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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Sources Say Gov. Cuomo In "Fighting Mood" And Resisting Calls To Resign; Unprecedented Disaster As Wildfires Ravage Greece; Migrants Describe Raw Food And Lengthy Stays At Border Facilities. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Oregon's most populous county issuing an indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status. Beginning Friday, people five and older in Multnomah County -- that's home to Portland -- will be required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. Violators face a $1,000 fine.

WILD: Greece is burning. Nearly 600 wildfires are raging across the country. The Greek -- the Greek prime minister apologizes for the government's failure to contain the fires, which he calls an unprecedented -- and unprecedented natural disaster. The country is sweltering under one of the worst heatwaves in decades.

ROMANS: Real estate tycoon Robert Durst, testifying in his own defense, denying he murdered his friend and confidante Susan Berman 21 years ago. Durst is accused of killing Berman at her Beverly Hills home hours before she was set to talk to investigators about the disappearance of Durst's first wife who was last seen in 1982.

WILD: The Department of Justice announced Monday it will swift through previously secret information related to the September 11th attacks deciding what it can disclose to the public. DOJ has faced pressure to release additional documents on the alleged role of Saudi government officials in the attacks.

ROMANS: And Democrats won't be able to get their hands on Donald Trump's tax returns until November at the earliest. That would give a federal judge time to hear arguments on whether the former president can block their release. The DOJ recently ruled that the IRS must hand the returns over to the White House.

WILD: In just a few hours now, the historic $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure will be -- infrastructure bill will be up for a vote on the Senate floor. The bill cleared its last major hurdle over the weekend. It is expected to pass.

Let's bring in Jasmine Wright live from Washington, D.C. Jasmine, this is a rare example of bipartisanship between lawmakers and the White House. So, how is the White House reacting now? JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Well, Whitney, the president is coming back to D.C. to celebrate. He's been away in Delaware at his home for a long weekend. He'll come back really to tout this historic legislation because remember, this has been months and months of back and forth between Republicans and Democrats and at times, it seemed like it may have not happened. Well, here we are just hours away from when it is expected to pass.

Now, yesterday, our own CNN's Jeff Zeleny reported that the president is likely to speak, according to officials, as it passes -- really, to tout this historic legislation. Because remember, this is something that President Biden campaign on -- the ability to work across the aisle and get major legislation done for the country, and this is what that looks like.

Now, of course, as -- even though it's expected to pass -- that vote is at 11:00 today in the Senate -- it still faces an uncertain future in the House where it moves next after it passes because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed not to put this bill -- this $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill up for a vote unless it's also coupled with that $3.5 trillion spending package that is the second part of President Biden's agenda.

The infrastructure part is the first. The second part of his agenda that has, of course, more about infrastructure and jobs, but also about climate and family. More social programs that are expected to only gain Democratic support. So, of course, that would not be not as bipartisan.

But still, you're right, Whitney that this is really the overall -- the infrastructure part is, at least -- really a bipartisan feat rarely seen these days in D.C. politics.

Now, of course, we know that this is going to be a win for both Democrats and Republicans that they can go home and tout and say that they worked across the aisle. So that is why we will see President Biden today coming back really to celebrate this moment.

WILD: All right. Jasmine Wright live in Washington. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 33 minutes past the hour.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said to be in a, quote, "fighting mood" and is refusing to step down. Sources tell CNN the governor's closest aides are trying to convince him to resign as he faces multiple sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. Cuomo is pushing back. His lawyer insisting the governor needs more time to make his case.


RITA GLAVIN, PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: Everyone's pushing the governor to resign based on a report that has not been vetted and that people are taking to be 100 percent true. And the governor should be allowed the opportunity to see that evidence and do a fulsome submission, which we're not being allowed to do.


ROMANS: The question now is time running out for Gov. Cuomo? Here's CNN's Brynn Gingras.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, Christine and Whitney.

The New York Assembly Judiciary Committee announcing it could be just weeks away from concluding its impeachment investigation into a number of scandals surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including allegations of sexual harassment that were detailed in the attorney general's report last week.

An updated timeline comes as a Cuomo accuser, identified in that report as executive assistant number one, came forward with her story to CBS News and the Albany "Times Union." Thirty-two-year-old Brittany Commisso, who still works in the administration, says the governor groped her on two separate occasions -- the latest time, last November.


BRITTANY COMMISSO, CUOMO ACCUSER: And that's when he put his hand up my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra. I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself oh my God, this is happening?

GINGRAS (on camera): Commisso has filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County Sheriff's Department and says she wants to see the governor step down.

Sources telling CNN his closest allies don't see a way he can survive this and actually spent last weekend trying to convince him to resign. Cuomo said, though, to be in a fighting mood and has no plans to step down. The governor has denied Commisso's allegations and has taken issue with some of the claims made in the A.G.'s report.

As far as the next date in this timeline, Cuomo's attorneys will submit any evidence they'd like considered as part of this impeachment investigation by Friday -- Christine and Whitney.


WILD: An alleged victim of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein filed a lawsuit against Britain's Prince Andrew on Monday. Virginia Roberts Giuffre accuses the 61-year-old royal of sexually abusing her at Epstein's Manhattan mansion and elsewhere when she was under the age of 18.

Her federal lawsuit, filed in New York, accuses Andrew of sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages.

ROMANS: California Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a recall election in just over a month and the governor's forces are sounding the alarm about what may be the biggest threat to his continued tenure. It's not the wildfire or drought, or even the new pandemic health orders, but complacency among Democratic voters.

We get more this morning from CNN's Kyung Lah in Los Angeles.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Whitney, California's mail-in ballots are going out in just days. We're talking about the recall of California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

What we're starting to see in neighborhoods across the state are canvassers walking through Democratic neighborhoods. Now, the reason for that is that Democrats outnumber Republicans when it comes to voter registration by two to one.

But take a listen when we asked Democrats if they even know about the upcoming election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's ridiculous. I think he'll still be our governor.


LAH (on camera): Do you sense that people are paying attention or talking about it at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not as much, no.


LAH (on camera): The governor?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, they want to -- they want to like remove him.


LAH (on camera): And that's how Democrats could lose the governor's mansion if they do not vote no on the recall, essentially saying that they want Gavin Newsom to continue his job. Then, in the second part of the ballot, a Republican challenger could replace him. The election is September 14th -- Christine, Whitney.


WILD: Kyung Lah, thank you.

In just a matter of days, the Taliban has seized six provincial capitals, leading to mass civilian casualties.

Nick Paton Walsh joining us now. Nick, as the U.S. prepares to finish its military withdrawal it seems like the future of Afghanistan is really at stake here and in a precarious position.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. Make no mistake, we are seeing the worst period -- the worst week, certainly, in Afghanistan's history in the 20-year war for Afghan security forces and government. And the news just continues to get worse all the time.

Confirmation to CNN that the sixth provincial capital has fallen yesterday -- Aybak in Samangan Province -- the key city of Ghazni, which was under threat yesterday. It appears to be calmer there. But another city, Farah, appears to have Taliban pushing into it as well.

It is a constant series of changing fires for Afghan security forces, limited in their scope, frankly, and a sophisticated commando level to have to tackle.

Now, we've heard today from President Ashraf Ghani, in Kabul, declaration that they want to bring under the umbrella of Afghan security forces all the different pro-government militia that are out there in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has an uncomfortable history with warlords, frankly, dating back to the 90s and before. But it appears that in this moment of desperation, possibly, they want to use armed forces loyal to warlords, local leaders to assist in pushing back the Taliban. This could be effective, certainly. It could lead to fracturing in the country and a loosening of the government's grip. But It's certainly a sign that things are not going well -- that's obvious -- but everyone paying attention.

At the same time, U.S. diplomacy is making another effort -- you might say bizarrely at this time of Taliban momentum -- to try and ask the Taliban over three days of talks with regional leaders to stop their offensive.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator, in Doha in Qatar to try and have those talks. The same script, frankly, we've been hearing from U.S. diplomats for years for hope the Taliban will see the need to be internationally recognized and get its levers on the hands of government and seek some kind of political settlement.


But what we're seeing on the ground here is the opposite entirely. The momentum continuing and Afghan security forces now replacing leaders, at times, too. Not in disarray -- that's not fair -- but certainly, I think struggling to work out quite when they get a grip on this insurgency progress.

Back to you.

WILD: Nick Paton Walsh live in London. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, to the American job market now. With help wanted signs across America, new data shows there were 10.1 million job openings in June. That is a remarkable number -- a record high as businesses struggle to hire enough workers to meet the demand of a booming reopening economy. Despite high demand, not everyone's ready to go back to work.

Childcare is still a problem for millions of parents. Frontline low- wage workers aren't rushing back to the new normal. In fact, many are still concerned about contracting the virus and about work conditions.

The Executive Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Neil Bradley told us, "If we want to sustain our economic recovery, we have to get serious about removing barriers to filling these open jobs."

Economists hope issues with childcare will be addressed when kids get back to school, but the Delta variant is causing now growing health and safety risks, which may keep people at home.

It is a complicated story here. The Fed chief recently said you've got all these job openings but the people who are out of work are not plugging directly into those. In many cases, the people who are out of work are retraining for new, better jobs at higher pay and that's not -- that's not a new match that happens overnight.

WILD: All right.

ROMANS: We'll be right back.



WILD: In Greece, wildfires are raging in all corners of the country. The prime minister called it a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions in a televised speech. The flames have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced dozens of residents to evacuate.

So let's bring in CNN's Eleni Giokos. She is live in Greece. Eleni, what is the government doing to mitigate this?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, we have seen an unprecedented situation with wildfires across the country. The government says it was over 580 fires across Greece in the last few days. It's been compounded by extreme weather -- heat of over 45 degrees. Today, it is also extremely hot.

But where I am right now is in Evia. It is the second-largest island in Greece and by far, had the most intense and aggressive fires. What you see behind me now is a fire that was just put out. If I could describe the scenario just moments ago, where you had flames and fires reaching to the top of these trees, it was absolutely terrifying to see.

Locals are in shock. They say that assistance has not come quick enough. And, of course, we also heard the prime minister apologize for the weaknesses and the response.

What you also see behind me is firefighters from Slovakia that came to Greece to assist. They arrived this morning bringing many fire engines and almost 100 people on the ground. And I just want to show you here -- I mean, trees that have literally turned into charcoal. Almost half of Evia has actually been burned. We're talking about pristine and virgin forests.

Firefighters now -- despite getting the fire under control, they have to ensure that it doesn't reignite, and that has been the very big risk. In fact, where you see fires put under control, which it takes hours for them to do, then sometimes reignites and then is spreads even further. We've also seen other measures put in place, like chopping down trees to try and ensure that it doesn't spread.

But it has been unbelievably unprecedented. Locals say they've never seen anything like this before. But they are upset, they are shocked, some have evacuated. Some have stayed behind to try and save their homes.

But I have to also say about the air quality, you cannot breathe here. Your eyes keep watering. And there's ash -- it rains ash all day long since we arrived yesterday.

You know, I -- it's so heartbreaking to see this, Laura (sic), and I have to say that I guess the hope is that this is going to be put out and under control in the next few days.

WILD: I know -- I know it is so hard out there. It must be so difficult for you and for all of those --


WILD: -- people who are out there trying to mitigate this.

Thank you so much for your reporting. I know it's dire circumstances and it's extreme, so thank you very much for bringing us that report.

ROMANS: Yes, and the extreme weather just continues. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The system is expected to become better organized and should become Tropical Storm Fred in the coming hours.

A tropical storm warning has also been issued for the Dominican Republic, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for northern Haiti.

Forecasters say the storm will track through the Caribbean over the next few days and could affect parts of Florida this week.

WILD: A tornado was caught on tape forming just outside an Illinois town late Monday.


Tornado ripping through Sycamore, Illinois.


WILD: Oh my gosh, that is right out of the movie "Twister." The tornado can be seen picking up debris and funneling to the ground.

The storm damaged multiple homes, downed trees. Afterward, some residents found that their homes were just destroyed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just here at my mom's and storms were coming through. I called my wife and she said it's starting to get bad here. And then I came home and talked to her on the phone and hurried home and saw the -- saw the cops out front. So I came rushing up there at the front and everything's pretty much gone.


WILD: The tornado was one of several reported in that area.

ROMANS: The Biden administration is still under pressure to improve treatment of migrants at the southern border with new court documents describing meager conditions at a Texas border facility. Unaccompanied migrant children reported raw food, long wait times for medical care, and prolonged stays. This is in documents filed Monday.

The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general has said it is launching a review of another facility.


Priscilla Alvarez joins us now. Priscilla, these facilities have drawn widespread criticism. What do reports like this mean for the Biden administration and what they are trying to do at the border?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Biden and his team are still grappling with the record number of unaccompanied migrant children who are arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

To give you a sense of scope, in the month of July, the administration was expecting more than 19,000 unaccompanied children. Now, this is a challenge that dates back to the early days of the administration when officials were scrambling to accommodate children who were stuck in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody.

Now, the officials set up what they called emergency intake sites, other known as temporary facilities overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. They opened up more than a dozen and today, around four remain open.

And two of those have come under heavy scrutiny, including one in Pecos, Texas, which in court declarations last night revealed poor conditions for children. Children reported, as you mentioned, undercooked food, long wait times for medical services, and prolonged stays overall. In fact, one 17-year-old from Honduras said of their sibling, my brother has gotten depressed here.

Now, HHS says that they're improving conditions as these facilities have gotten up and running. But attorneys say that these children need to be moved to shelters that are better equipped to care for them, Christine.

ROMANS: Just real trouble. All right, thank you so much for that, Priscilla -- Whitney.

WILD: The Navy's new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, completing its third and final shock trial. The supercarrier demonstrating it can survive explosive events in combat. During the shock trials that began in June, three 40,000-pound bombs were set off underwater, and then they would move progressively closer to the ship. The ship's captain says the testing did break a couple of things but that's to be expected with a 40,000-pound bomb coming at you, right?

ROMANS: Well, that looks like shock.

WILD: Shock and awe.

A Los Angeles judge denying Britney Spears' request to expedite her next hearing as she seeks to have her dad removed as conservator of her estate. The singer's new attorney had petitioned to remove -- had petitioned the court to move up the hearing by a month, arguing that every day matters in an effort to remove Jamie Spears from the conservatorship. The attorney argued that removing him or at least suspending him from controlling her estate was critical. The judge did not explain why she denied the request to move up the hearing.

ROMANS: All right, watching all the developments on that story.

Meantime, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares closed higher. It's narrowly mixed on the open for European shares. On Wall Street, stock index futures also barely budging here.

It was a mixed performance to start the week and fears over the surging cases of the Delta variant were a big factor here. The Dow closed 106 points lower. The S&P 500 fell slightly. The Nasdaq managed a small gain.

But where you really say the Delta factor at play was in oil prices. A sharp decline there Monday. Prices, the lowest level since May over concerns that the rising number of COVID cases would lead to a decrease in demand for oil. U.S. crude ended the day at $66.48 a barrel.

Looking at oil prices right now -- you can see them there. Investors are worried that the surge in cases could lead to travel restrictions, which would affect demand. Companies are pushing back their return-to- office plans, which could also lead to a slowdown in travel, of course, and conferences, and demand for oil.

All right. DraftKings is making an even bigger bet on online gamblers. The company announced it bought Golden Nugget online gaming for nearly $1.6 billion. As more states legalize sports betting and online casino games, such as poker and blackjack, companies like DraftKings are trying to attract gamblers.

DraftKings CEO said the deal fills a meaningful hole for the company. The Golden Nugget brand attracts older customers who visit casinos. It's also popular with -- more popular with women, believe it or not.

All right. Last week, United Airlines became the first major U.S. carrier to require its employees be vaccinated. Here's what United CEO Scott Kirby said Monday about that decision.


SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: The tipping point for me was seeing the statistics that 97 percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated and over 99 percent of the deaths are amongst the unvaccinated. That implies, by the way, that it's about 300 times more likely to die if you're unvaccinated than if you're vaccinated. And once you have that statistic in your mind -- at least for me, as a leader -- there simply was no choice but to do the right thing.


ROMANS: Three hundred times more likely to die. That's what they put in a note, also, to all of their frequent flyers overnight.

A United executive told us that any employee who refused to show proof of vaccination will be fired.

That e-mail to its customers Monday explained how the mandate makes flying safer. And, of course, they're hoping to make us all feel more comfortable so that we can get back to normal, get on planes, and start booking travel again.

WILD: Finally, zero-gravity gymnastics? Watch as astronomists (sic) -- or as -- astronomists -- astronauts spoof the Olympics from 220 miles above the earth. So these are astronauts performing their own rendition of synchronized swimming, lack of floor gymnastics routines, weightless sharpshooting, all aboard the International Space Station. So no word on who won gold. Everybody seemed to rise to the occasion, though, Christine.


ROMANS: I think some of them might be astronomists. Astronauts who are astronomists, it is possible. That's really cool, though, and a great video.

Thanks for --

WILD: They had some downtime up there.

ROMANS: That's right.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

WILD: I'm Whitney Wild. "NEW DAY" is next.