both sides" BS. No, "I never heard of it." No, Right, no Left, just reasonable. Not both sides. There's only one side, the side against hate, spoken by President Biden, and echoed by a Vice President, who was our first South Asian, Black and female VP. VP Harris also delivered a powerful plea to stop the hate. And then,

after they spoke, they did what leaders have to do. They listen. These two did that, in Atlanta today, in the wake of Tuesday's spa shootings, six dead - eight dead, six Asian women.

The suspect in custody is White. This has not been labeled a hate crime. But on one level, the motive doesn't matter, because regardless, it generated fear in the Asian American community.

Now, I have to be honest. I don't know how you, looking at the circumstances, I don't know how you separate race from the targeting that went on here.

And I think one of the indications of this being a sensitive issue is that while it's generated fear in the Asian community, it's also generated animus on the Right political fringe that is oddly insistent that this is not a hate crime. Why? Why insist?

And why keep insisting, "You know, that attacks on Asians aren't always perpetrated by Whites." And? Does it matter? Does it matter who attacks out of hate? Maybe it does to people driven by division.

Fact, hate incidents against Asians have soared almost 150 percent since the Pandemic began. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported in just the last year. Up to 68 percent of the complainants are women.

President Biden called on Congress earlier to quickly pass the COVID- 19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite the federal government's response to cases like what we just saw, in Atlanta.

But we have to get to the root of why people of Asian heritage are being targeted in ever-increasing numbers. And let's be honest. This couldn't have helped.



Kung Flu, yes.


TRUMP: The world is suffering from this China Virus.

It's not racist at all, no, not all. It comes from China.


CUOMO: Yes, it is racist. And no, this is not about being woke. It's about the words he spoke, to target Asians as bad guys.

And no, calling a variant "The U.K. variant" is different, and you know this, because in one case, you are ascribing animus.

Trump is calling it those things as a proxy to blame the Chinese for getting us sick. And don't say, "Well, how do you know what he means?" He said it. He said that's why he's saying it.

And in the second, it's merely an identifier of the origin. And therefore, yes, Trump is to blame for the animus, at least partially.

Even as recently as the night of the shootings, in Atlanta, this week, there was Trump, over on hate TV, spewing his same racist refrains that only fan the flames of hatred.

And be honest, you know that's why the Righty fringe are saying it's not a hate crime. Same reason they say January 6th wasn't an act of terror, not an insurrection. It's to protect Trump and to protect a base that is increasingly about being a safe harbor for hate.


Like President Biden said, and as we all know, words matter, and when you look at what we've dealt with the last few years, starting with Muslims, "You know Islam hates us, right," Muslims as "Terrorists," Mexicans as "Miscreants," African nations as "Shithole countries."

Oh, yes, I said it. I'm not going to insulate Trump for his own vulgarity. You don't like that word? You don't think I should repeat it? Be bothered by the author. That's the vulgarity. That's the vulgarity. The intent is what makes it vulgar.

Black Lives Matter, "That's a hate symbol. Those people, ooh, that's an angry mob. They're going to come to your homes led by Cory Booker."

COVID, Kung Flu, all that BS, China Virus, it's all part of an illness of animus. And it worries me, and it worries you, I hope, even more than the Pandemic. This Trump virus, there's no easy vaccine. So how do we stop it?

Let's ask someone who brainstormed with President Biden today, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Welcome back to PRIME TIME. Good to see you, Mayor.

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: Thank you, Chris. Nice to see you, as well.

CUOMO: I hope the families on the mend. Everybody good?

BOTTOMS: Everybody's doing much better. And I hope that you are as well.

CUOMO: Better than I deserve.

So look, you are not new to the politics of division, to people being angry, for what's happening, and finding root causes and cures. When you see what happened in Atlanta, what does it speak to, in your opinion?

BOTTOMS: Our former Mayor, Maynard Jackson, used to say that "Atlanta is the city too busy to hate." And then we've heard it said that "Atlanta has to be a city that's not too busy to love." And I think that's where we are in America.

We can't be so busy with our day-to-day lives and our day-to-day concerns that we aren't thinking about those who are also in need.

We know over the summer, there was so much outpouring of support, and love and encouragement for the African American community, as we experienced the social protests over the summer. But lost in the conversation, that we've had, as of late, has been, hatred towards, many other communities specifically, our Asian American brothers and sisters.

And this - the absolute worst happened in Atlanta, but what's been highlighted is that we are still a community of love, and that there's still so much work to be done.

And that's what we heard, when we sat in the room with the President, and the Vice President today. We heard the frustration. We heard the anger, but also the righteous indignation. And it's going to take all of us to solve this issue - to solve these issues.

But it was a - it was a very moving meeting today. And just to have the President and the Vice President, in Atlanta, together, really speaks to how important this is to our country as a whole.

CUOMO: It takes everybody. But you don't have everybody, right?

The same people it would seem, who were saying, "Look at these savages running all over the streets of Atlanta, and all over this country. They're not about law. They're lawbreakers, they're rioters," they're the same ones now, to large extent, saying "How do you know it's a hate crime? He said it's not a hate crime, what happened in Atlanta? Why do you guys want it to be a hate crime so much? Why is everything a hate crime?"

What do you say to those people?

BOTTOMS: Well, when you look at the definition of a hate crime, in Georgia, it's not just based on race. It can also be based on sex. And he targeted Asian massage parlors, in his own words, if you are to believe the words of a mass murderer--

CUOMO: Right.

BOTTOMS: --because of some sexual addiction that he had, and he targeted women. So, I think that in and of itself speaks to the definition of a hate crime in Georgia.

But the reality is this, Chris. The stiffer penalties will come along with a murder conviction with murder convictions on several counts. In Georgia, the penalties, as I've read it, for hate crimes are only an additional two years for felonies.

But I do think the symbolism of him being charged with a hate crime is important. And I do hope that's what prosecutors will decide to do.

CUOMO: What do you think we need to do first, to make sure that the Asian community - I guess, in your biggest County, Fulton County, you're somewhere just south of 10 percent of an Asian population. But obviously, this is going to resonate with all minority communities.

What do you do to give confidence in the investigation and confidence of some type of cure?

BOTTOMS: Well, even in sitting in the room today, as you know, Atlanta is the center of a very large metropolitan area. So, Gwinnett County, where many of our representatives were from today, has a very, very large Asian American population.


And we - I took Chris, probably seven pages of notes sitting there because as informed as I think that I am, there's still so much more that I clearly see that we can do in the City of Atlanta, and we heard it coming from our state senators and state representatives.

And there was even the reading of a letter from one of the victims, children, who wrote the letter, as if she were writing it from her mother's voice.

And so, there is healing that has to happen. There's accountability that has to happen in our city and in our country. But there's also so much more that we can do because this community, just as we talk about Black and Brown communities, are all - they are often afraid to come out of the shadows.

Someone shared the story of a store that had been vandalized. The man who owned the store was an American citizen. But he was afraid to call the police because he didn't want it to interfere with his ability to bring his wife to this country.

These are real issues that we have, and there's so much work to be done. It's unfortunate that it's been highlighted on the - on the deaths of eight innocent people. But - and I think there's a lot to be learned and a lot more that we can and will do as a city and a country.

CUOMO: What have you learned so far in terms of whether or not the concerns of the Asian American community, as a minority community, are they the same, as they are for African Americans, the Black community, the Brown community? Or do you see similarities but also distinctions that need to be addressed?

BOTTOMS: They are the same. And I'm looking at my notes because Senator Park - Senator Park said that Sam Park (ph), that the Asian American community should have the ability to live without fear and equal dignity. Is that not what we all want for ourselves and for our families?

They're not asking for anything additional. They are not asking to be treated differently. They're asking to be treated with dignity, and to live without fear. I don't think that's too much to ask in the United States of America.

CUOMO: How big a deal was it to have Biden and VP Harris be in Atlanta?

BOTTOMS: Well, as you know, they were coming to Atlanta to discuss the American Rescue Plan, so that was a big deal in and of itself. I'm not aware of many times that the President and the Vice President have come to Atlanta together. I can't think of a time, quite frankly, in recent memory.

But what was also most striking, in our meeting, a lot of the concerns that were put forth, about access to resources, access to medical care, vaccines, et cetera, so much of this has already been contemplated in the American Rescue Plan.

Clearly, there's always more that can be done. But this is a thoughtful administration that we have in the White House, even before this tragedy, thinking about American families, thinking about citizens, and even those, who may be undocumented members, of this country, thinking about them, and contemplating ways that we can help them in the time of crisis.

And so, it was good to hear President Biden, in his own words, share those things that had already been contemplated. And I know that there's even more that even more takeaways that the White House, will look further into.

CUOMO: Hate always has a simple solution of loving your way through it, if you can get understanding. But this animus gets more and more complicated, you know?

With Black Lives Matter, it's people refusing to see that there are systems involved and there is inequality.

And now, with the Asian community, it's introducing people to the idea of - the idea of them being somehow a gifted minority that they don't have to deal with being a minority the way others do.

So, a lot of education we have to do, and that's why I want to have these conversations, especially with people with understanding and influence, like you, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Thank you for joining us, especially on a Friday night.

BOTTOMS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well.

All right, so the man in the shadows of Trump Co., the man who guards many of the secrets, who knows everything that Trump did with his money, prosecutors are going after him. They want to know about dealings and finances.

I'm talking about the Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg. Now, he has not flipped. There've been talk about him doing a cooperation agreement, when they were going after Michael Cohen.


But now, we're getting some insight we've never had before. His former daughter-in-law is talking, why? She says she's worried about Trump's power and the control dynamic there being used to silence her.

Now that she's gone through a hard divorce, she says she sees things, she's lived through things, and she wants you to know things about what this investigation is really about. Next.








CUOMO: Michael Cohen, you know him. He met with prosecutors in New York for the eighth time today, according to a person familiar with the matter.

President Donald Trump's former fixer might be the most well-known name, certainly the most infamous, in the investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"But can they really expect to bring a case against Donald Trump completely leaning on Michael Cohen?" is an expression. You start with a flawed witness. You're going to have a flawed case. And I'm not judging the man. I'm just saying his past may prove a burden.


But it turns out he may not be the person with the most inside information. That would be Allen Weisselberg. In fact, Michael Cohen often referred to him, in his dealings, for Trump, that Weisselberg knew and helped with everything.

Weisselberg is the longtime CFO of The Trump Organization. His role in the Trump business dates back decades to when the former president's father was running the place.

Now, one person who knows this world, better than most, is our next guest. She is the ex-wife of one Trump Organization executive, and the former daughter-in-law of Allen Weisselberg himself. And yes, Jennifer Weisselberg is talking with investigators.


CUOMO: Jennifer, thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: Why is it important for you to speak out now and about this? WEISSELBERG: It's important for me, because I'm being bullied and abused by Donald Trump's power. And the investigation going on is serious. And I'm a witness.

CUOMO: Now, people who support the President say "No, no, it's a witch-hunt. He just runs a business. He's just successful. And there's nothing different about this organization."

What is it like, for someone, who lived inside the culture of The Trump Organization, for as many years as you did, what do you think people should know?

WEISSELBERG: I don't think Americans nationally understand what goes on inside this small mom-and-pop organization, either by way they handle their finances, or by the way they conduct business with the lack of integrity.

CUOMO: Now, as an example of that, you say that you and your ex- husband, were gifted an apartment, when you were first married that you got to live in that never felt, let's say, as New Yorkers, kosher to you. It didn't seem like it was on the up and up. Why?

WEISSELBERG: To me, it felt - it felt completely kosher, Chris. It was - I had a surprise bridal shower, across the street, at Trump Wollman Rink.

In 2004, before I got married, I was walked over to an apartment, and brought in. It was gutted. And I, you know, my ex-husband said "Check it out. This is a gift from Melania and Donald for our wedding," right.

CUOMO: In retrospect, do you feel that it was somehow representative of how business and personal sometimes got mixed within The Trump Organization?

WEISSELBERG: Yes, I feel strongly that there's an abuse of control, meaning that now with perspective, and the fact that the apartment was deemed a corporate apartment, by Barry himself, in the deposition, in my divorce, which is the first I learned about it, in 2018, that the way the company, The Trump Org operates is by compensating you annually, in apartments, cars, tuition for my two children. And in that sense, it's difficult to leave.

CUOMO: What did you come to learn about the nature of the relationship between your father-in-law and the former president?

WEISSELBERG: It's a team. They absolutely don't - Allen doesn't do anything without him. It's not behind his back. He's - Donald Trump is fully aware of what he's doing.

But he is the one that makes the deals and then - Allen Weisselberg makes the deals and decides on every number, and how it will be handled, within the company, every number, every deal, every part of the finances, Chris.

And then Donald is told about it, approves or not approves of it, and then is the one that, you know, is the publicity head for it, is the talking head for it. But it's very much the same person. They're a team.


It's not a witch-hunt. This is based on finite numbers. This is based on - this is not hypotheticals. They're not trying to assume - they're not looking to do that. This is a serious, you know, financial laws are based on numbers. Either they broke the law, or they didn't.

It's - who they are is part of why they're talking to me. I happen to have personal documents only because my divorce started soon after the Inauguration. And I happen to have personal documents of the Weisselbergs, Allen and Barry. Sharing the content of it is it's too sensitive at this time.

But the other half of it is I'm a character witness for the control, the misuse of power, for who they are, and how they've done things for let's, you know, for decades. I've been close to the - in the family for 25 years. It's both--

CUOMO: What bothered you the most?

WEISSELBERG: The misuse of - the power and influence they use, the control. The - but the fact that at any cost it's - it doesn't matter how the other side in a deal makes out. They don't care. It's so self- serving, and it's unethical. There's no moral compass to that company.

CUOMO: Given how close, your ex father-in-law is to the former president, and his father, before him, you think that there's any chance--


CUOMO: --that he would go bad, on Trump, and side with prosecutors, or do you think he'll take the rap for him?

WEISSELBERG: Yes. No, I think he'll - I think that - I think that he'll - I think that he'll turn on him.


WEISSELBERG: I think that his sons have too many - too much criminal liability.

CUOMO: You think your ex father-in-law might turn on Trump to save his own sons?

WEISSELBERG: Yes. It's the only way.

CUOMO: Well, look, I know that you--


CUOMO: I know that you're being very respectful of the investigation. And we talked to Counsel. WEISSELBERG: Yes.

CUOMO: I know that they don't want you to divulge details, so I'm not going to push you. But I will thank you for setting the table for us.


CUOMO: And when you are able to talk about things, without compromising anything, you are welcome to do so here.

WEISSELBERG: Chris, thank you.

I think it's important that there's accountability for anyone and for all of them. I believe that the investigations are serious and going well. It began to go way more rapidly in the last few months, since they brought Mark Pomerantz in. And I am hopeful that justice will be served.

CUOMO: Jennifer Weisselberg, thank you very much. Good luck to you going forward.

WEISSELBERG: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate you having me.


CUOMO: Now, The Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing. Allen Weisselberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

We did reach out to Mr. Weisselberg and his legal team. They did not agree to come on. Barry Weisselberg, who is Jennifer's ex-husband, had no comment, when contacted by CNN.

So, let's unpack what we just heard. What matters? What does this suggest? Was there anything that sounds incriminating against the ex- president?

We have the perfect guest, a former Assistant Attorney General for New York State. He led the investigation and prosecution of Trump University. And he is here, next.








(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Jennifer Weisselberg's story matters. But for prosecutors, you only know what you show. So, it's the documents she has that could be key.

Few people better to get a sense of what you need in a case like this than Tristan Snell. He led the investigation and prosecution of Donald Trump in the Trump University case.

Counselor, good to see you.


CUOMO: What perked up your ears from that interview?

SNELL: Jennifer Weisselberg said it very well, when she referred to The Trump Organization, as a mom-and-pop organization. That's not how we think of the Trumps.

We think of it being this big, you know, big organization, Fifth Avenue, New York City, the biggest, the best, whatever. That's the Trump facade. It was a very small operation. And it still is, to this day, these things are run with a very small group of people, who had minute control over every single thing.

CUOMO: What do you see as the analog, the analogy, from what you learned, with Trump University, to what this larger investigation may look at?

SNELL: Well, look, it's all going to come down to a lot of the financial records.

For our case, it was a little bit different, because a lot of the fraud was being done, in these seminars, these supposed classes for Trump University. So, for us to get our hands, on the transcripts, of those classes was a big deal. But getting the financial records was definitely a thing.

Here, the misrepresentations that are at issue, the allegations of fraud that we think are going to emerge, were fraud made to lenders, saying that these buildings were worth so much, and then turning around, and going to tax authorities, and saying, claiming that the same buildings were worth almost nothing or worth a lot less.

And that it's those misrepresentations, the numerical misrepresentations are going to be the big issue here. So, a lot of it comes down to the financial records.

And Allen Weisselberg was very much, personally, the keeper of those records. It's not just that he ran a department. He personally was actually looking at every single penny that went in and out of that company.

CUOMO: So, Michael Cohen, he wasn't involved in that. As far as we know, he had nothing to do with the accounting. So unless he got his hands on those kinds of records, I don't know how he helps in that way.

Weisselberg, what could she have, in these personal documents that investigators wanted and got that could help them?

SNELL: You never know. People email themselves documents at their home address.


Both of Weisselberg's sons, including Barry, Jennifer's ex-husband, were personally involved with The Trump Organization as well. Things get brought home. Discussions are made about things that are going on at work.

She might have all sorts of information. She was part of that family for a very long time.

And again, Allen Weisselberg is not just the accountant or something like that, in the Organization. He was Trump's right-hand man. That is really, really, really - it cannot be emphasized enough.

CUOMO: You're not going to hang a case like this on Michael Cohen. What are you going to need?

SNELL: No, you can't hang it on Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen only touched certain aspects, when there was a certain payment that needed to be made, to quiet someone down.

Cohen was also involved with Trump University. There were certain students with Trump University that had raised enough of a ruckus that Cohen was dispatched, to pay them off, and get them to sign a release, and basically just shut them up.

Cohen had a very particular role within the Organization, but it was pretty narrow. I'm sure he's helped open up a lot of factual doors for the prosecutors. I'm sure he's helping guide them through a lot of the documents.

But at the end of the day, he's just one relatively small piece of the puzzle. The bigger kicker is that they can actually get Weisselberg implicated. And if he's implicated, they can get him to flip.

CUOMO: How easy is that? Or how hard is that?

SNELL: Well, the kicker is that if you actually are the CFO, and you're personally signing off, and everything, Weisselberg signed every check. He reviewed every tax form.

He reviewed, I'm sure he reviewed the proformas that would have been sent to any of the banks, to get these large loans, when they were getting loans from Deutsche Bank, and so forth, that are going to be key at issue in this investigation.

I think a really good analogy here is to Enron. Obviously, that was a while ago now. But for viewers, who may remember it, obviously that was a huge, huge financial scandal. This could be that big. And in the Enron scandal, their CFO, Andy Fastow, was charged with

fraud and conspiracy. He did cooperate with prosecutors. He still did six years in prison. But he did cooperate with prosecutors. He did flip.

But the CFO, in an organization that's committing rampant fraud, that CFO is almost certainly going to be personally implicated.

CUOMO: Now, look, this is heavily TBC, right, To Be Continued.

SNELL: Oh, of course.

CUOMO: But we do know this. Weisselberg was heavily mentioned by Cohen, in knowing everything that they did, in the payoffs with the Enquirer and all that stuff.


CUOMO: And he escaped any scrutiny supposedly working with them. What will he do this time, because this is exponentially more important?

Tristan Snell, thank you very much. Look back to having you back on, when we learn more. Be well.


CUOMO: And thank you for being here on a Friday night.

SNELL: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, backed by popular demand, ahead, a new installment of "Right And Wrong." We have the man, who has all the right stuff, Michael Smerconish. Ooh, that leaves me in a bad spot! Next.









CUOMO: Pushing conspiracy theories is no easy matter. But, pushing vaccines, to save lives, that seems beyond, many Republicans. Let's take it to a better mind to weigh in on the commentary, and talk "Right And Wrong."

Mr. Smerconish, thank you so much for joining us. Where would you like to begin?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "MICHAEL SMERCONISH PROGRAM" ON SIRIUSXM: Why not with the 47 percent, who tell Marist and NPR that as Republicans they have no interest in getting a vaccination.

CUOMO: Do you believe that that is right or wrong?

SMERCONISH: I believe that that is wrong. I believe that that is miscast as some item of individualism, Gadsden flag "Don't Tread on Me."

But what it overlooks is you're making a decision, not only for yourself, but also for your family and for your neighbors. I mean your decision to wear a mask, or not wear a mask, get the vaccine, not get the vaccine is going to impact me, as a member of the community. So I think it's selfish.

CUOMO: But here's why it is right for them, because they have been told that this science is a little squishy.

"And you got to be careful because it's all motivated to hurt Trump. And we don't really know that much about the vaccine. The data's kind of still slow and they keep evolving their understanding with it and seems like cases are going down anyway."

And you have people like Rand Paul bashing on Dr. Fauci that "You're overdoing it. You're overselling this. We don't need to do this." And they don't want to trust the institutions. And this is a perfect opportunity to show it.

SMERCONISH: But you invoked the name of your fearless leader. That would be former president Donald Trump. And after all, now we know he himself was vaccinated before he left the White House.

CUOMO: "Fake news! Fake news!"

SMERCONISH: So, why not take a lesson from him?

CUOMO: "Fake news!" He's never said he was vaccinated. He did say that you should get vaccinated, the other day, after being pressured to do so.

When we get to the point, where we do have this supply, and there starts to be a dip in demand curve, do you think that Biden, going on a messaging campaign, makes the difference? Or do you think he has to enlist Republicans and Republican culture archetypes?

SMERCONISH: I don't think that he can get it done on his own. I think that it's going to take a movement, among Republican leaders, and I'm not convinced that they're going to be there.

Look, why does, for example, former president Trump need to be extended an invitation from Joe Biden, President Biden, to get out on the platform that he already enjoys, and encourage people to do it? That's the right thing. You would think he'd want to do it without being prompted. But that

hasn't been the case.

CUOMO: He has zero interest in anything good happening that he can't take the credit for. Vaccine is a little bit of a tough play for Trump, because you think he pushed it, so he could own it.

Next one, what do you got?

SMERCONISH: Next one that I've got is the filibuster.

And I think that there's a very difficult decision coming from President Biden, because you know that this week, he embraced the idea of at least bringing back the speaking filibuster.

I don't think that's enough. And I think that the clock is ticking, not for the least of which reason is his opportunity to serve a second term. I don't know that I see that.


So if you're Joe Biden, you want to get a heck of a lot more done than just the $1.9 trillion relief package. Not that I'm undervaluing it, but there was a lot more that he promised Americans.

So, the calculus, in the Biden White House, right now, is one of "Do we try and really ditch the filibuster, and get our agenda accomplished? Or are we setting a dangerous precedent for what's to come?"

CUOMO: This is what we call a Ham and Eggs proposition in politics.

The relief bill was Eggs. How many eggs? What kind of way you're going to distribute the eggs? Ham is a real sacrifice. And if you allow voter rights to be suppressed, and curtailed, on your watch, that is Ham. You are going to bleed for that with your base.

The question is can he get 50 people to say, "Let's get rid of the filibuster." He may have to do the Byrd Bath. He may have to go to the speaking rule only because I don't think he'll get anything else. I don't even know if he gets that.

SMERCONISH: I remember what it was like to be present for a number of those Democratic debates, before COVID set in. And I heard a whole wish list that was advanced by both he and his opponents, on the presidential debate stage.

And I would sit there, and I would say, "It sounds great for the people who are in this room. But how are they ever going to get it through a Republican Senate or a Republican House."

We have a Democratic House. We have a split Senate. But the point is you can't get anything done unless there's cooperation from both sides. I don't think that the prospect is all that good for him accomplishing any of that, which he wants to get done. So, that's why they've got to make this call. And it's a very difficult decision. CUOMO: The days of cooperation are over. They may return. But now this is power politics.

The same way that you have this paradox that McConnell is fighting to protect the minority role in the Senate, while he wants to restrict minority voting all over the country, you have the same problem on the Democrat side.

To Manchin and the others, who are thinking about protecting the filibuster, you want to protect something that was born of Jim Crow, and it's an obstacle to you to stopping the next wave of Jim Crow? That too, is quite the dilemma.

Brother Smerconish, thank you for joining me, on a Friday night, and all the time you make for my audience. You are always a plus. Have a good weekend.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

CUOMO: See you on TV.


CUOMO: Smerc show, very strong, so is his radio show.

President Biden met his goal of 100 million shots in arms way early. Good. The CDC just set a new standard for schools.

Is that good? Three feet apart, is that enough? Isn't it always something else? Are we always applying more scrutiny to schools, and not getting them open, when we let other things open, when they're more at risk?

Let's talk. Let's talk turkey. Top health authority, next.









CUOMO: Frustrated? Me too. Especially, when it comes to schools? Absolutely.

While the rest of us are still urged to keep six feet apart, CDC says "Well, you know, within a school, maybe it's three feet." OK. Why? Because, while everything else, is opening up, more and more and more, our schools aren't matching that rate.

Why not? Kids are now considered safe, if they're only three feet apart. We know they don't get sick at the same rate, especially when you get into middle-schoolers. So, why have schools opened more slowly than everything else?

The CDC Director says the three-foot thing will only work if schools are taking other steps, mask-wearing, hand washing, and of course, ventilation. And yet, Teachers Unions are reluctant to move forward until they know more. What else is there to know? Let's see.

Dr. Leana Wen, good to have you here right now.

I am frustrated. Tell me I am wrong. Here is the proposition. Everything else is opening up, when they have much more risk, mostly adults. They're eating. They're talking. They're yipping. They're yapping. They're walking in and out.

Kids don't get sick as much. You've increased the testing. You have the distance. You've seen the numbers. They're usually the low side of any community, even if it has a real number. And they're keeping more and more restrictions that keep them from opening in full. Why?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you're asking exactly the right question, Chris. And that is we should be talking about which activities are the most essential in society and making sure that those are operating.

And I think most of us can agree that having schools be reopened for in-person instruction, full-time, ideally, is really essential. And that's why I'm very much in favor of this switch from six feet, to three feet, because if we keep on the six-feet distancing, we're not going to be able to reopen schools fully.

And so, I actually think the question is not, is it safe, because nothing at this point is 100 percent safe. There is going to be some risk in reopening schools, period, and some risk in changing from six feet to three feet.

But I think it should be - the question we should be asking is, is it essential? And then if it is, let's reduce risk as much as possible.

So actually, one thing that I wish the CDC did more of, is to say, if we are going to go to three feet, what are the other layers that we're going to make sure are in there? Of course, mask-wearing, but can we, to your point, can we have much better ventilation in these classrooms?

Can we make sure that teachers and staff are all vaccinated when you go to three feet? Can we also look at testing as another way to make it even safer?

CUOMO: And look, I'm in favor of all of it. And I've had the head of one of the major Teachers Unions on to discuss it.

But I'm still saying, this population is the least likely to be hospitalized, and die, or even have severe illness, and we're putting the most onus on the responsibilities that need to be in place and requirements before we open them. Just doesn't make sense.

Now on vaccine, we have ways to go before we have a problem of not enough demand for supply. Do we agree on that?

WEN: True, although it's going to be different in communities around the country. There are some places that I'm hearing from local health officials, who are already concerned that maybe, on their county level, that maybe supply is going to match demand very soon.

CUOMO: Right. But the bigger populations that you have, you start to have more demand than you have supply.


As we look forward to those who are reluctant to get it, the idea of messaging and targeting Republican resistance, I keep hearing concerns about not enough people wanting the shot in those communities. What would make a difference when it's political?

WEN: Yes, so I think that there are different groups that may be expressing vaccine hesitance, and we have to target them differently.

So let's leave out the anti-vaxxers, the people who don't believe in science, who are not vaccinating their children, let's leave them out for a moment, because that's not the group that's the most convincible.

I think there's a really large group that is just uncertain about the vaccine. They don't know how serious coronavirus is. They may have heard some things about the vaccine. I think, for these groups, approach them not as a monolith, but actually understanding what each individual's concerns are.

And a lot of those conversations need to occur by someone trusted in their community, for example, a local doctor, a pharmacist, a church leader, not so much the national celebrities, although certainly that can't hurt. But actually, it's those individual conversations that really make a difference.

But I think that there's another component here too Chris, which is that people need to have vaccines available to them when it's convenient.

I know we're always, in the media, talking so much about COVID. But a lot of people, that's not their top concern. They're worried about going to work. They're worried about taking care of elderly parents and young children.

We have to make getting the vaccine the easy choice by having it available in their pharmacy, in their workplace, in their school, in churches. And I think that's how we're going to address so much of this issue of resistance. That's not actually hesitancy, but it's just lack of willingness to seek out the vaccine.

CUOMO: Convenience means a lot, especially when it comes to vaccination.

Dr. Leana Wen, thank you and have a good weekend.

We'll be right back.

WEN: Thank you, you too.