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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  February 8, 2021 1:00pm-2:00pm PST

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relying on a fringe legal theory that has broundly debunked by constitutional scholars from across the political spectrum. just yesterday, another very prominent, conservative republican constitutional lawyer, chuck cooper, wrote in "the wall street journal" that republicans are dead wrong if they think an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional. here is what he wrote. quote, given that the constitution permits the senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former office holders, it defies logic to suggest that the senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former office holders. the senators who supported mr. paul's motion should reconsider their view and judge the former president's misconduct on the
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merits. that's no liberal. that's chuck cooper, a lawyer who represented house republicans in a lawsuit against speaker pelosi, a former adviser to senator cruz's presidential campaign, driving a stake into the central argument we're going to hear from the former president's counsel. now i understand why this fringe constitutional theory is being advanced. for the past few weeks, the political right has been searching for a safe harbor, a way to oppose the conviction of donald trump without passing judgment on his conduct. to avoid alienating the former president's supporters without condoning his obviously despicable, unpatriotic, undemocratic behavior. but the truth is, no such safe harbor exists. the trial is clearly constitutional by every frame of analysis. by constitutional text,
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historical practice, senate precedent and basic common sense. a president cannot simply resign to avoid accountability for an impeachable offense, nor can they escape judgment by waiting until their final few weeks in office to betray our country. impeachment powers assign ed to the congress by the constitution cannot be defeated by a president who decides to run away or trashes our democracy on the way out the door. this trial will confirm that fact. the merits of the case against the former president will be presented and the former president's counsel will mount a defense. ultimately, senators will decide on the one true question at stake in this trial. is donald trump guilty of inciting a violent mob against the united states?
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a mob whose purpose was to interfere with the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. and if he is guilty, does someone who would commit such a high crime against their own country deserve to hold any office of honor or trust ever again? consistent with the solemn oath we've all taken to do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws of the united states. that, that is the question every senator must answer in this trial. i yield the floor. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we begin today with the politics lead. you've been listening the first
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few minutes of the show to senate majority leader chuck schumer, speaking ahead of the second impeachment trial of donald trump, which is set to begin in less than 24 hours. schumer there laid out some of the details of what he claims will be a fair and honest trial of the former president. the proceedings will include 16 hours of arguments by each side, the house impeachment managers and the president's defense team. it will also include a vote over whether or not to include witnesses. let's get right to cnn's chief domestic correspondent jim acosta. jim, schumer just announced a deal has been reached on the basic format of the trial. >> reporter: that's right, jake. it sounds like if they do get the votes to convict former president trump of inciting that insurrection, not only would he be, i guess, theoretically removed from office, although he's not any longer in office at this point. potentially they could move on -- or sounds like they can move on to a vote to disqualify trump from ever holding office
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again. it does sound as though the senate majority leader chuck schumer and his republican counterpart, mitch mcconnell, have reached an agreement on how all of this is going to play out over the next week. could be two weeks, jake, from what we understand, talking to our sources. meantime, though, the other news of the day coming from this impeachment trial is that the former president's impeachment team has revealed some of its defense strategy if the senate somehow decides to convict the former president, his impeachment team is saying it's unconstitutional to even put him on trial at this point. one white house official told me the president should be held accountable for the events that took place january 6th. at one point this official told me former president, at one point was, quote, loving the capitol mob. scrambling to escape accountability for the insurrection he helped incite on january 6th, donald trump's defense team is arguing the former president is totally blameless for the bloody siege
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at the capitol. in their latest filing before the impeachment trial begins tuesday, his lawyers are blasting the proceeding as a selfish attempt by democratic leadership in the house to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon americans across the entire spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the capitol by a few hundred people. former aides tell cnn a different story. the then president was enjoying the spectacle. one ex-white house official saying trump was loving watching the capitol mob, arguing the evidence of trump's conduct is overwhelming, house democrats will seize on the president's own words to make their case. >> and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. so, let's walk down pennsylvania avenue. >> reporter: trump's defense team argues his statements cannot and could not reasonably be interpreted to a call for immediate violence or violent
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overthrow of the united states government but democrats plan to point out trump supporters appear to be following his commands as they unleash their assault. >> go home and go home in peace. >> reporter: noting how some in the mob seemed to obey his call to go home. >> donald trump asked everybody to go home. [ bleep ] >> reporter: then the trump tweet targeting vice president mike pence just as he was in danger at the capitol. [ crowd chanti ing "hang mike pence" ] >> reporter: it may be enough to stop democrats from persuading the 17 gop senators needed to convict. they say trump should spook up if he's innocent. >> there was an offer for him to come and testify. he decided not to. we'll let the senate work that out. >> reporter: one of the details coming out of what senate majority leader chuck schumer just told the senate a few moments ago is that each side during this impeachment trial will have 16 hours over two days
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to present their arguments. that means that this trial will be lasting for several days at the very least, it could last well into the weekend and perhaps into next week. in the meantime, a source close to truch tells me the ex-president expects to be acquitted at this impeachment trial, noting that there aren't nearly enough republican senators to vote to convict during these last two weeks out of office. we should also note the former president has been fixated, jake, on punishing gop lawmakers who voted to impeach him, like wyoming congresswoman liz cheney. the ex-president sees his efforts as, quote, seeking accountability for lawmakers who crossed him and went against what he feels are the interests of the people who supported him in the last election. jake? >> jim acosta, thanks so much. minutes ago, senate majority leader chuck schumer, of course, also argued that republicans are searching for a way to oppose the impeachment conviction of trump by calling into question the constitutionality of trying a former official. in this case, a former president.
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joining us now, george conway, noted conservative attorney and trump critic. george, good to see you. the former president was simply exercising his first amendment rights, his lawyers argue, when he was inciting in the view of the house impeachment managers, inciting the riot and defended his speech on the morning of the attack. they write, quote, notably absent from his speech was any reference to or encouragement of insurrection, riot, criminal action or acts of violence whatsoever. mr. trump never made any impreimpress ed or implied. do you have to use the words to incite an insurrection? >> no. what they need to do is look at all the facts and president trump's words in context. and in context his call to
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fight, his call to march on the capitol, his earlier statement that january 6th is going to be wild, and many other statements, including the ones quoted in the video about him essentially saying that you need to save our democracy, all of you people. the court or the finder of fact has to look at all those facts to determine whether or not what trump said and did imminently -- was imminently a cause of the rioting. and that's what the first amendment says. the first amendment doesn't protect imminent -- statements that imminently can cause violence. but there's another reason why his argument fails, and it's the fact that he was president of the united states. the fact that he is president of the united states and took an oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the united states means that he does not have a first amendment right to
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tell people for two months that the election was stolen when he knows full well -- he knew full well, he told his own aides such, that he lost and lie about the integrity of our election and then call upon people to fight to save our democracy from a stolen election. his duty is to make sure that there's a peaceful transition of power and not to do something like what he did, which was to incite violence to make sure that the electoral votes weren't counted. >> when he used words such as fight like hell, he meant fight in a figurative sense and that they should fight generally. what do you make of that? >> you have to look at the entire context of his words, and he was telling people that their democracy was going to end if the votes were counted against
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him. and you have to look at his actions also during the rioting and after the rioting. he did virtually nothing during the rioting to try to stop it. he issued a couple of mild tweets about being nice to law enforcement, not the all caps with exclamation points that he used to issue when he want ed t. and then later he praised the people who committed violence on capitol hill. as your reporting suggests and the reporting of other news outlets suggest, he enjoyed what was happening. he wanted this to happen because he wanted something to disrupt the electoral vote count that would mean he would no longer be president of the united states. none of that is protected by the first amendment. it's impeachable and he should be punished by being barred from ever holding future federal office. >> in this brief, trump's team
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argues that former president condemned the violence and urged rioters to go home and remain peaceful. of course, it's a very selective and charitable description of trump's actions that day which, as you note, he also told the terrorists, we love you and, quote, you're very special. how much of a risk are trump's own actions that day to his conviction, or do you think at the end of the day republicans are going to -- republican senators are just going to look for any off-ramp that they can get? >> well, i don't think republican senators want to take up the fight on whether or not trump incited the insurrection. i think they want to head for the hills on that one, which is why they are looking for a constitutional theory to avoid the merits of the trial. and that's why they voted 45-5, i guess it was, that it's unconstitutional to hold this trial, even though most scholars agree that it is constitutional,
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and the history and text of the constitution make clear that it is totally constitutional to impeach someone, to try someone for an impeachment that occurred while he was in office. >> joni ernst, the senator from iowa, said something to me last week when she was arguing that maybe impeachment is not the correct remedy to the situation. take a listen. >> we will listen to the arguments as they're presented, but as far as other courses of action, the president, former president is now a private citizen. there are courses of action that could be taken against a private citizen. >> is that right? and what might those other courses of action be? >> well, other courses of action could be criminal prosecution. but the fact of the matter is, it's the senate's job to deal with the impeachment charges that are presented to it. it has the obligation and the power to try all impeachments, and donald trump was justly impeached for inciting an
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insurrection. so i don't think the fact that there could be other remedies outside of impeachment excuses the senate from carrying out its duty to hear the evidence on this impeachment. and if they find the evidence to be spisht, to punish the president, convict him and punish the former president by barring him from holding future office. >> george, quickly, if you could, majority leader schumer also said there's going to be a vote on calling witnesses. if you were advising the house impeachment managers, would you suggest that they call witnesses? >> yes. i think they should call witnesses. i think that was one of the problems with the last, quote, unquote, trial, is that they didn't actually hold a trial. they didn't actually hear witnesses. and historically, that's not how you conduct any trial of any sort, including an impeachment trial. at the trial of william belnap, secretary of war in 1876, who
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resigned two hours before being impeached by the house but nonetheless was tried by the senate who voted 37-29 to hold a trial even though he had been removed from office, they had 40 witnesses. it's supposed to be a trial. by definition, trials have witnesses and, yes, there should be witnesses at this trial, and the senate shouldn't repeat the mistake it made a year ago when it decided to hold a trial that wasn't a trial, because it didn't have witnesses. >> george conway, thank you so much. appreciate your thoughts and expertise as always. >> thanks for having me. we could be weeks away from the new covid variant surging all over the united states. do we all need to do more than just keep our distance and mask up? then during the senate impeachment trial, taking a page out of donald trump's reality tv playbook. how so? stay with us. an air force vee of doing what's right, not what's easy. so when a hailstorm hit, usaa reached out before he could even inspect the damage. that's how you do it right. usaa insurance is made just the way martin's family needs it
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the new infections have dropped almost 20% along with the rate of a number of nationwide hospitalizations. that's good news. but those numbers are still much higher than they were last summer and fall. the death toll in the u.s. is currently more than 463,000. and is averaging more than 3,000 deaths a day, including, sadly, republican congressman ron wright, first sitting member of congress to die from the virus, was 67 years old and represented parts of the dallas, texas, area. he was also battling cancer. as cnn erica hill reports, health officials are also concerned about a mutant variant of the virus spreading rapidly across the united states. >> we have to assume that what happened in the united kingdom is going to happen here with this variant. >> reporter: swift-moving variants now identified in more than 30 states. >> the continued proliferation of variants remains of great concern and is a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing. >> reporter: the cdc says it's
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stepping up sequencing efforts. >> what we need to do as quickly as possible is, obviously, vaccinate the american people. >> reporter: the pace is improving. >> saturday was a remarkable day. we had 1.8 million vaccines administered in the united states. if we can do that every single day, then we'll stay ahead of this. >> reporter: 72% doses distributed in arms. more than 9.5 million people fully vaccinated. another mass vaccination site with a focus on taxi drivers and food service and delivery workers. >> these are folks we all depend on. >> reporter: now hospit hospitalizations and cases dropping. >> this is promising but hospitalizations also remain incredibly high, much higher than the summer and fall. >> reporter: average daily reported deaths stuck above 3,000. and rising in nine states. >> what we're really seeing is still the aftermath of the
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winter holidays, of christmas and new year's. it's six to eight weeks later, people are dying from the disease. >> reporter: in tampa, super bowl fans partying like it's 2019. prompting concern about what's to come. more states easing restrictions. no more mask mandate in iowa, despite top experts urging otherwise. >> we really need to keep all of the mitigation mep measures in play here if we're really going to get control of this pandemic. >> reporter: the cdc promising new school guidelines this week. columbus, ohio, welcoming fourth and fifth graders back today. >> they felt safe being in their buildings and that felt good as a leader. >> reporter: and after a weeks' long stand-off, tentative agreement to get teachers and kids back to school in chicago. >> i am confident, confident that the measures that we have and will put in place will make our schools even safer than they already are and will be a model for other systems in illinois
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and throughout the country. >> jake, we also learned today that here in new york city, middle school students in the city's public schools are set to return for in-person learning on february 25th. about half of the city's 471 middle schools are ready to bring them back for five days a week. the others will be working toward that. the chancellor noting, jake, the isolation is having a real impact on both families, and educators have spoken up about it, saying the students are suffering. >> good news that those kids will get to go back to school. >> joining me now-to-discuss this and much more, the uk variant is 45% more transmissible than earlier strains that appeared in the u.s. what's the worst case scenario with these variants, whether the uk, south african or any others? >> yeah, jake. first, thanks for having me on. the uk variant, the worst case
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scenario is a huge spike in cases. what we saw in the uk, in ireland, denmark, portugal, other places that have seen this variant take off is just this sort of unrelenting spread that happened very quickly and within weeks overwhelm the health system. obviously, we're starting off at a high level. we've got to do really careful genomic surveillance and try to prevent that kind of a spike. >> dr. fauci says that the uk strain could be the most dominant strain in the u.s. by the end of march. what should the biden administration be doing about all these variants right now? >> yeah. there are a couple of things that are really critical. first of all we need to know where this is spreading. right now we don't have our eyes on the game, as it were. we don't know where exactly it's spreading and how much. we need to do much more of that. second, you know, they've got to continue with their message of making sure people are wearing masks and social distancing.
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what the governor of iowa announced, not helpful at this moechlt this is not the time to let up. third, obviously, keep going on vaccines. what i would love to see is all high-risk, elderly people vaccinated before the strain becomes completely widespread. so these are the things to focus on at this moment to protect the american people. >> south africa is pausing the rollout of the astrazeneca vaccine because it offers less protection against specifically the south african variant. could you see the u.s. potentially doing something similar if an approved vaccine does not have as strong east of offic acy against variants? >> i think right now i'm pretty confident that the moderna and pfizer vaccines will be effective at preventing especially severe disease for the south africa variant. j & j, which is being evaluated by the fda right now, seems to have pretty good efficacy
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against the south africa variant. that, again, needs ongoing monitoring. i'm pretty -- let's say cautiously optimistic that our vaccines will hold up against the south africa variant. >> should people who not yet gotten the vaccine wait for one that's proven to protect against these variants or just get a shot in the arm as soon as possible regardless? >> absolutely get a shot in the arm if it's your turn. 98% of the strains out there are the normal strains we've been dealing with. that's still what's hurting and killing all those americans who are dying of this disease. it's a no principaler f it's your turn to get vaccinated you should get vaccinated if there's an update at some point down the road -- i'm not saying there will be, but we can all deal with that at that point. no reason to wait. >> the variants, we're keeping an eye on them even though they're the minority of all the infections. there are children who got a rare condition that inflames
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organs after they get covid and 30 of these children have died. children, generally speaking, are much lower risk, but obviously -- i don't want to overstate this. this is a minority of the minority in terms of the cases among kids but this can still be very deadly? >> yeah, absolutely. look, no doubt about it, kids get much milder disease, on average, but the bottom line is from the beginning of this pandemic, all of us in the public health sphere have been saying let's not be cavalier. let's not take the sort of herd immunity of let the infection run wild in young people. even though young people do better, there are plenty of them who still end up having complications and there's no reason for it. and what we should do is protect people until we have vaccines that are safe and effective that we can use. >> that doesn't mean as long as the schools are safe that schools should not be reopened,
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though, right? if the kids are wearing masks and schools have proper ventilation and small enough class sizes and all the other steps, and health officials say it's safe to open up the school, you still think that as well? >> absolutely. look, the reason to open schools is not because kids don't get sick from the virus. because there are adults in school, right? teachers and staff. i think there is now very good evidence if we put in the mitigation measures you laid out, jake, that, in fact, schools can be very safe for adults and kids. and that's why we should open them up. of course, there's incredible social value in having kids back in school. but i think they should be made safe and that's the principle we should focus on. >> dr. jha, thank you for. we always appreciate it. president biden's stimulus relief bill, coming from within his own party. stay with us.
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in our politics lead, the white house says president biden plans to watch little, if any of former president trump's impeachment trial. instead he's focused on passing this massive coronavirus relief deal, quote, as quickly as possible. new fractures in the democratic party are threatening to derail that deal, including a public debate over whether or not raising the federal minimum wage should be part of the bill and
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just how many americans should get a $1,400 stimulus check, as cnn's kaitlan collins reports. >> reporter: returning to washington today, president biden immediately faced questions about his predecessor's looming impeachment trial. >> he has an offer to come and testify. he decided not to. let the senate work that out. >> reporter: for weeks, biden has gone out of his way to avoid weighing in on former president trump's fate as aides say he will be too busy to watch the proceedings. >> i think it's clear from his schedule and from his intention, he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings, if any time, over the course of this week. >> reporter: biden is set to counterprogram trump's trial as he attempts to keep the focus on his legislative debut, $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. >> we've already announced his plans to go visit the nih, department of defense. >> reporter: biden has moved on from courting republican support and is now focusing on fast
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tracking the bill with only democrats on his side. >> obviously, it's the most likely path at this point, is through a reconciliation process. >> reporter: but now democrats must battle it out over the bill and whether to include biden's $15 minimum wage proposal, which he hinted in an interview friday wouldn't make the final cut. >> apparently that's not going to occur, because of the rules in the united states senate. >> you're saying minimum wage won't be in this? >> my guess is that it won't be in it. >> reporter: that was before senate parliamentarian had ruled whether the minimum wage requirement could be included. >> who would have told him it wasn't going to make it through likely? >> the president was in congress, in the senate for 36 years. again, it's still not workedity way through the process and that can take a bit of time. we certainly defer to the parliamentarian. >> reporter: while biden seemed ready to move on without the minimum wage increase included for now, other progressives are still pushing for it. >> i can tell you as chairman of
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the budget committee we have a roomful of lawyers working as hard as we can to make the case to the parliamentarian that, in fact, raising the minimum wage will have significant budget implications. >> reporter: jake, democrats are also planning a child tax credit part of this coronavirus relief proposal. right now the framework is about $3,600 per child under 6 years of age, $3,000 going up until 17 years of age. that would phase out depending how much money the parents were making, about $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 for couples. though we should note that is far from final and it's still got to go through the senate as they're working on this proposal right now as it is. >> kaitlan, white house press secretary jen psaki trying to clean up president biden's comment as after he told nora o'donnell that former president trump should not get intelligence briefing because of
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his erratic behavior. >> reporter: yeah, jake, that was news in and of itself that a current president would say about a former president. former presidents receive that as a courtesy. this is not a final decision president biden has made, aides say, and they will still rely on those intelligence officials for what this decision should be. >> he was expressing his concern about former president trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information, if at any point the former president requests a briefing. >> reporter: that last part there is also critical to this, jake. i later asked jen psaki to clarify has president trump asked for an intelligence briefing, and she said not that she knows of. >> they could blame this all on trump's former deputy of national intelligence, sue gordon, who is the one who raised this. i don't know why they're handling this so clumsily. kaitlan collins, thank you so
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much. appreciate t. let's bring in the team to discuss. gloria, let's start with the balancing act for democrats. >> yeah. >> you heard kaitlan detailing the splits in the democratic party, specifically over the minimum wage and stimulus check, who should get them, what the threshold is for income. is there a risk here that biden's first big bet, this covid relief deal, ends up falling apart? >> there is a risk. and let me tell you, two words. joe manchin. joe manchin is somebody who is a very moderate democrat in west virginia. and he came out and said -- he got other moderates to agree with him to say, look, i don't want it to be 150,000. i would rather it were $100,000 top earning per couple, if you're to get these stimulus checks. now it's much more than that. i think there's going to have to be some give on the targeting of these stimulus checks, and the president has indicated that that might be okay with him. the minimum wage, you know, you heard bernie sanders say they're going to try to find a way to
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make this happen, but the president kind of threw in the towel when he spoke with nora o'donnell and that's got lots of progressives upset. so he has got to keep his 50 votes together. and that's becoming more and more difficult. >> meanwhile, ayesha, biden and senate democrats for talking about the stimulus check being $1,400 for individuals the way they get that figure is you combine with the december checks for $600 per individuals that makes $2,000. but after the december deal passed in january, biden, harris, warnock and ossof in georgia weren't talking about a $1400 stimulus check but $2,000. this say broken promise in the view of progressives. is that fair? >> well, you know, i think this is something that was dealt with, as you said earlier, this was something that was dealt with a bit clumsily, this issue
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of whether the $600 was a down payment on, you know, what -- and they would get $2,000, but certainly some voters likely heard that they were going to get $2,000 checks and now they're talking about $1,400 checks and it may not even go to the same people or not as many people may get the $1,400 checks. this is something about messaging, and the message that you set forth, and being clear when you're campaigning and making those promises exactly what people are going to get. because they're going to know what shows up in their bank account. >> yeah. >> you know, i am skeptical of whether people -- or how much, you know, individuals are really looking at, am i going to get $1,400, $2,000? i think that because they got the $600 in the past, i'm not sure whether voters, how much they will hold democrats to account for that. but overall, people are looking for help.
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they're looking for something that is going to make a difference. and i think if they don't see some material changes in their own predicaments and their own life, that's what democrats will have to pay a price for. >> gloria, while dealing with all of this, the new senate majority leader chuck schumer is trying to fend off possible primary challengers from the progressive left at home in new york, "the new york times" writes, quote, armed with a sweeping set of policy promises, courting oregoners and in connection generation officials who would likely make up the backbone of any effort to dethrone him should one ever arise. it's kind of the ed markey approach. >> right. >> to keeping his senate seat, fending off the challenge from joe kennedy. is there a risk that if it's a smaller than expected covid deal that could hurt schumer? >> sure. look, he's trying to cover his left flank. and it's a really large problem. i mean, you have aoc out there saying that you can't cut back
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the income level of those who were entitled to get these checks, pushing for the minimum wage increase, and you have the president listening to moderates within his own party. he's also listening to some republicans on that to target the stimulus a little bit more. everybody knows joe biden of yore is somebody who actually liked to negotiate and cut these deals, but he feels pressure from the left as well. so, where they end up is going to be very important to chuck schumer. >> ayesha, meanwhile, republicans are dealing with much bigger fights over much more ridiculous issues. the issue of whether or not they should double down with liars and conspiracy theorists. axios is reporting republican leader kevin mccarthy tried to get liz cheney to apologize for voting to impeach president trump. she did not. she's still not backing down. take a listen. >> we have to make sure that we
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are able to convey to the american voters, we are the party of responsibility. we are the party of truth, that we actually can be trusted to handle the challenges this nation faces, like covid, and that's going to require us to focus on substance and policy and issues going forward. but we should not be embracing the former president. >> we should not be embracing trump. how many republicans do you think agree with her? >> well, publicly, i don't think you're going to get a whole bunch of them. you'll have the liz cheneys of the world, mitt romney in the senate and some others, ben sasse, but you're not going to have -- and we've seen in the senate, in the house that you're not going to have that support or that turning away from former president trump. you're just not seeing that. liz cheney has basically said hold the vote. she's still in her number three spot. so now she is emboldened and is
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making a bet. you know, it can happen. she may be standing on principle, that the idea that this party -- that trump cannot be the future of the republican party. that is a stance she's taking. it will be interesting to see in the future what voters say. what does the base of the republican party say? right now, they have not broken with trump. so will they make the liz cheneys of the world and others who have been critical, will they make them pay? and because they're the ones that are really going to decide what the republican party is. >> ayesha rascoe, gloria borger, thanks so much. we'll be right back. the lasting cologne scent of old spice dynasty helps get you off your couch. and into the driver's seat.
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in conflict of interest watch in our politics looed, in december i had a simple request for then president biden joe biden. will your brothers, will your son take leave from any business interests, not just foreign, but any business interests that might create any even appearance of improprimpropriety? >> my son, my family will not be in business with any enterprise that appears to be a conflict, whether there's appropriate distance from the presidency and government. >> it's not clear, however, if the florida law firm that the president's brother, frank, works for is honoring that pledge. frank biden is a senior adviser for the burman law group. he's not an attorney, but a senior adviser, profiled
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prominently on the firm's website, featuring frank's ties to the president in a florida newspaper ad that happened to run on inauguration day. to discuss, let's bring in the office of government in ethics. before angry tweets we should note that walter has been a fierce critic of sleaze that happened during the trump years. he has been consistent. let's talk about the bidens, if we can, walter. this law firm filed two lawsuits against china related to the pandemic. the firm told cnn, quote, there's been no discussions between the firp, including frank biden, with president biden, the law firm or any cases including china-related matters nor will there be. the white house says family representatives have addressed potential conflicts of interests. is there a problem with at least the appearance oarance of a con interest? >> i think there is a problem
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here. and it's an appearance problem, admittedly, but appearance matters in a period when we're trying to rebuild after what was inarguably the most unethical presidency in our history. we have joe biden coming in as a reformer, and having pledged that there would be a real distance between him and his family, and already we've seen frank biden's law firm touting his connection to the firm and noting that he's a relative of the president's. you know, i think it's not enough for the white house to tell us they have a mysterious process of some sort. i would like them to tell us what that process is. and although it's not required by the rules, we're in a period when we're rebuilding from ethical failures so i would like to hear the president say that he has asked his brother to stop touting the connection to the white house. now, he can't control his brother, but he certainly can reassure us that he has asked him. he can share what the process
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they put in place is, and he can also ask that all of his political appointees will refrain from dealings with the law firm and defer to career government officials to handle any matters that arise. i think that would go a long way to resolving the appearance concern, and i hope they'll do that, because they haven't done it yet. >> a white house spokesperson tells cnn that the president, quote, has pledged an absolute wall with any family members' private business interest, anything to the contrary is is flatly untrue and inconsistent with the facts, unquote. there's another relative in the h headlines. the family name will likely help the president's son, hunter biden. again, he has a book due out in april, about his struggles with addiction. the president recently talked about this and about his son's progress. take a listen. >> the honesty with which he stepped forward and talked about the problem and the hope that it
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gave me hope reading it. i mean, it was like, my boy's back. do you know what i mean? >> he gets very emotional, obviously, because the president has been through so much tragedy in his family and, obviously, hunter's struggles are part of that. hunter announced this right after his father took office. his addiction was a main target for critics during the campaign. i know everyone watching hopes for the very, very best for hunter and understands that his story can be inspirational, but what do you make of this book deal as a government ethicist, do you have an issue with it? >> i think it's important that joe biden has empathy, unlike the last president, and cares deeply about his son. but i think as we're rebuilding ethics, it would be better for the president not to be on television talking about having read his son's book. and i think the fact that he
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started talking about it the same week as the marketing effort of the firm that's publishing the book announced the publication date is very unfortunate. this was a lost opportunity to say, we're going to model government ethics by refraining from talking about the book. now i'm happy to tell you how proud i am of my son but we're not going to talk about the book. instead, he said that he read the book and praised it. >> yeah. although, we should note -- and i know, walter, you've been very outspoken on this. this is apples to alligators when it comes to the trump team. the republican national committee was buying donald trump jr.'s book. thank you very much. appreciate your efforts. we'll be right back. ugh, there's that cute guy from 12c. -go talk to him. -yeah, no. plus it's not even like he'd be into me or whatever. ♪ ♪ this could be ♪ hi. you just moved in, right? i would love to tell you about all the great savings you can get
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for bundling your renter's and car insurance with progressive. -oh, i was just -- -oh, tammy. i found your retainer in the dryer.
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before we go, we want to take the time to remember one of the 460,000 lives lost to
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coronavirus in the u.s. jacqueline tardif was 29 years old, aerospace engineer in california. she helped design and build space satellites. her mother says her daughter, jackie, was strongwilled, fierce defender of those disadvantaged and taught science and technology outreach programs. jackie was born and raised in maryland where her family is planning memorial service for next weekend. to the tardif family, our deepest condolences. may her memory be a blessing. our coverage continues on cnn right now. we're following what is expected to be a very historic week in the united states. involving some critical decisions for the americans of the u.s. senate. less than 24 hrs