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Cuomo's Attorney Disputes Accuser's Story; Albany County Sheriff Speaks Following Criminal Complaint Filed Against Governor Cuomo; Interview With Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI); WI Governor: Battling COVID Will Be "Hand-To-Hand" In Coming Months; St. Louis City Council Fights Mask Mandate; California's Dixie Fire Now Third Largest In State's History. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired August 7, 2021 - 12:00   ET





CRAIG APPLE, ALBANY COUNTY SHERIFF: I can tell you that the complaint occurred in the City of Albany, I can tell you that the City of Albany and the State Capitol buildings are located in our great county. I am the sheriff of this county, and I have jurisdiction.


APPLE: Again, we were in the very infant stages.

UNIDENIFIED MALE: Where were you planning on coming up with the governor?

APPLE: I have - we have not even talked about that, at this point.


APPLE: I'd rather not, sir, at this point. Again, we're in the very infant stages of this investigation. I do not want to go any further on that. We have a report on file; it alleges criminal conduct against our governor. And it would be just at this point, it would not be in our best interest to talk about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About four months ago, you and - very vague terms of talked about things. And you said essentially, it's up to the victim to come forward - sword. So, is there any indication of why this is the timing now that four or five months after the initial report, - decided to take action?

APPLE: I really can't answer that. What I can say is it's obvious that the Attorney General released her report. I think maybe at that point, she became aware of just how brave the other victims are to come forward. And that may have empowered her some as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any estimate of how long an investigation like --? APPLE: You know what I would be guessing? You know, I mean, this is obviously very high-profile investigation. There's a lot of information out there. We have a lot of fact finding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do. And you know what; I'm not going to rush it because of who he is. And I'm not going to delay it because of who he is.

We're going to conduct a very comprehensive investigation, as my investigators and my staff always do. And when the data - data and the facts are compiled, we'll make a decision at that point.


APPLE: I couldn't hear the beginning of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm sorry. (Inaudible)

APPLE: No, it's obvious a high-profile investigation. I mean, it's the governor. But listen, we treat victims the same. We investigate the same; this one just has more eyes on it.


APPLE: No, I have not. I have spoken to our district attorney and members of his staff. We have discussed it and we hope to sit down in the upcoming week to come up with a game plan. Listen, the last thing we want to do is continue to re-victimize these victims and have them tell the story over and over again.

And I know - I've read the report as well. I've read our report that we took from our victim. And again, I commend them on the bravery for coming forward. And now it's time for us to begin our investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would your investigation assistant at all the Attorney General also had a criminal investigation instead of what we got earlier?

APPLE: It would be hard for me to answer that. There's other investigative data out there. I'm sure that's the information that we're looking for.



APPLE: I'm sorry.


APPLE: Well, right now, I would say that our investigation is involving criminal conduct. I believe that the Attorney General was given their investigative powers were steered more towards civil investigation. Our investigation is more towards a criminal investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff would - walk us through the process going forward.

APPLE: So obviously Mr. Primo and his client came in on Thursday afternoon, as I said they had roughly an hour of a more or less meet and greet and explanation of the criminal justice process and how this is going to proceed.

From here, we've already requested and investigative material from the Attorney General and the private counsel that they had hired out. We're waiting to review what comes back, as well as the District Attorney from Albany. And I believe there's several other district attorneys involved in this at this point, our focus is right here.

And then at that point, we'll review that data. At some point we're going to have our victim back in for probably a very lengthy interview could be a series of interviews. And at that point, depending on the facts and the circumstances, we'll sit down with the District Attorney and make a decision to move forward with a criminal charge.



APPLE: Based on again, I'm really on the peripherals of this but it would probably be a misdemeanor, possibly a couple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one last question. You repeatedly use the word difficult presumption has been victimized. You're in the preliminary or really - station takes investigation. So, when you say victim is that - around. If you believe that they've been victimized?


APPLE: Well, you're being very presumptuous as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think--

APPLE: So again, I think we've all read the Attorney General's report, I think we know what's in it. At this point, it's I'm very comfortable and safe saying that she is, in fact, a victim. And again, I commend all of them for coming forward.

This is a very tough time and for something that you know, was going to put a lot of stress and pressure and pressure on a victim. I give them all the credit in the world. So--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the major parts of this particular allegation was the fact that executive assistant number one of anonymous, so that being said, what do you think is or could be the role of the media as it relates to this is probably 20 cameras here, right now?

APPLE: Listen, I obviously want to protect all of the victims. You know, we spend hours of training and learning how to handle victims, and you know, just, they've had a lot of stress put on them. They've been through a rough period of time. The last thing I want to do is continue to re victimize. I think every time that their faces pop up on TV, or their names are mentioned on TV or radio, it does, in fact, probably put more stressors on them. I think, you know, I know that it's - everybody wants to know what's going on, and it's your job to report that. I just think at some point, you know, showing the pictures and things like that enough are enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You basically need to maintain our anonymity to protect this investigation.

APPLE: I would like to see that, but I cannot tell her to do that or not to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it will be revealed over time as a function of the judicial process.



APPLE: Not at this point. But again, we got this complaint Thursday night, Thursday afternoon.


APPLE: It would be very premature for me to answer that regarding questioning him, but obviously, yes; it could lead to an arrest.


APPLE: What our agency be affecting that arrest, absolutely.


APPLE: I'd rather not get into that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Albany Police Department does have some small involvement in this. Is this going to be at some point of joint investigation because of the overlapping jurisdiction with law enforcement?

APPLE: I'm not sure what their involvement is in this. Our investigation is partnered up with the Albany County District Attorney. And David and I have had a couple of conversations and bounced a few messages back and forth as a result, how it expands? I cannot answer that at this point.


APPLE: Well, I would think living in a digital age, we could get it expeditiously. But I'm not confident of that. So I'm hopeful that we'll have it maybe in the middle to latter part of this coming week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know the state police - sort of close to this on a number of levels, but at some point, the human lives their - club. APPLE: And we may, it all depends, you know how the investigation unfolds. I think as far as investigations, or forensics, I'm very confident in the men and women that work for me. But we may use the lab at some point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a recurring theme from the administration as a whole is that a lot of this has just been political in nature and motivation. How can you reassure those who are questioning whether or not this is politically motivated, that it is?

APPLE: Politically motivated--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From your office.

APPLE: From my office? Well, I can tell you, Darrell, that I had a female victim come forward, which had to be the hardest thing she's ever done in her life and make an allegation of criminal conduct against the governor.

I think as far as the sheriff's office, I am elected as well. I think that we have a proven record in this area in this region of helping people taking care of people. And I think that's what we're supposed to do with law enforcement. I think that's what we're supposed to do in government is take care of people.

I have a young lady that came in was alleging that she was victimized, and we're going to do everything in our powers to help her.


APPLE: So, we will share information back and forth. We may enlist the help of their investigators. He has, you know, seven to 10 investigators over there as well. We may have to partner up to do some interviews or something to that effect.

But ultimately, it's welcoming to have the district attorney involved in on the foundation. They're very familiar then with the investigation going forward. They know the facts, and you're not in the 11th hour trying to push a case on him and expecting them to make a quick decision.


APPLE: I have no timeline on that whatsoever. Again, we're not going to rush this because of who he is. We're not going to delay it because who he is. We're going to conduct a very comprehensive investigation. And when the facts and all the data and the evidence are compiled, we'll make a decision at that point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're start getting the Attorney General materials what other things - have happened first, before you reach out to the governor's office? You need other types of material?


APPLE: Yes, we do. I'd rather not disclose exactly what we need. But yes, we will need more than just information from the Attorney General. And don't forget, there's going to be an interview conducted at some point with our victim.


APPLE: In addition to the identity, I was asked by our district attorney not to release it at this point until we have an additional meeting, to discuss exactly what we're going to be able to gather.


APPLE: We didn't want to have singular pieces of paper out and about, so we're just going to keep everything in house at this point.


APPLE: I'm hopeful for - it could be even tomorrow. It could be Monday or Tuesday at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff all allegations are borne out true that this woman is going to be--. Can you tell us that would be within the confines of a misdemeanor, or would it be a felony?

APPLE: Well, I don't think that would be proper for me to answer at this point. What I have read so far, I can say that, you know, we're floating around a misdemeanor. But again, that's just from the Attorney General's report. I haven't - we haven't had an in-depth interview with her.


APPLE: I'm sorry.


APPLE: I did not watch any of that.


APPLE: Do we plan on --? I can't understand.


APPLE: It would be improper for me to answer that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it safe to assume that you are protected as far as retaliation from the administration? Or do you think that there is a chance that the administration, the formal administration, would retaliate against you as there have been ongoing rumors of that kind of behavior?

APPLE: I'm the County Sheriff. I'm not going to be intimidated. I'm not going to be coerced, that would not play out well, for anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about the Special Victims Unit of this - investigation? APPLE: It's a group of investigators that are trained to handle sexual assaults, investigations, as well as regular criminal investigations. They're very well trained. They're very professional and they're very thorough.


APPLE: We only have two or three that do specific sexual victim investigations. But they have unlimited resources of other investigators.


APPLE: Ultimately, that would be my office. But I would hope that we're in agreement with the district attorney. Listen, if you can't - if you don't have the backing of your district attorney, it's relatively moved to move forward.


APPLE: I'd rather not answer that at this time just to keep things from being convoluted. Anybody else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When can we expect the next press conference or update? Or do you not know?

APPLE: I do not know. Again, this complaint came in Thursday afternoon. I was unreachable yesterday, we will be sitting down after this and having a meeting with our command staff come up with a strategic plan. And then we will also confer with the district attorney's office and commence on investigation.


APPLE: In all likelihood, yes. Yes. And I also need to talk to David about some of the other district attorneys. I've seen that there are four or five other district attorneys seeking information. Again, I don't think we need to have a room full of people to sit down and interview our victim. So, we'll have to go over the logistics of that.


APPLE: We need it. I believe David's waiting for the AG's materials as well. Yes, it's kind of a race right now to see who's getting quickest.


APPLE: Whatever is going on up there is none of my concern. We're seeking investigative material and additional reports from the attorney general's office and those who conducted the investigation. What's happening on Eagle Street is none of my concern. We're worried about our victim in our investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you said you're not getting a date, but it was for - executives' number one. There were multiple incidents that were documented. Any concern about session limitations on any of these three attorney generals support have some dates on there that I believe would fall within that but is there any concern for them?

APPLE: None whatsoever. Again, I thank you for coming out. I hate to break up your Saturday but again we're just starting to get moving here. So, thank you all for coming.



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: You have been listening and watching Alberni County Sheriff Craig Apple pledging a comprehensive investigation into the first known criminal complaint filed against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and it's tied to that New York attorneys general report more than 160 pages of damning allegations earlier this week.

And this is clearly an escalation of a story that has been gaining velocity throughout the course of the several days the last several days just to kind of reset things. As we move into this hour. This was the first known criminal complaint filed. The woman who filed the complaint was one of the 11 women inside the New York Attorney General report, who alleged sexual harassment against the governor.

She and her attorney met for an hour with the Albany County Sheriff's Department on Thursday night that meeting was generally considered according to the County Sheriff, a cursory meeting a walkthrough of kind of the next steps.

The Sheriff's Department has reached out to the New York Attorney General for information regarding the investigation has also reached out to the district attorney which they would likely be working with throughout the investigative process.

The County Sheriff Craig Apple saying explicitly, he's not going to rush it because of who Governor Cuomo is and he's not going to delay the investigation because of who Governor Cuomo is? He is making clear that at some point the victim will be coming back for an interview, possibly several as they move through the investigative process.

And when asked what Governor Cuomo may be looking at here, the Albany County Sheriff didn't hesitate. He said a misdemeanor, plus possibly several he made clear he was not willing to make a firm judgment based on what he'd read, but by what he'd read so far, "Were floating around a misdemeanor".

He said he did not watch any of Governor Cuomo's Attorneys' Press Conferences from yesterday. And when asked about any potential intimidation or anything of that sort, he said, "I'm not going to be intimidated. I'm not going to be coerced. That would not work out well, for anybody".

So again, initial stages making very clear many steps to go but pledging a comprehensive investigation and the latest and most certainly most significant step or piece of fallout from that damning report, the New York Attorney General released with allegations directed at Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this week.

I want to bring in CNN Reporter Sonia Moghe and Former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu now to discuss. Sonia, look, you've been following this as close as anybody broke and more news on this, I think anybody as well. Walk me through what you heard there and what you think it means in the broader context of things.

SONIA MOGHE, CNN REPORTER: Yes, well Phil like you said, the sheriff reiterated that this investigation is that it's very infant stages. And he says though we have a report on file and that it alleges criminal conduct against our governor.

Now, one of the things that he said was that the meeting that they had that these officials at the Sheriff's Department had with this woman was very brief, it was about an hour Thursday afternoon. But the sheriff did say he feels comfortable.

He says he feels very comfortable and safe in saying that she is a victim. And those misdemeanor charges that you'd mentioned that the sheriff had sort of, you know, responded to when asked what the governor could be facing?

The sheriff says this is based on what they've seen in the Attorney General's investigators report. So it's very well possible, there could be a different set of charges, if any. But again, this is just based off of what the AG's investigators reported that they've asked for more materials.

And he said, "We have a lot of fact finding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do. I'm not going to rush it because of who he is. And I'm not going to delay it because of who he is'. Now, yesterday we heard from Governor Cuomo's personal attorney, her name is Rita Glavin.

And now she ran through a timeline of this accuser on what she says was the one day this accuser would have been in the governor's executive mansion in November, which is when the accuser told investigators she was there, and that this incident happened.

Now Glavin said that you know this woman had been sending texts and other correspondence with her colleagues at the time and that the correspondence was very cordial. And so she said she felt that this incident couldn't have happened because of the demeanor that this woman was having in her conversations. Here's what the attorney had to say.


RITA GLAVIN, GOVERNOR CUOMO'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: She was at the mansion that day for several hours. She wasn't just working with the governor. She was working with other staffers, emails that she sent while she was at the mansion, reflected that she was joking while she was there. She was eating snacks. And she even offered to stay longer at the mansion when her work was done.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOGHE: Now, of course, it has to be said that it is entirely possible that this woman could have experienced, you know what she's alleging, and still carried on conversations and tried to you know, keep going throughout her day.

This is something that you see often with people who do experience this kind of behavior. Now, the governor's office at the time back in March when these allegations became public said they had asked this victim's attorney if she was going to file a report with authorities at the time.


MOGHE: She was not at the time. So back in March, the governor's office told us that they had referred this matter and mentioned this matter to Albany Police a totally different entity. But now, you know, why did this woman, this victim come forward today?

The Albany County sheriff says he thinks that it's obvious that the AG released a report and that at some point this victim became aware of "How brave the other victims were to come forward". And that may have empowered her as well.

MATTINGLY: Sonia, I've got a couple of questions for you. But Shan, I'm kind of I'm trying to digest kind of everything that we just heard. And you've got a ton of experiences - experience in cases like this.

Can you walk me through in terms of the implications of what the sheriff was talking about when he's saying, when he's talking about misdemeanor, possibly several misdemeanors is what he said that could be floating around here.

What does that mean I think for a normal person who's trying to figure out the kind of trouble I guess the Governor Cuomo could be in here.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, the distinction between misdemeanors and felonies, basically misdemeanors, a lower level charge, usually not more than 108 days or a year in jail. In sexual assault cases, what distinguishes a felony from a misdemeanor varies from state to state.

But typically, would be felony, it's going to be some sort of contact with genitals, penetration force, incapacity. So, from the public allegations we've seen, these would meet the elements for misdemeanors, there's some touching, perhaps even under the clothes or on top of the clothes, but no direct genital contact, or penetration.

So that's why the distinction exists between misdemeanors and felonies. Important for our viewers to know that actually, most misdemeanor sexual assault convictions are the result of a plea bargain, meaning it's a felony charge, they got plea bargain down to a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors historically reluctant to charge misdemeanor sexual assault on facts, which are meeting the misdemeanor elements and frankly, that's wrong. But that's a result of the historical implicit sexism bias in the system, and they need to charge crimes when the elements are met.

MATTINGLY: So, and to that point, I think that was actually my next question. You watched how - you watched the approach and I think in the tone and tenor of Albany County Sheriff, Greg Apple, obviously made clear that the district attorney is going to be involved in this as well. What's your sense here of the potential consequences for Governor Cuomo if they do decide to move forward on a misdemeanor?

WU: I think there's a sea change going on in not only society, but that trickles down through the criminal justice system. I think that here if the facts are borne out, from what we've seen in the AG's report, and the criminal investigation finds the same thing looks to me like there's probable cause to charge the government if those facts turn out to be verified.

You know, to the point that Sonia was making and one of the reporters asked about the calling the technical term is complainant a victim. I also just want to point out that doesn't mean that the police or prosecutors are prejudging it saying that the governor is guilty.

There are many times when a case comes forward and it's not brought. It doesn't have anything to do with whether the person really is a victim or survivor. It's for other reasons. So, it's appropriate to refer to these women that have come forward here and executive assistant one as a victim or survivor. Guilt has to be proven in court by evidence, but the guilt will go to the governor of this charge.

MATTINGLY: Yes, Sonia Moghe, I have no doubt we'll be coming back to you often over the course of the next couple of hours. Shan Wu as always, my friend thanks you very much for your time and expertise.

And a quick programming note later today, Rita Glavin Governor Cuomo's Personal Attorney will join Pamela Brown for a one on one interview. You can watch that tonight at 6 pm eastern. Devastate new COVID numbers out today that show the average U.S. daily case count now stands above 100,000.

Next, I'll speak with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers who says it's going to be hand to hand combat with this virus in the coming months. Plus, homes left in ashes towns decimate we're live in California where one of the state's largest wildfires in history is still raging.



MATTINGLY: The Coronavirus Delta Varian is surging in communities across the country. For the first time since February the U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new cases per day, hospitalizations and deaths also on the rise across the country.

Now the uptick almost exclusively among the unvaccinated, still on the vaccination front progress, the CDC says over 50 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated and the vaccination rates are ticking up.

And just the last week more than 3.2 million Americans got a vaccine. Those rates haven't been seen since June. Now Florida has fast become the epicenter of this new Delta variant outbreak. The state accounts for one in five cases in the entire country.

Hospitals say they're being overwhelmed by patients that Governor Ron DeSantis is still digging in refusing to impose any restrictions or mandates scientifically proven to help slow the spread and standing by his executive order banning mask mandates at schools.

And Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said this week the battling COVID-19 at this point is going to be like hand-to-hand combat for the next couple of months. Governor Evers joins us now from Madison, Wisconsin. And Governor thanks so much for being here.

I think I kind of want to start there. You know - your sense of things as they've moved over the course of the last several weeks. The idea of hand-to-hand combat, what are you seeing?


And what does that mean with the Delta variant?

GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): Yes, thanks, Phil. And thanks for inviting me this afternoon. I just wanted, yes, it is hand to hand combat because all the people that really desire to get the shot, they've got the shot. And so now it is individuals. And I'll give you a small example at the State Fair in Milwaukee this last week, we've been giving out cream puffs to anybody that gets a shot.

And, you know, I think about over the first couple days we've had about 200 people might not look seem like a lot. But frankly, those -- if those 200 people were did get a virus and the number of people that they exponentially will impact. So it is about hand to hand combat.

It's -- I'm asking people to go through their mental Rolodex (ph) and try to figure out who in their world might have might have not gotten the shot yet to get to them and encourage them. It's going to take time. We'll get there. But it is now individual by individual.

MATTINGLY: And I don't know how an individual can turn down a cream puff. OK.

EVERS: I don't know either.

MATTINGLY: But kind of underscoring, you know, the hand to hand combat references. It's interesting, because it underscores the moment that we're seeing kind of on the federal level too, where you've seen a shift from the White House in terms of really focused on incentives to now trying to add kind of sticks to the carrots as well. And that's what I want to ask you about.

You said at a press conference this week that you're looking at potential options for requiring state employees to show proof of vaccine or get COVID-19 testing, which is what the President Biden is put on the federal level. Is that a decision you've made? And kind of what's driving that evolution in terms of policy?

EVERS: Well, it's driving it all across the state, not just state government, but the University of Wisconsin system and all the larger healthcare providers in the state, the insurance companies and so on, are doing the same thing. They're taking a look at what they feel comfortable doing and working through their own employees. We're taking a look at it here in Wisconsin.

We'll be making that decision sometime in the very near future. But we do, it is important that is an -- we -- people are dying out there. And those 200 plus that we just did at the State Fair, they're going to be living, they're not going to die. They're not going to cause other people to die.

So we're encouraging all employers to just take a look at what they can do internally to make sure that, you know, their own workforce is healthy. We're getting a good response about that or taking a look at what we can do at the state level also.

MATTINGLY: I want to follow up the Wisconsin Department of Health said this week that potentially nearly 500 new cases of coronavirus could be tied back to people who were at the Milwaukee Bucks' Deer District, right? We all saw the pictures, huge celebrations. It looks like a great time to be honest with you where fans gathered to cheer on the team in the NBA Finals.

When you see something like that, you know, is your read on it that all right, because of Delta, maybe we have to impose restrictions on large gatherings or how do you kind of deal with this moment in time as it pertains to gatherings like that?

EVERS: Yes. And now we're talking about mitigation issues. And I think, you know, when whenever we're involved with large crowds, we have to think twice about making sure that people are wearing masks. Now, in the state of Wisconsin, my authority to mitigate around that issue has been taken away by the Supreme Court.

So local officials or public health officials are making recommendations around that and so far, their advice is similar to the federal advice, and that is, if you're going to be inside, if you're going to be, you know, making sure that and you don't know who you're with, that you should be masking up. And that's -- I think that's working out quite well.

Now, large crowds like that that is a different story. Most of that event was outside. And so we continue to follow science, we have not had the recommendations around outdoor activities yet. But we, you know, at the end of the day, this is all about, you know, making sure that we get people inoculated that, you know, compared last year at this time, we're all about mitigation. We didn't have a vaccine. Now we have several and they work. And so that's where our focus really does need to be.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it. Governor, I want to shift gears for a minute just because of some things that have happened in your state over the course of the last couple of days. Your state is about as purple as it gets. Wisconsin swung narrowly in the last two presidential elections.

You know, your race, I think 25, 30,000 votes if I recall correctly. "POLITICO" reports that as of yesterday, you're now faced with a political audit of the 2020 election that's somewhat akin to Arizona, which if it's like the Arizona audit, everybody is pretty clear about how farcical that is. What's your response about what you're seeing right now on this front?


EVERS: You know if it wasn't so serious I would consider it a clown show, frankly. But it is serious. We're talking about democracy and talking about people's, you know, ability to vote in election. So it can't be more serious. But like I said, if it wasn't so serious, it would look like a clown show.

But just recently, legislator here in the state of Wisconsin, on her own without the authority, frankly, to do so, cut and paste what they did in Arizona, put it into a subpoena, and subpoena just about everything that could possibly be part of an election from two of our counties in the state, obviously, two counties that are have more people in it and two counties that for, you know, it had some good numbers for Joe Biden.

Our state has gone through recalls, all the local people have gone through, you know, their own forensic audit. I even hate to use that term because it has no meaning. You know, they double check their machines. We've had numerous court cases in the state of Wisconsin. Nothing went wrong with our election. So the idea that somehow this individual, you know, using information from Arizona somehow is going to find something, it is just so abhorrent to our democracy.

And it saddens me, like I said, clown show, yes, but we're talking about our democracy, it's a slap across our faces as it relates to, you know, what we want in our state of Wisconsin, is to have people to be able to vote, and all eligible people should be able to vote, we shouldn't be discouraging yet, we should be enhancing it.

MATTINGLY: But that's kind of a broader point I want to get into, look, there's no evidence of widespread fraud, anywhere, let alone the state of Wisconsin. I covered that state and race very, very closely.

You know, on the federal level, we're seeing a push that doesn't have the votes, in terms of, you know, trying to protect the right to vote from the Democratic side of things or Democratic perspective, you individually in your role as Governor of the state watching this play out in front of you, what, if anything, can you do, either to put a stop to it given you believe it's a clown show or, you know, what's in your power right now to address this issue that is not Wisconsin based, right? It's seems nationally at this point.

EVERS: Well, absolutely, it's a national thing. You know, it's kissing the ring, right, of the former president. He's the one that's been pushing this, he's been pushing. He's been calling out our Republican leaders in the state of Wisconsin. But the fact that matter is, in order for them to make the changes that they want, it has to be in terms of a law. I mean, they cannot do it unilaterally. And so I will be watching very carefully, what kind of laws they put forward.

And everybody knows my position around, you know, I'm prodemocracy here. And, and we want to make sure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote, instead of cherry picking people that shouldn't be able to vote. That is against what our constitution in Wisconsin stands for. And people understand that. So any change, frankly, has to go through me and I will look at this very seriously.

MATTINGLY: All right, Governor Tony Evers, I know you're busy man, thank you so much for taking the time on a Saturday, Sir.

EVERS: Thanks, Phil. Take care.


MATTINGLY: All right, it's the largest wildfire currently burning in this country and the third biggest ever in California's history, the latest on the Dixie fire that's left towns and homes in ruins.


MATTINGLY: The number of new COVID cases per day has topped more than 100,000 for the first time since February, hospitalizations and deaths also on the rise across the country. In Missouri one of the hardest hit states there have been more than 20,000 new cases in the past week while the state's vaccination rate hovers around 42 percent.

Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis is an infectious disease physician at John Cochran VA Medical Center and a member of the St. Louis Board of Health. And Doctor, thanks so much for joining us. I think one of the most valuable things right now is finding out what's actually happening on the ground. How critical is the situation in St. Louis area hospitals right now? What are you hearing from your colleagues?

DR. MATI HLATSHWAYO DAVIS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN, JOHN COCHRAN VA MEDICAL CENTER: We have not been in this state of high alert since middle of last year. The situation is dire. I can't put it any more clearly. We've seen double the hospitalizations in hospitals in St. Louis. And that number also true for the number of people that we have on ventilators.

People are sick, deaths are up. And we are very discouraged. We had started to have some hope at the beginning of the summer. So to be back in the space, especially with winter, just around the corner is something that has us all worried.

MATTINGLY: And just from what you're seeing and hearing. Is this still driven primarily by the unvaccinated?

DAVIS: Oh absolutely. I cannot underscore how clear it is that vaccinations make the difference here, especially with a Delta variant in play that's over 50 percent more transmissible. We are seeing that the majority of our hospitalizations, cases and deaths and I'm talking numbers over at 98 percent are in the unvaccinated. Vaccinations make a difference. And it's so interesting to me, Phil, because I keep hearing from the

public, this narrative around, you know, breakthrough infections, why did I even bother getting a vaccination. And in the very few cases where that is existing, and again, existing more now than we saw before because of Delta, these people are less sick. I'm not seeing vaccinated people in my ICUs, and I'm certainly have not seen a death due to someone who's been vaccinated. So vaccinations are still critical, the most important tool in our toolbox.


MATTINGLY: And one of the questions, you know, with vaccination levels, where they are, where you are, mitigation efforts, I think, have also been viewed on the scientific side of things as crucial, right, in the city of St. Louis voted to block the county's indoor mask mandate. It's now headed to court, that move had bipartisan support. Well, I guess the question is, why is there so much resistance to mask mandates right now, given the recommendations?

DAVIS: This was such a disheartening thing to see. So what happened was the city and the county came together, unified their health officials to put this, cup this mandate in place that follows the science and is in -- that is in alignment with what the CDC has recommended for this moment in time, because medicine is not a monolith. It's not static. We have to respond to what we're dealing with at the time. And so this mandate was absolutely appropriate. But the county council then shut this down.

And what's unfortunate for me is to see politics now take the four, to see people's perceived sense of autonomy and self, come over the right of their community, what should be happening in communities. You know, I started doing medical contributing not because this is what I wanted to do for a career, but because there was a need for people like me, trusted messengers, to come on and educate folks, because this is what I do.

I would never argue with a plumber about how to fix my plumbing or a teacher about how to educate my kids. So it is just astounding to me that now politicians are the ones that people are going to for their messaging. Unfortunately, this is what I'm seeing in the county right now and in our region, and it has to stop. Science needs to come to the fore. We have no personal stake in this, no reason to lie about what's happening. Science has to come back to the fore.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's a political dynamics, like 16, 17 months into it. It's amazing that we're still here.

DAVIS: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTINGLY: Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, thank you very much for your time and your expertise. I appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thanks so much for having me back, Phil.

All right, just ahead, homes left in ashes, towns decimated. We're live in California were one of the state's largest wildfires in history is raging.



MATTINGLY: Right now at this very moment firefighters are still battling the massive Dixie fire in Northern California and it only continues to grow. At 446,000 acres, it's currently the largest fire burning anywhere in the U.S. and the third largest wildfire in the state's history. It had been 35 percent contained.

Now just 21 percent contained even though the weather improved overnight. CNN's Camila Bernal joins us now from Chico, California. And Camila to contextualize things for people, I read this stat. I want to make sure this is right. This fire in the last 24 hours burned an area the size of New York Central Park every 11 minutes. Is that right?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's unbelievable how much this fire has grown over the last couple of hours and just over the last couple of days and no one wants to see containment numbers going down instead of up. But Cal Fire is saying that it is in part because of better mapping. But the reality is that this fire just keeps on growing and it is burning out of control. The focus though for the weekend is going to be finding eight people that are still unaccounted for.

Deputies were able to locate 16 others that were unaccounted for, but they are going to continue searching over the weekend. That is the biggest priority. Thousands are still under evacuation orders. We're talking people who are dealing with the stress and the anxiety of not knowing whether or not their homes will be standing when they return. You saw what happened in Greenville.

It's not just a couple of homes and businesses that are destroyed. It's an entire community that will likely not be the same again ever because when people return what they're finding is ashes. And that is just so depressing and so sad for so many of these families. We know that firefighters are still working around the clock but about 200 structures have been destroyed already and 14,000 others are still at risk.

Bottom line is that it's still very hot. It is extremely dry and the smoke is thick. That smoke is not only affecting the firefighting efforts on the ground and in the air, but of course it is creating unhealthy air quality for many people here in this area and even states that are nowhere near the fire are dealing with the poor air quality, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes, we were looking at the pictures of Greenville. It's just it's jaw dropping, absolutely jaw dropping. Camila Bernal, very important story. Thanks so much for your reporting.

All right, firefighters across Greece are battling wildfires for a fifth straight day as the country suffers its worst heat wave in more than 30 years. At least 400 wildfires have burned tens of thousands of acres destroying homes and businesses. Overnight, hundreds of people had to be evacuated from an island east of Athens when flames burned right up to the shore.

Now another wildfire on the outskirts of the capital city has forced thousands of evacuations. Emergency crews say high wind and temperatures are making it difficult to contain the flames at all. The country's Prime Minister has called this a nightmarish summer.


Coming up, the fight over voting rights heats up in Texas. We're live in Austin just ahead.



MATTINGLY: Good Saturday afternoon in the east. I'm Phil Mattingly in Washington.