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Sen. Manchin Defends The Filibuster: The Senate Can't Work "Unless The Minority Has Input"; U.S. Vaccination Pace Falls Below 1 Million Per Day; Rise In Ransomware Attacks Targeting Critical Public Needs. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 03, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The Department of Health and Human Services says more than a million people in this country now live with it, more than one in 10 don't even know that they are HIV-positive.

It's a reminder of the importance of regular testing for HIV because there is treatment, which has turned what was once a death sentence into just a chronic condition. With treatment, you are undetectable. And if you are undetectable that means you cannot transmit the virus to others, and you can live in normal life. So, treatment and testing is critical.

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It is good to remember the dark and it is good to remember the light. Happy birthday, my brother.

COOPER: Thank you.

CUOMO: You are a gift to us all. And I know that you have the best gift in your life now, which is your son, and I hope you enjoy him as much as possible.

COOPER: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Happy birthday, brother.

COOPER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, I am Chris Cuomo, and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We all see the problems. Are the Democrats now at a tipping point? Is it time to blow up the ability of the minority, in the Senate, to filibuster?

Parliamentary procedures, it's not just one rule. This basket of what enables a minority to forestall votes, they've been around for a long time, almost as long as the Senate. But for a long time, the Senate acted very differently than today. It acted as a group of independent people, who often put progress before party. Filibusters were rare until the ugliness of racist resolve that led us

up to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And thereafter, they were again rare, sometimes weaponized, but often forgone in the interest of progress.

Then came the last 20 years, during which we have seen the Senate corrode as a culture. It has become more partisan and more about opposition than progress. The Senate is now subject to the same mob mentality as the House.

So, maybe the time has come to remove the minority protections. The short-term upside is obvious for the Democrats. They can't get enough things done, to make a big push for the midterms, if it stays in place.

For example, the infrastructure package, the President is negotiating, apparently in good faith. We've heard nothing different from Republicans.

And he has made concessions. He's brought the price tag on the package down from more than $2 trillion to $1 trillion, which is close to what Republicans want, but there's still no deal.

Republicans are expected to make another counteroffer. But the question is why should we think they're doing anything but playing the game? Here are the points of consideration.

One, why would they do infrastructure, when zero Republicans voted for Biden's relief bill, despite a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic? You know what they did, then. They didn't vote for it. Then it passed anyway. And they went home and pretended to their constituents that they provided the relief that was benefiting them. Couldn't they just do that again?

Two, if, they were going to be, cooperative, on anything, it should be, the January 6th commission. After all, it was a plot to attack them. But they just killed the plan for a bipartisan commission. And we know why, to protect the poison politics that they're playing with.

And three, the best reason to get rid of the minority protection came from the mouth of the Minority Leader.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): 100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.


CUOMO: That's what he is about. That is a different Senate Leader for a different time. You didn't used to hear that, from the men involved in leadership. Now, you have men and women in the Senate, but still male leaders.

Times have changed. The Senate has changed. There is no will to compromise, only will to fuel the demise of the Democrats. Literally, the Right is more interested in seeding revolt and notions of a coup than doing what it was meant to do.

But if you change this filibuster, there may be no going back. And Democrats have to consider what that will mean for them in the short- and long-term. But before they can even consider whether they should, they need to know whether they could remove the rules.

Blowing it up would require the blessing of all 50 Senate Democrats. We know of at least two who are not on board, Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin.

CNN just caught up with Manchin, a pivotal swing vote. And he says he's not ready to go there. Bipartisanship is still the way. Listen to his explanation.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): These take time. You just can't - I know everyone's in a hurry right now. If anyone understands the process, it's President Joe Biden.

We've got to work together, you know? You can only do so much by yourself. And that's what - we're not designed to work that way. The House is.


The Senate was never designed that way.

We're going to make the Senate work the way it was intended to work. We're - I'm totally committed to that.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you can say you'll never reduce a 60-vote threshold?

MANCHIN: I was just saying that basically we're going to make the place work.

RAJU: So, you're not taking - reducing the 60-vote threshold off the table?

MANCHIN: We haven't done it. We're going to make the place work. It's I don't know what else I can tell you. And you can't make it worse - work, unless the minority has input. You can't disregard a person that's not in the majority.


CUOMO: So, the question becomes why is Manchin so resistant? It sounds idealistic. But is it realistic? Is the calculus for him to save the Senate or to save his own seat?

The better minds to this question, Paul Begala, and David Gregory, good to see you both.

Paul, do you think the Democrats pull the trigger, and try to get rid of these parliamentary procedures that we call the filibuster? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think you have to let the string play out. I mean, I don't think that the Republican Leader Mr. McConnell is operating in good faith.

You pointed out, he said a 100 percent of his focus is trying to stop the Biden administration, not trying to help the 7,000 families, who've lost someone to COVID, in his Commonwealth, not to help the 1,000 people, who died last year, in his Commonwealth, of opioids, not to fix the Brent Spence Bridge, which is the second busiest bridge in America, second, only to the George Washington Bridge, up in your part of the world, connects Ohio and Kentucky. It is - the American Society of Civil Engineers say, "Functionally obsolete." So, that's McConnell. So, I have no faith in him.

But I'm not Joe Manchin. I've known Joe Manchin a long time. He honestly earnestly believes in bipartisanship. He is beloved in West Virginia. I don't think he's worried about losing. I don't think he can lose. And he's certainly not going to be replaced by a more liberal Democrat, if he does lose. I think it's nuts to bother Joe Manchin, from the Left, the way some advocated.

CUOMO: But do you think they're going to do this or not?

BEGALA: I think Manchin's going to see - Manchin's going to see that this is not on the level. He's going to see that McConnell is trying to play the game. And if--

CUOMO: He hasn't seen that already? What else does he need to see?

BEGALA: No. Because it takes that - you have to actually run - you have to actually run the string out. You have to give him every chance. If they don't - I think the January 6 commission vote really hurt McConnell, in the eyes of Senator Manchin, and others.

As you pointed out, their own chamber was taken over by rioters. They weren't - they were chanting "Hang Mike Pence," who was then our Vice President, and the Presiding Officer of the Senate. So, I think that McConnell is showing that he's not on the level that this is a fraud, and I think they're going to get to it, but they're not there yet.

I was really struck in Manu's interview that Senator Manchin didn't say, "Never, never, never." He said "I want to make the Senate work." And he means that. That's what he wants. And the Senate cannot work with Mitch McConnell using the filibuster every day.

CUOMO: How big, in their mind, David, should the cost of doing this be?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's big in the minds of somebody like Manchin.

I think there's other Democrats too, including the President of United States, who doesn't think quickly about dispensing with the filibuster, because they understand the potential cost, because it will be used against Democrats, down the road. And Joe Biden's an institutionalist. He believes in the Senate. He

believes a lot of the things that - that Manchin is saying. But Biden's being pushed a lot from the left here. And so, we have to understand that this is power politics of our current day, not Paul Begala's day, working for Bill Clinton.

The power politics today is the Left is fed up with the fact that the Right plays power politics, and the Left does not. And the Left says it's time to start playing that way, except not everybody's got the memo. And I think that is.

So, I agree with Paul that it's got to be - it's got to play out a little bit. And this is where Biden, you know, Biden wants to play big in some areas. He wants to be FDR-like, but not in all areas. And this is where he's being dragged a bit.

And the question of the filibuster is one of those areas. He's got a lot of big bets on the table. He's got to decide which one he wants to go all-in on.

CUOMO: So, you also have tick-tock, tick-tock going on. The midterms are closer than people suspect. The Democratic Party, as a coalition of Left-thinkers, is not that easy to keep together, and they do not have the advantage of groupthink that you have on the Right.

We saw a big display of that today in the form of the former Vice President Mike Pence. Listen to him discuss January 6th.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police, and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured.

President Trump and I have spoken many times, since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye-to-eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.



PENCE: And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.


CUOMO: Now, I play this Paul, not just to show you how desperate Pence is, to stay close to the base, but you will never hear anything like that from somebody in your party, where they sent a mob, to find and hang this guy, and his response is, "Hey, I don't think you and I are going to see eye-to-eye about that day that, you know, you sent those people to come and get me." That is what the Right has as an advantage, right now. And what is the

counter for the Left? How do you match that kind of adherence to the code, let's call it?

BEGALA: Well, you can't, thank God, in my party.

William Cohen said this recently, actually on CNN. He was, of course, Republican congressman, who broke with Nixon over Watergate. And he was a Republican senator from Maine, and a Republican in the Clinton administration, as Defense Secretary.

CUOMO: Right.

BEGALA: OK? He said, "Republicans used to be about ideology. Now, they're about idolatry," that this is like worshiping the "Golden calf" in Exodus. I think he's right. There's nothing like that in the Democratic Party.

You actually have to hold people together in communities of interest with ideas, trying to make people's lives better. But Pence have a (ph) lawyer in me, Chris, I'm more interested - you're a better lawyer than I am.

Mike Pence talked about conversations after he left office with Trump. Those are not covered by executive privilege. We need that man under oath.

We need to have a 1/6 Commission, and we need him under oath, telling us what happened. Was his life really in danger? What did the President know? And when did he know it? This is, I thought, this speech was actually a treasure trove for future investigators.

CUOMO: I don't know that there's any appetite, especially from President Biden, to have more of those kinds of investigations. But if you were to do that, even if you were to subpoena, you would get familiar, very quickly, with three words. "Do not recall."

David, so, in terms of what this means for the state of play, going forward, if it's not about getting Manchin to understand that the Voting Rights Act is a legacy play, and if he's not on board with this, you're going to lose cycles of elections of unfairness, what are the other options?

GREGORY: Well, I think that Biden and his team have to make some calculations here.

Because the truth is that the Right, when they come to their senses - the reason they don't want to talk about January 6th, and the reason why Pence wants to make a feint toward "Well, we don't really see eye- to-eye about January 6th," is they would much rather, and it's a much smarter political play, I think Paul would agree, to just run against the Left, run against the excesses of the cultural and the political Left, rather than talk about Trumpism.

And so here, Biden is faced with, he's already spent a lot of money. He wants to do a big infrastructure deal. I think there's some common cause there actually, if they can do something. Both sides see some gain in that.

The filibuster question, and around voting rights, that's the big bet. And any president only has so much political capital.

And Biden understands as much as he may believe in the institution, in the Senate, Republicans are starting to coalesce around the idea of the midterms and 2024, that they want to run against the Left, not even Biden so much, but against the Left.

And the more he spends, the more he taxes, the more he feeds into that, he's going to have to make a decision about what he wants to go for. Because I don't think he has much of a partnership there.

CUOMO: Biden's in a tough spot because he will not get credit for the vaccine, with anybody on the Right. They're going to say, "No, no, no. This was Operation Warp Speed. This was Trump. This wasn't you. You just carried it forward."

He's going to have to show big-ticket items to show that he was going to make big change. And time is ticking. And he can't get it done in the state of play, as it is right now.

Begala, Gregory, great to have you both. Thank you. Always a plus.

GREGORY: Thanks.

CUOMO: America's pandemic fight is going global. We're sharing vaccines with the rest of the world. Now, should we be doing that? On one level, of course, if you have them to spare. Do we?

Don't we have a lot of arms here that we still have to get shots in, if we want to reach herd immunity, if there is such a thing? And have we learned anything this time? Are we better set up to deal with the next one?

Back with us, as promised, a lot of you said "Oh, there's a lot more I wanted to hear discussed," and now you will, the essential COVID warrior, the Director of the NIH, is back.









CUOMO: Two big COVID announcements from the White House. But I think that we're going to focus on what isn't in the talking points, OK, because this is part of the game that I want you to be aware of as well.

The headlines were all about how to juice vaccine numbers. "Free beer! Childcare!" to help people get in there, and get their vaccines, help with the President's goal of 70 percent, with at least one shot by the Fourth of July.

The problem is that number's looking harder and harder to hit, because there's less reason for people to get vaccinated, because things are opening up anyway.

The national vaccine rate is dropping. Our pace is now under a million a day. It hasn't been that low since January.

Today's big announcement was about sharing with the rest of the world. 80 million doses by the end of June. However, is an asterisk, these are AstraZeneca shots. They're not being used in this country.

The problem is that the President said this a month ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've already committed to work to send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries, starting this month.



CUOMO: It's good goal. In that month, we've sent a grand total of 4 million to Mexico and Canada, while the White House tried to figure out what to do with the rest. There are more than 100,000 people that died in India alone. The need is very great.

Now, we had on Dr. Francis Collins, last night, to talk about where do we think it came from? How curious are you about the lab? Is there resistance to the lab theory? So, that's how it started. Now, let's talk about how we end it.

So, back again is Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Thank you for making yourself available two nights in a row.


CUOMO: So, the dropping rate Doc, people don't need to get the vaccine, the masks are coming off, things are opening up. Do you really believe we can get to 70 percent by July 4th? And is that number scientifically relevant?

COLLINS: I think we can make it. But it's going to take a push. And that's why the President announced this sort of National Month of Action to try to activate that push and making it ever easier.

Pharmacies staying open all night, on Friday, childcare for people who need somebody to watch their kids, while they get their shot, all kinds of efforts in barbershops and beauty salons, to make those sites where you can get vaccinated, any kind of effort to try to get the "Wait and see. I'm not quite ready yet. I don't have time," folks to try to take this seriously, because there's still plenty of them out there.

So, we can make this work. But it's going to take a huge push, which is what we need to do right now.

And will we get to that remarkable 70 percent? I think we're probably going to get really close. And I'm hoping we will get there. Is that a magic number, Chris? Does that say "OK, now we're fine?" No.

The higher we go, the better we're going to be at driving this virus away. And of course, it's not even across the country. There are 12 states that are already at 70 percent.

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: I worry about the ones that are way below that. And they are sitting ducks for the next outbreak of COVID-19, which shouldn't have to happen now.

So come on, folks. Let's get engaged. We're Americans. We know how to do this.

CUOMO: Kaiser Family Foundation poll says "Beer is good. Cash is better. But FDA approval is best. It would garner three times the impact of free beer."

Instead of a PBR, why isn't the three letters that are activated "FDA?" Why not get them to push the approval process here, and give people confidence, and give states the confidence, to mandate it, if they want to, at least for schools?

COLLINS: Well, FDA is looking at that application from Pfizer. They've had that now for, I think, three weeks. And Moderna just sent in theirs, in the last day or two. But it is a complicated process.

I am sure those folks at FDA are working night and day, to go through all of that. But they have to be absolutely sure about things, like the manufacturing process. It's pretty thousands of pages long kind of application to dig through.

Yes, I hear you. I actually though, Chris, I'm not sure that many people are using that as the reason not to get injected right now. Heck, we've got now nine months' experience with these Moderna and Pfizer vaccines since the beginning of those Phase 3 trials.

We already have a pretty good window here to see if they're safe and effective. And every time you look, it looks really good. So, if somebody is listening to this, and sort of in the wait-and-see phase, maybe this is long enough to wait. And now you can see that this is something that you want.

Can I say one other thing, Chris, about this?

CUOMO: Of course.

COLLINS: I think ought to appeal to people who are still holding back?

Think about those people who can't actually get immunized, because they have cancer, and they're on chemotherapy, so their immune system doesn't work. People with transplants, I have a friend with a kidney transplant, got immunized, didn't work, no antibodies, because the transplant medicines prevent that.

The only protection those folks are going to have, and there are 5 percent of us, is because the rest of us provide this blanket of immunity. So, even if you think you don't need it, think about this as a donation of your own goodwill, to those who are more vulnerable.

That's the best hope they have. And that's not going to get there, if it's 55 percent of your community that's got immunized, which is true, I'm sorry to say, in still quite a number of states.

CUOMO: Doc, you said earlier that we've had nine months of experience with the vaccine. True. There's a learning curve there. But we've had like 20 years of experience with viruses coming here from China, with SARS and MERS.


CUOMO: And we talked a little bit about this last night. Do you think lessons have been learned this time that should have been learned already that will give us some kind of operating intelligence and infrastructure and plan for the next time because there will be a next time?


COLLINS: There will be, Chris. And we learned lessons each time. But sometimes, we forget, or we slip into complacency. This has been the worst pandemic in 103 years. I hope and pray that means we're really going to remember and not do the complacency thing.

And there are things already in play that we can point to, to say, "We're going to be ready in a better way." For instance, now that we know these mRNA vaccines can work, let's look at the 20 most likely next pandemic viruses, and go ahead and start the process of designing those vaccines.

Get them several steps along, so that if we need them, it's not like, "OK, I got to design it today." I could take it out of the freezer and start those clinical trials almost immediately.

Let's be sure we're also designing drugs that work against these viruses, which we haven't had a great setup, to treat people, who are sick, and do that in advance. And that work is also starting to get underway. So yes, I do think we're going to learn those lessons. I, again, hope that five years from now, people don't go like "Well,

you know, we haven't seen another one of these for a while. We can probably cut back on the support for pandemic preparedness. We'll probably be fine." We won't be. This is going to keep happening.

CUOMO: Dr. Francis Collins, thank you, for a repeat performance here, and for sharing this information and perspective with the audience. It's appreciated.

COLLINS: Glad to be with you, Chris, anytime.

CUOMO: Thank you.

COLLINS: Thanks for what you're doing to get the word out there.

CUOMO: Thank you, sir.

All right, to another fight, cybersecurity is, without question, the most confounding national security issue we deal with. If one person came into this country, and attacked one company, one factory, one place, we'd be all talking about it, for days. "Who were they? How'd they do it?"

These cyber terrorists are doing horrible things all the time, with ransomware, on critical businesses, like our beef plants, like gas pipelines, like hospitals, and they're getting paid off. And we never hear about it. And we don't even know that the government has a way to stop it. So, it's time we take it seriously.

The Co-Founder of CrowdStrike, a hacking prevention expert, is going to give you the real deal, about the scope of the problem, and what can be done, but isn't being done, to stop it, next.









CUOMO: It's not your imagination. Hackers are busier. It's not just we're paying attention to it. It's on the rise. And we need to pay attention to it.

And they are targeting key public needs, hospitals, transportation, gas pipelines and now, food. They're picking those targets for the same reason that Willie Sutton said he robbed banks. "That's where the money is." They've gotten $4.4 million off of this ransomware.

Now here's the key. You know how they're getting paid? Cryptocurrency. Why? I'll tell you in a second. But remember last month's gas pipeline attack? That's what they got paid in.

It's easier than selling the data that they used to steal from places like banks and insurance companies. Why? Because that had to be done in cash, or some kind of currency. And what can you do with currency? You can track it.

How about cryptocurrency? Not so much. Now, you see why it is proliferating as cryptocurrency is as well. So, how real, and how do you stop it?

For that, let's bring in Dmitri Alperovitch. He's a leading cyber expert, runs the Silverado Policy Accelerator, and was a Founder of cybersecurity company, CrowdStrike.

Dmitri, good to see you.


CUOMO: So first, am I exaggerating any of this? How real is the threat, in terms of growing scope, scale?

ALPEROVITCH: You're not. And I hate to use the word that it's an epidemic, in the midst of an actual pandemic. But it really is coming to that, when they're going after our food security, our food supply, when they're going after our gas, when they're going after our hospitals.

We had a huge outbreak in hospitals last year in the midst of a pandemic. Critical surgeries have been postponed. They've even gone after breweries and distilleries, if you can believe that, Chris. Truly nothing is sacred anymore.

But the reality is that every type of business is under attack. Schools, police departments, the D.C. Police Department was hit, a few months ago, and had to - had its confidential files disclosed, by these criminals. No one is immune.

CUOMO: The cynicals say, "Ah, everybody does it. The United States does it to other people. They do it to us. It's - there's a give and take." Is that true?

ALPEROVITCH: No, I said this about half a decade ago, Chris, that we don't have a cyber-problem. We have a Russia, China, Iran and North Korea problem.

And what I mean by that is that the vast majority of the attacks are coming either from the nation states themselves, the militaries and intelligence services of these countries, or the criminals that operate within their borders.

Some of those criminals may have no affiliation with the government, as many of those ransomware crews do not have an affiliation with the Russian government. But the Russian government is aware that they're operating.

They know where they are, and they choose not to arrest them and not to prosecute them. So in a way, they're providing safe harbor to them, just like the Taliban was providing safe harbor to al-Qaeda, before 9/11.

CUOMO: You say, cryptocurrency changed the game, and that, is key, to stopping the game. How so?

ALPEROVITCH: The sophistication of these attacks has actually not changed a whole lot, Chris. Their ability to go in, and encrypt data, and demand a ransom has existed for decades.

But we have not seen those attacks decades ago because to do them successfully before, you'd have to leave a ransom note that would say "Please wire the money to this bank account." And of course, that would be easily traceable. You would be identified. Law enforcement would be on your tail.


Nowadays, you can say "Please transfer money to my bitcoin wallet," and no one knows who owns that bitcoin wallet. And as a result, it has really generated this explosion in ransomware and extortion schemes because now they can receive the payments in an effectively untraceable manner.

CUOMO: You say the fix is for the administration to crack down on cryptocurrency. How? Do you believe that they could make it illegal?

ALPEROVITCH: No, I don't think we should ban it. But what we should do is apply the exact same standards that we have, in the rest of the financial system.

When you're trying to do a large wire transfer to someone else, in the traditional banking system, when it's over $10,000, the banks - the bank will perform something called KYC, Know Your Customer checks, on who you are, the source of funds, and who it's going to.

We need the financial institutions, in the crypto-space, to do those same checks, on their customers, crypto exchangers, and others that are playing a role in the transfer and conversion of the funds, the cryptocurrency funds, into what's called fiat currency dollars, euros, rubles, whatever it may be, so that we can finally start tracing those payments, and exposing the bad guys.

CUOMO: Well, one thing is for sure. This does not have the energy in Washington D.C. that's - let's say, going after the big social media providers does. So, we're going to go to some of those same lawmakers, and say, "What about this?" and see if there could be some energy, in terms of giving it attention, to come up with a plan.

Dmitri, thank you very much. We'll have you back, and track the progress on this. ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

One of America's newest high school grads is already making her mark in the world. The valedictory that went viral, why? Because it was a surprise, and she took a chance that very, very few, in her position, would take.

You're about to meet her, and hear why her first step, into her adult life, was a very daring one, next.









CUOMO: What a huge deal to be your high school valedictorian! And there's one in Dallas, making waves, after scrapping her pre-approved graduation speech, to instead take aim at Texas' newest abortion law.

It's the so-called "Heartbeat law" that would effectively ban most abortions, after six weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat is usually detected. And it makes no exceptions for pregnancies that are a result of incest, or rape.

Paxton Smith is a name that you're going to want to remember. And here's why.


PAXTON SMITH, SPOKE OUT AGAINST TEXAS ABORTION LAW IN GRADUATION SPEECH, LAKE HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOOL VALEDICTORIAN: Today, I was going to talk about TV, and media, and content, because it's something that's very important to me.

However, under light - however, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me, and millions of other women, in the state.

Six weeks. That's all women get. And so, before they realize - most of them don't realize that they're pregnant by six weeks.

So before they have a chance, to decide if they are emotionally, physically and financially stable enough, to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide, if they can take on the responsibility, of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made, for them, by a stranger.

It's a problem that cannot wait. And I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there was a war on my body, and a war on my rights, a war on the rights of your mothers.


SMITH: A war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent.


CUOMO: Paxton joins us now.

Paxton, congratulations, first of all, on being valedictorian, from your high school. That is awesome.

SMITH: Thank you.

CUOMO: So 10 days out, what changes in you? What went on inside your head and your heart that made you decide "Talking about the media is important, but not as important, as this to me?"

SMITH: OK. I had recently heard about the passing of the heartbeat bill. And I was trying to work on an assignment for school. But I couldn't bring myself to focus on that assignment, because I was so distracted by how upset I was with the heartbeat bill.

And it just kept playing on repeat, in my head, how upset I was. And, at that point, I realized that this is something that I need to talk about.

CUOMO: Now, many people in your community, especially the religious people, would say, "No, you should be upset, because any time a baby is killed, it's wrong. And six weeks is six weeks too long." Why don't you adhere to that belief?

SMITH: I think sometimes it's a matter of opinion about when you think a fetus can be considered a baby, and when you can consider a fetus to be alive. To me, a fetus is not really alive until it's viable. And so, I don't agree with that rhetoric.

CUOMO: So now you decide to change your speech. Brave! But more brave than you probably even know. You go to your parents and say, "Here's what I'm going to talk about." They had to be concerned. You're valedictorian.

SMITH: Actually--

CUOMO: You've accomplished so much. They have to be so proud. And now you're risking it all, at the moment of your greatest celebration. What did you say to them to calm their concern of what this would mean to you, especially in your community? SMITH: I told them, essentially, that this was incredibly important to me, and that I felt like it was the right thing to do, and that there was no better time to make a speech like that. And I had thought of a lot of the risks that were involved, and that was something that I was willing to take on.

CUOMO: Did you think that when you were walking off the stage to some applause that somebody would take you aside, and say the school is thinking of revoking your diploma?


SMITH: I did not anticipate that. Out of all of the outcomes I expected, I think that was the last one I expected.

CUOMO: But that happened, right?


CUOMO: And what did you think to yourself when you were told that? And it didn't happen, right? You got your baccalaureate. You're through, right?

SMITH: I ended up getting my diploma, yes.

CUOMO: And what did you think--

SMITH: I was--

CUOMO: --when someone said that?

SMITH: I was really surprised, actually. I didn't know really what to think in that moment. But I didn't feel regret about what I said.

CUOMO: Even if it had cost you something?


CUOMO: So, now you're going to UT Austin. You got big dreams. What did this mean to you? How do you feel now about it going around the country?

There's a lot of controversy, people, you know, this issue is very divisive, on the basis of belief, not science. You say it's a matter of opinion. That's the problem is the law says what viability is. A lot of people, especially where you live, don't accept it. But what did this experience mean to you?

SMITH: It's very exciting. I'm very glad that the speech has gotten so much publicity, because it opens up the opportunity for conversation about this more. I'm hoping that this leads to more people feeling passionate about it, and feeling the need to become educated about the issue, and form an opinion about it, and vote for it in their state elections.

CUOMO: So, you are valedictorian. That is a huge achievement. I got a little tip for you.

SMITH: Thank you.

CUOMO: You want a tip from an old guy?

SMITH: Of course I do.

CUOMO: A lot of people go their entire lives without ever taking a risk, in the direction of what they believe to be true, because the risk seems like it's too much. And you're just 18, and on your way to college, and you've already done that.

And you did it on the biggest stage that you were ever offered. That takes guts, it takes smarts, and it takes soul, no matter what people think about the position, so good for you, Paxton.

SMITH: Thank you.

CUOMO: And I wish you good things going forward.

SMITH: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Paxton Smith, a name you will want to remember.

All right, now another American newsmaker, one of the country's newest millionaires. All he had to do was get vaccinated. Now he's rich in dollars, and antibodies. Ready to meet him? Next.









CUOMO: If you're reluctant to get vaccinated, and had the chance at winning a million bucks, if you did it, would you? One Ohio man jumped at the chance, and is now a million dollars richer.

Amazon delivery driver, Jonathan Carlyle, is the second Ohioan to win the state's vaccination grand prize. But get this. He missed the Governor's call, informing him that he'd won. He had to check the voicemail, because he was busy working.

He joins us now and tell us what that moment felt like, and what he plans to do with the money.

Congratulations, brother.


CUOMO: Now, is it true, what I was told by my team that when you saw the number on the phone, you thought you had won? Why?

CARLYLE: First off, I was very surprised. It said Mike DeWine. He has his - his personal cell phone number has caller ID. It goes out. And I saw it, and I mean, for a slight second, maybe a scam. But as soon as I heard the voicemail, I knew exactly what it was.

CUOMO: All right. Well, yes, of course you did. It had his name on it. They didn't tell me that. Now I'm not so surprised.

All right, so this is huge brother. You were worried about getting the vaccine for the same reason, so many were, not because you're anti- science, but you were worried about getting the time to do it.

You got a young kid at home. You're working two jobs. You're worried if that - they wouldn't give you time-off, if you got sick, so you had been delaying. And then the lottery pushed you over?

CARLYLE: Yes, yes. My girlfriend had already gotten her first dose. And I was just - I was putting - I kept putting it off, even after my sister pushed me some more. And then finally, the Vax-a-Million thing started. And I was like, "I got to do it now." I - just some told me to go do it, and sign up for the - for the million dollars.

CUOMO: Well, good for you, brother. And this is life-changing money. There's nobody, who doesn't need a million dollars. But it will change things for you, how?

CARLYLE: I think the biggest thing is just clearing away all of my debt, and actually being able to - I have breathing room, a little bit of breathing room. I'm being able to put more money back and save instead of just bouncing from bill to bill sometimes.

CUOMO: I heard that you drive in a car that it's got a muffler that sounds like an angry cat, and you've been trying to get a house but couldn't put the down payment together. And what does this mean for you now?

CARLYLE: Just whatever you said. The first thing I think I'm going to do is I'm going to get myself a new car.

And then beyond that, we just want to set a Foundation for my family, a house, maybe a good chunk down payment for a house, and go from there. And we'll ask for some help because like this is life-changing money, and I've never dealt with it before so.

CUOMO: Be smart. Move slow. Think twice.

What did the girlfriend and the boys think about it?

CARLYLE: My girlfriend told her boss she had to leave work, and came directly home, and she was crying, when she opened the door. It was awesome.

CUOMO: Well listen, it is nice to see somebody rewarded for doing the right thing. God bless you and the family. Good luck with using the money. And I hope life takes you in the great direction you want it to. Be well brother.

CARLYLE: Thank you. Thank you. You have a good night.

CUOMO: All right, you too.

We'll be right back.









CUOMO: That's it for us tonight. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now with its big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: You're trying to get me in shape, right, running? "Chris is early!" I'm like, "What? Chris is never early." He's always - even in real life, we are - tell them what I do to you. Lunch is actually at 1:30. What do I tell you?

CUOMO: You do sometimes hide the time. But I don't get that. It's my wife that has a little bit of a delay factor.

LEMON: Cristina.

CUOMO: I am prompt, brother, I am prompt.

LEMON: If lunch is at 1:30, you tell Chris, 12:30.


LEMON: Or 1:00. You're the one who's on. I'm going to get in trouble for this. You're the one who's on, you know what time so.

CUOMO: Yes. You can say whatever you want. But the - listen, I was listening to Joe Manchin tonight.

LEMON: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: And he is not wrong about the ideal. But the question is, does what he believes the Senate is about, still exist in reality?


CUOMO: I mean, he's certainly - I don't know what he's hearing, from Republican senators. He's got Murkowski, who signed on to the Joe Lewis - the John Lewis Act.