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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Democrats Moving Forward on COVID-19 Relief Bill; Internal Republican Feud; CDC: More Women, White People Vaccinated Against COVID; Alexey Navalny in Court: Putin is "Little Thieving Man" & "Putin the Poisoner". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 2, 2021 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake.

It's not an exact comparison here. It's not really Greene or Cheney. But the way that this is shaping up, it's really becoming about and the future of the Republican Party. Is it going to be the party of Cheney or the party of Green?

We're hoping to find that answer out tomorrow, when the Republican Conference meets behind closed doors to hash out some of these issues.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Ryan, thank you so much.

Appreciate it.

One challenge for Republicans is that, for the last five years now, the head of the Republican Party spewed a never-ending sewage stream of conspiracy theories. President Trump, from New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11 on rooftops. Didn't happen. To Ted Cruz's dad was part of the Kennedy assassination. Didn't happen. To George Soros' funding Latin American caravans to come to this country to destroy us. Didn't happen.

All the way through the big election lie. It's tough to argue that Marjorie Taylor Greene is doing anything new.

And let's discuss right now with Mary Katharine Ham and Michael Eric Dyson. Michael joins us. He's the author of the book "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America."

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Mary Katharine, let me start with you.

I mean, it's great that Mitch McConnell is condemning the -- quote -- "loony lies" peddled by Congresswoman Greene. But that's hardly the first loony lie that we have heard in the last five years from the Republican side of the aisle.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's not. And it won't surprise you to find out that I'm with Mitch on his assessment -- excuse me -- Senator McConnell -- I shouldn't use Cocaine Mitch so cavalierly -- on his assessment of Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Look, they have put up with all of this nonsense from Trump for years, but he is gone now, which is why it's even more frustrating for some Republicans to watch as there is this seeming inability to knock down this kind of stuff, right?

And, by the way, what I don't understand from McCarthy, who took away Representative -- rightly, Represented Steve King's committees when he said stuff that was way beyond the pale, what is the justification for not doing it to Greene? This seems clearly at the same level of rhetoric and problematic.

And, like, I get maybe you don't go to expulsion, because the people have a right to elect who they elect. But I don't understand that part of it. And the Republican Party does have to figure out if it is a party where the energy is devoted to punishing a Cheney for going up against Trump, who is now no longer the president, or if it's party whose energy is directed at not punishing Greene.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAM: Like, I find it remarkable. It is a real contrast that they have to deal with. And it's toxic to the very voters in suburban areas that Trump lost that the Republican Party should be in the business of trying to get back.

TAPPER: And, Michael, Democrats have threatened to expel Greene from our committees if Republicans won't do it.

But Politico reports this today -- quote -- "Members on both sides are already privately talking about how this could set the House down the path of mutually assured destruction, with one party going directly after members of the other, depending on which side is in power" -- unquote.

Do you share any of those concerns?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Not at all.

The problem with that, of course, is that they're doing false equivalencies. If our party ends up saying something ridiculous, and consternating to the rest of the American public and to its constituency, then we should be in advance protecting them.

You should be willing to subject yourself to the same litmus test. If a member of our party says something as ludicrous and as lunatic as what sister Marjorie is doing, then we should be willing to put them out.

So they shouldn't be hamstrung by that.

But let's go back to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the baby. The Republican Party is the womb. They have produced him. To cry crocodile tears now, to suggest that, oh, my God, this is not us, yes, it is.

To suggest that this is not what the Republican Party has been about ever since this nation has seen Richard Nixon and his attempt to -- with the Southern Strategy, to manipulate black voters, or at least white voters against black voters, to engage in 106 bills in 28 states to undermine the voting, especially of African-American people, the neofascism, the anti-Semitism, the racism, this is the brand of the Republican Party.

So, of course, even though Donald Trump is gone, the tentacles of those beliefs are sucking the blood from the Republican vision. And the Republican imagination has always been distorted by this white supremacist temptation.

Now it's just explicit. Thank God for Donald Trump. He put it on front street. The question is now, can the Republicans recover a sense of gravitas and argue and understand that what this reveals about them is quite ugly, and they have to root it out?

It's not just Donald Trump. It's Lindsey Graham. It's Mitch McConnell. And it's Marjorie Greene and a bunch of others.

TAPPER: Mary Katharine?

HAM: Well, I would say that both parties have a little bit of an issue, as they always have, with sort of relegating the more fringe members of their parties and figuring out how to discipline them.

The Democrats have had to sort of twice very lightly condemn Ilhan Omar for anti-Semitic remarks that have been made in public very clearly.

[16:35:05]

I would argue too that the problem with Dyson's argument, with due respect, is that if you make everyone into Donald Trump, there is no Donald Trump. Like, is Donald Trump actually a unique threat who was different, or is everyone all the way down just the same? Because it can't be both.

And I think that McConnell is trying to separate from that, and I would argue that in the past could have been much stronger, right? But he's attempting to do that. And McCarthy made attempts to do that as well, as I would suggest that he do.

But they're not all the same exact unique threat. And if you think, then there is no escape from the era of Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: And that may, in fact, be your belief.

TAPPER: Yes.

Michael, I will give you the last word.

DYSON: Yes, it's a rhetorical sleight of hand. It's a false equivalency. You're missing my argument. My argument is that the Republican Party has been producing volumes of vicious antipathy toward black people, toward brown people, toward immigrants for a long time, and that Donald Trump is merely the hard bigotry of hypocrisy vs. the soft bigotry of lower expectations.

So, my point is that Donald Trump cannot be extricated from the practices of a Republican Party that has been bent on branding itself as the party of those who are white Republicans, which means they are in suburban areas, away from urban areas.

The subtle signals of antipathy toward black people and brown people and other others has been there all along. You haven't addressed the fact that it's been generated from within, not something coming from without.

Donald Trump is a problem from within the Republican Party, not outside it.

TAPPER: We could do two hours on this, and I would love to listen to you guys hash it out.

But, unfortunately, that's all the time we have.

Mary Katharine Ham and Michael Eric Dyson, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. Good to have a good debate on the show.

You can learn more from Michael in his book "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America."

Thanks so much to both of you.

Democrats taking the next step to pass a COVID stimulus bill. What this means for Americans who are desperately waiting for those relief checks.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:40]

TAPPER: In our politics lead today: Democrats are moving forward without Republican support to fast-track that $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

This comes after a two-hour meeting that President Biden held with a group of Senate Republicans. It does not seem like the GOP will get the kind of compromise they're looking for, however, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks for coming down.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The looming question of whether President Biden will go big or go bipartisan on the next pandemic aid bill seemed to get an answer today.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The risk here, as he has said many times, is not going too big. It is going too small. He supports the efforts by Senator Schumer, Leader Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi to move this package forward.

COLLINS: Party leaders are laying the groundwork to pass Biden's $1.9 trillion package without Republican support. Following a virtual meeting with Senate Democrats today, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Biden dismissed a counteroffer from Republicans.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): He said that he told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small.

COLLINS: Republicans left a two-hour meeting at the White House last night upbeat, but with no agreement in hand. The White House said Biden stands by the price tag they urged him to scale back.

QUESTION: After the discussion in the Oval Office last night, is the number from the White House still $1.9 trillion?

PSAKI: It is.

COLLINS: In the next hour, Biden will sign three executive orders designed to roll back former President Trump's immigration policies.

PSAKI: We are trying to repair the damage and the horrific actions of the prior administration.

COLLINS: Biden will create a task force aimed at reuniting hundreds of families still separated as a result of Trump's zero tolerance policy, a major challenge, given the government has struggled to find many of their parents.

PSAKI: We're starting at square one here.

COLLINS: Biden blasted the policy while debating Trump last fall.

BIDEN: Kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 of the sets of those parents, and those kids are alone, nowhere to go, nowhere to go. It's criminal.

COLLINS: Leading Biden's effort to reunite families will be the first confirmed secretary at the Department of Homeland Security in almost two years.

The Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: And, Jake, on top of that, Pete Buttigieg confirmed as the transportation secretary. That means six of Biden's nominees in his Cabinet have now been confirmed by the Senate. But this is all about to come crashing to a halt when Donald Trump's

impeachment trial, his second one, gets started in the Senate next week and takes up all of their time.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Another COVID vaccine issue, battling misinformation and lies, including the false link between Hank Aaron's death and people now refusing to get the shot.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:48:47]

TAPPER: In our health lead today, new CDC data shows white people and women were vaccinated more in the first month of vaccine distribution compared with people of color and men. As for why -- well, the infamous Tuskegee experiment has created a lot of well-earned mistrusts of the medical community, particularly in the black community.

The skepticism is breeding new online conspiracy theories even, including a lie about the recent death of baseball great Hank Aaron, as CNN's Ryan Young now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do believe in COVID. Yes. Yes.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Playmakers Barbershop in Atlanta, the tight fades are blended with energetic and sometimes loud discussions about who's the greatest basketball player of all time.

YANOUS WILLIS, ATLANTA BARBER: My name was Yanous before the basketball player.

YOUNG: But now, COVID-19 stimulus checks and the COVID vaccines are talked about just as passionately.

WILLIS: I really don't trust it because it actually came kind of fast.

YOUNG: Barber Yanous Willis feels strongly that the development of COVID-19 vaccines was rushed and comes with serious side effects.

WILLIS: People that take it, they -- they have Bell's palsy.

[16:50:00]

YOUNG: Outside the shop, James Harris had other concerns.

JAMES HARRIS, ATLANTA RESIDENT: I know the doctor took it. It killed him. And this nurse I know, it killed her. YOUNG: While the CDC and FDA are looking into those and similar

claims around the country, Harris and Willis' beliefs underscores serious concerns for Fulton County Health Director Lynn Paxton and her team, who are fighting the information online about as hard as they're battling the virus itself.

DR. LYNN PAXTON, DIRECTOR, FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH: This vaccine is very effective and very safe.

YOUNG: But it's not easy, especially when rumors spread on social media, like posts claiming baseball legend Hank Aaron died from the vaccine because he received his dose publicly days before passing away. He didn't. The Fulton County medical examiner says he died from natural causes.

But many in Atlanta's black community believed the claim, forcing health officials to speak out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's just important that we quell these kind of rumors.

YOUNG: Which is why Paxton's team is now distributing information in these communities.

PAXTON: Seek out trusted sources for information about the vaccine. Facebook and your neighbor next door's postings are not trusted sources.

YOUNG: Health officials worry misinformation could complicate the process of getting shots in the arms of black and brown communities. New CDC data from the first month of vaccination shows black and Latino people lagging way behind in the state's reporting racial breakdowns. So far, 60 percent of those vaccinated are white, compared to 11.5 percent Latino and just 5.4 percent black.

BERNARD ROYAL, HEALTH CARE WORKER: You're not giving me the option. You're trying to dump it on me.

YOUNG: Misinformation isn't the only issue. History is also a major factor for some, including these black health care workers who are still on the fence about getting the vaccine.

JAMECKA BRITTON, HEALTH CARE WORKER: The hesitancy with the African- American community goes back to the willing malpractice on African- Americans at the Tuskegee experiment.

YOUNG: The awful decades-long study where black men with syphilis weren't informed or treated now playing a role in the uphill battle health officials face in trying to convince an already skeptical community to get the COVID vaccine.

PAXTON: Let's face it, it was a crime against humanity what happened. But that happened ages ago, and because of it, it completely changed the landscape for research.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YOUNG (on camera): Jake, we are in Mercedes-Benz stadium, this is where they're doing a mass vaccination. So many people line up every single day, maybe close to 1,000, but a lot of black people are not showing up. They're talking about going to barbershops, they're talking about getting into the community to talk to more people. I was also told that maybe more sort of sit-downs where people could have conversations about their concerns may help, but this is very tough because obviously they need more people to get those shots -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right.

All right, Ryan. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Vladimir Putin's biggest critic is now headed to prison, but not before he branded the Russian leader with a new nickname. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:41]

TAPPER: In the world lead, a judge in Moscow, part of what critics called a kangaroo court, sentenced Kremlin critic and opposition Alexey Navalny to two and a half years in prison. Navalny called Russian President Vladimir Putin, quote, a little thieving man, Putin the poisoner.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is outside the courthouse in Moscow.

And, Fred, at least at one point, Navalny said, quote, you cannot lock up a whole country, but it does seem like they're trying to lock up a lot of country today.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you're absolutely right, Jake. It certainly seems like they're trying to lock up as many people as possible. In fact, what happened after that verdict came down is that the folks around Alexey Navalny, they called for folks to march around the area where I am near the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin's apparatus just unleashed a massive amount of cops. They surrounded the entire Kremlin, then went street to street and detained an unbelievable amount of people on the streets, often surrounding those people.

An account that we got from an independent organization says that more than 750 people were detain in the Moscow today alone. And you're absolutely right, Alexey Navalny says he believes that he and his supporters are in the majority. You could hear motorists here in Moscow honking as they were driving by, seemingly giving their support to the folks around Alexey Navalny.

I want to read more of the quote that he said there in that trial today. He said, quote: I hope that people don't think this is a trial as a reason to be more scared. You can't jail millions of people. I hope one day they realize that and when they do, all this will crumble apart, he said. And, of course, he was sentenced to spend at least two and a half more

years in prison behind bars. He was then taken away in a van surrounded by police cars, and obviously will serve that time even, though, his lawyer have said they want to go to revision -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Today, we want to take a moment to remember one of the younger victims in this pandemic -- J.J. Boatman of Vernon, Texas. He died suddenly of COVID just weeks after his ninth birthday.

His parents describe J.J. as the life of their home, an excellent student, excited to learn how to skate board and play tennis. J.J. had no known understood lying conditions and he died only one day after he started to experience mild COVID symptoms. What a heartbreaking story.

May J.J.'s memory be a blessing.

And a reminder of the cruelty of this pandemic.

You can follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I will see you tomorrow.

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