Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz: "I Have Not Yet Begun To Fight"; Forensic Pathologist: "Activities Of The Law Enforcement Officers Resulted In Mr. Floyd's Death"; Leaked Video: Texas GOP Official Recruiting "Army" Of Poll Watchers In Mostly Minority Areas Of Houston. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 09, 2021 - 21:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Under the current conditions, they wouldn't be able to. Maybe as few as six people allowed in the Chapel at Windsor. We'll have to wait and see how things pan out, details tomorrow.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right, Max Foster, thanks very much.

That's it for us. The news continues. Have a great weekend. Want to hand things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, best to you and the boy, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Representative Matt Gaetz made his first public appearance tonight since his sex trafficking and prostitution scandal broke. The choice of occasion? A speech to a women's group, though, under investigation for sexual misconduct with women.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): So, let me assure you, I have not yet begun to fight.

The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life, to wild, and I mean wild, conspiracy theories.

I won't be intimidated by a lying media, and I won't be extorted by a former DoJ officials and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.

When you see the anonymous sources and insiders, forecasting my demise, know this. They aren't really coming for me. They're coming for you. I'm just in the way.


CUOMO: Now, you've heard this before. This, "We are all victims of the Big Bad Deep State," was a Trump signature sellout line. Will it work for Gaetz, when there's a very different set of circumstances around him than Trump? First of all, what he says was an extortion theory has all but fallen away. And this investigation, remember, was started by the Trump-run DoJ. In fact, then-Attorney General Barr needed personal say-so, for an investigation, against a sitting Member of Congress to go forward. How does that square with the Deep State?

Now look, the crowd loved it. But I'm not sure there were any DoJ investigators in that crowd.

News that Gaetz's friend Joel Greenberg is cutting a plea deal with the Feds definitely ups the stakes for him. That deal has to mean that Greenberg has been cooperating already and probably for a while.

There's another key point. Feds don't ordinarily cut deals with someone for information about lesser crimes by others. You understand what I'm saying? If they're going to give you a deal, it's not for you being able to rat on people with information that is less than what you did.

That means Greenberg likely was offering information to fuel a prosecution on equal or more serious grounds against others. Remember, Greenberg is charged with paying for sex, including sex with a minor, trafficking of girls for sex, girls who were allegedly provided drugs and money, and a couple dozen related crimes.

There will likely be other names introduced into this beyond Gaetz, in addition to Gaetz, and a broader reach of allegations. But one of the most troubling aspects, so far, on that point, Gaetz already has some explaining to do.

You heard on this program last night, there is reportedly a trail of payments from Gaetz, to Greenberg, to other women, three, in fact. One, including actress star - an actress star, who's in the adult entertainment business, through Venmo, OK? It's an online app where you can pay people.

Now, luckily for Gaetz, he's in the GOPQ, and they have a high and hearty appetite for scandal. But the House Ethics Committee announced it's opening its own investigation into the Re-Trump-lican Congressman. Now, we will see if his Party actually goes after one of its own.

But Gaetz can't be completely confident of his future. After all, he did reportedly ask the Trump White House for a preemptive pardon, and was denied.

But judging by something else that I want to play you that Gaetz said tonight, he is either pretty sure he can beat back the allegations, or he is a very unique kind of clueless.


GAETZ: I take the words of Margaret Thatcher to heart. "If you want something said, get a man. If you want something done, hire a woman."


CUOMO: No irony there! "Hire a woman," seriously? You're under investigation for possibly hiring women for sex. With these Trumpers, you just can't make up the lack of shame in their game.

Now, there is more to dissect that is new information on this case, including this trip to the Bahamas that Feds are now scrutinizing.

But let's keep first things first tonight. Week two of the George Floyd murder trial ended with perhaps the most important witness yet. That witness is the Medical Examiner, who conducted the autopsy and issued the death certificate.


Dr. Andrew Baker told the jury, drugs, prior health conditions, certainly contributing factors to Floyd's death, but.


DR. ANDREW BAKER, HENNEPIN COUNTY CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: Mr. Floyd's use of Fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint.

His heart disease did not cause the subdual or the neck restraint.

So, my opinion remains unchanged. It's what I put on the death certificate last June. That's cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual restraint, and neck compression. That was my top line then. It would stay my top line now.

I would still classify it as a homicide today.


CUOMO: Now, this goes to the direct heart of the causation case, compression and restraint.

Now, the prosecution argues, and Baker helped them with this, not only was what Officer Chauvin did the cause of George Floyd's death, under the law, but it was the primary thing that killed Floyd, according to Chief Medical Examiner, of Hennepin County, Minnesota.

And a forensic pathologist, who once helped train Dr. Baker also agreed that police actions caused the death.


DR. LINDSEY THOMAS, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: The activities of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd's death, and that specifically those activities were the subdual, the restraint, and the neck compression.

There is no evidence to suggest he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement.


CUOMO: Now, the defense has no burden to put on a case. But it, in all likelihood, will put on what they call a Defense Case-in-Chief. That means they call their own witnesses.

What will they be looking to do? And what is the bar after what they have been up against, in the first part of the testimony, on the prosecution case?

Let's take it to the better minds. Mark O'Mara, the lead defense attorney at the Trayvon Martin murder trial. He helped get George Zimmerman acquitted of all charges in 2013. And Dr. Joye Carter, forensic pathologist, who helped review evidence for the prosecution, in this trial, against Derek Chauvin

Good to see you both, especially on a Friday night.

Mark, what did you make of the degree of strength of the prosecution case, on causation?

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Overall, for the past two weeks, I thought they've done a great job.

The whole cadence of the way they did this, from the beginning with the video to the bystanders, and now, this week, with all of the experts, they did a really good job couching everything that they wanted to couch.

And I will tell you, normally, as you know, Chris, we - they'll start off with the Medical Examiner, get that out there, cause of death, "He did it," and then move forward.

I think they sort of left Baker to the end for a couple of reasons. He wasn't perfectly strong for the State. He gave them what they needed. But he did talk about these other contributing factors.

Again, not critical, but at least there's something there, which is why I think they brought on a couple of really strong witnesses, before Baker, almost to just minimize or parse over what he did.

And again, I have to admit that this gives the defense, at least, some of what they need, because again, all they need is to show that there's reasonable doubt, where did they get that?

It's either from a lack of evidence or a conflict in the evidence. And a good defense attorney is going to say that what Baker said isn't quite what Tobin said, or quite what Thomas (ph) said.

So, I think that there's a little sliver of light there that the defense is going to try and capitalize on. But you're right, Chris, they have to put on a case. They have to have their own witnesses, their own experts, to try and open that sliver of light up.

CUOMO: They only need one juror!


CUOMO: Did you agree with how it was presented today, and the conclusions?

CARTER: Well, as I've said before, both of these doctors are saying the same thing. They are making an opinion of homicide. They're mentioning that compression, and the subdual. And I think that's what everyone needed to hear. And they were questioned appropriately.

CUOMO: The idea of the presence of Fentanyl that in one of the early reports was characterized as a lethal amount, or an overdose amount, in this system, where does that figure, in your reckoning, from what you've seen, as in the priority of causes of why Mr. Floyd died?

CARTER: Well, the only thing I can go by is what the Medical Examiner has ruled, as far as the official death certification. He has mentioned the drugs were present. He did say that they did not by themselves cause his death. And that's important.

CUOMO: You have talked before about how the autopsy alone, Doctor, can't determine the cause of death, that context matters.


I want to play a piece of sound right now that you say needs context.


BAKER: Had Mr. Floyd been home alone, in his locked residence, with no evidence of trauma, and the only autopsy finding was that Fentanyl level, then yes, I would certify his death is due to Fentanyl toxicity. Again, interpretation of drug concentrations is very context-dependent.


CUOMO: Defense says "Forget about the context part. You heard that autopsy would have been this was a drug overdose. That's all you need." Is that true?

CARTER: That is not true. The circumstances of death are always important, wouldn't - take your victim as you find them.

And if someone was found in an alley, or in their own bed, or in a vehicle, and there was no action going on, that makes it a totally different set of circumstances. You have to look at the circumstances and where you find your victim.

CUOMO: Now, Mark, what do you think? Do you put Chauvin on the stand, when it seems like your chance to get him off the hook has nothing to do with how people feel about him, but how they feel about the level of certainty of why George Floyd died?

O'MARA: That is a decision you contemplate from the first day he walks in your office, and you never make that final decision until you have to, right at the end of the State's case. It will be extraordinarily dangerous to put Chauvin on.

And here's what I would do as the prosecutor. I would stop that video every 15 seconds and say, "What were you thinking now? Why were you doing this now?" And literally, do that for 9.5 minutes, and what is Chauvin going to say when he gets to minutes five, six, seven, eight, and nine, and three minutes after the, you know, "He had no pulse."

Extraordinarily dangerous, and what you said Chris was right. This is now going to be the Battle of the Experts. And that is where the defense has their chance of reasonable doubt.

I will tell you, Chauvin can take away any chance of reasonable doubt, if he gets on that stand, and is less than perfect. And I'm not sure how he can be perfect with the facts that exist.

CUOMO: It's going to be very hard for a jury, no matter how they feel about the politics around this situation.

The level of indifference that Chauvin demonstrated in voice and appearance, during this episode, is going to be hard for him to explain, unless they could come up with some idea that he was in shock.

Now, causation, I keep pounding this for the audience because I really believe it's going to be the dispositive element here. They don't have to prove, the prosecutors, that Chauvin is the only reason he died, for him to be guilty, under the homicide statutes, in play here. How important is that?

O'MARA: Extraordinarily. It's got to be a substantial contributing factor.

The idea, if you take that to the logical extreme, the opposite idea, is that you can only kill somebody, who is otherwise perfectly healthy. So, you can't kill somebody who's got diabetes, or who is obese, or overweight.

It's really, if the State can get that point across, of course, it only got to be a substantial contributing factor, because nobody doesn't have any other factors. And I think if they hit it that way, then the statute is there for that very reason.

If you are a substantial contributing factor to a person's death, you are responsible for it. And that's got to be the mantra of the State.

CUOMO: Is there any reasonable assessment, Doctor, to put a button on it, that would reasonably conclude that the actions of Chauvin were not a substantial causal factor?

CARTER: Well, that's really out of the realm of a forensic pathologist. It really is about the cause that they determine, and they properly certify. That is up to a decision by those who are hearing these arguments.

CUOMO: In doing the case law on it, Mark, in Minnesota, they go to intervening factors of three, four, five other things.

O'MARA: Yes.

CUOMO: And as long as what is being prosecuted is among them, the defendant gets stuck. Here, at best--

O'MARA: Right.

CUOMO: --you have two others. Neither is going to, qualify, as a supervening or superseding, something that was bigger and more important than anything that happened before it.

It's going to be a very interesting case, depending on what the defense can do, on the doubt of the forensics. And that, as the doctor and you have been explaining, will be the part to watch.

My guess, at this point, is Chauvin doesn't take the stand. I'll see if I feel that way next week.

Mark O'Mara, have a great weekend.

Dr. Joye Carter, thank you.

O'MARA: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, much more to come.

O'MARA: You're welcome.

CARTER: Thank you.

CUOMO: Of course, we're going to follow the Floyd murder trial, all the way through, and analyze it step by step by step. It's the only way to do it. You can't get ahead of what you've been shown. You only know what they show in court.

Now, with Gaetz, it's different because they're under investigation. And Matt Gaetz has decided that he is going to be up and strong in the face of these allegations.



GAETZ: Firebrands don't retreat, especially when the battle for the soul of our country calls.



CUOMO: Now, the question is will Congressman Firebrand flame-out, or is he innocent, like he claims? Where is this investigation headed? How long will MAGA-World stick with Mr. Firebrand? Next.







CUOMO: Congressman Matt Gaetz speaking up from the safe space of a Trump resort.



GAETZ: I may be a canceled man in some quarters. I may even be a wanted man by the Deep State. But I hear the millions of Americans who feel forgotten.



CUOMO: Again, I don't get the Deep State thing in this context. This investigation was started by Trump's DoJ with approval by Attorney General Barr. So, will this work? Certainly, it will, with the friendlies in MAGA-World.

But he may be facing real questions from the House Ethics Committee. So, let's bring in someone who understands that pressure well, former Republican Congressman, Charlie Dent. He used to chair that Committee.

Good to see you.


CUOMO: So, let me play you a little bit of really what is a page right out of the Trump playbook of how to deal with political allegations, to the extent that Gaetz is in political trouble, listen.



GAETZ: Big government, big tech, big business, big media, they'd all breathe a sigh of relief, if I were no longer in the Congress.

When you see the leaks, and the lies, and the falsehoods, and the smears, when you see the anonymous sources, and insiders, forecasting my demise, know this. They aren't really coming for me. They're coming for you. I'm just in the way.


CUOMO: Now, we both know this is right out of a playbook. The question is does it work as a good play here? What's your take?

DENT: No, I don't think this is a good play at all. They really aren't coming for them. They're coming for him. He has big problems. He cannot talk his way out of this one.

These allegations are so serious that the Ethics Committee inevitably was going to take this up. I know what's going to happen, though. The Department of Justice will call the Committee and ask them to defer their investigation.

They're going to ask - they don't want to have two - DoJ does not want two investigations going on simultaneously. The Committee will likely accede to that request. They don't have to, but they may.

But, at the end of the day, Matt Gaetz cannot talk his way out of this one. He has, between the sex trafficking, prostitution, fake IDs, impermissible gifts, these are all allegations, mind you, there's a lot here.

A normal Member of Congress would feel some level of shame. And then they would - they would resign out of respect for their families, and their constituents--

CUOMO: If they did it.

DENT: --and the institution itself.

CUOMO: If they did it.

DENT: Yes.

CUOMO: Now, the problem is politically--

DENT: Yes.

CUOMO: --you don't have to do it. You just have to have enough people in your Party think you did it, and then you're in trouble. But I don't know that that bar would be impossible for Gaetz to get over either, in the current state of your Party.

Three of the five Republican members, on the Ethics Committee, voted to overturn the election, including the Ranking Member, Walorski. I mean, these are diehard Trumpers, who would lie about election fraud. Why would they go after one of their own in Gaetz?

DENT: Well, my experience on that Committee, I know Jackie Walorski, quite well. She can be very fair-minded person. And I do think, and that Committee, it's evenly split, between Republican and Democrat.

There was clearly a consensus between Jackie Walorski and the Chairman Ted Deutch, to initiate this investigation. They couldn't move forward without a bipartisan consensus. So, there's clearly one. And I do believe the Members of that Committee, behind closed doors, will look at the facts. And they will make judgments based on that. That was my experience. And I think that is still the case on that Committee.

CUOMO: Obviously, he's got bigger problems. If he can clear the DoJ case--

DENT: Yes.

CUOMO: --and there is no indictment, don't you think that, on the political side, this goes away as well?

DENT: Well, sure, if in fact, there is no indictment--

CUOMO: I mean, McCarthy said that.

DENT: --well then Matt Gaetz--

CUOMO: Just to be clear for the audience, McCarthy said, "If he's not indicted, we're not going to take him off committees."

Remember, you guys play by a different set of rules, on the Right, than they do on the Left? And like, you would have never heard that from Pelosi, about a Democrat.

So, if he's not indicted, and I don't know that it's a sure thing that he gets indicted on anything, like what the ugliest allegations are, what do you think happens politically?

DENT: Well, if he's not indicted, he'll be able to claim victory. Now, he still has a problem.

He's still going to have a problem with the Ethics Committee, because they're going to probably look at that issue of him sharing pictures of women, naked women on the Floor. That's a potential problem for him that may not be criminal, and other violations of rules like impermissible gifts. But I think we're a long way off from that.

And by the way, I did see Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, indicted, and they stayed in office, until they were convicted or pled guilty. And then, of course, they resigned in short order.

But that's another scenario that's likely to happen, if he does get indicted, then convicted, he will be gone. But he'd be smart to get out quickly.

CUOMO: Well he certainly does not agree. But remember, that's out of the Trump playbook. We'll see if Trump keeps supporting him, and that energy stays behind him, as this investigation continues to yield information to the outside world.

Charlie Dent, thank you very much. The best to you and the family for the weekend.

[21:25:00] Now, one of the pieces that Gaetz is going to have to deal with, in this expanding web, is Bahamas, this destination that Gaetz certainly went to, with a bunch of other people, OK?

The FBI is very interested in it. And the reporting suggests that they may have already questioned women who were there. Why? What does this mean about the extent of this probe?

We have a former top gun at the FBI to take us through what matters and why, next.








CUOMO: Federal investigators are now looking specifically at a trip that Matt Gaetz took to the Bahamas, and why? Because, what else was going on there during that trip? Were women paid for sex?

Well, that's one thing that probably will mean nothing to the federal government unless they were brought there for that reason. That's where this goes from state to federal, because it is now, interstate, and they have a federal statute called the Mann Act that prescribes that kind of behavior.


So, this means, while the Congressman may play this as politics, federal investigators that started this, under a Republican administration, with the say-so of the Republican Attorney General, who was Trump's choice, this is bigger than politics. Now, that doesn't mean that they're going to be able to make a case.

Let's take a look at what the latest is. "The New York Times" reports that the FBI has already questioned witnesses about whether there was an exchange of sex for money, or travel. They have even talked to one of the women and seized her phone.

So, let's discuss how serious this could be, and what it takes for it to be, very serious, with former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.

Now, let us trust the audience that they've been following this and can get a little in the weeds. This is not that easy for federal investigators, let alone, to go after a Member of Congress, who is a political lightning rod, and swing and miss. You can get Gaetz for paying for sex. And it's not a federal problem.

You can get Gaetz for paying for sex, and someone traveled somewhere, for the purpose of that, but can't prove he's the one, who did the pay, for the travel, and you still can't get him, on the federal side.

You have to prove that he paid not only for sex, but to travel the person, across the state line, and that, then if that person was a minor, then he's in real trouble because you go from a 10-year maximum sentence to a 10-year minimum. Do I haven it right?


So, the Mann Act says you cannot - you cannot transport someone interstate for immoral purposes. So essentially, you can't bring someone from one state, to another state, or out of one state, to a foreign place, like the Bahamas, for the purpose of having sex.

Now, that's why they're interviewing these people, these women, who allegedly were on this flight, to the Bahamas, also these other men, who were on the flight - who were alleged to have been on the flight as well.

So there - you're right. There are a lot of details that investigators have to parse through here.

But I have to say, it's not, you know, you don't need to find a piece of paper, upon which someone wrote, "Here's $500 for having sex with me in the Bahamas." There are - there are reasonable logical assumptions that you can make associated with that evidence.

So, if Matt Gaetz pays Joel Greenberg, a certain amount, and then Joel Greenberg immediately transfers that same amount to a woman, who also admits that she had sex with Matt Gaetz, in the Bahamas, then you're getting closer to building a case.

CUOMO: You pay specific attention to a date here, that we were told in court that May 15th is the date the Judge set to work out a plea deal. Why does that matter?

MCCABE: It matters for a couple of reasons. First, nobody pleads guilty to a case in federal criminal court unless they are cooperating.

I mean, it is exceedingly rare that someone comes in, and just says "I did it" and pleads guilty to the indictment. Hardly ever happens. So, if we know that they're planning on a plea on May 15th, it is almost 100 percent that Greenberg is cooperating.

If they are scheduling the plea for May 15th, it means that they have already proffered Joel Greenberg. And that makes sense in terms of the reporting we're hearing now, because we're hearing that investigators are interviewing women, who allegedly participated in these events, men who allegedly participated in the travel. It is possible that they got that information from Joel Greenberg.

You can't go to court with just Joel Greenberg, as a witness. He is banged up in all kinds of ways. You need to corroborate everything he says. So, investigators are doing that right now.

CUOMO: Also, feel free to say "I'm overstating it," but in my experience, in working with you guys, it was almost always my experience that you wouldn't give somebody a deal for equal ammo against somebody else, unless the person was seen as being the head of an organization or something like that.

That if they were going to make a proffer off Greenberg, and give him a deal, it's because they offered him information about criminal activity that was absolutely equal but probably greater than what they had on him, fair point or no?

MCCABE: Absolutely fair. You have to go up the chain, right?

It is actually written into the U.S. Attorney's Office Manual that you shouldn't cooperate people, you shouldn't give people reduces in sentencing exposure, for cooperating against individuals, who are less culpable.

So, if Greenberg is getting a deal, it means investigators are interested in his information, because he's leading them to someone or something more significant than just Joel Greenberg.


CUOMO: Now, Gaetz denies all of these allegations. And, to be clear, other names will almost certainly be added to the mix. And maybe Greenberg gave them things on somebody else, somebody up the ladder, but it's not Gaetz.

And when they do, Andrew McCabe, I'm coming right to you. Thank you very much for your help.

MCCABE: I'll be here.

CUOMO: Have a good weekend.

MCCABE: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. We have news on the pandemic that we have to sort out. More and more of us are getting vaccinated. That's good.

But there are questions that are arising about safety, efficacy, production, they should not be ignored. We can say the vaccine is a good thing, and that we should get it, but also be honest about what it is and what it isn't.

Let's do that in a "Dose of Reality" from big-time doctor, next.







CUOMO: OK, some states are now reporting more vaccine supply than demand. That is a rarity. But it is popping up. And we should see the trend. It shows that hesitancy could be starting to slow our quest to reach herd immunity.


For example, Mississippi reported 73,000 open slots, Thursday. Why? Maybe in part because of worrisome headlines like these, four states reporting adverse reactions to the J&J vaccine, three people in Michigan reportedly dying of COVID, after being fully vaccinated.

Is there a real cause for alarm? Is there more to this? Let's get what we're calling a "Dose of Reality," where we spot-check the good and bad on the march to get past the pandemic.

Dr. Leana Wen joins us.

Good to see you. I know you have a book coming out. And I appreciate that. It's called "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health."

Welcome back to PRIME TIME. Let's write a new chapter right now.

So, when you look at these things, adverse reactions to J&J vaccine, I was looking at the story, when they closed one place. And then, I got pushed off it by the CDC, and others, saying "Yes, there's no cause for concern."

Well, now you got a number of states doing it. CDC is still saying "Not a cause for concern." Why not?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, what's really important, Chris is exactly what you said, which is, we really need to be investigating each of these reports.

The worst thing that could happen now is for the public to be thinking that something is being covered up. Actually, it's total transparency that's key to establishing public trust.

And so, what's happened in these sites is there was an investigation in each of these cases to find out, was there something wrong with the batch of vaccine? They found out that there was no quality control issue.

And in all these cases, it sounds like what happens is the individuals reported some combination of nausea, dizziness, palpitations that are probably attributed to anxiety and not to an effect from the vaccine.

But that was really important for the investigation to occur to publicly report the results, and then to say, "Everything is fine. This is why."

CUOMO: Yes, I don't think they did that well. One, it was hard for us to figure it out, OK? And we are not like the kind of lowest common denominator who you have to please on this.

You got the J&J vaccine, right? You've been looking at the data. Obviously, your experience was good, or you would have told us. In the trial, excuse me, in the trial, you got the placebo, right? But in doing the research--

WEN: Right.

CUOMO: --about the trial and the drug, do you have any problems with not just its efficacy, but its safety?

WEN: I do not. So, I was in the vaccine trial, where, and actually in a two-dose trial, I ended up getting two doses of placebo, although didn't realize it until last week, when I was un-blinded and actually, last Wednesday. So nine days ago, I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CUOMO: And you were OK?

WEN: We actually do have data that are coming out.

I am totally fine.

CUOMO: OK, good.

WEN: Very minimal side effects. I feel totally fine now.

But there were - there is actually a report of four individuals with blood clots that may or may not be related to the vaccine. Again, that's something that needs to be investigated.

CUOMO: Right.

WEN: People do just get blood clots. And when you have millions of people, who get the vaccine, some people are going to get blood clots, so important to investigate. But right now, I am not concerned for myself or for anybody else, who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CUOMO: In terms of why people want to get the vaccine, the CDC Director says "You can't get sick if you have the vaccine. But you could have enough viral load to give it to somebody else."

Yet, you're seeing what they're calling breakthrough cases, all over the country, even three dead in Michigan. I know the easy pushback is to say, "Well, three dead is falls within the margin of efficacy." But these scare people.

What do you think is happening?

WEN: Yes, so I think it's really important to point out that these vaccines, just like all vaccines, they're not 100 percent. They are extremely effective, so more than 90 percent effective at preventing infections.

But that means that some people are still going to get infected. And sadly, some people are going to die, especially when considering who it is that we vaccinated.

The initial group, that, we vaccinated, are residents of nursing homes, for elderly, many medical conditions, potentially and medically frail. And so, it is possible that some people are going to get sick and, in some cases, very sick, maybe even unrelated to the vaccine, but it could happen.

And so, I think what needs to happen now is the CDC needs to do much more careful tracking of these breakthrough infections, so people, who are fully vaccinated, still getting infected, how many cases are there? Are there variants that are involved that are driving these cases of breakthrough infections?

And also, are these people actually getting that sick? Because it could be that people are getting infected, they're testing positive, but may be mildly symptomatic. That also illustrates that the vaccine is working and preventing severe infection.

CUOMO: Right. Dr. Leana Wen, I appreciate you.

And you make a point on top of a point, which is this is what the CDC should be doing. They should be going out there, parsing all of the individual data, not leaving it to other people to figure it out for them. That's part of the job. Thank you for doing it for us tonight.


Now, the only disease that we are facing here is not the pandemic. There is a disease of distrust in our institutions that fed into the big lie that now has a wave of voter suppression going across America, the likes that we haven't seen in a generation.

The GOPQ is still pushing the big lie of mass voter fraud all over the country. And that is what is spawning these. Georgia was a battleground, lost. Now, Texas is one of the biggest suppression battlegrounds.

We're going to show you what a Republican official there was just caught on tape doing. And we have an activist, who's fighting back. Next.







CUOMO: I want you to see and judge for yourself the extremes that Texas Republicans are going to, trying to keep minority voters from the polls. This isn't some like hot take. It's not an outrage segment.

It's sad, this presentation from a Harris County GOP official, leaked by the advocacy group, Common Cause. Just listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to build an army here, of 10,000 people, in Harris County, that are motivated and highly competent folks, to serve as election workers and poll watchers.

And I'm trying to get, you know, encourage and recruit, as a Precinct Chair, about 30 people, in my precinct that will have the confidence and courage to come down in here, in these areas, where we really need poll workers, because this is where the fraud was occurring, right?


CUOMO: Now, where that red dot was, where do you think, those are? They're the heavily Black and Latino parts of Houston.

Now, the Harris County Republican Party says the video blatantly mischaracterizes a grassroots election worker recruitment video, to bully and intimidate Republicans. How?

Texas is pushing more voter suppression bills through its Legislature than any other state. And that guy was asking for the volunteers to go to that area, because he says that's where the problems are.

Now, is that the truth? Or is that where the problems are for Republicans, because that's where the voters are, that they're threatened by? Let's get after it with voting rights activist Brianna Brown, of the Texas Organizing Project.

It's good to meet you.


CUOMO: So, let's just go straight at it. That worker is suggesting that those areas of high-density Black and Latinos are where you are going to see fraud and see fishy business at the polls. Is that a factual premise?

BROWN: Absolutely not.

What that video shows, it is proof that Texas Republicans' effort at passing these voter suppression laws is just that it's not about election security. It's about - it's about voter suppression.

And in this instance, it's about suppressing the vote of Black and Latino voters that are - been turning out in record numbers in Harris County, and so much so that it's making Harris County a progressive stronghold.

So, it's absolutely a false premise. And this is a targeted effort by Texas Republicans to suppress the vote throughout Texas.

CUOMO: The bill, Texas Senate Bill 7 limits extended early voting hours, bans drive-through voting and drop boxes, allows poll watchers to record some voters, makes it illegal to proactively send mail-in ballot applications.

Why are those so onerous to you?

BROWN: The essence of those bills is about fundamentally making it harder to register to vote, and harder to actually cast your ballot. Those things equal voter suppression.

You lead this segment with Harris County. Harris County in the 2020 election had innovations, in part response to the pandemic, but in part because the county government there is interested in expanding the Electorate. So, innovations like 24-hour voting centers, and late- night voting, those all expanded Electorate, allowing working families, and students, opportunities to go to the polls.

So, the laws that are making their way, right now, through the Texas Legislature, are a blatant attempt to shrink the Electorate. And that's what - Texas Organizing Project is part of a larger progressive movement to expand the Electorate.

CUOMO: If Georgia is the template, Georgia, Texas, other Red state legislators, you're going to lose all of these battles, at the legislative level, because it's just a question of numbers.

Unless there's some shame campaign that keeps Red people - you know, Red people, listen to me, I'm as bad as everybody else, keep Republicans from voting along with this new brand of orthodoxy, which is the big lie, what does that mean in terms of your chance of stopping this wave of suppression across the country?

BROWN: We're viewing this as an organizing fight. We've had a web of amazing organizations, at the State Lege, right now, that are doing hand-to-hand combat to play defense, organizations like MOVE Texas, Texas Freedom Network and Texas Civil Rights Project.

Another tentacle of the organizing fight is the work that we do at the Texas Organizing Project, is we take it to the streets. For the second time, just yesterday, we were outside the Dallas headquarters, of AT&T demanding accountability and answers.


And there is absolutely a role for businesses to play, businesses, especially like AT&T, that align themselves, following the uprisings with the Black Lives Matter movement. This is time for the end of lip service, and for companies like AT&T to use their economic and political influence to help us build (ph) history. There is still time on the clock, in Texas, for these laws, not for these proposed bills not to become laws, and it's going to take the totality of that organizing effort for that to happen.

CUOMO: Well, I know that Georgia is a scary proposition, because it could be a window into the future of what happens with Texas.

And Brianna Brown, you mentioned AT&T several times. And I will mention once, but loudly and definitively, AT&T, I work for them. They own Warner Television and obviously owns CNN. That is our parent, parent company.

So, thank you for making the case. I appreciate you doing so, and good luck going forward.

BROWN: Thank you for the invitation. Take care.

CUOMO: We'll speak again. Brianna Brown, thank you.

We'll be right back.