Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

New York Gov. Cuomo Resigns, Effective In 14 Days; Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: And it's not going to be easy.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And does this moment and we can't answer the question. So the question is, where are we on page one of this next chapter? But is this, is this a next chapter in how politics and how society handles these questions? I covered the Clinton White House during the impeachment, he ploughed through. People telling him he should step aside for the good of the country, that it was the right thing to do. Do not put the country through impeachment. Bill Clinton said no.

The Access Hollywood tape came out. A lot of people thought that was the end of Donald Trump. He went on to serve as President of the United States are -- is this proof that at least we might be in the beginning, finally, of a new chapter?

BASH: Honestly, I don't think so. I think each individual case is an individual case. And Donald Trump had a very different set of circumstances, a very different base of support, a very different kind of opponent and -- in that election. Bill Clinton didn't have 11 accusers at once. Bill Clinton didn't have an attorney general report laying out very damning accusations against him.

And Andrew Cuomo has this situation where he has all of that combined with the fact that he doesn't have, certainly he clearly has and probably -- had and probably still has a pretty big base of support with the voters, but not an Albany. And that's really what matters to him now. And I think that going forward, every case is going to continue to be different.

And I think it's important to remember that. And one thing I just want to add is that pretty soon the Lieutenant Governor is going to take office, Kathy Hochul, the first woman to be governor of New York and I think that's a pretty telling and pretty interesting aspect to this whole drama and this whole saga that it is a woman who is going to take the governor's mansion.

KING: That is a very important point born in Buffalo, New York, graduate of Syracuse Catholic University Law School, former Congresswoman and now the Lieutenant Governor. Kathy Hochul will be the governor of New York 14 days from now, Dana standby as well. And also bringing to the conversation Maggie Haberman our CNN political analysts and of course, the Washington correspondent for The New York Times. Maggie, you know, New York politics as well as anybody. You know, the Cuomo family and the governor well. You could see just the shift, as other reporters have noted of the defiance and the defense at the top to the resignation at the end.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's right, John. Look, I mean, it is both surprising and not surprising. Andrew Cuomo has a very long history as we know a fighting game and acknowledge that his instinct is to fight this.

And that was clearly true over several, several days. But he also does have some streak where he sizes up the field and he recognizes whether he actually can win the fight and he shifts. He did that in 2002, when he dropped out of his first race for governor when he was primary in Carl McCall. Another fellow Democrat, he dropped out literally just days before the vote was taken.

That's what this reminds me of. He's surveyed the field. He realized when the assembly Speaker Carl he said, there's no deals to be had. We are not cutting a deal. That was it. And so he switched course. And I agree, I agree with Danna, that his political career in the short term is over, but he clearly thinks it may not be over for good, or he would not be going the way he's going.

KING: It's an interesting point when you say it may not be over for good. One of the questions is, do we have any information about what that means? Does he step aside and run again? Does he step aside and wait this out a couple of years, do we know?

HABERMAN: We don't know yet? I think that he has probably considered all of those options. And one thing that some Politico's in New York have been talking about, you know, over the course of the last hours this has unfolded is could he even try to run again next year? I think that seems a little fantastical. But you're talking about a guy who has been in politics, you know, basically since birth and doesn't know anything else.

I think we're going to see whether there was lingering effect with voters. We saw his numbers crater. In recent polls, it was clear that voters wanted him to resign. You know, he is going to I think, be adjusting the same premise, you know, they're -- certainly most prominently Donald Trump of how long do voters punish you for things you are accused doing.

Now, he is continued, Cuomo, was very strong in his remarks, to be defiant and insist that he didn't do anything that he believes crossed the line. The problem for him is that he's signed into law, very aggressive new laws against sexual harassment that helped redefine what that line is. It's very hard for him to make that defense. Again, I think he will continue to try to combat that does not mean there's a climate for him too. But I think that he will try to see if there's a way and he sees an opening and go for it. KING: I think that's an excellent point. Maggie Haberman, thank you very much.

Let's go back to our correspondent MJ Lee, who joins us from New York. To that point, MJ, we have seen disgraced politicians try to rehabilitate themselves in the past some successfully some not so. One of the interesting pieces of this from the very beginning of the conversation is that both the governor and even more so his attorney in a 40 minute presentation before we heard from the governor went after some of the accusers with some vigor, three or four in particular, Brittany Commisso, Lindsey Boylan, and Charlotte Bennett.


So part of this conversation as we analyze this moment, and this day as we get hours away from it, watch the transition in New York and whatever Governor Cuomo decides is his next chapter is going to be to the end of the treatment, the characterization of the accusers.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think, John, both press conferences were such a reminder for all the progress that we talked about over the last few years that have been made on the Me Too front, we still have a long ways to go. Governor Cuomo basically saying that he never thought that he was crossing the line, that when he was hugging someone, when he was kissing someone, when he was speaking to someone in a certain way, he meant it to be kind, he was trying to be friendly, he was just trying to be endearing.

But it is the cultural shift and the generational shift that he was not aware of. So the lines that are being redrawn around him, he was sort of blaming almost -- putting the blame almost on the cultural shift that has taken not that he meant to do anything offensive. You brought up John, the press conference that was held by his lawyer earlier before he spoke.

And she literally had a PowerPoint presentation where she point by point went through some of the accusations from the woman even putting up some of the photos that these women took with Governor Cuomo and essentially said, look at this photo, does this woman actually look uncomfortable? It sure doesn't look like he was crossing a line.

Certainly, you might be able to tell by looking at these photos, if they were sexually harassed. I just really, really want to stress this point. When somebody says they were sexually harassed, that determination is made by the person who is on the receiving end of that harassment, not the person who was speaking, not the person who was touching, not the person who was making that person uncomfortable.

KING: And MJ it's a fantastic and very necessary point. To that point, let's bring back in Kirsten Powers, our CNN senior political analyst. Kirsten, this is the point I think you were making earlier as well, that if you're going to resign, and if you're going to take responsibility, why do you send your attorney out for 40 minutes beforehand, and then in your own speech, essentially, take issue question the credibility of the women who have come forward to express the fact that you've made them feel horrible and worse, mostly in the workplace.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and let's remember that his staff was working to discredit these women. I mean, there was an op-ed that was drafted that wasn't published. And there's zero percent chance that he wasn't involved in that based on my experience, working for him. So and he hasn't decried it in any way. And he has continued to do it.

And so, look, people make mistakes. I think it's important that we say that, that, you know, that men can cross the line and not know that they're crossing the line. The thing is, when confronted with that, the response is not to discredit people, and to not pull things out of the handbook of basically, what women have always had to go through in these situations, which is the oh, but we have a nice email that you sent her. Oh, we have a picture with this person when anybody who knows even the tiniest bit about this, that's commonplace, women who are harassed or in abusive situations frequently go along with what's happening.

And even the security person who says she was harassed said she was too afraid to say anything. She had seen what happened to people who complained. This is the story of most women.

KING: Kirsten Powers, thank you very much for that.

Let me bring it back into the room with Margaret Talev and Catherine Lucey, because I think it's important that we just air this out. And frankly, I think it's important that I yield the floor. As the man in the conversation, I don't say it as a joke. I say it seriously.

To Kirsten point, you know, there are lessons to be learned by all of us, all of us. And so to the point that look, the governor resigned, that's a big step. Especially for someone with his instincts to fight, especially someone with his in his mind, his legacy was his father, Mario Cuomo has three terms. He desperately wanted a fourth term to cement the Cuomo legacy in New York politics, but this conversation we're having about the way he went out, is a pretty important one.

LUCEY: That's right. He's resigning, but he's not accepting the conclusions of the court. He is not taking responsibility for everything that he is accused of. He really is, as we've been discussing canasta hour, trying to frame this as a generational divide that he was trying to be friendly that he was -- he never thought he overstepped any lines. But the accusations and the claims by these women are serious. They're consistent. They're sweeping. I mean, there's an overwhelming amount of evidence here, and he's not really grappling with that.

And so we do have this moment of disconnect here where he is both acknowledging he needs to step aside. But in some ways for political reasons and is trying to preserve his political legacy in the process, right? Talking about the women he has advanced in the workplace, laws he assigned, you know, his own, you know, his own daughters is what he hoped for them for the future. But it's hard to do both things. It's hard to say that you've been this champion and yet grapple with this report. [12:40:19]

KING: It's hard to say I take full responsibility, but then quibble with the details.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, right. And nobody ever resigned from office when they thought they could survive the efforts against them. So that's obvious. But I think we were talking a couple minutes ago with Dana Bash, about whether this is truly a permanent turning point in American politics, right? And she was saying it depends on the case. And I think any woman who's been around the earth for a couple turns, knows the experience of two steps forward and one step back.

But I also think, undeniably, American politics, and particularly Democratic politics in the United States has changed. And part of the reason it has changed is because not just of the way society thinks about women or women in the workplace, or whatever, but because the number -- the share of office holders of elected office holders are themselves more women than ever before.

We saw that in the house midterms last time around. And by the way, we saw that in New York State where last year in 2020, there were a record share, more than half of the names on the ballot for state legislative races were women. And that was by far in new record. When women are in office, it impacts what men an office can get away with.

KING: That's a fantastic point. And New York is about to have its first female governor Kathy Hochul, who will succeed Andrew Cuomo in 14 days. And also gets in perspective now from our senior political commentator, David Axelrod. Axe, this is a giant moment in Democratic politics. It's a giant moment in national politics. It is a giant moment, as we've been discussing, for the last 40 minutes or so, in the cultural conversation about mistreatment of women largely in the workplace, what is your take?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, obviously, it is huge, you know, in a sense, this was you could see this coming aways back, Andrew Cuomo bought time in the winter by asking for the Attorney General to investigate these charges. When the report came back, the die was cast, because she not only confirmed but elaborated on some of those charges, and it was politically untenable.

Perhaps in the past, you could you could survive this. There was no way in the current environment. And it's really stunning, John, when you think about and you and I both go back aways, when you think about the Cuomo franchise in American politics in New York state politics, six terms between Andrew Cuomo and Mario Cuomo as governor of the state of New York 24 in the last 38 years or whatever it was. New York was governed by Cuomo.

So I was struck yesterday in reading the New York Times. They were talking about it Kathy Hochul getting ready to take over they had to run a Pronunciation Guide on the Lieutenant Governor, because Cuomo was such a transcendent figure in the state that there was a very little known about her. And so, you know, this is a -- in the cultural history, this is a landmark, but it was something that you could see coming.

KING: You mentioned Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, I just want to read something she tweeted just moments ago. I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down, it is the right thing to do. And in the best interest of New Yorkers, as someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State's 57th Governor.

She will lead in two weeks, David Axelrod, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, in the middle of an unpredictable economic recovery. In the -- it'll be soon in New York, the early days of a new school year and the Delta variant, the nation's most populous city, New York City, trying to reopen itself and get back on its feet. And the enormous challenge for this woman who, you know, today is the Lieutenant Governor, two weeks from today will be the governor of one of the country's most important and largest states.

AXELROD: And she's going to have to assemble a team to help her govern, in the midst of all this. Now, this is an enormous task. I mean, we all wish her well, this is an enormous burden that has fallen to her. And that was, I think, John, one of the things that Cuomo hoped would allow him to survive was that people would say, well, you know, these were these were bad things that he did, but we have these great challenges. We have the COVID crisis, we have crime, we have other things be saying, so we need him to deal with as well, obviously, that turned out not to be the case.

But the challenges certainly are there. And she is not walking into an easy situation here. And, you know, they have a governor's election there next year. So in the midst of this, she also faces those challenges because there probably will be primary challengers in that race, so, yes, not an easy task for the incoming governor.


KING: You have been in the room in running campaigns on good days and bad days, you've been in the Oval Office with presidents on good days and bad days. When you have to give this kind of advice, Andrew Cuomo fought the advice for most of his close advisers for days. But when you have to give this kind of advice to somebody who is proud, who is stubborn, who does have reason to be proud about much of what he has done, but has this giant cloud over him, just take us inside a room for a conversation like that.

AXELROD: It is brutal. It is the hardest thing for anyone who works for a principal in a job or in a position like that to do is go in and give, you know, very unwelcome news. There's no more unwelcome news than this. And you're talking about an Andrew Cuomo, the most pugnacious figure I know in American politics, his instinct has always been to fight in whatever situation he was in dating back to when he was running his father's campaigns as a young man. That's his reputation.

So it had to be hard. And the fact that his chief of staff is the secretary of the governor resigned, someone who was clearly loyal to him, resigned on Sunday night, suggested that she just -- she had tried and failed and she didn't want to have to try and deliver that message any longer.

KING: I want to thank David Axelrod. I want to thank all of our reporters and analysts who help us deal with the breaking news at the top of the hour that being Andrew Cuomo resigning effective two weeks from today as the governor of New York that in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal and with the threat of impeachment looming over him. Andrew Cuomo says he will leave in 14 days.

We'll continue to keep our eye on any new developments in that including whether the governor has anything else to say today. But when we come back, a huge day here in Washington as well, the big news in New York overshadowing a giant Biden win here in Washington, a bipartisan Senate vote to pass a massive infrastructure plan, what it means here in Washington, and what it just might mean for you.



KING: More breaking news last hour, a big boost for the Biden agenda and the President's plan to reshape American life. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is now on to the House, that after clearing a final vote in the Senate with significant Republican help. We expect the President to mark this news next hour with live event at the White House. Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill right now, our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju, Manu, big deal.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes 69 to 30. That was the final vote on a strong bipartisan majority moving ahead, 19 Republicans joined with all 50 Democrats. Among those 19 Republicans was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to for this bill to pass even though a number of members of his leadership team like John Thune, John Cornyn, john Barrasso, all of whom voted against this bill.

But it came after months of arduous negotiations between the White House between Senate Republican and Senate Democrats to put together this $1.2 trillion proposal that would spend about $550 billion in new money over the next five years.

Now, at the same time, the question remains, John, how quickly this can get moved through the House. The Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she will not move on this bill until the Senate Democrats passed a larger $3.5 trillion bill filled the host of their priority. She wants a $3.5 trillion bill done at that point, she says then the House will take up that bipartisan infrastructure plan. And that is already causing a point of tension within her caucus among moderates who want that bipartisan bill on the floor immediately.

But these are the pressures that she's going to have to navigate in the months ahead, as they tried to get both the bill, this bipartisan bill on to Joe Biden's desk and that larger plan as well. But they need total unity in the Senate for the larger plan and almost complete unity in this in the House as well. So very little margin for error is still question about whether they can get there, John. KING: Manu stay with us. Also to continue the conversation with me here in studio CNN's, Melanie Zanona and Catherine Lucy of the Wall Street Journal, Margaret Talev of Axios still with us. So we can look down here at what Manu just described, which is very important, dicey politics ahead, a lot of horse trading. How do you get this?

How do you get progressives and moderates in the House? Nancy Pelosi has what three, four votes to spare there, or you can look up here, at the same time that if they -- if this bipartisan bill that is now passed the Senate a big deal, clears the House and if the Democrats despite some lot of knocking heads in the next week or so, and keep that together, they will pass in a -- in this month, the most sweeping legislation to clear Washington I've been here 33 years, never, never, never, health care, climate change, elder care, child care, put up on the screen all the things this infrastructure bill does in terms of roads and bridges.

Washington has not done anything like this, has not envisioned doing anything like this in my 33 years here. I know it's not at the finish line. But there were a lot of skeptics that no way this could happen. You just had 19 Republicans vote for that bill.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right and looked like at multiple points, this is going to go off the rails and it didn't it. They pulled it off. It is a big deal. And it's more than just the policy wins because this also proves that the Senate is not broken that the Senate can work when they come together in a bipartisan way. And a lot of lawmakers, perhaps Mitch McConnell included are hoping this will take the wind out of the sails for those who are calling for filibuster reform.

And so this is absolutely a huge deal. It's also going to potentially grease the skids for this massive reconciliation package, which has so much of Biden's agenda and is probably the last chance to get that done. So unfortunately this is being a little overshadowed right now with the Cuomo resignation news, but this is massive.

KING: And it's also proved to me when you see McConnell vote for it, when you see Chuck Grassley, who's up I believe next year if he runs, a vote for it, that there are a number of Republicans who think yes, we're going to say no to most of what Joe Biden wants, but actually, there are a lot of Americans out there, Independents and Republicans who want us to actually do stuff relevant to your life. You need bridges. You need roads. You need broadband.


LUCEY: This is a significant moment for President Biden, who ran on it as a guy who could get bipartisan things done, as someone who had worked in the Senate for a long time could work across the aisle. And it speaks to the White House calculation here, which is that done right infrastructure is popular. Republicans and Democrats all like spending money on bridges and roads. These are popular things. And even though under the last administration, there was a lot of joking about infrastructure, they stuck with it. They make compromises both sides gave in on certain things. And they, again, it's not the finish line yet, but they have a bipartisan deal. It's a big deal.

KING: Biden thread the needle, Schumer threads the needle, McConnell helps. Those are all really fascinating, interesting dynamics. Now we go over to Speaker Pelosi, who has to keep, you know, a very interesting Thanksgiving dinner that is the House Democratic caucus together in the sense that you have moderates who say moderates from districts, you know, where Trump was strong where they're in trouble. They think they're in trouble next year, saying as soon as the Senate completes its work, we must bring this bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House floor for a standalone vote. This once in a century investment deserves its own consideration without regard to other legislation.

The moderate say, Madam Speaker, you need us to have the majority, help us. Progressive say, this is Ruben Gallego no deal. Both move together, or nothing moves?

TALEV: Right. Well, and it's not hard to figure out why look ahead to the 2018 midterms, they're right here. We're upon them now, for the same reason that you had 19 Republicans who needed to vote for this because all politics is local, and you need broadband in rural area, you need a bridge that just collapsed, you know. For all those reasons, there are moderate Democrats or Democrats in swing districts who need to not have their name attached to $3.5 trillion of a unilateral vote, at least not right now, who needs to make the other argument, right?

And you have progressives who wouldn't dream of letting that go. When you add this all up, though, what you do have is Biden's version of the New Deal. I'm not smart enough to do the math in my head, but 300 and some million Americans divide $4 trillion by that number. It's a ton of money. And when you're looking at these concerns about inflation, when you're looking at Democrats challenges with the midterms, this -- we're talking about a massive infusion of cash into society in ways that are real and tangible.

And it's funny, like a total only in Washington moment over the last 45 minutes. I got three texts from people think well, Cuomo really managed to give Biden and Schumer the finger on the way out. Plus, stepped on the message but this message is now going to play out over weeks and months as they're trying to push through this massive spin.

KING: I assume, Manu, that that is A, what we're going to hear from the President next hour, but B what Speaker Pelosi and then leader Schumer, when this comes back over to the Senate side or as they go through the budget resolution, they're going to say the Democrats in the closed room. This is the Biden agenda. This is at stake. We cannot fail because their midterms are going to be tough anyway. If we fail, they will be a disaster.

RAJU: Yes. And this is what Chuck Schumer has been telling his members preaching total unity. In fact, I just asked him before this Cuomo news broke just about minutes before it broke. I asked him about the $3.5 trillion price tag, how low is he willing to go. And he would not say. He said that, you know, we are going to get this done. That's what he said repeatedly, we're going to get this done because Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat does not want to spend that much money. Joe Manchin, you know, the West Virginia Democrats concern about the climate provisions that the folks on the left are pushing very hard.

So they're probably going to have to pare back this bill, how substantially, that's a question and whether they can get the liberals on board on a pared back bill. It is supposed to be the Democratic only bill that remains to be seen. And that's what we're going to see in the weeks ahead, John. Arduous negotiations happening privately, can they get on the floor, they want to do in September, big question mark.

KING: We're seeing it right now, as we have this conversation, the Progressive Caucus, just tweeting on the House side, essentially saying, look, we're serious about this. We've said it before, we will do it again. We're going to hold to do this, which, which requires the horse trading, which requires Speaker Pelosi to now to handle this as definitely as the President has handled so far. But I don't want to lose the moment in the sense that, you know, you even count me among those who said, oh, come on.

Are there going to be to pull this off? They're not to the finish line. But they are -- the core is still on the track. And I think a lot of people think that the car would not make it this far.

ZANONA: Right. And infrastructure has been one of those issues that there's a lot of talk about being bipartisan, everybody in Washington wants it but no one could get there. This long eluded Washington under multiple past presidents Trump and Obama included. And so this is a really big deal. It is getting to the finish line, though. And it's not going to be easy, because there's a lot of potential road bumps ahead.

TALEV: Yes, but look, I think what we're looking at has profound implications, not just in terms of money pumped into government, but in terms of potentially changes in child care, family care, health care, these sort of softer issues, that Democrats are trying to redefine that is infrastructure that is part of what --

LUCEY: And what Democrats are banking on is that these things are popular.

KING: Right. Banking on these things are popular, again, rewriting the social contract. We'll get into the details in the days ahead.


Thank you so much for joining us on this very breaking news day of Inside Politics. More ahead this after New York Governor Cuomo resigns in the wake of a damning sexual probe. Also waiting here, President Biden, he will speak soon at the White House. That again, after the Senate passing a sweeping bipartisan infrastructure bill. Don't go anywhere, Ana Cabrera picks up our breaking news coverage right now.