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Gov. Cuomo Tries To Defend Behavior As He Resigns; Gov. Cuomo Facing Legal Peril Even After He Resigns As Authorities Plan To Pursue Criminal Investigation; Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul To Become New York's First Female Governor When Cuomo Steps Down In Two Weeks; American Academy Of Pediatrics Urging FDA To Speed Up Vaccine Authorization For Children Under 12; Biden Takes Victory Lap After Senate Passes $1.2T Infrastructure Bill. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 10, 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: And our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning. The Democrat aiming to avoid impeachment while also attempting to undercut the sexual harassment allegations that forced him out.
Also tonight, growing fears for COVID's youngest victims, as kids are caught in the middle of the war over mask. I'll ask the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics about the danger for children and the need for them to be vaccinated.
And President Biden takes a victory lap after a bipartisan infrastructure bill passes the U.S. Senate. Does this put his domestic agenda back on track?
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
The breaking news this hour, President Biden speaking out just a little while ago about the resignation of New York's governor saying he respects Andrew Cuomo's decision to step down amid a sexual harassment scandal and the resulting impeachment pro.
CNN National Correspondent Brynn Gingras is working the story for us in the New York capital of Albany.
Brynn, Cuomo says his resignation will take effect in two weeks.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Two weeks from today, New York will have its first female governor in Kathy Hochul.
Now we're hearing she actually got a heads up about the governor's resignation right before he made his remarks, and then the two spoke to each other afterwards. As for the governor, he is back here at the governor's mansion in Albany after he made the sometimes emotional remarks. And really, he then just said he doesn't want to be a distraction for the people of New York, that prompting swift reaction from lawmakers at every level of government and some of the woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing.
GINGRAS (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces he is stepping down telling New Yorkers that he is a fighter, but it's time.
CUOMO: Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that.
GINGRAS (voice-over): The 63-year-old governor getting choked up at moments as he gave his resignation. Speaking to New Yorkers, his staff and three daughters.
CUOMO: I've seen the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces. And it hurt. Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized and he learned from it.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo's decision which takes effect in 14 days comes exactly one week after the release of the State Attorney General's report, which concluded the governor sexually harassed 11 women in the past seven years. Before calling it quits, the governor defended himself.
CUOMO: However, it was also false moments --
GINGRAS (voice-over): Moments before Cuomo's presser, his personal attorney, Rita Glavin, laid out the faults she found with the A.G.'s report referencing some accusers by name and said the governor wasn't given a fair process.
RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: This investigation took every possible negative thing that could be said about the governor and they put it in, and they disregarded the positive, the things that would balance it, and the things that would undermined what some people were saying about the governor. That's not right.
GINGRAS (voice-over): The governor also offering an apology to his accusers, again attributing some of his actions as generational. Cuomo specifically addressing his actions toward the claims made by a trooper in his detail.
CUOMO: The trooper also said that in an elevator I touched her back and when I was walking past her in a doorway, I touched her stomach. Now, I don't recall doing it. But if she said I did it, I believe her.
GINGRAS (voice-over): And apologizing.
CUOMO: It was a mistake, plain and simple. I have no other words to explain it. I want to personally apologize to her and her family.
GINGRAS (voice-over): In the aftermath of the report, calls for his resignation quickly piled up from state lawmakers to the president.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he should resign.
GINGRAS (voice-over): It was a dramatic fall from grace for the three- term governor who CNN reported was actively fundraising for a fourth term and who earn global recognition for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo is known for standing his ground.
But in recent days, sources telling CNN those close to the governor counselled him that he didn't have many options for a path forward. Politicians, including the President reacting.
BIDEN: I respect the governor's decision. And women should be believed when they make accusations that are able to, on the face of them make sense, and investigated. They're investigated, and the judgement was made what they said was correct.
CUOMO: I want to thank the women who came forward --
GINGRAS (voice-over): His resignation providing some relief to the women accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who CNN reports has been preparing for this moment saying on Twitter, she agrees with Cuomo's decision and quote, "I am prepared to lead as New York State's 57th governor."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GINGRAS: Now just because the governor is leaving it, doesn't mean he'll be leaving behind. The turmoil that he still might continue to face. We know that the Albany County Sheriff's Department is still going to investigate that criminal complaint filed by one of his accusers of Brittany Commisso last week. We know that another accuser Lindsey Boylan still plans to sue him. It's unclear how this impeachment process will move forward with state lawmakers.
And we also know he's still being investigated by the Eastern District of New York when it comes to the nursing home scandal.
One thing is clear, Wolf, the reaction from many of the people who were calling for his resignation are happy for the state to take this next chapter, to move forward. And happy to see that it will be a woman at the helm. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brynn, I want you to standby.
Also I want to bring in CNN Legal and National Security Analyst Asha Rangappa, CNN Senior Political Analyst Kirsten Powers, and Zack Fink, the Albany Reporter for New York 1.
Zack, you've been covering the governor as closely as anyone for the better part of a decade. Just give us a sense of how monumental his resignation is.
ZACK FINK, ALBANY REPORTER, NY1: Wolf, I got to tell you, when I heard the words that - it came out of the governor's mouth, I could not have been more shocked everything I've known about Andrew Cuomo all that time, someone who digs, in someone who never loses a fight. He was even preparing to do that today, when we heard initially from his attorney who is going through the accusations in the Tish James report, trying to refute it almost line by line.
Then the governor came on himself, which was a little bit of a surprise to some of us. He winds up saying that a lot of these accusations are false. He's defending himself the way he's been doing all along, saying he meant no bad intention. If he might have touched someone or made them feel uncomfortable to then see him pivot and actually say the words that he needs to step down. It was just a truly unbelievable sight to behold.
BLITZER: Yes, we were watching it and it was really amazing for those of us who have covered him over these many years.
You know, Kirsten, didn't know you actually worked with Governor Cuomo on one of his earlier campaigns, I think back in 2002. What did you make of the manner in which he resigned today remained defiant, even as he began what would turn out to be a formal resignation speech?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, it's about what I would expect from him. I -- he's not somebody -- I too was surprised that he resigned. I expected him to continue to fight on. And we - I think can only deduce from that, that he looked at the situation and realize that this wasn't a fight he was going to win. And so, he decided to resign, and he decided this was the best thing for him to do.
So, I think he handled it completely in keeping with who he is. Still being - defending himself, you know, having his lawyer defend him and trying to protect his reputation on the way out to basically acknowledge, I'm stepping down. There's no future for me here. But can I preserve at least a reputation as I leave that people won't think that I'm a terrible person?
BLITZER: Yes, he was either going to be impeached or he had to resign. He decided to resign.
BLITZER: Asha, Cuomo's resignation came after he first sent his lawyer out, as we all heard, to try to discredit the women who were accusing him of wrongdoing. Was that intended to be some sort of strategic move?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think there were two things going on, Wolf. We heard in one of the clips earlier where he was - he had prior -- previously apologized, for example, for some of his behavior. And I think the reality is he is facing civil liability and possibly criminal liability. And so, I think what you're seeing is a preview of what will be his courtroom defense. And I think that politically, he can't be the one to say it, so he has his lawyer say it.
I think the other thing that could be happening is that, you know, the A.G. report noted that there was, you know, ongoing retaliation against many of the women who made these claims. And now that he's stepping down, that threat of retaliation, you know, is not there, he doesn't have the platform. And he may fear that there are other people who may step forward.
And in some ways, having the lawyer go through and discredit is sort of sending the signal of I'm going to fight this whoever makes these allegations. So I think that both of those things could have been at play.
BLITZER: Yes. After his lawyer came out and made all those accusations. And the assumption was he was going to continue to fight but that quickly changed.
You know, Brynn, as you well know, sources now say the New York State Judiciary Committee is looking into whether impeachment is still possible following the governor's resignation. Can you explain why they might now take that step despite the fact that he has resigned?
GINGRAS: Yes, lawmakers are talking to their lawyers and trying to figure out if that's a step that they can remove forward.
Remember, Wolf, it wasn't just about the women and the sexual harassment claims that were laid out in the A.G.'s report, that impeachment investigation was covering a number of things, including how his administration handled the deaths in nursing homes at the beginning of the pandemic, in addition to the Cuomo use state resources are miss -- to write his pandemic book. So there's a number of issues.
And I got to tell you, Wolf, that's something that's very important to a lot of people in this state. I actually spoke to a family who lost a loved one in a nursing home earlier in 2020. And he said he cried, hearing about Cuomo resigning today. But he also said he still wants people held accountable, he doesn't have the answers.
So, yes, the women tipped the scale on this, rightfully so. But there are other people who still want answers from this administration.
BLITZER: You know, Zack, the lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, will take over in two weeks I shall become governor, first governor of New York was a woman. But unlike Cuomo, she's not necessarily a household name, except for those of us, who like her, are from Buffalo. Who is she? What kind of governor would she be?
FINK: Well, Wolf, she at one point, sir, very briefly in Congress in Buffalo, she became the governor's lieutenant governor, but they have not had a very close relationship. Hochul is known as a very hard worker, pretty much to the right of Governor Cuomo on a number of issues, but they don't have much dealings between their staff.
Hochul was very much left out in the cold when Cuomo kind of rose to prominence fighting COVID and doing those daily televised addresses that he was doing. Hochul was largely absent from all of that.
And just speaking to staff on both sides today, they don't really know each other all that well, even. I mean, they're familiar, but they're not that friendly, this is going to be a transition that's going to take place over the next 14 days where they're really going to have to show that team how to come in and govern.
And there's a lot of huge things, Wolf, on the horizon here, beyond the allegations against the governor, which are multiple and go even beyond sexual harassment. You also have kids going back to school, they want to open up offices, these are big, big issues facing the state of New York.
BLITZER: They certainly are.
You know, Kirsten, it's interesting to note that Hochul will become, as I said, the first woman to lead the state after her boss was pushed out for inappropriate contact with women.
POWERS: Yes. There's a little bit of an irony there, I'd say. And also, I think it's just, you know, maybe it's one thing to be happy about throughout this whole situation, which I think has been, you know, a very difficult situation to watch.
And one of the things that I think the governor is going to be dealing with is this defense that he has put forth, that he had his lawyer put forth today, which is going after the women and trying to discredit the women. And we know that his staff also did the same.
So, there's two parts to it, right? There's what he did in the first place or is alleged to have done. And then there's the reaction. And I think in a lot of ways the reaction is in itself, a story, and a very problematic story.
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, guys, thank you very much. We'll have more on this coming up later.
But also coming up, schools fighting back against the Republican governors in both Texas and Florida, as they tried to ban mask mandates despite a deadly surge in COVID cases.
Plus, millions of parents across the United States, they are desperate to get their children under 12 vaccinated. How long will they have to wait? I'll ask the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, she standing by live. We'll discuss. Stay with us.
BLITZER: With more breaking news we're following here in the Situation Room, President Biden saying he's looking into whether he has the authority to intervene in states like Florida and Texas where governors are attempting to prohibit mask mandates. The President calling those efforts, and I'm quoting him now, "disingenuous."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: One of the things that I find a little disingenuous, when I suggest that people in zones where there is a high risk, where the mask like you all are doing, I'm told the government should get out of the way and not do that. They don't have authority to do that.
And I find it interesting that some of the very people are saying that who hold government positions are people who are threatening that if a school teacher asks the student if they've been vaccinated, or if a principal says that everyone in my school should wear a mask or a school board votes for it, that governor will nullify that. That governor has the authority to say you can't do that. I find that totally counterintuitive, and quite frankly, disingenuous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Amara Walker is joining us now from Fort Lauderdale down in Florida.
For us, Amara, three Florida counties are now defying the governor's ban unmask requirements. Tell us about that.
AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, your account is right, three Florida school districts defying the governor's executive order, effectively banning mask mandates in schools. So today, Broward County School - Public School joined Leon and Alachua School Districts to require masks in schools regardless of vaccination status and without giving the parents the option to opt their students out. The school board voting in favor of this mask mandate, eight to one.
And I've got to tell you, inside the school district office, it got quite heated. For about five hours, school board members heard from both sides of the aisle, parents and teachers and some students who were angry, many of them worried about their safety. The bottom line is governor Ron DeSantis is maintaining that this is about parent's rights, while the other side is saying no, this is about student's rights to be safe in the classroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANA, PARENT: My child is 14 years old, she is vaccinated. She had a liver transplant, so she's immune suppressed. My child needs to be protected.
All she wants to do is go to school and learn, learn science, ironically. Learn science. And she wants to live.
JOSEPH CARTER, BROWARD COUNTY RESIDENT AND TEACHER: Your job is not to make medical decisions for our children. I believe my wife and I are doing a fine job of that. And we don't need your help, nor do we ask for it. The only thing I want you all to do is teach my kids to read, write and do math.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: So will they be repercussions to these mask mandates? Well, on Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the state could withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members if they impose these universal mask mandates.
And we learned today that the Florida Education Commissioner sent letters to Leon and Alachua School Districts to tell them that they will be investigated for noncompliance. And the governor's office said that Broward County School Districts should expect the same.
As for Miami Dade Public School, the largest in the state just down south from here, they are still deciding when school begins in about two weeks from now. Wolf.
BLITZER: That's critically important issues. Amara Walker reporting for us. Thank you.
There's also a significant development in the battle over school mask mandates in Texas where Republican Governor Greg Abbott is also trying to ban them. Let's go to our Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera.
Ed, at least one Texas City, I understand, is now allowed to defy the governor, is that right?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But at least temporarily. So this is now ending up in the courts. But just a short while ago, a judge in San Antonio, Texas has ruled against Governor Greg Abbott's executive order prohibiting the issuing of mask mandates. This judge is essentially has ruled in favor of a request for a temporary restraining order by Bexar County and the city of San Antonio. This happened just a short while ago.
This is just temporary. There'll be a hearing next week to flesh it out even more. But a similar temporary restraining order has been requested by officials here in Dallas County as well, where the Dallas school superintendent is also requiring students, staff and teachers to wear masks when school starts up next week.
Again, all of this in this fight continues now heightened because the pace of the coronavirus spreading through Texas is really skyrocketing, putting a great deal of pressure on hospitals across the state. Dallas County officials explained today why they're pushing to get this temporary restraining order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: Enough, I'm not going to let children get sick and people die while I wait around to see if the governor changes his mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: So you have Dallas schools, Austin schools in San Antonio and Houston getting set to require masks on Thursday night when their school board meets.
The governor has not spoken directly himself about these developments here in the last few days. But his press secretary did issue a statement saying and essentially doubling down on what the governor has been saying for several weeks that he believes that the time for masked mandates is over. He's urging people to get vaccinated. And he says it is the personal responsibility of Texans across the state to do what they have to do to help control the spread of the virus.
But the fact of the matter is, there is just a growing number of people who aren't vaccinated in this state well under 50 percent, as well as people who just don't want to wear a mask anymore. So, all of that kind of combining together to create this toxic atmosphere down here right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very toxic, indeed.
All right, Ed, thank you very much. Ed Lavandera reporting.
Let's get some more in all of this. Joining us now is Dr. Lee Savio Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Professor of Pediatrics at Children's National Hospital.
Dr. Beers, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all you are doing, we are grateful.
I know your organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, is urging the FDA to speed up coronavirus vaccination vaccine authorization for young age group. So why do you believe the FDA is lacking a sense of urgency right now on this?
DR. LEE SAVIO BEERS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Yes, no, well thank you for that and thank you for having me here to talk about this.
I think there's a couple things. I think, you know, we know - you know, we've learned and very gratefully throughout the course of the pandemic, that children are less likely to become severely ill than older adults, but they really still can get very sick. And with the increasing numbers of infections that we're seeing with the Delta variant, we're seeing even more children get sick.
And so, I think it's, you know, really important to make sure that we are approaching authorization of the COVID vaccine for our youngest children with the same urgency that we did in adults, because it really is a very urgent situation.
BLITZER: You're talking about kids, five to 11, who still can't be vaccinated. As you know, clinical trials are still underway for Kids of that age. Have you seen data, Doctor, that leads you to believe the benefits of vaccination for these young kids outweigh the potential risks?
BEERS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, certainly for teens, ages 12 and up, the vaccine is authorized, it is a safe and effective vaccine and I think all that we know about the publicly available data, and really our experience with vaccines and vaccine development over the past 70 years.
You know, shows us -- it tells us, you know, our experts really believe that we have the data that we need, or we're soon to have the data -- very soon to have the data that we need to be able to look at it and make a decision about whether or not we can authorize the vaccine in the younger kids as well. And I think, you know, it's just really important to recognize that children are impacted by COVID. And so, it's really important to be approaching this with a sense of urgency.
BLITZER: I've read that there are some concerns about very rare, hard problems emerging in young people who have been vaccinated. You know enough about that potential side effect, at least at this point.
BEERS: Yes, it's a great question. Because, first of all, I want to point out that it's an incredibly rare association between the vaccine and these cases of heart inflammation and in fact so rare that it really just tells me that our monitoring systems are working exactly the way they should be, because we've picked up on this possible association that is so rare.
And there's a couple of things to point out here. One is that by and large, the cases that we've seen in this case that may be associated are very mild. But more importantly, actually, you can get significant heart inflammation and other long term problems from getting infected with COVID itself. And so, the risk of long term impacts from COVID, far, far outweighs the risks of the vaccine.
BLITZER: I know that around the world and other countries, Israel and in Europe, elsewhere, they're still reluctant, they're still not giving the vaccine to kids under 12 right now, except in some rare cases where there are some severe health problems these children have. But do you think the U.S. should move more quickly?
BEERS: You know, I want to emphasize, the FDA really, you know, they're incredible professionals and they are very cautious as they should be across the board with vaccine development in particularly in children.
And I think that the point we're making is that we really do think the data is there for them to take a look at and be able to make a decision or it's almost there, you know, to be able to make a decision about whether or not the vaccines are -- were able to authorize them in our younger children, because it really is, you know, we really are seeing an increased risk for kids right now with the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
BLITZER: Yes, I've been told these other countries are waiting to see what the U.S. does before they decide to go forward with vaccinating kids five to 11 years old. Dr. Lee Savio Beers, once again, tanks for all you're doing. We are grateful. Thanks for joining us.
BEERS: Right. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Up next, several more in the political upheaval in New York right now. We'll get reacted to Governor Andrew Cuomo's resignation from the State Senate Majority Leader.
Plus, President Biden taking a victory lap after historic legislative victory in the U.S. Senate. We'll take a closer look at what it means for his next ambitious agenda item. There's still lots to go
BLITZER: More now in tonight's breaking news, the President saying he respects the decision of the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign amid a sexual harassment scandal and impeachment probe. Joining us now, the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, Andrea Stewart- Cousins.
Majority Leader, thank you so much for joining us. Just how monumental is this resignation for New York and what went through your mind hearing the Governor earlier today first discredit his accusers as he then went on to say he was stepping aside?
ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS (D), NEW YORK STATE MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, well, obviously it's a monumental day. And quite frankly, it's a day that I and so many of us have been calling the Governor to do for many, many months. Now, this has been unfortunate. It is a really sad situation and it was just going to be prolonged. And the allegations were multiple, they were sweeping. And of course, the Attorney General's report was really, really damning, actually.
So the reality was that there was a time for him to step aside. Sorry that there was that discrediting of these brave women because that's what they are, brave women who came forward, who spoke of what happened to them. And, again, there was corroborating evidence and we could have dragged this out, but the benefit of New Yorkers would not have been served and I think that's very clear. So this was the right thing to do.
It's a sad day. I don't think there's any winners here. But I do believe that it's an opportunity for us again to practice what we preach. We have some very strong laws about sexual harassment.
Under my leadership, and I am the first woman leader in the history of the state, we did everything from passing strong laws to sexual harassment hearings, we understand the boundaries and we also understand that the workplace has to be safe for everybody. BLITZER: And now New York, they have the first woman Governor, in New York's history. There's already a lot of chatter as you know, Majority Leader, about Governor Cuomo most defiant tone today and whether he could attempt a political comeback down the road, would you support impeachment to block him from holding state office down the road?
STEWART-COUSINS: You know, I am really waiting for my colleague, my counterpart in the Assembly, they have obviously announced their intention. They did as of, you know, yesterday, announced their intention to proceed down that path. I do not know what they will do. I think it is important that whatever their findings are, be revealed to us. And I think from there, people will have a sense of what accountability the Governor needs to take beyond the apology to some of the women.
BLITZER: Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, thank you so much for joining us.
STEWART-COUSINS: Thank you so much for having me.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the sweeping infrastructure bill finally passed the U.S. Senate today. But some House Democrats are already threatening to stand in the way when it comes before the House. We'll tell you what's going on when we come back.
BLITZER: This afternoon, President Biden took a victory lap after the U.S. Senate passed a historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. But some Democrats are now threatening to put up roadblocks in the House of Representatives. CNN's Phil Mattingly reports.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a moment that lives beyond the headlines.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden delivering on a dual-pronged campaign promise, infrastructure and bipartisanship.
BIDEN: After years and years of infrastructure week, we're on the cusp of an infrastructure decade.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): The U.S. Senate passing a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Nineteen Republicans voting in favor of the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
BIDEN: This bill shows that we can work together. I know a lot of people, some sit in the audience here didn't think this could happen.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): A critical victory in the high-wire pathway laid out for Biden's $4 trillion agenda.
BIDEN: We have to get to work on the next critical piece of my agenda, my Build Back Better plan.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): But the finish line still far in the distance and no shortage of headwinds already emerging. With unified GOP opposition to Biden's $3.5 trillion social safety net expansion --
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Make no mistake, this reckless taxing and spending spree is nothing like we've seen. Nothing.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): In the barest of House and Senate majorities, there's zero margin for error and Moderate House Democrats already agitating for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move the Senate infrastructure bill immediately, saying in a letter to Pelosi, "We cannot afford delays to finally deliver on a physical infrastructure package". Immediately, drawing sharper bundles from progressives who refuse to support the bill until the second measure is ready for passage.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeting, "If mods want to blow up the infrastructure deal, that's on them". And Congressman Mondaire Jones tweeting simply, no. Pelosi making clear the bipartisan bill will go nowhere, until that second measure is completed.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Whatever you can achieve in a bipartisan way, bravo. We salute it. We applaud it. We hope that it will had pass soon. But at the same time, we're not going forward with leaving people behind.
MATTINGLY: And Wolf, the President took a series of questions after his infrastructure remarks, including whether he was reconsidering the rapid U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, given how fast the Taliban offensive has moved as U.S. troops have pulled out.
The President responded flatly, no, making very clear after more than a trillion dollars in 20 years of U.S. blood and treasure in that country. It was time for the country to fight for itself, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Phil, thank you very, very much. Phil Mattingly at the White House.
Meanwhile, the Trump White House is under increasing scrutiny right now up on Capitol Hill with the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman telling CNN he wants former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to testify about the former President's attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju, he's joining us from Capitol Hill. So Manu, what are they looking for? What do they want to learn from Meadows?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they want to learn exactly what Donald Trump and his top allies did to pressure the Justice Department to try to intervene in states that Joe Biden won in 2020. Already, there are concerns that have been raised by some top officials including the former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who testified for nearly seven hours behind closed doors over the weekend detailing efforts by Trump's allies to essentially pressure him to suggest the election was amiss in some way.
And according to e-mails that have been turned over to Capitol Hill, five times Mark Meadows, a former White House Chief of Staff, an e- mails from late December to early January, two rows and asking him to look into election fraud claims that have not yet been proven, that have been -- that are been disproven, and debunked, but still asking him to question the results in Georgia, in New Mexico and other states.
Rosen resisting, but Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Chairman told me earlier today that he does want to have a chance to talk to Mark Meadows. He said, quote, I'd like to have the opportunity to interview him. Now, Meadows declined to comment us about whether he would actually voluntarily agree and if he does not, then they have to subpoena him. To subpoena him in the Senate, you would need support from a Republican.
The Republican Ranking Member Chuck Grassley told me that he would not commit yet to this, he wanted to talk about this further. The question too also, Wolf, was with the House Select Committee, which is launching its own investigation to January 6th, will they call Mark Meadows and other Trump allies about their efforts to try to overturn the electoral results?
The House is different. They can actually issue subpoenas without the support of Republicans. So, undoubtedly, Meadows will come under pressure along with other allies of his who tried to join Donald Trump in question the election results. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on that front as well. Manu, thank you very much.
Coming up, lies and misinformation get controversial Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene suspended from Twitter again.
BLITZER: New lies about the pandemic have silenced the controversial Congresswoman from one of her social media platforms at least for now. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. So Brian, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene has now been suspended at least for a little while from Twitter.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She has, Wolf. The Georgia Republican is again dealing with the fallout over her lies and misleading statements this time about the COVID pandemic. As we mentioned, Marjorie Taylor Greene has really been spouting off recently about the vaccines in particular and tonight, she's closer to having her Twitter account suspended permanently.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Thank you for coming everyone.
TODD (voice-over): Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has been spreading lies and misinformation about the pandemic for months.
GREENE: Dr. Tony Fauci funded with your tax dollars. He funded it in the Wuhan lab, didn't he?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Yes.
GREENE: He funded COVID-19.
TODD (voice-over): And tonight, she has once again run afoul with Twitter. The social media giant suspending the Georgia Republican's account for a week, this time for her tweet saying, the FDA shouldn't approve COVID vaccines. And, "These vaccines are failing and do not reduce the spread of the virus and neither do masks".
Before the suspension, Twitter issued a disclaimer at the bottom of Greene's tweet, saying, this tweet may be misleading.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Twitter doesn't give three strikes, they give five strikes. And right now she is on her fourth strike because she continues to violate Twitter's policies.
TODD (voice-over): Responding to the suspension, Greene issued a statement saying, "Twitter suspends me because the truth is so offensive to the fragile hypocrites all over Twitter".
GREENE: I hear Alabama might be one of the most unvaccinated states in the nation.
TODD (voice-over): It all came right after Greene kept spouting lies about Dr. Anthony Fauci at an event in Alabama.
GREENE: He find the COVID-19, the gain of function research. That is his baby. That is his experiment, and he's getting to watch it in the real world.
TODD (voice-over): Greene hardly the sole offender. Social media platforms have faced criticism for months for letting users publish a lot of misinformation on the COVID pandemic.
MATT SKIBINSKI, GENERAL MANAGER: Facebook, Twitter, pretty much every digital platform has really struggled with COVID misinformation simply because there's so much of it. What we see is that there's still, you know, wide, a large number of accounts that are continuing to publish vaccine misinformation, COVID misinformation that haven't been blocked.
TODD (voice-over): Matt Skibinski says his firm NewsGuard technologies, which tracks misinformation online, has found several egregious examples of misinformation on the COVID pandemic over the past year and a half.
SKIBINSKI: Early in COVID last year, there were -- you know, there was a conspiracy theory spreading on Facebook and other platforms that 5G cell phone technology was the cause of COVID-19. And people were burning down cell phone towers in the U.K. because of that conspiracy theory, which had no basis, in fact, whatsoever and just took root in these, you know, pages and groups on Facebook and other platforms.
TODD (voice-over): The Biden administration has criticized the social media giants for not doing enough to block COVID misinformation. President Biden after saying last month that Facebook and other platforms are, quote, killing people later walk that comment back. His Surgeon General acknowledged that while Facebook, Twitter and others had made some effort to block or reduce COVID misinformation.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: That it's not enough that we're still seeing a proliferation of misinformation online. And we know that health misinformation harms people's health, it costs them their lives.
TODD: We reached out to Facebook and Twitter for response to the criticism that they're not doing enough to stop COVID misinformation. Twitter didn't respond specifically but has recently cited its policy that false or misleading claims may not be shared on Twitter, and it can and does label those tweets misleading, sometimes deletes tweets or suspends accounts. Facebook told us in a statement, the criticism negates their proactive efforts to fight misinformation that Facebook has actually removed 18 million pieces of COVID misinformation has labelled over 167 million pieces of false content and has connected over 2 billion people with good information on the pandemic. These platforms really kind of on the defensive overall this way.
BLITZER: It certainly are. All right, Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you, Brian, very much.
Coming up the battle between educators and Republican Governors in both Texas and Florida over school mask mandates. It's heating up tonight as courts are weighing in.
BLITZER: Happening now, time's up for Governor Andrew Cuomo. The New York Democrat announcing his resignation under threat of impeachment and under fire for allegations of sexual harassment. Also tonight children at risk as the anti-mask mandates intensifies and the Delta variant rages. We're following new clashes between Republican governors and school officials trying to keep kids safe.
And a new win for President Biden and bipartisanship.