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Third Woman Accuses Cuomo Of Unwanted Advances & Six Democrat New York Lawmakers Call For His Impeachment; GOP's Madison Cawthorn Faces Sexual Harassment Allegations; Cruz Says Democrats "Abandoned" Working Class, Forgetting He Hit Cancun During Crisis; Nikki Haley Flip Flops Between Condemning And Praising Trump; First J&J Vaccine Doses Administered To Patients. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 2, 2021 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Many have publicly supported a full investigation but only one, so far, Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, is demanding that Governor Cuomo resign, saying, quote, "The time has come."

Charlotte Alter is a senior correspondent for "Time." She just penned the op-ed, "Andrew Cuomo Was a Resistance Icon, Now There's Blood in the Water."

Charlotte, thank you very much for being with us.

You spoke with a former Cuomo aide. What did you learn?

CHARLOTTE ALTER, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: So, it's important to understand here that Cuomo is a unique figure in New York politics. He has many friends and also many enemies.

What this former aide said is many of the people who have been sort of holding their tongue about Andrew Cuomo over the last year, because of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, are now sort of letting loose.

So his enemies sense weakness and that's why you may be seeing so many of these stories coming out now.

KEILAR: The blood in the water that you mention.

You also point out, look, he's known for -- people maybe who aren't as familiar with New York politics, he's known for his bellicose personality.

The first kind of introduction that many people would have gotten to Andrew Cuomo at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was maybe a different image of the more organized, fact-driven briefings that he gave during coronavirus.

There's this, what he's known for, this bellicosity, as you put it, that's also part of this.

ALTER: Well, yes, in some ways, it may have ended up being a sort of Shakespearean fatal flaw.

One of the things that I explore in the piece is how the Trump era was in a lot of ways a double-edged sword for some of the other figures who aren't Trump.

Because, on the one hand, people -- many Democrats were really casting around for a hero.

So early in the pandemic, when Cuomo was, you know, putting his aggressive personality to work to try to handle the pandemic, going toe to toe with Trump over funding and PPE and ventilators, you know, he was sort of hailed as the -- one of the heroes of the early pandemic.

Now, of course, we know that certain elements of the pandemic in New York were actually sadly mishandled, particularly when it comes to deaths in nursing homes, which his administration is also under scrutiny for.

But the other thing the Trump era really ushered in a new reexamination of sexual politics, of power dynamics.

It's not a coincidence that the "Me Too" movement happened while Donald Trump was president. He's a man who has also been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women.

So on the one hand, we have the sort of new Democratic stars who stepped into the spotlight during the Trump era. But, on the other, hand, we also have the new standards that they're being held to.

I think we see both of those trends colliding in this Andrew Cuomo story.

KEILAR: It's a very interesting column that you've wrote.

Thank you very much, Charlotte, for being with us.

ALTER: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Rising Republican star, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, of North Carolina, is facing allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

The youngest member of Congress has been accused by multiple women as his past and his political persona have come under new scrutiny.

Sunlen Serfaty, CNN Washington correspondent, is live for us at Capitol Hill with more on these detailed allegations against him.

Tells us, Sunlen, many of these claims have to do with his time in college, which wasn't actually that long ago.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. He was in college just four years ago and many of these allegations are very serious.

They're alleging that Madison Cawthorn engaged in predatory behavior while he attended school at Patrick Henry College in Virginia.

And I spoke with many of his former classmates. Many of the women say, point-blank, he was someone they were warned about. They were told not to ever be alone with him.

And that he had a penchant for inviting what he called fun drives. And they would be made to feel, according to the women, made to feel very uncomfortable very quickly by Cawthorn.

I spoke with one woman who said she was on one of these drives, a very rural area, already dark, and she was already uncomfortable.

Then he started hitting her with questions, such as asking her questions about the purity ring she wore, about her sexual experiences.

And it was only when she shut down that conversation that he responded, she said, in a very aggressive way.

Here's what she told me.


CAITLIN COULTER, FORMER COLLEGE CLASSMATE OF REP. CAWTHORN: His M.O. was to take vulnerable women out on these rides with him in the car and to make advance moves.

He got really upset and he whips the car around and started going back to campus at 70, 80 miles an hour, one-lane roads. It was really scary.



SERFATY: Now, many of these allegations did come up when Cawthorn was running for Congress last year, Brianna, and he denied these allegations.

He notably, in an interview with CNN, said he regretted that, if any of the things -- if his actions were misrepresented. He apologized if he made anyone feel uncomfortable.

But the national spotlight certainly being on him now that he is in Congress.

Notable that his office is not putting him out for any additional interviews, given these women are now speaking up in greater numbers.

And they told me only last night in a statement that they believe that the questions were asked and answered during the course of the campaign, and that he went on to win that campaign.

KEILAR: And there are also some questions, Sunlen, about the accident that left him paralyzed. SERFATY: That's right. This was an accident, in 2014, a car accident.

The accident really has become, for him, the core part of his persona, both as a person, as a congressman, as a candidate throughout the campaign.

He spoke about the accident at length in the past. And he says, in his narrative, that he was in the car accident and he was left for dead by his -- by his friend who was driving the car.

And in the first interview just in the last few days, the driver of that car, his friend, spoke to "The Washington Post" and disputes that accounting. He said, "That's not what happened. I pulled him out of the car the second I was able to."

There were also questions about his background and his claims about his resume.

After that car accident, in depositions that CNN obtained in 2017, he said that his plan to attend the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy were derailed by the accident.

But those depositions show, and he says, he admits that he was rejected by the U.S. Naval Academy before the accident, Brianna.

So, certainly a lot of mischaracterizations, allegations, of course, in his past.

KEILAR: Sunlen Serfaty, live from Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Next, Senator Ted Cruz makes another hypocritical comment, forgetting about his recent trip to Cancun during a crisis. And we'll roll the tape.

Plus, as Nikki Haley praises Donald Trump after saying he has no future in the GOP, one conservative asks, quote, "Is there anyone more pathetic than Haley?" He's going to join me next.



KEILAR: In today's episode of "Ted Cruz said what," this gem from FOX last night.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The Democratic Party has abandoned the working- class men and women, the millions of people who are out of jobs, who are seeing their wages pulled down, who are competing to provide for their families with people coming illegally.

That's not who the Democratic Party represents anymore. They don't represent unions anymore. They don't represent construction workers or truck drivers or working men and women anymore.

The Democratic Party today is the party of wealthy elites on both coasts.


KEILAR: Wealthy elites on both coasts, not to be confused with wealthy elites in Texas, like well to do, Ivy League-educated Ted Cruz.

But there's so much more to unpack here that it would more than fill that suitcase that Cruz rolled through the Houston Airport en route to Mexico.

That's right. This is Senator Ted Cruz accusing Democrats of a abandoning working-class Americans.

The Senator Ted Cruz who jetted out of Texas during a brutal winter storm two weeks ago that left millions of people in Texas without power and potable water, his constituents, abandoning working-class men and women, one might say, for the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun.

There's no water to drink in Texas? Well, let them drink margaritas. The memes just write themselves.

Now he's accusing someone of abandoning working-class men and women. That's rich.

And it's followed another of Cruz's way to deal with being caught messing up, the purposeful self-owned. As if to say, you're laughing at me? Well, I'm laughing at me, too.


CRUZ: I've got to say, Orlando is awesome!


CRUZ: It's not as nice as Cancun --


CRUZ: -- but it's nice!


KEILAR: But Orlando probably won't cost Ted Cruz approval points in polls.

So for Senators looking to escape both the cold and being compassionate to their constituents, Orlando might just be the better choice.

And now to a Republican who keeps changing her mind about former President Donald Trump. That's Nikki Haley.

On January 7th, one day after the insurrection, Haley, who served as Trump's U.N. ambassador, said her former boss' action after the election will, quote, "be judged harshly by history."

She echoed the comments days later, telling "Politico," quote, "He went down a path he shouldn't have."

But a different Haley suddenly emerged when the House walked Trump's articles of impeachment over to the Senate.


NIKKI HALEY, (R), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. AND FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: They beat him up before he got into office. They're beating him up after he leaves office.


KEILAR: Now she is back on the Trump train, praising Trump's speech at CPAC. Haley called it a, quote, "strong speech about his winning policies."

Here to talk more is CNN global affairs analyst and "Washington Post" columnist, Max Boot.

Max, always great to have you on.

You have this new opinion piece. And you write, "Is there a more pathetic politician in America than Nikki Haley? She has changed positions on former President Donald Trump so often that she should start sporting flip-flops."

It's not seen as good in politics to flip-flop. You'll have politicians who try to maybe use it on a policy issue and say they have evolved and they try to be nuanced about it.

That's not what this is. This is a straight-up flip-flop.

I wonder what you see is the impetus for her doing this.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Clearly, the impetus is she made no secret of the fact she wants to win the Republican presidential nomination. And so you have to deal with the elephant in the room, which is Donald Trump.


Now, when she came out against Trump and condemned the insurrection in the capitol right after it happened, she seemed to be operating under the assumption that he would soon be shunned by the party, that he would lose his political viability, as she told "Politico."

That clearly has not happened. Recent poll shows about 76 percent of Republican voters want to renominate Donald Trump in 2024. He still owns this party.

So she's accommodating herself to that reality and casting doubt on whether she actually believes in anything at all.

Because the only thing she believes in will say whatever will please Republican voters, which, right now, is praising Donald Trump. That's what she's doing. KEILAR: She requested a meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, which so

many Republicans have done. They've gone down there after he left Washington in disgrace to kiss the ring. He reportedly declined her request.

Do you think she will be able to find her way back into Trump's good graces?

BOOT: Who knows? I mean, he's certainly susceptible to flattery and she can certainly pile it on if necessary.

But the whole thing is just so unseemly and so distasteful and distressing to me. Because I used to have a higher impression of Nikki Haley.

We see all of these Republicans like Ted Cruz and others doing it. But I never had much respect for Ted Cruz because he always seemed like an opportunist from the get-go.

Whereas Nikki Haley seemed to be cut from something finer. In 2015, she took a principled, courageous stand for pulling down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse. That wasn't easy to do but she got it done.

She seemed to stand for a more moderate and progressive version of the Republican Party.

So it's especially unnerving for me and just disappointing to see the way she's pandering to Trump and his fans, even after this horrific assault on the capitol, which she herself denounced.

She herself said that Trump would be judged harshly for that. And now she's praising Trump while he is continuing to spread this big lie about how he won the election.

I speak to someone who was a lifelong Republican up until 2016, somebody who supported Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio and other Republicans. And it's just soul-crushing for me to see what they've become in the Trump era.

KEILAR: It is perplexing, morally and politically. It's sort of head- scratching.

And it's a really interesting column, Max. Thanks for coming on to share it with us. Max Boot.

BOOT: Thanks for having me.

Next, the third COVID vaccine approved for use in the U.S. is now, yes, being administered. We're going to take you live to Ohio as folks are getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Plus, the former surgeon general, a Trump appointee, is breaking with Dr. Anthony Fauci on whether the country should delay second doses.


KEILAR: The third vaccine in the U.S. is finally being administered to Americans. The first shots of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose coronavirus vaccine are being administered. They are being distributed in a mass vaccination site at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Our Pete Muntean is there.

This is a big day, Pete, so tell us who will be getting these shots.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a big day, Brianna, because this is a very big site. They are able to take 3,000 people a day here for vaccinations.

But the fact that this is one dose rather than two doses is a huge deal. They are typically waiting on people coming back for the second doze of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine.

And we're seeing some of the first people to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after it was shipped out yesterday.

Barbara Schmalenberger is -- you're 86. And you just got vaccinated. How did it feel?

BARBARA SCHMALENBERGER, RECEIVED JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE: Oh, it's exciting. It's great. And I don't even feel a thing. A while ago, just a little bit of warmth and then that was it. It faded away and -- and I don't even feel like I had a shot now.

MUNTEAN: You've been waiting a long time.

SCHMALENBERGER: A long time, waiting on that Johnson & Johnson.

MUNTEAN: Why is this better for you?

SCHMALENBERGER: Better because it's one shot. And also a very trusted name for clear back when my children were babies. So it's just -- something just kept telling me to wait on this.

MUNTEAN: What was the emotion like just to get the shot? Of course, you probably didn't expect all this attention but just to get the vaccine today. That's incredible.

SCHMALENBERGER: It was really exciting. When I got out of my car, I was shaking I was so excited. I couldn't wait. And I thought I was going to be late, you know?

I said, oh, I can't believe they called me. And she said today you get your shot. And I'm like, really, because I called yesterday and I was on the phone with them a long time.

I was crying because I was upset because I couldn't find out when I could get this shot and I wanted this shot. I didn't want to settle for anything else.

MUNTEAN: What's your message to those who may still be waiting or those who may be reluctant to get the vaccine in general?

SCHMALENBERGER: Well, first of all, you need to get it because it protects you because with all these viruses and everything going around, people can't be what they want to be. They can't go out. They can't do things.

I haven't been able to go out to dinner in a restaurant like I love to do and all of those things.

And for your health, you need to get it. But also, too, get the one that you're the most -- you feel the best about. And I felt the best about this from day one.

MUNTEAN: Congratulations.


MUNTEAN: You know, Brianna, it's just so incredible to see it here, a place where many folks are waiting here in Ohio.


It's phase 1-C pretty soon, on Thursday, and phase two here in Ohio, which opens this up to those 65 and older. So this really could not come at a better time here.

KEILAR: Big congratulations to Barbara, Pete. Thank you so much to her for being with us.

Pete Muntean, live from Columbus, we appreciate it.

We do have more on our breaking news. Senators grilling the FBI director on what happened during the capitol insurrection, including the conspiracy theories that some Republicans continue to push about who the rioters were.