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Gov. Cuomo Again Denies Sexual Harassment After Damning Report; NYC Announces Vaccine Requirement for Indoor Dining, Fitness Centers, Entertainment & Performances; De Blasio Wants to Make It Difficult for Unvaccinated to Enjoy New York; 1 in 3 COVID Cases Were in Florida & Texas Last Week; Police Officer Dies after Shooting Outside the Pentagon. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired August 3, 2021 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You have to step back and sort of remember that this is one of the most storied names in American politics.
And the last two and a half hours has just been a bombshell nature. Not just in New York state, of course, but just nationally in this moment of what -- of where Andrew Cuomo finds himself.
I know he doesn't think this is going to be the end of his responding to this. But he clearly set out to try and suggest that the report was biased. He set out to deny any inappropriate touching whatsoever.
And then I thought, in one of the strangest episodes of this, in the Charlotte Bennett stuff, which Tish James said, or the outside investigator, Ann Clark (ph), said was the most corroborated of all the complaints, right?
In that moment, he sought to be sort of -- portray himself, I think, as a savior in that story, that he -- that that entire relationship and interaction is different than he had normally because he was trying to make sure she was OK.
I think that is going to be a really tough narrative for him to sell convincingly to voters about the Charlotte Bennett complaint specifically.
He had goals here. There's no doubt.
But what you saw most of all was, at the end of it, Andrew Cuomo trying to remind New Yorkers that he's there not for his own wellbeing, but that he's there to try to do good for them. Get back to work.
We've seen this time and again, when politicians get engulfed in scandal, they're going to focus on voters. And now we'll see if the New York voters will buy that.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: It seems he's going to continue to fight for his reputation and for his job as New York governor.
David, we had a lot of Democrats, even before the report came out, calling for him to resign.
Here was President Biden in March. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: If the investigation confirms the claims of the women, should he resign?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. I think he probably is going to be prosecuted, too.
A woman should be presumed to telling the truth and should not become victimized by her coming forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: There are actually two dig questions there, one legal and one political.
Let's start with the legal because we heard the president say he should probably be prosecuted, too, should the findings show there was criminal wrongdoing.
It appeared, according to the statement at the press conference today by the New York attorney general, that she feels her hands are tired. She can't move forward with criminal charges.
I wonder, Elie Honig, why can't she?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: She can. She can refer criminal charges to other district attorneys.
The attorney general herself has somewhat limited criminal jurisdiction in New York State.
But she absolutely had that option to say, hey, Albany district attorney or any other district attorney, perhaps in Manhattan, I refer the cases to you.
Now, anybody can prefer a matter to a D.A.. Of course, it carries way more impact, way more heft if it comes from the state attorney general.
Now, Letitia James opted not to do that, it is worth noting.
There is a police report that results from one of these incidents, the alleged groping up the blouse that was filed in Albany. That will be up to the local police and prosecutors whether to proceed on it, with or without a referral. The governor now has a three-front battle. He has potential criminal
charges, potential civil charges, which any or all of these 11 complainants can bring against them, claiming they were sexually harassed.
And he has to worry about impeachment. I thought it was interesting. In his statement, he tried to sweep impeachment off to the side.
But Laura Coates said before, there's such a thing as state impeachment. He can be impeached.
A lot of Democrat leaders have said he should resign. We'll see if they back up their rhetoric now.
CABRERA: Laura, do you think he'll face charges?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, on the ideas of assault, in terms of the groping up the blouse, the idea -- I think there was one allegation he ran his fingers along the logo on the chest of another person, somebody who attended a work-related event, not a staff member, having her behind groped.
These are the foundation of certain assault charges that can be raised as a state level.
I don't know when the events occurred. They were not precise in the timing. The statute of limitations period could have run or not on the charges.
But you could actually have those be the front about part of it.
Remember, when you're talking about the findings, perhaps the strongest likelihood, there will most likely be civil lawsuits against this particular person, I would expect, either in his capacity of governor, in a personal capacity, for what took place at his home.
He alluded to that today when he said that there's a suggestion that at least one person is going to file charges -- a lawsuit against him seeking damages.
And with that instance, he's looking forward to being able to essentially clear his name or to, with vigor, be able to defend himself.
So I think he's already anticipating some civil allegations against him.
In terms of criminally, there was nothing that has been stated as of yet that would rise to the level perhaps of a sexual assault or rape allegation.
But certainly, the idea of touching somebody's private parts, including genitalia, their chest, their behind, these are unwanted, nonconsensual touching that the law contemplates are crimes.
CABRERA: And politically, David Chalian, how can he survive this. He didn't even have members of his own party with him before these findings.
CHALIAN: Yes. And he's survived that period.
Now, of course, this is a whole new ball game of a fight for political survival, given the detail and all that is put forth in the attorney general's fact-finding report.
But you saw exactly what his battle plan is to try to survive politically.
I mean, I kept thinking, early on, back in February and March, Ana, that well, if Joe Biden comes out and says he must resign, then Andrew Cuomo may have to step down.
I don't think that's true now, even if President Biden said he should resign.
This looks like a Governor Cuomo who is dug in and believes that he can continue the work, the day-to-day work to convince New Yorkers he's there for them.
And that he can convince New Yorkers that there's a different interpretation to be had of the events put forth in the report.
CABRERA: All right. David Chalian and all of you, thank you so much for being with us, Laura Coates, Elie Hong. Erica Hill and Shimon Prokupecz as well. I appreciate it.
We'll have much more on this breaking news story just ahead. Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: A major first-of-its-kind vaccine mandate in this country. Soon, New York City will require proof of vaccination for people to dine indoors, to go to gyms, movies, concerts, theater shows.
The mayor calling it a key to NYC past. But is this key out of a crisis and will more cities join?
Unvaccinated Americans right now are filling hospitals right now at rates not seen since February.
CNN's Athena Jones is in New York City.
Athena, tell us more about this new vaccine requirement.
ATHENA JONES CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana.
Well, this is a big step that city officials hope will make a big difference.
We've heard the mayor stressing this over and over again that he wants to focus on vaccines, on getting more people vaccinated.
Just yesterday, he stopped short of bringing back reinstituting an indoor mask mandate.
He has said in the last few days he wants to focus on the thing that will make a difference, and that's vaccinations. That is why they're taking this big step, going further than any city.
This will have a slow rollout. It begins rolling out on August 16th. It will be enforced September 13th.
As you mentioned, it requires proof of vaccination to go into restaurants, inside, for fitness centers, gyms and any indoor sort of entertainment venue.
But people are only going to have to prove that they took one dose of the vaccine, so one shot.
The proof can be a vaccine card. It can be the NYC Safe App that's being developed. And also New York State already has an app -- I have one on my phone -- where you can show that you -- provide proof there of vaccination.
This is similar to something that we've seen introduced in France just in the last few weeks. We know that, there, it led to a whole bunch of people signing up to go and get a vaccination, get a vaccine shot.
That is what the mayor is hoping here. He says, look, for some people, this is going to be a life-saving act. The thing is we want to make it for difficult for people who don't want to get vaccinated to enjoy the things New York has to offer.
Here's what he had to say about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): This is a miraculous place literally full of wonders. And if you're vaccinated, all that is going to open up to you. You will have the key. You can open the door.
But if you aren't vaccinated, unfortunately, you won't be able to participate in many things. That's the point we're trying to get across.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Of course, this is also so the city of New York can avoid sort of avoid the worst-days of the pandemic we saw like last year, seeing hospitals overwhelmed.
Business leaders who have come out to support this say, look, this is going to be good for the economy. It's going to prevent us having to shut down.
So we'll see how people respond -- Ana?
CABRERA: Athena Jones, thank you.
Joining us now, Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He's also the co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital.
And CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, is back with us as well.
Dr. Hotez, your reaction to New York City now mandating a COVID shot for indoor dining, entertainment and more. What kind of a game changer is this?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it's really important. And it's born out of I think a certain degree or frustration.
But simultaneously, the recognition that the only way anywhere in the country we can actually get our way out of this epidemic and pandemic is to vaccinate our way out of it. And we've got terrific vaccines if we only could use them.
The problem is this. You know, this Delta variant is the most transmissible that we've ever seen. And we've been talking about that, it's as transmissible as the chickenpox.
When you have a virus agent that's that transmissible, it means we have to vaccinate over 80 percent of the population. Not 80 percent of the adults, but 80 percent of the population.
So right, now New York's fully vaccinated is about 55 percent. They've got to get another 30 percent of New York City fully vaccinated. Not one dose, fully vaccinated if they're serious about doing this.
I think this is a first step.
I think the other step we're going to need -- and we're going to have to have a frank discussion about this nationally -- we need to mandate vaccinations for schools.
Because the only way we can make schools safe is to have all the teachers, all the staff, the bus drivers, and all the adolescents fully vaccinated.
Because that's the reality when you're dealing with this kind of transmissible virus.
CABRERA: I wonder, Elie, given the New York City population, if it opens the door for a lot of cities to follow suit.
I'm sure it's going to open the door for a lot of lawsuits. Is it legal?
HONIG: It probably is, Ana.
One thing to know is, generally speaking, governments have very broad power when it comes to vaccinations. I think more broad power than people may recognize. [13:45:03]
The states clearly can mandate vaccinations. I don't mean just say you have to be vaccinated to go into restaurants but can mandate needles in arms. The Supreme Court has said that.
To Dr. Hotez's point, states can and do require vaccinations for public school children.
Now, there are some fair questions about whether the mayor holds the power a state legislature holds.
But the general principle is that, when you have a reasonable medical need -- and here I think the reasonable medical need is more than reasonable -- again, as Dr. Hotez said, we've all seen the stats -- there's an awful lot the government can do.
And, Ana, I think you're right. Modelling is a really important phenomenon here. We've seen it on the private sector where we've seen more and bigger private corporations start to require vaccinations and their employees and others follow suit.
CABRERA: Dr. Hotez, this is just going to be a requirement to have one dose in order to have access to the indoor facilities. Does that make sense? Just one dose?
HOTEZ: Yes. You know, when you look at the protective efficacy against the Delta variant for a single dose, it's not terrific.
To really clamp down on this virus, I do think we're going to need two immunizations. And maybe it's just a matter of starting with one and then moving toward two later on.
Or maybe there was some technical problems in figuring out how to monitor two doses.
But ultimately, if you are serious about stopping this virus, you need both doses.
CABRERA: Elie, how would you even enforce this?
HONIG: That's part of the question. I think it sounds like what the mayor has in mind is issuing some sort of, essentially by another name, but a vaccine passport, a piece of paper or something to put on your phone that you'll present to restaurants.
But ultimately, the city is going to be dependent on the private business owners to enforce that. The city is not going to be able to dispatch police officers or anything to do this.
It's an ambitious program, and there will be complexities when it comes to enforcement.
CABRERA: Dr. Hotez, obviously, New York City is not the hot spot for COVID right now. In fact, one in three new COVID cases nationwide were in Florida or Texas over the past week. You're in Texas. Hospitals in Houston and Austin are at crisis levels
right now. What needs to happen right now where you are?
HOTEZ: Yes. Well, right now, there's a forest fire raging across the southern United States. I mean, Louisiana is the worst affected state. And the others are following suit.
And we know why it's happening. Because while older Americans are getting vaccinated, essentially none of the adolescents are vaccinated in the south.
They're under 20 percent and only about 40 percent of the younger adults. And that's just piling at the hospitals.
And, for me, I know the really scary part is we're seeing a lot of kids going into pediatric intensive care units like we haven't seen previously.
I don't think this virus is necessarily specifically targeting kids. I think what's happening in this forest fire that's raging, everybody is getting swept up and everyone is getting sick.
And you know what, Ana, we've not even opened schools yet. That's about to happen. That's going to be an accelerant.
And we're going to pay a heavy price for not really taking on the southern states and combatting all the phony ideologies.
It's going to be a very rough school year, I'm afraid.
CABRERA: We're already starting to see schools having trouble.
We know, in Arkansas, there was a district that started, I believe, last week, and already 168 people, students and teachers, are in quarantine because of positive cases and possible exposures.
That just gives you a little example of what is in store perhaps in a broader scale.
Dr. Hotez, I want to end with some good news. Vaccination rates are increasing. And 70 percent of all adults have now had at least one dose here in the U.S.
More companies are mandating masks and vaccines, trying to help people stay safe.
The risk to the fully vaccinated is still low.
So I guess let's take a step back for a moment. Put this into perspective. When it comes to our vulnerability right now in the U.S., as it relates to other surges during the pandemic and where we're headed.
HOTEZ: Well, what it means is it depends where you are. So if you're in the state of Vermont or Massachusetts, or even in some of the mid- Atlantic states, like New York, you should be feeling really good about things.
You're going to have a good summer because transmission is way down because you did the hard work to fully vaccinate and get close to full vaccination of adults and students. Same in some of the west coast states.
But it's the opposite story where we are, here in the south and some of the mountain states. We're not seeing as many older Americans losing their lives because vaccination rates are better there.
But the tragedy is going to be young adults realizing for the first time that they could get sick from COVID.
Despite all the information we tried to put out there, we couldn't counter the disinformation. And I'm worried about the kids.
CABRERA: And, Dr. Pete Hotez, thank you so much for being our guide throughout the pandemic and for being with us today.
Elie, thank you, again, for being with us and sticking with me throughout the hour.
I have some other breaking news I want to get to. A police officer is now dead after a shooting incident outside the Pentagon. We'll have details next.
CABRERA: Breaking news. CNN is learning a police officer has died following a shooting incident outside the Pentagon this morning.
I want to go straight to CNN's Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what happened?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it has been a disturbing and a very sad morning here at the Pentagon.
We have some video to show you taken from a local affiliate of a police escort of a black van widely believed now to be carrying the body of the police officer that was shot and killed.
Carrying him through the streets of Washington this morning after the shooting incident here at the Pentagon.
It took place just at the bus stop just outside some of the main doors of the Pentagon.
And the Pentagon went into immediate lockdown. The entire building. And 20,000 people work in this building when there's not a COVID situation. So this was a massive lockdown. The details at this hour are very sketchy. We don't have a lot of
information. We do not know what caused this incident to happen. We don't know the outcome of what has happened to any suspect or suspects.
But we do know that this police cordon escorted this officer this morning through the streets of Washington.
The Pentagon here is protected by a very special law enforcement agency called the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
These are law enforcement officers that work here around the clock protecting the building, protecting the people who come in and out of this building.
And it is fair to say they are much beloved by the people who are here.
We expect to hear from the Pentagon police chief in just about 30 minutes, looking for more details about exactly what happened.
CABRERA: Oh, what a sad day.
Thank you very much, Barbara Starr.
Thank you all for being with us this hour. I will see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter, @Ana Cabrera.
Thank you, again, for being with us.
The news continues with Alisyn and Victor.