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Taliban Seize Ninth Afghan City as U.S. Nears Final Withdrawal; Senate Passes $3.5 Trillion Budget in Latest Win for Biden; Pace of New Vaccinations Tops 500,000 for First Time since June. Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 11:30   ET


NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND ADVOCATE: The United States Supreme Court also said that it's illegal.


That's 35 years ago. If Governor Cuomo didn't get that memo, Roger Ailes ousted in 2016, the Me Too movement began, Weinstein and O'Reilly were ousted in 2017, it's ridiculous to say that he didn't know that touching women with either your lips, your hands or your body, telling them how to dress, show some leg, asking them sexual questions, have you ever had sex with an older man, did you ever cheat on your husband, the fact that he didn't know that is just false.

And we know it's false in two ways. He signed the law that eliminated the severe and pervasive standard that a lot of men on the courts had read into the law. The law against discrimination, both federal and state, didn't say only harassment that's severe or pervasive was illegal. Judges made that up. So a little sexual harassment, according to judges, was okay.

Andrew Cuomo signed the law that ended that standard in New York. But, finally, we know it's false because he knew what he was doing was wrong. And the evidence of that is, when he forced women to take selfies, like Ms. Commisso and others, he told them not to share the selfies, except with who he told them to. Most significantly, he stopped Ms. Commisso from coming to the executive mansion after several of the allegations became public.

And there's actually messages among him and his staff, and the subject line of the messages is sexual harassment. And they decided not to let Ms. Commisso come to the executive mansion after those allegations became public. He knew what he had done to her. He also told her -- he said to her, what do you think of these allegations and told her not to talk. So, it's false that he didn't know it was wrong.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And in pushing forward with this, Errol, what does all of this mean for the impeachment investigation into him, that the assembly is still looking at? I mean, what are you hearing?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I talked with a bunch of state legislators. There's sort of a split decision. There are many of them who want to proceed with the impeachment proceedings. Removal is not the only penalty for impeachment in New York. There's removal. That's now moot since the governor decided to resigned, but there's also a penalty of being barred from ever holding high office again. And so if they don't want to see him as a candidate again, they could proceed.

There's also some value in the view of some of the legislators to getting to the bottom of exactly what happened. We've talked a lot about sexual harassment but there's also a number of different charges about whether or not he improperly used state resources to write this book about how he handled the pandemic, for which he was personally paid over $5 million.

There are questions about the deaths in nursing homes where the administration has acknowledged that they obfuscated the information, that they did not tell the legislature what was going on in those nursing homes. That's the subject of a federal probe. There are criminal charges pending against the governor as well.

So, legislators, some of them are saying, listen, not so fast. You don't get to just walk away from this stuff. And then, of course, there are others who say that we're still battling a pandemic, we're trying to get kids back in school in just a few weeks from now. We've got billions of dollars literally of money that has not been distributed to help people avoid eviction. None of that was been done because administration and state government, in general, has been slowing to a crawl while we dealt with the scandal.

So, there's a split decision. We're going to find out whether they want to go forward with impeachment and continued investigations or if they want to just kind of put this behind them and get back to the business of the state.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I'm looking forward to hearing from the next governor of New York a little later today. It's very good to hear from both of you. Thanks so much.

Coming up, nine cities falling in less than a week and new reporting on how soon U.S. intelligence fears Afghanistan's capital could be taken by the Taliban as well. A live report from Kabul, next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, the Taliban has seized a ninth city in Afghanistan in less than a week. More than a quarter of the provincial capitals in the country have now fallen to the terror group. There are now very real concerns this morning about how quickly the Afghan government could actually fall.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, she is live in the Afghan capital of Kabul with the very latest.

Clarissa, all signs are that this is going from bad to worse and faster than most anticipated. What have you been seeing there?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just got back from a trip to Ghazni, which is another provincial capital. And as we were driving past it, it was immediately cleared. The entire city is surrounded by the Taliban. That was the same story in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city, Kate, that we visited last week, again, entirely surrounded by the Taliban, many other cities in a very similar situation.


More than half of the provincial capitals are now under threat or have fallen to the Taliban.

So, the situation is clearly dire and there's a sense that it is escalating quickly. What we don't have a good sense of yet is what the government's response is going to be. We have heard President Ashraf Ghani here calling for ordinary Afghan citizens to go out and take up a gun, basically, and join popular uprisings, essentially enlist with your local warlord to fight back the Taliban, but that does not appear to be a very coherent strategy in terms of trying to put a stop to this lightning quick offensive that we've seen in a matter of months. Literally since May most of these gains have been made, when the U.S. began its withdrawal.

And with the U.S. and NATO forces finishing that withdrawal in the upcoming weeks, there is absolutely a very real sense of gloom and doom, honestly, here in Kabul, the capital. For now, it's relatively secure, but, absolutely, people are very, very frightened that that could be changing imminently. And I don't mean imminently in the coming days, but certainly in the coming months, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And this really is -- this is a really devastating setback for the Afghan government. I mean, yesterday, when he was asked about it, Joe Biden made clear that the conditions kind of are falling apart in Afghanistan, they're not making him feel any differently about his decision. It's not changing his mind. Do you get the sense that Afghans -- Clarissa, I'm being in my ear we've got to go over to Capitol Hill. Clarissa Ward in Kabul, for us, Clarissa, thank you so much.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is speaking after a big win for Democrats and President Biden. Let's listen in.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): -- not as much as I'd like, but good. So, this was one of the most significant legislative days we've had in a long time in the United States Senate, but we still have a long road to travel. It's as if we caught a pass, a nice long pass at midfield but we still have 50 yards to go before we score a touchdown, but it's still good to make that pass and make that advance.

What we saw yesterday is very simple, that elections matter, the American people's votes matter and Democrats are working hard to keep the promises we made to the American people when we won the majority.

Earlier this year, as you know, we passed the American rescue plan, which helped put checks in people's pockets, shots in people's arms and save small businesses and our economy. Now, we're going from rescue to recovery, to make the economy, to make the American people's lives even better than it was before COVID, because there were so many structural problems in our economy and there became a sourness in the land that we very much want to remove.

The two-track strategy, which I outlined earlier this year, is moving full steam ahead. When I first said we were going to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution before we broke for the August recess, many said it was an impossible task, but Democrats in the Senate are determined, fiercely determined, to move President Biden's build back better agenda forward.

Sometimes it took a little prodding. It took working weekends, like late nights, cloture motions, but we kept working at it, I kept prodding the bipartisan group to go forward, pushing them when they needed pushing, giving them more time and breathing space when they needed more time and breathing space, and that bill passed yesterday. But now, we have to keep working at it, and I'm very pleased to report that the two-track strategy is right on track.

As I said, first we passed the bipartisan infrastructure package with all 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans. Every Democrat voted for both the bipartisan bill and the resolution, the budget resolution, every Democrat voted for both. And the first bill, the bipartisan bill, was a long overdue step to revitalize America's infrastructure and give our workers, our businesses, our economies the tools to succeed in the 21st century. The bipartisan infrastructure bill will put America on track to lead the 21st century in both productivity and job creation for decades to come.


While the bipartisan infrastructure bill is a very significant bill, my entire caucus agrees that there's much more that needs to be done. So, on the second track, we passed a robust budget resolution that will grow the middle class in the 21st century and give more Americans a chance to get into the middle class, keep those in the middle class and assure them they're going to stay there, they're worried about it, help those trying to climb that ladder to get into the middle class to get there more easily. That's our mission. That's our goal and, frankly, that is my passion. That is what motivates me in working as hard as I can to get this going forward.

The Democratic budget resolution is transformational. It's probably the most significant single piece of legislation that we have seen certainly in decades, and Bernie Sanders thinks since Roosevelt. And he's pushing for big change. It will cut taxes, lower costs for the American people, create good paying jobs, invest in our future while tackling the climate change crisis.

It's big, it's bold, it's strong, and it will be paid for by making our tax code more progressive and more fair without working taxes on working families and small businesses, by asking corporations and the wealthy to pay their share. It boils the average American's blood when they see multibillionaires paying virtually no taxes. And that was done by the Republicans under Donald Trump. It was reported that you had a greater chance of being audited if you made $40,000 than if you made $40 million a year because they decided to go after the cheaters of the earned income tax credit. But that's where the Republican Party is these days, with the very wealthy, the very powerful and the right-wing who doesn't want to see the government help the people at all.

So, the job, make it easier for middle class Americans to stay in the middle class and build ladders into the middle class for hard working people.

And let me just say something about this. This is my gut. For the last 20 years, there's been a sourness in the land. America -- the American character has always been for centuries a bright, sunny, optimistic character. The American dream, very simple, it's says the average American would say it means if I work hard, I'll be doing better ten years from now than today and my kids will be doing better than me. That faded. It created a sourness in the land and, in my judgment, it elected a man who had such awful values and someone was so divisive as Donald Trump.

The mission, it's a mission, is to not allow that to happen again. And the way to do that is restore that American dream and give middle class Americans, poor Americans hope for the future. They don't expect us to snap our fingers and get it all done at once but they sure expect us to give them some hope and some progress, and that's what we're trying to do with both bills, with both bills.

So, let me say, what we're doing isn't easy. We've labored for months and months to reach this point and we have no illusion. Maybe the hardest work is yet to come. But we are united in a desire to get it done, and so far, so good. And I think my entire caucus can say with absolute certainty that it's worth doing, and I believe we will get the job done.

Last night, I convened a meeting with the chairs of all the committees tasked with crafting the reconciliation bill, and I had given them a deadline of producing a bill that can be presented to the full caucus and passed in the Senate as soon as possible.

Every committee chair is going to be meeting at least on a weekly basis, maybe more often, with their members. And we will do weekly Zooms with them as well. We're going to be working very hard in the next few weeks, in the next month, frankly, to get that reconciliation bill ready in September. That's a hard job on such a large, important bill, but we're going to roll up our sleeves and work to get it done.

Before I take your questions, I just want to close on voting rights. I don't know how many of you were up when we did that there. But yesterday morning, you saw what it was like when the Senate comes together in a bipartisan way to pass legislation. This morning, early this morning at 4:00 A.M., we saw what it looks like when the Senate refuses to come together, even on simple things that the American people overwhelmingly support on voting.


Republicans, once again, obstructed even debating voting rights legislation in the Senate.

Let me be clear. Republicans refusing to support negative on voting rights is not an excuse for Democrats to do nothing. In recent weeks, as recently as yesterday, we've had a meeting of nine senators, myself and four of the more progressive senators, Warnock, Merkley, Klobuchar and Padilla, and four of the more moderate senators, Manchin, Kane, Tester and King. And we're making great progress to come together with a very strong voting rights bill that every Democrat can support.

So, we are going to come up with that legislation. We're going to rally around it. And this morning, I filed cloture on a vehicle to allow the Senate to take up that compromised voting rights bill when we return. Voting rights will be the very first matter of legislative business when the Senate returns to session in September.

Ready for your questions. Mr. pink shirt?

REPORTER: Senator, Senator McConnell said this to me yesterday. They have the House, the Senate and the presidency. It's their obligation to govern and the essence of governing is to raise the debt ceiling. Your reaction to that, and with this morning's vote on the budget, have you ruled out once and for all using reconciliation?

SCHUMER: Look, let me say this. I cannot believe the Republicans will let the country default. And it has always been bipartisan to deal with the debt ceiling. When Trump was president, I believe the Democrats joined with him to raise it three times. Again, I cannot believe Republicans will let us default.

As for reconciliation, the White House and Janet Yellen preferred it be done outside of reconciliation, A, to keep it bipartisan, to stop making this a partisan issue because it's fraught with peril (ph). Mitch McConnell seems to want to do that. I don't think he'll succeed. And, second, because reconciliation limits what you can do there and doing it outside gives you more flexibility.


REPORTER: On voting rights, we heard you say repeatedly, failure is not an option, and then everything is on the table here. When you come back in September, what is actually going to change? The Republicans have filibustered this. They said they'll continue to filibuster it. Can you lay out a path of what this will actually --

SCHUMER: We have made progress and we are showing very clearly to every one of our 50 senators that Republicans won't join us. And yet, the importance of voting rights, if anything, has strengthened in the minds of everybody, everybody.

And Senator Manchin put down a proposal back in June that had not everything I would want but many of the things I want. So we are making very good progress and we're going to keep at it. It's so important. Yes?

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) following up on that. What do you say to activists who say, showing you have 50 Democrats are not enough, they say they need a law to actually deal with voting rights now?

SCHUMER: Two things. I would say, we're going to keep at it. And as I said before, everything is on the table.


REPORTER: Speaking with Senator Manchin, you put out a statement this morning concerns, saying that he's concerned about the price tag of the reconciliation bill. How do you navigate his concerns and Senator Sinema's concerns that the $3.5 trillion increase or the price tag is too much?

SCHUMER: Look, there are some in my caucus who may believe it's too much. There are some in my caucus who believe it's too little. The original bill that Senator Sanders put in was $6 trillion. I supported that. And I can tell you this. In reconciliation, one, we are going to all come together to get something done. And, two, it will have every part of the Biden plan in a big, bold, robust way.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) follow- up. I mean, are you open -- but are you open to lowering the price tag, or are you firm on $3.5 trillion?

SCHUMER: As I've said, every part of Biden's proposal will be there in a big, robust way. There are some members in our caucus who want less, some members in our caucus who want more, that's same in the House. We're going to all come together to meet that goal.


REPORTER: Senator Schumer, do you support --

BOLDUAN: All right. You're hearing right there Senator Schumer trying to thread the needle, saying that some of his caucus want more, some want less, but he says this will be transformational, is what he says. This budget blueprint will be, though it is clearly a long road ahead, as it's clear that negotiations, arenow really going to be getting underway.

Back to other top story this hour, the pandemic.


The delta variant continues to spread rapidly in the United States, and there is new evidence, though, that more Americans are taking notice and getting protected. More than half a million Americans are getting their first shot each day. That's the first time, really, that new vaccinations have topped 500,000 in nearly two months. Good news. But despite that, only 22 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents and some of the hardest-hit states are still way behind that.

Joining me now for the challenges ahead when it comes to getting vaccinated and more, Admiral Brett Giroir, he's a former Assistant Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, and the former coronavirus testing czar under President Trump. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time.

This morning, Dr. Rick Bright was on. He's the former HHS employee, he's a whistleblower to sued the Trump administration, who is also in charge of the office that was involved in developing a COVID vaccine before he left. He leveled some heavy charges this morning, saying that if the trump team, which, of course, you were part of, had done things differently, he says hundreds and thousands of lives could have been saved.

Let me play this from Rick Bright.


RICK BRIGHT, WHISTLEBLOWER, OUSTED AFTER COMPLAINT AGAINST TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: If we had initiated testing, a really robust nationwide testing strategy to tell people where the virus was and tell people who were infected, if we had done more to prepare for the vaccine administration rollout when the vaccine became available, we could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives of our loved ones and relatives and others in our community who we lost needlessly from this lack of action, lack of truth from our government at the outset of this pandemic.


BOLDUAN: Now, Admiral, he clearly has had major differences and problems with the Trump administration, that's not question, but what do you say to that?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR (RET.), FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: Well, I disagree with that. I can tell you that Dr. Bright, I had worked with him at HHS, but he was really not involved in any of the decision-making and certainly I don't know how you can criticize the vaccine rollout. You know, we had secured 900 million vaccines before we left office, on the day of inauguration of President Biden, 1.5 million shots were in arms. We had 70,000 vaccination sites. So I think the facts just argue with that and it's really not true.

Again, I'm happy to listen to Dr. Bright and understand where he's coming from, but the facts are just completely different. He can't make up the facts, and the facts speak for themselves.

BOLDUAN: One thing that he talked was about testing. And The Wall Street Journal is reporting that testing companies are once again struggling to meet demand, days' long waits for results again. You were in charge of testing for the Trump administration. Why, as a country, have we still not gotten this right?

GIROIR: Well, it's hard for me to imagine why testing has gone down 65 to 80 percent under the President Biden administration and we now have billions, literally, of tests per month. Why the Biden administration is not sending free tests to all areas that are having outbreaks in their home, in their mailboxes, all of that is available. We built that.

That didn't under the Trump administration. That didn't exist under Obama or in the Bush administration or anyone else. We built that. It's all available. So please utilize these. I think this is one of the most underperforming areas of the Biden response, is the complete tanking of the testing infrastructure that we built.

BOLDUAN: Are you saying that -- I mean, you've been really careful to not be critical of all of the folks working behind the scenes in many respects, but are you saying that you think that the Biden administration is dropping the ball, you think they are not working hard enough, fast enough when it comes to this?

GIROIR: So, again, I think both sides of the aisle deserve a lot of credit. Both administrations deserve a lot of credit. The Biden team has certainly been very forward about vaccinations and have taken that baton and run a really good leg of the race with it. But I do think since you're bringing up testing, again, the facts speak for themselves. Testing is down substantially since we left office. You don't hear about testing anymore. And testing is one of those harm reduction strategies.

Vaccinations are best, but we have the ability to test students in schools, we have the ability to send home tests to people and I would like to see that lean forward more because it is another tool in the armamentarium to save American lives and get us back to normal. So, yes, I do wish they would be leaning forward more into testing. And, again, the numbers speak for themselves. When you have a rise in cases, like delta, this is the exact time that you need to employee those billions of tests that we developed and are available for Americans.

BOLDUAN: I think testing is underappreciated and underdiscussed and the importance of it in this moment while we're still trying to get more people vaccinated.


Admiral Giroir, sorry, we have to cut it short today, but thank you very much for coming on.

And thank you all so much for joining me today. I'm Kate Bolduan. Inside Politics with John King starts now.