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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Local, State, And Federal Democrats Call For Governor Andrew Cuomo To Quit; Fourth Officer Who Was On Duty On Jan. 6 Dies By Suicide; CDC Issues New Eviction Moratorium In COVID Hotspots; Maine Church Asks Supreme Court To Block Delta Variant Restrictions That Don't Exist; It Refuses To Take Case; Polls Close In Ohio Special Election Primaries; Simone Biles Wins Bronze On Balance Beam. Aired 8- 9p ET
Aired August 03, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Hey, Van, appreciate you and I always thank you so much.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right, and thanks to all of you for joining us tonight.
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In the meantime, "AC360" starts right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor. John Berman here, in for Anderson.
Those harsh words aimed at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. They don't come from a political rival. They don't come from some unfriendly newspaper columnist or even one of the 11 women accusing him of sexual harassment. No. Those words are from Kathy Hochul, his Lieutenant Governor, and they're not even the most damaging and problematic for Cuomo tonight, not by a longshot.
Those can be found in the New York Attorney General's damning 165-page report released today, detailing a pattern of sexual harassment and intimidation by Governor Cuomo. New York's two U.S. Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both called on Cuomo to resign, so have the Democratic members of New York's House delegation, so have key members of the New York Assembly and State Senate who have the power to remove him from office. So has the current New York City Mayor and the man likely to be the next New York City Mayor.
So have just moments ago, the Democratic Governors of Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. So as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And finally late today, so did President Biden, a longtime political ally and friend of the New York Governor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Given -- back in March, you said that if the investigation confirmed the allegations against Governor Cuomo, then he should resign. So, will you now call on him to resign given the investigators said the 11 women were credible?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stand by that statement.
COLLINS: Are you now calling on him to resign?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: More on the White House reaction shortly. Remember, it wasn't so long ago that Governor Cuomo was being touted as a potential pick for Attorney General. Now, he is facing the possibility of criminal charges.
CNN's Erica Hill begins our coverage.
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so, violated Federal and State law.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A damning report detailing a pattern of unwelcome inappropriate behavior by the Governor and a hostile work environment.
JOON KIM, SDNY SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: It was a culture where you could not say no to the Governor.
HILL (voice over): Eleven women describing their encounters as disturbing, humiliating, and uncomfortable.
ANNE CLARK, SDNY SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: We found all 11 women to be credible. There was corroboration to varying degrees.
Charlotte Bennett talked to people and texted people contemporaneously. Some of her texts were practically in real time.
HILL (voice over): Charlotte Bennett, a former aide and health policy adviser to the Governor first told her story to "The New York Times" in February. Investigators shared one of her texts when announcing the report's findings.
KIM: Quote, "The verbal abuse, intimidation, and living in constant fear were all horribly toxic, dehumanizing, and traumatizing."
HILL (voice over): On Tuesday, she called on the Governor to resign. He later addressed her in a taped statement. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I've heard Charlotte and her lawyer and I understand what they are saying. But they read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant.
Simply put, they heard things that I just didn't say.
HILL (voice over): But that attorney telling CNN, in an e-mail, quote: "The Governor has a serious problem with the truth."
Among the other encounters laid out in the A.G.'s 165-page report, two involve the New York State Trooper who was part of Cuomo's security detail.
CLARK: He took his open hand and ran it across your stomach from her belly button to where the hip where she keeps her gun.
She told us that she felt completely violated to have the Governor touch her as she put it, between her chest and her privates.
HILL (voice over): And a woman known as Executive Assistant #1, outlining several other unwanted encounters.
CLARK: The Governor hugged Executive Assistant #1 and reached under her blouse to grab her breast. There are also several occasions on which the Governor grabbed her butt.
HILL (voice over): The Governor denied the sexual harassment allegations.
CUOMO: I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.
HILL (voice over): While also claiming the report was politically motivated. Allegations the A.G. strongly denied.
JAMES: There were attacks on me as well as members of the team, which I find offensive.
What this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the Governor of the Great State of New York.
I believe women and I believe these 11 women.
HILL (voice over): Meantime, calls for the Governor to step down growing louder.
ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS, NEW YORK STATE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: For the sake of this state, the Governor resign, he should resign.
BERMAN: And Erica Hill joins me now. Erica, what do we know about how many people investigators spoke with and why? HILL: Nearly 200 -- one hundred seventy nine people were a part of this investigation, including the Governor's brother, Chris, who is of course, our colleague here at CNN, speaking with a number of members of the Governor's inner circle, was all part of putting together this investigations of 79,000 different pieces of evidence.
What we know in terms of charges, too, John, there's been a lot of questions about what could come in terms of criminal charges. The A.G. making it clear this was a civil investigation. She doesn't have the authority to bring criminal charges. But we can tell you that the District Attorney in Albany County has said he has now requested materials from the A.G.'s investigation and also has reached out to any other potential victims asking them to come forward.
BERMAN: Say he has an obligation to follow up. Erica Hill, thank you so much for your reporting.
More now on what President Biden had to say about his longtime friend, Governor Andrew Cuomo. Here's more of CNN's Kaitlan Collins asking the President directly about it late today?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Are you now calling on him to resign?
COLLINS: And if he doesn't resign, do you believe he should be impeached and removed from office?
BIDEN: Let's take one thing at a time here. I think he should resign. I understand that the State Legislature may decide to impeach. I don't know that for a fact. I've not read all that data.
COLLINS: And he's using a photo of you embracing him in his self- defense to say that these are commonplace kind of embraces that he made in the allegations against him. Do you condone that?
BIDEN: Look, I'm not going to flyspeck this. I'm sure there are some embraces that were totally innocent. But apparently, the Attorney General decided there were things that weren't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: And Kaitlan Collins joins us now. Kaitlan, always direct and to the point with your questioning there and the answer, oh, so interesting. The President telling you Governor Cuomo should resign. That's a huge break, a huge break between two longstanding political allies. Behind the scenes, what does the White House think will actually happen?
COLLINS: I think the question is, is Governor Cuomo someone who is going to resign, because John, you saw his statement after the Attorney General laid out in detail with those investigators, these allegations against him, which they said they confirmed, the allegations of all of the 11 women and found them to be credible, and based on their interviews with dozens of people, 170 people, I believe it was.
And so, I don't think it was really an open question for the White House whether or not President Biden was going to stand by what he said in March. There wasn't a lot of ambiguity here of what this investigation found and that is what he said, that if this investigation found that these claims were confirmed, then he would call on him to resign.
And so, I think it was an option here where he had to follow through on that. And so, I do think a big question is beyond just calling on him to resign, what does he thinks should happen going forward? Because he did say it's really not for him to determine whether or not he should be removed from office.
He also didn't say whether or not he should be prosecuted. That is a question that has been raised by several factors given that the Attorney General said that he broke Federal and State laws with his actions referring to Governor Cuomo.
And so, I think the White House is watching this, but it is significant. This is a huge break, because this is a pretty strong political alliance that President Biden and Governor Cuomo had formed, you know, six years ago. And so it is notable given that it has gotten to this point where today he had to say yes, it's time for him to step down.
BERMAN: It is notable that President Biden unprompted, by the way, way back during that George Stephanopoulos interview, he raised the possibility of criminal charges and prosecutions then, but today, he seemed to dance around it. He didn't dance around it all when you pressed him on that, what are aides saying about that behind closed doors?
COLLINS: Yes. And President Biden said he had not actually read the report. So, it is not clear that he heard all of these allegations, some of the new ones that we heard come out, the new claims that the investigators said they confirmed, especially the one about the State Trooper. That is something that I don't think the White House was expecting to come today.
And so you heard the Press Secretary though, Jen Psaki saying that she thinks everyone probably found those allegations and those reports from this investigation abhorrent. And so President Biden said he hasn't read it yet. He actually also has not spoken to Governor Cuomo today, John, which I think is notable. It's not likely, I guess going forward that they will speak given today he said that it is time for him to step down.
And it was just one step in seeing several of these high profile allies of Governor Cuomo previously say that yes, the time has come for him to leave office.
BERMAN: Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you very much.
Perspective now from CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent Maggie Haberman, who has covered New York politics for years. Also CNN senior legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor Elie Honig.
Maggie, you noted as this was happening today that the allegations more damning than I think Albany reporters and Democratic politicians were expecting, and now the spate of calls for resignations, I think louder and quicker than I think people were expecting including the governors from these neighboring states that Governor Cuomo works so closely with on a daily basis. What do you think happens next?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the $64 million question, John. Look, Andrew Cuomo is not known for going down without a fight, even in 2002 when he quit his first race for Governor, he dropped out of a primary a couple of days before it was happening. That was at the last minute when he still had alliances, but he fought as long as he could and as hard as he could.
I expect him to keep doing that here, but he is facing a bad set of options. He is facing a really, really -- as you noted, I said earlier -- very damning report. A lot of people not just in the state, but around Andrew Cuomo were very surprised by the specifics of that State Trooper allegation.
They specifically pointed to that in conversations with me as what they were really surprised by and what they thought was the starkest incident that he was facing of impropriety of bringing in this Trooper who was not qualified to be on his detail, but just because by her years of service, and requesting that she be there.
And so all of these facts, I think, add up to what you're seeing now, which is an impeachment investigation that is going to move quickly from what we understand from Albany Democrats that it could happen by October, a Senate trial in New York State.
I don't think Andrew Cuomo wants to go down in history as an impeached Governor, so I think he is going to have to decide whether things will be better for him if he resigned, but there is so little in his DNA that is going to want to do that.
So, there's a lot to watch right now, but he is basically isolated in a way that we've just never seen before.
BERMAN: I mean, how small is the political island that Andrew Cuomo is on tonight?
HABERMAN: It's pretty small. I mean, look, there's a very small number of prominent Democrats who we haven't heard from yet. You know, it's probably on one hand, you know, who we haven't heard from. That's it, it's them and him. And eventually, they will probably say something. And at a certain point, it's not clear to me that he can do the basic function of government and governing in this state.
BERMAN: Elie, legally speaking, legally, what are some of the possible consequences here?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John, there's a lot of threads out there. But really, this boils down to three possible paths legally, and it could go down all, some, or none of them.
First of all, potential criminal charges. Really the one piece of this that could be criminal is the allegation that the Governor reached up a woman's blouse that is now being looked at we know by the Albany DA. There is a New York State misdemeanor for forcible touching, so the DA is going to have to do a full investigation there, come to a decision.
Second of all, we will in all likelihood, see civil lawsuits. Any or all of these 11 accusers who have come forward can sue Andrew Cuomo, can sue the State of New York for monetary damages. And then third, there's the political, but also legal process of impeachment. And it's interesting to hear Maggie say that that could be very much on the table and could happen quickly.
So, those are the three battlegrounds that Governor Cuomo is dealing with right now.
BERMAN: There are some differences, Elie, if you can highlight them, key differences actually between impeachment in New York State and a Federal impeachment. What are they?
HONIG: Yes, yes, so it's similar, but not identical with the Federal impeachment process, which we've all become sort of too familiar with, because we've had two recent ones. First of all, it starts in the New York State Assembly, which is essentially the equivalent of the House of Representatives. That vote has to be by a majority.
But if it happens, the Governor loses his power temporarily. It goes right over to the Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, who made a very strong statement today, in contrast to the Federal system, of course, when Donald Trump was impeached, power did not go over to Mike Pence.
The other big difference is when you get to the trial in the New York State Senate, it's the Senate plus the seven judges on New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals. That body then has to vote by two-thirds to convict and remove. So, it's a similar process, but there are important differences there.
BERMAN: And of course, they don't have the U.S. Constitution which lays out high crimes and misdemeanors. It doesn't say that exactly. In New York, it's more vague, and I guess subjective to a sense in New York.
So Maggie, impeachment. You say October. That actually -- that's two months from now or two and a half months from now. That's a fairly long time. And there are people looking for something more quickly here. So, explain exactly what's happening with the Assembly now because the Assembly Speaker while condemning Andrew Cuomo and hoping I think that Andrew Cuomo resigns, did say, I'm going to hold an impeachment vote tomorrow.
HABERMAN: He said a couple of things. Carl Heastie, the Assembly Speaker who has been an ally of Andrew Cuomo, and who was accused of slow walking this investigation by a number of people suddenly it is moving quite quickly. Impeachment vote very quickly. He met with his conference today and he clearly was taking their temperature as to whether people would be in favor of this. I think, it is 76 Democrats who are needed in order to move ahead with this. I believe that he is calling a vote, he thinks that he has it.
It is technically a long time, but I think there are a number of procedural measures that have to take place. I do think that Heastie and others are hoping that Cuomo will resign before they have to move ahead with this.
This is incredibly distracting for them. They don't want to be engaged in this. Any members of State Legislature don't want to have to go ahead with this, but they will if they have to.
And so this is now triggering a process. Even if there's a vote tomorrow, there are a lot of other pieces that have to fall into place.
BERMAN: And just put a fine point on it Maggie, no whispers that you're picking up one way or the other that Andrew Cuomo was going anywhere tonight or anytime soon.
HABERMAN: I don't think he is going anywhere tonight. I don't know what people's definition of soon is. I certainly would not rule out the possibility that he will step down because at the end of the day, if he decided that that is what is best for him, that is what he is going to do, but I expect it will be a defiant pose for as long as he can maintain one.
BERMAN: Maggie Haberman and Elie Honig, thank you both very much.
Next, we're going to hear from one of the accusers documented in today's report and mentioned by name by the Governor today.
We'll also get perspective from two well-known players on the New York political scene.
And later breaking news on COVID, a prospect of being evicted from their homes that too many Americans are facing, that and a major new mandate here in New York, get vaccinated or really forget that night in the town.
BERMAN: More breaking news in the wake of today's damning report on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Tonight, Charlotte Bennett, one of the 11 accusers deemed credible in the report, mentioned today by the Governor spoke with Norah O'Donnell of CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think he is gaslighting you? CHARLOTTE BENNETT, GOV. ANDREW CUOMO ACCUSER: Absolutely. He is trying to justify himself by making me out to be someone who can't tell the difference between sexual harassment and mentorship.
We have a report, we have the facts. The Governor broke Federal and State law when he sexually harassed me and current and former staffers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Miss Bennett went on to say she feels validated and vindicated today. Joining us now, former New York mayoral candidate Maya Wiley and Christine Quinn, former New York City Council Speaker.
Christine you know, you know, Andrew Cuomo. You supported him in the past. Today, though, you tweeted: "Governor Cuomo should resign, the investigation was independent. The findings are incredulous and I'm deeply saddened and disgusted by the findings."
So, do you think he will resign? I mean, what do you think is going to happen here?
CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: I mean, knowing Governor Cuomo, he will fight until the end. He'll fight too long and too hard. So, I don't know that he will resign quickly, which would be the best thing for the state, quite frankly.
If he doesn't resign, I am confident that Speaker Heastie and Leader Cousins will impeach and remove him.
You know, it's a very sad day, John for the state to have someone who many of us, you know, really believed in; you know, having shown that he did all of these horrible things. I thought he was a great ally to women. I feel completely misled by this man and he needs to get out of the Governor's Mansion so we can move on as a state and he needs to face whatever the consequences will be.
BERMAN: Maya Wiley, I'm hard pressed to think of a Democrat who hasn't come out and said that Governor Cuomo should resign as of this evening, but what the Democrats in New York in your mind, what should they be doing tonight?
MAYA WILEY (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think Chris has already said some of it, which is acknowledging just how sad and disgusting these allegations are, and how serious.
You know, the most important thing, I think, for Democrats, but also for every New Yorker, because it's not a partisan issue, is to say that abuse of power by anyone in power can't be tolerated because at the end of the day, these are allegations that the Governor has used his position in this particular case against 11 women, including a State Trooper who he handpicked, did not meet the requirements for the job on his security detail, had them change them in order to put her on the detail.
Then he, according to her, sexually harassed her. That is abuse of power. And as Christine said, this is a serious time for the state because of COVID, because of the delta variant. It is a time when we need to be focused on what keeps our people safe, and all our lawmakers need to focus on that and that's another reason why Governor Cuomo should step aside. He is a distraction and he abuses power.
BERMAN: You know, Christine Quinn, what about, there are some Democrats who will occasionally say, well, Republicans don't do this to their scandalized office holders. Why is it that we, Democrats, they say are holding our office holders to a separate standard?
QUINN: Shame on those Republicans. When people in power, when people who are superiors in the workplace, when they harass or abuse subordinates, when they target women who have been victims of sexual assault and then harass them, when people do that, I don't care if they're a Democrat or a Republican or Independent. They need to be called out.
We have an epidemic of sexism in this country, an epidemic of sexual assault and rape, and harassment and if we don't call it out, whether it's our friends, or those who are not our friends, it will never come to an end.
Part of the reason I am a Democrat is because we stand up for women and girls, we stand against abuse.
BERMAN: So, Maya, what happens for this movement? How could this be turned into a positive for women?
WILEY: Well, look, it's a positive for women and frankly, for every resident. If people in power who violate Civil Rights, because that's what we're talking about right now, violate the rule of law and violate their oath of office, do it with impunity, and then blame the victims, we all benefit when we stop that.
Because remember, if a head of a corporation did what Governor Cuomo did and got away with it, that would be a huge problem. It should never happen. But if the people in power responsible for ensuring that the laws are being faithfully executed do it, then we have very little hope of protecting anyone.
And it is important for everyone. I just want to make one thing very clear. Sexual harassment and sexual assault also happens against men. It happens of any sexual identity or any sexual orientation and we should remember that it is important to protect every single person.
And I also want to say abuse of power because Governor Cuomo has some other issues around abuse of power, including sexual harassment, which are investigations on whether he cooked the books on deaths in nursing homes that that's another thing.
BERMAN: That ongoing, this finding, this report today on the sexual harassment allegations.
Maya Wiley and Christine Quinn, I thank you both for being with me tonight. Appreciate it.
QUINN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Coming up, there is news tonight that a fourth police officer, a fourth law enforcement officer who responded to the January 6 Capitol attack has died by suicide. Details next.
BERMAN: News tonight of another police officer who was on duty at the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, taking his own life. According to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Kyle Defreytag died by suicide July 10th. He joined the department back in November of 2016. His death means four officers have now died by suicide, all of whom served during the insurrection. The others are D.C. officer Gunter Harshida, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and D.C. Officer Jeffrey Smith.
I'm joined now by Colorado Democratic Congressman Jason Crow, who of course witnessed all the rioting in the violence firsthand. I appreciate you joining us, Congressman.
Look, we don't know the specifics of these officers suicides. But we know based on testimony from other members of law enforcement who were there about the brutality and the trauma of the insurrection. As someone who lived through that day someone also who served the country as an Army Ranger, what are your thoughts on this moment and your messages tonight to the families of those officers?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yes, thanks, John, for having me on. First, it's just terribly heartbreaking for these officers and their families that are now dealing with the loss of the loved ones. And what this shows is that people can't move on from this type of trauma, you know, you just can't sweep this under the rug, you just can't expect people to move on.
Like some, some of my colleagues want to try to do. This sticks with people, when you're in a situation like this isn't as dark of a day as this was as brutal as the insurrection was, as we've seen very vividly in video and testimony in the select committee in the last couple of weeks. It has a weight to carries a weight on you as an officer.
So we have to make sure we're getting these officers help. And we're not sweeping this under the rug that we continue to have try to find truth and accountability to make sure that this doesn't happen again. And we do right by them. And that's exactly what we're doing with the select committee. And that's exactly we're going to continue to do overall whenever my GOP colleagues try to turn their backs on this.
BERMAN: You know, in some cases more than even turning backs, right? There's something insidious that's happening, at least in right wing media, which is that after Officer Michael Fanone and others gave emotional testimony, they were openly mocked and ridiculed by these television entertainers. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm having a real hard time believing a lot of what I'm hearing because the video doesn't back up nearly all of it. One officer said he thought it was going to be the moment he died. Well, there were no guns at this place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch Fanone sight the psychological trauma hindered as an excuse for ditching our bill of rights.
MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. OFFICER: I've been left with the psychological trauma and the emotional anxiety of having survived such a horrific event.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The award for best use of an exaggeration in a supporting role, the winners Aquilino Gonell. And for best performance in an action roll, the winner is Michael Fanone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Their very reality is being denied and mocked. My morning co- anchor, Brianna Keilar, who's in a military family noted to me this morning, that when engagements in the military, but I think law enforcement the same thing become political, it only increases post traumatic stress. I wonder if you can speak to that.
CROW: Well, it does. It's blaming of the victim. You know, we have a real big problem with stigma and mental health in America writ large, not just with respect to officers post January 6. We don't deal with this well as a society. It's one of the reasons why we have over 20 veterans a day, take their lives.
And because there is this mentality that somehow coming to get help is a sign of weakness, when in reality, getting help for something that is a beyond the normal human experience. It's actually a sign of strength, because it means you can be healthy, it means you can take care of your family, you can do your job, you can complete your mission.
That's something we've been trying to work on in the military, as a member of the Armed Services Committee and as a veterans advocate, but it also applies to officers and first responders and a lot of different contexts including this one. So people blaming the victim actually just exacerbates that. It helps contribute to the problem that we're trying to combat to save lives.
But even more so, you know, some of those clips were bad, but there is a much deeper, darker and sinister elements to this. Let's not forget that Donald Trump, in his full depravity has encouraged violence, has let loose and extremist movement in America. It is a very dangerous trying to be a member of Congress.
Michael Fanone and others are getting death threats. You know, some officers were actually shot at, one was killed not too long ago outside of the Capitol. There is a an extremist and very sinister element to this beyond just the sweeping under the rug, where the blaming and the victim that we have to pay attention to as well.
BERMAN: Congressman Jason Crow, we always appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
CROW: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Next, breaking news and what will be a welcome relief for many but not all Americans facing COVID related eviction. Will also take you to a church in Maine where the answer to this latest COVID surge in the Delta variant is to be unmasked and unvaccinated and defiantly unprotected.
BERMAN: More breaking news tonight, vital news to millions of Americans facing potential COVID related homelessness. The CDC today announced a new 60-day freeze on certain residential evictions. It comes after the Biden administration a lot of previous moratorium to expire.
Details now from CNN's Phil Mattingly at the White House. Phil, what exactly will this new eviction moratorium include and who benefits from it?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So it'll be more short term. It's not going to be the moratorium that we've seen over the course of the better part of the coronavirus pandemic. This one will be over the course of 60 days and directed primarily almost actually entirely to counties with higher substantial community transmission.
Now here's the interesting piece of that, because of the surge in Delta cases throughout the country, officials believed that will hit about 90% of the population. So we'll have some pretty wide range, but it's tailored and more short term for a reason. Administration officials hope, John that this will give it more sound legal footing as they move forward in the process.
BERMAN: Why didn't this happen sooner Phil? Because as you know, the Biden administration has been criticized by progressive Democrats for basically letting this situation happen.
MATTINGLY: Yes, let me frame it the way a House Democratic aide put it to me earlier, the last several days have been an absolute mess. And I don't think there's any way anyone could say otherwise. Look, the White House allowed this to last because they didn't believe they had the legal authority to extend it.
They've made that abundantly clear multiple times publicly and privately over the course of the last several days. House Democrats couldn't do anything about it. Because John, they didn't have the votes not just between Democrats and Republicans within the House Democratic Caucus.
My understanding is it's not necessarily true that either of those things have changed. What changed was the pressure, immense pressure on the administration, from Speaker Pelosi on down including private phone calls making clear to the administration. There was not a legislative option here, they had to do something unilaterally through the executive branch.
Despite the fact that most of their lawyers had made pretty clear they did not have legal options. They're pushing forward on this order to do a couple things, one to try and as one person put it, release the pressure that they're hearing from Capitol Hill. But two, give themselves some time.
John, it was pretty remarkable. President Biden himself made clear he wasn't sure this would pass legal muster earlier today. He also made clear and acknowledged, even if it does not, it will give them time to get more than $46 billion in federal aid that's out there dispersed to try and help renters, to try and help homeowners.
So to some degree, even if this fails, it at least gives the administration some breathing room. But the fact that the administration was willing to move forward on something they made very clear, they did not believe they had the legal ability to do just 24 hours ago, was quite a turn of events.
BERMAN: Yes, Phil Mattingly, Joe Biden sort of (INAUDIBLE) stage directions there. I've never quite heard anything like that with the President. And I'm not sure the courts are going to let this through. But at least by this time, even if they strike it down eventually. Thanks to you, Phil.
More COVID News now. The New York Times tonight quoting several sources saying the FDA aims for full approval of Pfizer's COVID vaccine by Labor Day. Also, New York's Mayor today, New York City's Mayor today announced the city will soon require proof of at least one dose of a COVID vaccine for indoor dining, indoor entertainment and gyms.
In San Francisco Public Health officials say people vaccinated with one -- the one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will now be able to get a supplemental dose of the Pfizer, Moderna mRNA vaccine. Also, the New York Times and I quote, several sources of saying the FDA aims for full approval of Pfizer's vaccine by Labor Day as I just mentioned. It didn't mean a different kind of response to COVID in the Delta surge. Only, unlike the two measures we just told you about what the folks at one church in Maine are doing will not do a single thing to slow the spread of the virus.
Our Gary Tuchman reports.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this church, just outside of Bangor, Maine, there's a prevailing feeling that the extent of the Covid-19 pandemic is exaggerated, and that politicians have no business restricting what takes place in this evangelical, nondenominational Christian congregation. Ken Graves is the pastor of the Calvary Chapel of Central Maine.
KEN GRAVES, PASTOR, CALVARY CHAPEL OF CENTRAL MAINE: We don't need the governor to manage our risk for us. We can do that ourselves.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): So his church asked turns out unsuccessfully for the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state of Maine from reinstating and enforcing any future COVID restrictions. Graves claims as in person church outreach to those who are suicidal, addicted to drugs, or just average Sunday attendees is essential. And limitations are unconstitutional.
GRAVES: You know, most of us are going to die? Heart disease is going to take out most of us. Should the government be in charge of your diet?
TUCHMAN (on-camera): If I have heart disease, I'm sitting here next to you and I breathe on you. I'm not going to give you heart disease.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): If I'm infected with COVID-19, I can and you could die from it.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Isn't there a big difference?
GRAVES: I don't think there's a big difference. Big -- the difference is between those two, is it heart disease kills women and more people. The risk is far (INAUDIBLE).
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But if you have it, you can give it to me by sitting next to me. If you have COVID-19 and here we are both out masks?
TUCHMAN (on-camera): You could give it me.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): You don't think that's different.
GRAVES: No, I don't think it is.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): In the beginning of the COVID outbreak, this church did follow some of the state restrictions, but ultimately decided to no longer do so. There are now no restrictions here. Maine has done better than almost all states and fighting the virus, but it could all change because of the Delta variant. The congregants we talked to what no changes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel safer being here where I know my attorney is in heaven, no matter what when my death happens or how it happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think by any means a state should ever have a role in curtailing religion.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Can I ask you have you been vaccinated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Any plans to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Have you gotten COVID?
GRAVES: I'm pretty sure I haven't ever been tested.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Have you been vaccinated?
TUCHMAN (on-camera): OK.
GRAVES: No, I've not been vaccinated.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Why?
GRAVES: No. I have more confidence in my immune system than in this experimental protocol.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Why do you have confidence in your immune system? How do you know it's -- you're not going to spread it to someone else, and they could die from it? (INAUDIBLE).
GRAVES: Well, that's true of the so-called vaccine. That that's the word now is that --
TUCHMAN (on-camera): With all due respect, not so-called vaccine. This is an amazing vaccine. This has basically stopped the pandemic in its tracks. Now we're getting a surge because so many people, with all due respect, like yourself, haven't got unvaccinated.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So you have this Delta variant that's now spread again. And here we are almost back in the same situation. It's a shame. Just get the shot.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): That's not how you feel?
GRAVES: No, I really do not have confidence in the shot. TUCHMAN (on-camera): The pastor does say that any congregant who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus has requested not to come to church. But if they do show up, they won't be kicked out.
(voice-over): He also says he is not planning to close his church doors again. Even with this denial from the U.S. Supreme Court.
(on-camera): There's no part of you that doubts what you're saying.
BERMAN: So Gary, you were at church on Sunday, as you mentioned, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case yesterday. So what does the pastor have to say about it today?
TUCHMAN: He's not happy, John. But the pastor also tells us he's not shocked. And that's because he's aware that many people here in the state of Maine think right now this is a moot point because there are no restrictions, no COVID restrictions in most of the state of Maine, including here in Penobscot County, but that could soon change.
And if it does, the pastor then believes that Supreme Court might take up the case and he might get a victory. That being said, we've already established that if he doesn't get that victory, he plans to keep the church open. Let as many people come in as want to come in. And he says he's prepared for the possibility of going to jail if he does just that. John.
BERMAN: Gary Tuchman, eye opening, thank you very much.
Up next, more breaking news. Polls closed into high stakes special congressional primary races. The latest when we continue.
BERMAN: Polls are now closed in two special congressional primary races in Ohio that are taking the political spotlight. And one race, candidates represented progressive Democrats and the more establishment wings are battling it out. And then the other, political observers want to see whether a preferred Republican candidate or the former president will prevail in his race, something that pointedly did not happen in a special election in Texas last week.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us with what we know tonight. Jeff, always a pleasure to see you.
Let's start with this Republican special election primary where the former President Donald Trump did make an endorsement. What's that about?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is in the Columbus area of Ohio. This is to fill this seat of Steve Stivers, he's a member of Congress who resigned earlier this year to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
And you're right President Trump's prestige is on the line in this race. He issued an early endorsement for a coal lobbyist someone not very well known in the district, his name is Mike Clary (ph), and he is now in this early stage of counting the votes this evening is narrowly leading some local establishment stalwarts here.
So this is again a test of how President Trump is going to fare in primaries across the country. Is his base going to come out just because he says so. So in this race, though, there are several candidates, almost 12 or 15 candidates or so. So it's clear, at least in this early stage, some of these Republicans are splitting the vote. And President Trump's favorite is getting a slightly larger share.
But again, still early this evening, the polls closed just about an hour and 20 minutes or so ago. So we'll keep our eye on that. But again, President Trump's prestige on the line here is going to be a sign of things to come in primaries as this year next year.
BERMAN: Right. He wants this one badly, because --
BERMAN: -- last week, he laid it on the line for a candidate who lost in a race. So this would be a change proof that he's not dead yet as it were in Republican politics --
ZELENY: Not at all.
BERMAN: -- he's really desperately wants I think. The other Democratic race talked to me about the stakes and the candidates there.
ZELENY: Well, John, this is a fascinating race. This is in Cleveland, the 11th district in Ohio. I spent the weekend there talking to candidates on both sides and Bernie Sanders and James Clyburn were representing the respective wings of the party, the establishment wing. Mr. Clyburn is supporting Shontel Brown, she is a member of the Accounting Council there, the local Democratic chairperson, she is a running to really fulfill President Biden's agenda. She talks about President Biden again and again.
And a lot of that is because Nina Turner, on the other side of the race, a progressive leader, of course, a big supporter and surrogate for Bernie Sanders, who is also campaigning there over the weekend. She is more of certainly a progressive leader wants to question the Biden agenda. She said she would help President Biden but wants to push the White House.
So basically, the bottom line of that is party leaders do not want the squad to grow by any numbers at all. And certainly, Nina Turner would fit in that category. So, in the early stages of that race this evening, with early voting coming in, actually Shontel Brown, the establishment candidate is leading Nina Turner, but we should point out the early stages, Election Day vote is going to be so important in the city of Cleveland, as well as Akron, right south of Cleveland. So this is going to test if a progressives are going to have a shot at some of these other primaries. So far this year, they've fallen short, of course, the New York City mayor's race.
ZELENY: As well as the Virginia's governors race.
BERMAN: And that's what's so important. I think, Jeff, is that so far, during the Biden presidency, the so-called Biden wing, I'm calling it the Biden wing. I don't know if it's been called that before. But the Biden wing of the Democratic Party has been largely successful, which is leading people to believe, well, maybe it's not the Democrats aren't as progressive as people thought they were headed. That it's not the Twitter Democratic Party. It's something else going on. So that is being tested tonight.
ZELENY: It is being tested here. And of course, this is just one snapshot of this. This is not going to answer the question, but it will if a Nina Turner would win tonight, it would certainly give a progressives reason for hope in other primaries, that would potentially be challenging some other even perhaps some of sitting members of congress. But if Shontel Brown wins that establishment candidate, and John it was extraordinary, the whole CBC was the whole leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus over the weekend was supporting her in full force in Cleveland.
And so, there really is a sense here of establishment versus the progressive wing. And John, it's clear that 2016 campaign with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, even Hillary Clinton weighing in supporting Shontel Brown, that race is still a defining moment here --
ZELENY: -- between these wings of the party.
BERMAN: Ironically, that Bernie Sanders has been working very closely with Joe Biden --
ZELENY: That's so true (ph).
BERMAN: -- throughout this whole time, not sure Nina Turner will do quite the same thing if he prevails, but we'll see. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
BERMAN: Up next, U.S. gymnast Simone Biles back competing at the Tokyo games.
BERMAN: American gymnast Simone Biles returned to Olympic competition today taking part in the individual balance being final. This comes after she took herself out of several competitions to focus on her mental health. The 24-year-old won the bronze medal. Her seventh career Olympic medal time was Shannon Miller for the most medals by an American gymnast.
Afterward, she said she didn't really care about the outcome was just happy she got to compete one more time. Biles also said she will cherish the bronze medal for a long time. We will all cherish it along with her.
The news continues. So let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."