Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

Omicron Variant Spreads Like A Wildfire; White House Staffer Tested Positive for COVID; Not A Good Time To Put The Guard Down; Children Faces Risk From Omicron; Three Trials Simultaneously Being Heard; Democrats Are Upset With Sen. Manchin's Vote. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 20, 2021 - 22:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): Whether people would use the kits and wear they would those masks, I get it. That's still an issue to be determined.

Thank you for watching. I'll be back here tomorrow night. DON LEMON TONIGHT begins in a moment with Laura Coates sitting in. Hi, Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Hey. How are you doing? I love the survey. I was filling out mine. You didn't get to my question, though, Smerconish.

SMERCONISH: Well, I would -- I would respond to your question at any time. So, thank you very much.

COATES: All right. Nine a.m. tomorrow at Sirius XM. I'm calling in to your program. I can't wait to hear and talk to you.

SMERCONISH: I would -- I love it. Please do. Have a good night.

COATES: I will. I'm the nasal voice one. Thank you.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates in for Don Lemon.

And we begin with breaking news. Omicron is spreading so fast it's now the most dominant coronavirus variant in the United States. Tonight, the CDC saying Omicron accounts for 73 percent of all new cases.

Now, when it was first detected in the U.S. in the first week of December, mind you it accounted for one percent of cases. By the second week of this month, just over 12 percent. And now, accounting for every three of every four cases. And the overall COVID case load is now spiking.

The U.S. now reporting more than 130,000 new cases per day and hospitalizations from COVID are up 35 percent over just last month. Dr. Anthony Fauci warning Americans that the next few weeks and months are going to be difficult as Omicron continues to spread.

He and another medical expert urging everyone to get their vaccinations and booster shots from maximum protection and Fauci criticizing Americans that claim they have a right not to get vaccinated. Reminding them that COVID has killed more than 800,000 Americans.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When someone says well, I'm taking my own chances, it is my body, I'll worry about it, nobody should tell me that I need to get vaccinated or that I should wear a mask in an indoor setting.

Well, that might be fine for you because you have confidence that you're not going to get seriously ill because quite frankly, hospitals are full of people who made that mistake. And so are graveyards full of people that have made that mistake.


COATES (on camera): Tonight, an official in Harris County, Texas reporting a death related to the Omicron variant. The first known Omicron death in the U.S. The man was not vaccinated. And had underlying health issues.

And if you want a clue as to just how deep the anti-vaccine sentiment runs among some people, well, even former President Trump was booed by the audience at an event he attended in Dallas just yesterday.


BILL O'REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: Both the president and I are vaxxed. Did you get the booster?


O'REILLY: I got it, too --

TRUMP: Don't, don't, don't, no. That's a very tiny group over there.


COATES (on camera): I wonder why that is happening? But now we have breaking news on a COVID exposure at the White House.

I want to go straight to CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, we're learning the president had a close contact with a staff member who tested positive for COVID. What do keep know about this person's interaction with the President of the United States?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Laura. The reality of this moment and the pandemic reaching the White House and getting very close to the president. We know that a mid-level staffer was in close contact with president Biden on Friday for about 30 minutes according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Air Force One traveling from South Carolina to Pennsylvania.

Now, that staffer is not regularly in contact with the president and tested negative before boarding Air Force One but the staffer started feeling symptoms on Sunday, tested positive on Monday. Now, the president tested negative on an antigen test as part of his

regular testing regimen on Sunday when they found out about the positive test on Monday, the president took a PCR test and tested negative as well. Now Jen Psaki says the president will take another one on Wednesday and in accordance with CDC guidelines, he does not need to quarantine.

But this underscores kind of the risk of the moment. And I think everybody in the country is feeling to some degree.

And we've noticed the president started wearing an N95 mask instead of a surgical mask. At some point last week there been extra precautions and protocols put around the president to try and keep him protected.

Now that staffer was both vaccinated and boosted. The president is both vaccinated and boosted. But this all kind of leads into a critical moment for the president in this moment in time in the United States.


Tomorrow, he will be giving a major address related to that Omicron surge we've seen over the course of the last couple of days. The president is expected to deliver a dire warning to the unvaccinated, a very simple warning White House officials say one repeating what he said last week that for those vaccinated and boosted, there will certainly be breakthrough cases however, you're likely to avoid any type of serious infection from the pandemic.

For those who aren't, you are facing death in a very dire winter.

One thing to keep an eye on, Laura, I'm told is what the president says related to testing and potential overflow and hospitals. That is a very serious concern right now, and a very real problem on the testing side of things. It will be interesting to see if the president goes any deeper on those issues, as he tries to lay out the next steps, as Omicron became the dominant variant in the United States today. Laura?

COATES: That happened so quick, Phil. Thanks for your reporting, I appreciate it.

Now I want to bring in Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist who is COVID- 19 adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Excuse me. He's currently a professor at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Dr. Varma, thank you for being here tonight. I'm happy to see you, but not like this.

Because we're learning that Omicron is now the dominant COVID variant in the U.S. just less than three weeks after the very first cases were even detected. I mean, it's stunning, and there's still so much we don't know about it. What concerns you the most about Omicron?

JAY VARMA, FORMER COVID ADVISER TO NEW YORK MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: Thanks very much for having me. And quite honestly, what you're seeing here in New York is exactly what we saw play out in South Africa, in London, in Denmark. We are seeing an explosive rate of infections, something that really seems to exceed what we even saw during the first deadly wave back in March and April.

What is most concerning to me is that we continue to have people who are not fully vaccinated. And we already have a health care system that is under severe strain. Health care workers have been working nonstop, they're demoralized, they're fatigued. And the single best way that we can reduce demand on our hospitals is by getting everybody fully vaccinated and boosted.

COATES: You know, we talk about last year, feeling like Groundhog's Day. And here we are again. It feels like we've been here before, and we haven't quite learned the lessons of yesterday months, and yesteryear.

You have an article out in the New York Times about what New York can tell the rest of the nation about this variant. You say New York state has seen four straight days by the way of record cases, tripling in the last week alone. It takes only about few weeks for hospitalizations to reflect the spike in cases. What do you expect to happen here?

VARMA: Well, that is the great and worrisome unknown. So, I can tell you at this exact moment, our hospitalizations level continues to run in New York City, more than 50 percent less than a day where, when we've had similar case numbers in the past. And I'm quite confident that is the effect of the vaccines.

The problem is that, you know, a small percentage of a very large number is a large number. And that's really what we are worried about. We're worried about as the number of people infected continues to grow exponentially, that even though a large number of people are protected from severe illness by their vaccination status, that we could overwhelm our health care system.

That does not appear to be what's happening right now. We have a lot of confidence in the quality of our health care staff and personnel to weather this. But it is something that we have to watch for a moment to moment.

COATES: You know, you mentioned South Africa, we've watched Israel in the past. We've watched Europe, we've watched other nations to figure out how the U.S. should operate, or conform, or change things. We just learned that London just canceled their New Year's celebration, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering whether to cancel the Time Square ball drop. There is a Billy Joel concert tonight at MSG.

Are large-scale events like this a good idea right now in general?

VARMA: We are at a stage right now right now where the only way to make sure that you are protected is to be fully vaccinated, to be boosted, to be wearing a very high-quality mask. And even on top of that, limiting the amount of contact that you have with people. You know, I would strongly recommend that people be judicious about

anytime they are gathering together with other people, particularly if you are not fully vaccinated and boosted, and wearing a high-quality mask. Or if you have any health conditions that put you at high risk.

The larger you're gathering, the more likely it is you may counter somebody with an undiagnosed Omicron. And what we've learned about this strain, unlike the previous strains, it is that it transmits very readily to the air to large numbers of people.

COATES: Dr. Varma, thank you. I appreciate it. I'm worried about the children, especially who aren't yet boosted, and have just, couple of them just, you know, not couple, but many haven't gotten the full rounds of vaccination during the holiday season.

Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.


You know, we nearly into year three of this pandemic. And some kids still can't get the vaccine. What parents need to know, right after this.


COATES (on camera): The Omicron variant is now dominant in the United States, accounting for 73 percent of cases, up from just one percent in the first week of December. Now health officials are pleading with the public to get booster shots or protection, against the new variant.

But what does Omicron mean for children, especially those under five who are too young to even be vaccinated?

I have so many questions for Dr. Dimitri Christakis, he's a pediatrician. Thank you for being here. He is the editor and chief of JAMA Pediatrics and he's the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Doctor, thank you for being here.

I've got so many questions on behalf of parents. Because look, parents are told not to worry as Omicron is sweeping across the entire country. From the data that you are seeing, what can you tell us about how this variant affects kids, especially those who are still unvaccinated?

DIMITRI CHRISTAKIS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CHILD HEALTH, BEHAVIOR AND DEVELOPMENT, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, thanks for having me. You know, it's still early days. And frankly, people who know me would say that I am not a glass half full kind of guy. But here is why I'm trying to be that now.


The situation is serious, but it's not dire. We know what we need to do, and we can do those things. From the data we have available so far, it still seems that Omicron doesn't cause serious illness in children.

And the good news is the children over five can get vaccinated, and vaccination does offer a significant amount of protection. You're right that we have to worry about our youngest kids, those under five. So, we have to do everything we can to protect them from getting it.

COATES: I mean, I, of course, want the optimism. I want to feel that we can, you know, go back to normal, but in a safe way. But I still have pause about this, because one study in South Africa does suggest that children may be more at risk for Omicron. Although most people are less likely to be hospitalized, children were 20 percent, 20 percent more likely to be hospitalized. Now, it's just one study, but is this concerning to you?

CHRISTAKIS: Well, what is concerning, really, is what your previous guest said. Which is that, this virus is way more contagious than Delta. Early estimates are two to three times more contagious than Delta was. Delta was two to three times more contagious than Alpha was.

So, what we are seeing is that we're approaching the situation where if you were exposed to it, particularly if you are unvaccinated, but even if you are vaccinated, you are at significant risk of getting it. And the more people that get it, the more people that are likely to suffer adverse, serious, effects from it. More common, way more common in unvaccinated people, but, still, yes.

Even if it's the same it was before, in less than .1 percent of children with serious affects, if millions of children are affected, we're going to see more kids that have serious illness.

COATES: Well, the holidays, as you know, just around the corner.


COATES: I mean, we are days away from Christmas. So, let's talk about what parents want to know. I mean, just how safe or things like play dates, being around other family members right now who may be vaccinated, or not? I mean, can we let our kids play indoors unmasked without -- with other vaccinated child, perhaps?

CHRISTAKIS: Yes. You know, look, I've been advocating for 2 years, that we need to do everything we can to try to give children as normal and experience as they can. Because they need it. You know, I mean, I'm 57, and I've lost two years of my life. That's very different than a five-year old who's lost two years of their life which represents 40 percent of their entire life.

And critical experiences that they won't have again, or the opportunity to have again because of their developmental trajectory. We need to do everything we can to allow kids to have a normal interaction with loved ones, with teachers, with play dates, with playmates. And the best way to do that, is to try and create a safe possible

situation for them to get together.

See, the thing about Omicron we have to keep in mind is, it's a weakest link phenomena. And when your previous guest says, going to Madison Square Garden, would you do it? No, I wouldn't. Because there are 20,000 people there, and I have no way of knowing whether they have symptoms, whether they are -- I'm guessing they check vaccination status, but I don't know if they forge it. It's a risky situation.

You can create situations for your family, where, you trust the people you're with, that you know that they are vaccinated, and you know that if they have symptoms, they will not get together with you. They wouldn't misrepresent anything. And then I think, yes, I would allow children to get together with family members and with friends. Even indoors, and yes, unmasked.

The things we have to do is everyone who can get vaccinated, should. And by the way, I want to move the language from thinking about vaccinated and boosted, to just vaccinated. Right? We are in a situation right now where vaccinated means three doses, not two.

And I'm speaking as a pediatrician and parents out there know some shots need two, some shots need three, some shots need five. Fully vaccinated means the number you need to be vaccinated. And that's where we are right now with COVID. You need at least three doses.

COATES: Well, you know, it's true. With parents of young children, especially we are so accustomed to having our kids getting vaccinated going to pediatrician's office, and doing all these things, we are much more well equipped to do so.

But another day we have to talk about what the psychological toll has been like for children as well. You talk about, especially the young who are experiencing this through their eyes. It's difficult as a mom. I've got a seven-year-old and a nine-year- old, and it's hard to watch them endure this.

But of course, you're always balancing their safety against the unknown, and I know you know a lot about that. Thank you doctor. I appreciate it.


CHRISTAKIS: Happy to come back. Stay safe, everyone. Get vaccinated, and happy holidays.

COATES: Thank you. Same to you. And coming up, some breaking news from the January 6th committee, saying a member of Congress, essentially try to start a coup in the Justice Department.

Plus, there are three big trials across this country that we are watching tonight. The juries are out, and we'll discuss what they have to decide. That's next.


COATES (on camera): We've got big legal stories from coast to coast tonight, and three big separate trials. Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, and the fraud trial of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.

But we begin with some breaking news from the January 6th select committee, they're asking Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, to voluntarily sit down for an interview. The committee says it wants to discuss Perry's role in the attempt to install former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general in the days leading to the January 6th insurrection.


Now, Perry is the first sitting member of Congress that well, you know of, who is being called to talk about helping Trump in its efforts to undermine the election.

Joining me now CNN's senior analyst, Elie Honig. Elie, nice to talk to you. Nice to see you again, my friend. How are you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Great, Laura. Lots to talk about.

COATES: Yes. You don't say. I mean, you say that Congressman Perry's attempt to run a coup is at the DOJ. You say it's potentially the worst abuse of power in this entire mess. Tell me why you see it that way?

HONIG: Well, look, it's the Department of Justice. It's your DOJ, it's my DOJ, it's the place we used to work. It's really the last bastion of independence and truth in our government. What these guys tried to do was run a coup inside DOJ to help Donald Trump run a coup and steal the election. And I think it's utterly unforgivable.

Now, let's also remember, Scott Perry was the middleman here between on the one hand the White House and Mark Meadows. What does Mark Meadows has done? He is now in contempt. He is not talking. And then on the other hand, DOJ and Jeffrey Clark, he is taking the fifth. He is not talking.

So, Clark is the -- so, excuse me. Perry is the obvious person for the committee to look at, he can send a thank you note to Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Clark for his what may soon become a subpoena.

COATES: And of course, he, unlike say, a Mark Meadows is not going to have perhaps the most direct claim, although not a valid one, right, of privilege. He has a very different scenario at hand as a member of Congress.


COATES: Now they sent a letter to Perry saying that they are aware of what they saw are multiple texts and other communications, multiple texts and other communications with Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows as you point out about Jeffrey Clark.

They are making it really clear here that they have the receipts. So, what happens if, say, Perry follows the lead of Mark Meadows or Steve Bannon and stonewalls them?

HONIG: Interesting question. So, it depends on how he does it. Look, he could take the fifth, Representative Perry. He has the right to do that if he thinks his answers may incriminate him. Granted, he's a sitting member of Congress, that would be quite fraught to do that.

If he justifies the committee, if he just says, no, I'm not cooperating, then the committee is going to have to decide if they hold him in contempt. They've done it for Meadows, and they've done it, of course, for Steve Bannon. But this is a colleague of their, this is a sitting member of Congress. We'll see if they have the political backbone to do that.

COATES: I mean, Meadows was a former colleague, right? And of course, they saw him thumb their nose.


COATES: And again, as we know, the idea of trying to assert a privilege is not like a carte blanche and says you're not going to show up anymore. It's the idea of a question-by-question assertion --


COATES: -- of these privileges. And the idea of just saying, no, I don't feel like coming in, it just it can't be good enough. I mean, it's a valid subpoena, it just can't get enough, right?

HONIG: Yes, that's the way it's supposed to work. Absolutely, Laura. You are not supposed to be able to just say, no, thanks, I take the fifth. Because the fifth amendment means it needs to be applied question by question. You don't get to take the fifth necessarily on everything.

So, at a minimum, he has to do that, and if he doesn't, he is going to strengthen the committee's hand for contempt.

COATES: Speaking of actual prosecutions that actually have going forward, I mean, we only turn at least three really big trials going on just this week alone. I mean, you've got Kim Potter, you've got Ghislaine Maxwell, you've got Elizabeth Holmes, as well.

I want to go to Kim Potter first, the former police officer who, as you know, mistook her firearm for her taser and fatally shot Dante Wright. Just 20 years old during a traffic stop in April. By the way, this happened right in the middle of the Derek Chauvin trial out of Minnesota. And the jury is now deliberating.

So how is this going to play out in your mind? She's got an interesting argument here. there's no intent requirement in Minnesota, but is she going to, I guess, evoke sympathy from the jury?

HONIG: Well, Laura, you know, whenever we have one of these big trials, I usually have some sort of sense of where the jury is going. This one could go either way and not surprise me. What's unusual about this case, you say it, there's really no dispute about the facts, and nobody is claiming she acted intentionally.

It's really, it's an accident. Both sides agree this was unintentional, and the question for 12 ordinary Minnesotans will be, was it inexcusable accident or was it a negligent or reckless, and hence, criminal accident, and I just -- I think that's a 50-50 coin toss how they're going to come out there.

COATES: I will take it personally when you said ordinary Minnesotans being from Minnesota, Elie. I'll take that as a different form of approach.

HONIG: Of course.

COATES: New Jersey person --


HONIG: That's a compliment.

COATES: I'm going to take it as that. Thank you very much. But you're right about this particular case. Because it's an interesting one. Most cases we've seen involving officers had been about the intentional behavior. That it was a, not just reckless, but it was an unintentional act that they intended the result or it was foreseeable.

Here you have no requirement, they prove intent but was it foreseeable? Was it culpable negligence? What could they have done differently? Do they know better? And that say benefit of the doubt, that usually protects officers. Now I wonder how it will play up here?

But also, there is the Ghislaine Maxwell trial. I mean, the jury is also deliberating in that case. What are you expecting?

HONIG: OK, I'll go on record here. I do expect Ghislaine Maxwell to be convicted.



HONIG: The prosecution is not put on a perfect case, but I think her conduct was so grotesque, and I think that the combined force of the four victims who testified is going to be enough for the jury to find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

COATES: You know, interestingly enough, this is the case where she speaks about being scapegoated, and the idea that's the defense essentially, right? That you're only prosecuting me --


COATES: -- because Epstein is not here. He is the person you wanted. Now, I am, even read a biblical reference saying, you know, time is old as time. They're blaming apple -- I mean, excuse me, blaming Eve for giving the apple to Adam, right? That's her defense here. Interestingly enough, in another trial, Elizabeth Holmes had a similar

sort of notion. Not that she's being scapegoated, but that there was a manipulation going on. She was accused of lying to investors and patients about her blood testing start-up called Theranos. It's going on by the way for nearly four months, and there have been dozens of witnesses. First of all, why is this trial taking so long, four months?

HONIG: It's a good question. I think the prosecutors are making mistakes. I was a big believer as a prosecutor in what we called thin to win. Get your best evidence on, get it to the jury, four months is too long, I think.

COATES: You know, it's interesting because you think about all the complicating factors involved there, right? The idea of trying to explain the technology alone is going to be interesting to people figuring out how what does this mean and how there are so many investors that we know. Names that are very high profile, you know, participants as well.

Interestingly enough, a lot of cases right now were taken through a fire hose when it comes to be a lawyer these days, Elie.

HONIG: Look, it's fun. It's why we do this, Laura. But it's fascinating to see. Elizabeth Holmes the question is just going to be did she. Which she engaged in sort of your standard puffery and salesmanship? Or was this fraud?

And I think the evidence makes clear that she gave so many specific lies about the efficacy of her product, about relationships that you claim she had with the military, with pharmaceutical companies. And I think as a prosecutor, when you can point to those specific lies, you say that's over the line. That's fraud.

COATES: What did she know, when did she know it, and you believe her in the end? A lot going on, Elie. Nice talking to you.

HONIG: You too, Laura, thanks.

COATES: You know, more breaking news tonight, by the way. With COVID cases spiking across the country, the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association announcing they will pause operations league wide starting on Wednesday and lasting through Christmas.

Now, games are scheduled to resume on December 27th. There have been now 49 games postponed this season. Forty-four of them, 44 of them since December 13th.

The president's signature legislation hitting a brick wall. Senator Joe Manchin says he is and no on Build Back Better. Progressives are unhappy about it at all. Congressman Jamaal Bowen (Ph) -- Bowman is one of them, and he joins me up next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COATES (on camera): You know, for a country founded on the refusal to

have our lives ruled by a king, Congress seems to be controlled by the decisions of one man, and awful a lot. Take the Build Back Better agenda, heralded as a cornerstone of the Biden/Harris administration. For months, Democrats have tried in vain to persuade Senator Joe Manchin to vote for the legislation.

The president has wined and dined him and steak to reputation, as the consummate Senate negotiated on his ability to lead the horse to water and make him drink. But in the end, Senator Manchin would not badge. Steadfast in his resolve to do what he claims was in the best interest of West Virginia.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): The only think I'm saying is this. I'm not blaming anybody. I knew where they were and I knew what they could and could not do. They just never realized it because they figure surely that God we can move one person, surely, we can badger and beat one person up. Surely, we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they'll just say, OK, I'll vote for anything, just quit. Well, guess what? I'm from West Virginia. I'm not from where they're from, and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they'll be submissive. Period.


COATES (on camera): And just like that, one man's vote derails the bill. If only everyone's vote counted as much as that of Senator Manchin, especially in the face of relentless attacks on voting rights that make a mockery of one person, one vote.

But one man's refusal to even entertain altering the filibuster to fortify voting rights, again, illustrates the point. Even the act of protecting your access to the polls to vote in whatever way you choose seems to come down to just one man. The same man, the one who gets paid leave, paid for by taxpayers as the United States senator. But doesn't he get to send it to you in the same way.

One man's vote. You know, we know, we spent our days watching to see how one, if not, a select few will vote. From Supreme Court opinions to Senate votes, to a vice president's decision not to help overturn an election. We watch with baited breath to see how one person's decision would impact our lives, impact our freedoms, impact our democracy.

You know, our Declaration of Independence begins with, we, the people. Not I, the individual. But here we are, still waiting for one person to decide how the rest of us shall live.

Now, we expect political willing and dealing, but everyone, even a senator, has the right to vote their conscience and should not be strong armed and browbeating into submission. Because that's not democracy.

[22:40:09] But we should also expect to have a government that is off the people, by the people, for the people. To not be perpetually dependent on the decision of one person. Is that how democracy is supposed to work?

Joining me now, Congressman Jamaal Bowman. He is a Democrat from New York. Congressman, thank you for being here. I'm happy to see you, sir.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Good to see you as well. Thanks for having me.

COATES: Now Congressman, you are part of the progressive caucus. And you all have been negotiating in good faith with the rest of your party for, frankly, for months now. And you push through the infrastructure package with expectations of the spending package passing. Here's what he said to Fox News. Listen to this.


MANCHIN: I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can't. I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: You are done, this is, this is a no?

MANCHIN: This is a no. On this legislation, I have tried everything I know to do.


COATES (on camera): Congressman, what do you think when you heard him say that?

BOWMAN: So, this is exactly why tens of millions of Americans don't care about our government, don't trust our government, and are done with our government. Not just the Republican Party, by the Democratic Party as well.

I was infuriated when I heard those comments, but I wasn't surprised because we had been sounding the alarm on this for several months. Worried about with Manchin was going to do, when it was time for him to make a decision. It went from 3.5 trillion to 1.75 trillion, because him, his special interests, his donors, and lobbyists were cutting the bill for several months because they did not want this bill to pass. Why?

Because this bill, disproportionately supports people of color. It supports people of color. It supports women. It supports children. It supports those who are poor, and lifts them out of poverty. Why wouldn't Manchin want to support that, when this would benefit West Virginia tremendously?

It's tremendously frustrating for me as a black man in America, because once again is an example of Joe Manchin as a white man, showing that he doesn't care about black people. He doesn't care about Latinos. He doesn't care about immigrants. He doesn't care about women. And he doesn't care about the poor. He is a millionaire, and he has the privilege to kick the can down the

road and not vote for this bill, while the people in my district are suffering. We just buried a 17-year-old who was shot dead in the head a couple of weeks ago.

This bill has 2.5 billion for violence prevention. It has universal childcare, universal pre-K. It finally deals with climate issue. The same way black and brown people and women were kept out of the new deal. Joe Manchin is trying to keep people out of this bill today, and it's unacceptable. We need to do everything in our power to make sure it passes.

COATES: So, what do you say when he reacts and says it's not about people of color or trying to impress or any of those things? He has articulated it's about inflation. You're not buying that?

BOWMAN: That's not true. There is no research, there is no studies that support that. Studies show and Goldman Sachs pointed that out today that if we pass Build Back Better it will uplift the economy. It will uplift people who are living in poverty. It will create cash flow, and it is the best way for us to respond to the largest global pandemic we have had in 100 years.

I mean, this is, he is out of touch. He is out of touch with the research. He is out of touch with present day economists, and he is out of touch with the poor people in West Virginia, and the people in my district who have been waiting their entire lives for this kind of support and investments from the federal government.

And let me also say this. This is not just about Manchin. I mentioned it before. Big money in politics is destroying how we govern in Washington. Because if he were responsive to the people in West Virginia, where West Virginia has some of the highest poverty rates in the country, if he were responsive to them, he would behave and vote differently.

But it's about his donors. He's had the biggest fundraising of his career. It's about -- it's about lobbyists who are spending more this year than they have ever spent in their entire -- in their entire existence. Speaking of pharmaceutical lobbyists.


So, this speaks about what the reality is. Big money in politics has to go. We have to respond to the American people. Because if we don't, we don't have a democracy. Look at what just happened on January 6.

COATES: Congressman Bowman, so well said and articulated about what is really at stake here and what the motivation really is. Naturally, he disagrees I'm sure with everything you just said. But you know what? The American people are going to have to reconcile with what is happening in the laws of the agenda. What that really means overall, and the priorities of the Democratic Party who are in the majority, at least two Houses, albeit a slim one.

Thank you for your time. I appreciate it. BOWMAN: Thank you so much.

COATES: President Biden's agenda on the ropes. The coronavirus pandemic were surging. It's been tough going for this president. Will he be able to right the ship?



COATES (on camera): President Biden's agenda is on ice and his approval, well, is underwater. Can things turn around for him? I mean, less than a year into his first term.

Let's discuss to political commentators and analyst, Ron Brownstein and Kirsten Powers. Good to see you both.

Ron, let me start with you if I can here. Look, the White House put out a scathing statement. I'm sure we've all read it. Essentially accusing Manchin of a betrayal over his vote no on the Build Back Better.

He's just a little bit. I'm going to read a little bit of portion for you here. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on Fox and written statements indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitment to the president and the senator's colleagues in the House and Senate.

Now, Ron, they change their tone today, calling Manchin and Biden --


COATES: -- quote, "friends." Only in Washington. But they're -- they're friends. So, what is going on behind the scenes here? What are your thoughts?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, first of all, I think we're just watching is extraordinary in several respects. I mean, one, is that as you've talked about, West Virginia is one of the states that would benefit the most from this bill.

I mean, it ranks 44th in the share of kids in poverty, 45th in extreme poverty, 43rd in kids experiencing food insecurity. So, there are, you know, there are literally thousands of families in West Virginia that would benefit from the programs in the bill. And very few who would be facing the taxes on the rich. I mean, there aren't a lot, you know, there isn't a huge population of that sort in West Virginia.

And the other thing that's really remarkable about this, Laura, I think is that, is that you get a census of this point of every elected Democrat above the level of mayor, governor, member of the House, member of the Senate.

Joe Manchin may literally be the only one who is willing to sink this entire, you know, legislation. I mean, virtually, every other Democrat wants to pass something along the lines of what the House did.

And the thought that like your view for Manchin, who is part of this collective, however loosely, to say that, you know, I, with 290,000 votes that I won should outweigh everyone else, including the guy who got 81 million votes in the White House, it's pretty extraordinary.

Look, his brand has always been the guy who will say no to the National Democratic Party. His first ad showed him shooting a gun at the cap-and-trade climate bill in 2010. So, you can see how he would get in his position where he likes being seen as the guy throwing up the roadblock. It is an open --


BROWNSTEIN: -- if he wants to get to yes, there's certainly a deal to be had. Does he want to get to yes, I don't think I know.

COATES: I don't know. Well, Kirsten, he blames on the White House staff, though. Remember, it's not like anything else. Just some White House staffer who apparently outranks the President of the United States, and is able to deflect everything.

But this happened over the weekend. I don't know that enough people saw it. Watch Vice President Kamala Harris with Charlamagne Tha God on his new show.


CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, CO-HOST, THE BREAKFAST CLUB: So, is the real president in this country? is it Joe Manchin or Joe Biden, Madam Vice President?


THA GOD: I really --

HARRIS: Come on, it's Joe Biden.

THA GOD: I can tell you sometimes.

HARRIS: No, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. It's Joe Biden. It's Joe Biden, and don't start talking like a Republican about asking whether or not he is president. It is Joe Biden.


THA GOD: Do you think Joe Manchin is the problem?

HARRIS: And it's Joe Biden, and it's Joe Biden, and it's Joe Biden. And I'm vice president, my name is Kamala Harris.


COATES (on camera): Well, I mean, it was an unfair question. It seems that Joe Manchin is the Joe to be watching right now in Washington, D.C. What do you think, Kirsten?

POWERS: Well, I think that he was expressing the frustration of a lot of Democrats have, which is watching all of this, you know, play out where Joe Manchin gets to whittle this bill all the way down, you know, take out all sorts of important things out of it. You know, really important things to Democrats. And then, turn around.

You know, and tell the president basically that they're very close to having a deal, and then goes over on Fox News and announces there is no deal.

This is really outrageous behavior, and there's been a lot of talk about Joe Manchin's feelings. And I think that that is really not what's important here. What's important here, and the reason people are as upset as they are is because they're upset on behalf of the American people that need this relief.

And so, Joe Manchin is making this all about Joe Manchin and someone who wasn't civil to him, or somebody didn't treat him the way he wanted to be treated. And other people are saying, this letter was too scathing, or whatever it is.


The problem is that there are people who need relief. There are people who need paid family leave. They need help. being able to take care of their children and their elderly parents. He opposes that.

There are people who need lower prescription drugs for their health. This is more important than Joe Manchin's feelings. There are one -- and again, another thing that he opposes. He then complains that the bill isn't paid for, but he opposes the things that would pay for it.

So, he doesn't want to raise taxes on the rich. In fact, he called the billionaire's tax divisive. And then, he complains that the bill isn't funded. But he opposes the funding. So, it's -- this is crazymaking.


COATES: It's surreal.

POWERS: And again, I understand that people are protesting and that's very unpleasant for him.


POWERS: And obviously, if there's anything where anyone is causing any threats to his life, that's susceptible, I don't know what's going on.

COATES: I got -- it is.



COATES: Kirsten, I got to wrap up here, I'm sorry.

POWERS: But -- sure.

COATES: I know. We are out of time. But it's important. I mean, what you are articulating is the democracy that matters, not the feeling of an individual senator.

POWERS: Exactly.

COATES: Thank you both of you for joining. I wish we had more time. Thank you both for watching. Our coverage continues.