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McConnell Denies GOP Is Trying To Suppress The Vote Based Upon "Race" With Restrictive Laws; NIH Director Calls For Investigation Into Lab Leak Theory; Bob Costas: Tokyo Olympics Should Be Pushed To 2022. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 02, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yair Lapid, leader of a centrist party, will become Foreign Minister, until the two exchange roles, halfway through that term. Now, the arrangement has to pass a vote of confidence in the Israeli parliament.

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

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

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Look, I keep telling this to you, and it has never mattered more. There is a game afoot. It is my job to expose it, and your job to realize that the conspiracy contagion is only growing.

There should be genuine concern. There are too many of us in this country, who have grown tired of paying attention to what's happening. I get it. But you're making that choice at the worst time.

I know we're all weary. I know we just want to enjoy a summer, and get back to normal, post-pandemic. I want nothing more than that as well. But I know that the pandemic is not the disease that is placing us most at risk. And we are, our way of life is, at risk.

We told you when Trump was voted out of office, seven months ago, tomorrow, that he was just a symptom. The big lie would not just disappear. Divide and conquer will not just disappear because it works too well. And sure enough, things are getting worse.

Today, lawmakers from two states held a meeting, of conspiratorial minds, to swap notes, on how to make the big stolen election lie true. These are elected officials I'm talking to you about.

Pennsylvania Re-Trump-licans flew across the country to observe a sham audit, a "Fraud-it," of ballots in Arizona's largest county, to see if they can bring the chaos back home.

Yes, Cyber Ninja bamboo paper chase is still underway, carried out by a group with no experience, funded by an organization that is run by an abject conspiracist, and they may only grow in influence. According to the Arizona Secretary of State's office, observers are finding all kinds of red flags in this "Fraud-it," security gates left open. So what? Confidential manuals left unattended, quality control measures being disregarded. Ironically, this is all being done in an effort to prove fraud.

Remember, the Republican-led government in that state says there was no fraud. They certified the results. And many Republicans in the state don't get why the Senate is pushing the "Fraud-it." But they too fail to see, what's happening in their own ranks. And now Pennsylvania conspiracy theorists may want to do it, too.

This is what got us to January 6th. The infamy of the terrorist insurrection on that day was a symptom of an ongoing effort to disrupt. And the fringe-Right that has overtaken the GOP only wants more. You are seeing more fringe zealots and revenge types entering races, on the Right. And once they get in, they are a wrecking ball.

GOP-controlled states are now actually changing laws to make it easier to overturn future elections. And to increase the chance that they like the election outcomes, and don't have to overturn, they are reducing the likelihood that people who vote against them can vote at all. 14 states have enacted 22 new laws, making it harder to vote, since Trump lost.

The game is clear by the stone-faced suggestion that "Race" has nothing to do with these changes.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): But I don't think any of these efforts, at the state level, are designed to suppress the vote, based upon race.


CUOMO: He had to think about it, for a second, because he knows it can be about nothing else.

Let's just think about it. So, these are fixes to outcomes that state GOP officials certified as not needing to be fixed. Where is the proof of the problem in any form, other than an empty suggestion? Nowhere!


McConnell is playing the game. When Trump was weak, what did he do? He accused Trump of inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol. Remember that? "Well he's no longer president. But as a citizen, he can be held to account." That's what McConnell said, when he thought Trump was done.

But when the base roared back, he asked his Caucus to vote against investigating January 6th, as a personal favor. He is just playing this game. It is one of power and position, and he is playing with poison. And now comes the fever to our ailing body politic, Trump fueling fringe conspiracists that he's going to be reinstated in August as President. That's according to a "New York Times" reporter's account, essentially echoed by the Trump's ex-lawyer Sidney Powell, this weekend.


SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It should be that he can simply be reinstated that a new Inauguration date is set.



CUOMO: It's all BS. Two things.

There is absolutely no provision for anything like that. And, in fact, the constitutional process of certification is as layered as it is to make anything like this BS impossible. And Sidney Powell knows this.

And that's why the second thing is to consider the source. Powell argued in court, that no reasonable person would believe what she says. That's how she was trying to get out of a defamation suit. She literally admits she's full of it, just playing the game.

But the game works. And I'm trying to arm you with the facts of the reality, so that you can talk sense to those who are open to reason.

We are living in a country, where people would rather see others get sick, including in their own families, than take steps to protect themselves, and those they care about, just to make a political point.

This is not media hype. I get your mistrust. I get the distrust. You're not always wrong. But this is a day-by-day reckoning of what will be an historic period of unrest in this country. I'm telling you, this is an open opportunity for things to get worse or better.

Washington will not fix this. This will not get better or worse because of them. This situation is going to find its level, based on people like you, what you decide, about what this country is about, as a people.

And if you needed another arrow in the quiver, to convince people how asinine this big lie talk is, guess who's taking credit for this August, as the reinstatement conspiracy? None other than MyPillow, Mike Lindell, also being sued over election lies. He tells "The Daily Beast," "If Trump is saying August, that's probably because he heard me say it publicly." There you go!

Now, look, Trump will not be reinstated. He can't even get back on social media, let alone get back in the White House. Not that way. But this is all about the surreality of a dangerous game. And it is working. It made people angry enough to storm the Capitol, and try to kill cops by the dozens. Democrats cannot fix this. They are stuck in Congress, and not making as much of their majority, as was hoped. And time is ticking down to what could be a monster of a midterm for them.

And the Right is irrationally exuberant, about the big lie. More than 50 percent of Republicans in America believe the lies that they're being fed that Trump really won.

Now, could it be that a lot of people, who are Republicans, don't identify that way right now, because they don't like the stink? Maybe. But we don't know that. All we know is that over 50 percent of one half of our political party system believes BS. So, where are we headed?

Let's take it to the better minds, Van Jones and Michael Smerconish.

Mike, do you see it the way I lay it out? Or am I missing something?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I want you to think about something additionally, and it's this.

There's no love lost between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, as you just made reference to. We could say the same thing relative to Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump, because of the comments that he made post January 6.

In the case of McConnell, he just bypassed an opportunity, a golden opportunity, to do harm to former president Trump. He could have gotten on board, or at least gotten out of the way, with regard to a January 6 commission. There's no way such a commission report could come back and be anything other than devastating for Trump.


But he didn't do that, Chris. Why didn't he do that? Well, the answer that most people say is he didn't want a report to come out, on the cusp of the midterm election. I see it differently.

To your point, I think McConnell recognized all this that you're discussing has gone too far. It's gone too far with the base.

And even if there were a January 6 commission that came back with a devastating report about Trump, that he was watching a flat screen on the afternoon of January 6th, while Rome burned, and refused to intercede, the base wouldn't buy it. And that's why I think McConnell chose to bypass that opportunity.

CUOMO: Van, looking at it from your side, of the field, you guys can't stop this, what's happening right now. Is that the reality?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that unless there is a change of heart, from Joe Manchin, to revisit the filibuster, at least when democracy's on the line, at least when the sacred right to vote is being attacked, across the country. Don't make us have to climb a 60-vote wall, to put laws in place to protect the vote. If Joe Manchin doesn't change his mind, then we are looking down the barrel of a very, very desperate situation.

We keep talking about this, Chris, as the big lie that - it's true, but it's worse than that. It's also the big excuse to set up the big heist. In other words, they don't - they - people, I think, are smart enough to know that that election was probably more fair and square than they're acknowledging.

But what happened inside the Republican Party, it was Republicans that saved Joe Biden at the grassroots level.

You have Republican grassroots officials who called it right, who said, "We just are not going to give this election to Donald Trump." It was Republican judges, it was Republican Secretaries of State, it was Republican election officials, who said, "We are going to follow the law."

So guess what? They're now changing the law. And they're going to change out a bunch of those officials. So next time, they're going to be in a position to outright steal the election. That is the danger. And so, it's not just a big lie. It's a big excuse to set up a big heist.

And that's why you're correct that this summer can't be a sleepy summer. We need to be doing exactly what you're saying. Sounding the alarm, because it's so easy to say it was just a bunch of kooky conspiracy theories that won't let things go from last year. This is not about last year. This is about 2022 and 2024.

CUOMO: Mike, do you think it's even-money that we get to a worse or a better place? And what do you think the variables are?

SMERCONISH: Well, what I worry about in line with what Van just had to say is the acceptance of future results. Hard-fought elections, that's a big part of our custom culture and history. But in the past, we've accepted the results, and we've vowed to come back and fight another day.

I'm really worried, not so much about 2022, but about what looms for 2024, because this is all laying a predicate, by the way, in defiance of the rule of law, which has been a Republican talking point, since I can remember. It's laying a predicate for people not to accept the result of whatever the next presidential race might be.

And I think a large part of the rationale, if there's any rationale, to what the former president is doing is that victimhood sells. It's a motivator.

It's effective to say, "We was robbed. Now write your check, and make sure you come out, and vote, in the next election." Far more effective to say "We were robbed" than "We lost fair and square. And guess what, I'd like to come back and take another shot anyway."

CUOMO: Van, here's the problem is that you have never seen January 6th, as an extension of political rhetoric, even demagoguery. And yes, Trump pushed it in a way that we haven't seen from someone at the presidential level, in modern history.

But I don't think this is just about who wins the talk, and who gets their people to the polls. I see the big lie as a metaphor for people's distrust, disaffection, and dissatisfaction. And it is very real.

We talk about it within the minority community all the time. It's just as real in White America, and in some ways, being fuel for a sense of being aggrieved, being a victim, as Mike says, that has people ready to attack a Capitol. I see more of that coming, not less.

JONES: Well, I mean, if you put those two things together, you have a double legitimacy crisis.

In other words, you could have a situation, where the Left won't accept the results, of the next election, because we look at all this hanky-panky going on with the voter suppression et cetera, et cetera. And you also, the Right might not accept it, because of all the conspiracy theories. You've never had that.


You have a legitimacy crisis when one side won't accept the outcome. But when you have a situation, where literally neither side, you now have real termites, eating into the foundation of civil society, eating into the foundation of a functioning democratic republic, in ways that I haven't seen before. And I think it's really concerning.

I do believe that Joe Manchin has the fate of the Republican in his hands, and he says, "I don't want to blow up the system."

The system's being blown up. The arsonists are already here. We need a firefighter, who's going to do what's needed, to put the fire out, at least when it comes to all of these bills that are being rolled out, especially the one in Texas that are just going to make it almost impossible, for the Left, to participate well, and accept the outcome.

CUOMO: It'd be a functional distinction, if the federal were to get involved, and suppress these state measures. But it would also be fuel for exactly this revenge mentality, that "All these states were suppressed by the Crazy-Left."

I hear you. But how it plays out could be a little different than how it is anticipated. Van, I appreciate you.

Van Jones, Michael Smerconish, as always, thank you.

So, to the presidency before Trump, you don't get Trump without Barack Obama. Why? Because it was fundamental, in terms of fueling White anxiety and White fright, and making a fringe mentality, now able to be magnified which is what Trump did.

So, what does Barack Obama have to say? There's a new interview about his time in office, and of times he bit his tongue, about the Tea Party, and where he sees Biden taking things.

Ezra Klein got the one-on-one. And he is here, next.









CUOMO: The big lie is just a rationale for the big lack of contentment among many in White America. And they have tapped into something that is very real. Now how they've decided to expose it, and exploit it, has been very fake, and fraught with a lot of toxicity.

But remember, it's not just the Right-fringe. You have 56 percent of all Republicans, who believe that this was a fraud, this election. Now, again, maybe, maybe that is because a lot of people don't identify as Republican anymore, because they don't want to own Trump and all this trumpery.

But if you compare that reality to former president Barack Obama, discussing why he didn't do more to shoot down lies, while in office, you get something interesting. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I write extensively about sort of the emergence of the Tea Party. And we could see that happening with Sarah Palin. She was sort of a prototype for the politics that led to the Tea Party, that in turn, ultimately led to Donald Trump, and that we're still seeing today.

There were times where calling it out would have given me great satisfaction personally. But it wouldn't have necessarily won the political day in terms of me getting a bill passed.

A lot of times, one of the ways I would measure it would be: Is it more important for me to tell a basic historical truth, let's say, about racism in America right now? Or is it more important for me to get a bill passed that provides a lot of people with health care that didn't have it before?


CUOMO: The former president was speaking to our next guest, a big thinker for "The New York Times," Host of "The Ezra Klein Show," Ezra Klein.

Good to see you, my friend. Congratulations on your success.


CUOMO: And your get (ph).

KLEIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, what do you think of the former president's perspective?

Yes, he got health care done. But it was a bill that did a lot, and didn't do a lot. It was imperfect. And they would never work on it again, because of how it was passed. So, it would always be vulnerable. And there would never be universal health care.

And there's a whole list of things, job plan, infrastructure, universal background checks, climate change, not even the judges that Obama was able to get done. Should he have attacked what has now blossomed into the political state of play we're living with?

KLEIN: Well, I think you got to cut that into a couple different pieces.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

KLEIN: The central problem in governing for Barack Obama, and now for Joe Biden, is the filibuster.

Under Obama, Democrats had, for a minute, 60 seats in the Senate, for a longer period 59. Now, Biden has 50. And in both cases, they've been tremendously stopped by the filibuster. And they did quite a bit, in the first couple of years, in 2009, 2010.

I think the Affordable Care Act is more transformational than you give it credit for there. Not if it is nearly as far as I would like it to go, but in terms of what had been done before, it is quite a remarkable achievement.

But at some point, the Democratic Party has to decide whether or not it is more important for it to govern, or for it to preserve these old obstructions that maybe worked at a time when the parties were diverse, in terms of their ideological composition and don't work now. And as you see with Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, there's still quite a bit of disagreement on that.

Now, the other thing you say is, I think very different and pretty important. What Obama is saying there is that there are things that he wanted to be able to say, when he was president, but he thought they would not work politically.

So, not that he could have attacked racism in this country more directly, and then passed a bigger health care bill, but that if he'd attacked racism in this country more directly, he would not have passed any health care bill.

CUOMO: Well but why?

KLEIN: Right? That's a key argument he's making.

CUOMO: But why? Why Ezra? It was a cram-down anyway. That assumes that he would have lost his own members by addressing what is the signature issue for their platform anyway.

KLEIN: I don't think it was a signature issue back then. Ben Nelson from Nebraska, he was concerned about structural racism in America? I don't buy that.


And more broadly, something he says in his book, and then we talked about more at length, in my interview with him, is that every time he talked about race, his poll numbers just plummeted, something I found incredibly revealing in the book.

He says that - you remember the Skip Gates incident, where the policeman, arrest Harvard professor of African American Studies, Skip Gates, on his own porch.

Then Obama comes out and says, "You know, the policeman acted stupidly," something Obama says, as his political advisors come back and tell him later, that nothing in his presidency, no event in the entirety of his eight-year presidency drops his support among White voters, as much as that single moment, where he says "The police acted stupidly there." And he never gets some of that support back.

CUOMO: Help us.

Oops. Let's wait for you to unfreeze.

Let's see if we can get Ezra back. How are we doing on that?

OK. Ezra's coming back. And then he's gone again!

All right, so let's do this.


CUOMO: Can you hear me Ezra?

KLEIN: I can hear you just fine.

CUOMO: Good. Don't do that. I'm too old for that, Ezra.

KLEIN: I'm sorry about that.

CUOMO: Don't do that. Look at my face. It's already flexed.

KLEIN: Nothing. The conversation we're having here is--

CUOMO: It's just hypertension. KLEIN: The conversation we're having here is too hot. We're getting hacked.

CUOMO: No. But here's the thing, Ezra.

KLEIN: So, the - yes, Chris.

CUOMO: Look, I mean you and I have known each other for a long time. I have a lot of respect for where you're coming from on this.

I don't agree that Democrats would have left Obama over him talking more about race. But that's neither here nor there. It's in the past. And it's more about the state of play, and the point you just made.

What does it mean that nothing hurt Obama with White voters as much as his saying something that seemed obvious in that incident, about policing? Because the Skip Gates thing was not - was not a close call. It was obviously bad policing. What does it mean to you?

KLEIN: It means that this country is on the one level has a lot of racism in it, on the other hand, is incredibly defensive about that fact.

And when you still have not just by the way, not just a White majority, in the electorate, but then you have built atop that political structures, and rules and systems, particularly in the Senate, in the distribution of the Senate, equal proportion of the states, and then the filibuster, that give White voters even more power, that it becomes a very, very dangerous line to walk that Obama had to walk very, very carefully.

Now, a lot of the politics have changed, in part because of him. And I think Democrats can be a lot more frontal on that.

CUOMO: White fright, Ezra.

KLEIN: But it's a - it's still a minefield, even right now.

CUOMO: White fright is the minefield that we're talking about, and that is being exploited so well, on the Right.

During Obama's eight years in office, his party lost more House, Senate and state, legislative, and Governor seats than under any other president.

Now, up until House and Senate, I don't want to be unfair to former President Obama, because the Right, or - and you and I both know this, but for people at home, they organized and put money into state races in a way that Democrats had never even contemplated. And it paid off. And now they're doing all this redistricting, or gerrymandering, as we used to call it.

But in sum total, do you believe that they lost all those seats, under Obama, because of his governance, or because of his countenance?

KLEIN: I think there's a bit of both in there, to be honest. And I think there's the economy. The huge loss was 2010, right? And what you have in 2010 is a recession that keeps building, even after Obama got into office. So, that's part of what creates a wipe-out there.

Then there's the countenance. I don't think he can get away from that. There's a huge realignment that happens under Obama, where White voters having racial resentment move away from the Democratic Party, and into the Republican Party, we know that happened, that ends up moving some of these seats.

And then there's another thing that happens, actually pretty important. Ticket splitting just goes way, way, way down over the next couple of years.

So, when Obama runs in 2008, you have a 0.71 correlation between a presidential vote and whether or not the same candidate, the same party candidate gets a Senate vote. By now, in 2020, it's 0.96. It's basically perfect with the exception of basically, Joe Manchin out there.

And so, you have something happening, where you're no longer allowed to be a different kind of Democrat, or a different kind of Republican. And because of how concentrated the Democratic Party is, in urban areas that, ends up, hurting the Democratic Party quite a bit over the years, too.

CUOMO: Ezra, let's do this. This is like the introduction of a 10- chapter talk that we need to have on the state of play.

You and I've been doing this for a while. I don't think either of us have ever seen the country, culturally, or political culturally where it is right now. And I really believe that this is going to be a very impressive period.

I need to have you keep coming on to talk about the perspective of where is progress on this, what are we seeing, what are the dynamics. You understand it in a way that I don't that will benefit the audience well. And I will ask you to come back, OK?

KLEIN: I appreciate that.

CUOMO: Ezra Klein, congratulations on getting the interview. He couldn't be speaking at a more important time. Good to have you.


Now, on the pandemic front - look, there are two diseases. I've been saying this to you for over a year now, right? Our politics is making us sick. And we have a pandemic that is literally making us sick.

The Director of the NIH is now calling for an investigation into the Wuhan lab leak theory, after once appearing to dismiss it.

We have Dr. Francis Collins here tonight. Has the opinion on the genesis of COVID changed? What is the state of play? Is he worried about the politics? Next.








CUOMO: So, here's our latest count, when it comes to the pandemic. More than 3.5 million lives have been stolen. That includes 595,000 Americans. Eventually, it's likely we're going to lose more Americans from this than any wars ever taken away from us, more than the Civil War, more than anything.

Now, nowhere is the threat of our current political situation more evident than in the reckoning of the pandemic. How so? Well because it's all become about who was right, prioritizing political points.


And I don't understand why the Right would ever want this argument, when Trump absolutely lied to you about how serious this was, because he made a bad bet that he could suppress our understanding, and our response to COVID-19, as a way of keeping the economy afloat and, therefore, his fortunes politically, when the right play was to own COVID, become the "Wartime president" that he said he was, own it like nobody else, use manufacturing, like nobody else, get us to a better place faster, then he would have won again.

Now, it begins with a fight over where it started. Why? Because the Right now believes, if it started in a lab, then they can say maybe it was weaponized. And then that means that "China did this to us, on purpose, and they're really the bad guy. And the Left should have known that, and never went after it. And Trump said it before the Left. So, he's not the bad guy."

So, let's go to the top person, in search for facts, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins.

It's good to have you on PRIME TIME, Doc.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Glad to be with you, Chris. And glad to talk about what really happened here, as best we know it, which still leaves a lot of gaps.

CUOMO: I want to get into that morass.

Let me just take one step back. The idea of the Chinese having, viruses come from bats that make their way into the rest of the world, and make people sick, even in America, is not new.


CUOMO: Why have we, nor any kind of consortium, ever done anything about that fact before now?

COLLINS: Well, goodness, we knew, go all the way back to when SARS emerged, almost 20 years ago, that that came from a bat that got transferred ultimately, through a civet cat, to humans, and took the lives of a few thousand people.

So, we knew that was a serious issue. MERS came along a bit later, same thing, except it was a camel that was the intermediate host.

So we, at the National Institutes of Health, had to be concerned about that global health doesn't really care about country boundaries with the way things travel around the world. We had to be interested in knowing well what other viruses are lurking in bats, in caves, in China, because that seem to be where--

CUOMO: But nobody ever cracked down on them.

COLLINS: --the trouble was. We probably wouldn't have done--

CUOMO: Nobody ever cracked down on them. I just - I find that curious. Is that just politics? Was it being afraid of what China would do in response? Why not?

COLLINS: Well, there was a lot of criticism of how China squelched the information about SARS, when that happened. Go back and look at those reports. Clearly, they were not transparent about what was happening. And the virus got spread to other places in ways that maybe could have been prevented.

CUOMO: All right.

COLLINS: So yes, there was quite a bit of criticism.

CUOMO: I'm just saying criticism--

COLLINS: There was also this recognition that those--

CUOMO: Criticism wasn't enough, is all I'm saying. Because what we have now is, obviously under President Trump, you had the CDC cut its staff there, by about two-thirds, so you didn't even have eyes on the ground. And that leads us to our current problem with contagion, which is where this started.

Now, is it a fair criticism to say that you were dismissive of the lab theory early on, and that now you are more open to it? And if it is fair, why did you change?

COLLINS: It's not entirely fair, Chris.

When this virus first emerged, all of us, at NIH, were deeply engaged in studying its genome, its letters, and its sequence, to try to understand what its connection was with previous viruses. And we could see it was a bad virus that looked a lot like one that

had been found in a cave in China, seven years or eight years earlier, but it had a lot of differences.

Then that theory began to be put forward. "Well, maybe it's human- engineered, maybe it's an intentional bioweapon that has been put together with the intention of killing people." That theory really didn't hold up. You could look at the letters of the RNA code and say, "No human would have come up with this." That was rather widely spread.

The idea that it might have been an accidental leak from the lab, on the other hand, always seemed sort of a dark and unfortunate idea, but not one you could rule out. And today, we cannot rule that out.

And we know there have been other instances, including in China, where leaks have happened by accidents in high-contagious--

CUOMO: But why are you more opening - why are you guys calling for an investigation into it now?

And just to be fair, even on Fox News, one of the guys was interviewing you about this, and you said, "Look, I reject the bioweapon part." And you were told "This isn't about a bio weapon. It's just about it happening in a lab."

Why are you more open to that suggestion now? And do you think you'll ever know the answer?

COLLINS: I would not say I'm significantly more open than I was last summer, when we began to worry about that as a real possibility, but there was so much swirl going on in other areas that that probably didn't come to attention. I didn't go to a microphone and announce that.


Do I think we'll ever know the answer? Well, we really need an evidence-based, expert-driven investigation that's going to require China to be willing to let investigators look into the lab records, find out what happened, in late 2019, in terms of the first cases, including those people, who got sick in the lab, and get to the bottom of this.

Without that, Chris, we don't know any more about this theory really than we did a year ago. So, for people now to say, "Oh well, it's emerging as a likely explanation," it hasn't really. It's going to require more data before anybody could say that.

I still think the most likely explanation is this was a natural transmission from a host bat, maybe something else, in between, to humans. But I can't prove that either. We need to know the answer. We haven't got the evidence yet to say.

CUOMO: Dr. Francis Collins, please come again, and thank you for coming tonight. COLLINS: Glad to talk to you, Chris. Glad to come back anytime.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

What do you think about the Olympics? You think we should hold it, or you think that the pandemic is going to create a catastrophe there?

The Tokyo Games are less than two months away. There are many new concerns being voiced, including from our next guest. I don't think anybody understands the Olympics any better than broadcasting legend, Bob Costas.

Let's talk to him about the Olympics, and the state of play in this world, next.









CUOMO: The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, they're pushing ahead, but thousands of its volunteers are not. According to Japanese broadcaster, NHK, around 10,000 volunteers have withdrawn from the Games.

Our next guest says he's not surprised, especially amid growing calls to cancel or postpone. Bob Costas. Everybody knows him. He's a broadcasting legend. And he is on record, as saying, "These Olympics are a mistake." He joins me now.

Hey, Bob, pleasure. It's been a second. Good to see you.


CUOMO: Do you still feel that way? And if so why?

COSTAS: Well, that may have been misinterpreted a little bit. I think the best course of action would be to postpone it, not cancel it. Postpone it to 2022. But that may have led some people to infer that I think that's a possibility. It's not. The IOC holds the hammer here.

And the IOC has repeatedly said, even with a state of emergency, in Tokyo itself, even with vaccinations in Japan in single-digits, even though they say that in less than two months, they hope to get it to 70 percent, even with around 70 percent of Japanese citizens saying, "Postpone or cancel it," even with the overwhelming consensus of the international health community, the health experts that this is risky, they are going full speed ahead. So, it's going to happen no matter what we think.

CUOMO: Now, let's put up the full screen of some of the major countries that are participating, and their vaccination rates, so people get some context about what people like Bob, and many people are worried about, which is what happens after, OK?

These are the vaccination rates. Let's say they'll all be marginally higher, not incredibly higher, by the time of this, because I believe and I think, Bob, you share this idea that people are losing incentive to get vaccinated, not gaining incentive.

What is your big concern about what happens after the Olympics?

COSTAS: Well, I would think that the athletes might be atypical of the citizenry of their countries, taken all together, because they have some incentive, a large one, to be vaccinated, before they arrive in Tokyo.

And without pretending the expertise I don't have, but just common sense, and what we've learned, if you wanted to come up, forget about within sports, but anywhere in the world, with a Petri dish for a surge, variants and all the rest, how about bringing large numbers of people from 200 different countries, with varying levels of health care, and all the rest, varying levels of vaccination, bring them together, even though they're going to socially distance, and have all kinds of protocols that are going to make this a very unusual Olympics, without much of what's appealing about it, besides the competition itself, even with that in place, it seems to me like you're really rolling the dice. It could be a Petri dish.

CUOMO: Now, barring the controversy, where Bob Costas is about to kill it in the heptathlon, and then we pull him, because he gets a dirty test, and not in the PED fashion--


CUOMO: --I know you're clean. But in terms of a COVID test. Now, there could be that controversy.

But barring that, what about the argument that "We need it" that "The world is in a frightened place that it needs to see something positive. It needs to see people coming together. We need it. And the risk is small enough to manage it, in some kind of bubble."

COSTAS: Well, when the NBA played in a bubble, the NHL, baseball with no fans, last year, those were containable bubbles, whatever the risk was.

The Olympics, one of the most far-flung event, in all the sports, indoor venues, outdoor venues, it's actually beyond the core of the host city, in many cases, the marathon, and all the rest, I know that they're going to try.

But the risk seems to me to be larger than when we talk about the American sports, the team sports that we generally follow.

CUOMO: And obviously, the United States is going to go there, and be all-in. But it's also in a better position than many of the other countries.

Let me ask you something while I have you, brother.


CUOMO: You are an observer of politics and culture. Can you believe the situation that we're in right now in this country? Have you ever seen anything like it?

COSTAS: No, I have not. And I think that we ought to make it clear that this is not a matter of liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, if the Republican Party, in any discernible way, even exists anymore.

When you have a sizable percentage of the country that is absolutely fact-averse, and believes wild, crazy things, and is a cult of personality, this has nothing to do with principle. It has nothing to do with conservative ideas.

This country needs a strong Republican Party, so that moderate Republicans have a place to go, a place they recognize.

But also, no matter who is in office, even if you voted for him, Joe Biden needs a thoughtful opposition, just as if a Republican was in office, that person needs a thoughtful opposition.

Plus, there are excesses on the Left, excesses of PC and wokeness, and all the rest, and you'd need some sort of thoughtful response to that, instead of the nonsense that we're getting in MAGA-world.


CUOMO: Bob Costas, I've been a student of yours, for many years, and it goes well beyond sports.

COSTAS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: I appreciate your perspective. And be well.

We'll be right back.

COSTAS: Thanks very much, Chris.







CUOMO: This is kind of a BOLO, but it's certainly something that you should keep an eye on. Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi, may be on his last leg, as Israel's Prime Minister. His political foes reached a coalition agreement to form a new government.

The coalition is made up of eight different parties, from across the political spectrum. It came together, just minutes before a midnight deadline, all of them united by their desire to oust Netanyahu, who is Israel's longest-serving Prime Minister. He's been in power for the last 12 years.

The shakeup is poised to have a big impact on us, and our relations with Israel, and President Biden's Middle East agenda.

Now, under the agreement, Netanyahu's former lieutenant, Naftali Bennett, a more right-wing politician will take over, as Prime Minister, for the next two years, before handing off the reins of power to another coalition leader.


So, what does that mean for us? A little bit of it is unknown. Actually, a lot of it. In the short-term, policy experts believe that Biden is unlikely to face much challenge, over the Iran nuclear deal, or calls to reset relations with Palestinians, as the current ceasefire holds.

There's promise here for rebuilding relations, as Israel's Parliament, the Knesset works out its own gridlock still. This isn't over, and it's not clear. Netanyahu remains Prime Minister until someone else is sworn in. And that might not happen for another week and a half.

Netanyahu still has time to convince people to defect from the block, the stake's even higher for him and his ongoing trial on corruption charges. And also, don't forget the threat from the Right-fringe here, and the Trumpers, to make that situation a weapon here, as well.

We'll be right back.







(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: There are different theories about how this dynamic is supposed to work. There are many who believe that we have to be very careful what we discuss with the audience, to not rile tensions, to not give people misgivings or fears or doubts.


That's why we always warn you before explicit videos. We don't show you the dead when we're at war the way I believe we should. I believe that you can take it, and I believe that you are too suspicious because you know too much has been hidden from you. And that's why I tell you about the dangers of this moment. Because they're real. And I know that the reality is going to be a function of what you believe and what you want to be true.

So, thank you for watching. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" with its big star D. Lemon right now.