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Democrats Call for Cuomo's Resignation; Four New York DAs Request Info from AG; Atlanta Requiring Masks as Classes Resume; Health Officials Face Threats; Dixie Fire Destroys Greenville; Team USA Plays for Gold in Men's Basketball. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired August 5, 2021 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And in that statement he talked about calling the governor, urging him to resign. He went into a little bit more detail with CNN last night and said that as he spoke to him, he basically said to the governor, look, there's room for redemption in politics, but it depends on how you go out. And he said there's really no turning around at this point.

But the response he got from Governor Cuomo was, he said, he wouldn't characterize his views on resignation, but that the governor was really more focused on how he would defend himself, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

HILL: And that he wanted to tell his side of the story, which certainly doesn't sound like a man who is considering resignation at this point, although so many of his, you know, former supporters are saying this is the best choice you have. You likely don't want to go through this impeachment process, but it looks like that's where it's headed.

SCIUTTO: Based on CNN's count, the numbers in both the assembly and the senate are against him. You know, at least based on public comments, it appears there are enough votes, right, to impeach and remove.

I mean how quickly -- of course people could change their votes, but how quickly is this expected to proceed if it goes that path?

HILL: The shorter answer is very. So there is a judiciary committee meeting that's already scheduled for Monday. As you point out, we know that a majority of state assembly members, both Democrats and Republicans, have told CNN they would vote yes to impeach if those articles were introduced. If that happens, if this is then moved on, that trial in the senate they would have after they get the articles. They'd have 30 to 60 days to put it all together. But this could all -- this could all happen very quickly.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's remarkable.

Erica Hill, thanks so much for being on the story.

Right now at least four district attorney's offices in New York are requesting additional information from the state's probe into those sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo. This as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he believes Cuomo should be criminally charged. Again, someone within his own party.

CNN's Paula Reid is following the legal side of this.

So, of course, you have a political process that could play out. I mean this is the criminal side of this where DA's could take this evidence, interview witnesses and proceed to criminal charges. But the burden of proof is quite high here, is it not?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. This is far from a slam dunk. We heard the state attorney general's office say that Cuomo violated federal and state laws based on their finding and they laid out all these various incidents where he allegedly engaged in unwanted touching.

And now this alleged conduct happened in several different jurisdictions which is why you now see prosecutors from several different counties jumping in and asking for additional evidence as they pursue potential crimes.

Now, specifically in Manhattan, prosecutors say they're look into possible sex crimes and specifically they want to talk to a female state trooper who was assigned to Cuomo's detail and says that she endured unwanted touching.

Now, prosecutors in Nassau and Westchester counties are also looking at the allegations by that trooper and the district attorney in Albany has an ongoing criminal investigation but it's unclear specifically what types of crimes they're pursuing, but the most likely is a Class A Misdemeanor, forcible touching.

But as you noted, the standard to successfully pursue a criminal case is very different than the one that investigators were using for this report. Typically for this standard, as you can see there, it would be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But typically sexual harassment and hostile workplace claims are dealt with civilly.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

REID: And we've seen at least one accuser who says she's going to pursue him civilly. But, interestingly, another accuser, Charlotte Bennett, says she's not even thinking about civil litigation yet. Right now she's focused on getting Cuomo out of office. So many different paths of recourse, but criminal actions seems -- that will be tricky, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And a civil suit would involve seeking financial damages, is that right? REID: Absolutely. They'd have to establish their damages. It depends

on the specific incidents. But some of these women have claimed retaliation not just by the governor but by his office and his associates. So they would have to go to court, prove that and show their damages.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, that's -- that's the question. I mean some of these processes, they're going to play out over time, right? It's not going to disappear anytime soon.

REID: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Atlanta Public Schools, they're reopening this morning with new mask mandates in place. We're going to take you there live as students and teachers head back to class. How are they reacting to this? Do they want those masks?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:39:00]

SCIUTTO: This morning, Atlanta Public Schools are one of the many districts kicking off the new school year with a mask mandate in place. They will also be required on school buses and places kids get together closely.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Atlanta this morning.

Nick, we know this is a political issue, right? You have largely Republicans opposing this and some state outright banning these kind of mask mandates.

I wonder, when you're speaking too students but also parents, are they welcoming this step?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you mentioned that political divide, Jim, and it's really illuminating to see how, depending on whether or not a county is conservative or more liberal here, like in Fulton County, the approach to what that means to reopen schools safely.

Here in the Atlanta Public School District, we're seeing that mask mandate go into effect and even parents that I've spoken to of children here say if they weren't required to wear masks, they'd be more inclined to have their students and children show up on the first day of school wearing masks.

Here in the Atlanta Public School District, they will not have the choice of whether or not to wear masks.

[09:40:02]

They will be required to do that. There will also be surveillance testing on a weekly basis, giving staff and students the opportunity to get tested.

And there's going to be a big vaccine push because despite this being a Democratic area, of those students eligible for the vaccine, just 18 percent of students eligible for the vaccine have actually gotten a shot in arm. It is a little bit more for staff, about 58 percent of staff here at Atlanta Public Schools have gotten their shots in arms. But there is going to be a notable push for vaccines throughout the school year.

A notable amount of anxiety and apprehension, especially because of the growing concerns over the delta variant. And it is really interesting to see the approach that we're seeing here differ from that and the more conservative parts of the state.

Earlier this week we were in Barrow County for the first day of school where they are not requiring masks. No mask mandate there. And parents are happy about that. They told me yesterday, one parent of a 14-year- old said that she wanted her daughter to have the freedom to express herself, even if that freedom came at the expense of getting herself or someone else sick.

Here in Atlanta Public Schools, they're not taking that chance, especially because the CDC tracker lists this area as having a high transmission rate. Just in the last week, 267 confirmed cases here of COVID. So really a lot more anxiety and apprehension here in this school district.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Has the governor of Georgia piped in on this?

VALENCIA: Well, he's been, you know, very clear all along that he is not going to see or push for a mask mandate across the state. He thinks that decision should be left up to students and parents and teachers.

Here, though, in the more Democratic areas, as I mentioned, they're not taking any chances. We've seen students show up by the bus loads wearing masks here on the first day of school.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Nick Valencia, oftentimes kids seem to be fine with it, right, in many places. Thanks very much.

VALENCIA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: The debate over mask mandates has many public health officials concerned about their safety. The National Association of County and City Health Officials says it is seeking an up -- seeing an uptick of threats and intimidation from anti-maskers. They've become a target.

CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard joins me now.

So you have folks attacking folks, trying to keep the public healthy for making health recommendations? I mean is that basically where we are?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's basically where we are. And it's interesting to me, Jim, how early on in the pandemic we saw the tension and heated debate and attacks really on public health officers.

And then now, more than a year later, we're seeing it happening again. And specifically what the National Association of County and City Health Officials is doing, they have tracked the well-being of their membership all throughout the pandemic and again they are encouraging officers to report any harassment or threats and they're taking a close look at that, especially as we've seen an uptick in anti-mask protests around back to school.

The head of the association, Lori Tremmel Freeman, she said these to me. She said, quote, these are heated conversations sometimes that are turning nasty and out of control. We're going to see more of this in communities that have these high transmission rates and are returning to some of these mitigation efforts. We're going to have to track it closely, ends quote.

So, as you know, Jim, in many cities and counties, there is a return to mask mandates and a return to other mitigation efforts as we see the delta variant circulating. And with this kind of return to mitigations, that's where we're seeing a lot of tension and a lot of threats being targeted towards public health officers.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HOWARD: So this is something that's being monitored and looked at closely, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, it's been deliberately made targets by some political figures in this country.

Jacqueline Howard, thanks very much.

We have lost Greenville. Those sobering words from local officials as the Dixie Fire, as it's known, engulfs an entire small town. Look at these pictures. It looks like it's out of Hollywood. In California. The latest on that state's devastating -- just devastating wildfires ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:48:37]

SCIUTTO: Just devastating news out of California. So familiar, but still so sad. The Dixie Fire has torched now nearly 300,000 acres in the northern part of that state. The flames ripped through the town of Greenville. It destroyed much of downtown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG LAMALFA (R-CA): We lost Greenville tonight. And there's just no words for how us and government haven't been able to get the job done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Lost an entire town.

Kyung Lah, you've been following this. And it's not the first time you followed this. You know, we -- every -- you know, several times a year we talk about it and then it's always the next largest fire ever there, right? I mean we're constantly breaking -- breaking records. I mean are officials making any headway on this particular fire?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On this particular fire, sure, there is some containment. But I want to return to what you're talking about, Jim. This is a frustrating cycle and something that people in this state see over and over again.

Let's start by talking about what happened in this small town of Greenville. This is just the latest example of the devastating effect of wildfires here in the state of California. But really at -- on a larger scale, the entire country. The Dixie Fire is this state's current largest fire. It's been burning since the middle of July.

[09:50:02]

And it tore through this tiny little town. Homes lost.

And it's easy to pause and look at this fire and see the businesses on main street completely leveled. But these are people's livelihoods and this entire town is gone. There are very limited escape routes out of Greenville. And most disturbing, California's incident management team says they believe that people simply were not able to evacuate.

There are a total now of 11 wildfires burning in the state of California, 400,000 acres have been lost. And we've been talking about how frustrating it is here in California, but also to the congressman would represents that area.

Let's return to what he's had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG LAMALFA (R-CA): We'll take up the fight even harder. And more so. We've got to win this. We've got to stop this. We've got to get D.C. to pay attention. We've got to get Sacramento to pay attention. Forget the politics. Forget the nonsense. We have to stop making this happen by inattention to what is obvious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: So obvious when you look at the causes.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

LAH: There are nearly 100 wildfires burning in the United States. It's driven by extreme drought, high temperatures and low humidity.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: You said that there were concerns that some were not able to evacuate. Do we know if there was loss of life there?

LAH: At this point it's a little too early to know because this fire really ripped through Greenville just late last night and it's a very difficult area to access. Our Josh Campbell's trying to make it up to that area. It takes a lot of time and it also takes a lot of time for the fire officials to get up there.

But I can tell you that there are very difficult ways to get out of there and the early indication is that they believe that people were not able to get out.

SCIUTTO: Oh, Lord. Lord, help us.

I mean the final question, of course, is how the fire service, the forest service responds to these fires. Are they changing -- are they changing tactics?

LAH: You're talking about the U.S. Forest Service. And there is a tactical change, driven by all these root causes that we're talking about here, Jim.

It used to be, in the state of California, especially with the U.S. Forestry Service, that they would allow it to burn. You want to take out that brush and prevent it further down the line.

But because the conditions here, the climate conditions, have gotten so severe, they say that it simply is not tenable any more to allow the let it burn philosophy to continue.

SCIUTTO: Yes. All of those memories there. Let's just hope the people got out.

Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

For the fourth straight Olympics, the U.S. men's relay team could not get it done. They failed to win a medal in an event that you may remember the U.S. used to dominate. It was so bad an Olympic icon, he called it a total embarrassment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:29]

SCIUTTO: Well, the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team rallied from a double digit deficit to advance to the gold medal game at the Olympics. It was quite a comeback.

Coy Wire is in Tokyo with more.

I mean it went from being way down to really being a route (ph) in the end.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, and 21 NBA all-star appearances amongst the starters for Team USA. But they had to come back from down 15 points in the first half against Australia to advance to this final. Kevin Durant rallied his troops sparking a 20-0 run that started at the end of the first half and then there was a point where the U.S. held Australia scoreless for nearly eight minutes. Durant dropping 23 on the night, 97-78 win.

Team USA will now attempt to win a fourth straight men's basketball gold and it will all come down to a rematch with France, the team that got the U.S. ripped online after they beat the U.S. in their opening game here in Tokyo.

The U.S. women's national team went into their bronze medal match with Australia knowing it was potentially the last Olympic hoorah for Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Megan Rapino.

And guess who stepped up, Megan Rapino scoring a pair of goals in the first half, 39-year-old Carli Lloyd with two of her own, becoming the all-time leading scorer in U.S. women's national team Olympics history. She has ten in her career. It's a 4-3 win. The U.S. didn't give up, Jim, after some tough losses here in Tokyo. And they sent some of their legends out with a win, if indeed it was their last Olympics.

And, Jim, you said its, the fourth fastest men in America, they failed to even qualify for a chance to win a medal in the 3 x 100 meter relay. They finished sixth in their heat. A botched handoff and then it was over for the Americans who haven't medaled in this event since winning silver in Athens in 2004.

This is the tenth time since 1995 that the men have mishandled a relay at a world championship or Olympics. Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis ripping the team on Twitter, calling it, quote, a total embarrassment and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw, unquote.

Finally, a moment as inspirational as is heartbreaking. Reigning world champion heptathlon, Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson suffering a lower leg injury in the 200 meters. Obviously in pain. Refused to get in a wheelchair, though, Jim. Instead, she got up to her feet, found the strength so finish the race. Katarina Johnson-Thompson is a shining example, Jim, of that Olympic spirit.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

WIRE: Chasing your dreams. Never giving up. She had a heartfelt post afterwards, Jim. She ruptured her Achilles back in December.

[10:00:00]

She said she started the year in a wheelchair but she would not finish in one.

SCIUTTO: I've ruptured the Achilles before. It's not a fun injury.