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The Curious Metamorphosis Of Trump's Sidekick Lindsey Graham; University Offers Students Cash To Stay Home For Spring Break; Grandmother Gets Prescription To "Hug Granddaughter". Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 10, 2021 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Dr. Sasson, I want to thank you so much for all of the work that you have been doing. It's unbelievable. And thank you for talking to us today.

DR. COMILLA SASSON, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, KAISER PERMANENTE: Thank you. Appreciate it. Wear your mask and get vaccinated.

KEILAR: Yes. I think people hear you loud and clear, which is good.

Still ahead, Disney parks are selling out for spring break despite the head of the CDC pleading with people to stay home.

Plus, a doctor prescribes a hug -- prescribes a hug -- for a grandma who has spent the past year missing her granddaughter.






KEILAR: Senator Lindsey Graham grabbing headlines this week calling a measure in the COVID bill that forgives help for black farmers "reparations."

He's gotten a lot of attention in recent years for becoming a version of himself no one can seem to recognize.

Let's roll the tape from the beginning, when 2015 Lindsey Graham was not a Trump fan to put it mildly, and they were both running for president.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.

He's a jackass and he shouldn't be commander-in-chief.


KEILAR: Once Trump entered the White House, the metamorphosis of Lindsey Graham began.


GRAHAM: I am all-in. Keep it up Donald. I'm sure you're watching.

I couldn't be more proud of the fact that he talks to me and asks my opinion and we've got a lot in common now. I like him. And he likes him.

President Trump, if he can lead us to ending the Korean War after 70 years and getting North Korea to give up their nuclear program in a verifiable way, deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and then some.


KEILAR: Senator Lindsey Graham became a sure-fire echo of Trump.


GRAHAM: I'm a single white male from South Carolina and I'm told I should shut up but I will not shut up.


GRAHAM: He came from China.


GRAHAM: Yes, I do.


GRAHAM: Well, the Spanish flu had a name.


KEILAR: Graham's allegiance to the controversial president landed him a Democratic challenger, who threatened Graham's political survival.

Graham was worried and traveled to the mothership for help.


GRAHAM: I'm getting out-raised, 3-1, outspent, 4-1. If you want to help me fight back go to And five or 10 bucks from half of your audience would fill in the gap I'm facing.

I'm being killed financially. This money is because they hate my guts.

Get on our Web sites. It's And $5 or $10 goes a long way.


GRAHAM: I'm being overwhelmed.


GRAHAM: Help me. I'm being out raised, 2-1. If you want to help,, $5 or $10 goes a long way. They're loading me up because I'm chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Go to to help me. If you want to help me, help me by going to my Web site.

So help me reelect me, They're trying to silence us all by swamping us with money. Help me.

Let me say this. The Internet is on fire tonight. They are raising money like crazy to take back the Senate and beat President Trump.

Help me. Help everybody I just named.


KEILAR: In 2020, President Trump lost but Lindsey Graham won reelection handedly. And he then shamelessly helped Trump grow the big lie.


GRAHAM: President Trump should not concede.

There's a civil war brewing.

I don't accept the outcome of the Georgia election.


KEILAR: That was more than just rhetoric, because Graham actually picked up the phone and allegedly tried to get legal votes thrown out in Georgia.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the ballots could be mapped back to the voters, he asked -- I got the sense it implied then you could throw those out, any -- look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures.

Just an implication that, look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.


KEILAR: Graham denies that he said this on the call and argued that he was simply interested in the signature verification process.

His spokesman told CNN that Graham never asked for any ballots to be disqualified.

And then Graham appeared to have a moment of self-reflection after a crowd of extremists inspired and incited by Trump and Republicans like Graham stormed the capitol.


GRAHAM: Trump and I -- we've had a hell of a journey. I hate it being this way. Oh, my god, I hate it.

All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.

I among any -- above all others in this body, need to say this. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected.


KEILAR: But Graham's moment of self-reflection was short-lived. His upset over the insurrection waned.


GRAHAM: The not-guilty vote is growing after today. I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House managers offensive and absurd.

Why don't we impeach George Washington? He owned slaves.

I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to end the impeachment trial because I think it's blatantly unconstitutional.


KEILAR: So Graham voted to acquit the president in the Senate impeachment trial for inciting the mob. And, apparently, thinks it Trump is the last best hope for the party, saying this over the weekend.



GRAHAM: There's something about Trump. There's a dark side and there's some magic there. And what I'm trying to do is just harness the magic.

To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and P.T. Barnum. I mean, it's just this bigger-than-life deal. He could make the Republican Party something that nobody else I know

could make it. He could make it bigger. He could make it stronger. He could make it more diverse. And he also could destroy it.


KEILAR: There's magic there, Lindsey Graham says. The only magic there's watching the Lindsey Graham we once knew disappear.

Trump isn't a magician. He's a carnival barker whipping up an audience for a one-man circus.

Because it's clear. There's no room in his tent for anyone else. Donald Trump has only ever acted in interests of one thing -- himself.

No matter how much Lindsey Graham or any other person has fancied him or herself able to channel Trump's conspiracy theory and fear-fueled energy for good of the party. The RNC is learning that now.

And yet, Graham praises a man who helped incite an insurrection against the seat of democracy, against Graham's workplace, while he and his colleagues were inside.

He puts all hope in a guy who helped Republicans lose the White House, lose the Senate, failed to retake the House, who was impeached twice by the House, though he was acquitted by the Senate.

And Graham is proof that once a politician works himself to go all-in on Trump, it's a chemical change. It reveals a new substance.

Like this.


GRAHAM: Let me give you an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan forgiven, up 120 percent of your loan, not 100 percent but 120 percent of your loan, if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African-American, some other minority.

But if you're a white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness. That's reparations.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): He ought to be ashamed of himself. He knows the history in this country. And he knows what has happened to black farmers.

The lawsuit we've never been able to rectify. We've had so much recalcitrance.

He ought to go back and maybe go to church. Get in touch with his Christianity.


KEILAR: Senator Lindsey Graham used to be John McCain's sidekick, his beloved friend, his partner in crime. He stood by as Trump insulted McCain's legacy and honor.

Graham championed traditional Republican values of fiscal conservatives and hawkish views on national security once.

But Lindsey Graham, as we once knew him, began to transform.

John McCain would pass away after battling brain cancer. And Graham would go off into the desert searching for relevance, something he found in Donald Trump, someone so different from John McCain.

Lindsey Graham is but a moon reflecting the light of whichever sun shines on him.

And right now, the Senate is voting to confirm Merrick Garland as the next attorney general of the United States. The same body that denied him a hearing when he was picked for the Supreme Court.

Plus, as spring break approaches, one California school is offering students cash money to stay home and stop the spread.



KEILAR: College students looking to earn a little extra money this spring break can do so by staying home. That is, if you're a student at the University of California, Davis.

The school posted to Facebook this week offering $75 grants to incentivize students to take a staycation and help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Joining me now is Sheri Atkinson, associate vice chancellor for student life, campus community, and retention services at U.C.-Davis.

Sheri, thanks for being with us.

And tell us what sparked this idea and what kind of response you've been getting?


So the idea came because we are asking our students not to travel during spring break to prevent the spread of COVID. And so we thought it would be important to provide them with an alternative of something to do during that time.

So through our initiative with the Healthy Davis Together, we are offering them the $75 grant to do one of four activities they can apply for to get that grant.

We wanted to reward them for positive behavior they've been engaging in and continue to support them and encourage them to stay put during the break. KEILAR: Obviously, signing up for those activities then would

guarantee they don't travel, which is the point, right?

ATKINSON: Correct. We're asking them to do a couple things. They'll get the grant and they'll have to pick it up during spring break.

And we also are asking them to get a COVID test during spring break. They'll break. They'd need to do that here in Davis.

KEILAR: Some schools have done different things. Some have canceled spring break entirely this year. You chose not to go that route at Davis? Do you know why that is?

ATKINSON: Correct. We decided to stick with our schedule and move forward with all the things that we have in place to continue healthy behaviors of our students and support them in that.

Just continuing forward with our break. The students needed a break. We got feedback from students. They still need that break.

KEILAR: Yes, they, definitely, I'm sure, need that break. I remember being a college student so many years ago.

What is the plan for students who say, you know, I'm not going to take the $75 and they go against the health guidelines and decide to travel anyways?

ATKINSON: So they -- we're not forbidding them to travel. We're discouraging it. If they decide to travel, if they live on campus, we require them to test pre-before they leave and then once they get back as well if they live in our residence halls on campus.

We're not prohibiting students from traveling but we're strongly discouraging them and also using a positive incentive, like using these grants to encourage them.


KEILAR: It's a very interesting approach and it certainly caught our eye.

And, Sheri, thanks for coming on to talk about it.

ATKINSON: Happy to. Thank you so much.

KEILAR: There haven't been a lot of hugs this career, which makes this one all the more special.




KEILAR: I know. Stop, it right? It's like -- it's -- it's heartbreaking. It's heartwarming. This emotional embrace, a year in the making after a grandmother in

New York received her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Evelyn Shaw's doctor wrote her a prescription, which her daughter shared on Twitter. And it reads, "You are allowed to hug your granddaughter."

I want to welcome Evelyn Shaw, that grandmother that you saw there, and her granddaughter, Ateret Frank, along with her daughter -- Shaw's daughter, Laura Shaw Frank, who recorded the video of the hug.

All right, Evelyn, let's begin with this hug. I think everyone connects with this. We've missed our hugs. How did that feel?

EVELYN SHAW, HER PHYSICIAN PRESCRIBED A HUG FROM HER GRANDDAUGHTER: Well, the hug was -- my daughter and granddaughter came to my apartment to give me a little gift they said, and the gift was the prescription from the doctor.

And when I read it and it said, "You are allowed to hug your granddaughter" -- here it is - "You are allowed to hug your granddaughter," I -- something happened to me.

Because my granddaughter had completed her COVID protocol. But I was not going to let her in. I was definitely not going to let her into my apartment, even though I had completed my -- my COVID -- my vaccines.

Because I was stuck. I was stuck -- I was stuck in -- in COVID-land. And having this prescription from my doctor gave me the courage to let her in.

And there we were standing in my apartment just hugging and hugging and crying and crying for the first time in a year, which was an out- of-body experience.

It was blissful. It was wonderful. And it was something that I'm going to remember for the rest my life.

I want to thank the doctor for writing -- for writing this prescription. She knew -- she knew, because of the kind of doctor she is, that I was going to have a hard time transitioning from COVID- land.

The fear of COVID that we all live with in COVID-land to a better place, to -- to hope and to possibilities and more hugs and kisses. And that's it.


KEILAR: And, Ateret, I think it's -- I think a lot of people did see the note, and you were behind this. But it's fascinating to hear your grandma talk about it.

Because it wasn't -- this isn't just a cute prescription. This is actually a prescription that she needed in order to take this step. E. SHAW: Exactly. We're all going to need to transition once we all

have -- have our vaccines. We're all going to need to transition from the fear that we have lived with for so long.

KEILAR: Ateret, how did it feel?

ATERET FRANK, GRANDDAUGHTER OF EVELYN SHAW: It felt incredible. Of course, I -- I, too, was nervous. Even though -- even though I had my shots and everything, it still -- as my grandmother says, it feels weird.

Having that prescription in my hand, it -- it sort of -- it felt like a permission slip to be able to hug my grandmother. And then once I did it, it felt natural. It felt like a relief. And I immediately started crying.

KEILAR: Of course. I mean, I want to cry watching it.

Laura, it's a beautiful moment that you captured. This has been -- this has been a hard year of deprivation.

LAURA SHAW FRANK, DAUGHTER OF EVELYN SHAW: It sure has. It sure has been.

E. SHAW: It's been a very -- a very dark year listening to the news, reading the paper of all the people who have died, hoping you're not going to be one of them.

And watching where you walk, thinking about, are you too long in the supermarket? What are you touching that's going to give you COVID? A lot of pain, a lot of pain.

But here's what I want to say to your viewers. Do the right thing. Please do the right thing. Because -- wear your mask, get your vaccines, wash your hands, stay socially distanced.


Because at the end of all of this is the reward -- is the reward. It's that hug that you saw at the beginning of your clip.

Not only for one child but for -- for your whole family and for your friends and for our community and -- and our state, and as far as I'm concerned, for the world.

KEILAR: I want to thank you guys for coming on to share this moment and talk about it with us, Evelyn, Ateret and Laura.

E. SHAW: Thank you so much for having us.

FRANK: Thank you so much for having us.

L. EVELYN SHAW: Thank you so much for having us.

KEILAR: We're staying on the breaking news. The House passing President Biden's massive COVID relief bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to speak any minute now about the historic


And on the Senate side, Merrick Garland was just confirmed as the next attorney general of the United States.

Stay with us for live special coverage.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.