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Don Lemon Tonight

Senate Passes $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill After Months Of Intense Bipartisan Talks; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Announces Resignation; Students Caught In Feud Over Mask Mandates; Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Six Restrictive Voting Bills; Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul To Become New York's First Female Governor; Senator Ted Crux Decries 'Herd Mentality.' Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): We're following multiple big developing stories tonight. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning, trying to avoid impeachment while also attempting to undercut the sexual harassment allegations forcing him out.

Plus, the delta variant is putting children at risk. Nearly 94,000 American kids are testing positive for COVID in just the past week. So, why are some Republican governors trying to punish schools for requiring masks in the classroom?

And President Biden is celebrating the Senate passing $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in a bipartisan vote that included 19 Republicans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: After years and years of infrastructure week, we're in the cusp of an infrastructure decade that I truly believe will transform America. We've proven that we can still come together to do big things, important things for the American people.


LEMON: If passed by the House, the bill would revamp the country's roads and bridges while boosting broadband connections and fighting climate change.

So, let's start with CNN political commentator David Axelrod and senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you both for joining.


LEMON: David Axelrod, let's start with you.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, sir. LEMON: Politicians have been promising infrastructure for years and it looks like President Biden is on his way to delivering with bipartisanship to 69-30.


LEMON: Is that a big deal? He says, is that a big effing deal? Remember that?

AXELROD: Yeah. I think the effing belongs in there on this one. It is a big thing because it is something that he campaigned on. He was roundly ridiculed by some for being naive, for being nostalgic, for hearkening back to a different day when bipartisanship was possible. And he hung in there and he kept at this and now he has delivered and not by a little but, as you would say, by a lot. Nineteen Republicans is a pretty resounding number.

Now, it is half-time. They still have to get this through the House. But I'm (INAUDIBLE), as you said today, that they probably will get this through the House. And look, I was in an administration where we asked for $50 billion a year for infrastructure, that's billion with a "B," not a "T," and we couldn't get it.

And so I think this is a big deal. I think it is a big deal for another reason, Don, which is it does suggest that on some things, if not on most things, that you can forge a coalition and do, as he said, big things.

And I think that's important at a time when people are looking at our democracy and adversaries like China are pointing at our democracy and saying we can't get big things done anymore.

LEMON: Ron, the president is stressing that 90 percent of the jobs created with this bill don't require a college degree. He is calling it a "blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America." You say Biden is the party's last chance to bring them back. Talk to me.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. First of all, stressing how much of the jobs -- how many of the jobs do not require a college education is really something you could -- very hard to imagine Barack Obama or Bill Clinton doing. Their emphasis on economic agenda was much more on moving people up the skills ladder and the argument that those were the jobs of the future.

Biden in a variety of ways, Don, is putting a lot of chips on his ability to win back more of those working class white voters who have been moving away from the party since the 1970s and really stampeded away in the last three elections, 12, 16 and 20. Look, it is a very tough slog.


BROWNSTEIN: I mean they are betting that if they address the material concerns of those voters, and you see that in the infrastructure bill which they emphasized is about blue-collar jobs, roads, sewers, bridges, also in the follow-on bill which will have an unprecedented really since the 1960s, sweep off (ph) direct government benefits for working families from a child tax credit to paid family leave and health care and childcare subsidies.

But his approval rating among whites without a college degree is still stuck at around 33 percent. That was his vote. It was only slightly better than Hillary Clinton in 2016. It wasn't nearly as good as Obama in '08 or the Democrats in the 20 years before that.

And if Joe Biden is a 78-year-old white Catholic offering this level of material benefit to working class white voters, can't really dislodge the republican hold on them, it does call into question whether that is a viable strategy for Democrats, at least as long as Republicans are offering such an openly racial identity message that is attractive to many of those voters.

LEMON: David, President Biden says that he is optimistic about this bill passing the House. I think you said that this is halftime, right, or the halfway point.


LEMON: Some House progressives are already threatening on oppose it if they don't get $3.5 trillion in domestic spending that they want.

AXELROD: Well, look, I think this has been like watching expert drivers back a semi into a small loading dock here. You know, you inch it one way, you inch it another way, and you kind of ease it in. I think there is a reason why Chuck Schumer is now -- he went right from the infrastructure bill to the reconciliation bill. He wants to deliver that as an article of good faith to the House and Pelosi needs it in order to hold her group.

Now, I think there is going to be a lot of heartburn between now and then over exactly what is in that infrastructure bill and exactly how big it is going to be at the end of the day. And, you know, this is, you know, the democrat coalition is a diverse coalition and, you know, you've got suburban Democrats in the House, Don, who are worried about the tax hikes on the wealthy --

LEMON: Right.

AXELROD: -- that would be contained in there. You've got progressives who want more on climate in there. I mean, there are a lot of demands. I think what the progressives have seen is that, you know, a Manchin, a Sinema, by leveraging their votes, have gotten what they wanted and they're going to try and do that as well.

My view is, at the end of the day, if you're handed the possibility of $4 trillion in new spending, in new infrastructure spending and in new social safety net spending, climate spending and so on, even if it is not the perfect bill, I have a hard time seeing Democrats walking away from it.

LEMON: Hmm. Ron, you know, clearly this is a big bipartisan win for Biden but the spike in COVID cases is threatening to derail his agenda. Do you think this is why the president is taking on Republicans, Republican governors like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott in Texas who keep playing politics with this virus?

BROWNSTEIN: I think he has to and I think he is going to have to more. To go back to your question to David, the real question is, what is the lesson you take out of this bipartisan infrastructure bill? It is a big accomplishment and it would not have happened without Biden's legislative skill and the skill of his team.

But, Don, it is hard to imagine anything less ideological and the issues that Congress faces than pouring concrete, particularly if you avoid raising taxes in order to pay for it and pay for it with a lot of cats and dogs. I mean, this does look more like a one-off than a big kind of movement in a new direction.

What is happening later tonight with a complete partisan vote on the reconciliation bill, much less Republicans likely blocking any effort to move to voting rights even later in the evening, I think, is more indicative of what he is dealing with.

And the same question comes from, I think, from the way he is dealing with Republicans in Congress to the way he is dealing with Republicans in the states. He has turned up the rhetorical kind of heat on Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis but that is not changing their direction. The question is whether he is going to look for any policy levers to try to move them away from these positions that they're in, banning masks even while cases are surging in their states.

Don't forget, as we talked about before, one quarter of all the K-12 students in the country, many of which cannot receive the vaccine at this point, will be attending school in states where Republican governors have banned the districts from requiring masks. Will Biden put any deeds behind the words of criticizing the Republican governors? So far, no, but we will see. I don't know if he can stay on the sidelines on this if it goes south on them.

LEMON: I'll just say that you did a good job of pivoting and not answering my question at first. You got back around to it. I'm not in a fighting mood because these anti-inflammatories, I'm having back issues. So --


LEMON: I have a little bit -- I can barely get my lips to work tonight.


LEMON: I don't know if you've ever had any back issues, but it's not fun. David, let me ask you.


LEMON (on camera): You have to check out what happened on the Senate floor tonight. This is Senator Cory Booker's response to Senator Tommy Tuberville's amendment against defunding the police. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): I call on my colleagues to support our law enforcement by voting "yes" for this amendment. Opposing my amendment is a vote in support of defunding the police and against the men and women in blue.

UNKNOWN: The gentleman's time has expired.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) (voice-over): Madam President.

UNKNOWN: Senator from New Jersey.

BOOKER: I am so excited. This is perhaps the highlight of this long and painful and torturous night. This is a gift. If wasn't complete abdication of Senate procedures and esteem, I would walk over there and hug my colleague from Alabama.

And I will tell you right now. Thank, God, because there are some people who have said that there are members of this deliberative body that want to defund police, to my horror.

And now, this senator has given us a gift that finally once and for all we can put to bed this scurrilous accusations. Somebody in this great esteemed body would want to defund the police. So let's all of us, 100 people, not walk but sashay down there and vote for this amendment and put to rest the lies.

I am sure I will see no political ads attacking everybody here over defund the police. I would ask unanimous consent to add something else to this obvious bill. Can we add also that every senator here wants to defund the police, believes in God, country and -- apple pie? Thank you.



LEMON (on camera): David, I mean, that was a Jedi mind trick. That was great, passed 99-0. Every Democrat in the Senate voted for it. And now, it is officially on the record against defunding the police. Thanks to Tommy Tuberville.

AXELROD: Yeah. That was a nice pivot. I think that Senator Booker, his tongue was firmly in his cheek there as he delivered that oration. But listen, this has been -- Ron has written about it and we've all talked and written about it -- this has been an ongoing meme of the Republican Party, Democrats want to defund police. And he is probably right. I don't think there is a senator on the floor of that United States Senate who has said that or who believes that.

But look, Don, they think they've got an issue. The Republicans think they have a winning issue because we have a crime issue. I'm sitting here in the city of Chicago. We had a horrific weekend in the city of crime and violence and death, including the death of a young police officer.

And so this is on people's minds and they want to exploit it. This is sort of the problem with American politics right now. Everybody (INAUDIBLE) to weaponize issues and we really need to try and address them, and one hopes that we have serious discussions about what we do about the issue of crime and violence and safety as well as civil rights.

And as the mayor of New York, the incoming mayor of New York, the likely incoming mayor of New York says, the two can co-exist and have to.

LEMON: Let me just say this as a former Chicagoan who -- that's where I met you, David Axelrod. I've watched the rise of Barack Obama from state senator, that speech that he gave at the democratic convention and from state senator to U.S. senator to president.

But let me just say, my heart goes out to the families of everyone who is affected and the police officers as well, there has been an issue in Chicago through many different administrations. This is not new to the Biden administration.


LEMON: It was happening under Obama, happening under Clinton, happening under Bush, happening under Reagan. It has been issue --

AXELROD: And Trump.

LEMON: -- and trump. And Trump. It has been an issue for -- that needs to be taken care of. So it is not just one administration --


LEMON: to blame for crime happening in major cities.

AXELROD: One hundred percent.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, Don.

AXELROD: Take care of that back, Don.

LEMON: Oh, man, if you only knew, if you only knew. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

I want to bring in now New York State Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou. Assembly member, it is good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. So, it is a stunning political moment in New York. What was your reaction to the resignation of Governor Cuomo?

YUH-LINE NIOU, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYMEMBER: I think that obviously, you know, it is a good thing for our state and for our politics that Andrew Cuomo is resigning. I just want to also mention that just because the governor is resigning doesn't mean that the toxic culture of abuse and misogyny, in which he operated in, is going away from Albany. We have to fix that. We have to actively work to change that. We have to pass legislation that will make Albany a safe and harassment-free workplace.

LEMON: You talked about the culture.


LEMON: You think this is just bigger than -- it was bigger than the governor.

NIOU: I think that it is, you know, bigger than the governor in one sense. But also the fact that, you know, he was the executive and I think that he was there for a decade. And I think that there are a lot of things that come with a particular personality.

But we also see that, you know, the legislature has changed significantly because we have more women elected. And we saw that that cultural change shifted the way that people were treated, the staffs were treated. And that fear of getting into an elevator alone or to be caught in a room alone with somebody is like, you know, it has dissipated a little bit, at least in some of our offices.

LEMON (on camera): I want to -- excuse me. Right before his resignation, Governor Cuomo's attorney spent more than 40 minutes pushing back on many of the allegations in the A.G.'s report. And then Governor Cuomo said things like this.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I take full responsibility for my actions. I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all my life. It is who I've been since I can remember. In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.

The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw and reacted to. The reaction was outrage. It should have been. However, it was also false.


LEMON (on camera): Hmm. What do you think? Do you give him credit for the apologies and the explanations he made? Is he entitled to defend himself?

NIOU: Well, I feel like -- I mean, if you want my direct response --

LEMON: Yeah, I want your direct response.

NIOU: I feel like Governor Cuomo is still gaslighting New Yorkers. He has lawyer that come out. By the way, that lawyer is somebody who the state is actually paying for. The state is actually literally paying for his defense on sexual harassment. Has come out and defended him again on a state platform that the state is also is paying for, basically telling the women that the governor harmed, that they were just imagining it.

Then he continued to say things like I didn't know that the line had been redrawn, right, when it came to the harm that he caused. And then at the end, he addressed the legislature and tried to say that it would be costly to the state and painful to the state to proceed with impeachment proceedings.

Well, Governor Cuomo basically told New Yorkers in his remarks that in exchange for resigning, he would like for the assembly to not impeach him and not investigate his conduct any further, therefore gaslighting all New Yorkers.

Impeaching him isn't what is costly. Not impeaching him is what is costly. Impeachment must continue because we must remember that the governor's abuse of power extends far beyond just, you know, also, you know, beyond the abuse of his staff, beyond the women that he victimized and extends to also the staff that were abused and misused when he was writing his book, and then also extends to the people who passed away and were harmed because of his holding back numbers from the legislature on the death in nursing homes.

This is a pattern, this is serial abuse, and impeachment is necessary. Impeachment means that New York will not be paying Andrew Cuomo's pension for the rest of his life and after his disgusting abuses of power. Impeachment also means Governor Cuomo will not be able to run for office again.

And therefore, I also believe that impeachment means securing justice for all the folks who came forward and were brave enough to speak about his bullying, about his abuse, about the way that he treats people and all of those who have yet to come forward.

I firmly believe that resignation is the first step. Resigning doesn't mean that he gets to avoid accountability for what he did, especially as a public servant, as an elected official, as the highest elected official in the state.

LEMON: Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

NIOU: Thanks, Don.

LEMON (on camera): Thank you. They are fighting back. Communities telling Republican governors in Texas and Florida what they think of their bans on mask mandates. I'm going to speak with some of them, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIR, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: I'm just not willing to risk or play Russian roulette with somebody's life, especially not a child.




LEMON: So President Biden pushing back on the Republican governors banning mask mandates in their states, saying that he is looking into whether he can do anything to stop them from the federal level. But he is not alone in fighting back. Local schools, medical professionals, and community leaders are fighting, too.

Two of them are with me tonight. Ovidia Molina is a teacher and the president of the Texas State Teachers Association. And Dr. Thomas Truman is a pediatric critical care physician at Tallahassee Memorial Health Care. Good evening to both of you.

Dr. Truman, I want to start with you. You're there in Tallahassee, Florida. I know that you've been advising Leon County School District. The county superintended announced that they are going against Governor DeSantis and putting into place a mask mandate for pre-K through eighth grade based on the advice that you gave him.


LEMON: So, what did they ask you and how did you advise them?

THOMAS TRUMAN, PEDIATRIC CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN, TALLAHASSEE MEMORIAL HEALTH CARE: Well, first, thanks for having me on tonight. Rocky Hanna, the school superintended for Leon County, called me and we just had a really good conversation about what I thought was best for the kids of our community, what would keep them the safest when it is so important for them to return to school very soon.

And we discussed the worrisome trend of COVID throughout the state, the crisis that we're in, the positivity rates that we're seeing not only in the state but certainly in our community, discussed the American Academy of Pediatric recommendations. And putting all of those together, it just makes the most sense to me.

And great percentage of the pediatricians in our community to have the mask mandate at least temporarily until we get more data and see how we are down the road. This is just -- there's too much COVID out right now to be taking a step back.

LEMON (on camera): I want to play something for you and get your take on what Governor DeSantis said today in response to President Biden looking into ways that he can stop states from blocking mask mandates. Here it is.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think that they really believe government should rule over the parents' decisions. And I think the parents' decisions in this regard should ultimately be what is done. The fact of the matter is the parents are in the best position to know what is best for their kids.


LEMON (on camera): So he -- Dr. Truman, he is trying to set up this dichotomy of parents versus the federal government. But you're a pediatric doctor. You tell me, what is the best way to protect kids from COVID?

TRUMAN: There is a wealth of information about protecting people and certainly kids from COVID. And those are good hand hygiene, vaccinate if you're in eligible age group, and certainly masks. Masks have undoubtedly been shown to prevent spread, especially when the prevalence is so high in the community.

LEMON: Dr. Truman, thank you for your time. We'll have you back as this continues to move on. We appreciate it.

Now, I want to bring in Ovidia Molina, a teacher and the president of the Texas State Teachers Association. Thank you very much for joining us. The governor in your state is also using this quote/unquote "parental rights argument" to ban mask mandates. What are you hearing from parents and communities? Do they want masks?

OVIDIA MOLINA, TEACHER AND PRESIDENT, TEXAS STATE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION: Thank you for having the conversation. Yes, our parents are reaching out to us, to their school districts. They want their students safe. They want their kids safe.

LEMON: The CDC says Texas is a high risk location for COVID. There's high community transmission in almost the entire state. What are you hearing from teachers? Are you hearing that they're worried for their own safety?

MOLINA: The anxiety that they're feeling is similar to when we were starting the pandemic. It is the uncertainty of who is vaccinated, who is not, who is safe, who is not, and the responsibility that we have to keep our students safe.

We know that our students that are under 12 years old cannot get the vaccine. So we are asking our governor to help us keep them safe and he's not listening to us. We are afraid that our students are going to get sick, we are going to get sick, our families are going to get sick, and then we're going to take it out into the community, because we're going to be around more people because more of our students are coming back, because our state also didn't fund virtual learning the way they did before.

LEMON: Ovidia, a judge has granted San Antonio and Bexar County a temporary restraining order against the governor, allowing them to issue mask mandates in schools. Do you think this is the only way to fight against the governor's policies at this point?

MOLINA: The governor has left our school districts, our parents, our localities no other choice. When he took away masks in May, things were looking better. And the governor can easily say, you know what, in May, it was looking better, I was planning for the best, but things are not better, things are worse, and I want to ensure that our students are safe so I'll change my mind and allow local school districts to decide when they need to use masks.

LEMON: Other school districts in Texas are going against Governor Abbott. Austin and Dallas are implementing mask mandates despite him. The governor's office is releasing a statement saying that he has spent his entire life in office fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Texans. I got to ask you. Wouldn't freedom be to let local districts decide what is best for them?


MOLINA: That's exactly it, Don. In a state where local control is so much celebrated, this is a case where local control needs to be had. Our school districts know what is happening in their communities. They're talking to health officials. They're talking to people who know what is happening in their communities to be able to make the best decisions for our students, our educators, and those communities.

LEMON: Ovidia, Dr. Fauci is really making some news and now saying that he believes in vaccine mandates in some places or mask mandates. He is saying now that teachers should be required to get the vaccine. As the president of the Texas State Teachers Association, do you agree?

MOLINA: We are highly encouraging all of our educators, our community members to get the vaccine if they're able to. We understand that there will be some instances where somebody cannot get the vaccine. But the more people that have the vaccine, the safer we'll be.

We're also asking for all the precautions that we had in the last school year that made our TEA, our Texas Education Agency, said we didn't have as many cases last year. That's because we had masks and we had more precautions. And our state needs to ensure that our kids are safe.

LEMON: Ovidia Molina, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it. Be safe.

MOLINA: Thank you.

LEMON: The republican legislature tried to pass six bills that would make it harder to vote, and he vetoed them all. Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Tony Evers, next.




LEMON (on camera): Thirty new restrictive voting laws have already been passed in 18 states this year. That is according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Today, in Wisconsin, the Democratic Governor, Tony Evers, is vetoing six bills from the Republican state legislature that among other things would have made it harder to vote. The governor is calling out the effort to limit access to voting earlier.


GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): We were reminded on January 6th, again today, and each day that legislators work to enact legislation like this in other states, how precious our democracy is and how quickly it can be taken away. We are reminded that democracy isn't something that just happens for us. We choose to make it every day. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Well, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers joins me now. Governor, good evening. Thank you so much for joining. My first question is if you hadn't vetoed these bills, what would they have done in terms of voting rights?

EVERS: It would -- thanks for having me, Don. It would have made it difficult for some really -- you know, people that are indefinitely confined or people who are in nursing homes or people that are physically disabled. All those people were in the crosshairs of the republican legislature, making it more difficult for them.

And so absolutely, if I had not vetoed these bills, it would be a slippery slope going forward and it still is going to be. Our Republican legislators are not going to give up. The good news is that I am in a position to stand up for democracy and stand up for making sure that eligible people have the right to vote. We should be encouraging people instead of discouraging them.

LEMON: Listen, it is no secret to you or anyone else that Wisconsin is a key battleground states that Biden won. And just like in Arizona and Georgia, Republicans are trying to audit the votes there. Protesters demanding it, I should say, just last week, even though there was no meaningful fraud or errors found in 2020. They even held "audit the vote" rally in Madison on Friday. How are you pushing back on that?

EVERS: Well, first of all, we have one legislator who is trying to take control of that audit. She went down to Arizona to visit the Ninja Turtles and came back really excited about what they are doing there. And so she issued a subpoena to two of our colleagues to essentially send everything you got, your machines and everything else. And frankly, it was an illegal subpoena. It is not going to happen.

And Don, you talked about it, we've had numerous court cases, we've had all sorts of studies, we've had audits from our local people. It was one of the best elections ever. Bill Barr said it at the national level, it happened here, too. Our election was fair and it was a great race. I was happy Joe Biden won. But at the end of the day, everyone knows it was a good election, a fair election.

LEMON: You were able to veto these bills. Democrats are fighting it out and a lot of republican-led states like Texas where legislators fled the state to delay the passage on similar bills. Wisconsin and 35 other states have gubernatorial elections in 2022. With failure on this issue at the federal level, are state governors going to be the last line of defense here?

EVERS: Yes, they are. And I am right now in Wisconsin and believe me, if I am not in this position after 2022, all the bills I vetoed will come back in play and whatever Republican governor is in place will let them happen and will encourage those bills to happen. So yes, we are the last people standing here.

[23:40:02] EVERS: That's why it is so important for people to understand, you know, governorship is really important work and it goes beyond what just happens on a daily basis, around making sure we are fixing the roads and other things that people can see.

This is about our democracy, Don, and we -- I will stand for democracy at any time and I will stand for our ability to make sure that the people in Wisconsin that are eligible to vote, they should be voting.

LEMON: Listen, before I let you go, I have to talk about New York's governor. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning today over the allegations of sexual harassment against him. What is your reaction?

EVERS: Well, certainly we have to applaud the women who came forward. This is a real watershed moment for our country, frankly. I know it impacted just New York State, but I think it impacted the entire country.

It tells me that we need to make sure that we listen to women that bring these allegations forward. They're truthful. And there are consequences to bad behavior and we just saw that play out. The system works. Unfortunately, we were in a position that we had to call on the system to work.

LEMON: Governor Evers, thank you for your time. Best of luck.

EVERS: Thanks a lot, Don. Take care.

LEMON: Thank you. So, Cuomo is out, Hochul is in. We will take a look at the next New York governor after this.




LEMON (on camera): A new New York governor is set to inherit a political landscape that has been dominated by Andrew Cuomo for more than a decade. His replacement, Kathy Hochul, will be the state's first female chief executive. And tonight, sources are telling CNN that she is already assembling a political team, an indication that she will run for a full term in 2022.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on the incoming governor.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kathy Hochul, soon to be the empire state's new governor, the 57th and the first woman to take the reins.

GALE BREWER, MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT: She is very ready. She has been in some weird way preparing for this without knowing it.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The 62-year-old mother of two, married 37 years will now oversee more than 20 million citizens, a $1.5 trillion economy, all still recovering from the pandemic.

CUOMO: Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent. We have a lot going on, but she can come up to speed quickly.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Now, she and her staff, says one state official with direct knowledge of the administration, have already been charting out the first days and months of the task at hand: How to spend billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief from the federal government and reviewing personnel decisions and executive orders signed by Andrew Cuomo that expire when he leaves office.

I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interests of New Yorkers, Hochul tweeted today. As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State's 57th governor.

TIM KENNEDY, MEMBER, NEW YORK STATE SENATE: I know for 100 percent fact she is ready to go. She knows how to govern and she knows how to listen to the people.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hochul's name may be unknown to many nationwide, but here, she has served at the local, county, national and now statewide level. She is known to New York.

BREWER: She knows literally all the leaders, all the issues, and all 62 counties.

CUOMO: Kathy will represent you.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hochul ran on Cuomo's slate in 2014, but the two had not spoken directly for months, says one official. Those who know her say she's been charting her own path for years.

BREWER: In the last four years or three years, I don't believe there has been much of a relationship. She just plowed on.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): With Cuomo's dominating style of governance coming to an end --

CUOMO: Did it already.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): -- Kathy Hochul quietly building relationships for years may have the political wind at her back.

KENNEDY: You are going to see elected officials again at every single level of government really gravitate toward her because of her style.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


LEMON (on camera): Miguel, thank you so much. A top senator says there's a herd mentality on Capitol Hill. But take this, that senator is Ted Cruz. You got to hear it, next.




LEMON (on camera): Take this. Republican Senator Ted Cruz is accusing Capitol Hill Democrats of herd mentality on the Fox propaganda network, of course. Here it is.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): It's a weird thing, Sean. There is a herd mentality among congressional Democrats that they obey Chuck Schumer and their only answer is sir, yes, sir.


LEMON (on camera): Really, Ted Cruz?


LEMON (on camera): That is coming from one of the biggest "yes" men of the former president. Senator Cruz and almost 150 congressional Republicans going so far to please the former president by voting to overturn the 2020 presidential election on January 6th with absolutely no proof of fraud or rigging. He went with the herd on the big lie.

And even after the one-term, twice-impeached, two-time popular vote- losing former president left office, Senator Cruz is one of many Republicans still trying to kiss the ring.


CRUZ: And they looked at Donald J. Trump and they looked at the millions and millions of people inspired, who went to battle fighting alongside President Trump, and they're terrified!


CRUZ: And they want him to go away. Let me tell you this right now. Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.


LEMON (on camera): Okay. Senator Cruz's herd instincts, herding instincts are so strong that he moved on from Trump attacking his wife and suggesting his father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Remember this?


CRUZ: I don't get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a snivelling coward, leave Heidi the hell alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): Herd mentality is alive and well in Washington, but it is just not where Senator Cruz says it is.

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.