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GOP Mayor Lauds Relief Law Despite Congressional GOP Opposition; Biden Offers Up Hope For A Sense of Normalcy by July 4th; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Refuses to Resign after Demand from New York Congressional Democrats. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 12, 2021 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: That would likely come from a new district attorney.


Cyrus Vance Jr. officially announcing today he will not run for reelection.

I'm grateful for your time today. I hope to see you have fantastic weekend and see you back here on Monday. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage on this busy news day right now. Have a good day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.

In moments, President Biden and Vice President Harris will take their victory lap in the White House rose garden at an event to hail his $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan. This is one of the most expensive and most consequential government relief packages in U.S. history and he signed it into law just a day ago.

Now, the work goes from the bill's passage to its promotion. The president and the vice president will hit the road on the Help is Here tour to explain the law's benefits and promote the vaccines. And Biden officials plan to keep their messaging focused, walking Americans through one element of the new law each day.

And the Democratic National Committee is kicking off a new ad campaign to help sell the COVID relief bill to a politically fractured nation.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines, set up more vaccination sites to get the country in a place to get back to normal. This plan will get checks out the door starting this month.


KEILAR: Now, the White House says the checks for some Americans will land as soon as this weekend. Beyond the bill, the president is making some other big promises. In his first primetime address, he vowed enough vaccines to direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults 18 and older eligible for vaccination by May 1st. And he set a goal of July 4th as the first holiday during the pandemic when small groups should be able to celebrate in person together safely.

As my CNN colleague put it, the light in the tunnel may be fireworks bursting in air on the 4th of July. There is a lot of GOP support for the rescue package, but none of it comes from Republicans in Congress. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for it, despite much of their party at the local level pushing its passage, pushing for its passage, and that includes my next guest.

Jerry Dyer is the Republican mayor of Fresno, California. He just took office this year after serving in the Fresno Police Department for 40 years.

Mayor, tell us why you support this American rescue plan act.

MAYOR JERRY DYER (R-FRESNO, CA): Well, when you look at the impact that the pandemic has had on local communities across America, Fresno no different, the impact it's had on people losing their jobs, standing in food lines for the very first time in their life, people that are facing evictions and the impact that it's had in terms of safety, the number of shootings we've had in Fresno since the pandemic has doubled.

When you look at all of that as well as the impact on small businesses and tax revenues generated to local governments that have been impacted, we needed a rescue plan. And this is the plan that I supported because it gave relief to local governments, it allowed us to shore up our budgets to prevent us from being in a deficit and to be able to pass money through to those individuals in need in the community.

KEILAR: Yes. Your city is receiving $164 million. How essential is that for the city?

DYER: Well, it's actually been upgraded to 177 million. It's critical for us to be able to balance our budget. We were facing, based on our latest revenues, we were facing a $25 million deficit this coming here, which would mean continuing to hold vacancies of police officers and other essential employees, as well as the real reality of having to lay off employees and police officers in the city of Fresno. And as I mentioned, with the crime that's escalated over the last year, we need public safety more than anything today.

And the other things that have been impacted, our homeless population is double. The number of people that are out on our streets that are out of work and, you know, are sleeping on the side of the roads, these dollars are going to allow us to be able to provide an alternative for those individuals to get them off of the streets.

So, you know, all the way through this rescue plan, there are things that benefit people in local communities. As the mayor of Fresno, I wasn't elected to serve a party, I was elected to serve the people. And I think at times we allow the party to get in the way of our service to the people. And I refuse to do that here in Fresno.

KEILAR: Yes. I wonder about that, because, as you said, it's very clear, you spell out the benefit of this, $177 million to Fresno, and the things you're going to use it for.


Republicans in Congress, including, you know, representatives from your state, have not backed this. And I wonder what you make of that, because it's not like they don't know from you and from other mayors what this money is going to be used for and how essential it is to keeping your cities running.

DYER: Well, I think in any piece of legislation that passes where there is a dollar tied to it, you're going to see areas in there that are considered to be excessive. You're going to see people that have a difference of opinion in terms of how those dollars are spent based on their constituents.

And so I don't doubt whether people on the right or the left and their arguments of why they think they should be passed or not passed or was passed, but I can tell you from a local perspective, as the mayor of this city, we're the number two man in terms of poverty here in Fresno, and we need the money. We need those relief dollars in this rescue plan. And I can promise the people that we're going to utilize these dollars in the most fiscally prudent manner that we can.

And I know that's always a concern, is there government waste? Are we bailing out cities at the local level because they've not been fiscally proven? Well, I can tell you that in Fresno, we have that history of being fiscally prudent. We have the number one retirement system in the state of California.

So we've done our due diligence to make sure that we're doing everything we can to spend the dollars wisely. We're putting out a very well-thought-out plan to make sure we're balancing our budget, ensuring public safety, addressing the neighborhood needs, the homeless, people who are hungry and helping small businesses. And that's why, again, I supported the American rescue plan.

KEILAR: Yes. You have a long road to recovery ahead of you, perhaps, but certainly you're going to be getting some resources. So, thank you so much, Mayor, for being with us.

DYER: Thank you, Brianna. I appreciate you having me on the show.

KEILAR: Of course.

After a devastating and deadly year, President Biden is offering up something that the country hasn't really had in a while, hope, hope that everyone 18 and older will finally be eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1st, and hope that the nation will have some kind of normalcy by July 4th.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us now.

The big question on everyone's mind is, are these dates achievable, Elizabeth, because people are getting tired of all of this.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are getting tired, there is no question. And, Brianna, if everything goes according to plan, then, yes, we've done the math and these dates are achievable.

First, let's take another look at the dates you mentioned. So, what the president has talked about is May 1st, vaccines will be available for all adults. You don't have to be 65, you don't have to be a teacher, essential worker, et cetera, et cetera, anybody is eligible to get them. And then on May 31st, we would have enough vaccine for all those people.

So you'll notice that at least from the beginning, you may want a vaccine, try to get a vaccine but not be able to get a vaccine. But by May 31st, the president says there will be enough vaccines for all adults. We'll get into those numbers in a minute. And on July 4th, celebrate Independence Day in small groups, that there will be enough immunity that we'll be able to do that.

So this hinges on that middle date, having enough vaccines for all adults. So let's take a look at what those numbers look like.

So when you look at Moderna, 200 million doses by May 31st, Pfizer, 200 million, J&J 100, million. Now, Moderna and Pfizer, you have to have two doses. So when you do the math, that is enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans and the U.S. adult population is 250, and at this point, we're only vaccinating adults. So that's actually more than enough.

So if those doses come through, if Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson can do what they say they can do, then, yes, we should have plenty of doses for Americans at that time. Brianna?

KEILAR: And COVID numbers have dropped, obviously, since our last surge,and several states have rolled back restrictions, and this includes mask mandates. Do Americans have a false sense right now of, oh, you know, the worst is behind us, this pandemic is actually almost over?

COHEN: Absolutely, because there are two things going on here. First of all, you know, we can always have a surge. We have been in this movie before, things are coming down, but then people get lax and they go back up.

Another point that we really need to think about is we can look back at the horror of January when things were spreading like wildfire. It's better now, but it is still bad.


We still have a lot of sick and dying people in this country because of COVID, and we all need to do what we can do to save lives. I want to look at these numbers, because I think they are so important. These are daily numbers, Brianna, that when you look at the daily numbers, we have more than 45,000 people in the hospital with COVID every day, and nearly 1,400 deaths. Nearly 1,400 Americans are dying every day of COVID. That is not good. That is not the time that you say, oh, let's sit back, the worst is over. Try to save lives. Wear masks, do social distancing, avoid crowds. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. All good advice, as always, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

A dam breaks open as the majority of congressional Democrats, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jerry Nadler call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign as he faces new accusations of sexual harassment, and he responded just moments ago. We'll play you what he said.

Plus, Tucker Carlson's latest offensive rant is putting the focus on his true enablers, the Murdoch Empire. We'll roll the tape.

And will New York prosecutors charge Donald Trump? Hear why the time he spent in Washington may have benefited investigators.



KEILAR: Add two of New York's most powerful Democrats in Congress to the growing list now calling for the resignation of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking to Twitter within moments of each other this morning issuing their calls for Cuomo's resignation.

A majority of House Democrats from New York are now calling for Cuomo to step down amid allegations of sexual harassment and his handling of COVID deaths in nursing homes. Cuomo just responded to those calls moments ago.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY) (voice over): As I have said before, and I firmly believe, and my administration is always represented, women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully. But I also want to be clear. There is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged, period.

I won't speculate about people's possible motives. But I can tell you, as a former attorney general who has gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation. And that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision.

There are now two reviews underway. No one wants them to happen more quickly and more thoroughly than I do. Let them do it. I'm not going to argue this issue in the press. That is not how it is done, that is not the way it should be done. Serious allegations should be weighed seriously, right? That's why they are called serious. As I told New Yorkers many times, there are facts and then there are opinions. And I've always separated the two. When I do briefings, I put out the facts and then I offer my opinions. But they are two different concepts.

Politicians who don't know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and an opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous. The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance. That, my friends, is politics at its worst.

Politicians take positions for all sorts of reasons, including political expediency and bowing to pressure. But people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.


KEILAR: All right. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in Albany, New York where all of this is happening, and CNN's Dana Bash is joining us from Washington.

Shimon, tell us exactly what stood out to you on this call.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what stands out to me the most here is how he's attacking members of his own party, the growing number of Democrats that are coming out saying he should resign, calling them basically reckless and dangerous and that they have formed these opinions without knowing the facts, that somehow he knows better than them as to what happened here.

Of course, he's also saying that this investigation now, two reviews, you have the state assembly members who are looking into this, but then also the attorney general's office, and he's saying that that needs to go on because we need to learn the facts, and essentially saying that this is all politics, that what's happening here is a bunch of politicians, that he is not part of some political club and that he is proud of.

Also what's very interesting is that he's speaking to New Yorkers.


Let's not forget what we all went through here in New York during the height of the pandemic in New York City, in New York and how outspoken he was and how out front he was during those times, and many New Yorkers do not forget that time. And it's very clear that he's trying to hit a certain note with many of those New Yorkers, and essentially saying, you need me here, you need me to finish this job. He's talking about finishing the budget, getting vaccines done, saying that he's going to continue to do his job.

But, basically, in essence, what's going on here now is that he's going after members of his own party.

KEILAR: Yes. And, look, he's facing sexual harassment allegations, he's also facing major questions of his judgment as to how he handled nursing home deaths in his state, and how those were counted or undercounted, as his attorney general found it.

Dana, he mentions cancel culture. Really?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That was remarkable. It doesn't really matter where you sit on the political spectrum now if you feel that you are under attack and under pressure. Cancel culture is kind of F3 and F4 on the computer right now.

You can make an argument and there is a real debate to be had about what -- the core of what cancel culture is and whether it has run amok in this country. But the question of it is being used by politicians. We've seen it on the House floor, on the Senate floor from Republicans and now we're hearing it from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The other thing, which is related to this that really struck me, in addition to what Shimon just described, was the motivation, was questioning the motivation. While saying, I'm not questioning the motivation of people coming forward, he said, we have to find out what the motivation is of the people who have made these allegations against me, and that is the job of the attorney general who is going through and doing this investigation. Really noteworthy to me.

The last thing I will just say to add to Shimon's very astute political analysis of this is we have to remind our viewers of the very big, dramatic developments of today, and that is that we have 14 out of 19 Democratic members of the House, Democratic members, fellow Democrats of Andrew Cuomo, who are saying he must resign.

And they run the political spectrum within the Democratic Party, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, who did this apparently together to make a point, all the way to sort of those in the new guard of the Democratic Party, more progressive to someone like Jerry Nadler, who is a veteran Democratic, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

KEILAR: And this thing he's talking about, let this play out, he says, don't rush this, let the investigation move forward, it's a courtesy that at times -- and, look, I'm not going to apples to apples the things that he's weighed in on ahead of an investigation on, because they're not always the same thing, but that's something he hasn't always abided by when it comes to allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault involving other politicians, Dana.

BASH: No, that's right. And, look, to suggest that there isn't always politics playing out in addition to doing what is right, what is appropriate, is just impossible to believe. I mean, these are politicians. Politics are playing out.

And just to kind of add another layer of that, what we don't know yet is what the Democratic senators from New York feel given the developments. Still nothing from Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, although this morning before we heard from AOC, he did say that the investigation should play out. Same goes for Kirsten Gillibrand. And then, again, back on the politics, I would be remiss if I didn't say that a subplot here, a very important one going on in New York, is some concern in Chuck Schumer's world that somebody like AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, could launch a primary bid against Chuck Schumer. That has been, according to a lot of people I've talked to and the Senate guiding some of the decisions he's made in terms of messaging and even things on the floor, and there is no doubt that there is a discussion being had about what his position is now versus what AOC's is on Governor Cuomo.

KEILAR: Yes, I'm glad you bring up that subplot. Dana Bash, thank you, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.


Donald Trump's defense secretary now blaming Donald Trump for the insurrection. We will hear from him.

Plus, a clinic gives customers an empty syringe instead of one with the vaccine in it. I'll be speaking with a woman who got that empty shot.