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New York Governor Cuomo: There is No Way I Resign; NYC Public High Schools to Reopen Classrooms March 22; Prince harry and Meghan Open Up in Bombshell Interview; Sen. Blunt Lates GOP Incumbent Not Seeking Re-election; Zero Republican Senators Voted for Emergency COVID Relief Bill. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 8, 2021 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo remaining defiant in the face of not just one, but these two scandals and growing pressure to step down. The latest call for the governor's resignation coming from influential Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Five women now, including three former aides, allege sexual harassment by the governor and inappropriate conduct. He's also facing an investigation into allegations his administration tried to hide the number of COVID-related nursing home deaths, but the governor not stepping down.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I'm not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic. And it's -- we've always done the exact opposite. You know, the system is based on due process and the credibility of the allegation.


CNN's Alexandra Field is with me live in New York. And so, Alex, you know, the governor I know was at an event today. Did any of this come up? Did he say anything about the notion of his resigning?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, this is the first time that we've seen the governor publicly since last Wednesday when he did make a statement apologizing to some of his accusers. He did not address any of the allegations today. Instead, he is leaning to stay on powerful statement from just a day ago. I which he says, there is no way in which he'll resign.

That coming as you hear more Democratic leaders are calling for a resignation. That also coming as two more former staff members have come forward, a third and fourth former Cuomo aide. Saying that there was inappropriate conduct from the governor.

You have Karen Hinton who is describing an incident that happened more than 20 years ago when she was a paid consult to Cuomo who was then with Housing and Urban Development. It took place in a Los Angeles hotel room. She says that Cuomo embraced her in a way that lasted too long and was quote, up quote, too intimate.

That on top of accusations that we're hearing from Anna Ruch who is a former aide. She left the administration back in 2015. She's described behavior during which the governor called her sweetheart, asked whether she had a boyfriend and put his arm around her lower back and kissed her hand once when she got up from her desk.

As for these latest accusations, well, Governor Cuomo is flat out denying the accusations made by Hinton. As for the other women who have alleged inappropriate conduct, we heard last week from the governor and again a little bit yesterday apologies for any behavior that made people feel uncomfortable.

He has said that was not his intention. But he has maintained that he has not touched any woman inappropriately. He is therefore saying he will not let step down. Instead he'll let the AG's into these claims of sexual harassment take its course -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alex, thank you.

Staying in New York, the Mayor, Bill de Blasio is giving the green light to reopen classrooms at public high schools. This is what's happening right now and let me find my script.

A return to in-person learning will happen in two weeks. Teachers will return March 18th. To get ready New York City's high schools are the last group to be welcomed back into the building.

CNN's Jean Casarez is following the development today. And so, Jean, I know the mayor is saying all the necessary pieces are in place to reopen. What does that mean? What are they?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That all the proper protocols are in place as you can imagine, but the Department of Education is saying the priority is going to be testing. That every week 20 percent of the students and staff are randomly going to be selected to have COVID-19 testing. Now, of course, you do interest to sign that consent form.

But along with in-person learning there's going to be emphasis on competitive sports returning to the high schools. This will take place beginning in May. But the proper protocols once again in place including masks, but they are also saying they want to try to move all of these sports outdoors as much as possible. There will be no spectators to begin with, and locker rooms will be specifically prohibited.

You know, we have to remember the New York City school district is the largest in the country. There are 488 high schools, 55,000 students and 17,000 staff. And they will all be returning to the classroom March 22nd. But the Department of Education says that .57 is the positivity rate currently in the public schools, very small. And Mayor de Blasio says the emotional toll on students to not being in the classroom has come to an end point. They have to return -- Brooke.


BALDWIN: No, it's -- of course, so many of them want to rush. The it's such a balancing act over education and safety. Jean Casarez, we'll be following all of this right along with you here in New York. Thank you.

Coming up, we have so much more on that explosive interview from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, including Prince Harry's pain when he was talking about the strained relationship with his father and his own brother. Coming up I'll talk to Dean Stott, a friend of the Prince about last night's interview.


BALDWIN: In just about half an hour, people all across Britain will be sitting down to watch this headline-making interview that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan did with Orpah Winfrey.


And the couple, they opened up about how cut off they felt from other members of the royal family. Prince Harry saying his own father, Prince Charles, wouldn't answer the phone after his own son decided to step back from his royal duties.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: No, I -- when we were in Canada, I had three conversations with my grandmother and two conversations with my father before he stopped taking my calls.

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, HARPO PRODUCTIONS CBS/SUNDAY: Why did he stop taking your calls?

PRINCE HARRY: Because I took matters -- by that point I took matters in my own hands. It was like I needed to do this for my family.

WINFREY: Is he taking your calls now?

PRINCE HARRY: Yes, yes, he is. There's a lot of work through there, now I feel really let down because he's been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like, and this is -- and Archie is his grandson.


BALDWIN: Prince Harry also told Orpah that he was disinvited with his grandmother, the queen. Dean Stott is a friend of the Prince. An author and former British Special Forces soldier. Dean, a pleasure to have you on, welcome.

DEAN STOTT, FRIEND OF PRINCE HARRY: Thank you. BALDWIN: Just as a friend of Prince Harry, how much did you know, and

how much of this was just a total shock to you?

STOTT: It's 50/50. I was aware of some of this, but I firsthand watched it with everyone else. And last night I thought it was a powerful, honest -- it was courageous, but at sometimes it was uncomfortable to listen to. And so, yes, for me I was hearing firsthand as well. Again, you don't know what goes on behind closed doors. You know there are potential issues and rifts, and this is an opportunity for them to dispel any sort of hearsay with facts.

BALDWIN: I know that you heard Meghan -- we all heard Meghan in that interview -- you know, voice her mental health concerns, reaching out for help that there wasn't any, she says. And I know you have raised money for the Royal Foundation for one of their mental health campaigns. So I just wanted to put that in there.

But you know, we have to talk about the worries inside the palace walls about baby Archie's skin tones -- according to Meghan. You know, Prince Harry would not say who within the family he had that discussion with and Orpah, herself, said this morning, it was not the queen. It was not Prince Philip. Who could it have been?

STOTT: Yes, I think, you know obviously only they will know, and they are very respectful of the royal family. I think Meghan was very respectful of the royal family as well. You know, I think -- you know, she talks about how her relationship with the queen and, you know, obviously the issue she had with Kate and how that was sort of all drawn a line into the sand.

I think what's really clear here is the distinction between the royal family and the institution, and I think the royal family, you know, sounds to me like they are trapped, and Harry mentions that in there, but the institution, I think they are the ones that need to be sort of questioned and accountable for this. Obviously, Harry won't disclose who said those comments.

But when you -- when you refer to mental health, you talk about Meghan going for help, speaking to them and being turned away. You know, as you mentioned, I raised $1.2 million for one of their mental health campaigns. So they're fully aware of the importance of mental health here, and the fact that they couldn't look after one of their own was very disturbing.

BALDWIN: Also, Harry was very forward about not his father not taking his calls right now, and then of course, his brother William, with whom he says, you know, they've been through hell together and to know how distant they all are. Dean, you know Harry. How important is his family to him and at this point is it irreparable?

STOTT: You know, Harry loves his family. He's got a very close relationship, especially with his grandparents, and he mentioned in the documentary how they communicate even more while he's away. You know, he's been pulled away -- no not pulled away, sorry.

He's stepped back from something all he's ever known. And he was taken a big risk here. Obviously, there's been rifts in between, and I think that is repairable. And I think over time -- and he mentions it in the documentary, that at the end they would hike to see those repair and heal.

BALDWIN: You talk about how he did choose to step away. I mean obviously, he's extraordinarily aware of what have happened with his mother. How his own mother was treated by the palace and the press. How much do you think, Dean, of Diana's experience repeating itself do you think contributed to his decision to leave?

STOTT: I mean, it was a massive, massive impact, you know. He talks about how there was no protection or security for him. You know, we touched on Meghan's mental health. His mother -- he could see history repeating itself and he had to take action. You know, the way the U.K. press and tabloids have been vilifying and malicious lies towards his wife, you know, he doesn't want to be following another coffin and so he had to take action.


BALDWIN: You know, so of the criticism though has been, well, if they don't want to live this private life and they want to stay away from that toxic culture of the U.K. tabloids, then why are they sitting down for this giant interview with Orpah Winfrey, or why are they taking millions of dollars in a deal with Netflix? I mean, I get that he says he stopped getting money from the palace, but how do you square the two?

STOTT: I don't think they ever said they wanted to be away from public eye. You know, what they've said is there's a difference between intrusion and consent. They're saying here, you know, they want to work with the right media and don't fabricate at all or lack of journalistic integrity. They've got the Archewell Productions. They have they're own media company. They're about, you know, Archewell Foundation needs that medium, they're public profile to flourish and grow.

Obviously, he's talked about how all his funding was cut and all he wanted was enough to able to support his family for the security-wise, and I think they are in that position now. And I think it's really exciting to see what they're going to do with the Archewell Foundation. They're lumped together is the philanthropy side.

BALDWIN: Dean Stott, thanks so much for your connection to this family and your expertise. Thank you, sir, appreciate it.

STOTT: Thank you.

BALDWIN: With the Republican Party at a crossroads, senior Senator Roy Blunt announces he won't seek re-election. What that means for his seat and the future for the GOP after Trump.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: It was the Senate surprise of the day. Another old school Republican heading for the exit doors. Missouri's Roy Blunt announced he will not run for re-election in 2022. This way at least he won't have to face a possible primary challenge from a more, shall we say, Trump-friendly Republican.

And in just case you doubted the great big fracture in the grand old party, lawyers for the former president are now demanding the RNC and other committees stop using Donald Trump's name and likeness to raise money. These are committees devoted to helping Republicans get elected. So the de facto head of the Republican Party evidently does not want to be the face of it.

Lots to talk about with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. And Ron, on Senator Blunt, you know -- you know this. He the number four ranking Republican in the Senate. The fifth GOP Senator to announce he's not seeking re-election in 2022. What does his retirement say to you just about the state of the GOP?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, so on the one hand, he has been in elected office since 1984. It's not that shocking at this point in his career. He wants to try something else. On the other, as you point out, it continues the pattern of Republicans from what we call the governing wing of the party, people like Rob Portman, stepping down.

And I think it will be -- if you look at the demography of the Republican coalition in Missouri, heavily blue collar, heavily nonurban, lot of evangelical Christians. It's more likely than not that his replacement, as you noted, will be more "Trumpy" than he is. And I think that'll just be just another indication that the is the direction the party is headed in, for better or worse. So much for the civil war, it about a three to one split in the Trump direction right now among the electorate.

BALDWIN: You know Republican want to regain control of the Senate. Do you think this lessens their chances?

BROWNSTEIN: Missouri is a tough lift for Democrats in the way the parties are dividing now, as we've seen the Democrats become more dominant in urban areas and Republicans become really become stronger in rural areas. Missouri is a state -- I remember campaigning there watching Bill Clinton campaign there in 1992. But it's one that is the kind of dividing line between parties have shifted over the last decade particularly in the Trump era. It's one that's a real tough reach for Democrats.

BALDWIN: Let's pivot and talk about this COVID relief bill. You know, it passed without a single Republican yes vote. And you know, COVID relief, right, massively popular among Americans. People are struggling. Unemployment benefits run out. I think it's the 14th of this month. They need this cash injection. Why do you think Republicans voted against such a popular relief bill?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, you know, that by and large, Republicans in Congress now are almost all representing Trump constituencies, 47 of the 50 Republican Senators are from states that Trump won twice. All but nine of the Republicans in the House are from districts that voted for Trump. And in those districts, in those constituencies, they probably worry more about a primary challenge from a seemingly kind of insufficiently resistant to Biden than they do about the general election locations of opposing this.

Now even though every Republican voted against, having covered the '09 Obama stimulus and the (INAUDIBLE) economic plan, this was not, Brooke, a full-scale uprising against the bill by any means. I mean, the fact that virtually every Democrat from the swing constituency felt comfortable voting for it, I think it was equally revealing.

But while Republicans in Washington are kind of felt the pressure to say no, they did not generate anything like the grassroots mobilization against this. And I think that's very significant and also has great implications for what Biden can do next on issues like the infrastructure plan that they're developing.

BALDWIN: And not only that but, you know, we talk to Democrats and how, you know, the child policy and money for parents, that they so desperately need, could revolutionize, you know, that space and in terms of that have policy. Ron Brownstein, we're going to leave it there. I want to pick up on that. Hold on a second. You know what? I lied. We have more time. So I'm going to stay with you.

BROWNSTEIN: All right.

So you know --

BALDWIN: Go ahead. Go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say like, you know, all the focus on the minimum wage coming out --


BROWNSTEIN: -- and Joe Manchin slightly trimming the unemployment benefits.


If you look at this compared, as I said, the Clinton '93, the Obama on '90, even for that matter, the 2001 Bush tax cut which passed through a 50/50 Senate and two Republican Senators made him cut it by 25 percent to get it through the Senate in 2001.

If look at all those precedents, Democrats as you know, held together on this to a remarkable extent behind policy that is really sweeping. We're talking $1.9 trillion bill and Republicans were reading Dr. Seuss, you know, on Twitter while it was happening.

Which would suggest that, you know, they did not feel that within their coalition they really could ignite a backlash against this. And even though there was not Republican support in Washington, there were mayors, there were police chiefs, there were governors in some cases, and that is something that I think creates a different environment. While Republicans are focused on culture, it leaves a lot of room for Biden on economics.

BALDWIN: Ron Brownstein, thanks for a little bit of bonus time today. Ron, thank you very much. We'll talk again, my friend. Thank you.

Break today when it comes to COVID, the CDC has finally revealed its long-awaited guidance on the dos and don'ts after getting the COVID vaccine and the travel industry, specifically, is none too pleased about it.