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The Situation Room
U.S. Nearing 100K COVID Cases Per Day, Highest Since February; COVID Cases In U.S. Children Jump 84 Percent In Just One Week; ABC: Trump Loyalist At Justice Dept. Asked Acting Attorney General To Sign Letter With False Election Fraud Claims; Majority Of N.Y. State Assembly Would Vote To Impeach Cuomo; Residents Under Strict Lockdown As China Sees COVID-19 Surge; Freshman Congresswoman Cori Bush Gets Biden's Attention With Sit-In Outside Capitol. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 04, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: All right, Pete Muntean, thanks so much.
And our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the U.S. closing in on 100,000 new COVID cases a day, that Dr. Anthony Fauci warns the number could soon double despite vaccinations reaching the highest level in a month.
Also, new evidence of the attempt to overthrow the election, an ex Justice Department official plan to resign over former President Trump's direct instructions to back his big lie. And a new report says a Trump loyalist inside the Justice Department was pushing Trump's false claims.
And growing calls right now for the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign as the Manhattan D.A. looks into potential sex crimes. At least four new New York prosecutors are investigating sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
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 our coverage this hour with breaking news just coming in to The Situation Room. The Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, is expected to take a major step toward mandating, mandating COVID vaccination for all active duty U.S. military troops. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now.
Kaitlan, what can you tell us?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN is now learning that Defense Secretary Austin is expected to seek authorization to make these coronavirus vaccines mandatory for all active duty troops. A Defense official told my colleague Barbara Starr who broke this news that that decision could come as soon as this week and he says the Defense Secretary is leaning towards mandating these vaccines for active duty troops.
Of course, Wolf, if he does decide to make that decision, make that recommendation, he could go to President Biden for a presidential waiver. So then they could actually put this mandate into effect for these active duty troops given right now they had said that they were going to wait on full approval from the FDA instead of just that emergency authorization that the vaccines have right now. But clearly, they are applying a sense of urgency to this situation.
And it follows up on last week when President Biden said he was going to call on all federal employees to get vaccinated, something that my colleague Phil Mattingly first reported on.
And when he did that, Wolf, though he left out the military saying that that was not going to be part of that. Instead, he was just reaching out to agencies, calling on them to say that workers they're needed to either be vaccinated and show proof that they weren't vaccinated or instead have to get tested and subject themselves to those mitigation measures, like social distancing, like wearing a mask, and whatnot.
And so, this is a huge step, Wolf, because we know that based on the latest DOJ numbers, they believe about 60 percent of active duty troops right now are vaccinated. And so, that would leave significantly more troops to get vaccinated under this new mandatory requirement if this is the decision that you see the Defense Secretary make.
Of course, the other question is how long, what would the timing on that look like? Because what we've seen from businesses and states that are requiring vaccines, they have to give them typically about an eight week period to make sure they can get fully inoculated if they are doing a two dose shot. So we are waiting to see if this is going to be the decision that the Defense Secretary makes. But according to our colleague, Barbara Starr, this is the direction that he is leaning, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And it's interesting, Kaitlan, about a million and a half active duty U.S. military personnel, I assume, though National Guard and Reserve troops, if they're called to active duty, they would have to be vaccinated as well. I'm sure that would be a significant development. We're talking about a major, major move by the Defense Secretary, if in fact he goes this way as we expect he will in the coming days.
All right, Kaitlan thank you very much.
Meanwhile, the United States is now closing in on 100,000. Let me repeat that, 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day. Only six weeks ago, there were around only 11,000 cases a day. What a dramatic increase over these past six weeks. Well, CNN's Lucy Kafanov is tracking all the late breaking headlines for us.
Lucy, officials are taking drastic new steps right now to try to slow the spread of this horrible Delta variant. What can you tell us? LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The governor of Illinois has issued a statewide school mask mandate today in addition to a new vaccine requirements for all state employees who work in high risk settings like correctional facilities or long term care facilities, this as a Delta variant continues to spread across the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KAFANOV (voice-over): With the Delta variant now accounting for more than 93 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in America, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction.
DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: You're not crying wolf fear. This surge that we're going through right now has every potential to be and already looks to be the worst surge we faced so far.
KAFANOV (voice-over): The U.S. is currently averaging more than 90,000 new cases daily. Health experts worry that number could soon soar even higher.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are going to be between 100 and 200,000 cases before this thing starts to turn around.
KAFANOV (voice-over): The worst hit states Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, each with more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people each day over the past week.
Nearly 56,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19, up 10 percent in just one day. Facilities in Louisiana and Florida buckling under the strain.
DR. BEN ABO, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: It's really dangerous in terms for the patients because there's so many people waiting. We're just -- we're literally running out a room. It's straining and I leave work absolutely drained.
KAFANOV (voice-over): The good news, the pace of vaccinations is taking up. More than 446,000 people getting their first shot each day on average. That's the highest it's been since July 4, but at this pace, it will take until mid-February to get everyone their first dose.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY, NY: The whole ballgame is vaccination. The Delta variant is bearing down on all of us.
KAFANOV (voice-over): COVID-19 infections among kids are a growing concern. Nearly 72,000 children and teens contracted COVID between July 22 and 29th. That's up about 84 percent from the week before.
Meanwhile, as Britain, Germany and Israel ramp up plans to offer a third COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to some, American health experts say a third dose isn't needed yet for the general population. But there is an effort underway to get them for immunocompromised people.
FAUCI: We are trying very hard to get the regulatory mechanism in place very soon to get those individuals a boost that might bring up their immunity to the level where it should be.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KAFANOV: And Wolf, this just in, organizers have announced they've canceled the international -- the New York International Auto Show which was set for later this month due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Wolf.
BLITZER: Suspect a lot of other things are going to be cancelled as well given this dramatic increase in new cases.
All right, Lucy, thank you very much.
Let's get some insight from our experts. Joining us, the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, and a member of the FDA Vaccines Advisory Committee, Dr. Paul Offit.
Dr. Offit, what's your reaction to this news that the Defense Secretary Lord Austin is expected to take steps in the coming days to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all active duty U.S. military personnel?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: I think it's a great idea. We have a vaccine that's safe, that's effective, that can protect the troops from suffering or hospital being hospitalized or dying. I think it's a great idea.
I mean, under -- in a better world, everyone who is a member of that, who is a member of the defensive, et cetera, would choose to get a vaccine but not everybody does. So I think compelling people to do the right thing is a great idea.
BLITZER: What do you think Dr. Jha? What impact could this have on communities across the U.S. of all active duty troops, about a million and a half active duty military personnel are required to get vaccinated?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Wolf, thanks for having me back.
I have to say I agree fully with Dr. Offit. I think it's a really good idea. I think it will help a couple of things.
First of all, the military already requires a lot of vaccines for active military personnel. So this is not breaking new precedents. It is clearly good for keeping troops safe. And as you said, it's going to be a symbol for other Americans watching their military be vaccinated and be made safer for it as a way that motivate other people to do it as well.
BLITZER: Yes, I think it's really, really significant. Dr. Offit, we heard earlier from Dr. Fauci, who now says he's hopeful for full FDA approval of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine within a couple of weeks, a couple of weeks. You serve on the FDA's Vaccines Advisory Committee. Does that timetable, that timeline sound reasonable to you?
OFFIT: Yes, I mean, I've heard no later than mid-September. I mean, technically, it shouldn't really matter. I mean, the -- when this was approved for emergency use authorization, technically, what that means is the ability for the company to distribute an investigational new drug.
This is not an investigational new product at this point. I mean, it's been given to half of this country, it has a tremendous safety and efficacy profile. We know a lot about this vaccine and anybody who looks at those data, we get this vaccine in a second.
So, I think for people that are saying, I don't really think this vaccine is safe and effective, and I'm only going to think that after it's fully approved or fully licensed, I think that's a little silly. But I do think that is sort of a psychological barrier that it would be helpful to have full approval.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people agree with you.
You know, Dr. Jha, I want you to look at the number of new coronavirus cases per day here in the United States. Look at this chart. We're now approaching 100,000 new cases each day, when only six weeks ago that number was around 11,000 new cases a day. What is this turn for the worst telling you?
JHA: You know, Wolf, first of all, it's heartbreaking, right? Because we now have a vaccine that can prevent almost all of those infections and can prevent almost all hospitalizations and deaths. So as opposed to the previous surges we had last summer or fall or winter, it's a very different situation.
What it's telling me is that the pandemic isn't over. And until the vast, vast majority of Americans are vaccinated, we're going to be dealing with these kinds of challenges. And if we want to put the pandemic weed behind us, we really do have to get America vaccinated.
BLITZER: Yes. And Dr. Fauci has reported since that number could go up to 200,000 in the coming weeks as well, which is obviously awful.
You know, Dr. Offit, coronavirus case is also among U.S. children and teens jumped 84 percent in just a week, that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If every adult who can get vaccinated chose to do so, would fewer of our nation's kids be falling ill?
OFFIT: Absolutely, I think we've let our children down. As the general children catch this virus from an adult, you know that that for children who are less than 12 years of age, they can't receive this vaccine yet, because there's not a vaccine available. They depend on those around them to protect them. Also, frankly, whereas 12 to 17-year-olds can receive this vaccine, only about 30 to 35 percent do. So, I think we have an under vaccinated population in that 12 to 17-year-old group. But you know, you have children who are about to go back to school, it's going to get to fall and early winter where this virus is transmitted more easily. It's the Delta variant.
And I think, you know, we need to get vaccination rates up so that these children can be protected. Hopefully we'll have a vaccine for children by at least late fall, early winter.
BLITZER: Let's hope.
Speaking of schools, Dr. Jha, the governor of Illinois just announced a sweeping mask mandate for all students, teachers and staff from prekindergarten through 12th grade regardless of vaccination status. Is this the kind of mandate, this new mask mandate in Illinois, do we need to see this in order to ensure in person education around the country can proceed safely during this upcoming school year? Schools open for in a few states already.
JHA: Yes, so first and foremost, Wolf, we absolutely have to get kids back into school this fall. And we can do it safely. And there are many different approaches to it. A mask mandate for everybody is one part of it.
If you have a school, let's say a high school with a vaccine mandate where every kid and every staff member is eligible, that would be a different approach. There are multiple approaches to doing this.
Not doing anything at all is the one really bad idea. And unfortunately, I think a lot of schools are not taking this seriously. I'm worried about that. I really do think we need to get kids back, but we can do it safely.
BLITZER: Certainly, we need to get them back and we can do it safely, indeed.
Dr. Jha, Dr. Offit, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, fresh evidence of former President Trump's attempts to stage some sort of coup. We have new details that have emerged just now about the alarm and cost inside the U.S. Justice Department.
And later, powerful allies of the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are jumping ship and telling him to step aside.
BLITZER: Tonight, there's damning new evidence of former President Trump's desperate scheme to try to stage some sort of coup during his final days in office. Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has new information for us.
Jessica, so what are you learning about how close top U.S. Justice Department officials were to actually resigning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Very close, Wolf. We're learning that at least one top DOJ official had his resignation letter drafted and ready, but he never actually sent it. And this week that official, Patrick Hovakimian, he talked for three hours to investigators on the House Oversight Committee about what he went through.
So he was chief of staff for then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. And he wrote his resignation letter on January 3, he expected that Rosen would be fired by Donald Trump for refusing the former president's quote, "direct instructions" to use the DOJ to backup all of these false claims of election fraud.
And in fact, it was on that same day, the first Sunday in January, where Trump actually summoned the acting Attorney General Rosen and another DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to the White House to have this apprentice style showdown for the attorney general job each of them essentially making their case.
And at that same time, we've learned that several DOJ officials did think that Rosen would be fired and that Clark would replace him since, of course, Clark stood behind Trump's election fraud claims. So much so that about half dozen DOJ officials had the resignations plotted out.
But in the end, Wolf, of course, Trump did not fire Rosen even though Clark had made very clear that he was really the only one at DOJ who fully backed Trump and his election fraud claims.
BLITZER: And Jessica on top of all of this, ABC News has now published e-mails showing how that Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, was actually trying to help the former president overturn the U.S. presidential election.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, Clark even went so far as to draft a letter to Georgia's governors and lawmakers. They're falsely stating that the DOJ had found voting irregularities that impacted the election outcome not only in Georgia, but in several states. And the letter he drafted was dated December 28, 2020.
Notably, that was one day after Trump pressured Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue in a phone call. He pressured them to declare that the election was corrupt. Something of course they both refused.
But the pressure continued that next day with that draft letter from Jeffrey Clark where he recommended to Georgia's lawmakers that they assembled this special session to investigate voter fraud. Then Clark sent that letter to Rosen and Donoghue, along with an e-mail where Clark said this, he said, "I think we should get it out as soon as possible. Personally, I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter."
But an hour later, very promptly, Donoghue sent back a lengthy rebuttal, not mincing words, saying this, "There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this. From where I stand, this is not even within the realm of possibility."
And the acting A.G., he agreed sending Donoghue an email that said this, "I confirmed again today that I am not prepared to sign such a letter."
So in the end, this letter was never sent. But it is part of this trove of evidence that lawmakers as well likely the DOJ Inspector General, they are all sifting through it to uncover the lengths that Trump and his allies went to push their claims of election fraud to hopefully get the election overturned in their view.
And this probably won't be the last that we hear, you know, the DOJ has told Trump officials, they can participate in Congress's investigation whether it pertains to January 6 or these claims of election fraud. And Wolf, it appears that some of these DOJ officials are already talking, they're also sharing their notes and documents from what turned out to be these very fateful weeks between the election and January 6. Probably more to come here, Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect there's a lot more to come.
All right, Jessica, thank you very much. Jessica Schneider reporting for us.
Let's discuss this and more with CNN Political Director, David Chalian, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, Asha Rangappa.
You know, David Chalian, this is so stark, because if Trump had succeeded, for all practical purposes, potentially there could have been a coup.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, this is the makings of a coup. That's what you're seeing.
And what we have here, it's kind of amazing, you have a tale of two Jeffreys, two draft letters, right? One, Jeffrey Rosen, the acting Attorney General, his chief of staff, having this draft resignation letter for fear that Rosen's about to be fired, because he won't agree, this is the anticipation (ph), with the president's direction to do something improper against the law. I mean, that's what the guy who's like running the Department of Justice in the Trump administration prepares in a resignation letter.
And on the other side, Wolf, you have this other letter from Jeffrey Clark, the acting -- the Assistant Attorney General, who clearly was making his favor with Trump known and drafted this absurd letter to Georgia officials to get involved and actually boost the election lie. I mean, these two things are happening simultaneously inside the same Justice Department.
BLITZER: You know, and it's hard to believe that this was actually happening during these final days of the Trump presidency. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's hard to believe but is it given what we know what's happening in real time in front of our faces in public. We know and we saw and we were reporting real time on the ridiculous coup like efforts that the now former president was involved in.
What is really stunning is to see it in writing and also to see how close to the precipice we as a country were, even and especially because there were people who are in acting roles. Remember, the second Jeffrey, Rosen, who said, no -- under no circumstances am I going to do this, am I going to break the law and allow for this to happen. He was there, not because he was a Trump person. And it was only because of that, that this circumstance was stopped, and that they didn't actually go forward and try to overturn the results in Georgia with the backing of the DOJ.
BLITZER: Can you imagine, Asha, if this had happened, how bad things could have developed that they were these individuals who were so angry, so worried that potentially there could be resignations on mass?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, Wolf, I think what saved us here is that these attorneys have, you know, professional ethics responsibilities. And what Clark was asking them to do in this situation was to sign their names to a lie. The letter was trying to tell Georgia that the Department of Justice had found evidence of voter irregularities and that Georgia should open an investigation into it.
And this is just a false claim. Even former Attorney General Bill Barr had said publicly that the Department of Justice had not found any evidence of voter fraud or voter irregularities.
And so, what we see here, Wolf, is really an echo of what happened in Ukraine. What Trump wanted to do was create the appearance of corruption and regularity and use the credibility of the Justice Department as cover for that claim in the same way that he wanted President Zelensky to announce an investigation into his opponent.
I mean, this is like, oops, he did it again, you know, it's just the same pattern over and over again. And we were very fortunate that we had attorneys who were not willing to go along with this.
BLITZER: Very fortunate, indeed, that they weren't willing to go along with it.
You know, Dana, I assume all of these officials are eventually going to be called to testify before this Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection?
BASH: Yes. And it's hard to imagine that won't happen. And the fact that the Biden Justice Department sort of in a broad way said that they are all released to do so, the opposite attack that we saw the Trump Justice Department, the Trump administration do when they were under investigation. So, you know, that makes sense.
But you know, these are the things that are just kind of coming out now. We still don't know what we don't know. And the fact that they were, I don't know, that they were leaving a paper trail. For someone like Jeffrey Rosen, it seems as though he was so adamant against it, that paper trail was intentional. Knowing that this would eventually probably get out and he wants to be on the record the way we now know he was.
And so, the question is going to be, what are they going to do with it? What this committee is going to do, they're the only people that are the only game in town that is going to set the record straight for history sake, and maybe even to decide what's going to happen in the next election whether or not President Trump is going to have a viable path back to the White House.
BLITZER: Where's this heading?
CHALIAN: Well, let's hope it's heading to a more fortified democracy. Let's hope it's heading to a place that we can learn here.
I mean, thank God for some officials here. We shouldn't have to rely on precious few folks who can stand up and do the right thing. This should be something every government official does. But we are certainly glad that there was somebody like Jeffrey Rosen in place to stop this from happening or his chief of staff from putting down in writing that the president of United States was directly ordering him to subvert justice.
BLITZER: Yes, thank God for those individuals who did the right thing.
All right guys, thank you very, very much, Dana, David, and Asha.
Up next, the latest on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the criminal charges he may maybe facing. And how the city where the coronavirus originated is handling the Delta link outbreak. New information coming in to the Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, at least four, four New York prosecutors are picking up the investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct by the Governor Andrew Cuomo. Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is in New York for us covering this story. Paula, it's clear the Governor faces criminal probes of his behavior just as some of his top political allies are totally jumping ship.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Pressure is mounting on Governor Cuomo to step down as one of his closest allies. New York Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs has called on him to resign, saying the Governor has lost his ability to govern both practically and morally. And this comes as several county prosecutors are exploring possible criminal cases against the Governor after these findings that he's sexually harassed and inappropriately touched multiple women.
REID (voice-over): Tonight, at least four New York prosecutor's offices are looking into allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo after the New York Attorney General found he sexually harassed 11 women.
ANNE CLARK, SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: We found all 11 women to be credible.
REID (voice-over): Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance sent a letter to the A.G.'s Office Wednesday revealing they want to talk to two unnamed victims of potential sex crimes mentioned in the Cuomo report. Those victims include a state employee who alleges the Governor grabbed her buttocks at an event in New York City and a state trooper whose allegations include unwelcome touching on a trip to New York. Her allegations against the Governor were detailed by investigators Tuesday.
CLARK: 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 her stomach from her belly button 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): Now prosecutors in Nassau and Westchester counties are also reviewing allegations by the trooper in addition to an ongoing criminal investigation by the Albany D.A. The embattled Governor denied the accusations in a video statement Tuesday.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. That is just not who I am. And that's not who I have ever been.
REID (voice-over): In addition to possible criminal exposure, investigators for the Attorney General's Office say Cuomo's accusers may have other avenues of recourse.
CLARK: The women can decide, some of them can decide themselves if they want to bring a civil action.
REID (voice-over): But Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett, who helped kick off the state investigation earlier this year by going public with her allegations, says right now she's focused on getting Cuomo out of office.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT, CUOMO ACCUSER: That's really the responsibility of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to impeach him immediately. He's a danger.
We have the facts and Carl Heastie needs to, you know, get to it.
REID: On that issue of impeachment, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN the Governor has lost institutional support. And the feeling among assembly members is that they will proceed with impeachment unless he resigns. And the majority of New York State Assembly Members tell CNN they would vote yes to impeach if articles are introduced. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you. Paula Reid reporting for us.
Let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson and a Politics Reporter for New York 1 Gloria Pazmino. You know, Gloria, the Governor has lost the support of key allies across New York, the majority of the state assembly, obviously, no longer with him. What is the political outlook for Governor Cuomo tonight?
GLORIA PAZMINO, POLITICS REPORTER, NY1: I really could not overstate the significance of Jay Jacobs, the Chair of the New York State Democratic Party, coming out publicly against the Governor saying that he advised the Governor to resign, going public with that statement and talking about the fact that he tried to counsel the Governor about what to do next. This is someone who has stood by Governor Cuomo in the past. This is someone who has defended him.
And as we saw yesterday, with the statement from President Biden saying that he believes the Governor should resign, this is really going to become a problem not just for Democrats at the national level but obviously here at the state level as well. The Governor has lost some of his most reliable allies, including the labor unions. His base of support is eroding fast. And it's really going to determine what he does over the next couple of hours and the next couple of days.
BLITZER: We shall see. You know, Joey, at least four, not one, not two, not three, but four district attorneys in New York are now looking into whether Governor Cuomo engaged in criminal activity in their respective jurisdictions. What's the likelihood the Governor will face criminal charges? We know the political fallout is obviously going to be enormous. What about criminal charges?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. So the devil is always in the details, and so let's talk about for a moment the relevant statute. In New York, you have something called forcible touching. The good news for the Governor, if you could call it good news, is that it's a misdemeanor, not a felony, what's the distinction?
The distinction is that a misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year and it's a lot less serious with respect to holding office and other things of felony, of course, that being far greater and significant a year and up to life.
And so the statute speaks to the issue of forcible touching. What is forcible touching mean, in English? It's defined as squeezing, groping, pinching and the like. And then you have to do it and prove if you're a prosecutor that it was done for the purpose of sexual gratification or degradation. And so, the issue will be an evaluation of all the facts to make an assessment as to whether it was done for that purpose.
Of course, the Governor will defend on the ground that, you know, this is politics. What I mean by that, right, is that you say hello to people, perhaps you're too friendly with people, maybe it's cultural, et cetera. And so that intent is going to be significant, as prosecutors vet out whether there should be criminal charges in this case.
BLITZER: You've been doing a lot of reporting on this, Gloria, what should we expect from Governor Cuomo in the coming days, in the next few weeks for that matter? Do you think he's going to continue to fight back or will he simply decide it's over?
PAZMINO: It's very hard to tell, Wolf. And the reason I say that is because not only are we hearing those sort of both conflicting information that the Governor is thinking about it, that he's not thinking about it, but what I think has been reliable over the last couple of months and really all of the years that Cuomo has been in office, is that he --
BLITZER: I think we've just lost Gloria's audio. Gloria, stand by. Let me get Joey back into this conversation. Joey, on a legal front, how do you think Cuomo would actually defend himself if one of these four prosecutors decided to file criminal charges?
JACKSON: Yes, you know, Wolf, I think he will pivot to the issue of being political in nature, that as a politician, you shake people's hands, you're friendly, perhaps you're too touchy-feely that it was not for the intent or purpose to degrade, it wasn't for the purpose or intent to sexually gratify himself. This was just how he interacts with people. We've heard as much with respect to his explanations on it.
Also, I think if you look at what you're looking at, I mentioned it's a misdemeanor, right, not to get too technical. And when you look at that, when you have people who are first before the court that are people who haven't committed any other offenses, generally what they do is they look to dispose of by way of plea bargaining, right? We're not anywhere near, they are just telling you as a practitioner how it works.
If it's a first offense, I'm never for treating (ph) the rich and powerful any different, I'm not for treating many better but I'm not for treating in any worse.
And so if there is a resolution, I think he'll say, look, this is an infraction. Maybe it's a disorderly conduct. It's certainly not intending to gratify myself sexually. I think that's what we'll see moving forward.
BLITZER: All right, Joey, thank you very much. Joey Jackson helping us. And thanks to Gloria Pazmino as well. We'll try to fix that audio down the road. She'll be back. Just ahead, how China is responding to the Delta link coronavirus surge. And the freshman Congresswoman who's grabbing the attention of the nation right now and grabbing the attention of President Biden as well.
BLITZER: Officials in China right now are cracking down with restrictions as a new wave of cases linked to the Delta variant spreads through the region. China is issuing strict lockdowns to contain the coronavirus including in Beijing where we find CNN's David Culver. David, tell us more about these aggressive new restrictions.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Chinese state media calling it the worst outbreak since Wuhan, where this crisis first unfolded. Officials mobilizing across China to stop the rapid spread linked in part to the Delta variant. A handful of confirmed COVID-19 cases surfacing from Shanghai to Beijing worrisome given China's zero tolerance approach.
(on-camera): Here in the capital city, you have tens of thousands of residents under strict lockdown. Behind these barriers, you have folks who are abiding by the stay at home orders and who are once again having to undergo mass testing. The warning from officials is eerily reminiscent of 2020.
(voice-over): Among the cities with new outbreaks, Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is now testing each of its more than 11 million residents. The lockdowns and strict contact tracing through smartphones being enforced once again.
Aside from isolated cluster outbreaks, life here in China had mostly returned to the way it was pre-COVID. But official say a commercial flight from Russia change that. The plane landed in the eastern city of Nanjing on July 10th, suspected of carrying the highly contagious Delta variant. On July 20th, officials confirmed Nanjing airport workers subsequently tested positive cases then surfaced in several major cities and have since spread to dozens of others. As of Tuesday, the virus has been detected in 16 provinces across China.
While the official number of confirmed cases is still in the 100 since July 20th, all of the airport staff in places like Nanjing were reported to have been fully vaccinated with Chinese vaccines. Still many got infected. Even more concerning, several of those sickened are reported to be in severe condition.
This new wave of virus has sparked uncertainty and panic vine in some cities, grocery store shelves quickly emptying as folks prepare for this latest outbreak to worsen. And new stay at home orders to take effect.
CULVER: And, Wolf, you can feel the uncertainty here. People are bracing for the unknown once again. They are feeling this uneasiness as you go about places like where we are here in Beijing. And a few days ago in Shanghai, you also started to sense it.
Let's talk about the timing though. We are six months to the day from the start of the Beijing 2022 Olympics. That is a huge event for China. It was their time really, Wolf, to show the world hey, we've got this under control, our containment efforts post outbreak.
They were extreme, but they're effective. This is putting that into question. It's also, Wolf, putting into question the effectiveness of the Chinese made vaccines, especially against variants like Delta. All of this coming together and created a lot of uneasiness for officials right here in Beijing, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, just be careful over there, David, thank you very much. David Culver with excellent, excellent reporting as always.
Coming up, the freshman Congresswoman making waves in the Democratic Party with her unique and successful bargaining tactics. And later, we'll have more on this Delta variant that is gripping the United States.
BLITZER: Democratic Congresswoman Cori bush is making a real name for herself during her first term in office. The freshman Congresswoman organized and around the clock sitting outside the U.S. Capitol to help bring attention to the eviction crisis and force action from President Biden. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more.
REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): You are in (INAUDIBLE).
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cori Bush, a freshman Congresswoman from Missouri capturing national attention.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Hey, you are great. You did this. (INAUDIBLE). Congratulations.
SERFATY (voice-over): Sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for several days to protest the lapse in federal eviction moratorium.
BUSH: I'm dirty, I'm sticky, I'm sweaty. I still have on what I had on last night.
SERFATY (voice-over): Culminating in a big win for progressives with Tuesday's announcement by the Biden administration of a 60-day eviction ban in areas of the country with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19.
BUSH: I'm elated and I'm overwhelmed, you know, because just the thought that so many people right now, millions of people, you know, will not be forced out on the streets. SERFATY (voice-over): Bush herself has lived that struggle. The 45- year-old single mother has been evicted three times before, forced to sleep in her car for several months.
BUSH: For me, the thought of overwhelming rent payments brings back painful memories. I'm standing here in Congress as someone who has been on house with two children living out of a car.
SERFATY (voice-over): The Congresswoman has had an unexpected rise in politics.
BUSH: We'll then go and turn.
SERFATY (voice-over): In 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Bush marched, organized and provided support to her community in crisis as a nurse and pastor.
BUSH: On the streets of Ferguson, it was totally organic. We were outraged. We were frustrated and upset. We were angry. It was very emotional and intense and our -- and the hurt, you know fueled us to want to do more.
SERFATY (voice-over): That community activism sparked her congressional run in 2020.
BUSH: I found my dad person by person reach people. He was boots to the ground like that's how he taught us.
SERFATY (voice-over): Defeating 20-year incumbent congressman Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary.
BUSH: People want to see their leaders show up and just be with them.
SERFATY: And Bush says she had not previously considered getting involved in politics, despite her father being a local mayor. But it was that activism in Ferguson that really compelled her to run. And sources close to her tell me that she's back in St. Louis. She's taking stock of this moment in the national spotlight. And Wolf, she says she feels incredibly emboldened and really validated by what has transpired.
BLITZER: Well, she really made a difference over these past several days on this critically important issue of evictions. Thank you very much. Sunlen Serfaty reporting for us.
We're going to have a much more coming up including a significant development that's emerging right now in the vaccine front. The Defense Secretary of the United States, Lloyd Austin, plans to mandate COVID vaccination for all active duty U.S. military personnel.