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Cuomo Accuser Speaks with Investigators for More Than 4 Hours; Biden Visits Small Business on "Help Is Here" Tour; North Korea to Biden Administration: Don't Cause a Stink; Biden Stresses Local Leadership in Persuading the Vaccine Hesitant to Get Shots; Religious Leaders Fight Vaccine Hesitancy Among Minorities. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 16, 2021 - 15:30   ET



DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Obviously, that's in part because he has to, he is still the governor, and because it's that work that made him so popular just a year ago.

Now it's worth noting that even though Governor Cuomo is focusing on that work, Democrats are not calling -- are not stepping back from their calls on him to resign. Take a listen to what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said just a few hours ago.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): As I've said, New York state under this COVID crisis needs safe -- and they need secure and safe and strong leadership. The women have come forward. I'm proud they have. They have made some serious allegations. And they should be listened to.

Because the governor -- because of these allegations, the governor has lost the confidence of his governing partners and of many New Yorkers and he should step down.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, stand by, Dan Merica, we're going straight to Chester, Pennsylvania, and President Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... finest congressmen in the United States Congress in terms of getting things done. I really mean it. And, you know, the American Rescue Plan is going to do more than just provide for the PPE.

And one of the things that we've done early on -- they passed the CARES Act early on. And what we did -- what they did was they provided for an inspector general -- an outfit to look over where the money was going to make sure that it was spent properly. And the first thing the President did, he came along and he fired the inspector general. And we found out that only 40 percent of the people who, in fact, were small businesses got in on the deal. And they got very big businesses getting the lion's share of that money.

So when we wrote this Rescue Plan, they were (INAUDIBLE) insistent that we have an inspector general to make sure the money goes exactly where it's supposed to go.

And so we're in a position where it's going to bring immediate relief, $1,400 to 85 percent of the American public. I said, yesterday, we're going to get 100 million shots in people's arms within the first 60 days of my administration and 100 million checks out -- 100 million people are going to be getting, not a joke, a check for $1,400, which would change their lives.

And you know so many of the people who have worked (INAUDIBLE) and gotten themselves laid off or there wasn't work, and you find yourself, you know, it's hard paying the rent, hard paying the childcare, hard paying for much of anything.

So I just think that -- I hope that the program that we're having here -- we're going to have a tax cut to help retired workers. We're in a situation where we're going to expand Paycheck Protection Program for the folks who were initially shut out.

Initially, at the very beginning of the Paycheck Protection Program, you'd go to a big bank, they'd say, do you have an account with us? Have you borrowed money from us? Do you have a credit card from us? They didn't want to deal with people who were on the short side of things. But you've really made it work. And I think you should be aware, more help is on the way, for real.

Do you have questions for me at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we don't have any questions, but we did want to say thank you. Thank you for your being who you are. Thank you for helping the small business -- small minority business. It means a lot that you're here in Chester. It means a lot that you came to see our business because, you know, although Congresswoman Scanlon and Congresswoman Houlahan, I'm sorry. I know Congresswoman Scanlon a little more. I'm sorry. But not many people come out and stop here in Chester. And so we're just grateful. We're grateful for the things that you're doing.

BIDEN: Every time I got stop -- stopped in Chester, I lost. I went to school in Claymont, just across the line at Archmere Academy. And we played up here, and you better come prepared to play against Chester.


BIDEN: I would say it's great. So a lot of my buddies are from Chester, for real. The people I grew up with.

And it's -- you know, one of the things that we haven't -- and we're trying like the devil to make sure it's correct, is people who are hardest hit by -- and the Congresswoman knows this better than I do -- the hardest hit are people in the minority communities. The rate at which they get COVID is significantly higher sometimes in the Latino community, black community, up to four times greater, and the death rate is significantly higher.

And in the last place -- and that's why we're working so hard -- they're working so hard to make sure to get the vaccines in places that are not ordinarily the focus. That's why we put these vaccines in community health centers.


That's why we have them in drugstores now. That's why we have mobile units. But I'm not -- I'm not just saying this because we're here. They have been loud and strong voices, get this done. And it's not like it passed with 100 votes. You know what I mean? It's -- it was close.

And I want to thank you both. And everybody in this county and the next county, in Delaware County, should thank you as well.

So is there anything else we can be doing?


BIDEN: How many employees at your peak?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At our peak, we're at about 20, 23 people. Our peak is summertime. We do a lot of schoolwork, and so that's when we get our big boost.

BIDEN: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we're about 12 -- 12 people between people in the office, out in the field.

BIDEN: I think it's going to allow you to bring folks back and increase -- increase your business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's great that schools got funding, so now the schools are going to do some construction and (INAUDIBLE).

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. No, it's a big deal. It's a big deal. Well, you both do a heck of a job.


BALDWIN: OK. So stop number one. "Help Us Here" tour for the Biden administration, he's at this small business. You heard them talking about at peak they would have as many as 23 employees in the summer. And he's hoping now with this COVID relief they'll be able to get, you know, immediate relief as soon as possible.

Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with me. As is political analyst Astead Herndon. And Gloria, you know, this is the first stop on the tour. Probably not a coincidence that it's in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. How important is this for the president to just sell this as a success to Democrats?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's very important for him. Because he remembers when he was vice president, and the stimulus bill was passed and the Obama administration got nothing but heartache politically after it was passed.

Lost 63 seats in the House. Lost control of that. So he knows he's got to go out there and sell it. But it's a little different. This bill is already popular. Almost 70 percent of the public say, yes, we want this because it's money in your pocket. So that's different.

What he has to do is go out there and say to people, this is what it's going to do for you. Not only is it going to put money in your pocket but it's going to give you more money to raise your children. It's going to give you relief if you're a small business owner. It's going to help us get those vaccines quicker. And down the line, piece by piece, tell people how they can use this to their advantage.

BALDWIN: I mean this is a total win for this administration, right. I mean his success is predicated upon getting us back to a healthy economy and getting through this virus. And this will certainly help him do that.

But Astead, you know, this may be the easiest, you know, achievement so far. You think of immigration and infrastructure and minimum wage, student loans. You know, Democrats aren't all on the same page. Do you think that at all plays into why selling this COVID relief, why it's so important?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. I mean this is certainly a win for the Biden administration and the kind of first step to their agenda, but it's not the robust fullness of their agenda. When Joe Biden was a general election candidate, he moved on from that primary rhetoric that really kind of hinted at, you know, kind of you know kind of returning to normal, a kind of pre-Trump America.

And by the general election he was leaning into a kind of a progressive agenda and the "Build Back Better" was the slogan, but it was really an embracing of some of the more ambitious policy proposals.

That's going to require, you know, a few future kind of big investments in infrastructure, immigration plans, voting rights bills. I mean these are big things that the administration is going to have to tackle next.

That's going to run up directly against the Senate filibuster. And we know that because of just how small that margin is to get the relief plan passed, that the same necessity for Democrats to stick together will be true on those policies going forward.

BALDWIN: And Gloria, you pointed out a second ago just how popular this COVID relief is among, you know, Americans across the board.

And just a reminder, not a single Republican voted for this. And not just that, but, you know, one Republican called it a tragedy. And Mitch McConnell says it's one of the worst pieces of legislations he's seen in his time in the Senate.

How much should the president focus on Republican voters as he's out in the country making the sell?

BORGER: Well, I think he has to focus on all voters, but particularly on Republicans, telling them how it's going to help them, not only putting money in their pockets but he also has to go out there and convince Republicans to get a vaccine because as we know, vaccines are key to getting the economy back, getting everybody back to work. If you look -- we just did a poll recently at CNN and I think we have the numbers here.

BALDWIN: Here you go.


BORGER: 92 percent of Democrats say, OK, I'm going to try to get a vaccine, but look at that number with Republicans -- 46 percent say, no way, I'm not going to get a vaccine and 32 percent of independents say, I'm not going to get a vaccine.

And what Joe Biden has to do is say to those people, who are saying, wait a minute, I'm not going to get a vaccine, he has to convince them not only for their good health, but also it's the way back to reopening the economy and making that growth rate, you know, just go up.

And so he's got a lot to sell this week. Not just the plan, but also telling people they need to get vaccines in their arms. And they've even said, you know what, we could use the help of the former president and we need people to talk to his supporters and convince them that they need to get this vaccine as well.

BALDWIN: That's why it would have helped to have had the president when he, you know, quietly got that vaccine with the first lady back in January to do so publicly.

Astead, we hit on this before, just, you know, we know the Biden administration doesn't think the Obama administration did enough when you think back to 2019 in promoting, you know, stimulus.

And you and I have talked about this, right. And of course Democrats lost control of the House the very next year. Do you think the Biden administration can prevent history from repeating itself here?

HERNDON: We know the midterms are tough for all incoming presidents and the party that's in power, but what we're seeing here is a bet from the Biden administration that more important than kind of showing, you know, bipartisanship or needing Republican votes to kind of bring back a feeling of unity, that they need to deliver on that agenda.

And that's going to be what they think insulates them from results that mirror 2010. We had a story today that talks about how the progressive criticism of Barack Obama's 2009 response has kind of become party canon.

You've seen Joe Biden's -- his chief of staff and others say that they neither they didn't go big enough or they didn't message well enough. That is the lesson that they are trying to take on now. To say that even in these kind of gerrymandered or tougher districts, even in the Senate that if they give and deliver on COVID relief, it will reverse what we know history to be.

It is an acceptance that 2009 may not have been the biggest and best response that Democrats could have done.

BALDWIN: Yes, we know the bigger challenge overall is just how to implement, you know, this COVID relief and long-term strategy. We will continue to talk about this. Gloria, Astead, thank you both so very much.

BORGER: Thanks, Brooke.

HERNDON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Breaking news now. CNN has learned North Korea could be getting ready to carry out its very first weapons test since Joe Biden took office. Stay here.



BALDWIN: Breaking news on North Korea. CNN has learned U.S. officials have assessed that North Korea may be getting ready to carry out its first weapons test since President Joe Biden took office. And this comes after Kim Jong-un's sister released this new warning to the Biden administration. This is what she says.

If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.

With me now, "Daily Beast" columnist, Gordon Chang. He's the author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes on The World." And Gordon, we'll get to the threat itself, but I'm curious, you know, the fact that it's coming from a woman, from Kim Jong-un's sister, why?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN, NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": We don't know the answer to that, but it could very well be that Kim Jong-un doesn't want to show his hand. And also, if this initiative doesn't work, he may want somebody to blame.

So, there could be a number of motives for having his sister do this, but she is generally considered to be extremely capable. So, you know, maybe she decided that this was her time to shine.

BALDWIN: That's quite a way to shine. How serious is this and what do you make of the threat?

CHANG: Well, this threat comes on the eve of the meeting in Anchorage between China and United States. So this could be Beijing and Pyongyang playing the North Korea card. This is sort of like telling the United States you need Beijing's help to deal with North Korea.

Now, this worked in the administration of George W. Bush. It didn't work so well in the Obama administration, and it didn't work at all in the Trump administration because Trump was trying to separate North Korea from China. I don't know how it's going to play in the Biden team, but I suspect

it won't work this time either.

BALDWIN: You and I talked so much about the relationship between Kim Jong-un and, you know, President Trump, obviously the quote/unquote bromance, the friendly relationship, right. We heard about the love letters between the two leaders, Trump invited them on Air Force One. If you were advising the President Biden right now, Gordon, how should he straddle the dangerous, unpredictability that is Kim Jong-un?

CHANG: Well, the first thing, I wouldn't say to China, look, I need your help. I would try to keep those two separate from each other. Because we have a number of issues with regard to China, which actually transcend North Korea.

And then with regard to North Korea, I would perhaps just leave Kim Jong-un alone right now. Maybe tighten the sanctions, but for the most part, I just wouldn't give him the attention that he always craves.

BALDWIN: Speaking of China, do you actually think the Biden administration should approach any other countries in the region?

CHANG: Well, they've already done so. You have Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, actually talking to both Tokyo and Seoul. And then you have the secretary of defense going to New Delhi next week.


You had the quad leaders, that's the leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. They met last week virtually.

So really there's been a lot of groundwork here to tell China, look, you're not the most important because we're going to speak to our allies first because we value their relationships.

BALDWIN: Gordon, thank you very much. Good to see you.

CHANG: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: As President Biden tours the country to push his Rescue Plan, his America Rescue Plan, he is asking faith leaders to really help step in and speak the truth to their congregants about vaccines. We'll talk to one reverend when has joined the mission next.


BALDWIN: The race to vaccinate is under way. Yesterday the president called upon local leaders to help win the messaging war.


BIDEN: 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 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.


BALDWIN: With me now Reverend Gabriel Salguero. He recently focused his entire Sunday sermon on the COVID vaccine urging his mostly Latino congregation to embrace it.

Reverend, I read about you in the "New York Times" I told my team I've got to talk to him. So welcome, sir. Good to see you.


BALDWIN: The president says, you just heard him, you know, saying it's partially up to you, you know, faith leaders. You have chosen to focus your recent sermon entirely on the vaccine. Tell me why.

SALGUERO: Well, I was just speaking to a friend of mine, Matt Love in North Carolina, and I was telling him we're trusted brokers, and there's been a lot of misinformation or disinformation and some very natural fear because of the COVID. And I think that we as pastors need to step forward to ease some of the anxiety and to answer some of the questions and debunk some of the myths.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you specifically about that. I mean, just by way of background, you are of Puerto Rican descent. You that say you're mindful of the skepticism and some of the vaccine hesitancy among people, among people of color.

What are you -- you mentioned misinformation. What are some of the biggest myths that you have heard from your congregants?

SALGUERO: Well, I've heard myths from that there's a tracking device, particularly to track either people of color or immigrant groups. I've heard that it changes your DNA. I've heard that it could resemble something called the mark of the beast in this kind of apocalyptic theology. So I've heard so many things.

And that's why we've held national town halls with the CDC in English and in Spanish to speak to the Latino faith community and African- American faith community, and we've partnered with the Ad Council to do a national public service announcement in Spanish for Latino faith communities because we need the truth.

The truth is that we are healers and that we're trusted brokers and that we need our people vaccinated, but we also need to answer their questions and not cast judgments on people who have anxiety and fear.

BALDWIN: Of course. Of course. Reverend, do you feel like you are successful in convincing these folks otherwise?

SALGUERO: I think that every step and every person who has their questions answered thoughtfully and pastorally is moving in the right direction. I think that we are at a tipping point as more and more people become vaccinated. More than the pastor. They have a relative who has been vaccinated and has come out well and is feeling well and feels protected. So I think those natural relationships in collaboration with the church are what is helping us reach that tipping point in America.

BALDWIN: Can you take me inside one of the conversations I'm sure you've had where you see almost the person's face change realizing that you are bestowing upon them the truth and healing and a mix of science and scripture. Give me an aha moment that you've seen.

SALGUERO: Well, actually just last week someone told me they weren't going to take the vaccine. They were concerned, that they had seen on some social media post or WhatsApp chats that it changed their DNA or that they were going to be tracked. But we had this conversation with the CDC epidemiologist who was an expert, and she actually told my wife and I, she says, no, and now I'm going to proceed with the vaccine. I feel safe that my questions were answered, and I felt respected because when people feel heard, I think that boosts trust around vaccination.

BALDWIN: Amen to that. At the end of the day we all just want to feel seen and heard, don't we? I guess my last real question for you is how hard have members of your community been hit by this virus?

SALGUERO: As you know, Brooke, Latinos and African-Americans and other minority groups are disproportionately impacted. We're twice as likely to die or be impacted by it. You know, it's not lost on me that we're past a year and over 500,000 people have passed away in the U.S. and over 2 million across the world.

I'm a pastor, and my message is Christ called us to heal. So I myself and my wife and my children all had COVID in December over the Christmas holiday and so I know what it's like. And I feel that we need to move towards compassion that calls us to action, and that's why I'm calling people to get informed and share correct information, compassion that leads us to action.

BALDWIN: I so appreciate, that and I appreciate you, Reverend Salguero, thank you. Be well.

SALGUERO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Before I let everyone go, a quick, quick note here. Britain's Prince Philip is back home at Windsor Castle after being released from a London hospital this morning. Just speaking of, you know, everyone's health. The 99-year-old Royal had been hospitalized for a month. He's been recovering since undergoing heart surgery. Royal sources tell CNN that the Prince who by the way turns 100 in June is in good spirits. He stepped back from public life in 2017 and has been taken to the hospital several times in recent years.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you much for being with me. I'm here in New York. Let's go to Washington.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.