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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

NY A.G.: Governor Andrew Cuomo Sexually Harassed 11 Women; Pediatrics Group: COVID Cases Among Children Up 84 Percent in One Week; Iran's Incoming President Vows to Free It From U.S. Sanctions. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 04, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. It's Wednesday, August 4th. It is 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Amara Walker, in for Christine Romans.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We have reports this morning from Kabul, Tehran, London and Tokyo.

JARRETT: Can Andrew Cuomo survive? That's the big question this morning as the New York's Democratic governor now faces the fight of his political life after a damning report from the state's attorney general's office. Investigators found that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women and created a hostile work environment, backing up their findings with contemporaneous notes, text messages and other evidence.

Calls for Cuomo to step down now coming from up and down the Democratic ranks, even from his longtime friend, the president of the United States.




COLLINS: And if he doesn't resign, do you believe he should be impeached and removed from office?

BIDEN: Let's take one thing at a time here. I think he should resign.


WALKER: The focus is now on the New York state assembly where the process of removing Cuomo from office would begin. A Democratic member of the assembly's judiciary committee which would

draft articles of impeachment tells CNN that the panel will meet on Monday with lawyers to discuss the process.

Now, critically, here the speaker of the assembly is one in a chorus of those calling for Cuomo to resign after authorities revealed more disturbing details of Cuomo's conduct Tuesday.


JOON KIM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR HIRED TO INVESTIGATE GOV. CUOMO: Our investigation revealed that these were not isolated incidents. They were part of a pattern.

ANNE CLARK, EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY HIRED TO INVESTIGATE GOV. CUOMO: The governor also several times inappropriately touched a state trooper assigned to the unit to protect the governor. He took his open hand and ran it across her stomach from her belly button to the hip where she keeps her gun. She told us that she felt completely violated to have the governor touch her as she put it between her chest and her privates.

On November 16, 2020, in the executive mansion, the governor hugged executive assistant number one and reached under her blouse to grab her breast.


JARRETT: Now, the New York attorney general's office is not prosecuting the case but the district attorney in Albany says that he is conducting his own criminal probe and asked the state A.G. for all the evidence she collected.

Governor Cuomo remained Tuesday, defiant responding to the 168 pages of evidence with his own written retort and a bizarre and tone deaf slideshow of him kissing various people from over the years, with seemingly little appreciation of the difference between a kiss on the cheek for Al Gore and feeling up a state trooper whose job it is to protect him.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The facts are much different than what has been portrayed. I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.


WALKER: The governor's defense falling flat with Charlotte Bennett, one of his accusers.


CHARLOTTE BENNETT, GOVERNOR CUOMO ACCUSER: His propaganda video was not only uncomfortable and inappropriate but down right weird and unnecessary.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Why do you call it a propaganda video?

BENNETT: Because it's not about anything other than protecting him and his office. It is not protecting New York. He is not speaking for New Yorkers. He is not trying to do anything other than maintain the power that he has currently.


WALKER: For now, it is still up to Governor Cuomo whether he will seek a fourth term in the fall of 2022.

And Errol Louis, who covers New York politics extensively, will join us later this hour.

JARRETT: Throughout this entire pandemic, one of the saving graces was the claim that kids don't get sick from COVID or at least not as bad. Tragically, the delta variant is changing all of that. A pediatric group reports cases among U.S. children and teens jumped 84 percent in a week. There are now five times more children with COVID than there were at the end of June.

All this as schools across the country start to reopen soon, a setting ripe for spreading the virus.

WALKER: Overall, hospitalizations now top 55,000, more than triple from a month ago. One Houston hospital was so overrun with COVID patients it had to shift into internal disaster mode.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm frustrated, and I'm disheartened that I don't seem -- I don't get the feeling that people understand the gravity of the situation that we are in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Citizens of Harris County in Houston are waiting 24 hours in an emergency room, that is just not acceptable.


JARRETT: In the last week, Texas and Florida made up one-third of the country's cases and despite an executive order by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banning mask mandates in schools, one school board has voted to require masks for the first two weeks of classes.

WALKER: But Broward County Public Schools will comply with DeSantis' order after he threatened a funding cut. Broward is also requiring hospitals to report COVID statistics daily now because of the surge.

Now, in Missouri, a judge temporarily blocked a mask mandate in St. Louis City and county. Also in San Francisco, people who got the one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be able to receive a supplemental mRNA dose.

JARRETT: Super interesting news as all of the question about boosters and when we can get them to follow that. It's time for three questions in three minutes.

Let's bring in public health physician, Dr. Chris Pernell. She's a fellow with the American College of Preventive Medicine.

Good morning to you, Dr. Pernell. Thank you so much for getting up early for us.

So the American Academy of Pediatrics as we mentioned says that cases among children and teens jumped 84 percent in a week. And it is not just cases. Doctors in places like Louisiana are actually reporting more severe disease than the original strain and we know, of course, that this is happening because these children are likely good opposed to people who were unvaccinated, unvaccinated adults.

So what is your message to parents this morning like Amara and myself who have kids who can't get vaccinated right now?


Don't let your guard down. It's just that plain and simple. We need adults who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated and to do it for the safety and well-being of your family, and the most vulnerable in their family. And children are among the most vulnerable in the family because they are not quite eligible for vaccination if they are below the age of 12. We also know that this delta variant just by nature of its increased transmissibility is a cause for concern.

So this is another push or another reason why we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated.

WALKER: Yeah. I mean, as a parent, you're right, like we're both concerned and I'm also changing my plans. I was planning on flying with my kid in a month but I'll be watching this delta variant, you know, and decide at the last minute.

And, Doctor, some of the hardest hit states like Florida and Texas have statewide bans against requiring masks in schools. We were just talking about that as well.

And yesterday afternoon, President Biden, he took on Governor DeSantis and Abbott who had been accused of politicizing the pandemic. Here he is.


BIDEN: Two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country. Just two states.

Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren't willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors, please help. If you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way.


WALKER: At least get out of the way.

I mean, Doctor, what are your thoughts on that? I mean, officials, governors refusing to follow basic health measures to control the virus.

PERNELL: Unfortunately, I don't have a rational thought about that. I just think that it is foolishness. I think it's recklessness.

And I'm quite thankful and I applaud the president for saying, let's get politics out of this pandemic. When politics is involved in the pandemic, we lose more lives. When politics is involved, public health guidance is disregarded.

And that is something that we all play a role in. We can stop misinformation, we can stop disinformation, and we need our elected leaders to exercise accountability.

JARRETT: Yeah, they seem to be making a political calculation here that having more public health measures in place is going to make voters angry. But nothing will make voters more angry than their kids getting sick I think is fair to say.

We also have big news from New York now requiring proof of at least one vaccine dose for some of the indoor activities, like indoor dining, going to gyms, performances like Broadway.

Dr. Pernell, do you think that this is the type of thing that is actually going to move the needle the most with people who thus far have chosen not to get vaccinated?

PERNELL: I think it's the smart thing. I think that it is the wise thing. I think that it is the safe thing. And it's the best public health advice that is going currently. I was very, very happy to hear New York City make that decision.

Well, let's convert everyone who is unvaccinated to go out and get vaccinated? No. But I do think that it could have a significant push and be a significant motivation for those who want to resume as much normality as possible.


Still, we'll have those who will be hesitant or those recalcitrant, but I think this was a great move and I think other cities should follow suit.

JARRETT: My only question is why are they waiting until September. The delta variant is here.

WALKER: Yeah, it's here now, yeah.

JARRETT: All right. Dr. Chris Pernell, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

WALKER: Thank you.

Iran's incoming president with an early push to lift harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S. CNN going live to Tehran, next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Iran's hard line incoming president issuing a strong warning to the U.S. now and a new incident at sea is raising more questions this morning about Iran's possible military involvement.

Let bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He's live in Tehran for us.

Fred, what more do you know?


Well, those negotiations for the nuclear deal, that is obviously something that is still ongoing between the Iranians and the U.S. despite the fact that you now have this incoming very hard line administration here in Tehran. Those talks have been stalling a little bit and the U.S. has warned that they can't go on forever.

But Iranians for their part, though, this new incoming hard line administration under Ebrahim Raisi, they are saying they are in no rush to get things done. They say they want sanctions relief, but they don't want it at all costs.

Let's listen to what Ebrahim Raisi had to say.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT (through translator): We will definitely pursue the lifting of tyrannical sanctions, but we will definitely not allow people's financial ability and their economy to be impacted by it. We will not pursue the lifting of Tehran sanctions but we'll definitely not allow people's financial ability and the economy to be impacted by it. We will not bow to outsiders' wishes.


PLEITGEN: So they don't want to pander to outsider's wishes, as he's saying there. It's interesting because this new incoming administration, they say they don't want to rely allow on foreign relations here with Iran and foreign investment here in Iran, even if sanctions are lifted, they want to do what they call a resistance economy even though there are experts on the ground and also internationally who believe that that could be something that's very difficult. Of course, right now, those sanctions are in place. At the same time, the tensions here in the region still extremely

high. You, of course, had that incident with that Israeli linked tanker a couple days ago which was attacked by a drone killing two of the sailors on board. The U.S., Israel and U.K. is blaming the Iranians. The Iranians are saying it wasn't them.

Last night, you had another possible incident where all of a sudden four ships in the Persian Gulf started pinging that they were not under their own control which could mean that they were being hijacked. The U.K. authorities were saying that they were looking into whether or not a hijacking was taking place, there were military planes that were in the air. There was one trusted site that also blamed the Iranians for this.

Iranians shot that down saying that they were not behind anything and warned of spreading what they called fake news. In the end, it seems as though all this ended and the latest word that we have is from a trusted source as well saying that the incident is over and the ship is now back under way, Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you for all your reporting on this as usual. Appreciate it, Fred.

WALKER: The leader of Belarus exiled group went for a run in the park and was found hanged. Why the investigation into his death is raising suspicion.


WALKER: He helped Belarusians flee the country and then he was found hanged in a park in the capital of Ukraine.

There are a lot of questions this morning about whether Belarus has taken stifling dissent to a dangerous new level.

Nick Paton Walsh with more.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another day, another dark episode for Belarusians. This time, an opposition activist found hanging from a tree in a park outside Kyiv.

Vitaly Shishov helped Belarusian dissidents escape to here neighboring Ukraine.

Friends said the authoritarian regime in Minsk likely killed him. But Ukrainian police said they were investigating two main theories, suicide, or premeditated murder made to look like suicide.

Currently, we see abrasions on the nose, peeled skin and on the left knee and chest. The police said this can be characteristic of a onetime fall. Where it's Belarus' KGB, yes, they still call it that there. It would be pretty much unprecedented for them to kill opponents abroad. You can see in how riot police tackle peaceful protest how the regime is at home. But it now seems bolder abroad, forcing the landing of a Ryanair jet in May so they could arrest an opposition blogger.

And according to Olympic Athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, ordering her home on Sunday after upsetting the president. Belarus has said she was distressed and emotional, which she denied.

She told me from safety in Tokyo, that two men from the Olympic team escorted her to the airport, but it was her grandmother who made her realize she could not go home again.

KRYSTSINA TSIMANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OLYMPIC SPRINTER: It's happening after my grandmother's call. Because before this call, I think maybe I can come back to home without any problem. But when she called to me on she say about this situation with our (INAUDIBLE).

(through translator): And they would most likely grab me at the airport. I don't know, maybe a jail or maybe to a psychological hospital.

WALSH: She still dreams of racing in the Olympics for Poland where she'll stay for now.

Did you ever imagine this would happen when you posted that Instagram video on Friday?

TSIMANOUSKAYA (through translator): My trainer said that to send me home was not their decision, that it was just said to them to do this.

WALSH: Your message for people in Belarus who are frightened of their government. What do you say to them?

TSIMANOUSKAYA (through translator): Do not be afraid. Always say your opinion. We have to have freedom of speech. And people must say what they think.

WALSH: All of this for Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko's counterpart and friend Vladimir Putin, either a huge headache he can do without, or a welcome new worst dictator for the West to sanction and rail against.


Last week, President Joe Biden met the women Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who wants to lead Belarus out of the Kremlin's grasp. And this day, she met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London amid growing fears Belarus could get anyone even in exile.

SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: If regime wants, they probably could reach everyone.

WALSH: What do you need the west to do right now?

TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Think this happening because regime feels impunity, so it's high time to show teeth. WALSH: Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


JARRETT: Nick, thank you for that.

And we should note, overnight, Poland granted a humanitarian visa to that Belarusian Olympic sprinter who said team officials were trying to forcibly send her back home. Kristina Timanovskaya was seen yesterday at Tokyo's airport boarding a flight to Vienna.

It is unclear whether she was making a connection on her way to Poland on if she planned to stay in Austria or travel somewhere else. A lot of questions on that.

WALKER: Yeah, fascinating.

JARRETT: Still ahead, help is on the way for millions of Americans facing eviction caught in the middle after the White House and Congress failed to act. What finally changed, that's next.