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At This Hour

Soon: Senate Votes on $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill; Gov. Cuomo to Address People of New York at 11:45AM ET. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Final vote. The Senate set to pass the infrastructure bill in just minutes, giving President Biden a big bipartisan victory. But it's not over yet.

Politics over children. Several Republican governors blocking mask mandates instead of trying to keep kids safe in school.

And mounting pressure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing growing calls to resign as California's governor faces a recall election.

We begin though with breaking news on Capitol Hill this hour. At any moment, the Senate will begin voting on the very massive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after months of intense negotiations. It was the -- it will be the largest federal investment in the nation's aging public work system in more than a decade.

So this is a very big moment for Congress. This is a very big moment for President Biden as well, who vowed to bring bipartisanship back to Washington.

But this legislation faces still an uncertain future in the House. We have all this covered from Capitol Hill and the White House.

Let's begin with CNN's Manu Raju on the Hill for us watching this moment as it is set to begin soon.

Manu, what is about to happen?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. We're going to see here all 50 Democrats vote to pass this bill and we expect a sizable amount of Senate Republicans also to join ranks. Probably less than half of the Senate Republican conference or 50 Senate Republicans, there were 18 who voted to move this bill to a final vote. Some of them have since said they are not going to vote for this on final passage. The number two Senate Republican John Thune just told me moments ago he plans to vote against this. But watch what Republican Mitch McConnell does. He's expected to vote

for this bill. And he voted to advance this. It shows how the Republicans are approaching this, some sided with the Democrats and tried to negotiated this bill to their liking, $1.2 trillion.

It did not raise taxes as Democrats ranted to raise taxes on high income earners, instead, it's paid for by a range of mechanisms including redirecting already enacted COVID relief money to help pay for the hundreds of billion dollars that are proposed to be spent on roads and bridges and waterways and broadband. This is a significant bipartisan achievement after months of intense discussions.

But as you mentioned, Kate, an uncertain future in the house. The House Democrat, the speak of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will not move on the bill until the Democrats in the Senate pass a larger sweeping $3.5 trillion package that would expand a whole host of issues. Major Democratic priorities, expanding the social safety net. They need to have all 50 Senate Democrats in line to pass that. That won't come together until the fall.

So that means this bill may not get to Joe Biden's desk until maybe September or even October as the Democrats try to move forward on that larger proposal. So, after this is passed, Kate, that first step to move that larger proposal will occur on the Senate floor as they try to move what is known as the budget resolution that allows them to unlock and --

BOLDUAN: Manu, I'm going to jump in.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's attorney is speaking now. Let's listen in.

RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: -- the attorney general released a report about the governor and allegations of sexual harassment. That same day, the attorney general gave a press conference, and in the press conference the attorney general expressed that the governor had sexually harassed and mistreated 11 different women.

I have spoken over the last several days about the problems with this report, biases that I think came with that report and I want to spend a few minutes today on behalf of the governor walking through that report and the issues that we have with the report. Because what happened between Tuesday, August 3rd, when this report came down, was that dozens people called for the governor's resignation.

The governor had no opportunity to respond. And a press cycle ensued. And journalists were saying things that we had groped, and that he had fondled 11 women and that wasn't true and that wasn't in the report.

And over the last eight days, the media frenzy contributed to what the report was, which was the investigators acted as the prosecutors, the judge, and the jury of Governor Cuomo.

[11:05:03] Nobody vetted through the report. And I want to spend some time talking about it. Because he's been convicted in the media and the assembly, most of the members have made up their mind without hearing the other side. The report as I've said before contains errors. And it omits key evidence.

It omitted evidence that undermined the narrative that began in day one on this investigation. This was not about an independent review of the allegations and the circumstances surrounding them. From day one, this was about building a case against Governor Cuomo.

The investigators, if you go through the report, with the discerning eye and give it the scrutiny that it deserves, it failed to collect relevant evidence. The investigators credited people that they know had lied in the past, or had motives to lie. And the report didn't explore this or any of it.

This is about the veracity and the credibility of a report that is being used to impeach and take down an elected official. Let me start with some of the facts that the report got wrong, the report that the media has repeatedly credited and not bothered to present the other side.

The report concluded, on page 24 and on page 142, affirmatively concluded that the governor groped Ms. Commisso on November 16th of 2020. Concluded it definitively. And that the attorney general's press conference on August 3rd, one of the investigators, Anne Clark, said it definitively to the world that Governor Cuomo groped the breast of an executive assistant in the mansion during the work day.

But what was so apparent when I read the report, is that the investigators didn't bother to collector review evidence about November 16th to determine if their conclusion was correct. And everyone has to ask themselves, why didn't they do that? Why didn't they get all of the emails from that day? Why didn't they get the records about when Ms. Commisso? Why didn't they speak to any of the witnesses and there were many who were in the mansion that day.

They didn't collect the documents that prove the most serious allegation was false. Records from the mansion reflect that senior members of staff were present there on November 16th. And the investigators did not ask, they did not ask any of those people about what they saw, what they heard, what Ms. Commisso was doing that day.

Her vision of events which she conveyed to "Times Union" in an April 7th anonymous interview about the amount of time that she was in the mansion and what she was in the mansion for, they don't match up with the documentary evidence. And the investigators didn't get that.

And now we are in a situation where, as of yesterday, I read "The Albany Times Union", and it said that the governor groped her around November 25th is what she is saying. As I've said before, my team has looked through the records for November. And we're aware of no record indicating that Brittany Commisso was at the mansion in November on any other day than November 16th. And she has said this occurred in November. Why did the investigators not get the records and why did they not

include them in the report. What else was so bothersome and very hard for me to take as a lawyer for the governor is that the report suggests that the governor testified falsely about that day. It suggests that when the governor said others were present including maybe up to ten staff members in the mansion, the report just discredited him.


But I now know that they did not bother to get the records and the email that reflected who was in the mansion that day. In fact, the documents prove that the governor testified truthfully. Numerous staff were present, including Ms. Melissa DeRosa, Stephanie Benton and Peter Jimian and the staff that is around there all throughout the day helping out with various things within the mansion.

Ms. Commisso was there for three hours. She was there to work on a speech. She wasn't there to fix a technical issue with the governor's phone which is what she told "The Times Union".

And Ms. Commisso said that at some point during this day, that the governor should the door so hard, so hard and then groped her that she thought for sure someone must think, hey, what is going on? Did they hear that?

The attorney general's investigators did not ask the witnesses who were in the mansion that day about what they heard and what they saw. And during the governor's testimony on July 17th, the investigators told the governor unequivocably (ph), unequivocally, that this occurred on November 16th. So why not ask the people that were there?

Ask yourself that question and whether this report was meant to be thorough and fair, and to give everyone a balanced view to draw conclusions for themselves.

The report also states, and the attorney general has stated, that Ms. Commisso's claim of a sexual assault on November 16th or November 25th or another day in November, was independently corroborated. And that is not true. The only corroborated fact is that she first made her claim in March after the investigation began.

The independent corroboration, corroborated the governor. The simultaneous emails and documents corroborates Governor Cuomo. There was also testimony by several witnesses about potential motives and what was going on with Ms. Commisso in late 2020 and early 2021, and concerns she had about her job, that she had been turned down for a raise and concerned there was a possibility because her work hours might change, she could be transferred. That was not reflected in the attorney general's report.

Another aspect to the attorney general's report deals with a referral to the Albany Police Department about Ms. Commisso's claims.

Now, I'm sure a lot of you have seen over the last several days that Ms. Commisso made a complaint to Sheriff Apple the Albany County Sheriff. What no one is talking about is that it was actually the executive chamber that referred Ms. Commisso complaint when she first made it out with friends for drinks on March 6 and then a lawyer called the executive chamber on Monday, March 8th.

And when that lawyer called to make the allegation, the liar indicated that he did not want to pursue this criminally. But it was the executive chamber that referred the allegation to the Albany Police Department.

And as further evidence of the bias of this report, look at page 147 buried in footnote 1,239. The report won't even credit the executive chamber for this. It said, quote, we understand that certain criminal authorities including Albany Police Department had been alerted to the most egregious allegations of physical touching including the groping of executive assistant one.

I ask you, why couldn't the report say the executive chamber promptly report it to the Albany Police Department? Because every inference was going to be drawn against the executive chamber and Governor Cuomo.


The report got key facts wrong. It omitted key evidence. And it failed to include witnesses whose testimony did not support the narrative that was clear that this investigation was going to weave from day one. And I want to talk about that.

This began in December of 2020 with Lindsey Boylan. Lindsey Boylan made some tweets on December 5th and December 13th that talked about her departure from the mansion and accused the governor of sexual harassment.

One of the things that she said in an article she published on "Medium", in February, a couple of months later, is that she was on a plane with the governor and he made a comment about, hey, let's play strip poker. There were several other staff members on flights with Ms. Boylan and every single one of them said that didn't happen.

And after that came out, that they said that didn't happen, and one of the people on the flights was Howard Zemsky, the head of the Empire State Development Agency. And he testified that he received a disparaging message from Ms. Boylan that he found, quote, jarring and threatening.

And the report mentioned this. But they noticeably don't tell you what that message was. They don't include it as an exhibit. Why not? That is the equivalent of witness tampering.

And if any member of the chamber or the governor himself had engaged in that conduct, that would be another ten pages of the report and I'm sure that I would have received another subpoena from the assembly.

They also did not deliberately choose to investigate communications that occurred between Lindsey Boylan's campaign in December '20, she first made the allegations about two weeks after she announced she was running for Manhattan borough president. And in that time period, there were communications between the attorney general's chief of staff, Abraham Khan, and Ms. Boylan's top campaign consultant Trip Yang.

There were a number of conversations about what Ms. Boylan was saying and what was going on in the campaign. One of Ms. Boylan's top media consultants resigned when she made these allegations.

Did the attorney general's investigators talk to all of those people, subpoena the records from the campaign and the same way that they have subpoenaed the executive chamber and my client for anything and everything having to do with sexual harassment, with Lindsey Boylan? The complainants needed to be scrutinized just as much as the governor and the chamber. And that didn't happen here.

The investigators credited Lindsey Boylan, despite the fact that they knew she had threatened a witness to get him to change his story and he did. And one thing that has been missing through this is that there was a signal about seven or eight months before Miss Boylan made her tweets in December. A signal that she was out for some type of revenge against the governor's office.

You see, Miss Boylan had ran in a primary against Congressman Jerry Nadler. And in March of 2020, when COVID started, the governor issued an executive order which narrowed the time frame for people to get petitions so they could get on the ballot. Miss Boylan was very unhappy about this and felt that that had been directed at her. And she sent two threatening messages to members of the governor's staff.

One of them said, quote, absolutely not helpful. Please relay that while we are okay -- you see what the point is here. And I'll find ways to respond. Life is long and so is my memory, and so are my resources.

Her second message, absolutely not helpful. Specific response to a tragedy but please relay that while we are okay, I see what the point is here.


And I will try to find ways to respond to the message. The future is coming after, I will leave the expletive out.

Miss Boylan was unhappy that governor won't support her in her campaign. She blamed the governor's office and sent these threatening texts promising retribution and sure enough, after two weeks after announcing her campaign, she did a series of tweets and talked about why she left the chamber. She was not honest about the circumstances of her departure.

And so three memos were released because a public figure running a political campaign was making statements, misleading the public about what had happened and why she left. And the chamber felt the duty to correct that record. There were also witnesses that the attorney general's investigators interviewed that told them that Lindsey Boylan was not to be trusted, and that they did not find her credible. Not just based on what had happened in the tweets, but based on their professional interactions with her when she worked in the chamber.

The investigators didn't include that in the report and they credited Miss Boylan wholesale.

What perhaps I think was most bothersome, and there was a lot, but out of interviewing 179 witnesses, the investigators made a choice not to include what a lot of people had to say. And buried at the end, at page 121, is a sentence that should scare everybody. Scare everybody if you're being accused of something and this is all you get about what people have to say that's good about you.

Here is what it said. It said a number of former and current executive chamber staff particularly the senior staff as well as state troopers with the protection detail denied having witnessed or experienced any conduct by the governor that could be characterized as sexual or otherwise inappropriate.

That sentence is buried at the end and of the over 1,000 foot footnotes, why didn't they cite the transcripts? Why didn't they quote from those people? Did what those people say bear upon any of the allegations that they included?

The governor deserved to have a fulsome and balanced record that laid it all out. But the report doesn't identify who the witnesses were, what they said, and what they were asked.

I want to talk also about trooper number one. The report does corroborate that the governor supported trooper one's transfer to his detail to increase diversity among the detail members. Please read that portion of the report at page 35, because when you read the narrative of the report, it makes it sound as though he wanted this trooper on his detail to sexually harass her and that was just not true.

There is another member of the state police that corroborated that the governor was very interested out of a detail of 60 troopers who were mostly white male to have diversity.

The governor has great respect for trooper one. And he didn't touch her in a sexual manner. None of his contact with trooper one or for that matter any of the troopers was meant in any way to be inappropriate. He does greet them. He will pat them on the back. He will pat them on the side when they're opening the doors for him coming in and out of cars.

On the elevator, the trooper stands in front of him. The governor will tap the trooper on the back and say, hello, particularly as he's walking out of the elevator. He has read what trooper one had to say. And he feels very badly and he apologizes for anything that he did that caused her to feel that way. He is sorry.


With respect to Charlotte Bennett, the governor addressed in detail in his video statement on August 3rd. It is important to know that any claim that he was grooming this young woman who is a sexual assault victim or that he had a romantic interest in her could not be further from the truth. His experience with a very, very close family member who is about the same age as Charlotte Bennett, that provided crucial context to the conversations that he had with Ms. Bennett.

The governor testified in detail about this to the attorney general's investigators but they did not include his detailed testimony in the report. He has and he continues to apologize to Ms. Bennett for anything that he said in the conversations that he had with her that made her feel the way that she did. He certainly did not mean that and because of her experience, and what he went through with someone very close to him, he in no way, shape or form, wanted to hurt her.

There are now other series of allegations that were in the report and the media keeps saying 11 women, 11 women. And I watched "CBS This Morning" yesterday and I thought it was actually a good interview of Miss Commisso. I thought the interviewer was fair.

But what was brother some to me afterwards is they then had a round table discussion with two of the men sitting there and they just kept pointing to 11 women. And it was quite clear to me that they didn't know what the actual claims were. And then it just gets repeated over and over again by the media, when they haven't done their homework, rolled up the sleeves and learned the facts. That's what journalists are supposed to do. Not cast judgment and not give us their opinions.

Let's talk about some of the other allegations. State entity employee number two. This is what the attorney general's report included as another form of sexual harassment by the governor. This event, this photo, the governor made a joke to the doctor in the hospital gown, protected against COVID while she gave him a test.

And he said in front of the whole world, you make that gown look good. That's not sexual harassment. I don't know why that was included in the attorney general's report except to say that it was to add another number and to make the governor look bad.

There was also state entity employee number one and what she claimed is that she was in the an event with the governor and as her photo was being taken, and the governor was standing between herself and her supervisor, she claimed that the governor touched her butt at the public event while the photo was taken.

No pictures from that event were included in the attorney general's report. And presumably, this picture is there and we haven't been provided with that picture. If the governor may have touched her rear end while he's got his arm around the supervisor and this woman at a public event, he certainly did not mean to do it in a way that was sexual, he takes thousands of pictures.

And then it goes to another one of the women who have come forward. Miss Leah Miatus (ph). She is not a state employee. She worked for an energy company.

The governor was at a public event and he was working a grope line. There were dozens of people there. There were reporters. And she claims that as he went through the rope line, he touched the logo on her shirt which was her energy company logo as he was greeting her.

The governor did not mean to grope her. And certainly there were pictures from this event. Those pictures haven't been provided to me and they were not part of the attorney general's report.