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Erin Burnett Outfront

Gov. Cuomo Resigns, But Calls NY Atty General's Report That Found He Sexually Harassed 11 Women "False"; Biden On Rising COVID Cases Among Kids: My Concerns Are Deep; Pediatrics Group: 94,000 New Cases In Children In Past Week; Second Largest School District In Florida Defies Governor, Keeps Mask Mandate; Biden Takes Victory Lap After Dems, GOP Come Together To Pass Infrastructure Bill In Senate. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You could tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stepping down while still defending his behavior towards women and despite that resignation, the Governor's legal troubles may not be over.

Plus, President Biden says he has deep concerns about students returning to the classroom before they can get vaccinated, nearly 94,000 kids testing positive for COVID in the past week.

And Chicago, a city in crisis. One police officer killed, another critically injured in a shooting as the force reportedly turns its back on the Mayor. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erica Hill in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, a stunning fall from power. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing he'll resign after a scathing report by New York's Attorney General found the three-term governor sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo apologizing while still defending his behavior.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: 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. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate. And I should have, no excuses. The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing and therefore that's what I'll do.


HILL: Cuomo has led the state for more than a decade earning national praise at the height of the pandemic for his initial handling of coronavirus. Yet in the month since calls for his resignation and impeachment growing in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Longtime political allies in New York, even President Biden saying they thought the Governor should resign. After calling on him to do so, President Biden today reacting to Cuomo's announcement.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect the Governor's decision and I respect the decision he made. Women should be believed when they make accusations that are able to, on the face of them, make sense and investigated, they're investigated and the judgment was made that what they said was correct.


HILL: Lawyers for Cuomo's accusers telling CNN they feel vindicated and relieved and while Cuomo's run will soon be over as governor, his legal troubles are not. Multiple attorneys general in the state have asked the AG for information related to that report. And today, the Albany County DA said Cuomo's resignation will not impact his investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the Governor.

New York's Judiciary Committee is also looking into whether it can still impeach Cuomo now that he has announced his resignation. There is a lot to get to tonight. Let's begin with Brynn Gingras. She's OUTFRONT live in Albany. So Brynn, what more do we know about Gov. Cuomo finally deciding, making this decision now to resign?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica. It's unclear exactly when he made this pivotal decision, but we believe it was very recently. Because if you remember, we were hearing that the Governor was telling some of his closest aides over the weekend that he just wasn't ready, that he needed more time and now we're learning that he spent yesterday preparing those remarks that he gave in New York City today.

So it does appear that this decision was made very recently. And now the man who's governed the State for a decade leaving in 14 days.



CUOMO: The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing.


GINGRAS (voice over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces he is stepping down, telling New Yorkers that 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've 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 AG'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 undermined 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. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 AG's investigators and feel solidarity with all women who continued to be abused by men in power. At least today, one of them has faced some consequences."


GINGRAS (on camera): Now, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be the first woman to lead in the top spot here in this State. And in a tweet she said earlier today that she is ready. We're hearing she did get a heads up from the Governor's team about the resignation and the two spoke after he gave his remarks in New York City. And Erica, we're going to have a chance to talk to Kathy Hochul herself when she gives her first public briefing tomorrow in New York City, Erica.

HILL: Looking forward to that, Brynn. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, Karen Hinton has also accused Gov. Cuomo of inappropriate conduct. She is mentioned in the Attorney General's report which references, "An incident in December of 2000 when the Governor embraced her in a hotel room in a way that felt overly close and intimate." So Karen, I'm curious how did you feel hearing from the Governor today, hearing that resignation?

KAREN HINTON, SPOKE TO NY ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE IN CUOMO INVESTIGATION: I was glad he resigned, but I'm not gloating over it today. It's a sad day for New York, because what he did to those 11 women was unforgivable and not acknowledging what he did as sexual harassment, gender discrimination, sexual abuse is only a sign that he will not accept reality ...

HILL: So (inaudible) ...

HINTON: Go ahead, I'm sorry.

HILL: No, no, no, go ahead.

HINTON: I'm just going to say meanwhile I do think that he's accomplished much as the governor. I mean, we have marriage equality in New York, minimum wage increase, paid family leave, all those things are important to New Yorkers but so is his treatment of mostly his women's staff and to not take responsibility for what he did is not a way to apologize to those elected women.

HILL: So I do want to point out, I do want to share a little bit more of what the governor said. He did say I take full responsibility. You'll hear that from him in just a moment. There were more of his remarks though that I think maybe what you're referring to, let's take a listen to this moment.


CUOMO: I take full responsibility for my actions. 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.


HILL: The Governor signed, of course, a sexual harassment legislation in 2019 that specifically address that shifting line. He said today the women who came forward also taught him an important lesson, but based on what I'm hearing for you it sounds like maybe there is still more to be learned.

HINTON: He mouthed the words I take full responsibility. But in truth, he did not take full responsibility.


He blamed these 11 women. He blamed the news media. He blamed his political opponents. He blamed everyone but himself. So merely saying I apologize, I'm sorry for what I did and then defying what those 11 women have laid out as well as allowing his own attorney to do so only moments before he resigned in very detailed examples of how his lawyer as well as the Governor himself believes they're not telling the truth. And that's going to be their argument if they are faced with a charge and they have to go to trial, that will be their argument.

And Rita Glavin, his attorney, laid that out very clearly in her remarks.

HILL: Do you anticipate - we do know the Albany County DA has said none of what we saw today will impact their investigation. That is one that we are aware of. We do know at least five other district attorneys have asked for information from the Attorney General. What do you think will happen with that criminal investigation?

HINTON: I hope the investigation will be taken seriously and the resignation won't just be his tap on the hand for what he did to his executive assistant, Brittany Commisso.

HILL: Commisso, yes. Karen Hinton, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

HINTON: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT now John Avlon, Senior Political Analyst and Hilary Rosen Democratic strategist.

So John, were you surprised that the Governor resigned today or surprised that it took him this long?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was surprised that he resigned today mostly because it came so quickly on the heels of his lawyer's defense. And there had been reports the Governor doubling down, he's a fighter and he wanted to resist resignation. But I think ultimately, the political dynamics were just unavoidable. He was going to be impeached, he decided to resign ahead of that.

I think he did the right thing. It was the right thing to do for the State. But it was surprising that it came so close on the heels of his own lawyer's defense really a matter of hours.

HILL: A matter of hours. Really a matter of minutes when you look at what we saw this morning. Hilary, before his resignation, Andrew Cuomo's attorney spent 40 plus minutes laying out her issues with the AG's report.

I should point out this is really her second such press conference that she's done that pushing back on many of the allegations, mirroring some of the accusers and then we have the Governor come out and say he accepts full responsibility but also defend his actions. Hilary, was that the right way to go about this?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, he's a pig but he's smart. While the lawyer was out there figuring out how to catch their defense, the assembly was getting ready to start impeachment hearings and a majority of the assembly had actually gone public already saying that they were going to vote for impeachment. And so, he can count and I think that this was the only thing he could do beforehand.

There's just one thing though, I mean, I agree with Karen Hinton. His remarks today were pretty offensive. I'm the same age as the governor and let me tell you, when I was a young staffer, a political staffer, it was not OK then either for a boss to sexually harass me or touch me.

And, of course, it happened but don't pass this on cultural change, that is just not the case. The thing that has changed is that people are speaking up now more that women are feeling more empowered, that more women are being brave enough to speak out, Erica, that people will actually listen to them. That's what's changed, not whether it's OK or not.

HILL: Yes. It is an excellent point. I really have to agree with you on that one. That has changed and thank goodness it has that more women and in some cases men do feel that they can come forward, especially when they're dealing with a power dynamic in that situation as well.

There's been a lot made about how this was handled, John, and some comparisons to former President Trump, not just in digging in his heels but how Republicans and Democrats looked at this a little bit differently. As soon as this report came out, we started to see that reaction at the state level, at the party level, ultimately, the President and there were calls very quickly for Gov. Cuomo to resign. That's typically not what we see on the other side of the aisle. We see silence and sticking with whoever that may be who is accused.

AVLON: The difference could not be more stark.


I mean, there was not a single member of the New York congressional delegation that had not called for him to resign. That was the political reality. So it wasn't just President Biden. It was everybody on down. And in that you see a really clear contrast between the two parties.

President Trump was been accused of sexual impropriety by 25 women and you didn't hear a single Republican call for him to be brought to justice, to resign, to be held accountable for those efforts. Some of which are still winding their way through the courts.

So there is just a clear contrast between the two parties on this, it transcends partisanship to the extent that this is an issue where one party is going to hold their own people to account and the other party is willing to cast a blind eye if they're afraid of the person in power.

HILL: It's interesting, Hilary you mentioned that things haven't changed except for the fact that women may feel more empowered to come forward, but there's behavior that we all knew was wrong decades ago. The Governor must have known it was wrong.

But I keep coming back to this law in 2019 and the Governor touting his support of women and signing this extensive sexual harassment legislation. There's been a lot made of did he take the training himself, did he not, it does seem that he didn't get his own memo. I mean, is there still a chance this gets through, Hilary?

ROSEN: I think that point that John made is connected to that, which is that's where the disconnect, I think, for Democrats in particular, is because Republicans don't advance legislation to support women, whereas Gov. Cuomo did.

They have the strongest statutory rape legislation, the strongest rape statutes in the country because Gov. Cuomo supported extending the time when a victim could come forward from five years to 20 years. That's going to affect positively thousands and thousands of women and some men who have a chance to come forward.

But that didn't give him a pass to act this way and I think that that's why it's so particularly painful for so many Democrats, because there does tend to be more support for policies good for women, paid family leave, pay equity, those things that he supported and a lot of other Democrats support, and yet the personal behavior has to be very significant piece.

AVLON: Sure.

HILL: Hilary Rosen and John Avlon, good to have you both here tonight. Thank you.

AVLON: You're welcome.

ROSEN: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, the U.S. seeing an increase in the number of children hospitalized with COVID. We'll take you inside one hospital now witnessing that surge firsthand.


KENDAL JAFFE, ICU NURSE, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: The Delta variant is definitely hitting them a lot harder a lot faster than we had seen in the past.


HILL: Plus, President Biden celebrating a huge bipartisan win as the Senate passes his infrastructure package. So can the President now get it across the finish line?

And lawmakers investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election now setting their sights on the former president's chief of staff.



HILL: Tonight, President Biden says he's worried about children returning to school without the protection of the COVID vaccine.


BIDEN: My concerns are deep. The reason children are becoming infected is because in most cases they live in low vaccination rate states and communities and they're getting it from unvaccinated adults.


HILL: Meantime, we are seeing a spike in cases among children, an alarming number of them ending up in hospitals. Nick Valencia is OUTFRONT with this CNN exclusive.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When you think of people infected with COVID-19, think of Nelson Alexis (ph). The 17- year-old with down syndrome has been in the pediatric ICU at the Children's Hospital of New Orleans for a week. Every breath he takes is a struggle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you having trouble breathing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it hard to take a breath?



VALENCIA (voice over): A little more than a week ago, Nelson's parents knew something was wrong when he stopped eating. His mother says things got so bad, they thought he was about to die. When they brought him into the hospital, he was immediately placed in the ICU. His parents say he's since lost 20 pounds.




EDWARDS: He couldn't do anything, yes.

BENNETT: He vomit a lot. He's sweating more.

EDWARDS: Oh, yes.

BENNETT: He (inaudible) coughing more, we just knew it.


VALENCIA (voice over): It's been a widely held belief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that the virus doesn't get kids as sick as adults. But with the emergence of the Delta variant that may be changing, especially here.


VALENCIA (on camera): The ICU is packed here with COVID patients. This small girl behind me isn't even two years old.


VALENCIA (voice over): There are 18 children being treated for COVID here, six are in the pediatric ICU. Kendall Jaffe (ph) is one of the ICU nurses. She's worked here throughout the pandemic and says it's never been this bad.


JAFFE: Over the last year, we haven't seen as many kids get acute COVID lung disease as much as we're seeing now. The Delta variant is definitely hitting them a lot harder, a lot faster than we had seen in the past.

VALENCIA (off camera): It's a game changer.

JAFFE: It is. The kids are definitely sicker than they have been.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VALENCIA (voice over): The surge across the country of COVID-19 cases

among children is alarming. The American Academy of Pediatrics says there's been almost 94,000 reported cases counted in kids and the week ending August 5th, calling it a substantial increase from a week before.

Chief Physician Dr. Mark Kline says it's disorienting and unnecessary to see so many children suffering from the virus.


DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: Our ticket out of this is vaccination. Vaccination of every eligible adult, of every eligible adolescent.

VALENCIA (on camera): You know mom and dad are really worried about you and the doctors here and helping you out a lot.



VALENCIA (voice over): For Nelson and his parents his diagnosis has made the family reconsider getting vaccinated. Until now, they said they didn't want to get the shot because they weren't sick. Although he is on the road to recovery they say, seeing their son fight for his life has them rethinking their decisions.


EDWARDS: I would heed everyone to take precaution because it is serious, it's serious, it is serious and no one wants to sit up here and watch their child fight for their life.


ALEXIS: I want to go home.

EDWARDS: You want to go home? I know. We're getting there. We are getting there.



VALENCIA (on camera): We know those images are difficult to see, especially for parents. But this is the sad reality of COVID in the country today inside the Children's Hospital. We saw babies, some of them just a few weeks old struggling to fill their tiny lungs with air.

And what's even more worrisome is doctors here say that this is just the tip of the iceberg, they fear that with the school year starting back up, that it's nowhere near as bad as it will ultimately get, Erica.

HILL: Well, let's hope that doesn't come to pass. Nick Valencia, appreciate it. It's such an important story as you point out.

Dr. Paul Offit is the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, CHOP. He's also a member of the FDA's vaccine Advisory Committee. Dr. Offit, when we talk about this recent spike in cases among kids, they've been rising steadily since July, how concerned are you?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Very concerned. I mean, this is a much more contagious virus and it has the ability to figure out who's susceptible and who isn't. So it's attacking the susceptible population. I mean, children between 12 and 17 can get a vaccine but only about a third have and children less than 12 can't get a vaccine. They depend on those around them to protect them.

And in communities where vaccination rates are low, as President Biden just said, that's when these children are especially at high risk. It's hard to watch. Plus, you're about to go into the fall and winter when this virus is transmitted more easily.

You're going to have children in school, many of whom will be that are under vaccinated or unvaccinated and you have communities where this virus is spreading and our behavior this fall is much different than last fall. We were actually (inaudible) about masking and social distancing. A lot of schools never opened (inaudible) the behavior is much worse this year and I do worry coming into the fall and winter that children will suffer even more.

HILL: Yes. It's certainly going to be much different for back to school, that's for sure. Just in terms of the behavior we're seeing, out and about on a daily basis. There's been so much talk about FDA approval for this vaccine. Dr. Fauci saying listen this is as good as FDA approved at this point. It's not going to change all that much.

We know that could be coming soon, which could change things for some people. But the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics telling the New York Times, "What has concerned us is there hasn't seemed to be the same level of urgency in authorizing a vaccine for younger kids as there was for adults." So he's talking about that emergency use authorization there.

Is that urgency there? It's my understanding that they were actually asking for more data.

OFFIT: It's certainly there. I think the FDA understands the public health impact for having a vaccine for younger children. But they will make sure that this vaccine is safe and effective before they put it out there. Remember, when we looked at 12 to 17-year-old children, the dose and dosing interval was pretty much the same as we were using for adults so it was sort of easy to extend down.

And when you start to extend down to like five years of age, you have to do dose ranging study, so called phase one studies. Those are a little more extensive. So the FDA wants to see those data, but I'm with you. I mean, I think the clock is ticking. As we move to late fall and early winter, you want a vaccine for young children. I certainly hope we have one in place by then because children need this.

HILL: A question too that I had asked someone earlier, if we look at - so there is full FDA approval in the coming weeks or months for this vaccine that offers up a lot more flexibility for physicians, obviously. It offers up more flexibility when it comes to third shots. What about children under 12? What about kids who are maybe close to 12? Would that then allow a doctor to give the child that shot, even if technically, it hadn't been approved for someone under 12?

OFFIT: You really should wait until there's approval of the emergency use authorization. You can't make it up. Certainly, I know that there are parents out there for a fact who were taking 11-year-old or 10 year old children and trying to get them vaccines. I know that's happening, but we really should wait. Hopefully it's right around the corner. We really need this.

And I think the story that was just told by the reporter, I think in many ways as sad as that story is, what's even sadder is that the parents had chosen not to vaccinate. I mean, they're in their home with a child and certainly young children can't be vaccinated. All they have is mask to protect them. The parents need to do that too and I think as adults we've really let our children down here.

HILL: Yes. Yes. It really is on us. Dr. Paul Offit, always appreciate it. Thank you.

OFFIT: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, despite threats from the Governor, Florida's second largest school district voting to mandate mask. The Vice Chair of that county school Board is OUTFRONT next.

Plus, victory for Biden and bipartisanship, the Senate passing a billion dollar bill that will transform America's infrastructure. That billion dollar bill though now facing an uphill battle in the House.



HILL: Tonight, bring it on. The Broward County School Board, the second school district largest in Florida, and six largest in the nation, defying Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, vowing to keep its mask mandate in place. This despite the governor's latest threat to withhold the salaries of any official that ignores his ban on mask mandates. The school board chair, though, says this was an easy decision.

Joining us OUTFRONT now is the vice chair of the Broward County school board, Laurie Rich Levinson.

Laurie, good to have you with us tonight.

Do you think the governor is going to follow through on his threat here to withhold your pay or cut any of the school funding?

LAURIE RICH LEVINSON, VICE CHAIR, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: Thank you, Erica, for having me on tonight.

I really don't know what the governor will end up doing.


But we did what was the right thing in the best interest of our children and our staff and our primary goal is to keep our children in school, in person learning in a safe learning environment and that's what our decision was based on.

HILL: I don't need to tell you what a heated topic this is, especially in Florida. You likely saw the angry protesters out side that school board meeting today. I want to show the folks at home so they have a sense of what is happening. You see that sign there, masks equal child abuse, or fascism. There are supporters outside there, too.

Are you concerned, though, what we're seeing here in terms of the community reaction is just the beginning? Do you have safety concerns?

LEVINSON: I don't know whether this is the beginning or not, but I know that this is a small vocal group of people, the vast majority of emails and contact we have received and hundreds of them are from parents who want us to put safety precautions in place and use the mitigation tools such as masks at our disposal.

HILL: The governor has said repeatedly, has insisted that the decision should be left up to parents. So when you hear from those parents and then you hear from your governor, that's putting a lot on you as a school board in making those decisions.

LEVINSON: Yes, it is putting a lot on us. It weighs heavily but we took an oath to abide by the Constitution that says school boards should operate and control and supervise the free public schools in the district and when we talk about parental choice, you are in charge of your own child's health care but once your rights infringe upon others' rights, that's when it becomes an issue we look at holistically for the safety of all of our children and we have to rely on responsible adults to protect those children and staff members.

HILL: Laurie Rich Levinson, good to have you with us tonight. Thank you.

LEVINSON: Thank you, Erica.

Arkansas also has a ban on school mask mandates and while the governor is saying he regrets, that state leading the nation in new cases per capita and the entire state had just a handful of ICU beds available.

OUTFRONT now, Republican state representative from Arkansas, Lee Johnson. He's also an emergency physician.

It's good to have you with us.

I know you voted in favor of keeping that ban on mask mandates as you said things were different then. Are you now also rethinking that? Do you regret that vote? DR. LEE JOHNSON (R), ARKANSAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think as a

physician, I certainly recognize the value of masking and reducing respiratory illnesses in our community but I'm also an elected official, and I have to take into consideration the opinions and the will of my constituents. And this was a very, you know, issue that a lot of people in my community feel passionate about and I'm certain this is a debate that will continue in our community for sometime.

HILL: You think it will continue for sometime. When you talk about that, that passion with them and you're also, you know, wearing these two hats, too, as a physician, I'm curious, what are some of those conversations when you talk about the science behind the masks?

JOHNSON: So, you know, it's a difficult concept to relay to people sometimes. And people feel very, you know, have genuine concern about their children wearing the masks and I think it's important you listen to those concerns and try to relay the best you can your feelings on the issue, and understanding in the current climate that can be a challenge.

HILL: You know, you're dealing with a lot of tough conversations and listening to people I know in your day job, which is actually going to start soon with a 12-hour shift in the ER. We talk about the limited number of ICU beds available. It was just eight yesterday according to the governor.

What are you seeing in terms of COVID patients right now? What is changing in your ER? Are the patients younger as we hear from a number of hospitals around country?

JOHNSON: You know, it's definitely skewing younger. We're seeing younger, healthier patients than January but as far as the presentation, it's similar. It's just a younger group of people. These are people coming in with shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms, you know, having low oxygen levels and we're providing some oxygen for them. For the presentation, at least what I'm seeing is pretty similar but the difference would be we're seeing it in a younger, healthier population group.

HILL: I know you're trying to encourage vaccinations in your state. 43 percent of the eligible population 12 and older fully vaccinated in Arkansas. Nationally, it's about 60 percent.

When you're having those conversations in the ER, what have you found is the most effective way to get more shots in arms?


JOHNSON: Well, I think you have to recognize that there is a group of people who are really struggling with this decision. They're concerned for their safety with regard to the vaccine and their concerns are real to them and you have to listen to those concerns and not discount them to try to address them individually.

I also think you have to realize there is a subset of people that want to get the vaccine but haven't made it a priority. These people understand if you're willing to get the vaccine, now is the time to act. It's absolutely running in our community rampant and people are willing to get the vaccine they have been putting it off for whatever time, they need to take action now.

HILL: Yeah, now is the time. Appreciate being with us tonight. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, President Biden calling it proof, Washington can work together after the Senate passes the infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. The hard work, though, far from over.

Plus, tensions between police and Chicago's mayor boiling over. Officers repeatedly turning backs on the mayor after she visited an injured officer's family. One official who says the city is in crisis is OUTFRONT.



HILL: Tonight, President Biden praising the senate's passing of a sweeping $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in a bipartisan vote that included 19 Republicans.


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


HILL: Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT from the White House.

Kaitlan, this is a major win for a president who prides himself on working across the aisle.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is. And he kind of started his remarks out that way, saying that this is something he believed his critics he couldn't get done, and this is a big step, it's not the final step, but it is a significant step in that direction to validating his claims and, Erica, this is such a massive bill.

It really cannot be understated just how much of the U.S. economy this bill if passed into law the way it is now will touch, because it not only pours hundreds of billions of dollars into repairing roads and bridges, but it also dumps money into airports, and to Amtrak and broadband Internet connections, and that was something President Biden stressed to us today saying it was really important for him as something you saw during the pandemic every child is able to have Internet access at their home. And, of course, that is not only to include the efforts to combat climate change included in this bill that passed the Senate as well today.

But it is notable just given the fact that what we have seen the climate in Washington, that 19 Republicans shrugged off threats from the former president and agreed to get on board with this bill and the partisan climate that we live in today, it really is significant.

HILL: Yeah, it is. The bill now, of course, moves onto the house where Democrats say they won't consider it until the Senate passes a companion bill that could add $3.5 trillion in domestic spending.

I know you pressed Biden on the White House's strategy there. What did he tell you?

COLLINS: Well, there are moderate Democrats that would like this to be taken for a vote immediately in the House. What they're contesting with and dealing with is the progressives in their same party and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has said, yes, I am not going to bring this bill up for a vote unless and until we get that $3.5 trillion package, that much more ambitious package that essential includes what they left on the floor in those bipartisan talks in that.

And so, President Biden today, you know, he is really close, tracked closely with House Speaker Pelosi on this idea of doing this dual track, having both at once, remember he once threatened not to sign one if he didn't get both sent to his desk. And so, today, when he was asked about this, given the level of urgency that he is applying to the infrastructure package, and getting it passed, he said he is confident they're going to get both but right now, based on what House Speaker Pelosi is saying, they're going to do both at the same time.

HILL: All right. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, crimes surging in Chicago, two officers shot and one city official is warning the police force is at a breaking point.

Plus, lawmakers investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the election. now they want to speak with his former chief of staff.



HILL: Tonight, Chicago is a city in crisis. That stark warning coming from one official after two police officers were shot amid a surge in violence across the city. Twenty-nine-year-old officer Ella French is dead. Her partner, who was shot in the head, is fighting for his life.

When Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot went to visit the family of the wounded officer in the hospital, 30 officers reportedly turned their backs on her.

Alderman Matt O'Shea is now OUTFRONT. He represents an area of Chicago where many police officers live.

And, Alderman O'Shea, you said you weren't surprised to learn that those officers turned their back on the mayor, noting they are at a breaking point right now.

MATT O'SHEA (D), ALDERMAN, 19TH WARD, CHICAGO: Absolutely, Erica. What we've experienced here in the city of Chicago over the last few years with such a significant rise in violent crime and such an ugly narrative, an anti-police narrative, the police are at their breaking point. They're under siege. They're underappreciated. They're under attack. And we're at a critical point here.

HILL: You know, you just -- you mentioned this rise in violence too. And what we're seeing, I just wanted to put some of the numbers out for people. A recent police report showed shooting departments up 63 percent compared to 2019, murders up 54 percent.

I know that under Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago's police budget for 2021 was cut by 3 percent, in part due to the elimination of open positions. Why do you think, though, the city is seeing this rise in violence? Where do you think it's coming from?

O'SHEA: Well, certainly, the pandemic had something to do with it. I think when we see more legislation across the country, taking police powers away from them, I think it's just an utter lack in respect for life that we see in so many communities of crime.

You know, Erica, you pointed out 3 percent. In numbers, that's more than 600 positions were removed from the Chicago Police Department budget. That's staggering. That's the equivalent to almost three police districts.

Some more statistics for you. Traffic stops in the city of Chicago down more than 30 percent. Arrests down more than 50 percent. That's just in the last 24 months.

They are undermanned. They are outgunned. And they are at a breaking point.

We need to do more to support our police officers in the form of mental wellness, mental health support, but we need to support the police. That's the only way Chicago is going to get out from behind this rock.

HILL: In terms of that support, I know you endorsed Mayor Lightfoot. One of your fellow aldermen says that she is directly responsible. Take a listen.


RAYMOND LOPEZ, CHICAGO ALDERMAN: I think it's time that we start having discussions on whether or not she needs to step aside because clearly she is unable to protect the people or the police in the city of Chicago.


HILL: Do you agree with Alderman Lopez?

O'SHEA: I think there's plenty of blame to go around. People are frustrated with what's going on in our city. People are frustrated with the mayor. But I'd like to point out the mayor is on record as saying she is in charge of the city and the police superintendent is in charge of the police department.

And whatever strategy is being out there on the street right now, it's not working. We have officers under attack --

HILL: Do you think -- sorry. You say the strategy isn't working. Do you think there is enough will to fix it? Because we hear so much about the problem and I hear what you're saying but I also hear the pain in your voice and what you're hearing on a daily basis that isn't getting fixed.

O'SHEA: Well, I think if there isn't a wake-up call in the loss of a true Chicago hero I don't know what else could wake us up.


Ella French was a peace officer. She was an example of what any city, any jurisdiction in our country would want, a person to sign up for this extremely noble, difficult position. And she was cut down Saturday night serving and protecting.

That needs to be a wake-up call that as a city we need to stand together, rally around each other, rally behind our police officers.

HILL: Alderman Matt O'Shea, thank you for your time tonight.

O'SHEA: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, Trump's former chief of staff could soon be in the hot seat for doing the former president's bidding, trying to overturn the election.


HILL: New tonight, president Trump's former chief of staff now the latest target in the investigation into Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to interview mark meadows to determine just how much pressure the Justice Department faced in the days and weeks after the election.

According to internal documents the committee has, Meadows sent five e-mails in late December and early January to then acting attorney general. Well, Meadows asked Jeffrey Rosen to look into election fraud claims in Georgia and New Mexico and other debunked theories that Trump had won re-election.

Now, whether Meadows agrees to talk remains to be seen. He's declined to comment and Republicans would need to sign off on a subpoena if he declined to come in voluntarily.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight on OUTFRONT.

"AC360" starts right now.