Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

Senate January 6 Report Reveals New Details About Security Failures, Omits Trump's Role; Sen. Joe Manchin Still Against "For The People Act" After "Constructive" Meeting With Civil Rights Groups; New Audio Shows Giuliani Involved In Quid Pro Quo. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 08, 2021 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A spokesman for the Elysee Palace said "A man tried to hit the President," and said, "Macron then continued on with his tour."

Authorities said the man who struck the President, along with another man, were placed into custody. Still, scary to see something like that.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Then he went right back, and continued talking to the people there. He seemed very calm.

What did he do wrong, in that altercation?

BERMAN: Turn - not turn the other cheek?

CUOMO: Well, that's what the Bible says to do!

When he saw that guy go like this, what was his reflex? He went like that, right? Should have come like this, and stepped right in. Would have been--

BERMAN: He'll sign up for Cuomo training.

CUOMO: --would have been a different day. The S.P.E.A.R. System is who we should look at. Look online at the S.P.E.A.R. System. They'll teach you what to do, J.B. Don't get slapped around! Have a good night.

BERMAN: You got it.

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

No surprise the opposition party, is not going to make a deal on infrastructure with President Biden, so, the President has ended negotiations tonight.

Listen to the Senate Minority Leader about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It's pretty clear the era of

bipartisanship is over.


CUOMO: Senator McConnell, once again playing the game. This is exactly what he wanted, waste weeks, offers that would never do anything, but stall, lowball Biden, block the administration, exactly as he promised.

The White House says Biden was willing to come down by more than $1 trillion on his plan. The GOP would only come up by $150 billion. But more importantly, it was what they wouldn't even deal with in the bill. It was just never in good faith. And in Biden's view, the offer simply doesn't meet the essential needs of the country.

In a statement, the lead GOP negotiator, Senator Capito, said, "This doesn't mean bipartisanship is over." Of course, it does. That's why McConnell said it plainly, and promised to fight the Biden administration, at every turn. That's the game.

Biden's team, what is their game? Spinning their wheels once again, trying to get the opposition to do something for this country. Now it says it's going to meet with a bipartisan senate group of centrist senators, including Democrat Joe Manchin.

Will he help Biden pull this through, if he sees no good faith from his friends on the Right? Or will the Senator from West Virginia still insist on refusing to change the filibuster, in any way, to protect minority voting? Not minority voting of those Trumpers in the Senate. They are abusing a system.

I'm talking about the voting rights of poor people of color, all over this country, who may be kept from influencing this system with their votes. They should be able to use the system, not be sacrificed, so that Republicans can abuse it.

Murkowski, the lone GOP senator, working with Manchin, to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act says it's going to be a challenge to get nine others in her party to break a filibuster.

Of course, McConnell says the bill won't have his vote. But listen to why.


MCCONNELL: Which they're trying to do directly through H.R. 1, they would try to achieve indirectly through this rewrite of the Voting Rights Act.

It's against the law to discriminate in voting on the basis of race, already. And so, I think it's unnecessary.


CUOMO: Well, he thinks it's unnecessary because he wants those elections to come and go, to generate the lawsuits, to take the time, to fight the laws, in every state, while allowing the party to benefit from them. That's what he wants.

And the nonchalance, the pretending that it doesn't matter, is so similar to what we heard from supporters of Jim Crow, like segregationist Senator James Eastland, from Mississippi, in 1957.

Listen to him.


SEN. JAMES EASTLAND (D-MS): We have no race - no voting qualifications based on race.

MIKE WALLACE, JOURNALIST: Well, under those circumstances--

EASTLAND: We have none - none at all. And anybody who is qualified can vote.

I would like to see is just what we have that everyone who is qualified should vote.

WALLACE: Qualified by reason of?

EASTLAND: Our qualifications that are written in the law that apply to all races alike.

WALLACE: And you think that no tougher literacy tests should be given, let's say, to a Negro than to a White, right?

EASTLAND: None are given.


CUOMO: You know who was asking the questions? Boy, could we use him today! May he rest in peace. Mike Wallace.


The game then, and now, ugly and obvious. McConnell is dead-set on not doing anything that might hurt Trump's chances of winning again. Back then, the guy was just a bigot. Now, it's about holding on the power, no matter if it engages racism.

Hold Black people down. "Worth it!" Hold down any legislation that Biden could campaign on. "Worth it!" No matter what it means for the country. "Worth it!" Absolutely hold down any efforts to investigate the real reasons for the infamy of the insurrection, on January 6th.

You see that first report from the Senate, on what went wrong, at the Capitol, on January 6th? Came out today.

You know what Trumpers were posting online, before the attack, according to this new bipartisan joint committee report? Remember that word, "Bipartisan." "Bring guns. It's now or never." "This is do or die. Bring your guns." "They better dig a tunnel all the way to China if they want to escape."

There was planning. There was a call to arms. And the Trump mob did bring guns and other weapons that harmed law enforcement and others that deadly day, despite what the revisionist historians, in the party, are telling you now. They were wearing Trump's hats. You could see them. You see the flags.

And they say themselves again and again, themselves, and through counsel, on this show that they were there because they thought Trump told them to fight. But what about his culpability? What about mentioning him?

Oh, he's in the report, plenty, but he is never identified of as a source, of any of the fomenting that led to that day. Why? Because that's the way the Democrats had to yield, to get Republicans to join this bipartisan probe. Of what value is this report, if it is going to sugarcoat the reality to protect somebody, who is responsible for it?

And McConnell said he was. Remember that. The man said he was part of it. But now he's OK with a report that whitewashes Trump out of it, when he himself said on the Senate floor that he had done it?

It's a game, my brothers and sisters. And the longer you allow it to be played, without seeing it called out, being outraged by it, it will continue.

And so, now, here we are, with the Democrats, succeeding at appeasing the Party of Trump. They're doing a great job of that! But will that make you, the voters, in the midterms, happy with Democrats?

We need to get in deep to this state of play with somebody who understands the game, and understands the Democrats, a better mind, of former Attorney General. Let's get the take of Eric Holder, former Attorney General, on what's happening right now.

It's good to see you, sir. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's good to see you too. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: So, the January 6 report, they get the buy-in, by keeping Trump out of it. What does that mean to you?

HOLDER: Well, it means that the Republicans are intent on hiding Trump's culpability, trying to whitewash things, as best they can, doing only what the minimum is involved. I mean, the reality is that the report, even with that, it is useful, because it identifies some systemic failures, failures to share Intelligence.

But there's a clear need for a January 6 commission that would have the ability to look not only at what happened, but also determine why it happened, and cast a wide net, as we did, after 9/11, not only to figure out what happened on 9/11, but why did 9/11 happen?

Same thing on January the 6th, why did it happen? Who was involved? Who should be held - who should be held accountable? And so, that's what - that's what we need.

I understand what Senator Peters had to do to get this report out today. And that's unfortunate. And it says a lot about the Republican Party, and the leaders in the Republican Party, who've made the determination that they're going to ride and die with Donald Trump, protect his interests--

CUOMO: Right.

HOLDER: --at the expense of the interests of the American people.

CUOMO: So given that, Mr. Attorney General, why not leave it to the DOJ to handle all matters, January 6th? Let them just process it. Keep it away from the political arm, because you're never going to get a straight read there. This is not post 9/11.

HOLDER: Yes, because this is bigger than just bringing criminal cases. The Justice Department can investigate cases. And a Justice Department properly run only speaks through indictments that it can bring. We need something larger than that.

See, people need to be held criminally accountable, and the Justice Department should do that. But the American people really need to know more about what happened on January the 6th, who was involved, and who might not be criminally liable. And that's the only way that you will get the full picture.

The Justice Department, through the use of grand juries means that you can't through because there's grand jury secrecy, there's information that they will acquire, that cannot then be shared. This is something that needs to be explored, and then shared with the American people.

CUOMO: Right.

HOLDER: For now, and also for history, to make sure that what happened on January the 6th doesn't happen again.


CUOMO: But, strange question, but are you selling your agency short, the DOJ? They obviously look at terror all the time. And they understand it from an Intelligence perspective, obviously, and the investigative arm with the FBI.

Aren't they the best equipped not just to bring cases but to bring understanding and say, "Here's who was involved. Here's how they were involved." Isn't this what they do every day?

HOLDER: Yes, I mean, they can do that through the indictments that they would bring. But that doesn't necessarily give you the full, full picture.

I'm not selling them short. I mean, they're great lawyers. They're great prosecutors. We've got a great Attorney General. They'll do as good a job as they can. But the 9/11 Commission, that's what told us what actually happened, on September the 11th, not necessarily the indictments that were brought by the Justice Department.

You need both. You need both. You certainly need to have people held criminally liable, where that is appropriate. But you need that overarching picture, in the same way that we had the Warren Commission report.

We need to know - it wasn't just a question, if he had lived, of indicting and convicting Lee Harvey Oswald. We needed to have the Kennedy - the Kennedy Assassination Committee, the Warren Commission report, to tell us what actually happened, how did he get the weapons, who else might have been involved, all those kinds of things.

Commissions are uniquely situated to give us the full picture, again, for the present, and also, for history.

CUOMO: I hear you. It just doesn't seem like that's going to happen.

All right, let's talk about something else that may not happen that you have been fighting over, for years. And you were right. You were early on it, in terms of the Democratic perspective on this, which is redistricting or gerrymandering. You've been talking about it for years.

Here's my question to you. Manchin's getting all this stink on him for not being in favor of the "For the People Act." But he is not against the "For the People Act," because of the gerrymandering. It's the other things that are in it, the campaign finance, the presidential tax returns, the D.C. Statehood stuff.

Why not take that stuff out, and treat gerrymandering, as serious as it is, and have it be a standalone bill, hold his feet to the fire, he'll have to support it, and then make it a clean sale?

HOLDER: Well, we try to work on Senator Manchin, between now and the time that the vote occurs. But I don't want to, you know - we need to focus on him, and try to get him to the appropriate place.

But we also got to focus on the Republicans, who are doing absolutely nothing, in support of a bill that clearly would make our electoral system better.

I think we want to keep this bill together, the part that deals with campaign finance, the part that deals with redistricting, gerrymandering, the part that deals with voter protection.

The three parts of that bill are the strength of that bill, because it identifies the weaknesses, the issues that we have, in the electoral system, in the United States of America. And all of them need to be addressed. You're not going to make the bill any more saleable to Republicans, if you pull it apart.

This is an opportunity that we have, a unique historical opportunity, to really look at our electoral system, and cure a lot of the ills that we see, curb a lot of the abuses that we see, dark money, when it comes to the electoral system, gerrymandering, when it comes to redistricting, voter suppression, when it comes to how our elections are run. Let's do this all at once. And let's make the system as fair as it needs to be.

Republicans, it seems to me, are scared, of the people who they say they want to represent. Democrats, by contrast, want to say, "Let's make it as easy as possible for people to vote. And let's keep the special interests out of the system." So, let's keep the bill together. And let's pass that bill.

CUOMO: Now, one of the things that would make it easier, to pass the bar, of my criticism, would have been a fair hearing on this.

I have been consistent, in talking about your party, in terms of them not playing this game, the right way. They're making it too easy for the Republicans to say that they're having things forced on them, and not putting things on the floor, putting out the hearings.

Let people see where the Republicans are on these things, and what their resistance is really about, like, this bill, you don't have to sell me on it. I've been hearing about gerrymandering since Elbridge Gerry. You know what I mean? I know when it was right, and when it's been wrong.

But there's been one hearing on this thing. Why not have the Republicans have to make the case on this and expose what it's really about?

HOLDER: Yes, I testified, at that hearing, which was done, I think, very well by Senator Klobuchar, had lots of people testify, including the Senate Majority Leader, as well as the Senate Minority Leader. They both spoke at that hearing.

And there's been a number of opportunities that Republicans have had, to voice their concerns about the bill. There'll be more opportunities they have, between now and, I guess, the end of June, when the bill will come up for a vote.

And so yes, they'll be on the record, in their opposition. And they'll have to state their reasons. They'll put amendments forward. Senator Schumer has allowed that to occur with other bills, unlike Senator McConnell did, when he was in charge.


So, we will see exactly where the Republicans are. But I can tell you where they are, you know? You're not going to get a Republican, you're not going to get one Republican, to vote for S. 1, the old H.R. 1. There's not one.

And you think about that. What does that say about that party? It means that they are bound and determined to hold on to the power that they have. And that's what this is all about.

This is about nothing - this isn't about fairness. This isn't about our - the health of our electoral system. This is all about Republicans holding on to the power that I think they illegitimately got, and want to hold on to, at all costs.

CUOMO: And that's why it's so important for the process to be exposed. Let them - and let people hear the arguments.

HOLDER: Right.

CUOMO: And see what it's about and what it isn't about. Now, this is usually the point in the interview, where I go, "Damn, I ran out of time with Holder again." Not tonight!

Tonight, I want to hold you over, for a second block, so we can discuss how important the other piece of this legislation is, in light of what is going on, around the country, on the state level. And I want your take on what is working and not working for your party, and what it means going forward.

So, let's take a quick break.


CUOMO: And we'll be back with the former A.G., who is on the front lines, of one of the most important fights, in our democracy's history, next.









CUOMO: Former Attorney General Eric Holder is with us.

Thank you for sticking around, sir. Appreciate it.

When you hear Mitch McConnell, say, "You don't need the John Lewis Act. It's already in the law."

HOLDER: Yes. Yes.

CUOMO: "States' rights! States' rights!" How does that sound to the ears, to your ears, as the only Black attorney general that this country has had? When you hear him say it, and the way he says it, what does it mean to you? HOLDER: Well, when I hear somebody talking about states' rights, and denying people the right to vote, that takes me back to a very bad place. It takes this country back to a very bad place. And that's where Republicans are trying to take this country, to a very bad place.

The assault on our democracy, what they're trying to do to our electoral system is reminiscent of what we saw during the Jim Crow era. What we're seeing now is the greatest attack on voting rights since the Jim Crow era.

This is a nation that has been generally on an arc. We have always tried to expand the number of people, who had the ability to vote, from simply White men, who owned property, then to women, African Americans. We've moved this arc, so that we include more people. We try to make it easier for people to vote.

And what Mitch McConnell and Republicans are doing, around the country, is inconsistent with that arc, inconsistent with the founders of their party. They call themselves the Party of Lincoln. And yet, they're doing absolutely nothing that is consistent with the memory of our greatest president.

CUOMO: But it's the right play, because he is right. You do have federal law that makes it illegal to restrict voting on the basis of color. But he knows what that means.

You're going to have to have elections. People are going to then be harmed. They're going to have standing. They're going to go to court. They're going to sue. It's going to take time. And they will get the benefit of those laws until they get tracked down one at a time. That's his play.

HOLDER: Right.

CUOMO: My question is what is your party's play? Do you see the desperation? I mean, it's all "Joe Manchin this! Joe Manchin that!" Is that all you got? Does that party not have the desperation, to find a way, to get this done, if it matters that much?

HOLDER: No, I think the Democratic Party is ready, is fired up, and wants to take the battle, to the Republicans, in the fight for our democracy. But beyond that, Chris, the American people are on our side.

The "For the People Act" polls extremely well, among Republicans, Independents and Democrats.

CUOMO: In West Virginia, by the way, in West Virginia, the "For the People Act"--


CUOMO: --polls higher than the Jobs bill, or the Relief bill. It's at 81 percent.

HOLDER: Right.

CUOMO: So what is Manchin's play?

HOLDER: Right.

CUOMO: And how does that fit into the Democratic strategy?

HOLDER: Well, I'm not sure what Senator Manchin's play is. I hope that over time we'll get him to a better place.

But what we, as Democrats, are doing is fighting, I think, in the best way that we can, trying to generate interest, generate support, by the American people, trying to pressure the Republicans, trying to bring transparency to the system.

But let me be honest about it. I think progressives and Democrats are too often uncomfortable with the acquisition and the use of power. And we need to get over that.

We have power now in the Senate that we need to use. And it's not to use it in the way that Republicans have, to protect themselves, and to entrench themselves, in essentially minority rule.

We've got the people behind us. And so, we have to use that power to make sure that we put in place systems that will withstand attacks, like the Republicans are presently doing. So, we got to get comfortable, like I said, with that - with the use of power.

CUOMO: Now look, I remember. I was alive, and in this job, back in 2009. When you were in office, you got all this heat, for saying that, in too many ways that we've acted, like a nation of cowards, about taking on our biggest challenges.

And I was OK with it, then, because either you take on the tough fights, or you don't. And you leave yourself open to scrutiny, when you don't take on the tough fights.

I feel it applies just as much today, Mr. Attorney General, as when you said it, then. We got the same issues and worse. And we are moving backwards at a rate that is much greater than it was in 2009, in terms of where we are as a people.

What do you think?

HOLDER: I think the stakes are higher. I think that the attacks are greater. They are more intense.

The Republican Party has gotten to a place, where they are comfortable with the notion that they're going to be a minority party, in terms of popular support that will have majority power.


We are on the verge of, and I don't say this lightly, we are on the verge of a political apartheid system, in this country, where a minority, again, not with popular support, but because of gerrymandering, because of the wave of voter suppression, the way in which our Constitution has kind of broken up our system, with regard to the Senate, the Electoral College, there's a whole range of ways in which a minority, minority in this party, can dictate to the majority, the policies, of this nation, the policy directions of this nation, the foreign policy of this nation, the domestic policy of this nation.

And so, we have got to fight. This is what's at stake. Our democracy is what is at stake right now.

CUOMO: No time for cowards.


CUOMO: Because if you don't get it right, then you don't have Eric Holder, the first African American attorney general, for the United States of America, because if you don't even the playing field, then you don't get even results, or anywhere close.

Mr. Holder, thank you for fighting the fight on gerrymandering. I don't care what party you're with. We got to get the representation right. If it's not fair, it just gets more unfair, as it goes down the line.

And I appreciate you being on tonight.

HOLDER: All right, we got to keep fighting. Don't be pessimistic. Keep fighting.

CUOMO: Have you met me? That's why I wear the black suit, Eric.

HOLDER: All right.

CUOMO: I am as fair (ph) as they get.

Mr. Attorney General, you're always welcome here, to paint the optimism and make the case. Be well.

HOLDER: Right, take care.

CUOMO: All right, so Joe Manchin had a big meeting today, I think, with a board, a body, from the NAACP, OK? And we have a key player who was in the room. And he said it was productive. Manchin came out, and said, "I haven't changed my position."

So, what is the state of play? What are the stakes? And what has to happen that isn't? Perspective from a better mind, next.








CUOMO: Informative, but no change in position. That is Senator Joe Manchin's official take on the "For the People Act," after meeting with civil rights activists.

Take a listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We had a constructive conversation. I think everybody pretty much knows and the importance of what we're doing.

REPORTER: Was there anything about your position on S. 1 that changed based on this conversation?

MANCHIN: No. I don't think anybody changed positions on that. We're just learning where everybody's coming from.


CUOMO: That meeting included my next guest, NAACP Chief, Derrick Johnson.

It's good to have you, sir.


CUOMO: Joe Manchin is talking, "We, and I don't think anybody," it's just about him.

What was your take on Manchin after the meeting? What do you think this is about for him? And do you think he gets it?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, we wanted to establish a relationship, and then grow it from there. We understand where his position is. But we also understand where we need to go, as a country, and as a community, and that is to protect the right to vote.

We should not allow a procedural question, used by a segregationist, like Senator Russell or Eastland, to prevent the - therefore appreciation of the Constitution, and people votes being denied.

And so, where Manchin is coming from, I'm not here to predict. But I do know we must fight so we can win. And that can only happen, right now, if we open up a different type of dialog, and come to a place, where we can agree, to move the country forward.

I really appreciate the last interview with Attorney General Holder, because if we don't expand the Electorate, if we don't allow democracy to truly be in place in this country, we're going to go to a dark state. And that dark state will be very harmful to African Americans, and many others.

CUOMO: Understood. Are you open to streamlining the "For the People Act" to just deal with gerrymandering, specifically?

And of course, you still have the John Lewis Act, which would be the only federal mechanism, to stop what is spreading through these states, like a cancer right now, in terms of their suppressive laws.

What do you think about streamlining the first act, the "For the People Act," and then putting it to Manchin that "Hey, you said, you're for the gerrymandering part. That's what it is now."

JOHNSON: But that won't address state legislative bodies that enacted regressive laws, like in Georgia. You're going to have a lot of voters harmed because of what they've just done in Georgia, and in several other states.

So, we have to address the harm that has been implemented in state policy, over the last two months, as well as address issues around redistricting, and how we make sure we get lines that are not so heavily polarized, that we won't recognize Congress in the next session.

CUOMO: I'm with--

JOHNSON: And we must also put in place measures to prevent jurisdictions from trying to suppress votes, moving forward.

CUOMO: I'm with you, 100 percent.

The John Lewis Act is what gives you the stopping mechanism for having a preclearance of these state laws. The, and I know you know this, but for the audience, and the for your - and "For the People Act," is the gerrymandering.

Right now, Manchin is saying "There are too many things in the "For the People Act" that aren't about gerrymandering, that are about campaign finance, and presidential taxes, and D.C. statehood."

Take that out and say "Good. Just do the gerrymandering, and then do the John Lewis Act." What about that?

JOHNSON: Well is he prepared to say, "If all that happened, I'm going to move forward, and I will not participate in stopping on a procedure, the advancement of - around the protection of votes of Americans?"

Is he prepared to ensure that if he take all of that out, we can move forward, and know that we have fair transparent elections, where people could have access, the very things he attempted, and did, in many cases, when he was Secretary of State of West Virginia.

He created early voting. He did many things, so West Virginians can fully engage and participate. And we're only asking him "Do that for the rest of America." Do not - do not allow a segregationist procedural rule to block full implementation, so we can have the democracy that we all have invested in.

CUOMO: And remember, they can - and again, I know, you know all this, Derrick, but for the audience, they can make a one-time change, on the filibuster.

I know it would set precedent, but we're already past that. Harry Reid did it with federal judges. And then McConnell did it with the Supreme Court. And if you did it here, yes--



CUOMO: --they may double-down on it. But is this fight worth it? I think that's the question Democrats have to put to Joe Manchin, and to themselves, frankly.


CUOMO: I think he's being a little bit of a scapegoat. And that's why I like that you guys entered the mix today, because people have to understand the stakes.

Last word to you.

JOHNSON: Well, it's important that we don't give up the fight, because when we fight, we win. That's been a history of the NAACP. That's been the history of the civil rights community in this country.

And although Joe Manchin may have a position today, we have to continue to push Congress, as a whole, the Senate specifically, so we can get to a place, where we can ensure that all eligible citizens can fully engage. Because if we don't, 2022 will look much worse than we've ever seen.

Our democracy is at stake. We must protect it. And we have to protect it in the Senate now.

CUOMO: Americans being able to exercise the franchise is absolutely the good fight. And I wish you well in that. Derrick Johnson, thank you for being with us.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so this Ukraine, perfect phone call, you knew it had to be a problem, when Trump called it perfect, because remember, that is his game always, right? "Nothing is a mistake. Everything is right. Nothing is bad. Everything is perfect."

We played you the exclusive audio that CNN got, of Rudy Giuliani, in his own words, absolutely putting pressure on Ukrainians, and making it clear that if they did what he wanted, he would talk to the President, for them, about that meeting, which they needed to bring legitimacy to the fledgling Zelensky administration.

You know who also who heard it? Zelensky and his assistant. We had him on before. He's back here now, with us, to make it clear about what they understood about what Rudy had wanted from them, and what they had to give, and what he was offering to get for them. He's with us, next.









CUOMO: You heard Donald Trump talk to Ukraine's President, and in no uncertain terms, say, "Do something for me, if you want me to do something for you."

If you had any question, you had exclusive audio, obtained by CNN, last night, further exposing that Rudy Giuliani was doing the exact same thing, in Trump's name, attempting a quid pro quo, to get Biden.



RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: And all we need... all we need from the President (Zelensky) is to say, "I'm going to put an honest prosecutor in charge, he's going to investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists," and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election... and then the Biden thing has to be run out.

"It's going to be run by honest people." That would clear the air really well. And I think it would make it possible for me to come and make it possible, I think, for me to talk to the President (Trump) to see what I can do about making sure that whatever misunderstandings are put aside.

And maybe even, I kind of think that this could be a good thing for having a much - a much better relationship.


CUOMO: Sounds like he's eating a sandwich or something. He was very casual about this. But he was also being recorded. And I don't think Rudy cared. You know, why? Because there was no shame in their game.

But how about, on the other side of the phone? Igor Novikov was on that phone call, former aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

It's good to see you again.


CUOMO: Now, you knew what they were asking. And they knew that you had already investigated these things, and had made it clear there was no information like this, on Biden that they were asking for. Is that also true?


CUOMO: Expand?

NOVIKOV: Well, basically, we knew what to expect before the phone call. I mean, we do read the news. And we've heard the stories. So, the only hope that we actually had was that since we're complete neophytes, in politics, we kind of expected probably a gentler treatment.

But that wasn't the case. We kind of experienced the full "Godfather" mode, like straight up - straightaway. So, now I'd be lying to you, if I - if I said that kind of hearing that tape brings back fond memories. So, we have to deal with--

CUOMO: Igor, I still got you?


CUOMO: Good. And just to be clear, when, the communications with the administration, on this issue, allowed your team to say, "Look, we don't know of anything about Biden, this has already been looked at," and Rudy came back, three days after Giuliani's call, you would hear Trump say the same thing, when you had been clear that there was no need for an investigation, and Rudy came back and said, "Yes, you need to have an investigation, a good honest prosecutor," how was that interpreted on your side?

NOVIKOV: Well, we kind of realized that it wasn't about investigations.

It was about creating that picture, for the general public in the U.S., of something happening in Ukraine. So basically, our impression was that they wanted to stir things up, and see what comes out of it.

And they wanted basically to use the Ukrainian officials to kind of - to rubberstamp all of that, so to make it look official, and real, and kind of to give that credibility to all the conspiracy theories. So, that was very uncomfortable. But there was another tragedy kind of associated with it.

Basically, before this interaction with Rudy Giuliani, before the perfect phone call, before these events are young, kind of civil society dreamers, kind of firmly believed, in like American exceptionalism, and the strength of like American ideals, and I was one of them.


And then experiencing all of this firsthand, hearing those conspiracies, experiencing that pressure, that was really damaging. I mean, everyone, including myself, has a slightly more cynical view of America now, and that's the real tragedy. The damage has been done.

CUOMO: Well look, there are always going to be different facets to every government, especially when you're looking at it through the lens of politics.

One of the things that makes America the envy of the world is that I'm also sitting here right now, reaching out to a foreign source, to criticize a former president of the United States, and his attorney, who are under current investigation, for what was happening. So, accountability is the key in a democracy. And that's what we're struggling with here.

And I have to tell you, I appreciate your help and your perspective of having been on these phone calls, and making it clear to the American audience.

You knew what "They" wanted. "They" knew that it wasn't legitimate, and "They" asked for it also. And "They" was the President and his lawyer, and it was clear to the President of Ukraine and his team.

NOVIKOV: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Igor Novikov, thank you very much. I appreciate you. And be well.

NOVIKOV: Thank you.

CUOMO: Now, one step sideways, as we go to break. How much does it hurt, to hear this young Ukrainian guy say "I see America differently now?" It hurts, right? It hurts me, right? Because you love your country.

And what was done was wrong. And don't "Both sides" me on that BS. This was a uniquely wicked and dirty deal. And you just heard this guy, who should be looking up, to this country, for the way forward for his own, saying, "Now, I'm not so sure." Don't be in denial. We've had too much of it.

In fact, it's a segue, deep denial about the pandemic, I'm going to keep talking about this movie "Contagion" from 2011, because when I watched it again, it was like a slap in the face. A decade ago, we should have known this was coming, and we've done nothing.

My next guest saw the warning signs. Are we ready now, if it happens again? Next.








CUOMO: We should have never gone through the pandemic the way we did. If they had taken it seriously, in the beginning, if Trump had not made a political play on it, we wouldn't have been there. But now, forget about him.

Pre-Trump, I keep coming back to this 2011 movie "Contagion," the filmmakers looked at SARS and MERS, talked to some experts, and figured out what the scenario would be like, and it is exactly like what we lived through. And a key element was leaders in deep denial.

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't even tell people right now what they should be afraid of. We tried that with Swine Flu, and all we did was get healthy people scared. It's the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we need to consider closing the schools down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And who stays home with the kids? People that work at stores, government workers, people that work at hospitals.


CUOMO: Yes! And yet we did nothing to plan. "Oh, you know, Trump took out that White House Office for pandemic of," so what? We should have an entire infrastructure. We knew for years!

Dr. Ian Lipkin is Professor of Epidemiology, at Columbia University, and was a Chief Scientific Consultant for that movie.

2010, they came to you, Doc, thanks for joining us, and said, what would it look like, what would it be. You didn't make any of that up, in giving them a fictitious storyline. How do you explain why this country allowed itself, to be so vulnerable to something they had to know was coming?


The preparedness that we did have was really a function of what happened after 9/11, when Bush decided to actually look at what we had to do, to jumpstart research, to build production facilities, in this country.

That effort, which was really led by Tony Fauci, was supported by Obama as well. But as you've said, there was sort of a diminution of the effort. And we had a lack of leadership, not only in the United States, but in Brazil, and China, and Turkey, and many parts of the world, in India. And you've seen the consequences of lack of leadership.

We all knew that something like this was inevitable. We knew that we had to expedite the development of vaccines that we needed better testing.

And the fact that we are coming out to the end of the beginning of this pandemic now, doesn't mean that we're all the way through, nor does it mean that we won't have another one.

So, what we're hoping is that people will pay attention, not just to the movie, but to what it is we've learned, as a consequence of what we've seen thus far.

CUOMO: So, two questions.

First one is, if God forbid, there is COVID-20, or whatever it would be called, we don't have the Defense Production Act, revved up in a way, where we're ready to make PPE, where we got that one company in Maine, that makes swabs, ready to expand production, to help us, to get the reagent that we had to source from Asia, and North Africa.

We don't have stuff in place, ready to go, if we were to get hit again, do we?

LIPKIN: Not yet. I'm hoping this is something we're going to be addressing shortly. There are so many areas where we're weak, Chris.

I mean, if you consider the fact - I was in China, in January, of 2020, before we realized what was going on here. And the Chinese government was investing heavily in personal protective equipment. Everywhere I went in China, we were wearing masks.


When I came back to Newark, on the 4th of February, it was like stepping into a completely different world. There was really no concern. Now, they're stopping people, who were coming in the border, from China. But there was no effort to do anything similar, with people arriving from Europe.

And the majority of what hit New York was actually virus that was--

CUOMO: Europe.

LIPKIN: --coming in from Europe.

CUOMO: Right.

LIPKIN: Not from China.


LIPKIN: So, there were so many places where we went wrong.

CUOMO: So now--

LIPKIN: That said--

CUOMO: Go ahead.

LIPKIN: That said--

CUOMO: Make your point, Doc.

LIPKIN: --I just want to say, the vaccine story here is absolutely extraordinary. The investments that we made in vaccine development, beginning in the early 2000s, paid off in spades. So, look at how well we're doing. And if we could just get everyone to take the vaccine, we would be far safer.

CUOMO: Now what I want to do, Doc, is you have the way forward.

If America doesn't take its technology, and work with other countries, to get more vaccinations, in the countries that are lagging behind, this is going to just repeat itself, and come back in some variant form.

So, we're going to stay tracking that. And I want you to come back and work with us on that piece, again, on another night, OK, about what we need to do in the rest of the world.

LIPKIN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Doc, thank you very much--

LIPKIN: Extremely important.

CUOMO: --for helping us understand. I appreciate you.

We'll be right back

LIPKIN: My pleasure.


CUOMO: Thank you for the opportunity. It is now time for the big show, "DON LEMON TONIGHT," with its star, D. Lemon.