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COVID-19 Cases Surge in U.S. Despite Vaccination Uptick; Wildfires in U.S. and Greece; Border Afghan City Falls to Taliban; U.S. Senate to Vote on Infrastructure Bill; Andrew Cuomo Lawyer's Hit Back after AG Report; Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 7, 2021 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Good but not yet good enough. The U.S. reaches a vaccination milestone, even as COVID cases surge in Florida and elsewhere.

Also, crews battle massive wildfires in the western U.S., while a similar fight is waged in Greece.

Plus, we're just hours away from a key U.S. Senate vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. We'll tell you what's at stake.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: We begin with a big sign of progress in the U.S. vaccination campaign against the coronavirus. But it comes hand in hand with a record the country could do without.

As for the milestone, half of Americans are now fully vaccinated, according to data released Friday. But in the state of Florida, the Delta variant is spreading at unprecedented speed. We're talking about 20,000 new cases per day on average.

Florida had more than 134,000 new cases total over the past week, the highest number since the pandemic began. And the FDA is stepping up efforts to make a decision about booster shots for people, whose immune systems have been compromised.

And an administration official says the decision could come before early December. Despite the uptick in vaccinations, the COVID surge is showing no signs of slowing down. Nick Valencia reports.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major milestone for the country with half the total U.S. population fully vaccinated. But the grim count of COVID deaths is rising fast, a 52 percent increase over last week's seven-day average.

Florida reported more COVID-19 cases over the past week than any other seven-day period during the pandemic. Data published Friday by the state health department, reported 134,506 new COVID-19 cases over the past week. For an average of 19,215 cases each day.

One unvaccinated Virginia man reminding people to get the shot before it's too late.

TRAVIS CAMPBELL, COVID-19 PATIENT: I'm so sorry that I made the mistake of being able to not get vaccinated. Vaccinations are so important. And I could do better as a parent, as a human. And I hope to God, everybody else can do.

VALENCIA: The United States is recording its second highest seven-day average surge for new cases, nearing almost 100,000 a day. The Gulf Coast region has particularly suffered. Mississippi's top health official giving a dire warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As everyone is aware, we have seen a phenomenal increase in the number of daily reported cases of COVID. And this is entirely attributable to the Delta variant, which is sweeping over Mississippi, you know, like a tsunami.

VALENCIA: In Alabama, one of the hardest hit states, vaccination rates are up slightly. But tens of thousands of shots have already spoiled because not enough people there want the shot.

DR. SCOTT HARRIS, ALABAMA HEALTH OFFICER: We are starting to see some wastage.

VALENCIA: The push to mandate vaccines continues to be a polarizing issue, especially in schools. New Jersey's governor is now requiring all K-12 students to wear masks. But other school districts in the country have been at odds with their governor over what to do. Florida's governor standing firm on his ban on mask mandates.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you are coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way. I'm not going to let you get away with it.

VALENCIA: But Florida's Orange County school district is doing what they can to help, tooling school employees they must wear masks.

In Louisiana, the emotional toll on front line workers is evident. The state currently has the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections per capita in the nation.

WANDA RIVERS, NURSE: We're stressed because we thought that this was getting better. And now we're working as hard, even harder, than we did a few months ago.

VALENCIA: Heading into the weekend, there are concerns of another possible super spreader event in South Dakota, as 700,000 visitors are expected to attend the Sturgis motorcycle rally, an event that drew fire last year in the state that push back against COVID safety protocols.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem tweeting, "There is risk associated with everything we do in life. Bikers get that better than anyone."

This year, the city says, it will provide free COVID self-test kits.

CHRISTINA STEELE, STURGIS PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: These are just little tests that you get, that you take home. You still do the nose swab but you have results within about 15 minutes.


VALENCIA: And with cases surging across the country, masks continue to be a hotly debated issue. In Georgia, governor Brian Kemp says the state does not need a mandate for citizens to, quote, "do the right thing."

Meanwhile, on the local level, there's a push to increase vaccine confidence, especially among communities of color. Here on Buford Highway, a predominantly Latino district of Atlanta, CORE, the Community Organized Relief Effort, is giving out free vaccine for those 12 and up -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


BRUNHUBER: So as Nick mentioned in his report, the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, got underway on Friday. About 700,000 people are expected to attend the 10-day event, far more than in 2020.

Yet out of last year's smaller crowd, the CDC documented 649 new COVID cases. Experts say whether this year's rally becomes a superspreader event will depend on how many people are vaccinated and how many choose to wear a mask.

One of the most frightening aspects of the Delta variant is the number of young children who are becoming sick. And as millions now head back to school, the country is locked in a heated debate over whether they should wear masks in the classroom. The head of the CDC says the latest data all point to the need for masks.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The places that are having the problem, the places that are having disease that is transmitted in the schools, are the places that aren't taking the prevention strategies, the places that aren't masking.

The places where you're seeing the footage of kids in the hospital are all places that are not taking mitigation strategies to keep our children safe.


Despite several U.S. state governors banning mask mandates, many local officials aren't playing ball. Houston's school superintendent says he'll propose a mask requirement for all students, staff and visitors at city schools. The proposal will be considered at a board meeting next week.

Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, who recently announced a similar measure for city employees, says he supports the effort.


MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-TX), HOUSTON: The numbers continue to rise. So to sit back and to do nothing and to watch this situation occur

when there could be healthcare measures put in place that at the very minimum, slow it down, while we continue to encourage people to get the vaccine with just what -- is just not an acceptable thing to do.

So I have a responsibility to protect the people in the city of Houston, and I will do whatever I can to do that.


BRUNHUBER: And officials are right to be concerned about the spread of the Delta variant among children, as hospitals fill up.

An 11-month-old girl with COVID-19 is in stable condition after she was airlifted to a hospital 150 miles away, due to a shortage of beds in the Houston area. Doctors say she no longer needs a breathing machine and her recovery has been, in their words, "amazing."

The baby's mom says she gets angry when people don't take COVID seriously, saying, quote, "It's not a joke. Our babies are in danger."

And the state of Florida is also battling a sharp rise in the number of younger patients. Hospitals there are seeing pediatric COVID cases soar, due to the Delta variant.

And while infections are up in all age groups across the state, an analysis by the "Miami Herald" shows the sharpest increase among children under 12 and hospitals are struggling to keep up.


DR. AILEEN MARTY, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: The numbers of cases in our hospitals in children and our children's hospitals are completely overwhelmed. The local hospital here, the Nicklaus Hospital, has 116 percent occupancy for COVID. That is mind-boggling.

Our pediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted and the children are suffering and it is absolutely devastating.

We've never seen numbers like this before and we really need to take the steps that are absolutely necessary to reduce the transmission.


BRUNHUBER: Earlier, I spoke to Dr. John McGuire. He's the chief of pediatric critical care medicine at Seattle's Children's Hospital and asked him about COVID outbreaks as kids start returning to school. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JOHN MCGUIRE, CHIEF, CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: I think we're worried. Last year, most of the schools in our area were doing largely remote, not in-person schooling.

When we saw the return to the classroom, it was during a time where we were seeing lower numbers of COVID cases in the community. Unfortunately now the timing of school starting lines up with this new wave of cases. So it's very concerning.


BRUNHUBER: And next hour, we'll have more of my interview with Dr. John McGuire about COVID and the return to school.

Well, there are now more than 100 large fires burning across the U.S., wreaking havoc on the western states.


BRUNHUBER: And similar scenes are unfolding halfway around the world where Greece is battling an inferno. And dozens of wildfires are forcing thousands to evacuate. Now live from Athens, Elinda Labropoulou.

Elinda, I understand conditions seem to be getting worse.

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: Conditions are very difficult at the moment. We have strong winds. It's the second day that these winds are coming in. And we understand that they're also changing direction all the time, which makes the firefighting operations much more difficult.

As it stands, over a dozen blazes are very, very close to Athens at the moment. There's a front here in the north suburbs, where I'm standing. This is the last area that hasn't been evacuated close to Athens.

It seems as the fire approaches, more and more areas are being evacuated, bringing the fire much closer to the Greek capital. One person died yesterday after an electricity pole fell on him and he succumbed to his injuries in hospital. He's the first victim of the fire.

But a lot of people have been taken to hospital with respiratory problems. Where I am now, you can smell the smoke and see the haze behind me. The atmosphere is really stifling.

It's not just Athens. It seems like a number of fires have also rekindled, including one close to the ancient site of Olympia, the home of the first Olympics. This is a fire that tremendous effort has been put, in order to make sure it does not reach the archaeological site, just a few days ago.

But we have news now that this fire has rekindled. So as you understand, it's going to be a very hard day ahead of us today, Kim. BRUNHUBER: Yes. It seems so. All right, thanks so much, Elinda

Labropoulou in Athens.

Back here in the U.S., the Dixie fire in northern California has exploded in size to more than 434,000 acres, becoming the largest fire in the country. It's burning so fast, it scorched an area the size of Central Park every 11 minutes for an entire day. CNN's Josh Campbell has more on the devastation it's leaving behind.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We're learning new details about a fire that ripped through the community of Greenville here in northern California. Officials telling us at least 100 homes were destroyed.

On Friday, officials were also working to account for four residents. Officials said that not everyone had heeded evacuation orders from local law enforcement. Now the sheriff here is a native of Greenville. He spoke about the devastation that this fire brought to his hometown.


SHERIFF TODD JOHNS, PLUMAS COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Despite efforts of firefighters, aerial resources and law enforcement, the fire spread into the community of Greenville and caused mass destruction.

For those of you that don't know, I'm a lifelong resident of Greenville. And I want to start by saying my heart is crushed by what has occurred there. And to the folks that have lost residences and businesses, I have met some of them already. Their life is now forever changed. And all I can tell you is, I'm sorry.


CAMPBELL: Now of course, as we cover these fires, we also have to talk about the cause. Experts continue to tell us that a major driver in these longer fire seasons, the more intense fires that we're seeing, is climate change.

We're also hearing from veteran firefighters, telling us that what they are seeing and witnessing as they're trying to battle these blazes is unlike anything that they've ever seen.

As far as where things stand from here, on Friday, officials said this Dixie fire had exceeded 400,000 acres burned. It's now the largest fire burning in the United States. We're also told by officials that over 5,000 firefighters are here onsite, trying to stop the blaze. I'm Josh Campbell. Back to you.



[04:15:00] BRUNHUBER: Well, the U.S. and Britain have just issued an urgent warning to their citizens in Afghanistan: leave now. After the break, we'll take you behind the front lines of the desperate battle now underway for the country's second largest city.

Plus, a key part of President Joe Biden's economic agenda is getting closer to happening. We'll have the latest on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, making its way through the Senate. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: America's withdrawal from Afghanistan is almost complete. But peace seems farther away than ever. The U.S. embassy in Kabul is urging Americans in the country to leave immediately.

The embassy warns that its ability to assist U.S. citizens is extremely limited and is advising those leaving to use commercial flights.

And moments ago, the British foreign office repeated the same warning to its citizens that it first issued Friday. In recent weeks, the Taliban have advanced relentlessly in Afghanistan.

A few hours ago, a provincial capital in the north fell to the Islamist group, although the fighting continues. It's the second provincial capital to fall in the past day. The key city of Zaranj, near the border with Iran, was the first. The U.N.'s special envoy to Afghanistan had this strong warning for the international community.


DEBORAH LYONS. U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: In the past weeks, the war in Afghanistan has entered a new, deadlier and more destructive phase.

The Taliban campaign during June and July to capture rural areas has achieved significant territorial gains. From this strengthened position, they have begun to attack the larger cities.


BRUNHUBER: And Kandahar is one of those larger cities now under attack. It's strategically and symbolically important and Afghanistan's national army is fighting desperately to maintain control.

But Kandahar's half-million residents have few routes of escape and even fewer options. Our Clarissa Ward takes us behind the front lines in the besieged city. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the road to Kandahar's front line, there is still civilian traffic, even as the Taliban inches deeper into the city. Afghan commandos have agreed to take us to one of their bases.

WARD: This used to be a wedding hall. Now it's the frontline position.

WARD (voice-over): Most of the fighting here happens at night. But Taliban snipers are at work 24 hours a day.

WARD: From snipers?


WARD (voice-over): The men tell us the Taliban are hiding in houses just 50 yards away from us.

WARD: And they shoot from people's homes? They shoot from civilians' houses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you see this is all civilians' homes. We cannot use, you know, the big weapons, the heavy weapons.

WARD (voice-over): Up on the roof, Major Habibullah Shaheen wants to show us something.

WARD: So you can actually see the Taliban flag just over on the mountaintop there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are flag.

WARD (voice-over): It's been nearly a month since the Taliban penetrated Afghanistan second largest city. Since then, these men haven't had a break. U.S. airstrikes only come in an emergency. The rest of the time it's up to them to hold line.

"We feel a little bit weak without U.S. airstrikes and ground support and equipment," he says, "but this is our soil and we have to defend it."

GUL AHMAD KAMIN, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, KANDAHAR: Bombardment using heavy weapons.

WARD (voice-over): In a villa in the eastern part of the city, Kandahari lawmaker Gul Ahmad Kamin is hunkered down. In decades of war, he says he's never seen the fighting this bad.

KAMIN: Millions of people in this city are waiting for when they will be killed, then someone will kill them, when their home will be destroyed. And it is happening every minute.

WARD: Just spell out for me here.

The Taliban is basically surrounding the entire city of Kandahar now, is that correct?

KAMIN: Definitely yes.

WARD: And so, where is there to go?

KAMIN: Nowhere. So there is only two options do or die.

WARD: Do or die?


WARD: And what does do look like?

KAMIN: That is the thing to convince different sides to ceasefire, to work on peace, to convince them to not to fight, not to get.

WARD (voice-over): But that is a tall order, in a city where war has become part of everyday life.

WARD: You can probably see there's a lot more cars on the road than there were previously and that's because in just two minutes at 6:00 p.m., the cell phone network gets cut across the city and that's when the fighting usually starts.


WARD (voice-over): Throughout the night the sounds of gunfire and artillery pierce the darkness. Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban. They are intent on taking it back and the government knows it cannot afford to lose it.

By day, an eerie calm holds. The U.N. says more than 10,000 people are now displaced in this city. On the outskirts of town, we find 30 families camped out in an abandoned construction site.

WARD: (Speaking foreign language).

He's saying that none of these children have fathers, all of their fathers have been killed in the fighting.

WARD (voice-over): Thirty-five-year-old Rubbina fled with her two daughters to escape the fighting after her husband was shot dead. But still, it gets closer and closer.

"Last night I didn't sleep all night," she says, "and the fear was in my heart."

In the short time we are there more families arrived. Street vendor Mahmad Ismael says they fled the village of Malajad after an airstrike hit.

"Three dead bodies were rotting outside our home for days but it was too dangerous to get them," he says.

"The Taliban is attacking on one side, the government is attacking the other side. In the middle, we're just losing." Back at the base, dust coats the chairs were wedding guests would normally sit as the siege of Kandahar continues, life here is in limbo with no end in sight -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kandahar.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. military has concluded that last week's deadly drone attack on an Israel-linked tanker ship was carried out by Iran. The foreign ministers of the G7 nations issued a joint statement on Friday, saying, "All available evidence clearly points to Iran."

Iran insists it had no role in the attack. We get the latest from CNN's Frederik Pleitgen in Iran.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. military, now says that it has evidence that the drone that was used to attack the Israeli-managed ship Mercer Street was manufactured, in Iran.

Essentially, what the Pentagon is saying is that a forensic, team from the U.S. military, went on board that ship after it was hit and what they managed to do, is they managed to recover some of the parts of the drone, which they say was a suicide drone.

In other words, one that crashed into the chip, killing two of the sailors. And they managed to recover some parts of that drone.

They said, looking at those parts, it became clear, those were parts that were usually used by Iran. They also said, that drone had used military grade explosives.

Now of course, before all of this, the U.S. and Israel had blamed the Iranians for the attack. Iran denies all of that. However, the Israelis have come out and have, said they will be able to retaliate against Iran, on their own.

This has caused some angry reactions here, from the Iranians. You have the spokesman for Iran's foreign minister, saying, quote, "In another brazen violation of international law, the Israeli regime now blatantly threatens Iran with military action. Such malign behavior, stems from blind, Western support. We state this clearly, any foolish act against Iran, will be met with a decisive response. Don't test us."

Of course, all of this comes just on the heels of a new president, taking office here in Iran, a hardliner, Ebrahim Raisi, who has said that Iran will continue to act boldly, here, in the Middle Eastern region -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Iran.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Senate is looking to advance a key part of President Joe Biden's economic agenda. But hurdles remain for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. We'll have more on that. Stay with us. (MUSIC PLAYING)




BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Senate will reconvene in the coming hours, in the latest bid to advance a trillion dollar infrastructure bill. At least 10 Republicans need to join with Democrats for it to reach a final vote. And that's not the only hurdle it faces. Ryan Nobles has the latest from Washington.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is by no means an easy process but the Senate is moving closer to passing that trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure package. And it could happen as soon as early next week.

The Senate, for the most part on Friday, was not conducting any business. And that's because they are allowing this process to take its place.

And on Saturday, sometime in the afternoon, they're expected to break the filibuster on this big bill. And both Republicans and Democrats do believe the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster, which is a key step, could happen.

After that, it is anybody's guess. At any point, if all 100 senators agree, they could fast-track this legislation, meaning they could pass it out of the Senate as soon as Saturday night.

But if even one senator decides to slow down that process, that means they'll have to jump through a number of hoops before they get there. That could mean a series of votes that have to take place between Saturday, Sunday and then potentially even into Monday and Tuesday before the bill is finally passed.

Now there is still a great degree of optimism that, ultimately, this bill will make it over the finish line. This is just the last-minute haggling between Republicans and Democrats, trying to get as much as they can into this bill before it passes.

Keep in mind, this, of course, a by-product of a 50-50 Senate, where essentially every member of the Senate has the opportunity to slow this process down, and that's exactly what we see playing out here.

Even after it passes the Senate, this package has a long way to go. It's going to go to the House, where they will review it and potentially make changes. But already, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they're not moving ahead with this legislation until they see that bigger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package come along with it.

And the Senate is expected to vote on the resolution, which is just the shell of that $3.5 trillion plan, perhaps as soon as next week, as well. It will then go to the House, which will begin that process.

Once the bill passes the Senate, it will go over there and sit on the House side. The bipartisan package is going to sit there on the House side until the reconciliation package can be passed.

So the long and short of this, well, they are making progress. It is unlikely that either of these big budget bills, these infrastructure bills, will be anywhere near President Joe Biden's desk until some time in the fall.


NOBLES: But the fact that they are going to cross this hurdle here in the next couple of days is a very significant step -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.



BRUNHUBER: And joining me now is Thomas Gift, director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London.

Thanks so much for being with us again. As we just heard there, senators could approve the bill this weekend or they could drag their feet, with a flotilla of amendments and endless debate.

Just on the short-term here, do you expect it to pass smoothly in the Senate?

Or are there still major roadblocks ahead for this bipartisan bill?

THOMAS GIFT, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Well, good morning, Kim, it's really good to be with you, as always.

The last 48 hours have put the brakes on this infrastructure bill, no doubt about it. I still think it's just a temporary impasse. But with almost 2 dozen amendments on the table and the package ballooning to 2,700 pages, it's never easy.

One of the main sticking points is new regulations over the taxing of cryptocurrency brokers, which was intended to be one source of revenue in financing the bill. The digital currency lobby objected to language that this would have expanded the tax burden on certain intermediaries.

But it's not just these technical amendments holding up the bill. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office came out with an estimate on Thursday, which projected that the deal would balloon the deficit by $256 billion over a decade.

That contradicts the claim that was always suspect and relied on creative accounting to suggest this bill would be revenue neutral. So that may also be giving some Republican budget hawks cold feet. But all in all, I think this is something that they just have to work through and it will get done in the Senate. BRUNHUBER: Yes, that CBO score certainly spooked plenty of


So why would they vote for this?

A big win to Biden and the Democrats.

And what kind of backlash could they face from their voters back home?

And remember, Donald Trump threatened Republicans, who voted for this, would face primaries in the midterms.

GIFT: It's a terrific question, Kim. And I think this is still Mitch McConnell we're talking about. Clearly, there are a few things that he wants less than to hand the White House a slam dunk win. But I think GOP leadership has made a few calculations here.

So first, Republicans may believe that this could make moderate Democrats less likely to support the next blockbuster spending bill Biden has proposed through budget reconciliation. The idea is to give Democrats a victory here, show a reasonable willingness to reach across the aisle.

And senators like Joe Manchin might not rally behind a fully partisan spending spree next.

Additionally, Republicans may see this as a necessary concession to prevent what they perceive as an even worse outcome, Democrats responding by killing the filibuster out of frustration from not getting this bill enacted.

And lastly to your point, I think supporting this bill, despite what Trump has said, isn't likely to generate a huge amount of backlash against Republican lawmakers; some but not a huge amount because infrastructure still polls well, even among conservative voters.

And a new poll just coming out of Harvard last week shows that about 70 percent of Americans broadly approve of this deal. So there's still quite a bit of consensus across the country that something needs to get done here.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, all right. So Republicans aren't the only potentially stumbling blocks, Democrats as well, because, if the Senate approves it, it goes to the House and the House Democrats want to see them vote on that more expensive so-called human infrastructure bill, climate goals, renewable energy, child care, so on.

If that bill isn't to the liking of progressive Democrats, how likely is it that Biden's own party will be the barrier standing in the way of this signature achievement?

GIFT: That's certainly an issue. And there's no doubt that progressives have been making a fuss about this infrastructure bill not going far enough. And that's what see publicly so you can bet behind closed doors the White House is getting an earful from the left flank in Congress. Even with a $1 trillion price tag, the legislation has been watered

down significantly from the $2 trillion number Biden originally proposed. And that's despite the fact that this bill still includes considerable money for investments that go beyond standard infrastructure initiatives like roads, bridges, tunnels and so on.

I think in the end, progressive Democrats will go along with the legislation, even if begrudgingly. But much of the bickering we're seeing within the Democratic Party isn't going to fade away.

And it's likely that the compromises required to get this bill over the finish line will only kindle more frustration from the Left going forward and that is, certainly, as you suggest, likely to complicate the next major spending bill that Biden hopes to get passed.

BRUNHUBER: Right. OK. So I'm going to combine my two aspects here, because we only have one minute left. But I want to get a -- you know, how important this infrastructure bill is to Biden's presidency and for Democrats going into the midterms.

And I want to get your opinion whether this is, in any way, a vindication of Biden's claim that he can reach across the aisles, bring bipartisanship back to Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Or is infrastructure just this one-off and Congress will again, you know, congeal basically as soon as this is done?

GIFT: Right, another great question. Purely in terms of political optics, I think it's possible to overestimate how bad it would be for Biden if he didn't get infrastructure passed because what you get is just typical scapegoating and it might backfire against Republicans more.

Clearly the White House wants a win here and a loss would be, if not devastating, a serious setback. Biden is already staring down other big challenges, both domestically and internationally, including what's unfolding in Afghanistan, immigration and border issues and concerns about the Delta variant and how that's going to impact the economy.

All of Biden's marquee accomplishments so far, including a litany of executive orders and the COVID-19 relief bill, have obviously come without Republican backing. To your point, Biden really needs to show that, on an issue like this, relatively straightforward, he can forge a consensus on Capitol Hill and that his leadership and negotiating skills are up to the task.

Because, on other legislative priorities, Mitch McConnell is certainly going to revert to full-on obstructionism.

BRUNHUBER: All right, well, thanks so much. That's all the time we have. Thomas Gift, appreciate you coming on.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, attorneys for Andrew Cuomo come out swinging after an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against the New York governor. Please stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: Lawyers for the governor of New York are pulling no punches in defending their client after a damning report by the state attorney general. In a fiery press conference on Friday, they tried to discredit several of the 11 women accusing Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. We have details from CNN's Paula Reid.



PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, lawyers for embattled New York governor Andrew Cuomo, firing back against allegations of sexual harassment.


REID (voice-over): For the first time, publicly addressing some claims line by line.

GLAVIN: The governor deserves to be treated fairly and he must be. That did not happen here. This was one sided and he was ambushed.

REID (voice-over): A New York state attorney general's report this week found the governor sexually harassed 11 women. A report the governor's lawyer say was done to support a pre-determined narrative.

GLAVIN: I asked, why did this report ignore documentary evidence and why did they not want to tell you?

REID (voice-over): A woman named in the AG's report as Executive Assistant-1 filed a complaint Thursday with the Albany sheriff's office. It's the first known criminal complaint of sexual misconduct against the governor.

ANNE CLARK, SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: In the executive mansion, the governor hugged executive assistant number one and reached under her blouse to grab her breasts. This was the culmination of a pattern of inappropriate sexual conduct.

REID (voice-over): But lawyers for Cuomo say that's not what happened.

GLAVIN: 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 reflect 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.

REID (voice-over): The governor's office says it notified Albany police of the sexual misconduct allegations several months ago, in accordance with state policies.

The governor's lawyers also taking issue with another accusation that the governor inappropriately touched a state trooper assigned to his security detail. The lawyer saying Cuomo sought her out at an event to recruit her and increase diversity.

GLAVIN: He liked how she maintained eye contact. He liked she was assertive with him in the conversation.

And then he asked one of the troopers who knows about her and they said, yes, she's excellent.

And he's like, I don't understand this. Why do I not have women on my detail?

REID: Cuomo's lawyers say the governor will address the troop troop's allegations directly soon.

Another accuser, Lindsey Boylan, says she left the governor's office after being harassed. The governor's lawyers say that's also not true.

GLAVIN: She was leading the public to believe a false story, that she left because of sexual harassment and a bad work environment when in fact, she left after being confronted with a number of complaints and then really wanted her job back and they wouldn't give it back.

REID: Cuomo's lawyers who suffered technical issues during the presentation --


REID: -- say they are preparing an official response and will submit it to the state impeachment committee by the August 13th deadline.

The New York attorney general's office responded in a statement saying, "There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion and attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate."

The office also says it will be making redacted transcripts of witness interviews available to the New York state assembly -- Paula Reid, CNN, New York.


BRUNHUBER: The Tokyo Olympics are almost over but there's still history to be made. We'll tell you which medals are still on the table and the stories behind some of today's biggest wins. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: We want to take you live now to Bangkok. You can see protesters facing off against police. According to Johns Hopkins University, the country has reported more than 714,000 cases and this week has seen daily records in both cases and deaths.

Thai health officials report that so far only about 6 percent of the country has been fully vaccinated and we'll stay on this story as it develops.

For the fourth day in a row, Tokyo has reported more than 4,000 new coronavirus infections. The city has counted more than 4,500 new cases Saturday. Tokyo is under a state of emergency until August 31st. And cases all over Japan are rising. The country passed the 1 million mark on Friday.


BRUNHUBER: It is Saturday in Japan and it's the last full day of the Tokyo Olympics. We've been seeing a flurry of finals and new medals across the board. China is leading the gold medal count with 38 but the U.S. has the most medals overall at 102. And there's plenty of action still to come.



BRUNHUBER: I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more CNN NEWSROOM. Please do stay with us.