Return to Transcripts main page


Fauci Hopeful for Full Pfizer Approval Within Weeks; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Face Impeachment Threat, Calls to Resign after Sexual Harassment Report; Report Says, DOJ Official Wanted to Push False Georgia Election Fraud Claims. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 4, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere, a busy news day. Ana Cabrera picks our coverage right now. Have a good day.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

How soon until a COVID-19 vaccine gets full approval, not just emergency use authorization but full approval? We've been asking that question for weeks, and today, we have more of an idea. According to the New York Times, the FDA is aiming to fully approve Pfizer's COVID- 19 vaccine by early next month. And Dr. Fauci says he's hopeful it could be even sooner.

Here's why this could be a game-changer. Data shows full approval would likely mean more shots in still hesitant arms and more vaccine mandates, bottom line, more lives saved.

The timing is critical as the troubling delta variant spreads like wildfire. Take a look at this. Right now, the variant makes up 93 percent of new COVID-19 cases here in the U.S. And the headline you don't want as millions of kids return to school, cases among children and teens jumping 84 percent in just one week.

And that's where we begin with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, this rise in childhood infections is alarming. Just how sick are these kids getting?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, it really is. Now, most of these children, and I'm going to give you some numbers in a minute, most of these children are not ending up in the hospital. However, you just have to read the reports of the children who are even just home sick. I mean, some of them are at whole 104 degree temperatures. I heard from mother, my daughter was coughing like a person who smoke three packs a day. They are miserable. Why in the world would you want your child to be miserable? As a mom of four, I cannot even imagine how a parent would make that choice.

Let's take a look at the newest numbers from the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, just July 22nd through July 29th, there were more than 70,000 new cases, it was up 84 percent from the previous week. That's a huge increase in just one week. That's five times as many cases among children and teens as at the end of June.

Now, one thing that would -- something that would really benefit children is to have more adults or anyone over age 12 vaccinated. The more people we can get vaccinated, that helps the children who are too young to be vaccinated.

Now, there's some hope that Pfizer will get full approval from the U.S. FDA in the coming weeks and there's hope that that approval, Ana, as you mentioned, will make some vaccine-hesitant people at least go, okay, now it's fully approved. It's not just emergency authorization. Now, I'll roll up my sleeve.

Let's take listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think there is a certain proportion of people who are just waiting for that full approval even though the data are overwhelming right now that these vaccines are highly effective and are safe.

The other thing it's going to allow independent local enterprises, universities, colleges, businesses who will feel much more comfortable when they say, I'm going to mandate that if you want to come to this school, if you want to work in this place, you've got to be vaccinated.


COHEN: Now, speaking with public officials, I think there is a general agreement that mandates need to happen to have significant numbers of people vaccinated, that all the education, giving them all the reasons, giving them money, giving them prizes, et cetera, that that just isn't cutting it. Ana?

CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

To Florida now where the delta variant is raging, 50,000 new COVID infections in just three days. Unvaccinated patients are getting seriously ill, sending hospitalizations to a new record. In fact, right now, Florida is seeing more COVID patients hospitalized than last summer's peak.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Jacksonville. Leyla, the numbers are dire, and yet the battle over protective measures, like masks, is only getting more heated.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're only days away from the school year beginning here in Duval County. The school board has now voted to make parents opt out of any sort of mask if they don't want their children to have to wear masks in this school. That will require more time and additional paperwork.

In Alachua County, the school board there voted to require masks for the first two weeks of school, and then they will reconsider come mid- August.

And in Orange County, the school district is requiring employees to wear masks.

So, you get the point here, as cases and hospitalizations surge in the state of Florida, school districts are trying to find a way to stop the spread of COVID-19 but still take into consideration Governor Ron DeSantis' executive order that he signed last week that threatens to cut state funding if they implement any sort of mask mandate.

It is something that simply has divided many parents here in Duval County that we talked to.


Take a listen.


QUISHA KING, PARENT NOT SUPPORTING MASK MANDATES: I think the best and most fair thing to do is to give parents the option of whether they want their children to wear a mask or not.

MATT HARTLEY, PARENT SUPPORTING MASK MANDATES: I care about your kid as much as I care about my kid. And I don't want any kid to risk being hospitalized or getting long COVID symptoms or just being a part of our community spread, which is so bad right now.


SANTIAGO: And a reminder, Ana, excuse me, the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the CDC both say that universal masking indoors is what's best right now.

CABRERA: Leyla Santiago with the situation in Florida, thank you.

Joining us now, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, the board-certified internal medicine specialist and viral researcher. And I keep looking at the numbers on the right side of our screen where see deaths are going up, hospitalizations are going up, cases are just really skyrocketing, Dr. Rodriguez.

So, let's talk about when we might get full approval of the vaccine, hoping that that might spread vaccinations. The FDA is accelerating its timetable for the Pfizer vaccine specifically. The New York Times is reporting, by Labor Day, Dr. Fauci says he's hoping it will happen in the next couple of weeks.

We know typical approval takes six to eight months. So is this timetable realistic?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it is realistic. This data has been looked at since the initial data came out and more information is coming in. So, above all else, they are sort of given the mantle to make sure that the vaccine is not only effective but safe.

And I think they're moving at actually a very quick pace and I hope that they do do it sooner rather than later, because there are a lot of people that are waiting for this to be an officially approved vaccine. We need it.

CABRERA: And there are people who are eager to get more shots because they want to be protected as possible. So, on the other hand, you have people saying, when can I get my booster? I know in your state, the San Francisco Health Department says people who got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can go ahead and get a supplemental Pfizer or Moderna shot. Is that a good idea? Would you recommend it?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know what, the data behind that is not 100 percent conclusive. There has been information that says that getting a booster definitely increases with the Johnson & Johnson some of your antibodies. Would I say that that's a good idea? I'm really on the fence about that. But I don't think it is going to do any harm.

We know that the Johnson & Johnson protects me but not to the same percentage. So, Really, I'm on the fence about that. I don't think it's a horrible idea but I'm on the fence about it.

CABRERA: Just quickly, is there any danger in mixing and matching though, because Johnson & Johnson is like a different type of vaccine technology than the mRNA vaccines that are Pfizer and Moderna, right?

RODRIGUEZ: Correct. The little bit of information that is out there, because in the U.K., they did mix and match and there has been information. There have been no long-term effects, again, but there has been no steady information that has come out yet about this.

What I would probably tell people is that just hold the course, wait until there is sanctioned data about this. And I do believe and I do hope that actually boosters are approved a lot sooner when we get information. Because real world data is showing that perhaps these vaccines, especially the mRNA, are not as protective as we thought.

CABRERA: And we are seeing more and more countries now moving to give booster shots.

Let's talk about something we've heard from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who, as Leyla reported, has been fighting some of the mitigation measures, doesn't want to do mandates. Well, now, he's saying this.

We're about two weeks later in the summer when we saw the rise last year, but it goes up, it expands very, very quickly, the growth slows and plateaus, and then it goes down. I think you're going to see that turning down and that's basically right on schedule for what we had last summer and what all these viral cycles have done.

Is there any science to back up what he just said?

RODRIGUEZ: You know what, I hope he didn't put a sharpie to the graph of the virus going up and down. We've only had one year of experience and, yes, there was a rise in last summer and there is one now. If you look at the Washington State Institute of Health Metrics, which is what I follow, they predict that if we take all precautions, perhaps this variant is going to peak at the end of August. If we don't follow these measures, they go way into September and October.

So, I hope that he's just not trying to appease his base and go, hey, it's not a big deal, don't worry about it, this is what naturally happens. And, you know what, if he really knew that this is what naturally happened, he should have been on the bull horn two months ago to warning people to start taking precautions because this is what naturally, quote/unquote, happens.

At the end of the day, people need to take care of themselves, wear masks and please get vaccinated.


That's the bottom line here.

CABRERA: The delta variant seems to have really thrown a curve ball for a lot of people. It now makes up more than 93 percent of U.S. COVID cases. Some have expressed concern that less vaccinate cluster areas in the U.S. could eventually spur stronger variants.

But given what we're seeing in India and the U.K. that went through delta surges and now cases in those countries are declining, do you feel that mutation might be less likely?

RODRIGUEZ: No, I don't feel it will be less likely. As a matter of fact, I think that there is probably a mutation brewing that is going to be stronger. It may not necessarily happen in two weeks or two months or half a year, but that is sort of the natural course of viruses. We know this. They mutate and it is the stronger virus that will -- the stronger mutation that will survive.

So, luckily, it won't happen, but I think we need to be cautious and be aware that if there's early data in any part of the world of a new variant that is much more contagious, we need to assume that sooner or later, it is going to get here.

CABRERA: Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, thank you for all you do. It's great to have you with us.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Up next, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo's accusers is speaking out today. Hear what she thinks of his bizarre photo montage. Plus, a plane passenger, so unruly, he had to be taped to his seat mid flight. So why were crew members originally the ones suspended?



CABRERA: Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has now lost the confidence of more than half of his constituents. New polling from there shows 59 percent of New Yorkers now think he should quit following a damning report from the state attorney general, which found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women and created a, quote, hostile work environment for women.

Now, Cuomo denies ever touching anyone inappropriately. The governor also addressed one accuser specifically who says the governor asked her questions about her sex life knowing she was a sexual assault survivor.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I thought I could help her work through a difficult time. I did ask her questions I don't normally ask people.

Charlotte, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry. I brought my personal experience into the workplace.

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, ACCUSED GOVERNOR CUOMO OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: It wasn't an apology and he didn't take accountability for his actions. He can't once apologize and then say he didn't do anything wrong.

He blamed me and said that I simply misinterpreted what he had said, but his line of questioning was not appropriate. He was coming onto me and he insinuated that survivors of trauma and sexual assault can't tell the difference between mentorship and leadership and sexual harassment itself.


CABRERA: And joining us now is one of the New York State Democrats calling on Governor Cuomo to resign. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn is a member of the State Assembly, thank you so much for being with us.

Now, you weren't one of the voices calling for the governor's resignation before this investigation was complete. Now you are. At this point, do you believe the governor has a single ally left in the state legislature?

RODNEYSE BICHOTTE HERMELYN (D), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMBER, CALLING ON GOVERNOR CUOMO TO RESIGN: I don't think so. I think you have heard from my colleagues, from all lawmakers throughout New York State and throughout the United States that Governor Cuomo should resign and an impeachment process should proceed.

And I can tell you, as the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, one of the largest county parties in the nation, I believe that this type of gross misconduct against women is completely antithetical and to the party's values that we espouse and it must at all cost. And I believe that I am representing the voices of many in the majority of the concerned New Yorkers. His behavior was horrendous and that it has no place for it.

But I have to say that eliminating my personal biases and feelings towards this and despite what President Biden had said in terms of calling all of the lawmakers to call for his resignation and impeachment, the question does remain, can he be impeached. And I would say, with this 168-report, 74,000 pieces of documentation, as well as 179 people who were interviewed on the sexual harassment, on these 11 brave women, a report that was conducted independently by the Office of the Attorney General, Leticia James, I believe that there's sufficient evidence to proceed with an impeachment proceeding.

CABRERA: And you shared on Twitter that you've experienced harassment in your career. And so I'm curious what your reaction was when the governor, in his response to this report, played that picture montage as part of his defense. And, first, here's a clip of that.


CUOMO: I do it with everyone, black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.



CABRERA: What did you think about that?

HERMELYN: First, I want to give my full sympathy to all the brave victims who endured these egregious experiences and took a heroic step forward to provide evidence and live testimonies for the purpose of us proceeding with an impeachment process.

I have to say, as a survivor of sexual abuse, seeing that video and just thinking about what's going through the minds of these victims triggered an emotional disturbance. I felt it was a way to dismiss our suffering, our pain and to use it as a cover-up to say, I am not the person that these women have said I am.

So, it was quite disturbing and I did not feel that it was an apology or he was apologetic to any of these victims. I think it was a way of him saying I am innocent and extremely dismissal. So, it was appalling to me.

CABRERA: Now, back in 2008, we saw then-Governor Eliot Spitzer resign after he was caught up in a prostitution scandal. Now, at the time, he said, quote, I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Again, those were the words of then-governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, as he resigned. Based on what you know of Governor Cuomo, why do you think he's refusing to resign?

HERMELYN: Well, it's funny that you said that, Ana, because when Spitzer resigned, he resigned for less charges. And we are facing -- I mean, Governor Cuomo is facing more serious charges.

We don't know why it's very difficult for him to come to the realization that it's time for him to step down so that we can continue the work of the people of New York State. People say that he wanted to exceed the terms that his father had served. He served for three years, three terms and he went to serve for more than that.

But I think it has a lot to do with who he is. Again, you saw Eliot Spitzer, he decided to step down on less charges. So, again, it is really up to us, the assembly body, to continue to conduct the investigation, gather all the documentation and put a package together that is sufficient and substantive enough to present to the senate to proceed with the impeachment process.

CABRERA: So, on that note, I know there's a group among the assembly meeting on Monday to specifically speak about possible impeachment. What are you expecting to come out of that meeting and what kind of a timeline are we talking about?

HERMELYN: Well, it can vary. I think we in the assembly have called for an expeditious process. But because we're dealing with thousands and thousands of documentation and because we're determining whether this will be on the sexual harassment count or the other counts that are also being investigated, like the nursing home and the Mario Cuomo Bridge, we are still figuring out what is the best approach.

As you know, there are no precedents for this. But at the end of the day, the committee has to come up with all the documents and it has to be a strong package of evidence that will be impeachable to present to the senate body and the court of appeals for a strong, argumentative procedure. So, it might take a little bit more time.

CABRERA: Okay. New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, thank you for taking the time with us today. I appreciate it.

Up next, COVID cancelation, how plans for a splashy 60th birthday for former President Obama have been upended by the pandemic.



CABRERA: Adding to the drip, drip, drip of democracy being undermined, today, new details, another document detailing efforts to overturn the election Donald Trump lost.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us with the latest. So, Jessica, first, there was that phone call directly from Trump to the Georgia secretary of state, but now it appears Trump had allies within the Justice Department working on this too. What are we learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. So these are newly surfaced emails and a draft letter obtained by ABC News, and they show just how far this Justice Department official aligned with then-President Trump, how far he went to promote these false claims of election fraud and ultimately how other top DOJ officials forcefully pushed back.


So, this was Jeffrey Clark. He was the top official in DOJ's civil division.