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Global Cases Top 200 Million as Delta Spreads; Study: Vaccinated People Clear Delta Infections Quicker; Documents: Trump Pressured Justice Department on Election; Andrew Cuomo Could Face Criminal Charges; Growing Calls for Andrew Cuomo to Resign; United States Rallies to Reach Gold Medal Match; Fires Threaten Tourist Spots and Historic Sites in Greece; Evident of Possible Belarus Prison Camp for Dissidents. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 5, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to all of you watching here in United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT HEALTH SECRETARY: The next variant is just around the corner if we do not all get vaccinated.


BRUNHUBER: The surging delta variant is just one pandemic concern. Now top experts are warning new variants could emerge if more Americans don't get vaccinated.

Plus, a CNN exclusive report, videos revealed Belarus may be building prison camps for dissidents.

And an unruly passenger dusk taped to duck taped to his seat. What the airline is saying about the flight crew's decision.

COVID cases worldwide have surpassed 200 million as the highly contagious delta variant continues to strain health care systems. The number has jumped dramatically since late April when there were 150 million cases. Global COVID deaths have also topped 4.2 million.

Meanwhile the CDC projects COVID hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. will go up over the next four weeks. Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says the U.S. will likely see a surge of infections in the coming weeks and it won't be limited to areas with low vaccination rates. And a former U.S. official has this warning for the unvaccinated --


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT HEALTH SECRETARY: My God, we have more cases, more hospitalizations now than we had when I was in office last July. Only reason that we don't have 1,500 deaths is we've done a good job with the elderly. But we are at a pace to lose 75,000 additional Americans by Thanksgiving. That is a horrific thought and one that we cannot accept when we have a way to avoid it all. The virus will evolve, there will be variants and variants and variants. We're dealing with delta now. It's almost 100 percent of the cases in the U.S.

The next variant is just around the corner if we do not all get vaccinated. We've been saying this for months and four weeks and I just beg the American people to understand that to defeat this virus, we have to get everybody's level of immunity up and that's just the way it is.


BRUNHUBER: A new study out of Singapore shows that vaccinated people infected with the delta variant may start out with similar viral loads as the unvaccinated, but they clear the virus quicker and they are likely infectious for a shorter amount of time. Right now, less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated but the daily pace of new infections is going up. Vaccinations have topped 400,000 a day for nearly a week now, that's a 17 percent increase over last week.

The U.S. Defense Secretary is expected to make COVID vaccinations mandatory for all active-duty troops, a move president Joe Biden has been pushing for. CNN's Barbara Starr has the latest.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You'll recall that last week President Biden told the Pentagon to take a look at how, when it could make the vaccine mandatory. And the Defense Secretary said after that, you know, he wouldn't let grass grow under his feet, that he would get after it. So, he's been meeting with medical experts, with the military services seeing how to best proceed on it.

It's not exactly what the Pentagon originally had in mind. They were going to wait for full FDA approval. But look, the president said I want to make the vaccine mandatory for U.S. troops. And so that is exactly where at the moment they are headed.

Now, U.S. troops often have mandatory vaccines that they must get at a condition of being in the military, so this is not that unusual for them. But it will require a waiver from the president to proceed with doing it now before that full FDA approval is granted.


BRUNHUBER: That was Barbara Starr reporting there.

Now despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, there is still a sizable percentage of the U.S. population that's resisting vaccines. New Jersey's governor was exasperated as he shouted down anti-vax protestors. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): These folks back there have lost their -- you've lost your minds. You are the ultimate knuckleheads and because of what you are saying and standing for, people are losing their life.



BRUNHUBER: Florida's governor on the other hand is slamming CDC advice that children wear masks in school even though many children in the state have gotten sick from the delta variant. Here is what the governor said on Wednesday.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Florida, we're a free state. Joe Biden suggests that if you don't do lockdown policies then you should, quote, get out of the way. But let me tell you this, if you are coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way.


BRUNHUBER: And Florida accounts for nearly one in five new cases in the U.S. right now and hospitalizations in the state are once again alarmingly high.

Four Republicans vying to replace California governor Gavin Newsom are railing against his handling of the pandemic, they are just some of the 46 candidates running in the state's recall election happening September 14th. The four Republicans debated Wednesday night. They said Newsom, a Democrat, failed California by forcing disclosures -- forcing closures during the worst of the pandemic.

More than 90 million eligible Americans are still unvaccinated. Now earlier we heard from an infectious disease expert who says now is the time to get the shot before infections likely rise during the autumn and winter. Listen to this.


DR. PETER DROBAC, INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT: As we move into the fall and the winter season when people are more indoors, when the cooler drier temperatures favor respiratory viruses, it's very likely that unless we get to much higher levels of vaccination, that we could see further increases in infections and then potentially hospitalizations and even deaths.

The other risk as we get into the winter season is that hospitals already get busy from influenza and other seasonal diseases and we're seeing that COVID is putting stress on our health care systems again already and there is always a risk that they could be overwhelmed in the winter. We need to use this time we have in the summer to get infections down as much as possible.


CHURCH: And Dr. Drobac also said if more Americans don't get vaccinated, then more mandates are likely to come.

Congressional investigators have new evidence of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election results. And some of the details reportedly look like a scene straight out of his reality TV show. CNN's Jessica Schneider reports.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: New revelations related to the alarm inside the Justice Department as former President Trump repeatedly tried to overturn the 2020 election. First, we're learning that at least one top DOJ official had his resignation letter written and ready but never actually sent it. And this week that official, Patrick Hovakimian talked for three hours to investigators on the House Oversight Committee.

Now he was chief of staff for then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. And he wrote this resignation letter on January 3 expecting that Rosen would be fired by Trump for refusing to back Trump's election fraud claims. It was the same day that Trump summoned Rosen and another DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark, to the White House to have what was sort of an apprentice style showdown for the Attorney General job with each making their case.

Rosen would not back up Trump's claims of election fraud, while Clark would. Now Trump never did fire Rosen, but we are also learning how far Clark went to back Trump's false claims from documents obtained by ABC News. On December 28, Clark drafted a letter to Georgia's governor and lawmakers in the state falsely stating that the DOJ had found voting irregularities that impacted the election outcome in several states. And he wanted Rosen and Rosen's deputy, Richard Donahue to sign on. But Donahue immediately rebuffed the request.

Saying this, quote, there is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this. From where I stand this is not even within the realm of possibility.

All of this is part of a large trove of evidence that lawmakers and likely the DOJ Inspector General are now sifting through to uncover the links that Trump and his allies went to push their claims of election fraud in what was ultimately a failed attempt to get the election overturned.

Jessica schneider, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: An attorney for Trump says the former president won't try to block testimony from former officials, but he still believes that communications are protected by executive privilege. Senior legal analyst Elie Honig explains what the new evidence means to him.


ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I see several federal crimes here. At least potential federal crimes. I'll be specific. It is a federal crime to deprive a state of a fair election. It is a federal crime to solicit false counting of ballots, false certification of an election. It is a federal crime to conspire against the United States.

Now, could a good defense lawyer come in and quibble with some of this or try to poke holes in it? Sure. I'd gladly take on that fight. But my point is, there's more than enough here for the current justice system under Merrick Garland to open a criminal investigation.


I've not seen a single public indication that the current Justice Department has any inclination to look at anything Donald Trump has done. But this is deadly serious and there has to be consequences. Imagine if there is no consequences for this whatsoever, what kind of message does that send. So DOJ has a job to do here.


BRUNHUBER: Along with the growing calls for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign is the very real possibility that he could face criminal charges. A state investigation into sexual harassment allegations found Cuomo engaged in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching. Cuomo insists that he has done nothing wrong and gives no indication that he'll step down. Erica Hill reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, Governor Cuomo has got to go.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As New Yorkers way in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do the right thing. Resign.

HILL (voice-over): State lawmakers dialing up the pressure.

ALESSANDRA BIAGGI (D-NY) STATE SENATOR: The governor is not fit to do his job.

RODNEYSE BICHOTTE (D-NY) STATE ASSEMBLY: I believe there is sufficient evidence to proceed with an impeachment proceeding.

SHELLEY MAYER (D-NY) STATE SENATE: The time for him to resign is right now.

HILL (voice-over): At least four district attorneys have asked the New York Attorney General for investigative materials to determine if any of the conduct in this report is criminal. Two of those requests citing what trooper number one, a former member of the governor's security detail, told investigators.

ANNE CLARK, SDNY SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: In an elevator while standing behind the trooper, he ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said, hey, you. Another time, she was standing holding the door open for the governor. As he passed, he took his open hand and ran it across her stomach. She told us that she felt completely violated. NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Touching women that don't consent in those places could be the basis for sexual assault claims.

HILL (voice-over): Cuomo denies ever touching anyone inappropriately, a statement finding little support among his accusers.

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, ACCUSED CUOMO OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: When there are two women, there are more than two. You know, we know from experience that it's not just one person, and that's why we need to believe every woman who makes these allegations.

HILL (voice-over): Among the groups voicing their support for the accusers, the New York State Troopers Union, dismayed and disturbed at the report's findings, its president outraged and disgusted. The state's largest public employee union noting, safety and security must be the standard of every workplace, calling on the governor to resign.

SMITH: His resigning would be such a healing move for the state, for women, for his victims and for other victims who have been triggered and re-traumatized.

HILL: The governor laying low Wednesday releasing a COVID update but no further comments on the report. Meantime, the impeachment inquiry shifting into high gear. With a judiciary committee meeting scheduled for Monday in Albany, a majority of the state assembly's members tell CNN they would vote to impeach the governor. 13 Democratic state senators have also expressed support for impeachment.

SAMRA BROUK (D-NY) STATE SENATE: At this point, you know, I don't expect the best out of this governor. That's why I'm calling on all of us to use that power and actually get this man out of office.

HILL: Governor Cuomo losing another key supporter on Wednesday, Jay Jacobs, the chair of the state's Democratic Party, calling the AG's investigation extremely damning and upsetting in a statement. And calling on Cuomo to resign saying that he's lost the ability to governor both practically and morally.

In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. men's basketball team will compete for gold in the Tokyo Olympics after a come from behind win over Australia. We have more teens winning gold in skateboarding and a stunning upset to tell you about in the men's 110-meter hurdles. China, the U.S. and Japan are leading in the gold-medal count so far, with the U.S. ahead on total metals.

So, let's bring in CNN World Sport anchor Patrick Snell with the latest. Patrick, some near upsets, some real upsets, so many talking points. Where do you want to start?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: I don't know, Kim, there are so much going on, isn't there. And it's another compelling day this Thursday at the Tokyo games. Let's start, how about this, with America's men's basketball team overcoming a 15 point deficit before going on to eventually power past team Australia to reach that gold medal game as you mentioned. The three-time defending Olympic gold medalists defeating the Aussies 97 points to 78 in the end. Though they did -- I'll tell you this, they have to work for it, no question about that.

Australia led by as many as 15, as I said, in that first half but the U.S. went on a run, cutting the deficit to just three at halftime before taking total control after that. Slovenia and France, by the way will play in the second semi later on today.

Two that big shock on the track in the men's 110-meter hurdles.


Much of the focus ahead of the race on the world champion the American Grant Holloway, who was leading until the final hurdle. But that crucially is when he seemed to lose his momentum and it would be Hansle Parchment who takes full advantage, powering his way to victory in a season best time for him of 13.04 seconds. Huge disappointment can't stress it this enough, Kim, for the 23-year-old Holloway who hadn't lost a single hurdles race since August of last year. That's 12 months ago now. A silver medal for him there today at the Olympic stadium.

And a really special moment to tell you about once again another teenager rising to the fore, this time Team USA's Nevin Harrison, who won the gold-medal in the women's canoe single 200-meter contest. Harrison who is 19, winning the world championship in this event when she was just 17. Now the first woman representing the United States to win a gold medal in Olympic canoe sprint.

Meantime also teens again continuing their dominance this time at the skate park within the last couple of hours. I want to tell you about 18-year-old Keegan Palmer of Australia taking gold. This in the first ever Olympics men's park skateboarding competition. The Aussie scoring 95.83 on his final run to take the gold medal. Silver going the way of a young Brazilian Pedro Barros.

And an update to a story we did tell you about last week, when American BMX racing star Connor Fields suffered that brain hemorrhage. This after competing in the Olympic semis. Now we can tell you the 28- year-old is being released from hospital in Tokyo today. Fields is a 2016 Rio gold medalist. He actually crashed during his third run last Friday. He'll be returning to the U.S. state Nevada for his rehabilitation. And great news, he's it alongside his family and his friends there, getting their love and support. And we here at CNN sports certainly wish Connor all the very best. As I send it right back to you -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, thanks for the update on him there. Great to hear. Patrick Snell, thank you so much, really appreciate that.

An unforgiveable heatwave gives way to destructive wildfires in Greece. Now firefighters must race to save some of the country's historic sites. Plus, political dissidents in Belarus fear being sent to detention

camps and there's evidence that the government may already have one in the works. Our exclusive report just ahead, stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: More than 70 people who've had trouble breathing have been hospitalized in Greece after wildfires broke out in and around Athens. Enveloping the city in a smoky haze. The fires are the result of an intense in southern Europe heatwave igniting fires across the region. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in Greece as the flames scorch anything in their path. Crews are also working desperately to suppress fires around some of the country's ancient sites. Elinda Labropoulou joins me now from Athens, Greece. Just looking behind you, I mean, you can see the sky. There's so much smoke. What's the latest on the fires there?

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: Yes, there is still a hazy sky in Athens as a result of the big fire that burned here for two days. But now that fire has been contained, it is almost completely out. But it left behind a mass destruction, numerous homes were completely destroyed, luckily only minor injuries were suffered.

But at the moment, we have some other fires that still continue to burn. Some of them out of control in many parts of the country. There's a big fire raging on the island of Evia, many villages have been evacuated there. That's an area that's also popular with tourists. So, people have been transported to other parts of Greece by boat.

There's also a large fire currently burning close to ancient Olympia, the archeological site. There's tremendous effort there to try and contain the fire before it reaches the archeological space and a number of villages are also being evacuated.

Just to give you a sense of scale, in Greece almost 200 fires have broken out in just the last 48 hours as a result of this heatwave that has brought tremendous temperatures to Greece. It's their worst heatwave that Greece has experienced in over 40 years and it's a heatwave that's expected to continue throughout the week -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much. Elinda Labropoulou, appreciate it.

And wildfires in western Turkey have reached a thermal power plant. Crews were able to move explosive materials out of the plant beforehand, but there are fears tons of coal left inside could still ignite. Turkeys defense ministry evacuated ten neighborhoods around the plant area by sea. Loading people into boats as the flames begin to encircle residential areas. Emergency crews have battled nearly 200 fires across the country in the past eight days.

And a threat is much the same in North America with nearly 300 active fires in British Columbia, Canada and almost 100 burning in the U.S. California's Dixie Fire is only 35 percent contained. It's already the eighth largest fire in the state's history. The fire season is so extreme the city of Berkeley in the Bay Area is proactively warning residents who live in the hills to have evacuation plans ready should the need arise.

High temperatures and drought conditions are so bad upstate that California's second largest reservoir is at a record low. Nearly half the state is affected by an exceptional drought and water restrictions are now in effect for parts of California's Central Valley.

On the first anniversary of the deadly Beirut blast, protestors hit the streets to voice their anger at the government over the lack of accountability. We'll have more on that ahead.

Then, her country crushed her Olympic dreams. The Belarusian athlete who escaped now has a chance at a new life. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: The Belarusian Olympian who rejected orders to return home is now safe in Poland. Sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya arrived in Warsaw Wednesday. Belarusian officials tried to force her to leave the Olympics last weekend after she criticized team coaches. But after her family warned it wasn't safe to return, she asked for political asylum while at the Tokyo airport. Poland then offered Timanovskaya and her husband humanitarian visas.

Back in authoritarian Belarus, troubling evidence is emerging of what may be a prison camp for political dissidents. It was found deep in the forest. Nick Paton Walsh is live in London with this exclusive report. Nick, take us through what you found.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Certainly, the fate of athlete Kristina Timanovskaya has shunned a shown a harsh light on repression that's been happening inside Belarus for well over a year, now many say actually decades. But these new findings, a video and witness statements we've received, appear to show an extreme harshening of Belarusian state preparations to potentially hold political prisoners further down the line and protests may happen in the months ahead. Here's what we saw.


WALSH (voice-over): A chilling sight, not from the last century, but last month. A possible prison camp built inside Belarus for political prisoners. CNN obtained this footage of what witnesses said looked like a newly refurbished camp about an hour's drive from the capital Minsk. A new sign saying forbidden border and entry.

A three-layer fence electrified they said. New moving surveillance cameras, bars and reflective screens on the windows of newly rebuilt barracks. No prisoners yet.