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Biden on Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan as U.S. Pulls Out; Biden Addresses Senate Passage of $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill; Florida School Board Defies Governor's Ban on Mask Mandate; Broward County Public Schools Votes to Maintain Mask Mandate, Defying DeSantis; New York Gov. Cuomo Resigns; Kathy Hochul Will Be New York's First Woman Governor. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 15:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces, and Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands, death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation. The United States, I'll insist we continue to keep the commitments we made, providing close air support, making sure that their air force functions and is operable, resupplying their forces with food and equipment and paying all their salaries.

But they've got to want to fight. They have outnumbered the Taliban, and I'm getting daily briefings. I think there is still a possibility. You have a significant new secretary of defense, our equivalent of secretary of defense in Afghanistan, Bismillah Khan. He's a serious fighter. I think they're beginning to realize they've got to come together politically at the top, but we're going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision. This side. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, on the issue of the infrastructure bill and the work that you have ahead of you now, are you concerned that you -- are you confident that you have the support of all the Democrats on board to get this $3.5 trillion package through? I keep asking this.

BIDEN: I know you do. None of us have (INAUDIBLE) idea. Look, I have -- as I said, and I'm not referring to you in particular, just overall. I was going over some of the quotes from the moment that I got elected, how my plan was dead, this exact same plan I ran on. We'll see. I continue to be an optimist. I told you I was once referred to by a doc as a congenital optimist.

I think that we can get a significant portion, if not all of the reconciliation bill, the budget, they're having the vote on now. I think over the next month, which is the way it's going to work, they vote on all these amendments and then they get to the business of seeing how they can make it work and then come back.

I know you understand this well, but the public wonders what we're talking about some time and decide exactly what's in that reconciliation bill and how much is going to be spent. I think we will get enough Democrats to vote for it. And I think that the House will eventually put two bills on my desk, one on infrastructure and one on reconciliation. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, Mr. President. I just want to turn to the Delta...

BIDEN: I'm sorry, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turning to the Delta variant a moment. I want to see if the directors got, do you think your administration got enough mitigation -- do you think your administration put enough mitigation measures in place early enough and whether you should have, perhaps heeded some of the lessons from other countries that had data as early as May and June, about how the variants spread?

BIDEN: No, we knew how the variants spread and we know the vaccines prevent the spread. So, a lot of countries didn't have the vaccines we were able to put together to make sure every single American. We had over 600 million doses of vaccine for Americans. And when we've exported over half a billion, we will over half a billion. So, we knew.

What is disappointing is that more people were not willing to take the vaccine. We've done everything in our power -- well, I shouldn't say this. We will do more, but we continue to try to make the case to the American people who haven't taken the vaccine that is in your interest, can save your life and can fundamentally impact on the lives of your children or people you love.

Now, one of the things that's happening as bad as things have gotten, the death rate is one 50th, or don't hold me to the number, but significantly, significantly lower than when I inherited this job -- inherited the job. When I inherited the coronavirus pandemic when I first got elected.

So, I continue to hope that people will overcome their fears, because they're fears are based on -- some are just as a political statement, but very few. I think most people are worried, and that's why I'm hoping that the FDA will say that we permanently approve of these vaccines.

Because we have enough for everyone. And I'm hoping that as people realize, and it is picking up, vaccines are picking up, but not at the rate they were before. I remember I was setting up, you know, stadiums, sports stadiums, and we're doing to thousands of vaccines a day. And I wish I could have thought of something beyond what we've thought of. They make everybody want to get the vaccine, but that hasn't been the case.

Now at a federal level, what I'm going to be doing is making sure that they understand that I do have authority to say, if you're going to come in to this building, into a federal building, that you have to have been vaccinated or be wearing a mask. And I think that I'm going to use and I anticipate that it's probable, that the Defense Department will, as they've put in place, all the mechanisms needed to be able to in fact, impose or initiate a mandate for all the regular forces and reserves to get vaccinated.

But I continue to be hopeful. You see, I had a long -- not a long, I had a talk with Agent Hutchison who said he made a mistake and he is working really hard going around, he told me that he's doing a lot of town meetings, not all of which are being embraced. But he's making the case. We're going to continue to make the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I may. Ironically --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the Democrats through the years that you spoke with about infrastructure the most was Andrew Cuomo. Who is resigning -- he announced he's resigning today. You had traveled New York with him when you were Vice President and launch of the reconstruction of LaGuardia. He was someone who supported you campaign early on. Now you call on him to resign, (INAUDIBLE). But you're someone who spends a lot of times with mayors and governors. How would you assess his 10.5 years as governor of the state?

BIDEN: In terms of his personal behavior or what he's done as a governor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Done as a governor.

BIDEN: Well, he's done a hell of a job, he's done a hell of a job. And I mean both on everything from access to voting, to infrastructure, to a whole range of things. That's why it's so sad. I'll take you last question right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I have a question about the significance of the bipartisan nature of the infrastructure agreement. Are there lessons learned from that agreement that can be applied to boarding reform, police reform or LGBTQ civil rights?

BIDEN: By you guys or by me?


BIDEN: I'm sorry. I shouldn't kid, because I was just reading about 50 statements from very serious press people about how my whole plan was dead from the beginning. Look, the lesson learned is being willing to talk and listen, listen. Call people in --


BIDEN: No, no. Let me finish. And I think the lesson learned is exposing people to other views. And so that's why from the beginning on all the subject you raised, I've sat with people and listen to their positions, some in agreement where I am and some in disagreement. And so, I think it's a matter of listening, it's part of democracy. Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andrew Cuomo to resign immediately? He's leaving in 14 days.

BIDEN: I'm not going to comment any more on Andrew Cuomo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why have you not names an FD commissioner, sir?

BIDEN: Say again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't named FDA commissioner yet. I was wondering why you found or named a permanent FDA commissioner yet?

BIDEN: We're working on that very hard to make sure we can get it passed. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (CROSSTALK) -- can I quickly follow up on your comment on Governor Cuomo? Can you really say that he has done a hell of a job if he's accused of sexually harassing women on the job?

BIDEN: You asked me two questions. You asked the substantive, should he remain as governor is one question. And women should be believed when they make accusations that are able to, on the face of them, make sense, and investigate it, they're investigated. And the judgment was made that what they said was correct. That's one thing. The question is, did he do a good job on infrastructure? That was the question. He did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the question was how did he do as a governor?

BIDEN: No, the question was, correct me if I'm wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About how was he as a governor, generally? Outside of his personal behavior.


BIDEN: Outside his personal behavior. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you separate the two? Since --

BIDEN: No, I was asked a specific question. I'm trying to answer specific. What do you want to ask me specifically?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'd like to ask you about infrastructure as well. Given that you have said this is such an urgent bill that needs to be passed, why not have the House take it up immediately for a vote?

BIDEN: We'll get it done. I'll get both. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, would you like to see the FDA speed up approval of the coronavirus vaccine?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, so that was president Biden there making remarks about infrastructure but also making some news as it relates to the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, New York governor.

Let's bring in CNN political analysts, Margaret Talev, Chief Congressional correspondent Manu Raju, Senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.

And Margaret, let me start with you and Cuomo. He initially seemed as if he wanted to stick to, I respect the governor's decision. He response to two questions. That was his answer. Then there was that moment when he said, Yeah, he did a hell of a job. Got into, I guess -- I don't want to minimize it to semantics but a difference there he made between the personal behavior and the job as governor. Your take.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, hi Victor. Yes, it seemed pretty clear is what President Biden was saying was that he was glad that Cuomo had stepped down. That he thought he has actually on the substance accomplished some good things as governor. And I think -- I read what he said and said that's why it's so sad. I didn't read him to be saying that's why it's so sad that he stepped down. I took it to be saying that's why it's so sad he destroyed his legacy and made a bunch of women extremely uncomfortable and is in a crisis moment right now.

But you know, Biden has never been one for answers of brevity or pivoting. So, I think that's one of those moments. But look, Biden called on him to resign. That pressure I think helped to create what became an insurmountable challenge for him inside New York, inside the assembly. And now we have a woman lawmakers and a rising woman governor stepping in to fill his shoes in the next couple of weeks.

Phil, he hit the big breaking news of the day. Obviously, Cuomo. Manu, I'll outcome to you on what's next on infrastructure in a moment. But on COVID and children and the return to schools and this fight over mask mandate bans. The president said that for a state to nullify those local mandates he said was counter intuitive and he believed disingenuous. I don't think think he has any federal power to stop that though.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was interesting. He was kind of contemplative. I think was kind of walking through in his mind in realtime if front of national television cameras what he was seeing by some of these governors.

Particularly governors that have made it clear they don't like government intervention on just about anything and that seems to be what they are doing with local schools, with school boards, with individuals to some degree, based on some of the teachers. And I think you saw the president just making clear that he didn't think that aligned with their general ideology and that's left him somewhat confused.

You make a key point. He was asked if he thought he had federal authority to do anything about it. He said they were looking into it but he didn't think so at this point in time. I think when you talk to administration officials and this gets at kind the posture the president had when he answered this question, I think it's a combination of confusion and just sure frustration at this point in time. Knowing that millions of children are going back to school.

Their public health officials making very clear to them that unvaccinated children, particularly in high transmission areas really need to be masked based on what public health officials are saying and these governors taking great pains to do everything they can to stop it even in school districts that want to put it into place and the president kind of making clear that at least his in mind, it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't mean he can do anything about it. But it's something that like when you talk about it, they can't really get their heads around it at this point in time given the transmission rates you're seeing across the country.

BLACKWELL: Manu, on infrastructure, laughed off a few questions about the next step and getting through the House here. We'll get into some of the bipartisan element that the president wanted to talk about but what does this fight look like for this infrastructure bill.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's going to be complicated in the House. And that last question by our colleague Kaitlan Collins got to that point saying why not just push for the House to have a vote now on this bill that just passed the Senate. This bipartisan infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion that he was touting as this major accomplishment getting through the chamber. Why not have the house act now. He didn't answer that. He said we will get the job done.

But that is an important debate that is happening right now within the House Democratic caucus. There are moderate Democrats who are demanding an immediate vote. They say we have the votes, let's get this passed now.


But there are progressive Democrats who said they will withhold their vote from that package unless that larger $3.5 trillion Democratic only bill, so called Reconciliation Bill includes their priorities and is passed by the Senate first. And Nancy Pelosi is now siding with the progressives in her caucus saying the Senate does need to act on that first and then at that point she will take up the House's -- the Senate passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.

There is a complicated dance that she has to perform in the weeks ahead. A very narrow majority in the House to get both of these bills through.

And then on the Senate side, to get the larger package through, it would require all 50 Democrats to hold hands, vote for it to move forward but at least one Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema is concerned about the price tag. She says she will not support $3.5 trillion. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, has concerned about the climate change provisions in there. So, this is going to be subject and negotiations going forward.

But can they satisfy the moderates? Can they keep the liberals at bay in the House? Get both sides together and get both packages through, that's going to be a challenge for them in months ahead. And Chuck Schumer, the Majority Leader, told me earlier today that he would not comment about how low he was willing to go on that price tag, but it's going to have to come down. And can it satisfy the various factions? Those are questions that Democrats and the White House have to answer in the weeks ahead here.

BLACKWELL: Certainly, some hurdles and haul to get this legislation -- both pieces of legislation to his desk.

But Phil, let me come back to you before I get to Margaret. The president today talked about how there was so much cynicism and so much skepticism about the possibility that there could be bipartisan support in the Senate for this. So while there is all of the work that Manu was highlighting that must be done, this is a moment that is worth marking for this administration.

MATTINGLY: Yes, Victor, at various points I thought the president was going to pull up a sign that had painted on it, I told you so. That was how tickled he seemed to be. Making clear multiple times that apparently before he come out to the press conference he'd read, prepared by him by somebody a long list of headlines or press commentary about how there was no opportunity or no chance of bipartisan deal could actually happen. He certainly appreciated this moment in that regard.

But look, I think he gets to kind of the theory of the case that President Biden has had since he was candidate Biden. And that was while people might call him naive or not cognizant of the current dynamics on Capitol Hill, he had this kind of steadfast belief that his way of doing things, his way of operating, as he kind of laid out and how he laid out in how he operated in closed door meetings. He's been willing to listen. Being willing to hear the different views, would actually win the day on some key issues.

Not every key issue. Take a look at the second piece of his agenda. There will be no Republican support for that. But on something like infrastructure where there's always been bipartisan support on the top line. He thought he could bring people together. And this has been a validation of that. Manu makes a great point. There's a long way to go. The president knows that, so do his team. But this at least in a very real sense proves that what he said he could do, he's been able to do.

BLACKWELL: Margaret, the president said he's optimistic. We can tell that the president is usually quite confident when he leans in and whispers to some of those answers to reporters. It happens on these days he is something to celebrate. Is that optimism well placed considering what we've heard from the progressive members in the House and how slim that majority is?

TALEV: Well, I think considering that that vote a few days ago look like it could have gone the other way, there's plenty of reason for optimism. Even if the optimism is a five-yard play and not the touchdown. I mean, today was a readymade campaign ad for Joe Biden.

This is what he wants to run on for re-election. This is what he wants Democrats to run on in the midterms next year. And there's this push and pull between progressives and centrist Democrats, you know, sort of the Biden Democrats, about how to run. Should you be agitating for more or should you be looking for a center to hold.

And when he says things like this will be transformational or Americans can expect a long-term boom coming out of the pandemic or we with work together. It's the idea that he feels this vindicates the central argument of his candidacy, of his political essence. The idea that old school politics can still work. There can still be compromise and bipartisan.

So look, the truth is, if a 3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill crashes and burns, or whatever, if it's $2.5 trillion, whatever the lower number is, it's going to be because of progressives and moderates not being able to agree. Not because Democrats and Republicans couldn't agree. He thanked Mitch McConnell. That might be the only time this year you'll hear that. And I think it's why you saw the former President Trump, come out with this like super snarky anti-McConnell statement before the vote today. Saying Mitch McConnell is over rated. Why is he giving Biden this gift?


Because Republicans understand and those 19 Republicans thought, we're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't. All (INAUDIBLE) is local. Everyone needs a road or bridge or internet access but in doing this, they also handed Joe Biden a big political win.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a massive $1.2 trillion piece of legislation. Margaret Talev, thank you so much. Phil Mattingly, Manu Raju, thank you both.

Now we just heard President Biden address the mask controversy in so many schools, Florida especially. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to revoke the pay of superintendents, school board members who enforce mask mandates at school.

My next guest is one of those school officials who is potentially willing to put her salary on the line. The school board in Broward County, Florida, has decided to maintain their mask mandate in classrooms, but the decision did not come without a fight. Dr. Rosalind Osgood is chair of the Broward School Board. Thank you so much for being with me, Dr. Osgood. I want to start here with how you got to this decision. Because I know it was a passionate, long meeting that happened today. What did you weigh, how did you reach this decision?

DR. ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIR, BROWARD COUNTY FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARD: Certainly. We listened at the people of Broward County. We receive hundreds of emails. We had parents give public testimony. We heard from students. We heard from my community. We took data into account. We believe in science. Florida has become the epicenter for the coronavirus.

In Broward County, most of our hospitals are at full capacity. Many of us have personal stories of family members or people that we know our neighbors that have been impacted by COVID, some who have died and some who are now living with lifelong implications. And at the end of the day, we refuse to be bullied into a perspective

parochial self-interest where we are forced to place a monetary value on people's lives. We have concluded that people's lives are invaluable. And if it means we have to risk our salary or being removed from the school board, we don't know what our governor will do. He just tends to do whatever he wants to do. But as elected officials voted and chosen by the people of Broward County, we took an oath to protect and serve those people. And today we voted to do just that. We cannot bring people into a school environment, school bus and not have masks be mandatory.

BLACKWELL: You tweeted out this morning ahead of this meeting, please pray for us, we have been warned that we will be punished if we mandate masks, people's lives are invaluable.

I want you to listen to something that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said today about masks. This is in defense of his ban.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We already know that schools have been run. Some schools had no students chose to wear masks in different parts of Florida. And the results were not materially different from there. With all that data, United Kingdom doesn't have masks, Sweden doesn't have masks, Iceland, Netherlands, all those. They've been doing this too. You've got to look at that data and look at it. And what that tells me is this is ultimately a personal choice.


BLACKWELL (on camera): What's your response to that?

OSGOOD: Well, I emphatically disagree. We implemented a summer program where we had masks -- mandatory mask policies and we didn't have an outbreak of the COVID virus. In other places where they didn't mandate masks they did. We're living every day. This virus is a real virus. It's a pandemic. It's killing people, and it's leaving them with lifelong implications.

I'm just not willing to risk or play Russian roulette with somebody's life, especially not a child, a 5-year-old or 4-year-old child that can't get vaccinated come into a school, catches the coronavirus, goes home and infects the people in the house, the people -- lord knows how many people we have impacted with this pandemic if we are irresponsible with our policies.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you something, and this is a part of the conversation I don't think we have often enough. Those parents, and not the ones who are waving signs and shouting at people in front of the school board headquarters, but those parents who believe that sending their child to school without a mask is right for their child. That they love their child, that the benefits of having them not wear a mask outweigh the benefit of wearing one. The science may not be on their side, and it isn't.

[15:55:00] But what do you tell those parents who believe that they are doing what is best for their child by allowing them to go to school without a mask?

OSGOOD: I have empathy for those parents, and I beg of them to consider the risk of the virus and the pandemic. It is too big a chance to take when you do the cost-benefit analysis, it's not ever OK to risk your child's life.

A child not having a mask in a school classroom with 27 or 28 other people where you cannot practice social distancing with a global pandemic of a delta variant that's stronger than all of the others, it's just too dangerous. I ask those parents to consider their child's lives and the lives of all the other children. You see, when you make a decision like this, you have to think about the community as a whole.

BLACKWELL: All right, Rosalind Osgood there in Broward County, thank you so much for your time.

OSGOOD: Thank you.

Well, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's resignation, current Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will become the state's first female governor when she takes office, 14 days, the top office. She tweeted this earlier.

I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down, it is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers as someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York state's 57th governor.

Joining me now is Lauren Leader, she's the CEO of All In Together, a gender and workplace expert. And is close to Lieutenant Governor Hochul. Thanks for being with me. You have been in communications with her since this started, the report has been released. What's happening now and what do we need to know about her?

LAUREN LEADER, CEO, ALL IN TOGETHER: Well, I think it is an extraordinary and historic moment for the state of New York and for the lieutenant governor. She joins very rarified company. She will be only the 45th female governor in history of the United States, only the ninth female governor in the United States today. And she has been preparing for years.

You know, I've said to many people over the last few days, she is really in many ways the opposite of Governor Cuomo in so many regards. He is someone who has used sort of brute force and intimidation frankly throughout his tenure. He was known that even before these scandals broke. She's someone who's dedicated her career to building relationships all around the state, has put on unbelievable numbers of miles by car over the last few years really building relationships across the state.

So, I think she's going to be a consensus builder. She knows exactly what she's doing. She's exceptionally well prepared. She's held at every level of state government. And I think New Yorkers are lucky to get her, particularly after this period of crisis in difficulty for the state.

BLACKWELL: She has a lot that's going to be on her plate, the economy, the pandemic, of course many other elements. What will be aside from what I call the gotta-dos, the things you've got to handle, her priorities?

LEADER: She's been committed to families, to women and families for her entire career. I wrote a piece with her last year about the importance of dealing with the issues that women and families were dealing with because of COVID. Look, one of those pressing issues clearly is going to be schools -- as we just heard from this last segment -- because of the scandals with the governor, local school boards across the state of New York has been totally paralyzed waiting for guidance from the state.

We're less than a month away from school opening in September. That's going to need a lot of attention. Some of the money that was allocated to the state of New York by the federal government as part of the bailout, part of the relief package is tied up in bureaucracy and state government.

But I think she's going to long-term stay very focused on supporting working families in the state, real like bread-and-butter kitchen table issues which are really who she is and what she's done for most of her career. And she understands these issues very personally. She was a local elected official in her community for many years. So, she understands how deeply personal some of the challenges facing the state are to New York families.

BLACKWELL: Yes, she was not someone who was in the governor's inner circle. So, there will be a separation there.

No. and you know, I think you could read between the lines. He kept her at arm's length famously, didn't even mention her in his book about the pandemic, which is just unbelievable. It tells you something about, you know, how he viewed himself and the fact he didn't see anyone else as being helpful or supportive to his administration. When she was out killing herself on behalf of the people of New York for years.

So look, she's got a totally different style. She is beloved up and down the state. She knows exactly how to put the right team together, and she understands that she's got to hit the ground running. There are so many pressing and urgent issues for the state. There's no time to waste.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and I think you made the point earlier, I don't think we should rush past it. The first female governor for the state of New York and for the big five. I mean, it's been -- what -- 25 years since Anne Richards. So, this is a major moment for the state of New York and for the country.

LEADER: It's extraordinary. And the history I know is not lost on her. You know, you think to the history of Seneca Falls, the fact that women's suffrage 100 years ago was won really in the state of New York thanks to New York women. It's an extraordinary full circle to see her sworn in.

BLACKWELL: All right. Lauren, thank you so much for your time.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.