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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

NY Governor Cuomo Resigns Amidst Sexual Harassment Scandal; Houston Superintendent Proposes Mask Mandate, School Board Will Vote On Proposal This Thursday; Senate Passes Major Infrastructure Legislation. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening again. Chris is off tonight.

In this hour of 360, a big victory for the President, for bipartisanship, on infrastructure.

Also with millions of kids going back to the classroom, we'll speak to the Superintendent of one of the country's largest school districts. He's defying his state's governor, he says, to protect his students from COVID.

We begin though with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In our last hour, CNN's David Axelrod described him as someone, who wakes up every morning, in a fighting mood.

Well, this morning, facing sexual harassment allegations, from 11 women, he decided that his fight to remain in office was over.

More from CNN's Brynn Gingras.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The best way I can help now is if I step aside, and let government get back to governing.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces he is stepping down, telling New Yorkers he is a fighter, but it's time.

CUOMO: Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The 63-year-old governor, getting choked up at moments, as he gave his resignation, speaking to New Yorkers, his staff and three daughters.

CUOMO: I have seen the look in their eyes, and the expression on their faces. And it hurt.

Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo's decision, which takes effect in 14 days, comes exactly one week, after the release of the State Attorney General's report, which concluded the governor sexually harassed 11 women, in the past seven years.

Before calling it quits, the governor defended himself.

CUOMO: However, it was also false.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Moments before Cuomo's presser, his personal attorney Rita Glavin laid out the faults she found with the A.G.'s report, referencing some accusers by name, and said the governor wasn't given a fair process.

RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: This investigation took every possible negative thing that could be said about the governor, and they put it in, and they disregarded the positive, the things that would balance it, and the things that would undermine what some people were saying about the governor. And that's not right.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The governor also offering an apology to his accusers, again attributing some of his actions as generational, Cuomo specifically addressing his actions toward the claims made by a trooper in his detail.

CUOMO: The trooper also said that in an elevator, I touched her back, and when I was walking past her, in a doorway, I touched her stomach. Now, I don't recall doing it. But if she said I did it, I believe her.

GINGRAS (voice-over): And apologizing.

CUOMO: It was a mistake, plain and simple. I have no other words to explain it. I want to personally apologize to her and her family.

GINGRAS (voice-over): It was a dramatic fall from grace, for the three-term governor, who CNN reported was actively fundraising for a fourth term, but bringing relief to those accusing him of sexual misconduct, to women saying they felt vindicated.

"Ms. McGrath and Ms. Limmiatis remain grateful that their voices and experiences were heard and substantiated by the A.G.'s investigators, and feel solidarity with all women, who continue to be abused by men in power. At least today, one of them has faced some consequences."


COOPER: Brynn, do we know if the Lieutenant Governor has spoken to Governor Cuomo?

GINGRAS: Yes, Anderson, we know that they spoke, before he gave those remarks, in New York City, and then they spoke again, after those remarks were made. She was given a heads-up about this resignation.

But it's important to note of course, she will be the first female woman, in this top position, in New York state government. She said in a tweet earlier today, "I am ready." And we're going to hear from her tomorrow. She's going to hold her first press briefing, here in Albany, tomorrow afternoon. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining us now, CNN Political Analyst, New York Times Washington Correspondent, and devout New Yorker, Maggie Haberman, also, CNN Chief National Correspondent, and "INSIDE POLITICS" Anchor, John King, and Kimberly Wehle, she's a former federal prosecutor, currently teaches law at the University of Baltimore.

So Maggie, you've covered Governor Cuomo, for a long time, through all sorts of phases of his political career. I'm wondering what you made of his remarks today and him resigning.


I mean, Andrew Cuomo had one speed (ph) generally, which was fight. And then when he's not fighting, he does sometimes survey the landscape, and decide that his options are better off not fighting. That's what he decided to do today.

But he had been giving every indication, even as soon as Sunday, or even yesterday, that he was going to try to keep going.

It was clear yesterday when the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "We are not here to make a deal with Andrew Cuomo. There's not going to be deals" that he really did not have an avenue forward.


And so now, the question is what happens next? He is facing certain legal jeopardy.

There was a small contingent of people, around him, who believed that he can try to run again, as soon as next year, throw his hat in the ring, for governor again, assuming that if the impeachment process goes ahead that he is not barred from running for statewide office. We're a long ways out from that.

But he struck me as somebody, who was trying to preserve whatever future he could have. He was clearly trying to sound some level of upbeat "No," despite the circumstances and despite the topic matter.

But look, this was a -- this was a defeat. He is continuing to insist that he didn't do what he was accused of doing. And that was the thing that I was most struck by. He continues to debate this report, which is really not that dissimilar from reports he issued, when he was Attorney General.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Kim, Governor Cuomo still faces the possibility of criminal liability. There's been some skepticism that he'd be charged that one of his accusers has filed the complaint that's gone public with her allegations.

From a legal standpoint, criminally, how does this potentially play out?

KIMBERLY WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE SCHOOL OF LAW, AUTHOR, "HOW TO READ THE CONSTITUTION AND WHY": Well, under New York law, there's a range of sexual misconduct potential charges, the lowest would be forcible touching.

And it's not just sort of a whole, you know, comments, and maybe sort of swiping someone, in an awkward way. I mean, there are allegations that he groped people, in very personal places, and that could potentially give rise to a criminal charge, most likely a misdemeanor.

But this would, at very early stages, in this moment, the prosecutors would take that complaint, presumably, and do a separate investigation, interviewing other witnesses, to see if they can build a case, beyond a reasonable doubt, of criminal liability. And that's of course, setting aside potential civil liability for the State of New York, or for him, personally.

COOPER: John, the idea that Maggie raised of that some people are, and the governor suggesting he could run again, even in a year or so, I mean, that's that -- is that -- what do you make of that idea?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: Donald Trump says he wants to make a comeback, despite accounts every day of steps, he took, reckless, irresponsible steps, he took, to undermine American democracy. Some politicians believe they are invincible or at least can rebuild. We'll see how that plays out.

I think Maggie laid it out just perfectly, is we don't know that that's going to happen. But part of the calculation, if you're Governor Cuomo, Andrew -- Anderson, excuse me.

Most things in politics come down to math, at the end. The report came out a week ago. He waited a week. He said it was biased. He started to question the credibility of some of these women.

The math not only did not change, it got worse. It was on a path to an inevitable and pretty quick impeachment. And if he was impeached, and barred from running again, that's done. His legacy will be stained, to begin with.

I think Maggie's right. If you're trying to save yourself a little bit of wiggle room here, will that play out? We will see. But the math, the math was overwhelming. And the math came from within his own party. So for now, he's done.

COOPER: And Maggie, I mean, you heard, the governor complained that the whole controversy was unfair, politically-motivated, the politics has gotten too hot and extreme, I mean, as though he is not the quintessential political animal.

I mean, if he -- I think it was you, who pointed out, in coverage of him a long time ago that he's the son of a governor. He was a cabinet member, of the Clinton administration, was married to a Kennedy. To hear him complaining about how politics works seems sort of interesting.

HABERMAN: Yes, there has been this approach he has had, Anderson, the whole time, which is trying to suggest that "These forces are coming after me because I'm fighting for you." He said a version of that today.

It really is identical language to a lot of what we heard Donald Trump use repeatedly, about investigations, into himself, when he was in office. I mean, so there is that piece of it, to hear him talk this way.

I think that you are going to hear him continue to say that this was something unfair. I think you hit on something that a bit of jujitsu, he was trying, which is he's trying to suggest he's sort of above it all, he is not a part of this, and that he is doing the state something positive by stepping aside.

He is, again, refusing to have contrition. And I do think there's another aspect of this that we haven't talked about, which is that Democrats are evaluating how they relate, to issues related to the Me Too movement.

Now, Andrew Cuomo was accused of violating laws that he expanded. He described himself in that press conference as not realizing that the lines around conduct in the office had been redrawn. He helped redraw them. He drafted new laws about workplace sexual harassment. And so, he should have realized that there was a difference here.

I don't think that what he's describing is going to be sustainable for him or, frankly, any politicians, who are trying to hold Republicans or members of an opposing political party, to account, for things they do.

The Democrats are struggling with how, they want to handle these kinds of cases when they arise.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, John, it's kind of bizarre to hear the governor who, as Maggie just said, expanded those rules, expanded the definitions of, and the repercussions for, and punishments for, such behavior, to sort of describe himself "Oh, I just didn't, you know, I'm old fashioned. I didn't know," seems hard to believe.


KING: It was a grab-bag approach. At one hand, he wanted to say, "I take full responsibility." And he did say that. But then he questioned again the credibility of the women. He questioned -- he questioned the credibility of the investigators. And he got into the "Well, it's a generational thing."

It's just that, you know, to borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton, forgive me, that dog just doesn't hunt. It doesn't hunt anyway. It shouldn't hunt for anybody. But to the point Maggie made smartly, just moments ago, and earlier today, he signed the law. We all know. Read before you sign. He changed the rules. He changed the rules for the better in the State of New York. He's the Chief Executive of the State of New York. Read what you signed, follow the rules you enacted.

COOPER: Yes, we're going to pick this up after a short break, when we come back.

This governor's future, whether impeachment is still a possibility, his now-tarnished legacy, and the prospects of New York's first female Chief Executive.

And, later, the superintendent, of the nation's, seventh biggest school system, his push to impose mask-wearing in schools, and his confrontation over it, with the Governor of Texas.



COOPER: Talking tonight about Andrew Cuomo, his decision to step down, as Governor of New York, and what lies ahead for him, on the political and legal front, back now with our legal and political team.

Kim, just, we talked about the possible criminal charges. How exposed do you think Governor Cuomo may be to civil litigation, here from his accusers? And I assume he would be personally financially responsible.

WEHLE: Potentially. So really, the big entity on the hook is the State of New York.

Because if you look at Letitia James' lengthy report, it's a pretty systemic, troubling, systematic, abusive environment, involving many people, not just Mr. Cuomo, sort of propping up his alleged bullying and sexual harassment.

So, the state will presumably could have civil liability for damages, under both federal and state law, relating to that hostile work environment.

Yes, I think the closest analogy, frankly, is Bill Clinton and Paula Jones. He was sued by Paula Jones for sexual misconduct, when he was Arkansas governor.

And then when he became President of the United States, he claimed, "Listen, I should have immunity." That went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said "You don't have immunity, while you're president."

So he could, Cuomo could, have liability, personally, for money damages, but it will come down to a similar question that is, should he be treated as governor, acting in his official capacity, when these incidents took place?

COOPER: Because I mean, clearly, according to the report that was put out, there were a lot of enablers, around the governor.

WEHLE: Yes, no this is what -- it's interesting to hear about, he signed the legislation in 2019. He got on television, saying how he supports women's rights, and the ability to bring sexual harassment claims. But I think what this story shows is that laws themselves are meaningless, if they're not enforced.

And if you read the report, the systems in place, for bringing a sexual harassment claim, through a sort of an investigative process, to the proper people, those were all sidestepped in an apparent, as painted in the report, effort to protect the Governor. And the interest of these women and the interest of the law itself all went by the wayside.

So, I think it's, and we saw this also in the Trump administration, laws are only as good as the paper they're written on. It's all about enforcement.

And there was a culture of non-enforcement around this kind of sort of sexual -- anti-sexual harassment type infrastructure that that applies everywhere, but it's only so good, as it's enforced.

COOPER: Maggie, the New York State Assembly is still going to look at whether they can impeach the governor. How do you think, I mean, politically, symbolically, what impact would that have, or on his future ambition?

HABERMAN: It depends, Anderson. We're in a very weird period, because one thing we haven't addressed is the fact that the governor gave himself 14 days to remain on the job.

I can't remember another resignation that has come amid this kind of a controversy, where the governor said, "I'm going to give myself two weeks, to stay on, and do a transition." I don't know of anyone who thinks there needs to be two weeks.

And that is sparking concerns, not just from some of his detractors, but also candidly, from some people, who have been close to him, over the years that they're wondering if what he's trying to do is just wait and see, if the climate shifts, and for some reason, in the other direction, does the Assembly drop this.

And so, I think what you're going to see is a lot of pressure on Carl Heastie, the State Assembly Speaker, to continue with this impeachment effort.

We know Republicans not only want to focus on these sex harassment allegations, but they want to focus on nursing home deaths, during COVID. They want to focus on the work that the governor and his staff put into this book deal that he got last year.

I don't think Andrew Cuomo wants to see witnesses being called around, at least two of those, and all three of those issues, most likely. So, I think that it's going to be an impetus for him to stay away, and to leave the job, if the Assembly continues. But what that ultimately looks like, look, assemblies is very, excuse me, impeachments at the state level, in New York, are not the same as at the federal level. And that's what most people are used to looking at. This is sort of writing it, as they go along. So we'll see.

COOPER: John, it's so interesting to hear how the governor, and see how the governor has kind of played this out, and what his thought process was.

In sort of, in the world of public relations, these days, it seems like the new -- the trend has been that there's so much information, coming at people these days that, and there's so much shamelessness going on, and bad behavior going on that people can survive things they never could have survived in the past.

You look at what the Virginia Governor Northam, you know, people were calling for his ouster. He just barreled through it. And now, people have totally forgotten about why they were, why people wanted him to step down, in the first place.


It seemed clear that the governor was hoping he could just kind of barrel through this, and something else would come along that would knock this off the front pages, and people would just kind of move on, and that didn't happen.

KING: I think that's true.

Look, Bill Clinton fought when at the very beginning many in the Democratic Party said "You have to step down." He said "No way." And then he went on. He was in his second term, it's important to note, and he was not convicted by the Senate. That math was never there. So, it's a different dynamic.

Donald Trump defied gravity repeatedly, in the campaign, as President of the United States, you might even say, to this day.

Governor Northam is an example, where you're right. Now, there were questions immediately raised about his lieutenant governor, right after that. And so, Governor Northam took advantage of that opportunity, if you will, to run out the clock.

And hopefully, as in his case, the temperature was turned down. And the State Democrats essentially decided, "OK, we're going to let him run out his term. That's better than the alternative."

In Governor Cuomo's case, a couple of factors. Number one, the Democratic outrage that Trump survived the "Access Hollywood" tape, Democrats could not, just could not look themselves in the mirror, when one of their own faced allegations, anywhere in that ballpark. It's different. This was harassment. What Trump said on that tape, if true, would be felony sexual assault.

But the Dem there's -- there was just no way Democrats, could have credibility, without taking this as seriously as the New York Assembly Democrats, and as National Democrats took it.

And number two, just the math in the end that Cuomo waited a week to see, "Is the Assembly going to blink? Is the Assembly going to back down? If I start to question the Attorney General, or these women, will some people back away?" And the answer was flat-out no.

It was very clear that there was not going to be blinking. The President of the United States had stepped down. His lieutenant governor walked away from him. The Speaker of the House walked away from him.

There were a lot of national dynamics. But the math that matters most are the people, who can impeach him, and forbid him from ever running again. And that was not changing.

COOPER: Yes, John King, Maggie Haberman, Kim Wehle, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Next, the fights over mask mandates, two educators fighting bans on those mandates, in Texas and Florida, are joining us, talk about what they believe are the risk to kids, if the bans are allowed to remain in place.



COOPER: School districts in both Texas and Florida bucking their Republican governors' bans on mask mandates.

Moments ago, Florida's Broward County Superintendent received notice from the state it was in non-compliance with the state ban on mask mandates, and the School Board leaders could lose their paychecks. This after Broward School Board voted to maintain the ban.

Florida's Ron DeSantis says he'll try to withhold salaries of school superintendents, who order mask bans.

Last hour, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told me in an interview that the administration was also looking into ways the government could make their salaries whole.

In Texas, San Antonio has filed a lawsuit against the governor, over the mandate with school systems, in Houston and Austin, also promising to get mask in schools.

Want to get perspective now from two individuals in middle of all this fight, Millard House, Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, and Anna Fusco, the President of the Broward Teachers Union, in Florida.

Superintendent House, so your proposed mask mandate stands in defiance of Governor Abbott's executive order. Why is it so important for you?

MILLARD HOUSE, SUPERINTENDENT, HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: Well Anderson, it's extremely important, simply because we know what COVID-19 and the variant is doing.

The data tells us the story. And what the data says right now, and specifically in Houston, in Harris County, we've seen a 500 percent increase, in terms of hospitalization, in some of our hospitals.

We know that African American and Latino individuals are taking a huge hit. And as we look at our most economically-disadvantaged students, these are the families in urban school district, large school district like HISD that will suffer.

So, it's extremely important to us to really make a difference, and take a stand, around what we feel is right.

COOPER: And just in terms of the Board of Education is set to vote on your proposal on Thursday. Do you know -- do you have a sense of how they may -- what they may decide?

HOUSE: Our Board of Education has taken a slight turn. And the focus will be to really have a vote of support. So, we don't feel that of our nine incredible Board members that we'll have any issues, in terms of support.

So, we're looking forward to getting to Thursday, officially having that support, from our Board, and moving forward with the start of the school year, on August 23.

COOPER: And Anna, the Public School Board, in Broward County, Florida, today voted to maintain a mask mandate, allowing exceptions, only for health and safety concerns, in defiance of the governor's executive order.

Is your union, the teachers you represent, are they happy with that decision?

ANNA FUSCO, PRESIDENT, BROWARD TEACHERS UNION: Oh absolutely. They, you know, we went through all of COVID last year, keeping safe, as best as we could, mask was protocol.

And they are in extreme vast majority that they want masks in school, for everybody, for the health and safety of the children themselves, for their families. It was a great win today.

We don't look at as defying the governor. We look at as we're standing up for human rights, decency, listening to science, following what's going on with the trend, here in Florida.

All of our hospitals are packed. They're turning conference rooms into rooms for hospital beds. Our children population has increased of getting COVID. We've had a student die in Duval.

We have a student right here in Broward County that is fighting for her life. She's incubated. She is on a respirator. She is just in really bad terms with the COVID that has gotten into her body. Her parents have pleaded and, you know, or just got their daughter's life in the hands of our doctors here.

And our parents are out there saying that they want their children safe also.

And the anti-maskers and the people that are not understanding that COVID is real, until it riddles someone in their family, it is just heartbreaking that they want to put on this fight, over on safety protocols, as simple as a mask that has helped proven the spread of COVID has been on--


FUSCO: --a minimal.

COOPER: Anna, do you support mandatory vaccinations for teachers?

FUSCO: Anna Fusco supports vaccinations. I'm looking forward when the -- it gets clear to the FDA that it's going to be really and in good terms of that everybody can get it.


Right now, we know that the vast majority of our teachers, and our support staff, and our 35,000 employees of Broward County Public Schools, even though we didn't do any data check on it, but I know when we had lines wrapped around for miles, when they opened up all of the sites and centers.

We had some schools that opened it up. We had parks that opened up just for educators and our employees. People waited hours and hours and hours to get that vaccine are teachers that were the most vulnerable--


FUSCO: --that couldn't wait to get the vaccine.

COOPER: But you're--

FUSCO: So, we know that the masks work.

COOPER: But you're not necessarily supporting mandatory ones, because you talked about, obviously, you wanting masks, because you want to do -- you want to follow the science. Obviously, the science is clear on the vaccines.

FUSCO: Right. I'm not in support of it right now, because there's a lot of people that are vulnerable with medical conditions. And when they get it out there that the FDA has approved it, I think that will be in a better spirit, for everybody--


FUSCO: --to understand the importance of the vaccine.


Superintendent House, as I'm sure you know, Dr. Peter Hotez, a pediatrician, infectious disease expert, in Houston, he fears kids going back to school without masks, that it's going to be an accelerant for new infections among kids. He's also said he fears there may be back-to-school tragedy in the south.

It's clearly become a political football that's -- it's just got to be incredibly frustrating to be in the middle of this.

HOUSE: I don't necessarily see myself in the middle of it, Anderson. What I see myself is, is really just doing the right thing.

As she indicated, just a second ago, this is merely a difference of opinion. We're focused in on the science. We're focused in on making sure our kids and our community is safe.

We know that you just referenced a pediatrician in Houston that spoke to what it could look like, if masks were not in place. I'm in complete agreement.

And our focus is to ensure that we bring our kids back. We know that they're missing not only the academic being of -- being in front of a highly-qualified teacher, but also the social emotional scars of being away from classrooms, for 18 months.

COOPER: Right.

HOUSE: So, it's so important for us to start this school year, to develop the kind of confidence, where our teachers, our parents understand that we can do this in a safe manner, and that we can educate our students, over the course of the next three years, and get them to a place, to where they're caught up--


HOUSE: --at highly-qualified college- and career-ready students.

COOPER: Superintendent Millard House, and Anna Fusco, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Florida's obviously the epicenter of a huge surge in Coronavirus cases, and hospitalizations. And, in Jacksonville, a tragedy unimaginable, for a church congregation, one, that can be traced in part to COVID misinformation.

Randi Kaye has details.



PASTOR GEORGE DAVIS, IMPACT CHURCH: Every day we wake up, we need to understand we're waking up into a battle zone.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At his church, in Jacksonville, Florida, Senior Pastor George Davis is praying for higher vaccination rates, among his church members. Over a recent 10-day period, he says otherwise healthy members of his

church died from COVID. None of them were vaccinated.

DAVIS: We had experienced six people, as of last week, within a 10-day stretch that had passed away from COVID. Four were under the age of 35. And then, actually on yesterday, we had a seventh person, who passed away.

These are all people that we care about, love dearly. One young man, I've known him since he was a toddler. So, it was really difficult. Young man, in the prime of his life, who still had plans to be married, and live out a full life.

KAYE (voice-over): What frustrates Pastor Davis the most is all the misinformation about vaccines that's out there that many in his congregation believe.

DAVIS: When you get injected, the government is putting a tracking device, inside of you, and they're watching your every move, and that, people are dying, record numbers, and it's just not being reported.

I literally had somebody here recently tell me that there is many people in the hospitals here in Jacksonville that are struggling in ICU units, who are vaccinated, as they are those that are unvaccinated.

KAYE (voice-over): A CNN analysis of CDC data suggests more than 99.99 percent of those, who are fully vaccinated, are avoiding hospitalization and death.

Pastor Davis and his wife are vaccinated as well as their three children. And he delivered a strong pro-vaccine message, from the pulpit.


DAVIS: You're able to be vaccinated if you so choose to.


DAVIS: I don't believe that doctors and scientists, no matter how much schooling they've gone to, I don't believe that they can come up with cures and fixes for the body, without a divine presence, God Almighty, giving them that wisdom, and giving them that insight, to figure it out.

KAYE (voice-over): So far, Impact Church has held two vaccination drives, the most recent one, this past Sunday, at church, making it easier, for those who came to pray, to get vaccinated too.

Andrea and Rodney got vaccinated early on, though Andrea was hesitant at first.

ANDREA, MEMBER OF IMPACT CHURCH: And I would say, "Do it so that you don't have to be in the hospital. Do it so that no one has to hear you're struggling to breathe on your last days. Do it. Do it, so that, nobody is having, to say this was, preventable," when something happens.


KAYE (voice-over): And losing members of their congregation was a wake-up call.

RODNEY, MEMBER OF IMPACT CHURCH: These aren't people that you just go to church with, on Sunday. These are people we do life with, people that we've seen -- had seen two weeks ago, at a gathering.

It's much more than losing a church member. It is truly losing family.

KAYE (voice-over): Sheena and Reggie Smith just got vaccinated about a week ago. Reggie waited because he felt the vaccine was rolled out too quickly, even though it was years in the making. But now, he's relieved.

REGGIE SMITH, MEMBER OF IMPACT CHURCH: Just getting that extra buffer for whatever, what could possibly attack your body, you have something there to help fight it off, as well.


KAYE (voice-over): Just days after they were vaccinated, their good friend and fellow church member died of COVID.

S. SMITH: It's very hard. It's very hard. I'm sorry.

It's very hard losing someone that close to you, and seeing life cut short. Being in your 30s, and seeing it cut short, nobody wants to experience that, never. Nobody wants to see that.


COOPER: Randi, do they know where those church members got COVID? Was it at the church?

KAYE: Anderson, they don't believe it was at the church. The pastor says he believes it was outside the church, somewhere maybe at a birthday party, or some type of other large gathering.

And, as you know now, the vaccines aren't required at the church, but masks are mandated inside the church. And the pastor does believe that that is stopping to help -- helping to stop the spread within the church there.

The good news here also is that they've done two of those vaccine drives that I mentioned. And among those now, they have about 1,000 people, who have been vaccinated, so the numbers are going up. So, that's the good news.

But Anderson, it is still so remarkable that you look at so many of these members of this church, and they've now seen seven people, seven of their fellow churchgoers die from COVID, and they're still against getting vaccinated. They go there, and they pray with them, and they knew them, and they

still are not going to get the vaccine, whether it's because of all the misinformation that they're reading out there, or for other reasons, Anderson.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, a close confidant of President Biden, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, joins me, to talk about the passage of that trillion- dollar infrastructure bill today, and what -- whether it can pass the House, as well.



COOPER: Last hour, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told me that he believes President Biden will be able to sign that bipartisan trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that passed the Senate today, plus a separate even larger Democratic budget resolution in September.

One bill represents money for bridges, roads and broadband, among other things. The other, a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, would fund Democratic priorities, including health care, childcare subsidies, and climate change.

Joining me now is a close confidant of President Biden, Delaware Senator Chris Coons.

Senator Coons, thanks for being with us. Obviously, a big win for your party today, in particular for the President, who really pushed to work with Republicans. To those, I mean, to you, what is this -- what does this mean today?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, Anderson, this is a big win for the American people, for Democrats, for Republicans, for President Biden, and for the idea that we can still work together, to solve the problems that face working people across our country.

This is a big deal. $1.2 trillion, over eight years, it'll create 650,000 new high-skilled, high-wage jobs, and it'll fix problems, like access to broadband in urban areas and rural areas, like lead pipes that contaminate drinking water, all over our country.

It'll make a serious down payment on combating climate change. And it'll help us to fix things as simple as potholes, and as sophisticated as passenger rail and airports. I think it's a significant accomplishment for bipartisanship.

And Anderson, we have promptly moved on to voting on President Biden's bigger proposal, the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. We've been voting for over 11 hours now. And I'm confident that all 50 Democrats will support that, when we finally pass it, either very late tonight or very early tomorrow morning.

COOPER: So, what happens then, if in fact, that passes? COONS: Two things. My hope is that the House will take up the infrastructure bill and move it forward. And the Senate and the House will work out the details of all the different provisions of that reconciliation bill.

It's going to cut costs for working families.

But we have to write the details of how it's going to lower prescription drug costs, how it's going to reduce childcare and daycare costs, how it's going to provide for affordable or free junior college, community college, education opportunities, and how it's going to create a new Civilian Climate Corps and a clean electricity standard.

All the details of that have to be hammered out, over August and September. And then, the House and Senate need to agree on it and send it to the President's desk.

COOPER: There had been reporting that Kyrsten Sinema was not on board. You need all Democrats to get this. The reporting was that she was far from a "Yes." Do you believe this will work out?

COONS: Well, it's clear now that tonight, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema will vote to proceed, to this process, of defining the details.

Look, there's a lot to work out here, because we're going to raise taxes on corporations that don't pay any taxes, on the very wealthiest Americans, in order to meet President Biden's commitment that Americans making under $400,000 a year, won't see any tax increase. In fact, they'll get a significant tax cut and lower costs of living.

Senator Sinema made it clear some of the proposed elements of the tax plan she may not support. But we don't have those details yet.

Anderson, the positive thing, the win, tonight is that we've got all 50 Democrats voting to move forward.


COOPER: Do you worry that pushing through a $3.5 trillion in new spending, through the reconciliation process, which bypasses the Senate typical 60-vote threshold, without any Republican votes, undermines the very bipartisan nature, of the infrastructure victory today?

COONS: Well, what's striking to me is that we were able to sustain a big bipartisan vote on that infrastructure bill.

69 senators, which means 19 Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell, voted for the infrastructure deal, even knowing that we were going to immediately move towards this more partisan way that we're going to be able to enact President Biden's bold vision for our country.

That's largely what we're going to fight each other, over in the elections, next year, is whether or not our priorities of lowering costs, for daycare and childcare, prescription drugs, housing and making education more affordable, if that set of priorities wins over the American people, then we'll be successful in the midterms, next year. And if we're wrong, then the Republicans will.

So, I don't think it undermines the idea that we can still come together, and find bipartisan solutions, on things like infrastructure that we all agree on.

But we've got other things that we really disagree on, whether or not the tax code should be more fair, and whether or not we should make the costs that keep working families up at night, easier for them to bear.

COOPER: Right. Senator Chris Coons, I appreciate it. Thank you.

COONS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Ahead tonight, Chicago's gun violence epidemic claiming the life of a police officer. While suspects are in custody, police are directing outrage also at the City's Mayor, a show of defiance, turning their backs on her, when she came to the hospital. More on that, next.



COOPER: The killing of a Chicago police officer is adding to an explosive feud between her colleagues and the City's Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The officer is 29-year-old Ella French was gunned down, along with her partner, during a traffic stop, Saturday night. Illinois' governor said today that the partner continues fighting for his own life.

But some on the Force question whether the Mayor is fighting for them.

Our Omar Jimenez shows us how that tension is erupting, and the City battles a gun violence epidemic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer shot. Officer shot. Officer down.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were the gunshots that killed Chicago Police officer Ella French, and critically wounded her partner, during a traffic stop, over the weekend.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: I want to publicly offer condolences to her mother, her brother, family and friends.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But when Mayor Lori Lightfoot visited the hospital, to support the police and families, about 30 officers physically turned their backs on her, sources told the "Chicago Sun- Times."

ALDERMAN MATT O'SHEA, 19TH WARD OF CHICAGO: Are we talking several hundred? Are we talking several thousand?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Alderman Matt O'Shea says the Ward he represents has more Chicago Law Enforcement than any other in the city.

JIMENEZ (on camera): The number of officers reportedly turned their backs, what sort of message, do you think, that sent?

O'SHEA: Police families and officers are -- they're at a tipping point. We've seen many police officers killed in line of duty. It's not uncommon that the scene at the hospital is uncomfortable. Emotions are running high. People are angry.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): John Catanzara, President of the local Fraternal Order of Police took things a step further.

JOHN CATANZARA, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: The men and women of this Police Department have no respect for this Mayor. And it was as palpable as you could possibly imagine, outside that hospital.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Mayor Lightfoot's office put out a statement, Monday, saying this was not the time, for divisive and toxic rhetoric, reading specifically, "In a time of tragedy, emotions run high and that is to be expected. The Mayor spoke to a range of officers that tragic night and sensed the overwhelming sentiment was about concern for their fallen colleagues."

O'SHEA: She truly was the very definition of a peace officer. And to be cut down in such an unbelievably horrible way, for what would have amounted to a routine traffic stop.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): Officer Ella French was 29-years-old, the only officer to be shot and killed, in the line of duty, this year, and the first since 2018.

The two suspects were denied bail Tuesday. Among the charges, 21-year- old Emonte Morgan faces first-degree murder, while his 22-year-old brother Eric Morgan's charges included aggravated unlawful use of a weapon with a prior conviction.

A third suspect, Jamel Danzy, is in federal custody, over allegedly buying the weapon used in the killing, in Indiana, and giving it to one of the suspects, Police say, was involved in the shooting.

The officer's death comes in a year, where murders are up 58 percent, compared to 2019, and shootings up more than 65 percent, according to the Chicago Police Department.

O'SHEA: We have a dead young officer. We have another officer fighting for his life. And we have a city completely upside-down in turmoil. We've got to change.


COOPER: Omar Jimenez joins us now.

It's been clearly violent and difficult climate for policing in Chicago, especially the past year and a half. What has officer morale been like?

JIMENEZ: Yes, Anderson. I mean, in conversations I've had with the Chicago Police Superintendent, he's told me morale is a constant struggle that they are having, especially when you look at the pandemic, the protests of last year, even social media.

And that's tied to, some of what, that Alderman, we spoke to, told us that it's easy for officers to feel like no one has their backs, from politicians, to the media, to members of the community.

That said those sentiments of caring for police have often butted heads with reforming police, which Mayor Lightfoot has helmed, in recent months. She's been at the center of helming, in recent months, notably helping to create a civilian oversight body for the Chicago Police Department.


And of course, all of it happening within the context of a very tense year on all parties, here in Chicago, to try and find solutions, to the violence.

COOPER: Omar Jimenez, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Ahead, the worst act of wildfire in the nation, rages, no end in sight, the chilling images of what it left behind, in one town, next.


COOPER: The nation's largest active wildfire is nowhere near finished.

The Dixie Fire in Northern California is close to burning half a million acres, which is almost shattering the state record, 16,000 homes, businesses and other buildings on its path. Nearly 900 are already lost. One forest supervisor calls this "Truly frightening fire behavior."

Now, the disaster started nearly a month ago, some of the most dramatic examples coming through the small city of Greenville. Look at that. House after house, store after store, destroyed, gone. Governor Gavin Newsom calls it a quote, "Smash-mouth" example of the climate crisis.

Temperatures in the West are expected to stay in the 90s, for the week, with the risk of thunderstorms.

News continues right now. Let's turn things over to Don for "DON LEMON TONIGHT."