Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Addresses CPAC; Senate Gets Biden's COVID Relief Bill; Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Begins Shipping Out. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 1, 2021 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The Biden administration is wasting no time just to get this shot into Americans' arms.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Johnson & Johnson doses will be delivered as early as tomorrow.

We're allocating the J&J vaccine the exact same way we allocate Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.


BALDWIN: And President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate.

Not a single House Republican voted for the stimulus package to help Americans struggling financially. So we will take a look at what's likely to be compromised, and how soon you could start to see those checks in your bank accounts.

Also, in his first public speech since leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump made it clear that he is nowhere near done with politics or with perpetuating that same tired lie that he won the 2020 presidential election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who knows. I may even decide to beat them for a third time.


BALDWIN: More on what a Trump 2024 run means for the Republican Party. We will talk about that later this hour.

But, first, we have to start with this amazing, amazing news from Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine is making its way across the country, as I said, right now, and not a moment too soon, with worries growing over highly transmissible COVID variants that are spreading across the country.

And while new COVID cases are indeed dropping, they are still at a dangerously high level. The CDC director is warning case declines are leveling off, and another potential surge may be ahead if Americans let their guards down.

CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine have shipped. Three vaccines are now out there in the mix.

DR. MARCELLA NUNEZ-SMITH, CHAIR, COVID-19 HEALTH EQUITY TASK FORCE: And this is all very, very good news. All three vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing what we care about most. And that's very serious illness and death.

WATT: Plus, Johnson & Johnson's is single-dose and does not need deep-freeze storage.

PAUL STOFFELS, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, JOHNSON & JOHNSON: Well, we will have 20 million in March and 100 million by June and hopefully by the summer contributing a lot to vaccinating all of the United States.

WATT: But issues remain.

ZIENTS: Scheduling remains for far too many people too frustrating. And we need to make it better.

WATT: From today, teachers in Connecticut, Mississippi and Louisiana are eligible for vaccination, educators now on the list in 31 states and Washington, D.C., not yet in Massachusetts, where today roller rinks and theaters can reopen at half-capacity.

TROY SIEBELS, PRESIDENT, HANOVER THEATRE: It's a good step in the right direction. That's for sure. But let's hold off on the high- fives.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It is really risky to say it's over, we're on the way out, let's pull back. Just look historically at the late winter, early spring of 2020, at the summer of 2020. When we started to pull back prematurely, we saw the rebound.

WATT: Average new case counts have been falling sharply for weeks, but:

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Our recent declines appear to be stalling. Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have.

WATT: On average, around 2,000 Americans are still dying from this disease every day.

NUNEZ-SMITH: Get vaccinated. Get the first vaccine available to you. Protect yourself, your family and your community from COVID-19.


WATT: So, today is also the first day that teachers here in Los Angeles qualify for the vaccine.

But the question remains, how do we get more kids actually back into school? California just announced they're going to chuck a lot of money at the problem. The governor said there's basically $2 billion in essentially incentives to schools that are open pre-K through second grade before the end of this month, and another $4.6 billion to help schools among, other things, reimagine the school year.

The governor says that could mean longer days. Could be summer school to make up for what we have lost -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I hear you in your piece. Hold off on those high-fives just yet. Wise words, Nick Watt. Thank you.

Joining me now, emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen. She's also the former Baltimore health commissioner and a CNN medical analyst.

And, Doctor, but I want to high-five. I mean, when I hear this news about Johnson & Johnson -- and I know we should be clear you actually took part in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial, and I'd like to ask you how you're feeling. But you don't know yet, right, if you took the actual shot or the placebo. We will find out, I suppose, soon enough.

But just the fact that J&J, that the vaccine is shipping out today, how huge is this?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it's really remarkable, Brooke, especially if we take a step back and think back four months ago or a year ago, if you had told us that by now, we would have not one, not two, but three safe and extremely effective vaccines that are essentially 100 percent at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.


I mean, that's really remarkable, because if we get enough people vaccinated, we could essentially turn COVID-19 into something like a bad cold or the flu, and we can regain our lives.

I mean, we're not going to shut down our economy or shut down schools because of a bad cold. And that's what we're at the precipice of. The unfortunate thing, of course, is that we are seeing cases begin to tick up potentially again, and so we're still not there at the end of the tunnel. But that light is really bright, especially with a third vaccine.

BALDWIN: I'm here for it. I'm here for that bright light.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this morning that the decline in new COVID cases is leveling off at a very high level. Are you at all concerned that the criteria to actually get a COVID vaccine is too restrictive? Like, at what point should they just say, OK, great, we want everyone vaccinated, bang, let's just open this whole thing up?

WEN: Yes, it's a really good question. I think right now we're seeing all across the country, though, that even with the restrictive criteria that we have, the demand still far outstrips supply.

And so I do worry that if you open up the eligibility even more, you're going to have even more of a supply demand mismatch. And the people who are the most vulnerable are not going to be able to get the vaccine.

But that said, I do think that, relatively soon, we should have open season, as in, I would anticipate by April, hopefully, at least by May, we should be able to open up the eligibility. Now, that does not mean that anybody who wants a vaccine is able to get it that day.

But I think, very soon, we should be getting to the point that people who want to get a vaccine should at least be able to be in line for one, and that we're not just using those eligibility criteria anymore of the priority groups.

BALDWIN: The Johnson & Johnson CEO told CNN today that they are now working on a booster just to have their bases covered with all these variants that keep popping up.

I know the Pfizer CEO has also told CNN he's confident that their vaccine can adapt to the variants. Dr. Wen, will everyone need this vaccine, and then some time have a booster shot? How will that work?

WEN: So, I think a booster shot is looking more and more likely, especially for two reasons. One, we don't know how long protection from the vaccine will last. Maybe it will last for six months. Maybe it lasts for a year, maybe two years. But at some point, we may need to get a booster for that reason.

The second reason is because of all these variants that are arising. Even if we achieve herd immunity in the U.S., there may still be variants arising in other parts of the world that may make it such that the vaccines that we have are less effective and we may need to have a booster that adjusts for it.

I don't think we should see this as a bad thing. I mean, we get a flu shot every year. It may be that we get a COVID shot every year too. But I think the most important thing for people to know is, get the vaccine nailed, because that at least gives us some level of protection now. We can worry about the booster shot later.

BALDWIN: What about for anyone who has older parents or grandparents. We now know nursing homes and people who are at high risk, to your point, they are the ones getting vaccinated right now. So should nursing home, should hospitals now allow visitors if those people have been vaccinated as well? Some places are still so stringent.

WEN: I know.

And I do think that it's time for us to re examine those criteria, because--

BALDWIN: You do.

WEN: -- we know that there are substantial consequences, yes, for not allowing people to see one another for residents in nursing homes.

I mean, I have heard the stories -- and I know that you have -- you have reported on this too -- of people being so depressed that they have stopped eating. And I think it's really important for us to see, look, we don't have full information on what happens once you're fully vaccinated.

But I do think that it's important for us to really talk about the benefits of vaccination, and that includes regaining some sense of normality.

BALDWIN: Seeing family members, if everyone's been vaccinated, literally could save lives.

Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very, very much. Thank you. We will talk again.

Coming up next here on CNN, the COVID relief bill now in the U.S. senate, where the rules say a minimum wage hike cannot be included. But that's not stopping some Democrats from calling on Vice President Kamala Harris to step in and try.

Also, former President Donald Trump makes his big speech over the weekend at CPAC, where he lied yet again about the election, teased another potential presidential run, and attacked nearly every single Republican who has ever crossed him. Let's talk about all of that.

And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is now apologizing after a second woman reportedly has come forward to accuse him of harassment.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Well, March is already shaping up to be a pretty pivotal month when it comes to this now-year-old pandemic.

As we have been reporting, a third vaccine is being shipped out today, while the president's nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill arrives in the U.S. Senate. And there was certainly no time to waste up on Capitol Hill. Millions of Americans will start to see their pandemic jobless benefits run out in two weeks.

So, let's go live to CNN's Jessica Dean.

And, Jessica, some progressives are still trying to get that $15 minimum wage included in this bill, even though the Senate parliamentarian shot the idea down. Might that jeopardize the whole thing? JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some

progressives are hoping that Vice President Kamala Harris would vote to override the parliamentarian.

But the fact of the matter is, Brooke, that the White House has indicated they do not want to go that route. And Democratic leadership here has indicated that they want to address minimum wage separately.


So, if they do that, they are hoping that this bill moves more quickly and seamlessly through the Senate, because, remember, it's still going to have to go back to the House, all before March 14. So, as you look at that deadline, when jobless benefits end, March 14, not that far away, so Democrats now are looking to stay very unified and to move very quickly.

The way that they are getting this bill through, reconciliation, we have talked about it a lot. What that means is, it will be open -- once they start debating it, it will be open to as many amendments as senators want to vote on.

So, Democrats have to stay quite unified, because if something about perhaps -- this could be a possibility -- if they were talking about targeting who those relief checks go to, for instance, in an amendment, if they picked off even two moderate Democrats, that makes things much more complicated and gets messy.

So we know the Democratic leadership is really trying to keep everyone unified. It's a big test for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and also that the president himself is getting involved with this.

We know that just in the last hour, he was scheduled to meet with a handful of Democratic senators, again, Brooke, urging them all to stay focused, stay on task and get this legislative package through the Senate.

BALDWIN: Well, speaking of things getting messy, I also wanted to ask you about Neera Tanden. The White House is still fighting to get her confirmed as OMB chief. Where does that stand right now?

DEAN: Yes, still fighting today.

In fact, we know that she is meeting with pivotal Senate vote Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican that they're hoping can replace the vote of senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who said he would not be supporting her. So it really all hinges on, what will Senator Murkowski do?

We also know that Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat of Arizona, has not said publicly where she is on near on Neera Tanden's nomination. So that continues to be fraught at this hour, Brooke. We know that Tanden spoke with Chuck Schumer last week. When they came out, he said that they talked about things they cared about.

That was about -- or -- I'm sorry -- spoke with Lisa Murkowski last week about where she might stand on this vote. And they just said that they talked about things they both care about. So it's still kind of this big question mark. And, look, it's surprising that it's gone on this long. Typically, if you kind of started to see the handwriting on the wall, perhaps they would have pulled this nomination or she would have pulled herself out at this point.

But they continue to fight for her nomination. She continues to work the phones. We know she's been reaching out to senators, both Democrat and Republican. So, Brooke, it'll be very interesting to see once we talk to Senator Murkowski, if she's willing to talk about this, where they came down on that meeting.

BALDWIN: We will be watching right along with you. Jessica Dean, thank you very much up on the hill.

President Trump is no longer in office, but he has just unleashed a new threat to democracy. We will talk about how seriously to take his words up next.

Also, sexual harassment accusations against Governor Andrew Cuomo. The New York governor issues his version of an apology and welcomes an investigation. Is that enough?



BALDWIN: Former President Donald Trump emerged from Mar-a-Lago this weekend to address the annual conservative conference, CPAC. And what did he do? He ripped Republicans who have turned against him since the January 6 Capitol riots.

He suggested that, yes, indeed, he will run again in 2024. And if you think for even a second he is coming to terms with Biden's presidency, well, listen for yourself.


TRUMP: This election was rigged.

Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House. I may even decide to beat them for a third time. How the hell is it possible that we lost? It's not possible.

A Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House.


TRUMP: And I wonder who that will be.


BALDWIN: All right, let's have a big old conversation.

With me now, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and Republican strategist Doug Heye. He is the former communications director for the RNC.

So, welcome to both of you.

And, Doug, you first. This is the conversation I was having, honestly, with my husband yesterday, after all -- listening to Trump at CPAC. Has Trump forever upended the American political system, full stop?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he certainly has upended the Republican Party.

What happens after that or after Trump, I don't know. But what you just played shows kind of the recipe of what CPAC has become and what the Republican Party unfortunately has become, which is, you take one part Star Trek convention. You take a second part Festivus airing of grievances, add a pinch of conspiracy theory, half-bake it for a while, and that's then what you see is what you get.

That's what we saw this weekend. And, unfortunately, for everyone else who's trying to inherit that mantle of Trump, as I think we all knew, Trump didn't say he was going to run or he's not going to run. He might run. Tune in tomorrow and every Republican can just continue to sit on ice.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to a point you just made about the inheritors of the mantle and what they're going to do in a second.

But, S.E., so you just for example, to know that Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial, but then gave that floor speech saying Trump absolutely incited that deadly insurrection, he has now said, if Trump runs in 2024, awesome, I will support him.

I mean, is this not Trump's party until Trump no longer says it is?



And it's been -- there's been this weird narrative that there's been some kind of internal battle for the soul of the Republican Party happening, that the party is somehow conflicted about where it wants to go and who wants to be.

That is invented. That is imaginary. That is not true. And we saw that at CPAC. The Republican Party is still very clear about who it is and where it wants to go. Who it is Trump and where it wants to go is back to Trump land.

And you seen this before CPAC, with Mitch McConnell's comments, with the way Republicans in Congress defended Marjorie Taylor Greene, for instance, and tried to marginalize people like Liz Cheney. You have seen it in the Republicans in Congress who defended Trump and voted not to convict him, a majority, compared to the few that voted to convict him.

So, there's no confliction, there's no consternation, there's no hand- wringing. Republicans are very clear. They are still the party of Trump. They want to be the party of Trump. They want four more years of Trump.

BALDWIN: Just to add to your point, Trump stood up there, and he called out by name every single Republican who has crossed him. The crowd seemed to eat it up.

Doug, what are the Romney, Cheney, Kinzingers of the Republican Party to do in the meantime?

HEYE: Yes, that's the airing of grievances, isn't it?

Look, they have got a road map ahead. But first and foremost, for those who are up for reelection, they have to win. So if you're Adam Kinzinger and -- or you're Liz Cheney, you're going to have primaries coming up next year. You have to win those, because if you lose those, that's another domino that's fallen for Donald Trump.

And while I can tell you chapter and verse of how proud I am to have worked for Richard Burr, who voted to convict, he's retiring. So who replaces him? This becomes a part of that challenge that Republicans who do want to face -- or put Trump in a rearview mirror have a new Republican Party. That's the challenge they face is, what comes next after those Republicans who dared challenge or cross Donald Trump?

BALDWIN: How do you, S.E., reverse the narrative? Looking ahead, as Doug mentioned, to the midterms of 2022, how do you get your party back?

CUPP: Oh, I think that ship has sailed for the immediate future.

I mean, Republicans had a choice in 2016. They had a choice in 2020 whether they wanted to back a guy like Trump, who had shown us who he was. In some ways, 2016 was an experiment. But, in other ways, we knew exactly what we were getting. And certainly by 2020, the results of the experiment we're in, we knew how the movie was going to end, and yet, still, the Republican Party wholly supported Donald Trump and is continuing to, despite his loss of the House, the Senate and the presidency.

It's almost inexplicable, but until Republicans -- it's not up to Adam Kinzinger and Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney to take the country back. It's up to the rest of the party, who is so addicted to Trump still, to decide, we're not going to keep jumping into this loser pool, only to get more of the same awful results.

BALDWIN: Quickly, how did they kick the addiction? Is it about 2022 and if their candidates lose, bottom line?

CUPP: Yes, they need to lose. They need to -- I mean, they already have lost so much. So much losing, right, like I just mentioned.

But they need to summarily lose and have no more power before they realize that this cult of Trump just didn't -- it isn't working for them.

BALDWIN: S.E. Cupp, Doug Heye, guys, thank you both very much. Coming up here, new sexual harassment claims against the governor of

New York, the whirlwind 24 hours that began with a new accusation and ended with his version of an apology.