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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS); Interview With Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Interview With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI); Interview With White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 7, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:20]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Party rule. President Biden's COVID-19 relief bill passes the Senate after a scramble to get one Democrat on board.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This plan is historic.

TAPPER: But what does the Senate debate mean for the president's agenda?

The man who now holds the key to Democratic priorities, Senator Joe Manchin, and White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, join me to discuss next.

And Neanderthal thinking? States begin to roll back COVID restrictions, as officials warn we could be headed for another spike.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It just is explicable why you would want to pull back now.

TAPPER: I will speak with Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ahead.

Plus: Scandals grow. More accusations of sexual harassment against Governor Andrew Cuomo.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I never touched anyone inappropriately.

TAPPER: And as he faces mounting criticism for his handling of nursing home death data, does the governor still have the support of his people or his party?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is beginning to feel a little hopeful. The pace of vaccinations in America hit two million per day last week, though health experts warn now is not the time to relax restrictions or public health measures. And for the millions of Americans devastated economically, it does

seem that more help is on the way. Saturday, the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which appears headed for President Biden's desk after a final vote in the House on Tuesday.

The package is a sweeping expansion of aid targeting low- and middle- income Americans, including new $1,400 checks, a $300 boost to unemployment benefits, and aid for state and local governments.

And while the package passed with zero Republican support, President Biden hailed the legislation as historic and proof that democracy can still work, though the path was bumpy, even among just Senate Democrats.

On Friday, the Senate came to a chaotic standstill for nearly 12 hours, as Republicans, Democrats and President Biden frantically tried to win the support of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who finally, finally voted with his party after some modifications to the bill.

And joining me now, the man who this week seemed to control all of Washington, D.C., Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Senator Manchin, thanks so much for joining us.

So, after changes that you pushed for, enhanced federal unemployment benefits now expire about a month earlier, and there's a new income cap for writing them off on your taxes, I have to say, you represent one of the lowest-income states in the nation. Why were you fighting for less help for citizens during this cruel economic time?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, Jake, first, let me just say it's always good to be with you, OK?

And next of all, all I did was tried to make sure that we were targeting where the help was needed. Right now, we're getting $300 to people who are unemployed by no fault of their own. I want that to continue seamlessly. I think that, basically, if you look at all the things that we have done in targeting, how we help the families, how we help their children with child tax credits, there was so much more that we were doing.

We're giving more help to individuals than ever before. Three hundred was seamless. It continues on through the end of August, if needed. And that's what we tried to do.

When we put the cap on, Chuck, there -- we have never given -- this is the first time we have ever allowed for tax deduction from your unemployment benefits. And, basically, to be fair for the people out there working all the time paying their share of taxes, that was something we were concerned about also. So, we limited it to $150,000.

We capped it that anybody over $150,000 could not use that offset. Anybody below it that's struggling and working, more the middle class, is able to do that. That was a fair compromise. We worked through that and got it done. TAPPER: I know you're doing the round of shows today, but just to

remind you, I'm Jake, not Chuck.

But your move forced the Senate to stay up all night voting, after you spent the day on calls with Chuck Schumer, even President Biden. You were talking to Senator Portman on the other side.

How much pressure were you under? And what did President Biden have to say to you?

MANCHIN: Well, Jake, on that, he's -- President Biden and I have been friends. I have the utmost respect. I think he's the right person, the right place, at the right time.

We -- our conversations have always been cordial. And anything he's ever said: "Joe, never -- never go against your convictions. Always do what you think is right."

And I always appreciate that encouragement, and we work very well together. Working with all of my other friends back and forth, Jake, sometimes can be challenging. But the bottom line is, that's what it's about, negotiations. I work with my Republicans friends. I work with my Democratic Caucus and my friends.

[09:05:02]

We try to find that middle. With that, sometimes, it gets -- it gets a little frustrating at times. But the bottom line is, at the end result, we got one tremendous piece of legislation.

This bill, Jake, does an awful lot for a long period of time. It basically goes out to 2024. We're getting help to every city, every municipality. Every one of those are going to have help now, then have them basically control their own destiny.

They can fix a water line, a sewer line, Internet, without kowtowing to bureaucratic -- that bureaucratic mess that may be making them jump through hoops. We have done everything we can.

TAPPER: Right.

MANCHIN: We're helping children now more so than ever before. We're making our schools safer. We're making it basically able to get back into the classroom in the safest atmosphere humanly possible. We're helping businesses reopen. The vaccines are getting in people's arms.

We are going to go back to normal. We're going to get to some normal. And the new normal, it's not going to be like the old normal. And it has a chance to be even better.

TAPPER: I know that bipartisanship is very important to you. President Biden says it's important to him as well.

At the end of the day, this legislation passed with no Republican votes in the House, no Republican votes in the Senate. Some Republicans tried to offer to negotiate. It didn't happen. At the end of the day, who do you blame for the fact that this bill

got no Republican support in Congress?

MANCHIN: I never do place blame. What I do place is, basically, we don't have the tolerance to sit down and work more.

But let me tell you, Jake, this was more of a bipartisan bill than you might think. First of all, the president asked for 10 Republicans to come over and see him. That was the first visit to the White House, was my Republican friends and colleagues that went and sat down.

They offered their proposal. They didn't think it was adequate enough to do what President Biden has his vision for America and coming out and making sure that we can recover. I think what he did was correct, but he listened to them. And guess what? For the whole month, Jake, we have worked together.

We have had Democrats and Republicans working together. A lot of the things that I was able to get in are some changes that I was able to do because of the position I am in to hopefully help message that, if you will, made significant changes. We targeted. In this bill, we targeted where help is needed.

We were able to target, basically, the people that need help, the children that need help, the schools that need help, the people on the front line, all of America. That's what we were able to do. And a lot of that was by talking with my colleagues and negotiating back and forth.

And I was able to channel that through, I think, and hopefully make a bill that is a much more encompassing bill. I think it's a great piece of legislation. Going to help a lot of people.

TAPPER: You know, a lot of progressives say, for all that negotiation, none of those people you were working with, Senator Portman or whomever, none of them voted for the bill. And then they point to things got left out.

And let me ask you about one of those things, because one Democratic priority that got dropped from the bill was a minimum wage increase, the federal minimum wage.

MANCHIN: Yes.

TAPPER: And increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was one of President Biden's first campaign promises.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, she singled out you and Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in front of reporters on Capitol Hill last week. She said -- quote -- "The fact that we have two people in this entire country that are holding back a complete transformation in working people's lives, the same people who have held our country together throughout this pandemic, is wrong" -- unquote.

What do you say to her? And on the issue of the federal minimum wage increase, is there any situation where you would go higher than $11 an hour?

MANCHIN: Well, Jake, we're going to go and do something, because there's not one senator out of 100, not one, that does not want to raise the minimum wage, not one.

And with that said, we're going to make that happen. The $15 minimum wage never fit in this piece of reconciliation. Those are the rules of the Senate. And we knew that from day one. They made a big -- I know they made a big issue about this. And I understand.

Everyone has the right, the congresswoman -- and I respect where she's coming from. I respect her input. We have a little different approach. We come from two different areas of the country that have different social and cultural needs.

And, with that, you have to respect everybody. We're going to get that. But it's going to sit down and be done in a bi -- I hope, in more of a collaborative way, bringing to it.

Now, what I have done, Chuck...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: How high would you go? Would you...

MANCHIN: Well, here, let me tell you what needs to be done.

Joe Biden has said anybody that goes to work -- and I believe this with all my heart -- if you go to work every day, you should at the end of the day be above the minimum guidelines as far as poverty guidelines. You should be above that.

That should be the absolute low base. Well, when you do it, and you figure the numbers, Chuck, it comes out to $11. That's how I got to $11. And we can do that very quickly too within a couple of years.

Once we get to $11, then it should be indexed for inflation, so it never becomes a political football again. It should be the respect to the dignity work always being above the minimum wage of what the guidelines for poverty is and being able to lift yourself way far above that by your skill sets and your determination.

[09:10:13]

And that's all we're saying. And that's what we have been trying to.

TAPPER: Yes.

MANCHIN: We -- this is -- that's the easiest lift of all.

When you have that many people that want to raise the minimum wage from being sinfully low at $7,25 to above the poverty guidelines...

TAPPER: Yes.

MANCHIN: ... let's do it, and let inflation take us from the standpoint, indexing it, so we never fall below that.

TAPPER: Senator, let me ask you.

MANCHIN: Sure.

TAPPER: We only have a couple of minutes left.

MANCHIN: OK.

TAPPER: But I want to ask you about one of the issues coming to Capitol Hill.

You have not yet said whether you're going to support or oppose President Biden's pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. What are your reservations about that nominee? Will he be able to expect your support?

MANCHIN: Well, I have spoke to Xavier, and we had a great conversation. We're supposed to meet. We have sent out some questions that we wanted answers for.

I haven't had time, Jake, in all honesty, to really work on those nominations while we're in this -- the whole thing with the most important piece of legislation that we could possibly have, the COVID relief package.

But we will get to that next week as we go back. And I look forward to sitting down and learning more about that and moving forward.

I have always been -- I always given discretion to the president wanting to put his team together. Any executive should put their team together. And I try to do that to the best of my ability.

TAPPER: You used to be a governor.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Let me ask you about Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

He's facing multiple allegations of inappropriate conduct or sexual harassment by a number of former female aides on the record.

MANCHIN: Yes.

TAPPER: One former staffer, Charlotte Bennett, called Cuomo a textbook abuser.

Do you believe the women who have come forward? Should Governor Cuomo resign?

MANCHIN: Jake, these allegations are serious, but I believe you need to let this investigation go forward. They're looking into it, the attorney general. They're looking into that.

So, let's see and wait until the -- wait until that investigation is completed before you have a rush to judgment. I have seen that happen, and it doesn't work well. The rule of law is our bedrock of who we are as a country. And I want to make sure that everyone has their opportunity and fair chance. And let the investigation come forth.

And then the results will come probably based on that. And that's what it should be.

TAPPER: I have more questions for you on that.

MANCHIN: I know you do.

TAPPER: But I'm told we're out of time, and you have other interviews to do.

Thank you so much, Senator. Appreciate it.

MANCHIN: Hey, Jake, thanks for having me, as always. Enjoyed being with you.

TAPPER: Always good to have you, sir.

Democrats spent Friday scrambling to please Senator Manchin. How will that dynamic affect President Biden's priorities going forward? White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield joins me next.

Plus: We are so close to being out of this national nightmare, but are decisions by some governors to loosen COVID restrictions now going to prolong our suffering?

I will ask the governor of Mississippi. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:16:05]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

President Biden's signature COVID relief bill passed a major hurdle yesterday, when 50 Senate Democrats signed on to the aid package, but after the Senate made changes to lower direct payments on Americans and lose a minimum wage increase.

The administration's next challenge, OK -- of course, is getting the OK from progressives in the House on what just passed the Senate.

Joining me now, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield.

Kate, thanks for joining us.

So, some progressives, such as Representatives Bowman and Tlaib have said that they were open to voting against the COVID relief bill because it got too watered-down in the Senate, in their view. As you know, it will only take five Democrats in the House to tank the bill. Two moderates already voted no the first time.

Do you have enough votes? KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, this is

a historic and transformational piece of legislation that the Senate just passed. It is going to cut child poverty in half, in part by making a historic investment in the child tax credit.

It's going to fund a vaccine program that is going to get this virus under control. It's going to get money out to schools, so that they can reopen, so that kids can go back to school and we're not losing a generation of kids to this crisis.

So, look, this is an incredibly transformational, frankly, progressive piece of legislation. You heard Senator Sanders say that this was the best piece of legislation for working people in the modern history of this country.

This is a bill that reflects President Biden's belief that the best way to get the economy back on track and get it growing is to invest in working people and middle-class people.

TAPPER: Right.

BEDINGFIELD: So, this is a reflection -- this is a reflection of President Biden's values. It is urgent aid that is going to help people all across the country, but it's also making a long-term investment in helping working people and middle-class people get back on their feet.

TAPPER: So...

BEDINGFIELD: So, we're very hopeful. We are very hopeful that the House is going to move quickly to pass this legislation.

TAPPER: I get that you think it's a major piece of progressive legislation. The question is, what about Congressman Bowman? What about Congresswoman Tlaib? Are they going to vote for it?

So, I will ask you again, do you have the votes?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, they will make that judgment.

We certainly hope so. Again, I think, if you look at what their constituents need, if you look at what people all across this country need, the American Rescue Plan addresses that. It gets -- it's going to get $1,400 checks into the hands of 85 percent of households in this country. It's the single biggest direct payment in -- I think, in the modern history of the country.

TAPPER: Right.

BEDINGFIELD: But this is money that working people need.

For a family of four making $100,000, they're going to get just over $5,000 in direct payments. That's money that people need to get back on -- back on their feet. There's money for small businesses in this package.

So, I think, if you're a member of Congress, and you're looking to...

TAPPER: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: ... at what is the best thing that you can do quickly to help people in your district, I think it's passing this bill.

So, we're certainly hopeful that the House is going to move quickly.

TAPPER: Let's look forward.

It now seems clear that you will need 60 votes if you want to raise the federal minimum wage in the Senate. That means you will need to win over at least 10 Republicans, not to mention Joe Manchin.

I know President Biden supports a $15 federal minimum wage. There are not even 50 votes in the Senate for that. You just heard Manchin say he supports $11 an hour. Some Republicans, such as Romney and Cotton, say that they would support $10 an hour.

If a $10 minimum wage bill came to the Resolute Desk, would President Biden sign it?

BEDINGFIELD: President Biden supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That is where he stands. That's where he's stood for a long time. He believes strongly that that's the level at which people in this country who are working full-time can make a living wage and not be living in poverty.

And he believes that's a fundamental matter of values. He doesn't believe that anybody in this country should work full-time...

TAPPER: I get that.

BEDINGFIELD: ... and be living -- and be living in poverty.

But what I would say, Jake, is, there are currently...

TAPPER: But you don't even have 50 votes for that.

[09:20:00]

BEDINGFIELD: But there are currently no active discussions about lowering the threshold.

These are details that are going to get worked out. We just -- the Senate just passed our American Rescue Plan, this massive effort to get aid to people who need it across the country and make these investments.

So, we're going to -- the conversation is going to turn to how we tackle the minimum wage. And the president is looking forward to working with Congress to determine the best way to do it.

But what I can say to you right now, is the president is committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. TAPPER: So, raising the minimum wage, of course, is not the only

Democratic priority at stake. You have voting rights legislation, health care, climate change, immigration reform, all of these things Biden laid out that he wants to accomplish, and all of them unlikely to pass with 60 votes.

There are new calls now to end the filibuster. Now, I know you and I have talked about this for a long time. President Biden historically has said he opposes ending the filibuster in the Senate. Is that still his position?

BEDINGFIELD: It is. it is still his position. His preference is not to end the filibuster.

He wants to work with Republicans, to work with independents. He believes that we're stronger when we build a broad coalition of support.

And, look, I would say look at what we have been able to do in the first six weeks that we have been in office with the filibuster in place. We just passed a $1.9 trillion rescue plan that's going to make a massive difference in the lives of people all across the country.

TAPPER: With no Republican votes, though.

BEDINGFIELD: We have been able to -- but we were able to get it done.

Look, it's a 50/50 Senate. We understand that. We are going to have to navigate our way through a 50/50 Senate. That's the -- that is the -- that's the situation that we're facing. But, look -- but we were able to...

TAPPER: But you got this done with the reconciliation rules that only require 50 votes. I mean, that's how you were able to do this.

BEDINGFIELD: But we also...

TAPPER: Other -- other bills, you won't be able to do that.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, but we also got it done with the support of 75 percent of the American people, including over 50 percent of Republicans, American voters, who heard President Biden's -- heard him lay out his proposal, believed that he had the right approach, that this was the right plan, and they rallied behind it.

So, we were able to pass this legislation with massive bipartisan support across the country. I mean, you had I think it was something like 400 governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats, come out in support of the Rescue Plan.

So, President Biden, as I say, his preference is not to get rid of the filibuster. But look at all we have been able to do. We have also been able to rejoin the Paris climate agreement.

TAPPER: Right. No, I get it.

I only have a minute left. I only...

BEDINGFIELD: We have been able to repeal the Muslim ban. We have been able to make...

TAPPER: Yes, I only have a minute left.

BEDINGFIELD: Sure.

TAPPER: So, I do want to get this question in.

BEDINGFIELD: Sure.

TAPPER: President Biden will not directly sanction Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for bin Salman's approval, for MBS' approval of the operation to murder "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It's clear that President Biden believes that maintaining America's relationship with the Saudis is more important than holding the crown prince directly responsible.

But I have to ask, didn't MBS, didn't the crown prince already make that calculation that murdering Khashoggi was more important than the U.S.-Saudi relationship? Hasn't that decision that the murder is more important than the relationship already been made?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I would -- I would dispute the way you frame that.

I mean, President Biden has been very clear this was a horrific, unacceptable crime. It is not something that the Americans -- that we, as Americans, are going to tolerate moving forward. He made that clear to the Saudi government. We have made that clear at all levels of the administration.

We have taken concrete steps. We have sanctioned individuals and networks who were involved in that crime.

TAPPER: But not MBS.

BEDINGFIELD: We have put in place the Khashoggi rule to -- but -- but what we have done, we have also been transparent.

We have put forward -- we have put forward the report that unequivocally details his role in this crime. That's something the previous administration didn't do. We have made a commitment to transparency and accountability. That's incredibly important.

But we also have to make decisions that benefit the United States' interests in the region. And we have to make decisions that help us do things like end the war in Yemen and end the humanitarian crisis there and defend against Iran and its proxies. We have to make those decisions.

So, we have been very clear that we are recalibrating our relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have made it clear to the Saudis unequivocally this is not tolerable. We have put the report forward detailing their specific involvement in the crime.

TAPPER: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: And we have taken concrete actions to sanction individuals who were involved.

TAPPER: Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, thank you so much for joining us this Sunday. We really appreciate it.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, Jake. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: President Biden accused my next guest, among others, of Neanderthal thinking. Dr. Fauci called his decision inexplicable.

Republican Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves will respond next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:28:00]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Texas and Mississippi's governors are facing criticism this week after the decisions to roll back statewide mask mandates, despite advice from health experts, who warn it's still too soon to back off such safety measures.

Joining us to discuss his decision, the Republican governor of Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves.

Governor Reeves, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to start with your decision to end Mississippi state-imposed mask mandates and restrictions on businesses.

Take a listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say about that decision this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: It just is inexplicable why you would want to pull back now. I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you're only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The CDC just released a study that said areas with no mask mandates or dining restrictions experience increased -- pardon me -- increased rates of infection and death.

Health experts believe that, because of your decisions, Mississippians will unnecessarily get sick and die. What's your response?

GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): Well, Jake, thanks for having me on today. I always appreciate the opportunity. And the fact of the matter is that all of these individuals who for a

year have said follow the science follow the data now want me, when things are going down, to completely ignore the data.

The facts is, in America, we're seeing approximately 70,000 cases a day. Mississippi is 1 percent of the U.S. population, and, therefore, we should be seeing about 700 cases a day, if we were on par with the U.S. The fact is, our seven-day average is under 450 cases.

But, Jake, I will tell you, the total number of cases, even though we're about 40 percent below the national average, I'm less concerned about number of cases and more concerned about our objective. Our objective in Mississippi has never been to rid ourselves of the virus or make sure that no Mississippian actually gets the virus, because we don't think that's a realistic goal.

[09:30:00]

Our goal is to ensure that we protect the integrity of our health care system, such that every single Mississippian that gets the virus that can get better with quality care receives that quality care.

And, therefore we look much more closely from a data standpoint at hospitalizations, number of Mississippians in the ICU, number of Mississippians on ventilators. And the fact of the matter is, all of those numbers have plummeted in our state over the last two months.

TAPPER: Yes. So, but here's the...

REEVES: Plummeted.

TAPPER: I don't think anybody's saying ignore the data. I think they're saying we're not there yet.

And we have been through this before. Back in September, when cases were roughly the same level they are now, you lifted Mississippi's statewide mask mandate then and relaxed social distancing requirements then.

At the time, you said -- quote -- "It was a very turbulent summer, but we have come out on the other side." But then cases began to rise again. And you ultimately went through an even worse surge over the winter. More than 3,000 Mississippians lost their lives during that time.

We know more people are likely to get sick and die without mask mandates. That's what the science says. Why is this a trade-off you're willing to make, given the fact that we have really been here before?

REEVES: Well, the fact is that, in our state throughout this pandemic, our approach has been to not only protect lives, but to also protect livelihoods.

We have to get our economy rolling, so that individuals can get back to work. And I think that's critically important. Let's talk a little bit about -- a little bit more about the data. The

fact is that, at our peak, we had 1,450 Mississippians in hospital beds because of the virus. Today, that number is below 400. At our peak, we had 360 Mississippians in ICU beds. At this point, that number is below 120.

The fact is, we have seen significantly reduced levels. And, oh, by the way, unlike President Biden, who wants to insult Americans and insult Mississippians, I actually trust Mississippians to make good decisions. They have proven throughout the last year that they can do so. And that's something that I think is very important.

The fact is, the numbers don't justify government interaction at the levels that we're seeing in other states.

TAPPER: Mississippians are watching right now. I understand you're lifting the mask mandate. But do you still think that it's a good idea for them to wear masks when they're in public indoors, around other people? Is that something you would recommend, even if you're not mandating it?

REEVES: I don't only recommend it. I encourage it.

If you have not received the vaccination, and you are going into a large crowd, or if you're going out to dinner, I strongly encourage Mississippians and people across the country to wear a mask, because I believe that it does, in fact, reduce the ability of individuals to spread the virus. No question about that, Jake.

TAPPER: Only about 9 percent of Mississippi residents have been fully vaccinated, 9 percent.

The governor of neighboring Alabama, Republican Kay Ivey, she's extending her mask mandate for another month. Why not do the same thing, so that you can get more of your constituents vaccinated before relaxing precautionary measures?

We all want to go back to normal. The fear is, if you do this, it's going to take longer to actually get back to normal.

REEVES: Well, I should start by saying I love and appreciate Governor Ivey over in Alabama. She's a great friend of mine and has been for many, many years.

But when you look at the numbers in Mississippi, it doesn't justify government intervention. It just simply does not. It doesn't -- it doesn't justify statewide mask mandates. We -- you have made a very valid point earlier that statewide mask mandates have not been in effect in our state over the last six months. And we're not going back to that.

But let's talk a little bit about vaccinations, and particularly as the numbers look at it. In terms of vaccinations, in America over the last week, we have done, on average, two million vaccinations per day. Again, Mississippi is 1 percent of the U.S. population. On Friday, we did 28,000 shots in arms. We're 40 percent above the national average. So, it's the combination of the virus spreading in our state at about

a level that's 40 percent below the national average, total number of inoculations 40 percent above the national average. It matters how effective you are in your state in terms of getting shots in arms.

And, right now, our number one, number one tool against the virus is putting shots in arms. And we're doing it as well as anyone in the nation.

TAPPER: Well, I hope in my heart that you're right and that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky are wrong, but they just strongly disagree with you.

I do want to move on to some other issues, though, because more than two weeks after that historic winter storm wreaked havoc across the South, thousands of residents in your state capital of Jackson, Mississippi, still don't have access to running water. And those who do are under boil-water advisories.

[09:35:02]

Why hasn't this crisis yet been resolved? What are you doing to fix it?

REEVES: Well, first of all, let me say this about Dr. Walensky.

I will just say that she's wrong when it -- when she talks about getting kids in school. In Mississippi, our kids have been in school since the first week of August. And every kid in America deserves a quality education. And you -- the best way to get a quality education is to have a kid in the classroom.

With respect to the water crisis in Jackson, this is something that has been in the making for not only years and years, but actually decades and decades. It's -- it's the fact that a large number of municipalities in our state and around the country have ignored routine maintenance.

And because you do that over many years, you put yourself in a very difficult position. It is terribly unfortunate that so many good people throughout the city of Jackson have had struggles getting running water.

But I want you to know something, Jake. That includes the residence that I live in. For three days, I had no running water. For a week after that, it was very limited in terms of water pressure. And that's just inexplicable and inexcusable.

And so what we're trying to do, right now, we're in response mode. We have delivered almost a million bottles of water to the residents of the state of Mississippi.

TAPPER: Yes.

REEVES: I have activated the Mississippi National Guard. We have tankers that have been moved from our military installations around the state into the city to provide non-potable water. TAPPER: Yes.

REEVES: And it's something that I think we're going to have to continue to work on.

Long term, the solution, Jake, is that we have got to invest in our infrastructure. And I was -- it was very interesting to hear Senator Manchin say that, in this COVID relief bill, that we can actually use some of the money to invest in water and sewer systems.

TAPPER: Yes.

REEVES: Now, while I think that's ridiculous that they spent $1.9 trillion on things other than what is needed for the virus, if that's an option, I -- we're going to certainly...

TAPPER: OK.

REEVES: ... do everything we can to utilize it.

TAPPER: Before you go, Governor, former President Trump and his allies have now for months and months continued to spread the false and dangerous lie that the election was stolen.

You were not part of that campaign, but I want to ask you a simple yes-or-no question, because your answer a few weeks ago to a colleague kind of raised my eyebrows.

Do you accept that Joe Biden is the legitimate, lawfully accepted -- the lawfully elected president of the United States?

REEVES: President Biden is the president of the United States.

TAPPER: But was he legitimately and lawfully elected?

REEVES: In our state, we don't allow mail-in voting.

In our state, we do not allow mail-in voting. And the reason we don't allow mail-in voting is because we don't think that it -- we think that it allows for lots of opportunities for fraud and other things. And I don't think mail-in voting should be allowed in other states around the nation.

But President Biden is the duly elected president. And we're going to do everything we can to work with him to help the citizens of Mississippi.

TAPPER: There are lots of states that Trump won where there's mail-in voting, including Florida, including Ohio, including Utah.

I hear you saying Joe Biden is the president. I do not hear you saying he was legitimately elected.

FBI Director Chris Wray, former Attorney General Bill Barr have both stated there was no widespread voter fraud, none that could have affected the outcome of the November election. Republican after Republican, Ducey in Arizona, Kemp in Georgia, your colleagues, judge after judge have rejected this -- rejected this argument.

This is a dangerous conspiracy theory that tens of millions of people believe. It inspired a domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol.

Yes or no, do you accept that the 2020 presidential election was free and fair? Obviously, every election has some questions, but I'm talking about free and fair, legitimately elected Joe Biden. Yes or no?

REEVES: As you said, Jake, every election has some questions. And this one was no different.

President Biden is the duly elected president of the United States, that he was certified by all 50 states either having won or lost. He lost my state by 20 points. But he was certified in each of the individual states. He was certified by the U.S. Congress. And he's the duly elected president.

TAPPER: All right.

REEVES: But that doesn't mean that we don't have bad laws on the books in other states. It's just a fact.

TAPPER: All right. Some people might point to Mississippi laws and point to bad laws. I hear you.

But you did say he's duly elected, so I will take that as an answer.

Governor Tate Reeves, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.

REEVES: Thanks for having me on, Jake. Always a pleasure.

TAPPER: He was a Democratic hero, and now it's not even clear he can keep his job. Has New York's governor lost the confidence of his own party?

I will ask another powerful Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:21]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

With a third COVID vaccine being distributed across the United States, public health experts say they're beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

And governors in states across the country, from South Carolina, to Michigan, to California, are beginning to relax some of their health restrictions.

But how do those moves square with Dr. Fauci's new warning that the U.S. could be headed for another spike? Joining me now, Democratic Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer.

Thanks so much for joining us, Governor Whitmer.

You have begun easing capacity restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in Michigan. And you're allowing nursing home visitations to resume.

The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says now is the time to double down on protective health measures, not ease up. Why aren't you listening to her?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We do listen to her, actually. I think she's doing a great job.

Here in Michigan, we have been really aggressive in combating COVID. And so to liken moving restaurant capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent to what some states are doing, dropping mask mandates altogether, it's just not a fair comparison.

We're kind of at the 10-yard line, and we're taking another 10 yards ahead, where some are at the 50 and dropping the mask mandate. And that's the dangerous situation.

So, because we have made progress, because our numbers are low and our vaccinations are high, we feel like we can do this responsibly. But there's no question we're going to keep tethered to the science and watching the numbers to keep people safe.

TAPPER: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan turned down an initial allocation of more than 6,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses.

Here's how he explained that decision. Take a listen.

[09:45:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE DUGGAN (D), MAYOR OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN: So, Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the city of Detroit get the best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, to be clear, health experts say that's not the right approach. They say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is very effective at preventing serious illness and death due to COVID, and people should get whatever vaccine they can if they have the opportunity.

Now, Mayor Duggan has since tried to clean up those comments. Was it a mistake for him to turn down that vaccine shipment from Johnson & Johnson?

WHITMER: Well, let me start with this. It is nothing short of miraculous that we have got three safe and

effective vaccines on the market in just under a year from when we saw our first cases here in Michigan. We're going to commemorate the year, the tough year that we have had on Wednesday. We will be around 16,000 deaths.

We have done incredible work. And the fact that we have got these vaccines is a miracle. I mean, it's really a testament to the commitment of the industry and our ability to come together to solve this problem.

Mayor Duggan is doing phenomenal work in the city of Detroit. He's trying to do the best he can for the people he represents. And that's what he always does day in and day out. I think acknowledging that this J&J vaccine is another great tool in our arsenal is kind of where they are now. And deploying them is something they're going to do as well.

So, that's our philosophy across the state. Let's use every tool we have to get to that 70 percent.

TAPPER: But let's say that there's a resident of Detroit who gets an opportunity to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and says, oh, I don't know. Mayor Duggan said I should hold out for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. What's your message to that resident of Detroit?

WHITMER: Take that vaccine. I am going to take whatever vaccine is available to me when my category comes up. We are dropping our ages to 50 and up if you have some sort of a health condition. Starting tomorrow, they are now eligible, and 50 and up for everyone two weeks later.

We want to make it easier for people to get vaccines. And when my number is up, I will be in that next group. After that, I will get whatever vaccine is available to me, because they all have high efficacy. They're all incredibly safe.

And the quicker we can get to 70 percent of our population vaccinated, the quicker we can have some more normalcy in our -- in our day-to-day lives. And I know we all want that.

TAPPER: Republican lawmakers are calling on the Justice Department to investigate your handling of COVID in long-term care facilities.

You allowed hospitals to discharge medically stable COVID patients back to nursing homes as long as those facilities had dedicated isolation units and PPE for staff. You set up regional hubs for those that did not.

I know that you stand by the policy decision. "The Detroit News" editorial board is calling for you to release all data related to nursing home cases and deaths. Will you do that?

WHITMER: We have released an incredible amount of data. We have followed the federal requirements every step of the way. I think that's why, when you look at Michigan compared to other

states, our nursing home deaths are less than most. AARP has acknowledged that. And the University of Michigan put out a study that shows our policies in that space actually saved a lot of lives.

We have been very focused on helping our nursing homes and residents of nursing homes. The nature of this virus is that older adults who are in congregate care facilities are more at risk. That's something that has driven a lot of our policy work, stocking them up with PPE and tests and vaccines.

I mean, we have done we have done good work in that space. And we're going to continue to, because it's important.

TAPPER: Your fellow Democratic governor and the leader of the National Governors Association, Andrew Cuomo, is facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

Charlotte Bennett, a former aide of his, gave a rather devastating interview to CBS News this week and said that Governor Cuomo, who was a mentor to her, repeatedly made unwanted advances.

Take a listen to this quick clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, CUOMO ACCUSER: I thought, he's trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me. And I'm deeply uncomfortable. And I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Governor Cuomo is not denying her account. He just says she misinterpreted it.

Assuming he said what she said he did -- and he doesn't deny it -- does that constitute sexual harassment?

WHITMER: Well, I think the allegations here are very serious and need to be taken seriously. And I do think that an impartial, thorough, independent investigation is merited and appropriate.

TAPPER: Other female former aides have gone on the record to allege inappropriate conduct or sexual harassment by him.

In 2017, you tweeted -- quote -- "Sexual harassment is not a partisan issue and is unacceptable, no matter who does it."

Do you think that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed Charlotte Bennett?

[09:50:02]

WHITMER: Well, as I said, Jake, I have to tell you, I think that these are serious allegations.

And, if accurate and true, and -- I think we have to take action. But we also need to make sure that there's that thorough investigation. I know that the attorney general is moving forward with that, and that's something that I know that every -- everyone who's weighed in acknowledges that's an important piece to then determine what accountability looks like.

TAPPER: I mean, you have been very outspoken on these issues.

And, look, it's not fair for me to hold you responsible for Governor Cuomo 's behavior. He wouldn't come on our show today. You will.

But I just wonder. You're a very prominent woman leader who has been very outspoken on these issues in a great way. What was your reaction emotionally when you watched that interview with Charlotte Bennett?

WHITMER: Well, I mean, I think every -- I think that there are a lot of American women who have felt how she felt.

And I think that that's something that resonates and why we need to take this seriously and why there needs to be a full investigation. And whatever is appropriate in terms of accountability should follow.

And I think we -- it wouldn't help anyone for me to prejudge where this is headed. But I had the same gut-wrenching reaction that I'm sure that a lot of -- that a lot of women in America did.

TAPPER: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, thank you so much for being with us today. Best of luck to you and the state of Michigan getting out of this pandemic.

And I'm sorry you're on the wrong side of 50, but I hope you get a vaccine soon.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITMER: Thanks, Jake. Have a good one.

TAPPER: To be honest, I'd rather be on her side of 50, but anyway.

[09:50:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Fifty years ago tomorrow in Media, Pennsylvania, not far from Philly, a burglary took place, one that you may have never heard about but it changed the world. It was more than a burglary, really. It was an act of civil disobedience.

The eight burglars, led by then Haverford College professor, William Davidon, broke into a local FBI office and stole files containing information that would eventually show the world how much the FBI was not only spying on Americans but harassing them, disrupting their lives, trying to destroy their fellow citizens because J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, and his henchmen did not approve of them, did not approve of their push for civil rights or their push to end the war in Vietnam, a war that the generals were still lying to the public about at that point, by claiming it would be won when they knew that it could not. The burglars began mailing these stolen documents to newspapers. The

newspapers began reporting and researching and learning more. It all started as a trickle, and it became a flood, revealing, for example, COINTELPRO, a massive intelligence program to spy on civil rights and anti-war leaders, revealing FBI agents telling the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. that they would expose his extramarital relationships if he did not take his own life.

It began the process of the public learning about what Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, Will Bunch, recently called, quote, the government's war on lawful dissent.

One of the eight burglars, John Raines, later explained their operation as a way to bring accountability where there was none.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN RAINES, PARTICIPATED IN THE 1971 FBI OFFICE BURGLARY: The people that we elected to oversee J. Edgar Hoover's FBI were either enamored of him or terrified of him. Nobody was holding him accountable. That meant that somebody had to get objective evidence of what his FBI was doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The process (ph) that these burglars began was revelatory. It exposed the FBI involvement in the killing of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, whose story came to the big screen recently in "Judas and the Black Messiah" in theaters and on HBO Max, a sister company of CNN. That's all part of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Black Panthers are the single greatest threat to our national security. Our counter intelligence program must prevent the rise of a Black Messiah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's difficult to explain this now in 2021, but the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, it was revered. They were untouchable, and they thought they were the good guys, which is something I want you to think about.

Most politicians, whether Donald Trump or Andrew Cuomo, they also think that they're the good guys. And they're often drawn to do the wrong things by that faith in themselves and their cause.

An adversarial press and an informed public, not to mention assertive, legislative and judicial branches of government, that is all part of a check on that power. Keep that in mind next time anyone challenging those in power with facts annoys you, because it's the only way any of this works.

Happy anniversary to the eight heroes of that Pennsylvania break-in.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.