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Calls Grow for New York Governor's Resignation; Supreme Court Hears Arizona's Voting Rights Case; Trump Facing Five Probes. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired March 2, 2021 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there are growing calls within his own party, the Democratic Party, now, this morning, for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down from office. This after a third woman stepped forward and accused him of inappropriate behavior and unwanted advances.

Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice tweeting overnight, the time has come. The governor must resign.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This comes after the New York attorney general, also a Democrat, announced Monday that she is moving forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment from two of Governor Cuomo's former aides.

CNN's Athena Jones has been following.

Athena, tell us what more we know specifically about this new allegation.


Well, look, it's just getting worse and worse for Governor Cuomo with this third woman coming forward accusing him of acting inappropriately. And I want to note, this is coming after his second accuser, a former aide, blasted his Sunday night apology in which he said his actions have been misinterpreted. She called his behavior predatory and urged other women who had similar stories to come forward.

Now this third woman, Anna Ruch, has come forward to "The New York Times" saying that Cuomo approached her during a crowded wedding reception in New York in 2019. She thanked him for the toast he gave the newlyweds and in response he put his hand on her bare lower back. She was wearing an open back dress. When Ruch removed his hand, Cuomo allegedly told her she seemed aggressive as he put her hands on his cheeks and asked if he could kiss her.

Now, Ruch -- the paper published a photo of some of that interaction, which I believe you can put up on the screen. Ruch says it was captured on her own phone by a friend. She says she distanced herself from the governor as he came closer and she felt confused, shocked and embarrassed. Ruch says her friend later told her that he kissed her -- Cuomo -- that Governor Cuomo kissed her on the cheek as she pulled away.

Now, Ruch has not responded to CNN's request for comment and CNN has not been able to corroborate her story.

Meanwhile, more on that independent investigation. We know that it's going to involve subpoena power, which means access to witnesses, documents, recordings even, and that means that the governor himself could be compelled to testify as a witness.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching.

Athena Jones, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Well, let's bring in our senior political analyst John Avlon.

OK, John, I mean this -- this is actually getting more serious in terms of the accusations and photos like that that are coming each night. "The New York Times" has an interesting piece on it this morning that I think is important that the investigation by the attorney general, which will take months, but is going to give her, as Athena said, so much power, subpoena power, to look at a trove of documents to compel the governor to testify. That, coupled with Democrats in Congress and in the state legislature here, some of them now calling on Cuomo to resign.

Where does this go?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, no place good for Governor Cuomo.

Look, I think very significant, not only a third accuser coming forward, but that Congresswoman Kathleen Rice from New York calling on the governor to resign. That said, you know, there are some folks who are looking and seeing echoes of what happened to Al Franken, a preponderance of pressure and accusations leading to a resignation. I think this case, you know, knowing Governor Cuomo, he's more likely to insist on an investigation before an resignation.

But his political power as a third term governor is deeply diminished and I think the lack of personal loyalty. And here's someone who's a third term governor, widely seen as an effective governor, despite recent controversies, but the lack of personal loyalty, even among Democrats, is starting to be a real figure in his personal and political (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: So the politics here cut both ways, right? One, as you note, largely popular in the state following the COVID response and even with genuine questions about handling of nursing home cases.

But, on the flip side, you have some Democrats saying, resign now so that Democrats are not weakened in 2022.

AVLON: That's right. I mean presumably this would all be done. And it's hard to see how he runs for a fourth term. The reason that's talismanic is his father served three terms. There's this question of whether this Cuomo could be the first to have a fourth term in New York state.


But that said, you're seeing, you know, these -- not only the real scandal surrounding the nursing homes, but criticisms about how he allegedly tried to contain that by yelling at people in Albany. It's that dichotomy between an effective record, but also a brash, tough, some might call rude personal style that's creating real political peril for this governor and it's hard to see how he ends up running for a third term -- for a fourth term, even if he does not, in fact, resign.

HARLOW: It is -- it was not that long ago, John Avlon, that there were people musing about Governor Cuomo running for president.

AVLON: Yes. I think that's clearly off the table. And the reason, you know, people were also looking for him to have a role in the -- in the Biden administration.

HARLOW: Right.

AVLON: There's a close relationship there. A lot of history. But the bad news is (INAUDIBLE).


SCIUTTO: John Avlon, thanks very much. A story we'll certainly stay on top of.

AVLON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, soon, the Supreme Court is going to hear a challenge to election laws in Arizona that limit where and how ballots can be cast. Coming up, how this could impact the future of elections not just in Arizona but across the country. It's happening in so many states.



SCIUTTO: Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could dramatically alter the way elections are carried out in this country. This particular case involves how ballots are cast in Arizona, but voting rights advocates fear that the court's new conservative majority will weaken key provisions of the voting rights act, which prohibits laws that restrict minorities from voting. The hearing comes as Republican legislatures across the country are proposing hundreds of new voting restrictions.

Joining me now is Katie Hobbs, she's Arizona's secretary of state. Katie, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So let's start specifically on the laws involved in this Supreme Court case. One of them discards ballots for those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other allows only election officials, mail carriers, family or household members and caregivers to return another person's mail-in ballot.

I'm curious, what kind of voters would these measures impact most?

HOBBS: Well, for the out of precinct voters, you know, voters who tend to vote closer to their work or try to vote closer to their work versus home because that's the most convenient way for them, and that could disproportionately affect, you know, people who work really far from their home and don't have another way to get to vote.

The out of -- the ballot collection bill or law is really the more concerning. And when the 9th Circuit did rule to overturn this law, they did so on the basis that it does discriminate against communities of color.

For example, the Navajo nation here in Arizona is very poorly served by the mail. And so it's really difficult to even get to the post office to pick up your ballot or to return it. And so having the ability to, you know, send your ballot with your neighbor who's going to the post office would greatly help folks in these communities to vote. And they are certainly disproportionately affected by this kind of law.

SCIUTTO: And as I remember, Native American turnout in this most recent election was unusually high and helped turn the state blue.

I just wonder, I'm going to ask you a very direct question here, because even conservatives have called many of these laws directly voter suppression, intentional voter suppression. George Will has written about this. Charlie Sykes has written about this.

Are these laws designed specifically to suppress votes that tend to go Democratic? Is that your view?

HOBBS: I absolutely think they are, yes.

SCIUTTO: So what impact will the Supreme Court's thinking here, because part of what is before them, and this will likely be the first of many that goes before them, is the test, right? You know, how, under the Voting Rights Act, courts and others consider what is fair to restrict and what is not. So tell us how that -- how people at home need to pay attention to that.

HOBBS: Well, I think it's important to look at that in the light of all of these bills that you mentioned are being introduced across the country to restrict voting access because what will happen if the court rules in favor of the attorney general's arguments is that it will severely hamper anyone's ability to, in the future, to challenge any of these laws on a discriminatory basis.

SCIUTTO: And that's a real concern going forward.


SCIUTTO: There's another issue happening in the state of Arizona, and that is a measure that would allow the state legislature to revoke the secretary of state's certification of votes. This was an issue in this most recent election because the president of the United States tried to pressure state legislatures to do just that based on nothing except him being upset that he lost.

Are you concerned that a law like this would empower state legislatures to overturn results they simply don't like?

HOBBS: Yes, that is -- that is, obviously, a concern. There were calls after this last election for the governor to call them into session so that they could do just that with no basis. Again, a reminder that nine lawsuits were thrown out because they were without merit, challenging the results. And so this is just the legislature trying to change the rules in the middle of the game and, yes, be able to overturn the will of the voters. And that is not what we do here in America.


SCIUTTO: It's pretty remarkable to imagine that because, I mean, it is literally allowing a party to say, hey, we don't like these results. You know, throw them out.

As you know, Congress, and they may vote, the House at least may vote sooner or later this week, Democratic proposals to expand the Voting Rights Act but also HR-1. Other measures designed to protect these various means of voting.

It's unlikely that you would get -- that they would get Democratic votes on this. And I just wonder, from your seat where you are, seeing the challenges to people's ability to vote, is this something that you think Democrats should consider breaking the filibuster to get past? I mean do you consider it a seminal, almost existential issue from your point of view?

HOBBS: Well, here's what I think, that no voter in the United States of America should have their access to the ballot dependent upon who holds the majority in their state's legislature. And so I think this certainly is a time where it's up to the federal government to step in and say, hey, there's a minimum standard when it comes to voting access and HR-1 sets that. So regardless of who holds the majority in a state legislature, a voter in Mississippi will have the same access to the ballot as a voter in California.

SCIUTTO: Katie Hobbs, a story we're going to follow very closely. Thanks so much for the work you're doing.

HOBBS: Thank you. HARLOW: Well, still ahead, former President Trump's legal troubles are piling up now that he no longer enjoys the protections of executive privilege and executive protections at the White House. We're going to explain what he's facing, ahead.



SCIUTTO: Multiple investigations of former President Trump are moving forward now that he no longer has the protections of the office.

HARLOW: That's right. The former president is facing at least five investigations, including one led by the Georgia's Republican secretary of state.

Let's go to our colleague, Sara Murray. She joins us on all of these.

And there are a number of them in different states. So let's begin, Sara, there in Georgia, where the president is the focus of two separate inquiries in Fulton County, that, of course, is where Atlanta is. The prosecutor is planning to begin requesting subpoenas for a grand jury as early as this week.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, it could be an interesting week ahead of us. You know, this is a newly elected Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis.

She's made clear that she's not just investigating this phone call, you know, the infamous call between then President Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, but she's going to kind of follow this investigation wherever it goes, with anything that has to do with election meddling in Georgia. A grand jury is set to convene in Fulton County later this week. So that's what we could begin to see her start to request these subpoenas.

Now, of course, what goes on in the grand jury is secret, but we're going to stay on top of that.

And this is in addition to another investigation in Georgia. This one led by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger's office. You know, he was the one on the other end of that phone call where President Trump asked him to look for these additional votes and to overturn the election results. His office is looking into that.

What they find goes to the state board of elections and then the state board of elections can say we're going to refer this to the Fulton County District Attorney or we're going to refer this to the Georgia attorney general. So those are a couple of issues for him there in Georgia.

SCIUTTO: All right, so, Sara, regarding the New York cases, both the Manhattan District Attorney and the state attorney general which are looking at his business practices. Now that the Supreme Court has required that he turn over those records, tax records, and they've already complied to our knowledge, how quickly do those -- do those cases move?

MURRAY: Well, you know, one of the things that people say about the Cy Vance investigation, the Manhattan district attorney, is, you know, he's not going to be running for re-election. He's got about ten months on his term. So folks are watching that investigation, saying, look, if he's going to bring charges, this is kind of the window to do it.


MURRAY: And we know, you know, the former president has called these investigations politically motivated. He said they're fishing expeditions. But what's interesting in both the investigations from Cy Vance and from Tish James is that they both have access to a lot of the former president's financial records either because of this Supreme Court decision or through tax firms that have worked with the Trump Organization. So we're waiting to see.

You know, it's interesting, Tish James recently did an interview where she said it doesn't matter to us that the president is now out of office. We're going to continue on with this investigation.

HARLOW: Right.

And then you've got what's going on in Washington, D.C., you know, the most recent of these developments, where prosecutors are investigating former President Trump for his alleged role in the insurrection.

MURRAY: Of course.

HARLOW: I just wonder sort of where those stand and what specifically they're looking at with him.

MURRAY: Well, you know, one of the difficult things in D.C. is that Karl Racine, who's here in D.C., can only really enforce the city codes. So when you're talking about something, you know, more of a federal prosecution, more of a major crime, he really needs to rely on cooperation with the Justice Department.

And so it's a little bit of a waiting game here in D.C. to see if they're going to pursue a serious investigation or potentially even charges against the former president. Of course, all of this related to this mob that got whipped up and stormed the Capitol on January 6th.

And so it's -- it's a little bit of a waiting game here. You know, Karl Racine has said he's going to look at the law, he's going to look at the facts. But part of it is also going to be waiting on the Justice Department.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: That's a lot of investigations, Sara Murray, all active. Hard to forget that. Thanks very much.

MURRAY: Sure. SCIUTTO: Well, in just minutes, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, will testify on the deadly insurrection at the Capitol. It will be the first time we hear from him since that deadly assault. Did the FBI fail to warn and protect the Capitol? We're going to see how he responds, next.



HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Coming up in moments, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, will face tough questions from Senate lawmakers, both parties, as he testifies for the first time about the deadly January 6th insurrection. We will take you to his remarks live when they begin momentarily.

HARLOW: And right now there are big questions for Wray about what the FBI knew, when did they know it, about risks and domestic terrorists, still post (ph) them today after the insurrection.

Let's go to Evan Perez, our colleague, for a quick preview of Ray's remarks.

And so notable, as Dick Durbin, who we just saw there, chairing the committee said yesterday, first time they're going to hear from him, this committee, since July of 2019. And really the first time he's being questioned at all about the insurrection.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. You know, we make it a little bit of a joke that the FBI director has been in a bit of a bunker to save his job.


Obviously, there was a lot of pressure under the previous administration. And, frankly, that does bear into this hearing.