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Cuomo Prime Time
President Biden Proposes Sweeping, Ambitious Plan for America; Sen. Scott: "America Is Not a Racist Country"; New Video Shows Attack on Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick; New Video Shows Attack on Police Officer Brian Sicknick; Feds Raid Giuliani's Manhattan Home and Office; Biden Uses Address to Congress to Renew Push for Americans to Get Vaccinated. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired April 29, 2021 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hello. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to a special, late-night live edition of CUOMO PRIME TIME. It's midnight on the East Coast, 9:00 all the way on the West Coast. So let's get after it. We got special coverage of an historic night. President Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress.
"America is on the move again." That was the opening message of a president who touted his achievements just shy of his first 100 days, particularly, in helping us steer our way toward the end of this pandemic, a speech, delivered to a room full of masked faces, in a much emptier House chamber than we're used to seeing, because of limited-and-spaced-out seating.
The meat of the address. Biden's pitches for huge spending plans or investments, if you like, in jobs and families and tax reforms to overhaul the economy and rebuild the middle class.
The middle class was claimed that Biden -- was ground that Biden, clearly, wants to reclaim for the Democrats. Although, demographics and optics and policies seem to be taking Democrats away from that group, Biden, stubbornly, stayed with it.
And I say stubbornly neither judgmental or not. But clearly, it was a message he wants. He laid the groundwork to frame the battle over how to pay for he wants -- what he wants to spend. Here's a little bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, there is a broad consensus of economists left, right and center. And they agree what I'm proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth. These are among the highest values investments we can make as a nation.
I have often said our greatest strength is the power of our example, not just the example of our power. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: It's a good line, "Power of our example, not the example of our power."
Obviously, that resonates, in terms of military might. But what an interesting statement about how we are showing ourselves here at home.
What do you think the power of America's example to the world over during the pandemic has been?
So how was this speech received?
Seventy-three percent of speech watchers tell CNN they think the president's policies will move the country in the right direction. Ooh, that's high optimism. But the watchers that sample in these polls tend to be same party as POTUS, whether it's Republican or Democrat. They watch their own more.
Now the other side of the aisle?
Very little love. Even an assumed fair broker, like Alaska senator Murkowski, said she was not inspired. This was politics as usual, Left and Right are not trying to be reasonable, right now. And we'll see if they listen to Biden, at all.
But it was historic. These two women, sitting behind a president, during an address to the U.S. Congress, Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President, was a first. And as the president said, it's about time.
Also, an address delivered at the scene of a crime, a terrorist attack, an insurrection, where the audience were the targets. Worst attack from within, on our democracy, in modern history, incited by the last president, targeted on Congress in a desperate bid to cling to power. And it was not lost on his successor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We've stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain and we the people did not flinch. We're the United States of America. There is not a single thing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity, we can do whatever we set our mind to, if we do it together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So did President Biden meet his moment?
Will he be able to get his ambitious $1.8 trillion American Families Plan passed that would transform the role of government in our lives?
Let's take the question to the better minds, Ashley Allison and the professor, Ron Brownstein. Good to have you, both. Meeting the moment.
Ashley, what's your take on that? ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Joe Biden did a great job. You know, in D.C., we often say that this night is a night that kind of lays the foundation for 2022 and 2024. But what Joe Biden did was really talk to people, who are suffering and who are in pain right now.
ALLISON: And have been, for quite some time. But one thing that I thought was really interesting is, as I was listening to, particularly, like, that first 35 minutes, 40 minutes of the speech that really talked about the economy, it felt like that speech was written for women, moms and women, who have been impacted so much by this pandemic being at home, really, bearing the brunt of child care.
And so, it -- it wasn't ironic, I don't think, that there are two women behind him making history.
I also thought it was, you know, unique that he took the time to identify the Asian American-Pacific islander community, transgender individuals, African Americans, immigrants. He really, really met the moment.
I would -- my only critique would be and that I was expecting a little bit more, he did talk about policing and racial equity. But considering the moment that we're in right now and how Black Americans really did show up for Joe Biden in the primary and the general election, I thought he was going to talk a little bit more about the racial justice crisis that we're fighting.
But all in all, I think Joe Biden showed up, delivered a speech that the country really needed and spoke to the entire America today.
CUOMO: I think senator Tim Scott on the Republican side probably did the work for him on that issue, though, by saying that America is not a racist country. That's going to get enough play that offsets that Biden didn't address it. Maybe. We'll see.
Ron, now, what's the flip?
Obviously, Ashley's right about the pitch.
But it was a long speech, right?
So he was hitting different beats. He was, obviously, also, trying to get back into the blue-collar game. But this is big government is back, tax and spend like we've never seen before.
Even if it's for middle-class, blue-collar, lower-education workers, will the formula for getting it done count them out, you know, turn them away, even if it's to benefit them?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That's the bet, right?
I mean, the cumulative -- I think, the biggest takeaway was the cumulative magnitude of what he was proposing, especially when juxtaposed against the narrowness of both the political and congressional majority that he is operating with.
We are talking about at least $5 trillion in new spending when all three plans, the stimulus, the infrastructure and the Families Plan are combined, plus, another $800 billion or so in tax breaks to create, among other things, a child tax credit, this is the equivalent of Social Security for kids. I mean, maybe the most significant expansion of the American social safety net since Medicare and Medicaid.
When you add it all up, Chris, it does -- I think historians are correct to say it does take you into the magnitude of what LBJ proposed with the Great Society, what FDR proposed with the New Deal, far beyond what Obama or Clinton sought to achieve in terms of expanding the role of government.
And it's really worth noting that when LBJ did the Great Society in 1965, he had 68 Democratic senators; the first New Deal Congress, FDR had 59 Democratic senators. Biden is trying to do all of this with 50 Democratic senators and a, what, four- or five-seat majority in the House and very little prospect of meaningful Republican support on anything that -- that -- that -- that is significant in this agenda.
So you are talking about what would be an historic high-wire act, at the other end of which, Americans' relations to their government would look very different than it has for most of the past several decades, certainly, since Reagan.
CUOMO: Now I'm not suggesting it would be good for Democrats to do it this way. But technically, on almost all of the spending, he could do it with just one vote, though, Ron, which is Manchin and do it through reconciliation.
CUOMO: But, go ahead. Give me a quick point on that. And then, I got a question for Ashley.
BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say, the first half the agenda, can be done -- the first half of the speech, almost all of it, can be done through reconciliation. So that is a question of whether the party comes together to unite on that.
The second half of the speech, things like LGBT equality, voting rights, police reform, gun control, that is either going to require 10 Republican votes or Democrats willing to curtail the filibuster.
And 10 Republican votes is a big lift in the Senate on any of those priorities, with police reform, probably, the best chance. But the others, voting rights, very hard to see how they can do that without restraining the filibuster.
CUOMO: I haven't heard Democrats say this. I didn't hear it from Biden tonight. I still think whether you want Manchin or whether you want to expose the political leverage at play, you got to go through committee. You got to put it on the floor. You got to fight for amendments. Let people see what the agendas are out there.
If you just muscle it through without the process, I don't think you can get Manchin.
All right, now, Ashley, let's talk about net effect here of the rebuttal. Tim Scott, African American, lived the arc of the problem but also the ability to overcome the challenge and achieve greatness in life. Senator Tim Scott checks those boxes.
CUOMO: But if he is trying to appeal and the party's trying to appeal to people of color and he says America is not racist, what is the net effect of him tonight with that community?
ALLISON: Well, I have to say, I watched Tim Scott and just felt like I was living in an alternate universe. My eyes were big, my jaw was dropped. And I was quite surprised.
But I think what Tim Scott was doing tonight was really testing some things out for 2022 and potentially, for him, as a presidential candidate in 2024. He bought into the Big Lie. He used something that was quite dangerous, talking about like pulling himself up from the bootstraps (sic).
But the ironic thing is that he talked about how he was a poor child. And yet, in the chamber, when Joe Biden talked about how he was going to cut child poverty by 50 percent, Republicans didn't clap or stand. So it's clear that they wouldn't have even wanted to have helped Tim Scott when he was a child.
I think, in terms of talking to Black voters and voters of color, you know, Tim Scott knows that he is going to get the -- the base is not really going to move anywhere in the Republican Party.
But what I think he was trying to do, he used a lot of tones around Christianity and really, leaning into his religious beliefs, I think he was looking at Latino voters, somewhat conservative voters, that are -- have religious beliefs. And whether or not, you know, 34 percent of Latinos voted for Donald Trump. He is trying to see, can he get 35- 36 percent?
Which could actually be quite harmful to the Democratic Party.
The other thing is that 19 percent of Black men voted for Donald Trump. So I don't think Tim Scott is trying to get 51 percent of African Americans to really vote for him.
But can he get a couple more points?
But the reality is, what he said about voting rights, about the filibuster, about Joe Biden trying to pack the court and about America not having roots of racism and being a racist country, are -- are not true and a part of the bigger lie that Donald Trump has started and the Republican Party has continued to push.
CUOMO: Ashley Allison, Ron Brownstein, thank you both.
All right. We have more takeaways ahead from President Biden's first formal address to Congress. The big question is whether he is going to be able to get any of this delivered crisis, into opportunity, as he stated. Easy to say.
How hard is it to do?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America. That's what it is.
BIDEN: And it recognizes something I've always said, in this chamber and the other. Good guys and women on Wall Street but Wall Street didn't build this country. The middle class built the country and unions built the middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Blue-collar blueprint, that's the sell for Biden.
Will it work with the new Democratic Party?
Mia Love and Paul Begala, good to see you both.
So Begala, what do you think?
Is blue collar back in your party?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I love it. I sure hope so. I -- I think that too many -- too many elite Democrats talk like they're more comfortable in the faculty lounge than the factory floor. Joe Biden's a factory-floor Democrat.
Did you just say faculty lounge?
CUOMO: Are you -- are you biting on Carville?
(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: But that's what he said, the other day.
BEGALA: Absolutely. And I think James is exactly right.
People -- Joe Biden talks with us. He doesn't talk at us. He doesn't talk down to us. It's none of that condescension that elites -- in both parties but I'm worried about my party primarily -- that -- that you get from them. It was -- I just thought it was terrific. And here's the -- the secret sauce, I think, Biden's cobbled together.
His tone is really reassuring to moderates and to Republicans, even. And his content is throwing to progressives. It makes him a very elusive target for the other side to shoot at and a very appealing target for folks who think that we do need to build back better and have a blue-collar blueprint. I love that. They ought to give that speechwriter a pay raise.
CUOMO: Mia, did you hear anything that gives you pause?
That the midterms may not go as well as Republicans want them to?
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that there are several things that -- that give me pause.
First of all, Paul is exactly right. The tone is a major contrast from the previous president. He was not sitting there, just touting out (sic) how great he was. He did try and do everything he can to make it about the people. And he did make an attempt to reach out to the middle class.
However, it's going to take a little bit more than talking and making promises. It's going to actually take going out and keeping up with some of those promises.
When you are going out and you are talking about, you know, making sure that we put America first, spending all of this money with infrastructure, at some point, somebody's thinking in their minds, hmm, how does that come back to me?
Are the prices of goods and services going to go up, so it makes it more difficult for me to afford the basic necessities of life?
And so, those -- those are the things that are popping up. It's not in the promises.
It's, what is the cost?
CUOMO: Hmm. Let me do a quick-bounce question with you.
The internet is not life. OK?
And it's certainly not reflective of true political populations. It's an inflection machine, often, a toxic crucible. Tim Scott is underwater right now because he said America is not racist. So you have this contrast. You have an African American senator, the only one, obviously, within your party. [00:20:00]
CUOMO: The living the challenge and the dream, which he certainly checks the boxes of, then he says that, does that cancel him out from being an -- an extension of the party, to people of color, saying America is not racist?
LOVE: Yes. I think that, you know, what we need in this country is a little bit more of a benefit of the doubt. I -- I agree, actually, with Tim and Van Jones. I don't -- I think the idea of America. I think, as we're sitting here and we're talking about this right now, you, me, Paul. We're not -- we're not racist people. We're trying to do everything we can to give as many opportunities to as many people as possible.
As far as I'm concerned, this is what America looks like. So America, as the concept that we believe in, is not racist. We, certainly, have people with racist issues and we have to make sure that we address those.
And so, I find it really interesting that he is being attacked, especially because he is the one that is pushing police reform legislation and working with Democrats, that I have so much respect for, on much-needed legislation that is actually going to unify Americans.
So, yes, we have major racists in this country. And we have a racist problem. But the America that you and I believe in is not a racist country. We just need to get to the ideals and get away from the individuals that really hurt what we believe in.
CUOMO: Well said and appreciated.
Paul, how do you get this much spending passed in any kind of bipartisan fashion?
And does that mean -- because you won't -- does that mean you just go to push reconciliation?
Or do you force the process here?
Put it in committee. Put it on the floor. Let's see the markup. Let's see the amendments. Let's expose why Republicans don't want to vote with us, if you are the Democrats and Biden.
What's their strategy to get to done?
BEGALA: Yes. Well, we have talked a lot about Joe Manchin. It's the 50th vote in the Senate. He is the Democrat from a state where the Democrats haven't carried a single county, Chris, since 2012, eight years. Democrats haven't won a single county.
He is an endangered species and we liberals should love endangered species. We should protect him and nurture and love him, build him a nice nest instead of attacking him. I have spoken to him, I have spoken to advisers of his. It's very interesting. He doesn't want more pork. I would but he doesn't. His predecessor,
famously, brought so much pork to West Virginia, you thought the guy was going to get trichinosis. Joe wants Republican support. He wants Republicans to support the bill.
I suspect Manchin will work on that and Biden will work on it but they do have a plan B. If Republicans are so recalcitrant they won't support any principle compromise to try to get this country moving, then I think you make a good case to Joe Manchin, Biden does, the president does, that, OK, we tried.
We tried and we know that you really believe in bipartisanship, Senator Manchin. But now, the Republicans don't. And if you ask me about Mitch McConnell, my hopes for him doing anything bipartisan are about as equal as my hopes for Senator McConnell to win a Kentucky Derby this weekend.
CUOMO: Here is the problem. If you don't go through the process -- and I haven't heard Schumer talk about this yet -- you are not going to have Joe Manchin, I don't think.
And you're not -- if you do it on shows like this and Democrats and Republicans are talking, Mia, and -- but you don't really see the process play out, for real, I think that Democrats are going to have a problem.
Mia Love, I appreciate you on the show. It's good to have you.
LOVE: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: Always a pleasure. Both of you, thank you. Especially, at this time. Be well.
All right. Less than four months ago, the Capitol was under attack. Police officers guarding democracy had to fight for their lives. People who say they care about police but want to sleep on the insurrection and play it down, I don't know how they get to say that.
So what was it like for a Capitol Police officer who survived the 6th of January, to be a guardian of democracy, once again, on this night, at the scene of the crime?
He tells us -- next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: As we gather here tonight, the image of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy remain vivid in all our minds. Lives were put at risk, many of your lives.
Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned. The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test on whether our democracy could survive and it did but the struggle is far from over.
The question of whether a democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our republic. Still vital today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: The president can say that, as if it's a unifying cause.
But do you know how few in the new GOP have even recognized the reality of January 6th?
How they skipped over what happened to the officers there, while claiming to care, so much, about blue lives when it comes to policing?
So we got a long way to go. And tonight, we have new video of the worst domestic terrorism in a generation. This body cam video, obtained by CNN, shows Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, may he rest in peace, and his fellow officers, being attacked by some sort of chemical spray.
The videos clearly show Sicknick, who the blue arrow is pointing to -- or the yellow arrow, whatever color it is -- and others get hit during the moment of chaos. Sicknick died, a day after the riot, after suffering strokes.
Every time we see new videos like this, it's important that you see them, because we can't let time or political agendas paint this as something other than what we all know it was.
And nobody knows better than the people who defended Congress that day. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn was one of them. He protected the Capitol on January 6. He protected the Capitol earlier tonight during the president's joint address.
Harry Dunn, welcome to PRIME TIME and thank you for your service.
OFFICER HARRY DUNN, CAPITOL POLICE: Hey Chris, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
CUOMO: So you've been back at work, but what did it mean to you tonight to be policing the occasion?
DUNN: Well, just -- just the footage that you just showed, that's kind of -- kind of raw. I actually just saw somebody maybe about an hour ago. And man, you -- somebody just said something -- I think that was President Biden. He said it was just vivid, and just wow. It just took you back there for a moment. And it was just a horrible day. But to be there today, it did take a lot of courage from our coworkers, who are proud, brave men and women, who take pride in defending democracy. So --
CUOMO: And just so people understand what that day was about, you were there. You were around where Sicknick was. May he rest in peace.
What do you want people to remember about what made that day different than other protests gone bad? Other riots that we've seen, other violence in the name of politics that we've seen? Why should that day stand out?
DUNN: It was an act of terrorism. People have the right to express displeasures all they want and protest the government and their elected officials. They absolutely have that right.
But when you make a terrorist attack out of it, which it was, that's where you've got to draw the line. And that's -- it's not acceptable by any standard. It -- you can't compare that to people who were protesting Judge Kavanaugh's appointment or something like that. You know, there were people that got arrested that day, but there were no people that were assaulted, and people damn sure didn't lose their lives. So --
CUOMO: I want you to hear what President Biden chose, in terms of the words to describe it tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we won't ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today. White supremacy is terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, the counter to this is, No, no, no, no, no. This wasn't terror. I don't know why they called it that. It wasn't even an insurrection. They were not even really that armed. It wasn't even really that bad. It's just a handful of people.
You know that that's been said, by not just like some fool in the bar but by elected leaders --
CUOMO: -- in the Republican Party, whom you had to keep safe on January 6. Response?
DUNN: I just don't see how you can look at that tape and that footage and describe it as anything else. I don't know how you say not that bad, when you literally had people chanting to hang Mike Pence and, you know, to kill Nancy Pelosi. It was a clear terrorist attack where officers were killed.
I -- I don't know how any -- it's reasonable to come to any other conclusion besides that's what happened, so -- CUOMO: The contrast, you know we had Tim Scott today, the Republican
senator, talking about how, Look, I lived it. I've lived racism. I've been followed through stores. I've been stopped. And yet, here I am today, and here's what I believe.
What was it like for you to be there defending what America is about at her best? That's what you represented that day, you and the men and women that kept these savages away from members of Congress.
And at the same time, to having them throw the "N" word at you and be treating you as something less, while they were the ones acting as something less. What did that mean to you?
DUNN: It was -- it was devastating. It crushes you. Like I said, at the moment when it happened, I didn't process it as, you know, an attack on my being because of my color. It took some time afterwards, because during, I was just trying to survive and, you know, go home to my daughter, to my family. But when you actually sit down and process it, that white supremacy, it exists.
I do -- like I said, I don't think that the entire insurrection was a racist event. I think that it was carried out by a bunch of racist people, so yes.
CUOMO: What has been the hardest part for you emotionally, in making it through that day, coming to grips with what it was about and going back to the job?
DUNN: Going back to the job, and a reminder. You -- you walk by places daily that you have a reminder of, hey, what happened here, hey, what happened there. The -- the beautiful memorials we have set up for our fallen officers and our detail. Seeing those every day and just not forgetting they died, you know, protecting democracy.
We lean on each other. We -- we talk about -- and just like today, that new footage that was released, it's always -- it's a new story every day. It's a new article. It's a new news clip released, a new arrest made. It's not going away fast enough.
I guess we don't need to forget what happened, and that was America at its worst. And I'm praying for the days where we can see it at its best, so --
CUOMO: America is often a study in contrasts. That was us at our worst. You and your fellow officers represent us at our best. And as you know -- I'm sure you've heard this from other people. But it's going to be true for you in time. You'll never change what happened that day. You only get to decide what it will mean to you over time.
That's up to you. What you decide to make of it, where you decide to put it, how you draw significance of it, that's all from you. But the truth will never change.
And I just want to thank you for what you did that day. The men and women that you kept safe, not all of them appreciate it. But I do, and I watched in real time. And I'm -- it's a pleasure to have you here tonight, and you're always welcome.
Harry Dunn, best to you, your little girl, and your family.
DUNN: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it, man.
CUOMO: Be well. I appreciate it.
DUNN: I appreciate you, too.
CUOMO: Absolutely. That's what we want. That's what we want in our police officers. That's what we want. And that's what they're supposed to be about. And that's what they were on a day when it mattered most.
On one level, it should be that simple.
Some big news that broke before Biden's address, involving Rudy Giuliani and a subject that he made an admission about right on this program.
Do you remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: No, actually, I didn't.
CUOMO: You never asked anything about Joe Biden?
GIULIANI: The only thing asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lukashenko, who was appointed --
GIULIANI: -- dismissed the case against ANTAC (ph).
CUOMO: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?
GIULIANI: Of course I did.
CUOMO: You just said you didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now federal officials have a similar curiosity about the inconsistencies in Rudy Giuliani's stories. So much so that they raided his home under color of authority of a search warrant.
The office of Trump's former lawyer, it just happened today, part of an investigation into his dealings with Ukraine. What does it mean? In terms of where they are in the investigation and what are the implications.
Former special counsel to the Democrats who impeached Trump, over his Ukraine shakedown, next.
CUOMO: Federal agents raided the home and office of Rudy Giuliani, a major escalation in an investigation that's gone on for two years.
Few legal minds better to help understand this than the former special counsel in Trump's first impeachment trial, Norm Eisen. Good to see you, Mister Ambassador.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Great to see you, Chris.
CUOMO: So what does it mean that they did this? What does it tell people about how serious the investigation is and what stage it may be at?
EISEN: Chris, it's a very big deal that they executed search warrants at Mr. Giuliani's home, at his office. They also executed one on another lawyer, Victoria Toensing.
With respect to Giuliani, it means that they had to persuade a judge and the highest echelons of the Department of Justice, the prosecutors did, that there was probable cause that they would find evidence of a crime when they executed these search warrants. And most likely what it means is that Giuliani is close to being charged, or a charging decision being made about whether he acted as a foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.
CUOMO: That's how they got around the privilege issues of his being a lawyer, is that they had to make the case that, yes, he may have been the guy's lawyer or not. We're not really sure. But we know he acted in other capacities, as well, and that's why we want to search.
Because usually, you don't wind up getting into a lawyer's house.
EISEN: No, it's very rare. The last high-profile example of this that we saw, of course, was Michael Cohen, the ex-president's former lawyer. And we know how that turned out, Chris.
And we know the timing that -- the waterfall of events that flowed after those searches. And I'm sure Mr. Giuliani is not having a very restful night, because violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, FARA, can be a very serious crime. And DOJ has been taking those cases to trial.
CUOMO: Now the pushback is going to be this is all politics. They had to wait until Bill Barr got out of there, and now they're pushing this bad case, because we want to come after me because they don't like Trump. And Rudy Giuliani is going to be only too happy to discuss what he says everybody else wants to hide. How big a deal are the politics?
EISEN: They're important, Chris. You know, we have a very strong norm in this country, of not using -- not ever doing anything, however innocently intended, if you're the Department of Justice, that raises this issue. But that's where a rebuttable presumption, Chris.
And there's an even more powerful principle. It's one you and I have often talked about. No person is above the law. That is the foundation of the American system.
And if there's serious evidence here, they have to put the political questions to the side and ask themselves -- and I trust Merrick Garland and his team to do it, Chris. He worked as a judge; unimpeachable objectively. If there's sufficient evidence to convince a jury that Giuliani was a foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.
And we saw so much of that evidence that the Ukrainians were using him to drive Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch out for their own allegedly corrupt reasons. They can make the case, then they have no choice but to charge him. That's American law.
CUOMO: There are strong norms in this country. And I'm talking to one right now, Norm Eisen. Thank you very much for your perspective. I appreciate it, especially at this hour. All the best to you and the family.
EISEN: Thanks, Chris. Great to be with you.
CUOMO: Big night because the big address. A big opportunity for President Biden with this national spotlight. How did he do in terms of rallying people to the cause? How about specifically about getting people who are reluctant to go out and get vaccinated?
Our special coverage continues, next.
BIDEN: After I promised we'd get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people's arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots.
Everyone over the age of 16, everyone is now eligible to get vaccinated right now, right away. Go get vaccinated, America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Did President Biden convince people to do exactly that? He certainly optimistic. He certainly made strides. But his remarks, the empty seats before him, all laid bare his administration's lingering concerns about COVID.
Let's bring in Dr. Leana Wen.
What did you think about Biden having an opportunity tonight to push the vaccine and how he did with that opportunity?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I liked President Biden's speech, Chris, when it came to what he said about the progress we've made. And it is really remarkable. I mean, the fact that we've had 220 million doses of the vaccine that's been administered. Over 50 percent of American adults have gotten at least one dose. All that's fantastic.
But I also do think that the president missed the biggest opportunity he's had yet of overcoming vaccine hesitancy. Imagine if he had said, everybody attending has to be fully vaccinated. At the moment they come to the door, they show their proof of vaccination, they can take off their masks. They can hug one another. They can sit close together. I think that would have been such a powerful demonstration of how safe and effective the vaccines are. And how that's what it takes for us to return to pre-pandemic normal.
And instead, I do fear that what happened today looks like it happens in late 2020, several months ago, before we had the vaccines. And I think it's going to perpetuate this narrative of, what's in it for me? What's the purpose of getting vaccinated if nothing changes?
CUOMO: Tim Scott kind captured that "we didn't get back fast enough" feeling that the right was doing all throughout COVID, with basis or without. Here was his shot tonight about schools.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Our public schools should've reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe.
But too often powerful, powerful grown-ups set science aside, and kids like me were left behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: What do you think of that?
WEN: I think there's no doubt that our students have been hurt by this pandemic in ways that I don't think we can even understand yet. That it may have generational impacts.
But I would also would lay the blame at -- at the former President Trump. Because the former president didn't invest the resources into schools that were needed to keep them -- to get them to reopen and to keep them open safely.
I think the Biden team could've done more with getting teacher vaccinations up and going earlier. But I think the bulk of the fault was actually with the Trump administration not giving the resources. But also very specifically, too, having such high rates of community spread that it wasn't safe for schools to reopen.
CUOMO: Now, let's talk about something we haven't had a chance to do yet, at least not here. We did it on my Sirius XM radio show.
But the CDC guidelines are fine. I just don't understand where the big incentive is -- incentivizing is for people to get the vaccine if the vaccine doesn't make you immune, and it doesn't allow you to get back to doing whatever you want to do. Then are people really going to take it when things are opening up anyway?
WEN: That's exactly right. I think what people are saying is this, I think, a logical argument, which is if these vaccines are so great, as all these scientists and President Biden and so forth say they are, then why can't we do anything differently?
Well, the CDC did come out with guidelines this week. And I think in a way, they're very good. Because they finally show, here are all the things that were high-risk if you are not vaccinated. Now that you're vaccinated, it moves from higher risk to lower risk. So I think it demonstrates the benefit of vaccination.
But I also think that a lot of people really want to know when can I take off this mask? And I actually think that we have enough information to tell them, especially if they're around other vaccinated people, to take off the mask.
And I think that that's something the CDC needs to do a lot better job of. Of saying, if you're in a group of only vaccinated people, including in this joint session of Congress, there's a lot that you can do that's basically going back to pre-pandemic normal. And they really need to start spelling this out.
I think that can get the economy back. That can really help to increase vaccination rates. And that's what is going to take us -- that's what it is going to take to get us in this pandemic.
CUOMO: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much. Appreciate you.
All right. There's still much to talk about. Please keep it right here. I'm going to do another hour and kind of capture what happened with President Biden tonight in his first address to the joint session of Congress. What mattered that he said, what obstacles lay ahead. Let's get after it together. Next.