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Inside Politics

Simone Biles Shares Loss of Aunt During Tokyo Olympics; Manhattan DA Requests Materials Related to Governor Cuomo Investigation; Cuomo Accuser: Governor Trying to do Anything to Stay in Power; W.H.O. Calls for Moratorium on COVID Booster Shots until September; DeSantis Downplays Crisis as FL Becomes COVID Epicenter. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 04, 2021 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: All right, Coy to everyone and everything in life. Thank you Coy it's such a great job, really appreciate it. Thank you all so much for being here today. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, everybody. Welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. COVID cases climb above 90,000 new infections per day the White House effort now to slow the surge includes getting the Pfizer vaccine fully approved ASAP and a new confrontation with Republican Governors.

Plus Former President Obama's star studded birthday bash now, another COVID casualty, and Ohio offers a raw look at the Democratic Family Feud. The establishment winner says voters want civility and compromise. The progressive firebrand loser says she was robbed.


SHONTEL BROWN, (D) OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The people who understand that this takes compromise and again it takes delivering results, not insults. And that's lip service. People want public service to find common ground and go from there. So I think that we are seeing that that is what most Americans want.

NINA TURNER, (D) FORMER OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: See we didn't lose this race. Evil money manipulated and Milan did this selection.


KING: Back to that a bit later. But we begin the hour in New York; Governor Andrew Cuomo's tone is defiant. But the details in a report alleging serial sexual harassment are beyond damning. Fellow Democrats, including President Biden say the governor must resign if he does not New York State Assembly Democrats today promise to fast track impeachment proceedings. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAMRA BROUK (D-NY): At this point, you know, I don't expect the best out of this governor. And that's why I think it's incumbent on those of us who have the power to make this right to bring justice not only for these women, but for all New Yorkers so that we can actually focus on doing the work.


KING: With us today to share their reporting and their insights Jimmy Vielkind of "The Wall Street Journal", New York One's Gloria Pazmino, CNN's Kaitlan Collins and the Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Ellie Honig.

Jimmy, let me start with you. In your reporting today you say there are conversations about possible resignation helped me understand the context there? That was members of the legislature saying the math is against him, he'll probably resign or is it within the governor's inner circle saying maybe the math will get to him?

JIMMY VIELKIND, NY POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It is both at this point, John. We know that a big statement came out yesterday from Assembly Speaker Carl Hastie, a Democrat from the Bronx who hitherto had stopped short of calling for Governor Cuomo's resignation.

After a three hour confab with the Democrats who control that chamber Hastie came out publicly and said that Cuomo did not have their confidence and he asked the impeachment inquiry to wrap up quickly. Now the Judiciary Committee in that Chamber has been overseeing that probe.

Its members are scheduled to meet on Monday. I spoke with three members of the committee who said that it could take around 30 days perhaps a little bit more for articles of impeachment to be drafted. And then New York might be on track for the first impeachment trial since William Salter was removed from office in 1913.

Governor Cuomo is certainly processing this people who have spoken to him tell me that he has remained generally defiant. But it is the hope of some who are both close to him and many in the legislature that he will perhaps see the writing on the wall and resigned before anything actually has to happen in the legislature.

KING: And Gloria, as Jimmy knows, the governor is defiant. But the governor also that was a recorded message we heard from the governor. The governor has not taken questions from reporters. What is the thinking inside team Cuomo about we know his instinct is to fight. And we know he believes in his communication skills. Are the lawyers of the political people telling him you got to be careful here, governor?

GLORIA PAZMINO, POLITICAL REPORTER, NY1: Well, the problem with the governor's inner circle is that he is now surrounded by people who are clearly not willing to say to the governor that this is not a good idea. This is the governor's ideas being pushed forward. And he has no one around him to tell him hey; maybe this is not the best way to approach this. You said it exactly right and I think much of Jimmy's reporting has detailed this. The governor likes to fight and right now he is fighting for his life, along with everybody around him.

He has been wounded before. We've seen similar situations before nothing as bad as this, but he was badly wounded months ago when the allegations were first revealed. Usually what he does is he retreats he steps away from the process takes a step back from the public eye.

He tries to keep those reporters who follow him every day away from him, and then he rallies his allies and tries to make a comeback. The difference now is that those allies are extremely quiet and I think Carl Hastie is the one to watch in all of this.

He is extremely close. The governor has been on his side before and that statement that he released yesterday saying he has lost the confidence of the conference is extremely telling for where things are at.


KING: That part is extremely telling. I lived through this covering the Clinton White House when some people thought the threat of impeachment would force Bill Clinton to consider resigning. That never happened. It was never going to happen. He was not wired that way.

We lived through this with Trump. Kaitlan Collins, one of the big differences now is we have a Democratic President of the United States who has a good relationship with Andrew Cuomo, you were there yesterday, and you put the question to the president who is now among a long list of Democrats who say, Governor, you got to go. Let's listen.




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. I think he should resign.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-CA): We continue to believe that the governor should resign.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): These actions are inappropriate for the governor of the united - the Governor of New York State. And I do believe he should resign.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): Bottom line is he's no longer fit to serve as governor. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You see, there, you know, the New York City Mayor, the prominent New York, both New York Senators one who haven't seen majority but the President of the United States, the Head of the Democratic Party, a man who has a relationship with the governor. But the question is A, will he listen? And B, what was the process inside the Biden White House to get the president out pretty quickly?

COLLINS: I think they knew that he had very few options yesterday of how to answer that question which they knew he was going to get. He actually put it off when he saw us earlier in the day, but I don't think he had many options that would have looked good for him if he had not stood by those March comments that if the investigation did confirm the claims of the women, which yesterday they said that it did that he should resign.

But he did not take that step because it's clear that Governor Cuomo right now is not resigning. He is come out and defiant. That's what we're expecting unless something changes, of course, in the next few days. But the question of whether or not he's actually going to be removed from office?

And President Biden didn't say, yes, I do support that. He said we're taking this one step at a time. We'll see if he does actually get removed from office if that is the option that the New York State Assembly takes, that changes the dynamic for the White House.

But I do think it's hard for Biden to come out and say that because this is someone that he forged a political alliance with and on top of those lawmakers that you just showed there House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been a longtime friend of the Cuomo family.

I think losing those two high profile allies, though, puts Governor Cuomo in a spot that he is not used to being in.

KING: Not used to being in. He's isolate - as isolated as can be politically. Elie Honig the question is what are the legal ramifications? What are the legal questions on the table? We know one of the incidents happened in the Albany area. We know that District Attorney there says we'll take the report from the Attorney General and her investigators and look into it.

A new statement this morning from Westchester, the governor is alleged to have touched inappropriately a state trooper who was part of his protective detail. The Westchester D.A. today says we'll take a look at that as well.

What is A, the criminal questions and B, is one of the reasons we're not hearing from the governor? This report also documents and it's a very lengthy report a really horrible, horrible climate inside the governor's office. He is - he is open to civil suits from these women, I would assume. But isn't the state of New York if this hostile climate was inside the governor's inner circle?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John, there's so there's three different things really happening here legally. First of all, there's the potential for impeachment. The legal standard, there is whatever the assembly feels like, and then you got the possibility of civil suits.

These complainants can sue Governor Cuomo they can sue the State of New York hostile work environment, sexual harassment, retaliation, that's for money damages. In order to prove that you have to prove what's called the preponderance of evidence, which just means 50.1 percent.

Then the most serious stakes here are the potential criminal stakes. As you know, John, there are now two different district attorneys in the State of New York who've asked for further investigative materials here, of course, that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

That's the highest level but one thing I think is really important. If you look at the AG's investigators report from yesterday, they find that the complainant specifically executive assistant number one the person who is the basis of the Albany complaint, they found her credible and them specifically found Governor Cuomo's denials to be unpersuasive and not credible.

One of those investigators, by the way, is a former prosecutor I used to work with at the Southern District of New York. So the D.A's are going to have to go through this evidence and make the same kind of determinations on their own.

KING: Right. And one of the women who accused Governor Cuomo and who Kate has come out publicly some others have not. One of them would have come up publicly watch the video yesterday in which the governor had a recorded message in which he showed himself his staff produced this in close contact with people. She was offended again and worse. Listen.


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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.



KING: Jimmy when the governor and his people hear powerful condemnation like that for women who said they've already been through enough, thank you, governor don't do this to us again. Or when they look at numbers this is from Marist, I believe 52 percent of Democrats in New York believe he should resign 48 percent say he should be impeached. Is there anything that breaks through? VIELKIND: That very much remains to be seen, John. We've heard powerful statements from the women who accused Governor Cuomo, really since Lindsey Boylan went public in December of last year, then Charlotte Bennett, then on Ana Liss and Karen Hinton, and now we're hearing some other anonymized complaints, including from the state trooper, which was yet another person who followed the same pattern who was aired in the report.

Governor Cuomo has been motivated by rail politic. One of his advisors famously said during his first term, that he only operates at two speeds get along or kill. Here, it's clear that it's difficult for him to push back against some of these accounts.

He specifically apologized to Charlotte Bennett, during the pre- recorded video that was released yesterday. But he also warned the woman executive assistant number one, that if she wants to air her claims in a court of law, that he would vigorously defend himself and he has denied that. So I don't know if please, or Chris Ducker are going to break through I certainly think that the brass tacks of political power might.

KING: Right. We have to watch this play out. That's well put at the end the brass tacks of political power. We'll watch a wait and see A, if we hear from the governor if he's willing to take questions. And then what the assembly does next?

Jimmy Vielkind, Gloria Pazmino, Kaitlan Collins and Ellie Honig appreciate your reporting and insights. This conversation of course will continue. Up next for us, Dr. Fauci wishes the pace of COVID vaccinations would double and "Team Biden" hopes getting full approval of the Pfizer vaccine might help.



KING: Full FDA approval for Pfizer's COVID vaccine could come by the end of this month, perhaps even a little sooner. Top members of the White House COVID Team believe that step will help alleviate at least some vaccine hesitancy.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I do hope it's going to be within the next couple of weeks. They said hopefully by the end of the month, I hope it's even sooner than that. There are many good reasons to get this done. They're doing their job.

They're an independent agency. I think there are a certain proportion of people who are just waiting for that full approval even though the data are overwhelming right now that these vaccines are highly effective and are safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Joining me now CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, she's the Former Baltimore Health Commissioner and the Author of a great new book "Lifelines: A doctor's journey in the fight for Public Health".

Dr. Wen, is Dr. Fauci right, in your view, among at least a decent slice of the vaccine hesitant with hearing this is no longer emergency use authorization, but a formal full of good housekeeping stamp of approval, would that make a difference?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Oh, I definitely agree that having full FDA approval will make a big difference for two reasons. One is that there are some people who don't really understand a burden to use authorization. There's this incorrect narrative out there that somehow this is a "Experimental Drug", which is really not true.

This is a vaccine that's been tested in tens of thousands of people. And, now there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who received them. This is among the most well tested of any therapeutic that's out there. But I think some people would feel better knowing that it is now fully approved.

But also there are lots of employers who are waiting for that full approval before mandating the vaccine for their employees. I also will say that I really don't understand what's taking the FDA so long. I mean, what can possibly be more important than getting full FDA approval of the vaccines, what other priority the FDA is more important?

So I hope that there'll be more transparency, but the FDA, I would love to hear them, say, for example, here are the things that are already in place. We're already set on these things. Here's why it's taking so long, because we're waiting for some other - for some other checklist items to be done.

That level of transparency, I think would go a long way to reassuring the American people that all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed that nothing is cut out in expediting this process.

KING: That's an excellent point. And the more transparency the better, especially when you have people out there trying to feel the skepticism with misinformation. Dr. Wen, just moments ago, the World Health Organization said let's stop, let's put an end or at least a pause on any use of booster shots third, vaccine shots.

We've seen that playing out already in Israel in Germany in the UK, there's a debate about it here in the United States. The World Health Organization says let's not do that, at least until September because we need to get a first dose to people around the world. Is that - do you think that's the right move at this time?

WEN: No, it's not. It is really an unhelpful statement from the World Health Organization. I completely agree that global vaccine equity is really important that I mean it's really a tragedy that there are health care workers and vulnerable older people in some countries that haven't seen a drop of the vaccine. But the way you do that is not to withhold vaccines to people in countries where there's plenty of supply. And in the U.S., for example, we know that there are lots of vials that are going to go to waste because they've reached the expiration date.

I mean, why should we let those go to waste and there are individuals here in the U.S. who actually may benefit from a booster dose. That's something else by the way I hope the FDA gives approval for at some point very soon, because right now there are people who are immune- compromised individuals who are older with chronic medical issues who may have gotten the J&J one dose vaccine.


WEN: Who actually it would be advisable for them or could be advisable for them or could be advisable for them to get a booster dose. But they now have to go to pharmacies across state lines. It just doesn't make sense.

We really should allow patients and doctors to make the best choice for them based on their individual medical situation to get the booster dose.

KING: Let me ask you, lastly, help put this into context for me. Is it alarming or is it inevitable? These are the numbers, pediatric COVID cases in the last week 71,726 new cases that's up 84 percent from the previous week, five times as many cases as the end of June as you can see there. Is this inevitable because older Americans are vaccinated therefore the virus is finding a toast in younger Americans? Is inevitable troubling, what's the right way to describe this?

WEN: It is both inevitable and troubling that we're seeing this explosive rise in children once again. We keep on talking about this being a pandemic of the unvaccinated with the implication that well maybe people who are unvaccinated are choosing to be unvaccinated, but are young kids.

I mean, I have two kids under the age of 12. They didn't choose to be unvaccinated. But because we have this very contagious Delta variant and so many people who are unvaccinated our children are paying the price and that's just not right.

KING: That is just not right. I have a 10 year old I join you in that that is just not right. Dr. Wen is always grateful for your important insights. Up next for us, help or get out of the way President Biden names, names and makes the case some Republican Governors are blocking COVID progress.



KING: Confrontation as a new tool in President Biden's war on COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Florida and Texas account for 1/3 of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country. I say to these governors, please help. But you're not going to help at least get out of the way. The people are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.


KING: That help or get out of the way new tone from the president comes because the numbers, the numbers are just going in the wrong direction. Look where we are now. Cases are up 90 - over 90,000 new infections a day is now the average over 90,000 new infections a day that's 40 percent up from just last week, the highest since February.

Now let's zone in on what the president's talking about. These are half of the cases last week. Half of the cases last week came from just five states one in three a third of them came from Florida and Texas. The two governors the president was directing most of his comments at.

You see this five states causing so much of the cases right here. Now in Florida the higher case count means hospitalizations are going up. The Governor DeSantis says all is fine but look Florida hospitalizations up over 350 percent in just a month above 9000 for the first time in a year with higher cases comes more hospitalizations.

If you look into Texas, Governor Abbott says Mr. President, we got this. He says Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. The governor says we got this we've mastered safe practices. There's no spreading COVID-19 in Texas.

The numbers tell you something different cases are up 650 percent in a month, above 10,000 for the first time since back in February. Nowhere near yet where were they in the horrific winter peak. But you do see six months ago 19,000 in Texas, one month ago, it was only 1500 now trending up again. This is why the president says governors helped me or get out of the way.


BIDEN: I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents. And it's clear to me and to most medical experts that the decisions are made like not allowing mask mandates in school and the like, is bad health policy, bad health policy.


KING: This is a big turn for the president direct confrontation with two Republican Governors in big states out there. I'm sorry I have to introduce everybody first, my mistake. With me to share - I was trying to get straight to the conversation.

With me to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Kaitlan Collins Heather Cagle of "POLITICO". Welcome back, Heather, it's been a while. McClatchy's Francesca Chambers and Margaret Talev of "AXIOS" it's a big shift for the president to name names to essentially the White House saying you're the problem.

COLLINS: Yes, it's a reversal. Because just a few weeks ago, they were saying we actually don't think assigning blame is the way to go. They were very careful to say that we're just saying with the sciences from our podium, and we'll let other people do theirs.

But now they are taking an active turn and saying these governors are doing harm by doing things like banning mask requirements in schools. And they're saying, if you're - this is the new line, if you're not going to help if you're not going to be of assistance, just don't stand in the way of having other people put in mask requirements or vaccine mandates to get into their businesses.

And I think that's a new tougher message that we're seeing among a series of other reversals from the White House on the messaging.

KING: And so let's just bring - I showed you a quote from the Texas Governor there saying we've mastered this even though the case counts going in the wrong direction right now. The Florida Governor says we're good.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): At the end of the day, would I rather have 5000 cases amongst 20 year olds, or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger there's people that were hermits for a year and a half that were six masks into that and still contracted it OK. So let's just be real here.


KING: I believe the translation there he says, you know, just tough it out. Some people are going to get COVID tough it out. But isn't the better way to put it that yes, it's great that seniors are vaccinated now that seniors are more protected. That's fantastic.