Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Hospitalizations Surge In Missouri As Virus Spreads Statewide; Canada Surpasses U.S. In Percentage Of Total Population Fully Vaccinated; Cases Soar In England As Government Prepares To Reopen; WHO Warns Middle East, North Africa Nearing Critical Point In COVID Cases; New York A.G. Office Questions Governor Cuomo In Sexual Harassment Probe; Interview With State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D- TX); Rioter Who Entered Senate Chamber To Be Sentenced Today; 160 Dead, Hundreds Still Missing In Flooding Aftermath. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 17, 2021 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[19:00:21]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Rising COVID cases, slowing vaccination rates and hospitalizations going up. Now more communities say they need help.

Plus, Texas lawmakers now positive for COVID. Three so far. They met members of Congress and the vice president. Tonight, they're taking precautions in the nation's Capitol.

And German towns devastated by flooding. Dozens of people are dead, hundreds still missing at this hour.

I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday.

And we begin this hour with the latest on where the coronavirus may have come from. Senior White House officials say they now believe the theory that the virus escaped from a lab is at least as credible as a possibility that it emerged naturally.

This is according to sources I spoke with along with some of my colleagues. And this is a dramatic shift from a year ago when Democrats and public health officials downplayed the so-called lab leak theory.

A short time ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN he's not so sure, but he's leaning one way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I, together with many, are highly qualified vaccinologist, including -- and virologists, I mean, including a recent paper by 21 internationally renowned virologist and evolutionary biologists from all over the world, indicate that, although we keep an open mind, that it is possible that it could be, as they say, a lab leak, that the most likely explanation is a natural evolution from an animal reservoir to a human.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Scientists are having this discussion as new COVID cases are back on the upswing across America. Look at this map right here on your screen. Despite the widely available and highly effective vaccines, all of that red on your screen is being driven by the spread of that more contagious Delta variant and by a definite slowdown in vaccination rates across the country.

In some states, the human toll of the pandemic is worse than ever. One of those states, Missouri. The daily case rate there is more than triple the U.S. average. Now health workers in one county are sounding the alarm and asking the state to fund an alternative care site an as they prepare for a surge in people who need to be hospitalized.

Joining me now is Katie Towns, she is the acting director of Health Department in Springfield-Greene County, Missouri.

Katie, thanks for coming on the show. What are you seeing in your county right now?

KATIE TOWNS, ACTING DIRECTOR, SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY, MISSOURI HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Thanks for having me. So today we're in the middle of a complete surge in our hospitalizations. The numbers of cases continue to rise. And we are just at a place where we need help like was reported. We need an alternative care site and we've requested that from the state.

BROWN: So, are these mostly unvaccinated people that are getting infected? Are you seeing younger people? Try to give us a little more detail on how this is playing out there in your county.

TOWNS: Yes, so, currently, we still are hovering just around 40 percent of our county is vaccinated. And that's of the eligible population. Those that are hospitalized are those who are unvaccinated and, unfortunately, talking to health care professionals that work right here in our community, there's a lot of regret. And folks are getting sick and they're ending up in the hospital and all of a sudden, they're expressing the fact that they wished that they would have been vaccinated.

So we're trying to use any of these opportunities to sort of share that regret and make sure that people understand that there's something that you can do now and that can help prevent a lot of this illness and death that we're seeing in our community.

BROWN: And how would you describe your level of concern right now?

TOWNS: I'm extremely concerned. Our projections are showing that we probably won't see a peak in these cases in the numbers rising until sometime in August, and that's a long time from now. And so our resources are thin right now, as we've asked for additional help.

And to get to August before we see a peak and start to see these cases come down, it's going to be difficult. I'm proud of our community. We have a tremendous set of leadership here that has banded together and we are working on a collective way that we manage this situation.

[19:05:05]

We're strong and we are resilient, but we really just wish that people would hear the message loud and clear and get vaccinated while you can.

BROWN: And you talked about how some who chose not to get vaccinated then became very ill with COVID expressed regret. What is the main reason you're hearing from people who are making that choice to not get vaccinated?

TOWNS: So there's a lot of different reasons, but I would say the primary reason that we've hear people are saying that they haven't chosen to be vaccinated yet is that they're waiting to see the long- term effects of the vaccine, and that they -- maybe they've already had COVID and believe that they have protection from natural immunity, which we are definitely seeing play out in the fact that people who have had COVID in the past are ending up in the hospital.

So that's not a good form of protection. And, you know, just sort of the other conspiracy theories that have been spread and misinformed people. So unfortunately, we're hearing a lot of different reasons.

BROWN: And how much do you think misinformation has played a role in that, misinformation spread on social media?

TOWNS: It's tremendous. I mean, people are hearing rumors about the lack of safety, the lack of length of time that this vaccine has been tested and it has played a huge, a tremendous role in people being fearful, and we're trying to overcome that, but it has definitely taken a stronghold and has prevented people from taking part in the vaccine, which is the tool that we need and we will use in order to create a long-term solution against this virus.

BROWN: Right. It's -- it's an effort, it's a united effort to end this virus, right? We all need to kind of be in this together.

TOWNS: It has to be.

BROWN: It has to be. That's how you ended polio and other big diseases in the past.

All right, Katie Towns, thank you for coming on and sharing what you're experiencing there on the ground in Missouri.

TOWNS: Thank you for covering.

BROWN: The Delta variant -- no problem.

And we were just talking with Katie about that Delta variant, it isn't just causing a rise in U.S. cases like in places like Missouri, this week, the head of the World Health Organization said it's traveling around the world at what he calls a scorching pace. Many nations are suddenly finding themselves caught between reopening plans and the growing realization that this pandemic is far from over. Our CNN reporters have the latest developments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Canada, this is quite a milestone, given the slow start that it got off to. Now, both Canadians and Americans now at over 48 percent fully vaccinated, but if you go back to a split screen, even in May, Canada had very few people fully vaccinated.

It was trying to get as many doses as possible, first doses into as many people as possible. And the reason there has been a lot less vaccine hesitancy here because of what was unfortunately in the spring and late winter, a punishing third wave of the virus.

Hospitalization hospitalizations were through the roof. They had to transfer patients from hospital to hospital, just to make sure that they could get care. And really, cities like Toronto, in fact, have only now emerged from lockdown. Canada is still being quite cautious. They say that they will open borders to fully vaccinated international visitors, possibly throughout August and September. But they're saying that because of the Delta variant, they will continue to be quite cautious.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Phil Black in Essex, England, where daily confirmed COVID-19 cases have now soared to a point not seen since the last winter peak and they're expected to keep climbing much higher, just as the government is preparing to throw away the pandemic rule book in England from Monday. No more rules about social distancing, masks, or crowd sizes.

Reopening in the middle of a growing wave hasn't been tried by any other country. And even the government's own scientists say they can't be sure how it's going to turn out because it will ultimately determine by how cautiously people choose to behave. There are critics here internationally who describe this as reckless and unethical because they say the Delta variant is so contagious, the vaccine program is incomplete.

So inevitably in the near-term, vast numbers of people will fall ill, many of them seriously. And there are also concerns this creates the circumstances in which new mutations, new variants could develop and there's a significant risk some of them could be better at beating, getting around the currently available vaccines.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Arwa Damon in Istanbul. The World Health Organization is warning that the Middle East and North Africa are nearing a critical point due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, largely due to the Delta variant, as well as significantly low vaccination rates.

[19:10:06]

Tunisia has gone into lockdown and is warning that its oxygen beds and ICU capacity are nearing a maximum. Iran, the hardest hit country in the region, is about to break its own infection records. And Iraq is reporting its highest mortality rate to date. There are grave concerns that numbers will only continue to rise, as we are about to enter the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, which is traditionally marked by gatherings and social celebration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Our thanks to all of our reporters around the world.

Well, she lost her mother to COVID. Now an Arkansas nurse has a message for those who don't want to get the vaccination. I'm going to talk to her coming up in the show.

But first, members of New York's attorney general's office sit down with the governor of that state to question him over claims of sexual harassment. Federal defense attorney Caroline Polisi joins me next to talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:07]

BROWN: Welcome back. We are following breaking news out of Texas where a chemical leak at a water park forced dozens of people to take decontamination showers. And we have just learned the number of people sickened now stands at around 65. About 20 people went to hospitals after some sort of chemical leak at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown, that's right, near Houston. And we know that sulfuric acid and bleach were involved. The trouble happened around a kiddie pool.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY JUDGE: A lifeguard was sick and soon after that, more and more people began becoming sick, children were walking out of the pool with respiratory issues. And eventually, it became very clear that there was something either in the environment or the water that was making these children sick, these families sick.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: How frightening. Fortunately, none of the victims are reported to be in any kind of life-threatening condition, but the patients include a 3-year-old and a pregnant woman in labor. The victims mainly suffered minor skin irritation or breathing problems. And the park is closed while the investigation continues.

And turning to New York now and a pivotal day in the political life and legal peril of embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. A source familiar with the investigation into sexual harassment allegations says Cuomo was facing questions today from members of the New York state attorney general's office.

Joining me now is Caroline Polisi. She is a defense attorney for federal and white-collar crimes. Caroline, nice to see you. CNN has reached out to the New York state

attorney general's office for comment and the governor's office is completely tight-lipped, but how significant was this interview today?

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE-COLLAR DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'd say very significant, Pamela. Remember, this is the first time that the governor is going to get to share his side of the story. We've seen these sort of blanket global denials of any wrongdoing, generally, but he's going to have to get into specifics today, and the setting is going to be under oath in a deposition.

You know, the reporting indicates that he's really been preparing for this with his own attorneys. The lawyers conducting the deposition are pretty heavy hitters, one of whom is the former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York. So, you know, they're going to get into specifics. And I would also note that, you know, they've had the benefit of four months of lead time in this investigation.

Tish James' office has, you know, been conducting this investigation for a while. They've likely talked to many other witnesses, and this is probably one of the last, if not the last interview they're going to do.

BROWN: So put this into context, how rare is this for a sitting governor be subjected to questioning from his state's attorney general's office?

POLISI: Well, I mean, I would say pretty rare. I would note what is also remarkable is actually the number of simultaneous investigations going on right now. Remember, the New York state assembly has an impeachment inquiry ongoing, looking into some of these types of allegations, the sexual misconduct as well as, you know, underreporting of nursing home deaths in the early days of the COVID pandemic. They've hired Davis Polk to conduct that investigation. And there's a federal probe, as well. So, you know, the governor is really in the hot seat.

BROWN: What questions do you think the investigators are asking the governor today?

POLISI: Well, like I said, you know, they have interviewed many of the women that have made allegations against him, you know, in the months leading up to this. So they're going to have a detailed road map. They're really going to come out with a credibility assessment here. You know, I'd also note that it's not just with respect to his conduct. At least one of the alleged accusers, you know, brought a formal complaint to the governor's office.

And so this inquiry is really circling around whether that office and those in the upper echelons followed the policies and procedures that they were supposed to during this time.

BROWN: So is that the main thing they're trying to nail down today? Just credibility when it comes to him and his story?

POLISI: Certainly, yes. The exposure here obviously is not criminal. This is really, when it comes down to it, a political inquiry. And, you know, the office is going to release a public report and they're going to assess the voracity of not only the women's claims, but, you know, Cuomo's claims, as well, with respect to his denials.

And so I think the question comes down to, you know, how much the public or his constituents can stomach, depending on, you know, what comes out in this report.

BROWN: All right. Caroline Polisi, thanks so much for joining us on this Saturday.

POLISI: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: And coming up, a controversial voting rights bill is at the heart of a political showdown in the Lone Star State. After the break, both sides of the fight. A Texas Democrat and a Texas Republican make their case right here on the show.

[19:20:05]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, the Texas Senate approved a controversial voting rights bill this week, part of a special session called by Republican Governor Greg Abbott. But House Democrats walked out to prevent a quorum and a final vote on the bill. It's the second time they've resorted to such action. But this time, they flew to Washington, where they met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and pivotal Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Nevertheless, Governor Abbott vows he'll win this showdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: I can and I will continue to call special session after special session after special session, all the way up until election next year.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

[19:25:08]

BROWN: Abbott is also threatening to arrest the Democrats if they step foot back in the state and drag them to the state capitol for a vote, though it's not clear he has that authority.

Ultimately, Texas Democrats do lack the votes to block this controversial bill. It would reign in things like drive-through and 24-hour voting, further tighten the rules for voting by mail, and bolster access for partisan poll watchers. By fleeing to Washington, Texas Democrats have now turned national attention to voting rights battles in several states in the wake of the 2020 election.

One of those Texas Democrats joins me now, State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer.

Nice to see you, Representative. We had planned to have you join me here in the studio, but several members of your delegation have now tested positive for COVID since arriving in Washington. In fact, I think we have a photo of many of your colleagues maskless here on a private plane to Washington. As we know, if this was a commercial flight, you would have been required to wear a mask, but how is everybody doing right now?

STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D-TX): You know, we're saying prayers for our colleagues. I mean, they're resting. They seem to be doing OK. All of us are taking appropriate measures. That's why you and I aren't together right now. And you know, listen, I mean, it's a tough tragedy, but, you know, democracy is worth it. I mean, this is a fight we need to have and, you know, we'll get better, but the fight continues.

BROWN: Governor Abbott is claiming that your delegation is using taxpayer money for this. Are any taxpayer funds helping to cover expenses right now?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: Yes, I'm going to have to give the governor about four Pinocchios on that. This is all privately funds. This is campaign funds. This is Democratic caucus funds. This is not a government junket, no taxpayer money. Never has been, never will be.

BROWN: But those aren't unlimited resources. I mean, there are more than 50 legislators and a dozen paid staff in Washington. You say that you'll stay there until the special session ends August 7th. But what happens when the cash runs out? Are you just delaying the inevitable here?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: Well, you know, we have hope, number one, number two, we have more than 50 members here, which means we have more than 50 campaign accounts. We are all shouldering this load. We know that we are holding the line for the nation on voting rights. We have a moral responsibility, a moral obligation. We certainly won't turn down any help. People who want to help us, but we are prepared to stay here if that's what it takes to get voting rights to Americans.

BROWN: Why do you have hope?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: You know, I mean, this country is built on hope. Today is the one-year anniversary of John Lewis who gave his life for voting rights. You know, we all walk in his shoes, we stand on his shoulders. It is hope that's going to bring this country together.

It is hope that's going to bring the courage to the U.S. Senate and it is hope that will bring Joe Manchin and Senator Sinema to come around and understand that democracy is on the line, and we need one standard when it comes to voting in this country and that is the American standard.

BROWN: Did you get any assurances after your meetings with people like Senator Manchin, other Democrats?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: You know, number one, we're grateful for the opportunity to meet. I don't think that you can just come to town and have, you know, every meeting opened up for you. We have been honored to visit with Vice President Harris. We met with a number of senators. We met with Senator Manchin. He's expressed his views, but we understand from talking with other senators that the Senate is working its will.

Leader Schumer is working his caucus operation. They know they have some vote to take before the August recess, and we know voting rights is part of the domestic agenda. So our job right now is to rally this nation and make sure that the U.S. Senate hears us and not only do they hear us, but that they act and they act by passing the For the People Act, hopefully before the August 6th recess.

BROWN: So I understand you want to be in Washington to call more attention to this. But the bottom line is Governor Abbott has made it clear, this is going to pass one way or another. He's going to keep holding special sessions. Why not -- why didn't the Democrats just stay in Texas and try to debate this on the floor and amend those measures, rather, that you find most troubling. Would that not be a more productive use of your time?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: You know, we do that for lots of things, and you are correct. But I'm sure you know we've debated this proposal for a 24- hour period in committee. In the committees where you really do all the work, the committees where you consider alternative language, it's the committee where you consider and adopt amendments.

Republicans would not adopt a single amendment offered by Democrats and so their mission was to pass it and pass it quick. Their mission was to pass it over our objections. They weren't willing will be pragmatic.

Listen, I am the voice for 180,000 working people in the city of San Antonio. I am the voice that will not just sit in a chair and be steamrolled by Republicans to satisfy some partisan agenda. I want to be part of the solution. It takes two to tango. When they're ready to talk, we're always ready to talk. But we're going to represent our constituents in the meantime.

[19:30:00]

BROWN: What do you say to the Republicans who would say, look, we've made concessions in this latest bill. It allows voters to fix their ballots if there are mistakes. They got rid of early voting on Sundays and the measure allowing courts to overturn results without evidence of fraud. What do you say?

FISCHER: I say, thanks to the work of networks like yours and others, who really had to shine a bright light on that injustice. They didn't fix it because they wanted to. They fixed it because they had to. But I would go a little further and say, well, tell me why we need to give the Proud Boys the authority to be a partisan poll watcher, look over my shoulder, watch me touch a screen as to how I vote, and why would we give the Proud Boys more power over the Election Judge?

And if the Election Judge ever told a Proud Boy not to intimidate, not to harass a voter, it's the Election Judge who could be charged with a crime and not the Proud Boy? I want to know, why do we have to have that?

BROWN: Just to be clear, you're saying hypothetically, if a Proud Boy was a partisan poll watcher, that would have just been a warning and the poll watcher wouldn't have been facing any criminal repercussions. That's what you're saying.

FISCHER: I think that we need to identify what a partisan poll watcher looks like and a lot of them would like the folks that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, those folks have no business monitoring elections in any place in America.

BROWN: Well, and I don't know that we have any evidence that the Proud Boys white supremacists were poll watchers, but State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, thank you for coming on and sharing your side of this story.

And as we mentioned, that's one side of the story. Joining me now for the other point of view is Republican Texas representative Travis Clardy. Thanks for coming on.

So, you have said the 2020 election was safe and secure. Texas already has some of the strictest voting laws in the country. Why is this bill even necessary?

STATE REP. TRAVIS CLARDY (R-TX): So, thank you, Pamela, for having me on. And yes, we did have a very safe and very solid and very reliable election in November of 2020.

But the reason this bill is necessary is because we always have to make sure we're doing our best to have those sorts of reliable elections that every session, we look at issues, regardless of what it is -- transportation, or healthcare, or water or whatever.

We are always trying to make your laws better. But, just listening to my colleague, Trey Martinez Fischer, who I love dearly, I encourage Trey to please come home. I can tell about some of the things he said, I think he's already spent too much time in Washington, D.C. It's time to go back to Texas.

BROWN: So you say look, we're always trying to improve even though the 2020 election was really successful, it was record turnout, I think the second highest since 1992. More than 11 million people voted in the last election in what was deemed as very successful, as you say so yourself.

But we did some research, and it's been nearly a decade since Texas passed new voting laws like this. I mean, why now then? I mean, what's the reason of trying to pass this comprehensive overhaul? Is this just an extension of the big lie? Would you have been doing this if it weren't for the big lie?

CLARDY: Absolutely not. What this is about -- and you make a great point. It's been 10 years since we've done kind of an overhaul of our election laws, and I think it was very much time to do this. BROWN: So, then, but if it's so important to continue to improve, why

aren't you doing it every opportunity you get there? Why now at a time where you're seeing multiple Republican states change their election laws and put in more restrictions?

CLARDY: And you'll appreciate this, Texas is a very diverse state, and we always have to balance uniformity with also being on the cutting edge of election law. If you look back historically, Texas is on the front of by having early voting. There's a lot of states that don't have early voting or mail-in ballots.

I was just looking at the -- the bill is now before the special session that we heard the other night for -- right at 24 hours. It actually extensive potential hours from I think it's 107 to 189, depending upon what that election professional in that county, whether it be a county of a thousand people or a county as large as Harris County in Houston. You have to make these things work.

One thing that's lost in translation here is -- we also need to be cognizant and respectful of the people that work the polls, in both of the trenches. They show up in the mornings early, stay late, and make sure the elections run well and that's what we have to try to do.

We have great elections --

BROWN: And just to be clear, because I've heard -- I've heard Republican lawmakers say -- I just want to make sure -- because I read through the bill and I want to just make sure there is a House Bill and a Senate Bill, Republican lawmakers, including Governor Abbott have said look, this is expanding early voting.

It only expands early voting by one hour in local elections, not in the general election. And the case has been made by Republicans. Look this is only expanding the access, but how is it expanding access when it gets rid of 24-hour voting access drive-thru voting and bans drop boxes.

CLARDY: All right, thank you. There's never been a 24-hour voting in Texas, never an unlimited drop ballot --

BROWN: In the 2020 election there was in Harris County.

[19:35:06]

CLARDY: No, and that was closed out, I think very quickly by the Attorney General because that's not uniform across the state. There needs to be an even and consistent application of law across all parts of Texas.

Nobody's vote should be easier to cast or harder to vote. One vote should count the same. I don't care if you're the governor or you're the groundskeeper. And that's what we're trying to do in a diverse state like Texas.

But I want to correct you, we have more people vote in the last election than any vote ever. We had more than four million people vote, 50 percent more from 2016 to 2020. You know, the only curious thing is --

BROWN: I think it was more 11 million in the 2020 election, but we'll double check that. But really quick.

CLARDY: But the interesting thing -- yes, go ahead.

BROWN: It was more and I think we looked up, it was the second highest since 1992. But you say look, this is to make it more uniform. But how can you say this is just a way to standardize voting across the state when you've created different voting periods for large and small counties? I mean, that's the opposite of standardizing voting.

CLARDY: No, we've left the flexibility with those professionals. Yes, I'm a big proponent of local control. So, we have a small county and that election professional, that clerk, that elections administrator make the decision, what works best for them. They know what kind of staff they have.

You go to a midsize county, same thing. You go to a large country like Harris or Dallas, it's a different kind of demand.

But again, that's why I trust our election professionals because we have a very good history and I am very proud of the election that was run in November 2020. We did good things. But we also have seen abuses, we have seen problems.

And I'm of the opinion that we have to have zero tolerance -- zero tolerance for fraud or abuse or election illegality, and that's what we were about. You know, it needs to be easier to vote for everybody.

BROWN: Right, and from what we see so far, as we looked at the numbers and evidence of voter fraud, it's less than one percent from 2004. But really quick, I just want to home in on a point you made. You said, "I'm all for local control, I think the counties -- we should leave it to the counties to do what they think is best for their voters."

Well, in Harris County, a huge county in Texas that does lean Democratic, they want to do the 24-hour access. They want to give that access to shift workers. So, then why aren't you allowing election officials in Harris County to do that, if that's what they want to do in their county?

CLARDY: And again, within those parameters of a broad overview, we're allowing discretion within the context of uniformity within the state. I think that makes sense. You know, the law that we've not heard anytime we've had any kind of hearing when it comes to the elections in regular session, and in the special session, 24 hours, at least so far.

Pamela, you're aggrieved by who is unable to vote in Texas, and the reason is, we have great -- and I will use the word liberal voting laws in Texas. If you want to vote in Texas, you're eligible to --

BROWN: That's not true. Voting laws are not liberal in Texas. Texas has some of the strictest laws on the books. CLARDY: Oh, no, I strongly disagree with that assessment. If you want

to vote in Texas, you're eligible. You're registered. You can vote in Texas. No one has come forward and said, I tried to vote and I just couldn't. That is not the case.

BROWN: There is no mail-in ballots. You can't -- I mean, sorry, there are no -- there are no ballot boxes, those are now banned under this legislation. You have to have an excuse to use a mail-in ballot unless you're 65 or older. I mean, there's all kinds of stipulations there.

But really quick, I still just don't understand on the uniformity part that you made. Because look, there is a difference between what the big counties can do and the smaller counties, and when I pointed that out that there isn't uniformity, you said, "Well, we should leave it up to the local officials."

But the local officials in these counties want to do something different than what you're proposing, like in Harris County, there's a limit there now. You can only vote between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. according to this House Bill; the Senate Bill, it's 9:00 p.m. That's a limit. That's not what they want.

CLARDY: With the current, it's been from seven, seven to six to 10. We've increased from a potential 107 to 189 hours of eligible voting. And I'm telling you, we had a great election with 107 hours. We've really been on the forefront and have made it easier for people to vote, but we're going to continue to make it harder for people to cheat in Texas elections.

If we see it, we are going to root it out ruthlessly --

BROWN: Where is the fraud on making it harder for people to cheat in this last election? Where's the evidence of that?

CLARDY: Thank you, Pamela. Because what you don't see it and I think what the national media is hyper focused on is these national elections in November every four years. We have elections every six months every year in Texas and where we are seeing a lot of problems. All the election laws are --

BROWN: Well, gosh, why then wait nearly a decade to make this comprehensive legislation?

CLARDY: Well, we've been vigorously prosecuting and investigating these complaints, and we have seen a really serious trend developing. They are going from dozens of cases to hundreds of cases, which we currently have.

This is something we want to nip in the bud. We cannot allow the perception that Texas elections are anything but fair and they're reliable. The best thing we do in Texas, when we get the elections done at 7:30 to eight o'clock, we have our early vote. We have our mail-in ballots. We know what they are. By 10 o'clock nearly all precincts across the state are covered, and when we go to bed at night in Texas, the election is over, a hundred percent of the vote.

[19:40:04]

CLARDY: I will challenge every other state in the union to follow the Texas model. So, we're not wondering what happens in the wee hours of the night or what happens in two or three days later when they're chasing in mail-in ballots to change the outcome of an election?

Follow Texas's lead.

BROWN: You're creating -- that's not what happens. And, again, you've said the 2020 election was successful, and we looked at the numbers. Less than one percent of any allegations of fraud since 2004. We could talk about this all day, State Representative Travis Clardy. I tried to give you the time to also make your case on this behind this bill in Texas.

This conversation will continue. You're always welcome back on the show, Representative.

CLARDY: Thank you, Pam. I'm looking forward to next time. Bye-bye.

BROWN: Thank you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:45:16]

BROWN: The Secret Service grossly underestimated the threat of violence ahead of the January 6th U.S. Capitol insurrection. That's the takeaway from the Intelligence brief obtained by a liberal watchdog group.

According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the U.S. Secret Service had Intelligence on the groups planning to hold events at the Capitol that day, but they saw no clues that things would get out of hand.

CNN's Marshall Cohen joins me now. So Marshall, what else did the Secret Service know or not know ahead of time?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Pam, good evening. The big takeaway here is that they missed the mark. They repeatedly determined that there would be probably no civil disobedience on January 6th.

These documents show that the Secret Service looked at large organizations that had ties to the Trump White House, all the way down to tiny Facebook groups that have maybe a dozen attendees. And for each group, they decided that there was little chance of civil disobedience, and that's of course, what inspired them to give the greenlight to Mike Pence, who is of course, is their protectee. He went to the Capitol that day. He was in danger. The rest is history -- Pam.

BROWN: And also Marshall, another Capitol rioter is set to be sentenced this coming Monday. What kind of prison time could this person be looking at? COHEN: This could really be a watershed moment in the investigation.

The third rioter to be sentenced. His name is Paul Hodgkins. He is pleading guilty to a felony because he made it all the way in the Senate Chamber, he was on the dais where Mike Pence had been standing just a few minutes earlier.

So, he pleaded guilty to a felony. Probably that type of charge could get one to two years in prison. The Justice Department asked for one and a half, right in the middle. This guy is asking for probation. He wants leniency.

His lawyer said that being a convicted felon is punishment enough. He is going to lose his voting rights. He is going to lose his right to bear arms. It will all be up to the Judge. They will decide on Monday, but it really could be an important moment in this investigation -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Marshall Cohen, thanks for bringing us the very latest.

Well right now, it is a nightmare across Western Europe. More than 150 people are dead, hundreds unaccounted for as historic floodwaters cover entire towns. We're live in Germany.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:56]

BROWN: The conflict in Jerusalem has been centuries in the making, and now, a new CNN Original Series takes you back 3,000 years through six epic battles for the most coveted city in the world. "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury" premieres tomorrow night at 10 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

Well, across much of Western Europe tonight, riverside villages are swept away and streets and neighborhoods are buried under a wall of mud. The death toll from catastrophic flooding has risen to 160 people and hundreds more are missing. Rescuers are racing to find survivors.

CNN's Atika Shubert is in one of the hardest hit areas of Germany. Atika, it's hard to fully capture the scope of this tragedy. What are you seeing there?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're going to have to forgive the noise because there is this incredible cleanup operation happening here overnight. Just a few hours ago, the streets up here were still covered with debris and mud, but in just really the last few minutes, these heavy machinery have come through to clear the roadways, and that is going to actually be a big help to a lot of the villages here that had been stranded and cut off without any communication. So, this is actually a good sign.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of search and rescue also happening in other towns. A lot of people still remain missing, more than 130 people died here in Germany alone. But now what they're doing is trying to look for any possible survivors, but the reality is, if there are still any bodies that have to be recovered.

So this is what a lot of the focus has been on recently because there are still dozens of people listed as missing -- Pamela.

BROWN: Just awful. Atika Shubert, thanks for staying up late for us there in Germany. We appreciate it -- to bring us the latest there on the ground.

Well outrage is growing this Saturday night among Cuban-Americans as the communist regime in Havana cracks down on dissent after historic protests there.

According to human rights activists, Cuba's government has detained more than 400 people. But from outside the White House to Miami this weekend, the calls for democracy in Cuba only grow here in the U.S. as well.

This has been called the biggest crackdown in Cuba in years.

And we have some breaking news out of Texas to share with you tonight. That's where dozens are taking decontamination showers due to a chemical leak in a local waterpark. We're going to have a live report coming up.

And a heartbreaking plea as well. Later in the show, I'm going to speak with one daughter who lost her mom to COVID after she refused to get vaccinated.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:59:24]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: If you are unvaccinated, the risk is incredibly high. It may be in some areas higher than it's ever been because there are not mask mandates.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Ninety nine point five percent of the deaths that occur from COVID-19 are among unvaccinated individuals.

If you are unvaccinated, the risk is incredibly high. It may be in some areas higher than it's ever been because there are not masked mandates. 99.5% of the deaths that occur from COVID-19 are among unvaccinated individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's at a level that we've not seen before. The warning signals just were alarming, but also didn't really give us enough time to adequately keep up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get vaccinated, you are less likely to get sick and wind up in the hospital.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Social media platforms and other tech platforms, we are seeing the rampant spread of misinformation, and it is costing people their lives.

QUESTION: What's your message to platforms like Facebook?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:00:12]