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String Of Taliban Victories Over Past 72 Hours; Former Trump Officials Testify, Cuomo Staffer Who Filed Criminal Complaint Speaks Publicly. Aired 2-3aET

Aired August 9, 2021 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here at the United States and all around the world. You are watching "CNN Newsroom" and I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead, across the U.S., the delta variant is fueling an alarming surge in COVID patients admitted to hospitals with some running out of space or staff to keep up.

Despite the rising case numbers, Canada is reopening its border to American travelers if they are fully vaccinated. And, Greece is struggling with a rash of wildfires spurred on by an unrelenting heat wave.

Good to have you with us. The U.S. is grappling with an alarming new reality as COVID numbers are skyrocketing once again raising months of progress in containing the virus. According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 cases per day, the highest numbers in nearly six months.

COVID hospital admissions are also at their highest point since February with staff and a number of states overwhelmed and space for new patients running out. What's also concerning is how the virus is affecting young people.

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FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We don't have rigorous data There are getting so hard for sure that they are, but I certainly, I'm am hearing from pediatricians that they are concerned, that this time the kids who are in the hospital are both more numerous and more seriously ill. We will have to get better comparisons to be sure of that. We do have evidence that delta may be more serious for older folks as well.

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CHURCH: Health officials described the current uptick as a pandemic of the unvaccinated and warned that further vaccine hesitancy could allow for more dangerous variants to emerge. Also, U.S. regulators are getting closer to giving full approval to the nation's COVID vaccines. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks now is the time for local leaders to start requiring vaccinations.

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ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: And I believe that some people on their own, once it gets approved as a full approval, will go ahead and get vaccinated. But for those who do not want, I believe mandates at the local level need to be done.

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CHURCH: This new COVID wave comes as American children are already headed back to school where some of the most fiery political debates are raging over mask mandates.

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ASA HUTCHINSON, GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: So, I asked the legislature to redo the law that prohibited those requirements or those options for the school districts to protect the children. And so, it was an error to sign that law. I admit that.

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CHURCH: (Inaudible) so bitter that federal officials are pleading with other decision makers to tone down the political rhetoric and embrace the importance of vaccines and masks.

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MIGUEL CARDONA, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: To those who are making policies that are preventing this, don't be the reason why schools are interrupted, why children can't go to extracurricular activities, why games are cancelled. We need to do our part as leaders like Governor Hutchinson is doing to make sure that they have access to the decisions that they need to make to get their students safely back in school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Meantime, Cases in the state of Florida are surging hitting a new record high last week. The state's health department reported more cases than any other week in the pandemic, averaging more than 19,000 a day.

Florida's governor doesn't acknowledge the trend, instead, doubling down on a ban against mandatory face masks in schools. A CNN medical analyst says the rest of the country may need to consider a ban of its own. Take a listen.

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JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would need to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States. He needs to understand that he's painted himself into a corner. People are dying in Florida. It's going to get much worse. The hospitals are filling. Children as well.

UNKNOWN: Old people --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And as of a few hours ago, people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated now have one more option when it comes to leaving their country. But, as Paula Newton explains, it does not work both ways.

[02:05:06]

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's official now. And despite the rising incidents of the coronavirus in the United States, Canada has now reopened its border to fully vaccinated Americans and U.S. residents. That is the first time in more than 16 months and there are family reunions and Americans who haven't seen their Canadian properties in months.

They can now cross at the land border, but what's interesting here is that the Biden administration, has not reciprocated. If you are Canadian, and you are traveling for non-essential reasons, you can't cross at the land border. Although, in what is functioned more like a loophole, Canadians have been able to go to the United States by air since the pandemic started.

Canada itself is now dealing with what Canada's top doctor, Theresa Tam, says is the beginning of a fourth wave. But the level of vaccination in Canada is now so high, that many public health officials say it is time to safely reopen the border and that begins with fully vaccinated Americans. Fully vaccinated international visitors should be able to enter Canada in September. Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.

CHURCH: Across the Asia Pacific region, the delta variant is pushing health care systems to their limits and putting many people back under lockdown. An uptick in cases prompted China to impose strict restrictions on movement in some cities. The country reported 125 new infections Monday, most of them locally transmitted.

In Vietnam, social distancing measures are in place for at least another week in some areas. The country posted a record number of new cases Sunday, almost 9,700 according to state run news. And the Philippines posted its highest daily death toll since early April. Manila is under strict lockdown as new cases soar.

So, let's get the latest on all of this from Steven Jiang He joins us live from Beijing. Good to see you, Steven. So let's start with the situation in China. What is the latest?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, you mentioned the latest figure from the government, but there is one number local officials, here watching very closely, but also increasingly nervously, of course, is the number of locally transmitted cases because of the government zero tolerance policy towards such cases.

And that number stood at 102 recorded on Sunday. Obviously, still pales in comparison to what we are seeing in many other parts of the world, but in this country, that is considered unacceptable. That's why increasingly you are seeing local officials being punished or even sacked whenever there is a new cluster of local cases emerge in their jurisdiction.

That's also why you are seeing local authorities adopt ever more stringent containment measures, more -- even more rounds of mass testing, more extensive contact tracing and increasingly draconian lockdown measures and travel restrictions especially in and out of Beijing, which of course, is also the host city of the upcoming Winter Olympics, and that is only six months away.

And there have been some questions or even suggestions from prominent Chinese experts that the government may want to re-think its approach to try to adopt some of what -- some of the western governments have been doing, that is living -- try to live with the virus.

And that notion though seems to have been harshly rejected by the government now through a series of state media articles with the former health minister lashing out at the suggestion and saying this is really, a reflection of people's shortsightedness and pointing to what he calls utter failures of western government approach and saying the government here shall not only stick to its current approach, but even strengthen it, including border closures. Rosemary?

JIANG: And Steven, what more are you learning about other nations across Asia, how they are responding to these rising delta variant cases and of course hospitalizations?

JIANG: That's right. Across the region especially Southeast Asia, as you mentioned, we are seeing multiple governments reintroduce or extend or strengthen their containment measures from quarantine requirements to travel restrictions as well.

But this of course is because of these really alarming numbers you mentioned reported by multiple governments in the region, thousands on the daily basis. And this of course also corresponds to this low rate of vaccination in many of these places, still staying in single digits. So, this is really the problem facing many of their health care systems as many of these medical facilities being pushed to the brink.

In Malaysia last week, for example, we have even seen thousands of doctors and nurses go on strike over -- to protest over the conditions at their hospitals. So it's really alarming pictures here as government here continues to face a shortage of vaccines. Rosemary?

[02:09:56]

CHURCH: All right. Steven Jiang, bringing us the very latest from Beijing. Many thanks. I want to go to Europe now and French cafes, restaurants, and long distance trains are now off limits to those without the controversial health pass. The government is expanding the list of restrictions to try to contain a fourth COVID wave.

People must be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test, or show that they have recovered from COVID in order to get the health pass. But the measure continues to be met with anger and resistance.

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CHURCH: For the fourth straight weekend, hundreds of thousands protested the health pass as well as a new mandate for caregivers to get vaccinated.

Well, still to come, the Dixie Fire explodes to become California's second biggest wildfire ever. Why one state leader says these scenes will just keep playing out if we don't take action on climate change.

Plus, wildfires are raging in Greece destroying thousands of acres of pristine forest and displacing entire villages of people. We will have the latest just ahead.

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[02:15:00]

CHURCH: Firefighters are racing to contain the monstrous Dixie wildfire in northern California. The fire is now the second largest in state history. It's burned through more than 750 square miles so far. To put that in context, the burned area is now more than three times the size of Chicago.

And right now, the fire is just 21 percent contained and still growing. While the exact cause of the Dixie fire is still under investigation, California's governor says, one thing is clear. Climate change is making wildfire seasons worse. CNN's Camila Bernal reports.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The smoke is thick and it's unhealthy. If you look here behind me, you're normally supposed to see a canyon. Instead, you are seeing it filled with smoke. That smoke coming south from Dixie fire, and it's not only flooding this canyon, but also the communities nearby.

The Dixie fire has been burning for almost a month and we are seeing it growing, but we're not seeing much progress on containment. We are also seeing the number of structures destroyed by this fire increasing. It's now at about 400 structures destroyed by this fire. Governor Gavin Newsom using this weekend to visit the town and using the visit to talk about climate change.

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GAVIN NEWSOM, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: The extreme weather conditions, extreme droughts leading to extreme conditions and wildfire challenges likes of which we've never seen in our history. And as a consequence, we need to acknowledge to straight up, these are climate induced wildfires. And we have to acknowledge we have the capacity in this country not just the state to solve this.

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BERNAL: And Governor Gavin Newsom did point to prevention, talked about things like managing the forest, but made it very clear that more needs to be done. He also thanked the 8,500 men and women who are working to stop this fire. Camila Bernal, CNN, Paradise, California.

CHURCH: Wildfires in Greece have been burning out of control for days. On the island of Evia, thousands of people have evacuated their homes, some having to take ferries to safety. One woman who left said it's "like a horror movie." Across the country, fires have destroyed dozens of homes and businesses and at least one person has died.

Elinda Labropoulou join me now live from Arkits. Good to see you, Elinda. So, of course, it is a desperate situation in some parts of Greece particularly on the island of Evia. What is the latest on these wildfires?

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: Well, the island of Evia is actually right behind me, but it's so covered in smoke that you cannot see it. From this port is a ferry, it's a short ferry ride across. And this is what they're waiting to do now, to cross now because for a long time, the ferry services were not regular so we haven't been able to cross.

We have, however, been talking to some people on the other side who are waiting to cross to the mainland. They are carrying everything they have in bags. They don't know if their homes have been saved. We have seen the first maps coming out as well. They show the destruction on the island where there is this big part in the middle and north that seems to have been completely burned.

We're going to have the first assessment coming out shortly. More firefighting operations are underway on the island and the Greek prime minister has thanked the 22 countries that have been to Greece's assistance, and they are now operating along with the Greek firefighting forces.

From what we understand, now that the big fire in Athens has been completely put out, all the operations will concentrate on this front. And firefighters have been telling us that they really hold that today, the day that managed to put this fire out.

Meanwhile, there are some more places in other parts of Greece. There are some big fronts in the Peloponnese and we expect the temperatures to rise today and the winds to remain quite strong. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And what of those people who have evacuated, where are they going?

LABROPOULOU: Well, they say most of them are going to friends and family. The state has made provisions as well. Some football stadiums and other indoor spaces have now been turned into shelters effectively for people to go and stay until they can return to their homes or different plans are made for them. Rosemary?

CHURCH: It is a desperate situation for sure. Elinda Labropoulou bringing us the very latest from Greece. Many thanks.

So let's talk more about the extreme heat driving these fires with our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri. So Pedram, the pictures are just horrendous, aren't they? Are you seeing any relief at all in sight for Greece and Turkey with these wildfires? [02:20:00]

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, there is some potential for a change in the pattern here. As early as Thursday into Friday has good news. The temperatures could drop off about maybe 3, 4 degrees, which will bring us close to seasonal averages. Unfortunately, Rosemary, it looks like the winds will pick up, so, kind of a double edged sword, right.

You get cooler temperatures, the firefighters certainly get a little bit of help from Mother Nature, but the winds come in on the stronger side, so then there is the challenge on that aspect of it, but you see how the gusty winds, the arid landscape have played out to scenarios like this across, really beautiful areas across Greece in recent days.

And the island Evia here, the second largest island in all of Greece, about 80 kilometers north of Athens. We know thousands of hectares here have been consumed. Thousands of people have been evacuated and a lot of times, we talked to people who visit this particular region or anywhere in Greece, this is the island that you want to go to. Very forested region. Very beautiful landscape along the shores. It shows there.

And of course, now it has become a scenario where international help coming in left and right, from Croatia, to Cyprus, from France, to areas around Romania, Sweden, Poland, and even the United States, all offering a helping hand here, not just with manpower there on the ground, but also with aircrafts being offered up as well to provide assistance there across portions of Greece.

But really, not just Greece. You notice the broader area of Europe into northern Africa. This is the thermal signature of the fires in the past 24 hours. And it is really widespread and rather uniformed across all of Europe when it comes to what has happened in recent days.

So the concern, continues here. The winds will want to pick up even though the temperatures cool off. And look at this. When you look at data and as far as the amount of land that has been consumed by fires across Europe and the E.U. countries, over 220,000 hectares of land had been consumed.

The average for this time of year into early August, right around 142,000 hectares should be consumed. That is 156 percent of what is considered normal for any given year. So if you think we're talking a lot about fire weather across our planet, and even into Europe, that is exactly why. But as you noted there -- as I noted there, we look at areas of cooler temperatures coming in later in towards the week. It is going to come in, though, with gusty winds.

So, that's the concern in places such as Athens. You'll see those temperatures that have been into the 40's, they are now into the middle 30's, maybe we get you down into the lower 30's which in degrees Fahrenheit, its right around say 87 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. But that is gusty winds that are going to be lining up Friday into Sunday. And that's the concern, Rosemary. That fire weather could once again

build and expand beyond the points the firefighters are trying to keep it at. And, of course, Mother Nature not going to help when the winds pick-up.

CHURCH: Yes. Absolutely. Thank you so much, Pedram. Appreciate you keeping us up to date on the situation there.

Well, in Italy, St. Mark's Square in Venice is seeing its highest summer flooding in more than 25 years. The area was inundated with 100 centimeters or nearly 40 inches of water on Saturday. The head of the Venice Tide Center says this high tide is unusual for August. He says northern Italy has seen extreme weather in recent days including thunder and hailstorms.

Well, the U.N. will soon deliver its first full update on climate science since 2015. The intergovernmental panel on climate change is expected to provide its most conclusive look yet at how human behavior is accelerating global warming. The leader of this conference says continued failure to act on climate change will result in catastrophic consequences for the world.

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Fireworks mark the end of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo after the pandemic forced a one-year delay in the 2020 games. And with COVID still very much in the spotlight, these were Olympics unlike any other. For two weeks, athletes competed in events that played out without spectators as organizers work to prevent an outbreak.

When it was all said and done, Team USA headed home with the most gold medals and more medals than any other country for the third straight Summer Olympics. And CNN's Blake Essig who was there for all the developments and has more now from Tokyo.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The competition is over and the curtain has dropped. Last night, Tokyo 2020 took its final bow inside the national stadium, bringing an end to an Olympic games like no other. I spent all day yesterday outside of the national stadium0 as one of the lucky few to be inside to witness the closing ceremony in person.

Like every event I attended throughout these games, it was a surreal experience to sit inside the 68,000 seat stadium, seemingly all alone and watched the celebration of sport, the fireworks, the parade of nations, the athletes. It was strange.

It was strange to watch thousands of athletes come out onto the field waving to essentially a couple hundred journalists.

[02:25:00]

That being said, it was an amazing experience, something I'll never forget. But throughout the night, I couldn't help but imagine what it would've been like to experience that celebration alongside the people of Japan. It honestly is heartbreaking. This is not the Olympic Games anyone wanted, and definitely not the Olympics that the people Japan deserve.

But at the same time that the celebration was taking place inside, on the outside the stadium, a protest was being held calling for the Olympics, and Paralympics to be canceled primarily because of health and safety concerns.

In fact, you could hear chants of "Cancel the Olympics" from the outskirts of the stadium. And while it wasn't a big protest, it was a reminder of the fierce oppositions towards these games felt by a majority of the Japanese people. Many feel like these Olympic Games were held against the will of the people. Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.

CHURCH: A swift offensive raising major concerns. The provincial capitals that have fallen in Afghanistan. Coming up, the Taliban released video claiming control of Kunduz.

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CHURCH: The Taliban now control at least four provincial capitals in Afghanistan, underscoring how heavily Afghan and Afghan government forces have relied on U.S. military power to hold the militants back. The Taliban's relentless push kicked into high gear when U.S. forces began their withdrawal in May.

They seized rural areas first, but now they are going after major cities. A local official says most of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan fell on Sunday.

[02:29:57]

Taliban video, which cannot be verified purports to show a government compound after the militants took over. Nick Paton Walsh has more on the string of major setbacks for Afghan forces.

[02:30:00]

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: An unprecedentedly bad 72 hours for Afghan security forces and their governments. Startling to see the first big city fall to the Taliban since the U.S. began their withdrawal. That's Kunduz. There is still fighting going on there. We understand Afghan security forces trying to push the Taliban out of that major city.

They've been successful twice in the last six years when the insurgency overrun it for a brief period of time, but Kunduz fell after an awful 72 hours for the Afghan government. They lost their first provincial capitals around near the border with Iran on Friday, and two others appear to have fallen, possibly another as well, bringing them to a total of five that may be under threat by the Taliban or fallen to them in the last 72 hours.

And I think the concern is that this is a sign of the momentum the insurgency have. Taliban have been quite powerful in rural areas that are less populated. That's where they found themselves easy, more easily able to gain territory, but it's been cities that the Afghan government have focused their security forces on and if we now as we see, in the last few days begin to see those cities fall to the Taliban, the concern possibly is that security forces will now feel overstretched.

They feel the efforts they put into some cities are not rewarded with them still being held by the government. There's intense fighting going on in Lashkar Gah in the south, in the province of Helmand, the place where many American and NATO soldiers have lost their lives. And so the concern, I think, possibly is the sense of Afghan security forces, maybe being overstretched at some point, in the days and months ahead.

U.S. airstrikes in the past to have successfully held the Taliban back when they move into urban areas. It's so much harder, though to use them, when in fact, the Taliban and the fighting against them is happening in densely populated areas too. The U.S. saying that they have been using airstrikes in the recent fighting.

The Taliban whose track record themselves of civilian casualties is appalling, accusing them of in fact, possibly airstrikes having hit civilian targets. That's something the U.S. hasn't directly commented on. But startling, though, to see the pace in which these four, possibly five key cities including Kunduz, the first major city seem to be falling to the Taliban.

It is possibly reversible, but certainly the sense of this momentum behind the insurgency, something which is new, possibly unprecedented, for the last 20 years. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And as Nick just reported, the Taliban offensive has led to a troubling number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, more than 1600 civilians were killed in armed conflict in the first half of this year. That's the highest number of casualties since 2018, for the same time period. And the UN warns the number of deaths could rise even further as the Taliban sets its sights on more Afghan cities.

Well, there's much more to come here on CNN, including shocking testimony from two former Trump Administration officials on efforts to promote false election fraud claims in the Department of Justice. We're back in just a moment.

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[02:35:00]

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CHURCH: We are following new details in the sexual harassment scandal swirling around New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Another one of his 11 accusers is now speaking publicly about her experience. An assistant to the governor says he gradually escalated his physical contact with her and he took advantage of the power imbalance between them in the workplace.

Brittany Commisso spoke to CBS, this Morning and The Albany Times Union newspaper.

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BRITTANY COMMISSO, FILED CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Then there started to be hugged with kisses on the cheek. And then there was at one point, a hug. And then when he went to go kiss me on the cheek, he'd quickly turned his head and he kissed me on the lips.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you say?

COMMISSO: I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything this whole time. People don't understand that this is the governor of the state of New York. There are troopers that are outside of the mansion. And there are some mansion staff. Those troopers that are there. They are not there to protect me. They are there to protect him.

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CHURCH: Governor Cuomo denies any wrongdoing. In the meantime, state lawmakers will hear from impeachment investigation members later today. CNN's Polo Sandoval picks up the story from here.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing what will likely be another trying week. On Monday, legislators on the state's Judiciary Committee returned to Albany where they're expected to meet with independent investigators to review evidence related to the governor's impeachment probe with Governor Cuomo's sexual harassment investigation by lawmakers nearing completion, he has until this Friday to offer evidence in his defense.

An opportunity Cuomo his personal lawyer insists was not provided by the New York State AG before the release of a scathing report in which several women accused the governor of unwelcome and non-consensual touching, as well as making comments of a suggestive sexual nature, adding to the governor's troubles the possibility of criminal charges.

The Albany County Sheriff's Department confirmed it's investigating a complaint of behavior from Governor Cuomo that was sexual in nature.

SHERIFF CRAIG APPLE, ALBANY COUNTY, NEW YORK: 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.

SANDOVAL: Known in the report only as Executive Assistant Number One that female victim is speaking publicly for the first time. Together with Albany's Times Union CBS News previewing their upcoming conversation with Brittany Commisso, one of the governor's current staffers who's coming forward to defend her account without blurring to protect her image. COMMISSO: The governor needs to be held accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just so I'm clear again, being held accountable to you mean seeing the governor charged with a crime.

COMMISSO: What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.

SANDOVAL: Rita Glavine Governor Cuomo is attorney insists Commisso's claims are untrue. In her Saturday interview with CNN Glavine did admit the governor may have touched another accuser, a state trooper on the governor's protective detail.

The AG's report alleges he ran his fingers down her back while standing behind her in an elevator.

RITA GLAVIN, ANDREW CUOMO'S ATTORNEY: One thing I will say about this particular trooper is that I do know that the governor has tremendous respect for her, believes she's been an excellent member of her detail, and to the extent that she believes and felt he did anything, that violator was inappropriate. He feels very, very badly about that. That I do know and I know he's going to address this.

[02:40:00]

SANDOVAL: Exactly when that will be remains unclear. The governor has, however, apologized to a handful of women who he recognized were made to feel uncomfortable because of behavior he insists, was well intentioned.

GLAVIN: He does slip at times. He's not perfect. But yes, I get it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does slip. When you say he doesn't slip, what do you mean by that?

GLAVIN: Oh, he said it in his video - he said in his video statements, which is that you know, he does make the mistake. He will say darlin, he will say, sweetheart, he does ask people questions about their personal lives. He didn't think that that was improper.

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, Albany, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: The U.S. Senate is closer to passing the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. After months of negotiations, the final hurdle to passing the bill was cleared on Sunday when 18 Republican senators joined Democrats to end debate. The bill features $550 billion in new federal spending on roads, bridges and passenger and freight rail, along with funding to expand broadband internet access.

The final Senate vote is expected early Tuesday. After it's expected passage the bill then goes back to the house where it faces an uncertain future. Well, two former Trump Administration officials testified before senators this weekend about efforts to use the Department of Justice to promote false voting fraud claims.

Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATELYN POLANTZ , CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: The Senate Judiciary Committee over the weekend made quick work of getting on the record key leadership of the Justice Department at the end of the Trump Administration as they investigate how much President Donald Trump at the time was pressuring the leaders of the DOJ to substantiate his election fraud claims.

So what we learned was that the number one person and the number two person at the DOJ at the time, both sat for very substantial interviews on Friday and Saturday. That's the Ex Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue. He went in on Friday for five hours with the Senate Judiciary Committee. On Saturday, the number one person the Ex Acting Attorney General, Jeff Rosen, he spoke for seven hours with the committee.

And Rosen specifically was talking about five key episodes where a subordinate of the two men, a man who was leading the environment section of Law at the DOJ was trying to act out of the chain of command at the Justice Department to push election fraud claims that he held the war in line with Donald Trump's.

Now it's an open question at this time whether Clark, Jeff Clark was acting on his own or if he was taking specific directions from the White House or Trump. That is something that we know that the Judiciary Committee and other committees on the Hill will be asking about.

But what we did learn over the weekend after both of those interviews with Donoghue, and Rosen, is that the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin spoke to Dana Bash. He didn't provide details about new information that was shared in those interviews. But he did have a key takeaway. Here's what he told Dana.

DICK DURBIN, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: Just how directly personally involved the President was, the pressure he was putting on Jeffrey Rosen. It was real, very real. And it was very specific. This president's not subtle when he wants it, the former president. He is not subtle when he wants something. And I think it's a good thing for America that we had person like Rosen in that position, who stood - withstood the pressure.

POLANTZ: Durbin also said that the committee does want to talk with Jeff Clark in the coming weeks. And my sources told me over the weekend that he has been in talks with Capitol Hill about a potential interview. Back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Thanks for that report. Well, Joining me now is Natasha Lindstaedt. She is a professor of government at the University of Essex. Thank you so much for talking with us.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: So a lot to cover. But first, the Senate reconvenes at noon today for speeches on the bipartisan infrastructure bill with a vote set for early Tuesday. How significant is it that Republicans are poised to help President Biden pass his massive infrastructure bill? And what might this mean politically?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, this is definitely incredibly significant because the U.S. senators have been very much in line with Trump on most things. This is an opportunity for them to break with Trump. And we think that there will be about 20 senators that are willing to do so. And this is one of the key policies of the Biden Administration. He really wants to get this infrastructure bill passed.

It is popular and I think that is also why you have senators breaking - breaking rank with Trump and deciding to vote with Biden. They know it is popular, they know it is badly needed and it's also not going to be paid for by raising taxes.

[02:45:00]

So there are a few holdouts that are delaying the process. But overall, this looks like something that will get through because it is overwhelmingly popular.

CHURCH: We'll be watching those features at noon, of course. And we are also seeing a very disturbing trend in the Republican States of Florida and Texas, where both governors refused a mandate masks in public places, including schools, or to mandate vaccines for all hospital staff. How dangerous is it when you see leaders allowing politics to intrude in public health policies and what might the consequences be?

LINDSTAEDT: I mean, this is incredibly dangerous. I mean, the biggest worry is if we have one in three new COVID cases in Texas and Florida. We're seeing a rise in cases huge surge in hospitalizations. And the biggest worry is that there could be a new variant that gets created. We've seen how deadly and dangerous the Delta variant is. And that's one of the things that you're trying to stop by enforcing masks mandates, but by also encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Instead, Greg Abbott of Texas, the Governor of Texas, and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, are being absolutely idiotic. In fact, they are banning local governments from employing the type of COVID safety measures that these states badly need. So for example, they are banning schools from trying to have some sort of contract tracing in the case of Texas, and Ron DeSantis was even trying to get cruise ships to ban some sort of vaccination measure to prevent the spread of COVID on ships.

So we're seeing really, really dangerous behavior. And Ron DeSantis is trying to distract his citizens by saying or constituency by saying, well, we should be focusing on all the illegal immigration happening at the moment. So they're really trying to play into the hands of these anti-vaxxers or the Trump supporters and not really looking at the big picture about how dangerous this is for the health of their constituents.

CHURCH: Yes, it does seem that self-defeating, doesn't it? And another issue that we're looking at in testimony this weekend, the acting Attorney General for former President Donald Trump, Jeffrey Rosen, revealed what's been called frightening activity of the Justice Department in the waning days of the administration, apparently involving a senior DOJ lawyer who sought to use the department's resources to support false voting fraud claims by Trump.

What could the political ramifications be of this, do you think?

LINDSTAEDT: It's interesting, because there have been so many really devastating things that have been revealed about the way Trump and his minions have tried to undermine democracy. And we keep seeing new evidence of this. And it doesn't seem to have a huge impact on Trump's base. But it should really frighten us that Trump has tried to use his - his deputies or people who work under him or people who are loyal to him to pursue these false conspiracy theories, and to get the states to try to overturn the election results.

It really scares me because this is what dictators do. And unless the Republican Party decides at some point they need to break - break with Trump, which they haven't done yet, as we've seen, and we're hoping there'll be some other opportunities in the future, and to understand that he is an autocrat.

And what would happen if this were to be on the other side, if Democrats were going to try to overturn state election results? I mean, elections are all we have in a democracy. This is the key aspect of any democracy. So we're hoping that some of these more egregious stories will finally turn the tide amongst Republican elite. It hasn't happened yet.

CHURCH: Of course, indeed. Natasha Linstaedt joining us there. Many thanks, and we will be right back.

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[02:50:00]

CHURCH: After China's successful showing at the Tokyo games, Beijing is hoping to build on that momentum when it hosts the Winter Games in less than six months. But with that spotlight also comes renewed pressure and scrutiny on the communist regime. CNN's David Culver reports.

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DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A surge of Chinese pride in Tokyo. China's athletes bringing home the second highest number of gold medals, just narrowly losing to the United States, but setting the world stage for a fierce competition in February's Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. China, hoping for a show stopping repeat of 2008.

That was China's ceremonial stepping out onto the world stage, hosting the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and a moment many expected would lead to a further opening up of the country. The games were a mesmerizing production, revealing China's potential to rival the West in both athletic competition and beyond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This competition is going to be one of the central challenges of this century.

CULVER: But since 2008, under the ruling Communist Party and its increasingly powerful leader Xi Jinping. The People's Republic has not only seen its economy soar, but also a rapid buildup and flexing of its military and cyber might, making countries like the U.S. increasingly uneasy. In less than six months, the Olympics are set to return to Beijing.

And you can expect China to impress once again starting with its hardware. CNN was recently invited to visit some of the Olympic venues. China building big and fast, well ahead of schedule.

On ground you get the buildings up, the brandings up inside, they're pretty much done. The only thing they're waiting on are the athletes. Dramatic backdrops for the events with sweeping mountain views. Of course as you look out, the venue is going to look a bit different come winter. This will all ideally be covered in white. Italian engineers working years in advance to bring the snowy Alps to Asia.

[02:55:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we can control the quality of the snow.

CULVER: And China making a big environmental promise. These will be the first games in which all of the competition venues will be fueled 100 percent by green energy. We're on top of one of the slopes. As you look out, you can pan across you see dozens of windmills beyond that solar panels. But there are chilling realities that threaten to overshadow these games.

Chinese cities are quickly reimposing targeted lockdowns at the Delta Variants of COVID-19 spreads. Extreme containment measures, while seemingly effective aren't exactly welcoming to the rest of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will continue to press China.

CULVER: China is also facing mounting pressure over the investigation into the origins of the virus, which has claimed more than 4 million lives worldwide. And then there are the growing calls for countries to boycott Beijing for alleged human rights abuses, specifically its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

The worsening tensions between China and the West coinciding with an intensified nationalism at home which begs the question, even with all the expected pageantry and performance in the upcoming Beijing Winter Games, can China change how the world views the emerging superpower? David Culver, CNN, Beijing.

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CHURCH: And thanks so much for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news after a short break. Do stay with us.

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