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Scathing Report: Rep. Ronny Jackson Harassed Staff, Drank On Job; States Trying To Turn "The Big Lie" Into Law That Will Impact Voting; State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-NY) Discusses Governor Cuomo's Apology, Refusal To Resign Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations; Mixed Opinions Among Business Owners As Texas Ends Mask Mandate. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 3, 2021 - 14:30   ET



GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And, by the way, these interviews, the I.G. was kept from doing his job for months and months because the White House wanted to claim privilege on some of these interviews and decided not to in the end. But they even said that it was incomplete.

But more than half of those people interviewed said that he was reckless, that he had bad management skills, that he was offensive, that he harassed women. You name it. It goes on and on and on.

And this was the man, now a new member of Congress and the man, you recall that Donald Trump wanted to name to head the V.A. So think about that. How did that happen?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And it's, you know -- Carl, particularly alarming here are the findings that he was under the influence of multiple substances, prescription-strength sleeping pills, as well as alcohol when he was on presidential trips abroad.

And, I mean, I don't think that we can overstate how important it is for a presidential physician to have his or her wherewithal and be able to provide potentially life-saving care if needed.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's cut to the chase here. This individual was regarded by his colleagues and those who traveled with him, in both the Obama and the Trump presidencies, as a rage- aholic and out of control rage-aholic with a drug and apparent drug and alcohol problem.

The physician to the president of the United States.

You would think that, in any presidency, that those warning signs would have caused the president and those around him to immediately stop this physician from practicing medicine on the president of the United States. That did not happen.

And what this report shows, among other things, as Gloria suggested, even a cover-up in terms of trying to intimidate witnesses, by the way the investigation was contacted and how the Trump White House responded.

This is a pretty clear open and shut case, of showing malfeasance, misfeasance and procedures that endangered the president of the United States.

KEILAR: Will this negatively impact Jackson at all, do you think, Gloria?


BORGER: Look, he's still gotten elected from a very conservative district. And he's going to call it fake news and say that it was politically motivated and all the rest of it.

So who knows? I mean, in this day and age, you can't really -- you can't predict.

But what it does show is the president's relationship with his physician is so important to the people of the country.

And when you're a military doctor, you're a military doctor and work for commander-in-chief, your boss and you do whatever he or she wants you to do.

So who knows what Ronny Jackson was doing for the president, that the president liked and wanted to get him promoted? We just have no idea about their real relationship.

Nor do we have any if there were a president impaired and the physician were really indebted to that president, how could anybody invoke the 25th Amendment?

You just don't know what the real story is, as we're now finding out about the president's doctor, and his own behavior, and how that would impact the president and his relationship with the president.



BERNSTEIN: We also saw the impact of the -- of Jackson's successor, when Trump was in the hospital, and Trump was calling the shots for his own doctor.

And so you can see how this relationship is undermined by the president of the United States not committed to truth in terms of telling the American people what the president's health is.

KEILAR: Carl, Gloria, great to see you again. Thanks for being with me.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: Republican states across the country are taking the big lie and turning it into legislation, trying to disadvantage Democratic candidates by making it harder for their voters to cast a ballot. Why? Because Democrats who embraced popular options like early voting

and voting by mail turned out in record numbers and their guy won.

Take, for instance, Georgia, where one of the Republicans who lost a Senate seat in the state's stunning run-off elections in January is trying to stay relevant.

Former Republican Senator David Perdue made his first TV appearance since losing the runoff trying to explain away his loss as something other than Georgians making it clear that they're just not that into him.

He's now throwing support behind efforts to limit the ability of people in this state to cast ballots for Democrats after they flipped Georgia blue for the first time since 1992.


FORMER SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): We had significant irregularities in the November election that may have affected the outcome actually. So what the state is trying to do right now is correct some of these potential irregularities and create a level playing field.


KEILAR: No, no. There were no irregularities that may have affected the outcome of the election. That is a lie, more bald faced than the side of Stone Mountain that doesn't have Confederate generals carved into it.

Nonetheless, on Monday, Georgia Republicans got a bill through the Georgia House that among other voting restrictions would limit the location and hours of drop boxes.

It would require voters show I.D. when voting absentee and severely limit early voting on weekends. Sunday early voting would be eradicated. Meaning no Sunday soul to the polls, impacting black Georgia voters in particular.

The bill goes to the Georgia Senate and Democrats call it a "dark day."

Congresswoman Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Georgia, said this: "Let history so instead of fighting our democracy these it cowards betrayed Georgia voters throughout truth and facts and attempted to undo Georgia's legacy as a home for civil rights and assessable elections."

State Representative Barry Fleming, a Republican wrote the bill.


STATE REP. BARRY FLEMING (R-GA): House Bill 531 is designed to begin to bring back the confidence of our voters, back into our election system.


KEILAR: Barry is right about one thing. Confidence in elections is down. More than 70 percent of Republicans believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, according to a Quinnipiac University poll from January.

But that's because they believe a lie that they're still being told to them, over and over and over, by Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits who support Donald Trump or simply too afraid to upset him.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did even better in the seconds election than we did in the first. You know I won the first. And we won the second.

DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And 17 percent of the 80 million that voted for Joe Biden --

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I objected during the Electoral College certification. Maybe you heard about it.


HAWLEY: I did. I stood up --


HAWLEY: I stood up --


HAWLEY -- and I said, I said, we ought to have a debate about election integrity.

T.W. SHANNON, CEO, CHICKASAW COMMUNITY BANK: The reason that people stormed the capitol was because they felt hopeless because of a rigged election.


KEILAR: Now this conspiracy theory is translating into a surge of new legislation to fix a problem that doesn't actually exist.

The Brennan Center for Justice has been following the numbers here.

As of February 19th, there have been more than 250 bills proposed this year that make it more difficult to vote in 43 states. That's over seven times the number of restrictive voting bills compared to this point last year.

Where are we seeing many of these measures to restrict access to mail- in ballots and other voting measures that are credited with expanding the number of people who voted in 2020?

Arizona, 22, Georgia, there's 22 there, and Pennsylvania, eight now, down from 15. Three states that were at heart of Trump's big lie that the election was stolen from him.

Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, plus Georgia's 16 and Arizona's 11 electoral votes, made Joe Biden the president.


TRUMP: How about Pennsylvania, where they throw the poll watchers out? They threw them out.


TRUMP: And they did it here, too, by the way.

I don't run the elections. I don't run to see if people are walking in with suitcases and putting them under a table with a black robe around them.


TRUMP: In the state of Arizona, over 36,000 ballots were illegally cast by non-citizens.


KEILAR: All lies.

Some of the proposals that are currently on the table include one in Arizona that would make voters sign up for an early voting registry and kick them off that list if they don't vote in an election with a federal race.

Another in Georgia still debated in the state Senate allows, only allow Georgians to vote absentee if over 65, have a physical disability, or are out of town. Basically, getting rid of no-excuse absentee voting, which has been law in Georgia since 2005.

And now former Vice President Mike Pence has penned an op-ed in which he falsely raises the spectrum of, quote, "troubling voting irregularities."

Pence, who escaped the mob at the capitol a minute before it entered the Senate chamber. This mob:


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


KEILAR: Instead of seeing danger in that moment, Pence and other Republicans see opportunity to turn the big lie into law.

To be clear, Republicans lose the White House. They lose the Senate. They still don't control the House. They have long-standing respectable members of their party breaking with them.


They are in the middle of a political civil war. And their takeaway is to change the rules of the game?

Now, I'm familiar with this because I have a 4-year-old. But that is not how Candyland works. That's not how Chutes and Ladders works. And it's not how democracy works. But then maybe that's the point.

Next, the woman in charge of the New York State Senate will join me live. What she made of that apology we just heard from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the wake of three allegations of sexual harassment. He says he won't resign, but will Democratic leaders take action?


KEILAR: He's embarrassed and feels awful. That is what we just heard from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he addressed for the first time the allegations of sexual harassment that have been made against him by three women now.


Cuomo says he learned from this experience.


CUOMO: I fully support a woman's right to come forward. And I think it should be encouraged in every way.

I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it.

I feel awful about it, and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that's not easy to say. But that's the truth.

But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly -- I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately.


KEILAR: New York State Senator and majority leader, Andrea Stewart- Cousins, is joining me now to talk about this.

Madam Leader, you heard the governor moments ago. Did his comments go far enough?

STATE SEN. ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS (D-NY): You know, I think that the apology is important. I think people need to hear that he knows that what happened made people feel, yes, uncomfortable, and, you know, that's important.

But it really is not so much about the apology as about, you know, the fact that there's just no place for, you know, some of the things that, you know, he's apologizing for.

So we are here obviously waiting for the -- the investigation to be completed by the attorney general. And, you know, we are just, you know, trying to move forward.

But obviously, apology is a beginning, but there has to be an end to any sort of behavior like that.

KEILAR: Should he resign?

STEWART-COUSINS: I think we're waiting for the investigation. I think that is certainly appropriate.

And, you know, obviously things happen fast, and as more information is available, then we will, we will see what happens after that, that comes to us.

But, you know, right now, we do have work to do, and we are doing that work, and awaiting the results of the review.

KEILAR: You said there's no place for what he is accused of. If this investigation that you are waiting for affirms what he is accused of, that it happened, should he then resign?

STEWART-COUSINS: I think that we'd have to -- I mean, we all understand. This is New York. I'm the first woman leader in the history of this, in this state. We are progressive. We understand what should happen in the workplace, all of us know this.

So what I am saying, and I think what everyone is saying, is that, yes. There was -- this was unintentional, according to what the governor says.

He's apologized. We need to see what else is on the horizon, if anything, and certainly what the review is.

It's clear that he understands from what he said that what happened and how people were feeling was something that was uncomfortable for them, and that clearly is not what should happen in a workplace to anyone.

So I think we all know that this was -- was something that needs to stop, should never have happened. He has apologized.

So, again, I think we need to -- to wait for the review, and then obviously if anything else comes in between that, we will then have, you know, further discussions, opinions and actions.

KEILAR: If -- if the investigation, though, does affirm what he's been accused of, it would fly in the face of some of what he has said. He has said -- he said again today, he candid not inappropriately touch anyone.

He has been accused of inappropriately touching people, and that certainly is not -- he's also been accused of sexual harassment. Certainly, touching is not required for there to be an offense. If this investigation affirms what he has been accused of, you are the

person who would trigger an impeachment investigation --


KEILAR: -- if you decided to move forward with that.


Will you rule out triggering an impeachment investigation if the investigation affirms these accusations?

STEWART-COUSINS: Well, first of all, let me just clarify that. The Senate does the Senate does not. It would actually be the assembly that would trigger the impeachment.

But the reality is that if we come to the point where the investigation shows that there was inappropriate touching and so on and so forth, I think it would be very clear that he would have to, you know, walk away.

KEILAR: That he would then have to -- if the investigation affirmed these accusations, then he should resign.

STEWART-COUSINS: Right. I think, again, he's saying that nothing inappropriate happened. If the investigation shows that something inappropriate did happen, I think he would have to resign.

KEILAR: Should he run for re-election?

STEWART-COUSINS: Well, I think we're in the investigation situation now, so that would be up to him depending on what the results are what he wants to do.

KEILAR: Since, you know, certainly your point of view, your opinion here, is it's key to the future of the governor. Your opinion is very pertinent. It holds a lot of weight.

Have you spoken to the governor?


KEILAR: Has he called you?

STEWART-COUSINS: Not directly, no.

KEILAR: Has he -- he's called you indirectly?

STEWART-COUSINS: No, I mean, he has not called me.

KEILAR: Do you -- would you welcome any discussion with him, or is that something that you don't welcome at this point?

STEWART-COUSINS: We are governing, so obviously if there's a conversation that needs to be had around the work that we are doing on behalf of the people, I would certainly have that discussion with the governor.

KEILAR: Madam Leader, I really appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

STEWART-COUSINS: You're so welcome. Thank you.

Moments ago, we heard President Biden call it a mistake for Texas and other states to roll back their mask mandates, echoing the sentiment of the head of the CDC.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions.

I do think that I said that the next month or two is pivotal in terms of how this pandemic go as we scale up vaccination.

We really do need to decrease the amount of virus that is circulating as we're trying to vaccinate all of the public.

I will also note that, you know, every individual has been empowered to do the right thing regardless of what the states decide.


KEILAR: Here's the thing. Texas is far from the first state to lift the mask mandate. It joins more than a dozen Republican states in doing this.

And politics aside, Governor Abbott's decision is being met with mixed emotion, mixed opinions from small business owners.

Macy Moore is the co-owner of HopFusion Ale Works in Fort Worth.

Tell us how you feel about the governor's decision.


You know, we feel -- I mean, obviously nobody thinks that this is a magically solved overnight and that this decision is based on anything that has to do with science or where we are, you know.

Here in Tarrant County, we just got out of the mandate, the countywide mandate for being over 15 percent hospitalizations. That was just like in the last week.

So nobody is under some, you know, perceived notion that this is because we've solved this. We haven't solved it.

KEILAR: Do you want -- you want to see the mask mandate in place?

MOORE: You know, that was the one thing inside of our hip pocket for the last year throughout all of this as we're trying to keep our staff safe and customers safe.

You know, the one thing that we had. We had no support from local, from state, from federal, absolutely no support on doing it.

But one thing we had in the hip pocket was the mandate and we were -- we were pushing it so hard because we had that mandate.

And with it gone, honestly, it's the only pole that he had or could stand on. There's nothing to stand on. There's no mandate. There's no support. That support never was there. So I don't know what it leaves us with.

KEILAR: So, I mean, if you feel like your employees, your staff, they are not protected because they will be indoors for hours with people potentially not wearing masks, what -- what do you have -- you know, what are your concerns that that could end up?

And what can you do? Can you ask patrons to wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking? What can you do?


MOORE: Every business has the ability to -- to I guess do their own mandate, right? So we could -- we could enforce pretty much anything that we want to enforce inside of your four walls. And I've always have had that right and we could do that.

I've tossed and turned. I haven't slept since it was announced on what it is that we should do.

And while, you know, the safety of our employees is -- in terms of COVID, honestly, the physical safety of our employees has to stand more than that.

And I don't see how we can -- we can continue to enforce the mask mandates knowing that we have no support even from the very beginning and now certainly there will be none.

We've been -- we've been assaulted. We've been obviously, you know, verbally assaulted. We've had physical altercations.

I -- I stayed up the whole night wondering about it. And the one thing I come back to, I don't want to visit one of our employees in the hospital for a decision that I made for something that I truly believe in and then have to -- I don't want anybody to get hurt.

So I don't see how we can enforce it.

KEILAR: You're in a tough spot.

Macy Moore, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

MOORE: Thank you. Cheers.

KEILAR: We are back to our breaking news. The domestic extremists may be plotting another attack on the U.S. capitol tomorrow. Details on the FBI warning.

Plus, the head of the CDC -- pardon me -- the head of the D.C. National Guard gives a scathing account of the response to the insurrection. Why he says there was such a delay in getting troops to the capitol.