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CNN NEWSROOM

New York Governor Cuomo Resigns; Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


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[14:00:23]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And welcome to Newsroom. I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn is off today. We're beginning with that breaking news. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that he is resigning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): And I love New York. And I love you. And everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love. And I would never want to be unhelpful in any way. And I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: His resignation takes effect in 14 days. That announcement comes exactly a week after the New York Attorney General released her report that alleges he sexually harassed 11 women. The governor, though, is still defined. He says the most serious allegations have no credible factual basis in that report. And we're getting some reactions now.

As you'd expect, the White House says that the governor's resignation is what President Biden has called and advocated for. And New York Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement here's part of it. Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign. And it's good for -- it's for the good of all of New York.

And the state's two senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer both say the Governor Cuomo made the right decision to step down. CNN's Brynn Gingras is here with me now. We understand you're getting reaction from some of the accusers attorneys. What are you hearing?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, listen, there is a sense of relief for many of these accusers. We're expecting to hear even more as this day goes on. And as they sort of try to get their emotions in check and figure out how they feel about this. But we are getting a few so far from two women. I want to read them to you.

These are two of the women that were named in that report Alyssa McGrath. And then another woman who was new to the report, Ms. Limniatis. In the statement says my clients feel both vindicated and relieved that Cuomo will no longer be in a position of power over anyone, Ms. McGrath and Mr. Limniatis remain grateful that their voices and experiences were heard and substantiated by the AG's investigators, and feel solidarity with all women who continue to be abused by men in power, at least today, one of them has faced some consequences.

So a very strong statement coming from the attorney for those two women.

And look, Victor, like you just pointed out with the White House statement, and also the reaction we got from the mayor, it's all levels of government are reacting to this and both sort of mentioning the women and how they were so brave to come forward.

And this is a result of that. And also saying that it was time. You know, let's remember that sources were telling CNN, that they were telling the governor, his closest aides, that this was time. There was really no path forward. No way to get out of this. Even though the governor even said himself today that he is a fighter.

And so while it's happened, and it's not so much a surprise to many people, it was shocking that it happened today because again, the governor has said himself that he is a fighter, he is a man who has known to govern with an iron fist and stand his ground. So that certainly was a shock.

But it was a very tearful in some ways, or I should say emotional, it seemed for him when he finally did decide that he was going to resign. He did it after a very long statement at first apologizing to some of these women, but also saying that many of his actions were generational in some ways. But certainly this is still somewhat shocking that this happened today, a week after that scathing report from the attorney general's office. Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, one week exactly. Let me read a little more --

GINGRAS: Yes.

BLACKWELL: -- reaction this coming from the Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who will be the governor of New York, first female governor in two weeks' time. She tweeted I agree with Governor Cuomo his decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers. She says she is prepared. What do we know about Kathy Hochul?

GINGRAS: Yes, like you said, she is prepared. She has been preparing. We're told by sources ever since that report came out last week talking to her staff, talking to people who have served in this position before trying to figure out what staff she may keep, what staff may need to go, how she's going to continue governing this state who was hit so hard during the pandemic is still going through the pandemic.

So this is something that she has really been doing her studying on at least within the last week or so, but she's been by the governor side as the Lieutenant Governor since 2014.

[14:05:00]

And she were told has really been a lawmaker who's been at every level of government from the local level to now being the highest office in the state of New York. So, there is a lot of welcoming presence for a woman especially to be the first woman to lead this state.

But I also want to point out, Victor, something my colleague, Lauren del Valle (ph) points out this will now be three women with major leading roles in the state of New York. Once she takes office in 14 days. We have Cathy Hochul being the governor and then lieutenant governor will be Andrea Stewart-Cousins. And then we also of course, have Letitia James, who's the attorney general who released that report last week. So this is pretty significant in terms of where the state is headed after the departure of Governor Cuomo.

BLACKWELL: That's certainly is. Brynn, stay with us. I want to bring in Alex Burns, CNN political analyst and national political correspondent for The New York Times. Also Erica Hill, CNN national correspondent who's been following this story.

Erica, let me start with you. And I think I'm going to just belabour this analogy that has been used the political winds that have been blowing here. Were the sustained winds that end this or was this one gust? Was there something, some catalysts that ended it for the governor, I

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I will say the reaction that we saw in wake of the report on Tuesday was pretty swift, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes.

HILL: You had a fair amount of folks in the state, especially coming out pretty quickly, and saying that they thought the governor should resign after seeing that report. And it really snowballed from there. Then you of course, have the president later in the week when Jay Jacobs came out who is the chair of the state Democratic Party, for a lot of people that was the moment where they just took their breath and said, no this is a really big deal between that and Carl Heastie, the speaker in the assembly saying it's time, this is not a good look, you cannot govern with this.

But there's been this back and forth. And the reporting, you know, from a number of my colleagues has, a bar colleagues here at CNN has been that the governor was really dug in here, even through the weekend despite those efforts. But clearly, something changed. Was it things that he was hearing perhaps out of that meeting yesterday with the Judiciary Committee, more talk about impeachment? It's unclear, but definitely, you know, there was some surprise that it happened today, although I think most people you talk to believe that at some point this was inevitable because impeachment was going to be tough.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Alex, to you, and the investigations that are still ongoing in in Albany. This, let me put the question, what does this mean for those investigations moving forward? Because there are several.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There sure are, and they cover issues that go well beyond the governor's conduct with women on his staff. There are issues related to his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, there are issues related to his $5 million book deal about his leadership during the pandemic and his alleged abuse of state resources to pitch and produce that book.

So, Victor, these are terribly serious issues related to the integrity of government and to the governor's personal ethics. And it's going to be a real test of the legislature to see whether they have the appetite and the focus and the energy to get answers on all of this even after Andrew Cuomo leaves office. You can certainly see a scenario where the governor makes the case, that look, I'm paying the ultimate price as I think any politician would see it. And now it's time for all of us to move on.

And you can see there being plenty of people in the legislature, people who were his allies as recently as two weeks ago, finding that a persuasive line of argument. So I don't know exactly what will happen next.

But you know, I think to Erica's point about sort of why this all happened quite so suddenly, the field of issues at play here is so vast, and for the governor to be able to stage manage this exit now, where for basically an hour he and his attorney, lambaste the women who have come forward to level allegations here or at least to attack the integrity of the report examining those allegations, and then leave as though there's nothing else on the table feels like an awfully neat political trick.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's talk about the political future of the governor just a moment but I want to hear, Brynn to you, I want to hear what the governor said about why he was stepping down, saying this was a generational shift the framework he offered Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I take full responsibility for my actions. I have been too familiar with people. In my mind I'd never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate. And I should have no excuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:10:14] BLACKWELL: So he says that I take full responsibility for my actions. I should have no excuses. Although there were pretty plenty of excuses during that resignation remark, and we'll be heard from Rita Glavin. And he did a lot of blaming as well, Brynn.

GINGRAS: Yes, really, you can't forget that Victor that before we heard him actually say the words that he was going to, you know, step aside and let government continue to govern. There was like a good hour and 15 minutes or so of his lawyer and him defending his honor, defending his case. His lawyer really pinpointing each accuser going through that Attorney General's report and showing the flaws that they believe exist in that report.

So he has said, it's been a generational thing for him for a very long time. In response to that, some of the accusers have told me well, then go get counseling, learn new things, talk to more people. And so I don't think it's going to fly with these accusers. And they certainly are not hearing an apology and certainly not hearing it on a day that he decides to finally leave office. It's more of a relief for them, I think.

But yes, it was interesting that he waited to say his outcome after defending his case for an hour and 15 minutes, which they tried to make a strong case.

BLACKWELL: Erica, what about that the governor says that I take full responsibility, but that's only after his attorney spends 35, 45 minutes blaming the media castigating others.

HILL: Yes, I mean, and look, this we have heard from her before the press conference on Friday afternoon with her, which seems like a lifetime ago, but was only a couple of days ago, was a lot of the same. And she was in many ways going through this position statement. That's 26 page position statement that she had put out Tuesday night in the wake of the Attorney General's report where she took issue with a number of the accusers, not every single incident in that position paper, but a number of them and today felt like a continuation of that.

So as we were all sitting there and watching her 40-45 minute presentation ahead of the governor as Brynn pointed out, it was interesting that it was once again, she was saying where she finds, where she takes issue with the report, with the investigators really questioning once again, their independence, their methods, what she thinks should have been done as an attorney, and then turning it over. It was an interesting way to lay things out.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Alex to the last year of Governor Cuomo, I just remember at the worst of the pandemic for the city of New York, that people across the country were watching those news conferences every day. And juxtaposed to the leadership we saw did not see from President Trump. And now today, he's out of office.

BURNS: It is a staggering reversal, Victor. And I do think that today, we can really count as one more moment in the end of the Trump era that it is very, very hard to imagine this kind of accountability moment for a man like Andrew Cuomo, in a scenario where Donald Trump was still the president, both because you would still have I think, a much stronger well of democratic admiration and affection for Governor Cuomo based on his leadership and the pandemic.

And also, because let's be frank, when Donald Trump was in the White House, the appetite among Democrats for confronting misbehavior by men on their own side was pretty limited in some respects.

I think we all recognized and remember the deep bitterness among Democrats about Al Franken's resignation, the sense that, you know, why do our people keep quitting when Donald Trump is the President? Well, Donald Trump's not the president anymore, and you can't just sort of use that as a pretext for hand waving away, obviously egregious behavior on your own side.

BLACKWELL: Alex Burns, Erica Hill, Brynn Gingras, thank you. Any moment we expect to hear from President Biden he is marking a major victory the Senate passage of a massive $1 trillion infrastructure package.

Also the battle over masks in schools. Parents in Florida are getting in each other's faces today, as COVID cases among children continue to rise.

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[14:18:55]

BLACKWELL: These numbers were just getting into CNN are disturbing. Listen to this, Johns Hopkins University's reporting more than 174,000 COVID cases and 645 additional deaths in just the past 24 hours. It's becoming apparent that children also are becoming the true victims of this politicized pandemic.

The American Academy Of Pediatrics says almost 94,000 kids were infected with COVID in just the past week, and while most of those did not end up in the hospital. One Orlando physician says pediatric hospitals are quote preparing for the unimaginable as children begin returning to school. CNNs Nick Watt has more from Los Angeles.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGIES AND INFECITIOUS DISEASES: We are in a major surge now as we're going into the fall into the school season.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So should districts mandate vaccines for teachers?

FAUCI: I'm going to upset some people on this but I think we should.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't do anything.

WATT: And masks. In Florida, the current hotspot --

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Ultimately my view is it's a parent's decision.

WATT: Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold salaries from officials who mandate masks. Some Florida districts did it anyway.

[14:20:07]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As an elected official, I think I have the responsibility of providing a safe learning and work environment for our students and staff.

WATT: School mosque mandates are not allowed in the seven states. Some Texas districts also defying their governor, mandating them anyway.

SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL HINOJOSA, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: I felt it was time to step in, even though I may get in trouble.

WATT: Kids can get COVID. In just the past week, nearly 94,000 confirmed cases among children nationwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the Delta wave, we need to do everything possible to protect those that are not vaccinated. And those that are not vaccinated get protected in two ways by those that are eligible for vaccination getting vaccinated. And by wearing a mask. And I think it's as simple as that.

WATT: Big picture, we're now averaging well over 100,000 new cases a day, up 37 percent in just a week, just over half of Americans are fully vaccinated.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): You're taking a hell of a risk if you're not vaccinated. That's all there is to it.

WATT: And you're pretty darn safe if you are more than 99.99 percent of the vaccinated have not suffered a severe case according to our analysis of CDC data. Andres Perekalski from Texas young and healthy did not get vaccinated nearly died. Now regrets it.

ANDRES PEREKALSKI, HOSPITALIZED FOR COVID-19: You do it for your kids, do it for your family, do it for yourself.

WATT: Arkansas has just eight ICU beds unfilled. In Mississippi --

NICHOLE ATHERTON, ICUNURSE, SINGING RIVER HOSPITAL, MISSISSIPPI: There are going to be children, children in my own community that are orphans. And it could have been prevented.

WATT: Many hospitals now feeling the strain, particularly in states with low vaccination rates.

ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, MEDICAL ETHICS AT NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: There's outbreaks following the unvaccinated strategy all over the place with hospitals just about to tip over. The moral equation has to shift, stop protecting the unvaccinated. They're selfish. They are Greedy. They're not doing the right thing by their neighbors.

(END VIDEO TAPE) WATT: Now the Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins just summed up their situation in pretty stark terms. He says in the Dallas area, there are just two pediatric ICU beds available. He wants everybody to be wearing masks all the time indoors. And this is a direct quote, masks suck. But it is a small sacrifice to save lives. Victor.

BLACKWELL: Indeed. Nick Watt, thank you so much. The mask debate is also growing more furious and contentious. In Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to revoke the pay of superintendents who enforce mask mandates. At school today, protesters gathered outside of a Broward County School Board meeting where officials heard from parents and teachers. One preschool teacher took to the podium with this defensive masking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY TERWILLIGER, BROWARD COUNTY PRE-SCHOOL TEACHER: My three-year-old students who came back had no problem wearing their mask. If it slipped, I touched my nose. They put it back up. They went home every day happy. They come in every day happy. A mask did not interfere with their education. Actually helped them they didn't get sick all year.

The option for them is not to vaccinate, they're too little. We need your support. I need your support. I don't want my children to go home and infect other people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: We're seeing something similar in Texas School districts in Dallas and Austin are also defying their governor, Greg Abbott, by mandating masks anyway. Dr. Seth Kaplan is a pediatrician and the president of the Texas Pediatric Society. Doctor, thanks for your time. You heard there from Nick Watt, the Dallas County judge says to just two pediatric beds are left there in the ICU. We know that that 11-month-old had to be airlifted 150 miles because there was no room for her. Give us some context, the situation there for children.

DR. SETH KAPLAN, PRESIDENT, TEXAS PEDIATRIC SOCIETY: So yes, it's getting to be a truly scary situation. We are hospitals were already hit hard over the summer by the resurgence of other respiratory viruses, particularly RSV. And now with COVID cases amongst kids on the rise. They're being hit even harder, meaning they don't necessarily have the capacity to take care of all the children that they're going to need to take care of as children come together more.

BLACKWELL: Let's focus on this debate over masks. And next door, in Arkansas, the governor there says that he now regrets that he signed the legislation several months ago when cases were low and dropping and that legislation that banned mask mandates. That is what you're looking for, as I understand it from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and admission and understanding that the situation has changed. Am I right?

[14:25:03]

KAPLAN: That's exactly right. The rules of the game are different now. We are in a different situation than we were just a month ago. And we need all of the public health tools that are at our disposal to be used to get through this current surge. And we don't want to take away the ability for there to be local control over school districts deciding whether they should enforce mask mandates or not. Schools need to decide this in conjunction with their local health departments and in conjunction with their parents and families that that attend those schools.

BLACKWELL: We also know that from the Texas Education Association that they are not requiring contact tracing once a positive case is discovered. I know you're especially passionate about this, what is lost by eliminating that degree of mitigation?

KAPLAN: Well, that's a huge transparency issue that that needs to change. We've been in touch with the Department of State Health Services and encourage them to include contact tracing for COVID as part of the protocols. It's included for other diseases such as measles, so there's precedent for doing so.

And you know, if parents need to be informed if their children have potentially been exposed at school, because if they're not informed, then they may have a sniffle or something, still send their kid to school not know that they've been exposed and just continue the transmission much further than it may had gone if they'd been contact traced, and can make appropriate decisions about the right care for their kids.

BLACKWELL: And clearly, we're not testing nearly enough. Let me ask you about vaccines now. And if we would be having a different conversation, if there were vaccine approvals or authorizations for children under 12, because the latest numbers I've seen is that those 12 to 15 are very low, the number that's fully vaccinated 16 and 17 low as well. Would we be having a different conversation considering how few teenagers, adolescents are vaccinated in conversation about masks?

KAPLAN: And right now, I think we'd still be having the same conversation due to the circumstances around the Delta variant and how contagious it is. But certainly the larger number of eligible kids who get vaccinated, the better, the less of a reservoir of illness, the better.

We're going to see less formation of new variants if it can't spread as easily. And really, in order to get out of this, we need as many eligible kids to get vaccinated as possible as soon as possible.

BLACKWELL: Randi Weingarten over the weekend, the head of the second largest teachers union came out in favor of vaccine mandates for teachers. Is that something that you think should happen in Texas that would protect those children, you support that?

KAPLAN: It would certainly protect our children. I think there's still a little bit of difficulty when a vaccine is approved under Emergency Use Authorization to consider that as a mandate. So we hope that the FDA moves ahead with full approval of these vaccines in as expeditious and safe manner as possible. In which case, yes, mandates would be very helpful.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Seth Kaplan in Texas for us there. Thank you.

KAPLAN: Thank you for having me today.

BLACKWELL: All right. Again, we're waiting for President Biden to address the nation after the Senate's passage of his historic infrastructure bill. What will it take to get the deal finished, get it through the House. We'll talk about that next.

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