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Biden Denounces Trump's Lies About Stolen Election; Former Tennessee Vaccine Official Says State Leaders Are Halting All Vaccine Outreach For Kids; Texas Law Deputizes Citizens To Enforce Six Week Abortion Ban. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Two developments after massive protests in Cuba, Sunday.

The first, the government tonight says one man is dead, after clashes with police, during more protests that occurred on Monday.

The other development, today, protesters in Miami blocked traffic, on a big highway, showing solidarity, for recent protests in Cuba. The Palmetto Expressway remains closed tonight, in the area of South Florida, with a heavy population of Cuban Americans.

The protests in Cuba, Sunday, were the largest in decades, coming as Cuba battles a difficult economic crisis, U.S. sanctions, and COVID. Activists say more than 100 people were arrested or are now missing. Cuba's government has since enacted an internet blackout.

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Coop, we have the Tennessee medical official, who says she was fired.


CUOMO: And it's very interesting to hear the sequence of events, and why she believes this happened, and what her real concern is for her state. Actually, it doesn't have to do with just COVID, but other immunizations are now being discouraged.

So, thank you for starting the ball on that. We'll pick up the ball right now. Anderson, appreciate you.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Don't miss President Biden, in terms of what this really means, OK? I know all the headlines are, "Oh, he came out strong about voting rights."

His talking about voting rights, the way he did it, and the way he defined it, it's not just another layer of rhetoric. He has justified the biggest test for his presidency, since the initial role of getting the vaccine out, when he first came into the power.

In calling the wave of state voting laws that are upon us, the greatest threat to our democracy, since the Civil War, he's created a bar for himself. Listen to what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Big Lie is just that, a big lie.


BIDEN: In America, if you lose, you accept the results.

You don't call facts "fake" and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you're unhappy.

This is election subversion.

Are you on the side of truth or lies, fact or fiction?

We will be asking my Republican friends, in Congress, in states, in cities, in counties, to stand up, for God's sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our elections and the sacred right to vote.


BIDEN: Have you no shame?


CUOMO: No, they have no shame. And the President should know that. The question is, can he get it done?

Again, we know there is no shame in their game. We know that they know it is a lie. We know that the "Big Lie" was cooked up weeks before the election. Trump had been feeding it to you, for weeks, as a suggestion.

Now we know that on election night, as Trump was losing, they were already figuring out how to fulfill the false prophecy.

Two "Washington Post" reporters, write in the book, "I Alone Can Fix It," that Giuliani was telling other guests, at the White House, ready for this, "He had come up with a strategy for Trump, and was trying to get into the President's private quarters to tell him about it.

Some people thought Giuliani may have been drinking too much. Stepien, Meadows and Miller," Jason Miller, "took Giuliani down to a room just off the Map Room," in the White House, "to hear him out.

Giuliani went state by state. "What's happening in Michigan?" he asked. They said it was too early to tell, votes were still being counted and they couldn't say. "Just say we won," Giuliani told them. Same thing in Pennsylvania. "Just say we won Pennsylvania." So look, we know that Trump and Co. were all in on the lie from jump. Here is what we don't know. Here is what the current president just made the bar. Can Biden pass what he calls the test of our time? Can he stop the wave of restrictive laws?

The GOP has already enacted 28 new laws in 17 states. They remove, reduce and restrict what was allowed in this past election. Why? Why else but to suppress the amount of turnout that we just had in this election, particularly the Black vote? There are also restrictive bills waiting for action in 48 states.

Look, we know there is no proof of fraud. You saw the CPAC guy here, imagining that "There were all these signatures, they didn't follow the law." They looked at the ballots, as I said during the interview. Just because you let somebody give their argument doesn't mean you're not going to check it. That's called dialog, OK?


So, in debate, he said "They didn't check every box, and that's it." But that's not fraud, even if they didn't check every box. And when they looked to see if the signatures were real, they found almost none, and then they worked them out. And that was done by Republicans.

The Texas Governor, a Republican, said he saw no proof that there was any fraud in his state's elections. But now he's pushing laws that fix what wasn't broken.

Even Mitch McConnell told you, there was nothing to fix.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's nothing broken around the country. The system upheld very well during intense stress.


CUOMO: Now, the question for him is, on this, and on vaccines, we have the exact right person to ask tonight, why doesn't McConnell, if he believes those things, why doesn't he speak out about people who are saying the opposite, and wantonly lying within his own party? What kind of leader is he?

We're going to ask somebody who should know the answer, in just a moment.

But first, think about what Biden did today. He warned you "Prepare now for Republican attacks, on the midterms, next year." But that's not the bar for him.

We know that's going to happen. What is he going to do about it? Can he get all Democrats on board to stop the laws that will almost certainly reduce Democrat chances in the states that pass the same?

The stakes are clear, as is the Democrat desperation. Right now, dozens of state lawmakers are risking arrest, fleeing to D.C., from Texas, to shine a light on the voting rights fight.

The risk is real. What can Biden do about it, if it is the test of his time?

Reaction to what seems to be the most toxic tack I've ever seen from what was the Grand Old Party. Let's discuss the state of play. Let's start inside and then go outside.

Scott Jennings, former Campaign Adviser to Mitch McConnell, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, good to see you. Hope the family is well.


CUOMO: So let's start first with just where your head and heart are.

How do you feel about what's been going on at CPAC, what's happening with vaccinations and election fraud as really mainstays of Trump party politics heading into the midterms?

JENNINGS: Well, I'll just start with the vaccines. I'm sort of perplexed by some of the people, who are trying to cast doubt, on the need for the vaccines. Some of the people doing that purport to be Donald Trump's biggest supporters!

Well, I think if you look back, at the Trump presidency, it's hard to imagine a bigger triumph, of that four years, than the Operation Warp Speed that led to the development of the vaccine.

So, I guess I'm very flummoxed by the idea that people who say they support Donald Trump, and what he accomplished, would then throw cold water on the vaccine that his administration helped bring forth.

I think that's what Senator McConnell was also getting at today, which was, he's a little surprised that some Republicans, who say they support Trump, now apparently don't support his greatest accomplishment.

CUOMO: First Trump, then we'll go to McConnell. Why do you think the former president wasn't all about selling the vaccine? He barely told people that he took it, and that his family had it.

How do you understand that, as a Republican that this was his signature achievement, when it came to a pandemic, that he denied, and then he doesn't sell it?

JENNINGS: Yes, what, I mean, he's obviously was occupied by other things, chiefly his view that he was the winner of the election, when you and I both know that he wasn't, but he's been preoccupied with that. It's all he talks about.

I mean, the reality is he had a number of good things he could have sold, during the election, during the campaign, and then in the aftermath of the election, about how good of a job he did, on the vaccine, on the economy, whatever you want to talk about.

But he got solely focused on the idea of election fraud. And that's what he talks about every day. And because the party has no platform, and because he remains the most popular person in the party, that's kind of the main animating issue of the party right now. And it's unfortunate for us, I think, moving forward.

CUOMO: So, let's talk about how you deal with that popularity.

McConnell says, on vaccinations, and people should know he's a polio survivor, and that is part of the context for why he is sensitive to vaccines, "It is discouraging that so many people remain unvaccinated. I'm a big fan of vaccines. I had a personal experience with that in my own life.

And it's pretty clear from all the evidence that if you get the disease, you're much more likely to survive it if you get vaccinated. I think we just have to keep preaching that and try to get people to understand the importance of it."

Here is the problem. He is the Leader in the Senate. And his own members are crushing the vaccine, are questioning it, Rubio, Paul, Cruz, others. McConnell says nothing about that. Why is that OK?


JENNINGS: Well, I mean, he says every single day and has, for months on in that people should get vaccinated. He's been vaccinated. Everyone should get vaccinated.

CUOMO: That's different.

JENNINGS: I've personally talked to him about it.

CUOMO: That's different.

JENNINGS: He does events when he comes--

CUOMO: That's different.

JENNINGS: --home to Kentucky, and says all of his constituents to get vaccinated.

CUOMO: But that's different.

JENNINGS: So, I disagree with your assessment.

CUOMO: No, no. That's not my assessment. My assessment isn't that he says "Get vaccinated." It's that he says nothing about the people, who are undermining the vaccine without basis. That's what I'm talking about.

He does the same thing with the "Big Lie." He says, "Hey, look, there wasn't any election fraud. It is what it is." But he doesn't say anything about that his party is overrun with people, who are questioning the election. What kind of leadership is that? It's not enough just to say "Get vaccinated." It's, you have to say,

"This guy's lying to you." It's not enough to say that the election was good. It's "These people are lying to you." Isn't that the bar?

JENNINGS: I mean, Chris, I think -- I think Mitch McConnell has been very clear how he feels about the election.

Number one that Joe Biden won, and is the legitimate president, and number two, that he doesn't agree with what Democrats are trying to do with the federalizing essentially our national election system.

It's possible to hold both views. And that's the view that he holds is that Joe Biden won. There was not enough fraud or no fraud, sufficient to overturn the election, as Donald Trump argues, but that at the same time, it's his view that we don't have to federalize the election system.

It's a -- it's a pretty clear position. And he's made that position very well-known every single day. Now, he can't control the statements of everybody in his Conference. But I think his position has been well-known, and well-stated, and he has never wavered from it one day.

CUOMO: Yes, but these guys police each other all the time, when they want to.

If people had said, "Hey, I don't think we need a tax cut," in 2016, 2017, "I don't really think we need it," he would have said things to them privately and publicly, "I don't agree with that. We should have the tax cut. I think it's a big deal." Not with these two things.

And my point is not to just malign McConnell, I just believe he's a player in the game. It's the game that I hate.

What I'm saying is, how comfortable are you with a Republican -- as a Republican that really the main thrust, of where you guys are coming from, based on CPAC, and what we're hearing from your big names, is "The election was stolen. And we have to make sure it never happens again."

Are you comfortable with that and what it might lead to?

JENNINGS: Well, I'm not comfortable with the idea that we're going to run the 2022 and 2024 elections with the platform, basically, of re- litigating 2020. I mean, I don't think that's going to win us back the White House, essentially. I mean, I'm a little dubious that this issue is going to be as big a deal in 2022, because of the dynamics of a midterm.

But in 2024, we're going to go back to the American people and say, "Return us to the biggest office in the country, and the most awesome political power in the world. Give us that responsibility."

And if we expect people to do that, they're going to expect us to tell them the truth about what happened the last time we had that power. And when we last had it, Donald Trump, of course, helped incite a mob, on January the 6th, over a bunch of lies about what happened in the 2020 election.

The party has to have a platform. It has to have a series of issues. And it has to have an argument about why we would be better than Biden or Harris, or whoever the Democrats' nominate.

And simply going back to them, and saying, "Our whole reason for being is to tell you that Donald Trump was right, and January 6 was fine," that's not going to cut it. We're clearly not going to win a national election on that. So, I'm uncomfortable, if that's our platform.

I am comfortable that the issues exist for us to, to try to get there. But I think there's a big struggle in the party right now, honestly.

And we're going to see some of this litigated in the upcoming election about are we going to be a party of policy and ideas? Or are we going to be a party of looking backwards, on an election that we didn't win, but was close enough, and we could win in -- we could go back and try to win in the future?

CUOMO: I hope you're right about there being a battle, because I don't see it right now.

And I don't like the two-party system. I think we need more stakeholders. But we absolutely need an intelligent check on one side, and the other, an intelligent check, if we're going to be stuck with two parties. And we do not have that right now.

Scott Jennings, thank you for being with me. Appreciate you.

JENNINGS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, look, what's going to work with you, OK? To Scott's point, they can say whatever they want. What's going to resonate, OK?

Let's bring in The Wizard of Odds with the numbers that matter as campaigns are starting. Where's your focus? What are you buying? What are you not? Next.









CUOMO: Look, I don't think there's any question that the Party of Trump is banking on the "Big Lie." I don't see them putting out anything else. Will it work? Let's look to you.

Our Wizard of Odds, Harry Enten, has a breakdown of what we see resonating, this far ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Let's start with the obvious. What's working, on the GOP side?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Crime. Crime is working on the GOP side, you know?

If you look at the data right now, you see Biden's job approval rating on crime, just at 38 percent. It's one of his weakest issues. And it's coming at the same time that more and more Americans describe the crime problem as either extremely or very serious.

And it was just a week ago, Chris, that in New York City, we crowned the Democratic primary winner, in Eric Adams, who ran very much hard on the crime issue. So, we saw that it penetrated and really resonated in a Democratic primary.

I think the GOP is probably going to run on this issue. We know that murders are up. We know that shootings are up. So, this is one of Biden's weakest issues, and one of the GOP's strongest issues.

CUOMO: That early pushback of "Not all crimes are actually up. It's actually still OK, if you look at it, year-over-year," didn't work. People think it's bad. The shootings are really the metric that resonates.

What isn't working?


ENTEN: COVID-19. I mean, look, this is one of Biden's strongest issues.

Already, more than two-thirds of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Biden's job approval rating on this, look at this, 62 percent, double his disapproval writing.

So, when I see people at CPAC saying, "Oh, you know we're going to stop them. We don't want the government from infiltrating, going into our houses, trying to sell us in the vaccine," most Americans are sold on the vaccine. Most of them have gotten it.

That would be an awful issue for Republicans to run. And frankly, I don't get it. And I think it's just another illustration of sometime the base run amok, and not really being in touch with the center of the electorate.

CUOMO: So that anti-vax thing--

ENTEN: Awful!

CUOMO: --may not pay off. We'll see.

ENTEN: Awful! CUOMO: Now, the big ticket is usually first, it's now third, which is the economy.

ENTEN: Yes. I mean, I think that this will ultimately be the issue that may determine the midterm elections.

Look at Biden's economic job approval rating. It's 50 percent disapproval rating, 45 percent. That's very, very close to what we saw was the final result, last time around, in the presidential election, right, it was 51 percent, 47 percent, so, Biden's basically equaling what his result was last time, his percentage of the vote.

And we see the economy is also climbing, in terms of the nation's most important problem right now, just squeaking out poor leadership with 23 percent. But it's going up as a most important problem in the country, especially as we're getting out of the pandemic, as we've sort of seen this uneven recovery.

I think if Biden is approved more than disapproved on the economy, heading into the midterms, it could be good for Democrats. If on the other hand, he's disapproved, more than approved, that, in fact, could be quite good for Republicans. I think it's the breakeven issue.

CUOMO: As is always true, but specifically with the economy, it's about what the narrative is. What does the economy mean? How is it explained? Is it about what he got done? Is it infrastructure? Is it just how it came back, as we saw with Obama, when he inherited the 2008/2009 problems? Who tells the better story? Very important!

Harry Enten? Thank you for giving us the numbers.

ENTEN: My pleasure, sir.

CUOMO: All right.

Next guest has a warning for Democrats in 2022. "Wake up on the culture issue that could beat you, yes, wokeness."

You don't have to listen to James Carville, but you ignore him at your own peril. He knows people. He knows what made Democrats, the party of people, and, more importantly, he knows what you've lost.

So, listen up, next.









CUOMO: The same party wrapped in the mantle of "Defunding the police" is on the verge of electing a former cop mayor in New York. You know what that's called? An adjustment! That's in addition to the law enforcement background of another Democratic mayor in Chicago.

You know why? Crime is a problem, especially in cities. And both of these cities are seeing a surge in homicides compared to pre-pandemic levels.

I know other crime metrics aren't on the rise, in the same way. But people killing people, people using guns, in the commission of crimes, matters more. Cops on the street say liberal reforms are making it harder to keep people safe.

Let's talk about the threat of wokeness to Democrats with James Carville.

James, I'll give you one break from the hate parade. And then we'll get in to the wokeness.


CUOMO: The first macro issue is how long -- Biden threw down the gauntlet, as we say, today. "These voting reforms are the worst thing since the Civil War. This is the test of our time."

Well, now he's got to pass it. The only way he passes it is one, the 1 percent to 5 percent chance that he gets Republicans to sign on to voting reform at the federal level. The other way is that he gets Manchin and Sinema in line.

Do you think he can get it done?

CARVILLE: I hope so. And I would point out your guest, Senator McConnell's guy, said that they don't want to federalize elections.

The Constitution is very explicit in its grant of power to the Congress, to set rules for federal elections. So, I don't think that there's any doubt that this is a constitutionally correct bill that we have.

And luck is going to be hard. You have Senator Manchin and Sinema, they're going to have to -- that's the only way they're going to be able to do it that I can see it. And I hope they do, because if they keep passing these restrictive laws, we're just going to lose faith in our democracy, which is not going to be good for anybody.

CUOMO: I didn't push him on the constitutional issue, because it's about the how.


CUOMO: And there were provisions in those bills--

CARVILLE: Right, I understand.

CUOMO: --where you would have federal oversight in a way that would be very heavy-handed. It didn't have to be that way. But your point is accepted.


CUOMO: Now you get to the main -- the main battleground, which is how you get more people in the fold.

You point out Biden did better in the suburbs than Clinton, but not the cities. Trump actually gained 6 points in Philadelphia with Black men, 5 points with Hispanic women.


CUOMO: Why? What does it point to?

CARVILLE: Well, people, we saw in New York, people want candidates to address their lives. I mean, Biden did a little worse. But he did better with suburban women. He did better with veterans.

Not to belabor your point, we did lose traction with Black voters and Hispanic voters. And I think part of that is we got identified by the "Defund the Police" and the language police. And that's not who Biden is. Biden didn't even know what wokeness is, so you couldn't explain it to him.

And I think that the Democratic Party, I'm very encouraged in what I saw in New York, I was very encouraged by the results in Virginia primary, very encouraged by what happened in Louisiana.

Look, there's this whole noisy, Identity Left is 15 percent of the Democratic Party. Two-thirds of their party are these loony -- agree with these loony insurrectionists, and this kind of stuff.

Yet, we pay such a terrible political price for a slightly more than fringe element of our party, where they don't pay near the price for just totally goofy, not even on this planet part of their party. So, we just have to be more effective and more determined in our communications.

CUOMO: Can Democrats own crime, when your opponents will point to bail reform, and how it was done, and judicial discretion, and that that is an aspect of keeping people on the street, even when they do bad things, with guns, and that could be part of the problem.

CARVILLE: Well I don't see why we shouldn't. Starting with -- when President Clinton took office, up until the third year of the Trump administration, crime and violent crime in this country had gone down precipitously.

[21:30:00] The only thing that changed, and it was always -- the cities were

always run by Democrats, was the Trump presidency, who was a lawless president, who promoted lawlessness. And I think that -- if your guess is right--

CUOMO: What about the liberal reforms? I mean, look, a lot of this is going to hang--

CARVILLE: But I don't think -- I don't think -- I don't think--

CUOMO: --on New York's shoulders.

CARVILLE: --well I -- I'm not a criminologist. But when under Obama, and under Clinton, we had precipitous drops in violent crime in this country.

And some of these things are going to have to be looked at. But I think the idea we're going to defund the police, and not support the police, was put to rest in New York City. Remember, this was a New York Democratic primary.

So, there's a -- there's a lot of blame to go around. But Biden can get his numbers up from 38 percent, because he was instrumental in helping reduce the crime--

CUOMO: But remember, Eric Adams is a former cop, who went against--


CUOMO: --the Democratic mentality of letting everybody out of prison. Part of it was COVID.


CUOMO: But a lot of it wasn't. It was bail reform. Some of it was good.


CUOMO: Some of it was overreach. And he campaigned against it.

CARVILLE: But Chris, that's 15 percent to 20 percent of the Democratic Party, OK? The overwhelming number, of Democrats, most important constituents, in our party, are Blacks and suburban women, they're not into this, all right?

And again, we're seeing it time and time again. We're letting a noisy wing of our party define the rest of us. And my point is we can't do that.

I think these people are all kind of nice people. I think they're very naive, and they're all into language and identity. And that's all right. They're not storming the Capitol. But they're not winning elections.

And I think people sort of see this for what it is, and people way more interested in their lives, and how to improve them, than they are in somebody else's pronoun or something.

So, I agree that it's a problem. But it shouldn't be as big a problem it is, because they know we're near as big (ph) in the Democratic Party is the fringes are in the Republican Party. And that's something that we got to drive home.

CUOMO: James Carville, you're always value-added. Appreciate you.

CARVILLE: Well, thank you, Chris. I appreciate you too.

CUOMO: All right.

CARVILLE: And it's important conversation we have for the party. Thank you.

CUOMO: We'll keep having it.

CARVILLE: Yes, sir.

CUOMO: Tennessee, why does Tennessee matter? Because they came out of the box hot on vaccinations. They had it together. They were doing well. But then the poison politics started.

Now, they have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. COVID cases are on the rise there again. Look, one goes with the other, all right? You never hear somebody saying that "They have this unbelievable vaccination rate, but there's unbelievable case rate." You don't hear it, OK?

The state's top vaccine official, now, this is a really interesting story, she says she was fired, not because of the numbers, but for trying to turn them around. She says that she went against the predominant political bent. It cost her, her job, but she is way more worried about what it's going to cost the people in her state.

How so? Next.









CUOMO: Most important story of the day, for the next week, and certainly as of right now. In Tennessee, we have just obtained documents that prove that

Republican state lawmakers, because of the poison politics, they're not just chilling outreach about the COVID vaccine, they are chilling outreach to minors about all vaccines, HPV, immunizations, mainstream ones, why? Because that's how far they're willing to go.

The story of this pandemic, on the Right side, is deep denial. And we are going to remember, for generations, how we made ourselves sick. Nobody else did what we've done in America. We had a cure faster than just about anybody. Not cure, but a vaccine. And we made ourselves sick.

We lied to ourselves, about the pandemic. Our leaders called it a hoax. It's Trump, but it was more than Trump.

And now, we have the big case in point, Tennessee. Monday, their top vaccine official, says she was fired after she sent a memo to vaccine providers about a state law that already existed. Thing has existed since 1987.

It's called the "Mature minor" policy, which is where it allows doctors to determine if teenagers, even if they're not, right of the age of a majority, that they can still be treated, as long as the doctor believes that they're mature enough to understand their health care decisions. So, they don't need the parents' consent.

It comes amid a larger effort to halt the vaccine outreach for all diseases. Think about that. Why?

Dr. Michelle Fiscus joins us now to tell her story.

Thank you for taking the opportunity, Doctor. Appreciate it.

Why do you believe that you were given this Hobson's choice, be terminated, or resign, over your decision to tell kids -- to help kids get the vaccine?

DR. MICHELLE FISCUS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF IMMUNIZATION PROGRAMS, TN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Well, thank for having me on, Chris, and taking the time to shed some light on this story. This is really a symptom of what's going on, in public health departments, in many states across the country.

There are 64 people in my position, across states and territories, the United States. And I'm the 25th, who's left their position, over the course of this pandemic. That's 40 percent of us that have left, either for retirement, or because we've been terminated, or because we've just simply resigned.


And this, in my particular case, is about the bowing of the Department of Health, to some saber rattling of some of our state legislators, who felt that it was inappropriate to share the "Mature minor" doctrine that has been Tennessee Supreme Court state case law since 1987, as you mentioned, to be able to allow minors, ages 14 and older, to consent for their own medical care, if their provider feels that it's appropriate to do so. And--

CUOMO: So, this started on the COVID level, which you believe is derivative of poison politics surrounding COVID, yes?

FISCUS: It is around politics surrounding COVID. But it has -- it has seeped out to be much more than that. And really, I think this was the vehicle for something larger, which is -- which is vaccine hesitancy, vaccine denialism, amongst some of our state legislators.

CUOMO: I don't get it. I get the COVID play. I mean, that's happening all over the country.

Even though Trump started Operation Warp Speed, you could say it was his signature triumph, when it comes to a pandemic that he denied, that he got the vaccine in record time. And now, they're trashing it. So, that's a little confusing.

But what I don't get is, why are they extending in Tennessee to say, "All immunizations?" "We don't want you to outreach to anybody about any immunizations." Is that -- do I have that right?

FISCUS: You have that right. And actually, I was told by some folks, within the department, just this morning, that that includes infant immunizations as well.

So, it is any kind of outreach around the importance of vaccines for children, around the importance of COVID-19 vaccine, for adolescents especially, has been halted, even going so far as to cancel events that are scheduled well into the fall, for flu vaccination, within schools.

And this is, I think, can only be explained as our leadership's attempt to placate these legislators, as she has made it very clear that she has political aspirations to run for governor, or senator, or get a White House cabinet appointment, as she explained to "The Tennessean" newspaper, a few weeks ago.

CUOMO: So, the cover of "The Tennessean" now, the front page is that this is about all immunizations.

It's obviously that so -- but I still -- I got to be honest with you, I still don't get it. So, it's not just about the Trump politics of the vaccine, being proof about the pandemic, and the pandemic is real, and they don't want it to be real.

You believe that this is part of just some kind of extremism, where all vaccines are bad, and they don't want anybody to get any vaccines?

FISCUS: Yes, it's pretty mind-boggling. We do have a fairly active anti-vaccine movement, here in Tennessee. They are well-organized. They're well-funded. It's an international push for vaccine misinformation and disinformation, in the country, and in our state.

And they have the ear of many of our legislators. When you listen to government operations, committee hearings, and you hear playbook phrases, coming out of the mouths of our senators and legislators that comes straight from the anti-vaccine playbook, it's pretty clear who they're listening to. And it's not the scientists.

They have Vanderbilt University, a preeminent research institution, in their backyard, where they could talk to any vaccine researcher and expert that they would like to. And yet, they seem to choose to listen to the Facebook memes and the disinformation that--


FISCUS: --these anti-vaccine groups are sowing.

CUOMO: One of my main experts on COVID all along has been a Vandy -- Vanderbilt professor.

Now, how is this translating? What are you hearing on the patient level, in terms of how these restrictions are feeding into people's misgivings, and hesitancy, even if they're not part of some fringe understanding?

FISCUS: Well, I'm out now. So, I haven't heard or seen communications from the public on this.

What I know from my colleagues, is just the dismay that they have that, that politics is obstructing the very important work of public health, in Tennessee. And this is a non-partisan issue.

Public health is non-partisan. These viruses and bacteria that can wreak havoc with these diseases are non-partisan. They don't care who you are or who you voted for. And the way to prevent disease is with immunization. And it is what pediatricians, like myself, do every day. It's what public health does every day.

And to have partisan politics, getting in the way of doing that work is a disservice, largely to people, who have decreased access to vaccines, people who visit departments of health, and who rely on vaccination services, coming to schools, to vaccinate their children. These are the people, who are hurt by this.

And it's unforgivable, that people will put their own political aspirations, ahead of the good of public health.


CUOMO: We have to see what this means for the variant. But it goes much broader than that. I mean, you have different things that you immunize for that are way more dangerous than COVID-19, in terms of how fast they spread.

One last thing, and then I'll let you go, Doctor. And thank you, again.

What's the chance that the state comes out and says, "No, no, no, here's why we got rid of Fiscus. She stunk at this, this, this. It was cause for this, this and this. And that's why it happened." Do they have a case against you?

FISCUS: Oh, they may. As you mentioned, our numbers are some of the worst in the nation. I think that there's a groundswell of support within the organization, within state government itself.

People have been walking on eggshells, afraid of being fired for doing the right thing. And, I think those folks will help if, if that comes to that. But if they decide to try to disparage me, that's fine. I'll know it's out of desperation, to maintain their agenda.

And my concern is for children, and for the people of Tennessee, who I was hired to protect and serve.

CUOMO: Dr. Michelle Fiscus, thank you very much. I'm sorry that we got introduced this way. But it's the job to give you the platform to say what's going on.

FISCUS: Thank you, Chris. I really appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right, good luck going forward. We'll stay in touch.

FISCUS: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right, so look, another huge battle that is culture, but also law, and one plays into the other, OK? That's what you're seeing in Tennessee, but on a much bigger stage.

The Right has been trying to change the law on what a woman can do with her body ever since Roe v. Wade, ever since 1973. But the big moment may finally be upon us. There is a major fight in Texas. Have you heard about this? This abortion rights law could be the moment the Right has been waiting for.

We have a woman at the center of the litigation. What the stakes are? Next.









CUOMO: This is interesting, OK? Texas is pushing a law that would allow people to sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion.

Even in a year, when we're seeing a record number of laws, restricting reproductive health, this Texas law stands out, not necessarily because of how restrictive it is. It doesn't even really provide a platform to sue someone getting an abortion. A dozen states set the same time for a woman to have an abortion, at

six weeks, or sooner. So far, all have been blocked in the courts. But this law was specifically designed to get around those exact legal challenges.

If this law goes into effect, in September, it won't be the state enforcing the law. See, that's the genius of this. Instead, people will be empowered, by statute, to sue anyone, who helps a woman get an abortion. There's even a $10,000 reward, if their court challenge is successful.

The power isn't limited to people in Texas, meaning anti-abortion groups, around the nation, can unleash a flood of lawsuits against anyone helping women in need.

The law so broadly defines help, it could include a pastor, counseling a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, or someone giving a woman in need, a loan, even someone giving a woman a ride to the clinic.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of a group operating four clinics, in Texas, one of the 20 companies that people are fighting this -- people fighting this in court.

Amy, thank you for coming to PRIME TIME.


CUOMO: So, this is clever. How do they get around in the law, the problem of standing, which in the law means "You get to sue me because something has been done wrong to you?"

How do they empower groups and people to sue someone for helping someone exercise their reproductive rights, if nothing bad has been done to the person suing?

HAGSTROM MILLER: Right. That's a great question. Basically, this Senate Bill 8 is trying to forge a path for new law, right?

It's not the same kind of law that we've heard about in the past, where a law gets passed that restricts people's access to abortion, we can sue whoever is in charge of enforcing the law, like the Attorney General, or the Health Department, or whomever block the law, with an injunction, and stay it, while we're litigating and arguing the case.

By putting just random people, anybody, on a sidewalk, an anti- abortion protester, somebody in Kansas, who decides they don't want somebody in Texas to have an abortion, anybody can bring a lawsuit, accusing somebody of either performing an abortion, that's illegal by this definition, so over six weeks, into a pregnancy, or they frame it as aiding and abetting, right, so already using criminal language in a criminal framework, somebody who helps somebody that they know, or love, get access to safe abortion in Texas. It's unprecedented.

CUOMO: This is an interesting strategy. It is unprecedented. They will say "We're not restricting access at all, actually," except the six- week part. And even if you were to strike it, and put it back to 24 weeks, as you know, in the amicus brief in Roe v. Wade, the other restrictions would still apply, and could have a chilling effect.

How high are the stakes?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So, the chilling effect is profound. We have staff at our clinics already, who are hearing from patients, who are in the clinic, already made an appointment, there for an ultrasound, there for some counseling, and who are asking already, if abortion is still legal.

Staff are feeling surveilled. They're feeling scared. These are people, who are on the front lines, as essential workers, providing access to abortion care services, for the last year and a half.


And right when they start to come out of the pandemic, there's this kind of restriction, that's put forward, that's not in the interest of health and safety. It's simply politics. It's extreme.

The vast majority of Texans don't support this kind of regulation. That's really asking Texans to meddle in each other's private lives, asking people to tattle on each other, in ways that is just not in the spirit of what we believe in, in Texas.

CUOMO: What are the legal experts telling you in terms of the survivability of the statute?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So everybody agrees that a six-week ban on abortion is unconstitutional. There's no question there. The strange thing here is the sort of method of enforcement, this private cause of action.

We are suing a lot of people today, from every judge, and every clerk, in the State of Texas, to the medical board, the pharmacy board, et cetera, suing anybody that may have the power to enforce this law, or have these cases come into their -- into their purview, in an attempt to block this from going into effect in the first place.

CUOMO: That will be--

HAGSTROM MILLER: Because over 90 percent of the abortions we provide are over six weeks.

CUOMO: That--

HAGSTROM MILLER: This has huge stakes.

CUOMO: That will be a ripeness issue as to whether or not it's the right time for you to sue. This is going to be an interesting one to watch.


CUOMO: And we will. Amy Hagstrom Miller?


CUOMO: Thank you very much.

HAGSTROM MILLER: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: We'll be right back with the handoff.