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Should Andrew Cuomo Resign?; Three Dead After Driver Hits Pedestrians in California; President Biden Touts American Rescue Plan. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 15, 2021 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We have seen CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell. She's also an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post."

OK, Kaitlan, first you. What is he going to say? What are we expecting?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so of course, he signed this bill last week, they had that ceremony in the Rose Garden to celebrate that.

But now, this week, they're not only focused on selling this bill to the American people, but also implementing it and actually getting this money out the door, because so much of what's in this bill, the Biden administration has tied to their pandemic response. And so what you're going to hear from him in just a few moments is not only talking about implementing this bill, but who is going to be in charge of overseeing the spending.

And we now know that's going to be Gene Sperling. The White House confirmed earlier today that he will be in charge of this. And so, really, what his job is going to be is making sure all of this money gets spent, that it gets spent appropriately, and that there aren't any missteps that happen as they are shaping through and sorting through what this is actually going to look like.

Gene Sperling is a long time economic aide. He's served multiple other Democratic presidents. He's been an economic adviser to President Biden when he was on the campaign trail. But he's not expected to be at this ceremony, because, right now, we should note, like most of Americans, he's expected to start working remotely. He has not been vaccinated yet. He's still in California, according to the White House.

And so he won't actually be inside the West wing doing this job for several more weeks, according to the press secretary earlier today.

KEILAR: Wow. That is very interesting.

Gloria, this package, this relief package is popular. Is the White House worried that it won't be so popular, that popularity will wane? Why this real effort to bolster this? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of people

who were there, including the president himself, were there in 2009, when the stimulus package passed.

And one of the problems with that, Biden himself has said, is that they never explained the benefits of it to the American people. And it was unpopular.

This bill starts out more popular. So what they're trying to do is tell the American people all the ways -- have to explain it. This is the way it can help you. These are the child tax credits you will get. You will get money in your pocket. Your vaccines will be free.

It will take less time to get you vaccinated. We will reopen schools in a safe way, and on and on and on, because they know that what the Republicans are doing, all of whom voted against it, what the Republicans are doing is saying this is just a liberal Democratic wish list.

Part of that there, there are programs in there that the Democrats have always wanted. But this is a COVID relief package.

KEILAR: Yes.

BORGER: And they need to tell that to the American people, so they understand, and so they can give pushback to the Republican opposition.

KEILAR: And we did just get the two-minute warning about a minute ago.

So -- oh, and here we go. Let's listen to the president.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I signed the American Rescue Plan last week, I said help is on the way.

This week, I can report it isn't just on the way. It's here, sooner than many ever thought possible. Over the next 10 days, we will reach two goals, two giant goals. The first is 100 million shots in people's arms will have been completed within the next 10 days and 100 million checks in people's pockets in the next 10 days.

Shots in arms and money in pockets, that's important. The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do, make a difference in people's everyday lives. We're just getting started.

By the time all the money is distributed, 85 percent of American households will have gotten the $1,400 rescue checks. To give more -- to give one more example, for the average family of two parents and two children making combined income of $110,000 a year, that's going to add $5,600 for them; $5,600 they will get.

And the plan does a lot more. It extends unemployment insurance for the 11 million American unemployed and any who will be unemployed in the near term. It will help hundreds of thousands of small businesses keep their doors open, which makes a gigantic difference in neighborhoods and communities, if you have a drugstore, if you have a beauty shop, a hardware store.

It's the center of small communities. And it gets our schools the resources they need to open safely. It provides the biggest investment in child care since World War II. And it provides food and nutrition help for the millions of families to keep them from going hungry, keeping a roof over their heads. And it expands health care coverage and lowers health care costs for so many people.

And it will cut child poverty in half in this country. That's the estimate. Child poverty will be cut in half as a consequence of what's in this recovery act. And it will generate economic growth for the entire nation. That's why major economists, left, right and center, support this plan.

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Even Wall Street has agreed. According to Moody's, by the end of this year, this law will spur our economy to create seven million new jobs. And it does one more thing. It focuses on rebuilding the backbone of this country, working families, the middle class, people who built this country.

But, as I said last week, it's one thing to pass a historic piece of regulation like the American Rescue Plan, and it's quite another to implement it, and the devil is in the details. It requires fastidious oversight to make sure the relief arrives quickly, equitably and efficiently, with no waste or fraud, in your bank account, in your mailbox, to the local business, in your community, and to your child's school.

Look, I have been here before. When President Obama and I came into office in 2009, he put me into charge of implementing the Recovery Act, which helped us recover and rebuild during the Great Recession. I was authorized to put together a team, including an accountability board with inspectors general from different agencies that were affected by the act, to make sure we got the roughly $800 billion out, out into the countryside by the book and quickly over 18 months.

I talked to literally almost 100 -- over 150 mayors, all governors except one, constantly going over the granular detail of the implementation of this legislation -- that legislation. And the effort put us on a path from crisis to recovery to resurgence.

Accordingly, to the oversight board of inspectors general, they said we got it done with less than two-tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud. And that's not what the previous administration did, though. When the Congress last year passed the CARES Act, the CARES -- the Congress created a committee of inspectors general to make sure every penny of that money was spent as it was directed.

But one of the first things the previous administration did was fire the head of the inspector generals committee. So when Congress passed what was intended to be a small business relief program, it instead became a free-for-all for well-connected companies. And mainstream businesses from hardware stores to beauty salons that

needed the help most were left behind; 400,000 are now gone. We will not let that happen this time. I learned from my experience implementing the Recovery Act just how important it is to have someone who can manage all the moving parts with efficiency, speed and integrity and accountability.

That's the sort of management we have seen in our fight against the virus with Jeff Zients, our COVID response coordinator.

And, today, I'm pleased to announce and introduce another gifted manager to coordinate our implementation of the American Rescue Plan, Gene Sperling. Gene will be on the phone with mayors and governors, red states, blue states, a source of constant communication, a source of guidance and support and, above all, a source of accountability for all of us to get the job done.

Gene has been here before, the only person in history to serve as director of the Economic -- of the National Economic Council twice. He led successful efforts to deliver relief to small businesses and unemployed Americans in the Obama/Biden administration and in the Clinton administration.

I spoke with Gene earlier today, alongside my economic team. He is ready to get to work. In fact, he has already hit the ground running. And, together, we're going to make sure that the benefits of the American Rescue Plan go out quickly and directly to the American people, where they belong.

Let me close with this. Help is here. And hope is here in real and tangible ways. We're just days away from 100 million shots in millions -- in the arms of millions of Americans. That's the way, that's the way on the way to get every single American access to the vaccine, 100 million checks going into the pockets and/or direct deposits, going into the pockets of Americans, on the way to a million more -- millions of more Americans.

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That's real progress. And we have a lot more to do. We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them and do it without waste or fraud, that we can vaccinate the nation, that we can get our kids safely back in school, that we can get our economy back on track by helping hundreds of thousands of small businesses open and stay open, and that we can give people of this nation a fighting chance again with relief checks, lower child care costs, lower health care costs, and so much more.

That's our job. That's our responsibility. And in the process, we will be growing the economy as well. We are going to have to stay on top of every dollar spent through the American Rescue Plan. And that's what we're going to do.

We can do this. We will do this.

God bless you all. Help is on the way. And may God protect our troops. Thank you very, very much.

KEILAR: Back now, with me, Kaitlan, Catherine and Gloria.

Actually, let's listen.

BIDEN: I'm hearing a lot of reports from serious reporters like you saying that.

I discussed it with my team. And they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say.

So, I urge, I urge all local docs and ministers and priests and every -- to talk about why, why it's important to get that vaccine, and even after that until, everyone is, in fact, vaccinated, to wear this mask.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

KEILAR: All right, I'm back now with Kaitlan, Gloria, and Catherine.

I mean, that was interesting. Part of the thing that I found most interesting there at the end -- and we can touch on this after we talk about what's in this bill -- he's saying he wants people who obviously don't support him to talk to someone they do trust about getting the vaccine.

Let's talk about what he said, Catherine, about what is in this huge, almost $2 trillion package that he and the vice president are going to be promoting here in the coming weeks. He really this is -- he really sort of described this as a social safety net, as a middle-class reconstruction package, as much as, say, COVID relief.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely.

One of the lessons from the Obama years was that you don't get credit for safety net responses that are either too clunky or slow for the public to use -- I'm thinking things like the anti-foreclosure programs -- or ones that are too invisible for people to notice. I'm thinking things like the payroll tax cut that was passed under Obama.

Biden wants credit. He wants people to know, both in the middle class, people who are lower income, that help is on the way, that help is coming from him. And they want them to be aware of the great whole-of- government effort that is being done on their behalf.

This is about creating a well-oiled machine, making sure that the implementation is there, but also making sure that machine is very visible. And that was his goal today, was telling people: This is what's in the bill. I'm going to enumerate all of the ways that we are helping you. We're going to get them out speedily, swiftly, I promise. We will have to wait and see whether that happens.

And there will be minimal waste, fraud and abuse. He's also trying to sort of defensively protect himself against the usual Republican attacks about a major stimulus package like this.

KEILAR: And I wonder, Gloria, for folks who are getting these checks, you have, like, let's say, a single mom, two kids. This is a lot of money that just went into their bank account. It is -- you can't miss it.

I mean, this is a chunk of change. And it seems like he's capitalizing on this moment, which is the thousands of dollars going to families.

BORGER: Well, this is about government working for you. This is not about government being the deep state, government hiding things from you, government not telling you the truth, which is -- we heard a lot of that over the last four years.

This is about a government that can work for you, which is why, as Catherine was saying, the implementation is so important, because it has to work for you in a way that people can see and say, oh, yes, that money wasn't misused. It's actually people's tax dollars going to work to help Americans.

And I think that is the message we heard the other night from the president when he gave his speech. It's the message today? This is your government. I'm the president of the United States, but this is your government helping you, helping your children.

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And over the weekend -- and Kaitlan can talk about this -- what was so interesting to me was that the White House put out e-mails from people who had started getting their checks, and telling them exactly -- and tweets telling them exactly how they were going to use the money, to pay down the mortgage, to pay for their car, to feed their family.

And they're trying to sort of -- anecdote after anecdote, let people know how this money is being used.

KEILAR: And, Kaitlan, we do have some breaking news that I want to touch upon with you here, maybe something that I think we knew was going on at the time, but a CDC review has found that some of the Trump administration CDC guidance was not grounded in science.

It said the review found that some guidance -- quote -- "used less direct language than available evidence supported."

I mean, we saw this happening at the time, that what appeared to be the scientific guidance -- and we heard reporting on this repeatedly -- that it was being changed by people who were not scientists to be more in line with what President Trump was saying politically.

But this -- this is a review. This is official.

COLLINS: And this started, basically, day one of the pandemic.

Remember, last year, when the CDC official was putting out warnings about what was coming our way with the pandemic, as we were flying back with former President Trump from a trip to India, and he was enraged by that because of what it did to the stock market.

So, his influence over what the CDC was saying and telling the American people about the pandemic started basically from day one. And so now we have a CDC person, spokesperson, saying that, yes, there were -- there was guidance that came out that wasn't as specific as it could have been, based on the science, because of undue influence that was happening over CDC documents.

It also says there were a few documents that came out that were purportedly from the CDC, but weren't actually authored by the CDC, so using their name and their credibility, but it wasn't actually a CDC document, according to what the spokesperson is now saying.

And this is something that we saw in the Trump administration with a lot of different agencies, where they were trying to claim that there were deep state officials working against former President Trump, and so they were just doing what former -- or what former President Trump, President Trump at the time, wanted.

But, of course, this is where it's incredibly critical, because lives could have been cost because of some of this guidance, if it wasn't as specific as it could have been, if it was more vague, because officials did not want to put people in a panic, which is something President Trump said at the time, which, of course, we have seen how that has played out.

And so, just seeing this, you're right. It does confirm basically what we were seeing happening in real time. But that doesn't make it any less stunning that we're now learning that CDC guidance could have actually been more specific than it was and possibly more instructive, and, of course, possibly saved more lives.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Yes, go on. Go on, Gloria.

BORGER: Yes.

I mean, one of the things that's so striking to me about this "Washington Post" story is that there was guidance -- and we all remember it -- issued in August that discouraged the testing of people without COVID symptoms, even though they had been in contact with an infected person.

And we now know that of course you need to be tested, and you may be asymptomatic if you're younger, et cetera. But the discouragement of testing, you know where that comes from directly. The president of the United States at that time was saying, some people like testing, some people don't. Remember that?

He was the one who didn't. And he didn't want as many people to get tested, because he didn't want numbers to go up. And that's what that was all about.

KEILAR: He thought testing revealed the number.

BORGER: Yes.

KEILAR: But what we learned was hospitalizations and deaths really revealed the pandemic.

BORGER: Yes.

KEILAR: And those were numbers that you can't hide from.

BORGER: Yes.

KEILAR: You guys, thank you so much for joining me to talk about what is a big day at the White House for this COVID relief package.

We are also following some breaking news in California, where a driver ran into a crowd and killed at least three people. We're going to talk about what we learned in a news conference moments ago.

Plus: A new poll shows that New York state is split on whether Governor Cuomo should resign. We're going to take you there live.

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KEILAR: We're following some breaking news out of California, where San Diego police say a car drove onto a sidewalk and killed at least three people and struck several others.

Stephanie Elam is following the story.

What are you learning, Steph?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what we have learned so far, Brianna, is that we now know that three people are dead. Nine people in total were hurt.

Two of those people are in critical condition. This is according to the San Diego police chief, David Nisleit. He was saying that what they believe happened is -- you can see it right there. Everything happened underneath that overpass that you can see in that picture there right after 9:00 a.m.

This is downtown San Diego, right by San Diego City College. And what they believe happened is that the driver was driving through there, ended up on the sidewalk. That's where he hits several pedestrians, before coming back onto the road and stopping. By the time officials got there, they said that it looked like this driver was a 71 year old man driving a Volvo wagon, seemed to be trying to render aid.

At this point, he's being investigated for driving while impaired. But when you take a listen to some of the people who were on scene, it just sounds like it was a very quick, but very horrific event. Take a listen to some of the witnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONNIE WILLIAMS, WITNESS: The way he was riding down the sidewalk, it was like he didn't take his foot off the gas until he got to the other side of the street.

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And I'm a witness to that, because I was riding on the front of it. And I'm like, whoa, is this guy ever going to stop? It was like -- it was a nightmare, like a quick -- a really quick nightmare, you know?

MICHAEL LUKE, WITNESS: I saw that wagon move over. And then it's just like things started popping up and dragging, and horrific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: Now one other interesting note is that the police chief said that they had also received a call not long before this about a mile away with a description -- description matching this vehicle, but they're not sure yet to say that it is exactly this driver that someone may have been trying to alert them about.

But, still, we know that three people have lost their lives and two in critical condition, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Stephanie, we know you will keep an eye on this story, Stephanie Elam in California for us.

The White House revealing more today about President Biden's mind-set on embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says the president finds allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed a number of women, including former female staffers, troubling and hard to read.

Biden himself urging everyone to wait and see what the ongoing investigation brings. New York voters are also speaking out.

I want to get more now on that from CNN politics reporter Dan Merica.

Dan, you have the details from a new poll. What does it tell us?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, let's get into the poll. It's a mix of good news and bad news for embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Let's get to the top line, which is whether Cuomo should resign over these allegations. Fifty percent of New Yorkers say no. You would think that is a good number for the governor, who is asking voters to wait and hear about these investigations before they decide on whether he should resign. This poll also finds 35 percent believe he should resign.

The next question is, would you reelect Governor Cuomo? That's where problems start for this governor. He is a three-term governor. He could seek a fourth term in 2022. This poll found that only 34 percent would vote for Andrew Cuomo. Again, as governor 52 would prefer -- percent -- excuse me -- would prefer someone else.

And then the last question, are you satisfied with how he has handled these allegations, 32 percent say no, 57 percent say yes. This was conducted by Siena College, a local college here in Albany, over the last few -- a couple days.

And, as you note, President Biden himself is giving Andrew Cuomo a little bit of time, saying that he wants to see these investigations play out. That's not something that Democrats here in New York, the bulk of the House caucus here in New York, as well as the two senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, have given Cuomo.

They have been all called on his resignation. And really all eyes now are on the General Assembly behind me, where an impeachment inquiry is ongoing, as well as Letitia James' office, the New York attorney general, who is also looking into the allegations against Cuomo.

So, two investigations going on simultaneously, but, right now, it does seem like Cuomo has some partial trust of the New York people -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, I'm sure he's reading that and feeling that there is some breathing room. So, we will see what the governor has to say here in the coming days.

MERICA: A little bit.

Dan, thank you so much, Dan Merica live for us from Albany.

Next: As officials warn spring breakers are out of control in Florida, the TSA says they screened more travelers this weekend than at any point in the last year. We are live as some airports have started offering COVID testing.

Plus, the CDC is considering changing the guidance on social distancing for schools -- why it may go from six feet to three feet.

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