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N.Y. Atty. General Finds Gov. Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women And "Violated Multiple State And Federal Laws"; Biden Says N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo Should Resign; NYC Mayor Announces "First In Nation" Requirement Of Vaccines For Indoor Dining, Fitness, Entertainment; Fourth Officer Who Defended Capitol In Riot Dies By Suicide; Buttigieg In Major Hurdles Facing Infrastructure Deal; Kabul Residents Shout In Support Of Afghan Security Forces Following Attack. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 03, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so, that's all I can tell you. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the difference?

BIDEN: Let them explain that to you. OK. I don't want to get too far. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is COVAX doing enough to get shots in arms?


BIDEN: Say happy birthday, what, I mean.


BIDEN: He knows the message. We had a little discussion when I was down there. He knows the message.


BIDEN: See you al later.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

You've been listening and watching President Biden making an important statement as he took questions over at the White House. He's now publicly calling the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after the State Attorney General's damning report finding Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.

The President also outlined what he calls encouraging signs of increased COVID vaccinations and renewed his appeal for the unvaccinated to finally go ahead and do the right thing and get their shots.

Let's go straight to the White House right now. Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us.

Phil, the President made it abundantly clear what do you think's New York's democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo needs to do.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was blunt. It was a single word. But as you noted, Andrew Cuomo, who has been more on an island than ever before, after that damning 160 page, plus report from the New York Attorney General has now lost the support of the most powerful Democrat in the country, of the President of the United States, of somebody whose national convention he had a primetime address in, a longtime friend, President Biden is officially calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign in the wake of that report. Here is that exchange with our Kaitlin Collins.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First, I'd like to start with the news of the day given back in March, you said that if the investigation confirmed the allegations against Governor Cuomo, then he should resign. So will you now call on him to resign, given the investigators said the 11 women were credible?

BIDEN: I stand by that statement.

COLLINS: Are you now calling on him to resign?


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.

I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach I don't know that for a fact. I've not read all that data.

COLLINS: And he's using a photo of you embracing him in his self- defense to say that these are commonplace kind of invoices that he made and the allegations against him. Do you condone that?

BIDEN: Look, I'm not going to fly speck this. I'm sure there are some embraces that were totally innocent. But apparently the Attorney General decided there were things that weren't.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, what you saw there was the President doing exactly what he said he would do when he was asked about this news when it first broke in March. If the allegations were turned out to be true, the President would in fact call on Andrew Cuomo to resign. That's exactly what happened today.

However, he was very careful not to get any further involved, made clear he had not read the report, didn't want to weigh in on whether Cuomo should be prosecuted. But the most important element of all of this is Democrats, those who were still not officially calling on the governor to resign have done so in droves throughout the course of the day. The President has now joined them.

And Wolf, one other key element that the President weighed in on today, and that was the eviction moratorium. It expired on July 31. Millions of homeowners are potentially facing eviction because that CDC moratorium expired.

It caused outrage with Democrats on Capitol Hill. Outraged that the administration hadn't called on Congress to pass something earlier than they did. Outrage that they didn't have the votes in the House or in the Democratic House, in the Democratic led Senate to pass something on their own. Several progressive Democrats camping out outside the U.S. Capitol to make the point about how devastating this could be to some individuals.

Wolf, the administration has made clear four days publicly and privately to those Democrats, they did not believe they had the legal authority to push it further. They're going to give it a shot in a couple of hours.

The CDC we're told is expected to announce a more limited targeted eviction moratorium, one that will likely last for 60 days. It would be targeted at areas of high transmission, which administration officials believe would cover about 90 percent of people.

What you heard from the President just then, the key point, they don't know whether this will pass legal muster. Up to this point, they had been told there weren't any legal options. They're going to give it a shot. They feel like they have to because of the pressure from Democrats as well as the pressure from homeowners around the country. Whether it will last, whether it will survive legal challenge, still an open question, Wolf.


BLITZER: Phil Mattingly, over at the White House stand by, we'll get back to you.

And just to reiterate the headline coming out of the President of the United States, he believes that Governor Cuomo should resign. He repeated what he said back in March. In March he was asked if the investigation confirms the claims of the women should he resigned. He replied back in March, yes.

And then he said, I think he probably end up being prosecuted too. He didn't go that far right now, but he says all options clearly for Cuomo are out there.

Let's get some more on this truly damning report from New York's Attorney General alleging a pattern of sexual harassment by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Let's go to our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. She's in New York tracking the story for us.

So Paula, update our viewers on the very latest.


Governor Cuomo faces mounting pressure from Democrats, not only the President but also his state's two U.S. senators to resign in the wake of this report that details a pattern of sexual harassment, unwanted touching and a culture of fear and intimidation that silenced would be accusers.


REID (voice-over): Tonight, the New York Attorney General's Office says Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and violated federal and state laws.

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK GENERAL ATTORNEY: The investigation found that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harass current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.

REID (voice-over): The Attorney General TOP former federal prosecutor, Joon Kim, and an employment lawyer Anne Clark to lead the investigation. They concluded the governor sexually harassed 11 women. On Tuesday they detailed how Cuomo allegedly harassed a New York State trooper assigned to the unit protecting the governor.

ANNE CLARK, LAWYER HIRED TO INVESTIGATE GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: In an elevator while standing behind the trooper, he ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said, hey you. Another time she was standing holding the door open for the governor, as he passed, he took his open hand and ran it across your stomach from her bellybutton to where 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.

REID (voice-over): Another accuser describes similar inappropriate touching.

CLARK: On November 16, 2020 in the Executive Mansion, the governor hugged executive assistant number one and reached under her blouse to grab her breast. And he sometimes ran his hands up and down her back while he did so.

There are also several occasions on which the governor grabbed her butt.

REID (voice-over): The report states, "We also conclude that the executive chambers culture, one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the governor's frequent flirtations and gender based comments contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist."

Cuomo was quick to respond denying the allegations. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.

I am 63 years old. I've lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am. And that's not who I have ever been.

REID (voice-over): The allegations against Cuomo ramped up earlier this year when Charlotte Bennett, a former aide alleged that Cuomo had asked her questions about her sex life during a June 2020 conversation in the state Capitol. She also hinted at a pattern of retaliation.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS HOST: Do you believe that he was propositioning you?


O'DONNELL: For what?


O'DONNELL: Looking back on all of this, how would you describe Governor Cuomo?

BENNETT: He is a textbook abuser. He lets his temper and his anger rule the office.

REID (voice-over): After the report was released, then it tweeted, "Resign Governor Cuomo."

Cuomo addressed Bennett personally in his remarks today.

CUOMO: I thought I could help her work through a difficult time. I did ask her questions I don't normally ask people. I did ask her how she was doing and how she was feeling, but I was wrong.

I have heard Charlotte and her lawyer and I understand what they are saying. But they read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant.


REID: Investigators spoke with nearly 200 people in the course of this investigation, many within the governor's inner circle including his brother, CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo.


Now the New York Attorney General says she is not making referral for criminal prosecution in this matter, but the district attorney in Albany confirmed today he is conducting a criminal investigation into Cuomo's conduct and be requesting materials obtained by the attorney general's office. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Paula, I want you to stand by. I'm going to get back to you in a moment. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson, CNN Legal and National Security Analyst Asha Rangappa, and the State Attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, Dave Aronberg. Paula, once again, is still with us.

Asha, investigators say they spoke with 179 people, they reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence. Just how damning is this report for Governor Cuomo?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, this report is incredibly damning, it's incredibly detailed. As you noted, they interviewed 179 people, 41 of them were under oath. And there is just an incredible amount of detail in here where the investigators also look to corroborating evidence. There's an entire section where they go through and look at each claim and whether it's corroborated and make an assessment of whether the claim is credible. And they find that these claims are credible.

There's contemporaneous e-mails, documentation of them. And, you know, as it notes, these 11 women span not only people in the office, they are people, including, for example, state trooper in his protective detail.

And the most damning piece here, in my opinion, is also the pattern of retaliation. So, there was knowledge on the part of the governor of these complaints and then actions taken to try to silence them. So, I think that this, you know, does present a very compelling case that will be hard to refute.

BLITZER: You know, Dave, Cuomo denies any inappropriate behavior. But this isn't just a case of he said, she said 11 women, 11 women spoke out. Investigators say their accounts are corroborated, including by witnesses, real time text messages, as Asha pointed out contemporaneous evidence. That's difficult to dispute, isn't it?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: It sure is, Wolf. The statute here that's most relevant is under New York law forcible touching, it's a class a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Now, that is the statute, the D.A. in Albany will be reviewing, because prosecutors like there to be corroboration.

When it comes to the trooper, there was a witness there. And that's an important point. But the bigger question when it comes to the trooper is not necessarily a witness, but whether the governor engaged in forcible touching, which is defined as touching an intimate area. He allegedly touched her stomach down to her hip. Is that considered an intimate area?

And then when it comes to the assistant in his office, that clearly is an intimate area? The allegation is he touched her breasts and her butt. And if that's the case, then that would meet the statute. But there is no independent witness for that.

The corroboration would be her contemporaneous comments to others. And there could be hearsay rules and restrictions. So that's why it's not a slam dunk whether the prosecutor files charges here, this could be just a civil matter and administrative matter and left to the court of public opinion. It's definitely not an automatic criminal charge.

BLITZER: Well, that's an important point. You know, Joey, the Attorney General Letitia James was very clear that the work of her office, she repeatedly said, is finished. Listen to her, in her own words.


JAMES: Our work is concluded and the document is now public. And the matter is a civil in nature and is not -- does not have any criminal consequences.


BLITZER: Why do you think she decided not to refer this for criminal prosecution?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think, Wolf, you have to be careful when you're in her position, right? The first thing I look at as I evaluate the independence of this, right, and there have been claims by the governor that this has been political in nature.

So, if she's the attorney general who could presumably have ambitions to assume office, you want to be separate and apart. I think the investigation pretty well did that by appointing people who were disconnected with her office and by appointing people who had a lot of background with respect to investigating cases knowing employment law and knowing how to do investigations.

But ultimately, it's a jurisdictional issue, and that jurisdictional issue is left up to what she noted, we don't have jurisdiction, said the attorney general. We will leave that up to the local district attorney to make those assessments.

But when they make those assessments, Wolf, I think they're guided by a number of things. Not only are there the 179 witnesses that you noted, the 74,000 different documents, text messages, emails, pictures, etc. And then you look at the specific detail that Asha spoke to with respect to what the witnesses said.


You look at the corroboration of what the witnesses said. You look at the specific things that they were doing, right, sometimes at the time it was going on, them notifying and indicating to other people. So it's a lot to overcome.

So I hasten to add, it's so interesting and ironic that New York in 2019 made the laws more favorable as it related to those who were claiming sexual harassment. Extending the statute of limitations, suggesting that or not suggesting, mandating that they -- it doesn't have to be severe and pervasive. So the governor's own laws, I think, whether it be criminal or not subject him to a lot of jeopardy, even in a civil context. And we know that there could be an impeachment looming here as well in the state legislature.

BLITZER: Certainly. It could be, you know, the legal problems for Governor Cuomo may just be beginning.

You know, Paula, the governor has lost the support of so many fellow Democrats, including the President of the United States, who says that Cuomo should resign the Speaker of the House, both of New York's Democratic senators. What's the likely political fallout? And specifically, is it possible, is it likely that Cuomo will be impeached?

REID: It's possible, but I think some people are hoping that in fact, he'll say that, look, I'm not going to run for reelection, by sometimes they don't have to go through that politically fraught process. Right now, as we know, this matter is not in a court of law. This is not a criminal matter at this point.

This is in the court of public opinion. And he's made this decision to go out and defend himself in the court of public opinion by addressing each one of these accusations. Earlier today, we heard him suggest that, well, I didn't mean to, I was trying to help, it's generational, perhaps it's cultural. Many of these defenses came across as tone deaf, it's just not really understanding the moment.

He's not getting any political allies. He has left much to work with in the court of public opinion. And as that court of public opinion continues to turn against him, it's going to be harder and harder for him to survive politically.

BLITZER: It certainly will be.

Asha, do you see evidence that the conduct extended beyond the governor to a systemic culture within his office? And what impact can that have on the victims?

RANGAPPA: Yes, Wolf. I think that was one of the most chilling parts of this report is the investigation into the culture of the executive office, which I would call basically a system of complicity. The laws were there in terms of what needed to be done.

But not only were they not followed, for example, the people to whom these victims complained did not report them through the appropriate channels. But many of these people in the governor's inner circle were actually actively participating in silencing these victims, engaging in retaliatory measures, for example. So they never -- these never even reached the independent fact finders, which state law requires.

So, I think one of the big issues here is going beyond just the governor and looking at this entire system that is in place, that has aligned incentives, so that, you know, it's in the interest of these people to cover these things up rather than report them and bring them to light and face consequences.

BLITZER: Yes. Asha Rangappa, Joey Jackson, Dave Aronberg, Paula Reid, guys, thank you very much. I will have much more on this story coming up.

Also coming up, New York City will require proof of vaccination if you want to dine indoors or to go to a concert or workout in a gym. Will other major American cities follow that lead?



BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, President Biden saying just a short time ago that the CDC will be announcing new efforts to limit evictions during the COVID pandemic after a federal moratorium expired.

Meanwhile, New York City is taking unprecedented action to stop the spread of the deadly Delta variant. CNN National Correspondent Athena Jones has detailed.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. This is the biggest step we've seen any city take when it comes to mandates or requirements related to COVID.

Starting September 13, New York City will require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, for indoor fitness centers, for indoor entertainment and performances. That proof can be a vaccine card, it can be the Excelsior app, that's an app created by New York State or it can be another app of the NYC safe app. And people only have to show that they've taken one dose of the vaccine.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday stopped short of reinstituting an indoor mask mandate. He said he wants to focus on the thing that will make a difference, vaccinations. And so, the mayor is hoping that this move will encourage more people to get vaccinated and help prevent a return to the worst of the pandemic here in this city. So, a big move that city officials hope will make a big difference. Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Florida's Republican governor is doubling down on his opposition to face mask despite his state now being an epicenter of the pandemic. CNN's Rosa Flores is working in that part of the story for us.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the state of Florida leading the nation in the number of hospitalizations according to U.S. health and human services, more than 50,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 right now and more than 10,600 are right here in the state of Florida. The Sunshine State reporting more than 110,000 cases last week, making up nearly one out of five cases in the nation.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this morning saying that all this is media hysteria. Doubling down on his anti-mask stance and saying that his state is not shutting down.

As for schools, Broward County Public School reversing their mask mandate releasing a statement saying that they plan to follow Governor DeSantis' executive order on masks, which gives parents choice. Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Rosa, thank you. Rosa Flores reporting.

Let's get some more in all of this. Our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us.

Sanjay, what's your reaction, first of all, to this new plan to mandate vaccines in New York City restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues? Do you think other cities should do the same thing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think other cities will follow suit, Wolf. I mean, you know, what they're basically saying is, if you get vaccinated, here's what your life can look like, you get access to all these things. If you're not vaccinated, you don't get access to all these things. So, it's, you know, the carrot more than the stick. And it's a strategy that has worked.

I mean, there's going to be a certain percentage of people, Wolf, who will not get vaccinated no matter what. I think they're going to be very hard to reach.

One thing I will say, Rosa, and -- was just mentioned this, the idea of masks, there is not a mask mandate in New York. And one of the things that comes up a lot is should at the same time that we're increasing vaccinations, should we also be bringing down viral transmission? There's a lot of virus circulating out there. Vaccines are very important for keeping people healthy, but we got to bring down the amount of virus as well. And masks at least for short term for a few weeks or a couple months would do a really important job of that.

BLITZER: As you're heard, the policy only requires people to ever receive one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Is that sufficient?

GUPTA: Well, if you look at the data now, and there is data to basically show how protective is one dose versus two dose is. And you can see on the left is two doses. So very protective against both the Alpha and the Delta variants. Again, symptomatic disease.

Drops off a lot with just one dose. So, one dose is not nearly as protected. This may be a strategy, Wolf, just to say, look, let's just get people in the door to get that first dose, they get all these incentives with the, you know, starting the vaccination process, with the hopes that maybe they get a second dose. But clearly one dose is not as protective as second dose, far less.

BLITZER: The recommendation is get those two shots.

What's your advice, Sanjay, to vaccinated people? People who are fully vaccinated were still nervous about this Delta variant. Do they need to change how they're going about their daily life?

GUPTA: Yes, I talk about this a lot, Wolf, talk to lots of people. I mean, I think you can feel pretty rest assured that if you've been vaccinated, you are pretty well protected against getting sick from the Delta variant or, you know, any of the variants, frankly. So, that's the good news.

There's been some data, as you well know, came out last week saying if you're vaccinated, you could potentially be a carrier. You're far less likely to get infected, you're far less likely to transmit but it is not impossible. You could be a carrier and transmit to somebody else.

So if you have unvaccinated people in your household in particular, I think you just got to be more careful about potentially, you know, carrying the virus by being out and about and then transmitting it to someone. So, you know, wear a mask if you're around a lot of people and you don't know their vaccination status. I think that's the only thing I'd really change.

BLITZER: Well, if you're in your own house, both parents fully vaccinated, but the kids, 11 and under, aren't vaccinated, should the parents be wearing a mask?

GUPTA: No, I don't think so, Wolf. I mean, this came up today, as you might know, with the NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, where he suggested that and then clarified, saying it's not necessary. We did not get into the idea of people wearing masks within their own homes, even before vaccines were rolled out.

Now with vaccines rolled out of someone's vaccinated, I don't think that there's really -- it's be a very tough sell to tell people they need to wear masks in their own home. What they should do is reduce their exposure outside the home, so they're not likely to transmit the virus to someone in the home.

BLITZER: Excellent advice as usual from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, thank you very much.

In our next hour, I'll speak with the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. About his decision to impose these groundbreaking new COVID vaccine requirements. Standby for that.

Also ahead, we have more sobering fallout from the January 6 insurrection. We've learned that a fourth police officer who responded to the Capitol riot has died by suicide.



BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, President Biden joining the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after a report by the state attorney general found he sexually harassed multiple women, 11 women specifically.

Joining us now to talk about that and more, Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar of California. He's a key member of the Select Committee investigating the January 6th Capitol siege. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I want to get to that investigation in a moment. But very quickly, do you stand with President Biden and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Does Governor Cuomo need to resign?

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Yes, he does. Full stop. And that's what you heard the Speaker say and the President reiterate. The report was damning and tough to read. And so we stand by those comments.

BLITZER: And one further question, do you think he should be prosecuted, criminally prosecuted?

AGUILAR: I'll leave that to the state in New York to iron out but from a political perspective, he needs to he needs to leave. And then we'll let justice take its course.

BLITZER: In New York State. All right, let's talk about the very sad news we're also following today in light of a fourth, a fourth police officer committing suicide in the aftermath of the January 6th attack.


What's your message to your Republican colleagues who are still downplaying or actively denying what happened on that brutal, awful day?

AGUILAR: Well, for those who continue to perpetrate and, you know, lay forward the big lie, it's incredibly difficult to hear them. But our first message today is to the officers, families who are still grieving and impacted. Two officers took their lives, it was announced one yesterday, one today. So that's four total.

And Officer Harry Dunn was very clear when he testified before the Select Committee, that these officers, you know, need to be able to seek help. They've been through trauma, they need to be able to get that help. Officers talked about having leave, and having the ability to get resources, all of that so incredibly difficult.

And that's why we're pleased to pass the supplemental bill that we did to reimburse the National Guard, but also to put resources into Capitol Police. So first, today, we're just going to think about their families and think about the loss that they're going to have to endure because those officers were the last line of defense on democracy that day.

BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to their families. All this, Congressman, speaks to the urgency of your work, your colleagues work on this Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. How soon do you think we can expect subpoenas to be issued?

AGUILAR: Well, we're going to get forward, get moving, carrying forward, you know, our work and our mandate and our charge, and right now we're going to be in the investigative stage so it's going to be less public, but we are going to be doing a lot of work behind the scenes.

We'll continue to work to get the truth. That's what the House Resolution that created the Select Committee does. And that's what we are going to do in a non-partisan way that's going to be thoughtful, it's going to be deliberate. And we want to make sure ultimately, we produce a document that will stand the test of time. And so we are going to be a very deliberate in this way.

But you can expect that we're going to ask folks, their thoughts either to come share it voluntarily or maybe not in the foreseeable future. But we will let that piece take its course, and be guided by the mission to seek the truth.

BLITZER: Because if we don't learn exactly what happened back then on January 6, they were bound to repeat that disaster down the road. How hard is the Committee willing to fight for testimony, for example, from former President Trump and the Republican Congressmen he talked to that day when they don't have any incentive to cooperate, will they be forced to appear?

AGUILAR: We're not talking about the specifics at this point, we just want to -- we're developing the work plan to seek the truth, and we will pull every thread and we will chase every lead in order to get that and where there are hurdles. And if people do not want to speak, we will use every tool in the toolbox to ask them to or to compel them to give their thoughts as well.

But right now, we're not focused on that. We're just focused on performing our investigative work. And we will carry forward the mission and the mandate that we have, like you said, to make sure that this never happens again, and that we protect democracy. But we have to understand that what we're dealing with, what led up to January 6th, as well as what happened on January 6th.

BLITZER: And clearly subpoenas are in that toolbox. Congressman Pete Aguilar, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

AGUILAR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, major hurdle is still facing the bipartisan infrastructure deal. We're going to talk about the challenges. The Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, he's standing by live. We'll discuss with him right after this.



BLITZER: Lawmakers are touting a breakthrough on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, but the bill still faces major hurdles before it can reach President Biden's desk. For more in that, I want to bring in the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

I did some checking, it's the fourth time you've joined this program. And I'm grateful to you for that to talk about infrastructure, which is so critically important as you and I know. In May, you said, I checked, you wanted major progress by Memorial Day, that's come and gone in June, you said there was a very good chance of success relatively soon. Now, it's August. So when do you think this will actually get passed and signed by the President into law?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, we certainly have seen that major progress that I was hoping to see. Now, we actually have to get it to final passage, it's got a few more steps in the Senate. Of course, the House has to take it up to and then get it to the President's desk. What I'll say is, as soon as it gets there, there's going to be a lot of joy in the Department of Transportation and in the White House as the President prepares to sign that so that we can get to work responsibly deploying those taxpayer dollars.

You know, every week, I see new examples of the importance of infrastructure in America. Last week, we were at the port of Baltimore, which is doing fantastic work, but an example of where, you know, you don't have to live anywhere near a port in America to really depend on the shipping that goes through there.

I saw huge pieces of farm equipment being built in the Midwest close to where I come from, absolutely dependent on that maritime infrastructure. A lot of Americans don't even think about, $17 billion will go to port infrastructure, just to take one slice of what's in this very, very important bipartisan package.

BLITZER: Yes, roads, bridges, airports, all sorts of the need is enormous out there as we all know. But even if this bill does pass the Senate that's just the beginning of this rather complicated process of getting both infrastructure and the bigger spending bill that progressives obviously worth (ph) $3.5 trillion dollars passed in tandem at the same time, how do you thread the needle, get these two deals done at the same time?


BUTTIGIEG: Well, what we've done is made clear the President's priorities and an economic vision that has two different pieces. And that when you add them up, are going to be good for the country and good for the economy. In fact, a lot of independent modeling has shown that they will create millions of jobs. And, importantly, that if we get both of these bills passed and signed, it will also help ease inflationary pressures by helping improve the labor market.

So whether we're talking about the transportation pieces that I work on, that are in this bipartisan bill, or the measures to do things like make sure every American can get paid family leave or get everybody into -- every kid is three and four into that pre- kindergarten education that we know will make them better off and make the country better off, you know, that side looks like it's less likely to attract Republican support. And we recognize that although we're going to continue urging people on all sides to support it. Both of those things are moving through obviously on a slightly different clock, right?

Right now, as we speak, amendments are being crafted and framed for the infrastructure piece. I've been on the phone with members of both chambers, both parties, working that out, trying to make sure as they chisel and polish this legislation, that is the best it can possibly be. Then as soon as the Senate has acted on that, and that's making its way to the house, you've got that reconciliation or budget resolution discussion, gaining momentum to.

So safe to say there's going to be a lot of activity these next few weeks, and not a moment to lose, because Americans are impatient to see these actual results. And I know the President is eager to sign both of these packages when they get to them.

BLITZER: And it's really, really complicated in the stakes, as you correctly point out are enormous right now.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, an outbreak of new COVID cases in Wuhan, China, testing all 11 million of its residents. So we're going live there when we come back.



BLITZER: Major new concern tonight about the future of Afghanistan and the Taliban emboldened by the U.S. withdrawal. CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is Kabul where a powerful explosion rocked the city. Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was just before 8pm when that loud blast shook the city. We actually ran up onto the roof. We can hear sporadic gunfire, there was a loud siren then there were two smaller blasts. So far, nobody has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. But we know that it happened in a neighborhood where Afghanistan's acting defense minister lives. We're told that he was not at home at the time that he has not been injured.

And since that blast, it's been extraordinary to hear, Wolf, people all across the city have come out onto their balconies, and they have been chanting over and over again. Allahu Akbar, meaning God is greatest. They're doing that chant in support of the Afghan security forces and essentially in defiance of this attack on the Capitol. All of this happening as you know, Wolf, while the Taliban continues a major offensive, gaining momentum and ground across the country. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Clarissa, thank you very much, Clarissa Ward in Afghanistan for us.

There's more breaking news coming up. President Biden calls on the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign as an official investigation finds he sexually harassed multiple women. We'll talk about that and more with the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as -- we'll also talk about the city's unprecedented new vaccine requirements to enter restaurants, gyms and malls (ph).


[17:57:28] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden calls for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after a damning report finding the Governor sexually harassed multiple women. Tonight, a defying Cuomo claims it never happen.

Also, a dire situation in COVID hotspots, at least one state just broke its pandemic record for hospitalizations. There's doctors warned there are no more beds left. New York City meanwhile is now responding to the Delta variants aggressive surge by requiring vaccines for many indoor activities. I'll discuss the first in the nation mandate with the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the breaking news on President Biden's call for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, the White House calls the findings of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo abhorrent and the President weighed in with strong words tonight. Update our viewers.

MATTINGLY: Wolf, that's right. The President was unequivocal when the allegations first broke. If they were determined to be true, he would call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. Today, a report from the New York Attorney General made clear they were true and accurate, and the President followed through on his pledge. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back in March, you said that if the investigation confirms the allegations against Governor Cuomo, then he should resign. So will you now call on him to resign given the investigators said the 11 women were credible?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you now calling on him to resign?



MATTINGLY: Short, blunt but very to the point and with massive ramifications for a governor who has finds himself on an island. No federal Democrats are anywhere near continuing to support him staying in office and the President in particular hearing the most weight of all.

The leader of the party, obviously, the President o the United States, but also a friend of Cuomos over the years, the two have supported one another. Cuomo had a primetime speaking slot (ph) in President Biden's Democratic National Convention.

But the reality of the moment, just to clear, visceral nature of that report, making clear that the President's support and the President just being willing to stand by was no longer tenable, Wolf. I would note the President would not go any further said, made clear he hadn't read the 160 plus page report, did not want to weigh in on whether he thought Cuomo should be prosecuted, but it is now very clear from the White House. The President believes the New York Governor should step aside.