Return to Transcripts main page


Florida GOP Governor To School Officials: Enforce Mask Mandate And Get Your Salary Withheld; NY State Police Union Calls On Gov. Cuomo To Resign Ahead Of Possible Impeachment; Incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom Faces Many Challenges But Also Voter Apathy; Former Trump DOJ Officials Testify About Department Lawyer's Attempt To Push False Claims Of Voter Fraud; Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 9, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with something Mr. Rogers used to tell children to do whenever they saw something scary on the news, "Look for the helpers," he would say.

Well, today, with the school year starting and the news on COVID, and younger people certainly scary now for children and parents alike, where are the helpers? That's the question tonight.

In the case of Florida, some are being threatened by Governor Ron DeSantis with punishment for taking steps to protect children, too, too young to be vaccinated. Today, he not only stood by his word banning mask mandates in schools, his office today put out a statement warning of quote, "Financial consequences for non-compliance for dissenting school superintendents and school board members."

The most recent data shows the positivity rate in Florida for children under 12 and more than 20 percent and more than 24 percent for ages 12 through 19, because kids under 12 cannot be given the vaccine and public health experts have been pushing for mask squaring in schools, which in Florida puts them at odds with the Governor.

Same for Texas where COVID hospitalizations are climbing so steeply that at one big hospital in Houston, tents are being set up in case they are needed to handle the overflow. The school superintendent there recently proposed a mask mandate to be taken up by the board later this week, in defiance of Governor Abbott's orders and schools in Dallas announced a mandate today.

In South Carolina, which also bars such action, the Governor, Henry McMaster had this to say.


GOV. HENRY MCMASTER (R-SC): Shutting our state down and closing schools and masking children who have no choice -- for the government to mask children who have no choice to protect adults who do have a choice is the wrong thing to do and we're not going to do it. We're not going to shut our state down as other states did, mandating mask is not the answer. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, as for what is the answer, he said, personal responsibility and commonsense are. He went on to say that we are quote, "Dealing with a virus that we know this year," which raises the question, is he really? And what makes him think he knows better than the doctors and nurses and educators? And yes, parents of school kids in his own state.

You could ask the same of Governor DeSantis of Florida, Governor Abbott of Texas or the governors of the five other states that bar school districts from mandating mask wearing, all except Arkansas, where the governor, a Republican is trying to reverse the action he himself took.

For him, commonsense means facing facts.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): And later, we just have to adjust to the new facts that you have and the reality of what you have to deal with. And 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.


COOPER: Ron DeSantis is doing the opposite. Our Randi Kaye joins us now from Palm Beach County with more. So, what more do we know about what Governor DeSantis is doing?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Anderson, the Governor had issued this Executive Order in recent days, which was banning mask mandates. He did threaten to withhold funding from schools if they defied that order. And as you said, today, he took it a step further, he said that the State Board of Ed could withhold salaries for superintendents and school board members who tried to push through mask mandates.

The Governor's Office saying that they are trying to tailor punishment to decision makers who "led to the violation of law." That's the exact quote.

Meanwhile, Anderson, already at least four school districts here in the State of Florida are defying the Governor's order including Broward County, which is the second largest school district in the state. And also just today, Leon County in Tallahassee, the superintendent there had -- he has now issued a mask mandate, but earlier he had sent a letter to the Governor asking for autonomy and flexibility, and that whole exchange went sideways because he ended up issuing that mask mandate today in response to the Governor's threat to withhold his salary.

That superintendent in Leon County said you can't put a price tag on someone's life, including my salary. That's according to the "Tallahassee Democrat." Meanwhile, the backdrop to all of this not only the hospitalizations

that you mentioned and the positivity rates for children, but Florida has been leading the nation among hospitalizations for children and adults. And as you know, the C.D.C. is recommending universal masking for children and teachers as they return to school -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Randi, other governors around the country are also obviously at odds with schools about this and the C.D.C. What other states are we talking about?

KAYE: Well, a couple that you mentioned just briefly in what's happening. We see it in Texas where Governor Greg Abbott has been battling with districts around the state. Just today, the superintendent of Dallas said he is going ahead with a mask mandate. They will be returning to school next week. That is the first district in the State of Texas to go ahead and defy the governor there and issue a mask mandate.

And those defying the Texas Governor's order are subject to $1,000.00 fine, so we'll see where that goes. But also South Carolina, you have Governor McMaster there saying that there should not be a mask mandate in place for schools.

And now, there is one community, Columbia City has defied that order. The mayor there has issued -- they put the city under an emergency order and now the City Council has voted to have a mask mandate, but the governor there in South Carolina says that the city ordinance is illegal because it conflicts with the state ordinance. And the Governor there in South Carolina has been saying that, you know what, look at the numbers. The hospitalizations are down and those in the ICU are down, not as many people on ventilators as there were before.

So, basically nothing to look at here. Don't worry about it. Kids go back to school. You don't need a mask mandate -- Anderson.


COOPER: All right, Randi. Appreciate it. Thanks.

Let's get perspective now from Dr. Richard Besser, a pediatrician and former acting C.D.C. Director; also CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, you hear Governor DeSantis seeking to penalize educators who want to try to get everyone to wear masks in schools. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Commissioner of the F.D.A. saying that a responsible business wouldn't put 30 unvaccinated people in a confined space right now without masks and keep them there for a whole day, and not only is that happening in some states, governors are fighting to keep it that way. Does that make sense?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it doesn't make sense and we've learned a lot of over this past year certainly about this disease and its impact on kids. And it's worth reminding people that you know, millions of kids have been infected, thousands have been hospitalized, somewhere between 400 and 500 have died. You know, if you go back and look at H1N1, Rich Besser was acting

C.D.C. Director at that time, that was a disease that primarily affected kids, and the reported number of deaths during H1N1 was 358 deaths. My point is that we paid a lot of attention to it because it was affecting kids.

This is -- this COVID has killed more kids, sadly, than H1N1 did, so this is really concerning. We know, like where I live, for example, 39 percent roughly have been fully vaccinated. There have been schools that have already started and had to go into quarantine, because you know, you had positive tests.

Some of the school districts are not requiring masks, that's happened in Arizona as well. So, we talk about this a lot in terms of who lives and who dies. We don't know the long-term effect of this disease on kids. And, you know, just procedurally speaking, we're going to be stutter stepping our way through the fall if we're not careful with masks, ventilation, and testing, things that we know work and can keep kids in school.

COOPER: Dr. Besser, I mean, I think one of the things that -- much of what -- everything that Sanjay said is important, and particularly the idea that we don't know the long-term effects on children who have become positive. This notion of, you know governors stepping in and not allowing schools to make the decisions about whether or not children should mask in the local communities, it seems like that's based on the old idea from early on in the pandemic that this didn't affect children, that children weren't really susceptible to COVID.

With the delta variant, we've seen now more children becoming infected, more children dying, and there is a lot we just don't know about this virus in children long term.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, PEDIATRICIAN AND FORMER ACTING C.D.C. DIRECTOR: Yes, you know, Anderson, I think it's really important that we, we do show a lot of humility here in terms of what we know and what we don't know. You know, Sanjay laid out, the impact so far.

And when you have a virus, like the delta variant that is raging across communities so rapidly, it's so much more contagious, even if it were less severe, and we don't think it's less severe, the fact that millions of more children could get this infection means that there are so many more who could end up in the hospital and unfortunately, some children who will die.

We all believe that the best place for children this fall is in school learning, and the best way to keep that happening is to ensure that teachers and staff are vaccinated, that parents are vaccinated, and that everyone in schools is wearing masks. We don't know the long term outcome of this infection and we really need to treat it with a lot of respect.

COOPER: Dr. Besser, Dr. Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert in Houston has said he is concerned that there is going to be a back to school tragedy in the south and is suggesting mask mandates for all students and vaccine mandates for students 12 to 17 years old. What do you want schools and parents to do to keep children safe?

BESSER: Yes, I mean, one thing that I would say to parents is that you have a choice. There may not be a mandate in place, but you have a choice and can send your child to school with a mask on, you have a choice and you can get vaccinated knowing that getting vaccinated helps protect you. But it also helps protect your children and others who may not be able to get vaccinated now or who may have an immune problem where the vaccine isn't as effective as you'd like to see.

I hope that we create space to allow governors to make changes in what they're doing. It's great to see the Governor in Arkansas, trying to make a change there in terms of mandates. But I think that a lot of the decisions we're seeing have less to do with the science of the impact on children and more to do with the politics of well, if public health is saying it, we don't want to do it.


COOPER: Sanjay, the C.D.C. is reporting the nearly 1,600 children are now hospitalized for COVID, hospital admissions are up more than 21 percent from the prior week. Can you just put it in perspective -- because obviously, I mean, you know, you hear those numbers, it is very concerning. What do we know about the effects of this in kids?

GUPTA: Yes, let me show you. We can look at this, how this is -- sort of the graph of what's happened over this past year, I think it's really important. We see that the hospitalizations -- and this is in the United States in kids. And right now, here we are in August, we're sort of approaching the peaks that we saw in January, a time where we know viruses, respiratory viruses typically spread more easily.

So, already here in August, we're approaching that with some 217 hospitalizations per day in January for minors, and that's around 200 now, so we're likely going to now have a peak that's the highest that we've seen throughout this pandemic.

At the same time, we know that there are lots of kids who are, you know, hospitalized at any given time. So, out of the 66,000 or so hospitalizations that are currently -- people are hospitalized, about 1,600 of them are children.

So, the numbers are increasing. And again, you know, I don't know -- I don't think anybody knows what the next few months or maybe even next several weeks are going to look like, but this is supposed to be a time when you don't have as much of the viral spread.

So, I think it really worries people going into the fall. I hear from pediatric emergency room doctors that they are so worried about this going into the fall on top of other respiratory viruses that have already started to emerge early. So, this is really concerning.

COOPER: Sanjay and Dr. Richard Besser, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, what parents are telling Republican pollster and political analyst, Frank Luntz about getting their kids vaccinated and how the decision breaks down along political lines and later, a string of news and potentially pivotal development in the case of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, including the departure of one of his staunchest defenders.



COOPER: As heated as the debate is over something as simple and non- invasive and frankly, commonsensical as school mask wearing has been, mandating COVID vaccination in schools is on another level. And that's despite the fact that kids do and kids have always had to get vaccinated against any number of other diseases.

Republican pollster, Frank Luntz has been doing surveys, holding focus groups throughout the pandemic. His latest reveals a partisan divide over school vaccine mandates. Democrats by 64 to 36 percent say kids should be vaccinated against COVID as a requirement for attendance; for Republicans, it is 40 to 60 against. Frank Luntz joins us now.

Frank, good to see you. Perhaps it was or was not a surprise that parents responded along party lines when it came to whether they would want a vaccine mandate in schools, yet they all responded that having a safe environment is their top priority. What do you make of that?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND POLITICAL ANALYST: There is the ability for common ground if we want it, and I think the argument is if we parents first or politics first, and this is the message that I say to my Republican colleagues and my Democratic colleagues alike.

You've already politicized the issue, you've already drawn these sharp lines. These kids are going back to school in two or three weeks, whether they're going back safe and secure is up to you to make the right decisions.

And it is not a surprise, another finding from The De Beaumont Foundation, I urge you, viewers, to go to The De Beaumont Foundation website, because you'll see the entire data set is that the parents who are vaccinated produce vaccinated kids. The communities that have a high degree of vaccination produce schools and classrooms that have vaccinated children.

So, safe parents, safe kids; safe community, safe schools, and those that aren't safe in those places where they are not getting the vaccine, particularly in the southern states, they are susceptible. And the only bright light that I see -- and I'm very pessimistic about this, but a bright light I do see is that the delta variant has changed the minds of people across the country who are hesitant.

This is an opportunity here because there is genuine fear, genuine concern, and it should not have to be this way, but it's what it is.

COOPER: And of course, we know the longer this pandemic goes on, the longer more people are not vaccinated, the potential for other mutant variations -- variants continues. In fact, it's inevitable there will be more other variants and God forbid, there's some variant that, you know, only impacts children or severely impacts children that, you know, that would be cataclysmic globally.

Do you see -- is there a breakdown that you see in the focus groups that you do of parents who support vaccinations of children, mandatory vaccinations of children in general for a whole variety of the illnesses which kids get vaccinations for in order to go to school?

And I mean, are there some parents who support the idea of vaccines in general and some mandated vaccines, but just are against for some reason, this COVID vaccine because it's been so politicized? Or generally, if you're against a mandated vaccine for children in school, is it because you're against all vaccines?

LUNTZ: No, there is -- and we have two opportunities. One is right now because kids are preparing to go back to school, and the other one will come in September. I believe the Center for Disease Control, the C.D.C. will approve officially the vaccine. It won't be a conditional approval, it'll be a full approval, and that will convince millions of Americans who have not been vaccinated to get vaccinated.


LUNTZ: But Anderson, that raises a point. If you condemn those who have up to now asked to be given time to be patient, that they want to ensure that there are no side effects, that they acknowledge that the vaccine was developed very quickly, there are lines -- there are responses to that. They cut bureaucracies and they didn't cut corners. Ninety five percent of all doctors have been vaccinated, 95 percent -- even more than 95 percent of those in the hospital.

Remember this, if you're in the hospital because of COVID, 95 percent of you are not vaccinated. So, we know this, but that's what needs to be communicated. And Anderson, my greatest fear in all of this is that there will be an anger among those who aren't vaccinated, that they're being disrespected, and that they're being forced into doing this and that just makes them more obstinate.

And I'm also afraid of those who have been vaccinated, that lose their cool, lose their temper, because in the end, if you yell at a child, the child won't listen to you. If you teach them, if you educate them, if you bring them towards you, you can have the greatest impact.

So, I'm urging the people in the media, I know how frustrated you are, and I know you want to say to them, look, we can't wait any longer, get the damn shot. But that's not how you get people vaccinated. And in the end, this is why I'm in this country right now. This is why I'm on your show right now. This is my mission. It's my purpose. It's why I exist.

Instead of yelling at people, let's teach them, educate them, and pull them to make the right decisions for themselves, their families, their friends, and their community.

COOPER: Well said, Frank Luntz, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Coming up, next, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly in a quote, "fighting mood," as few allies believe he can survive the fallout from nearly a dozen separate allegations of sexual harassment and the road to potential impeachment when we continue.



COOPER: Sources tell CNN that aides are trying to convince New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign over sexual harassment allegations. One, however says Cuomo believes, quote, "He can wait it out," end quote. Reverend Al Sharpton tell CNN that he spoke with multiple people close to Cuomo. He says they described the Governor as being in a quote, "fighting mood." This comes as a State Police Union today became the latest group to call for his resignation.

A female State Trooper alleged in a report produced by the State's Attorney General's Office that the Governor repeatedly harassed her after she became a part of his protective detail. Brynn Gingras has the latest on the growing movement to remove Cuomo as Governor.


CARL HEASTIE (D), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: We are at a historic moment in our state's modern history.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo possibly facing an impeachment trial. The State's Judiciary Committee met this morning to discuss a timeline following the explosive report from the State Attorney General's Office alleging sexual misconduct by the Governor.

HEASTIE: Our goal is now to bring this matter to a conclusion with all due haste.

GINGRAS (voice over): The meeting comes just hours after this.

BRITTANY COMMISSO, GOV. ANDREW CUOMO ACCUSER: What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.

GINGRAS (voice over): The woman identified as Executive Assistant #1 in the A.G.'s report revealing her identity.

COMMISSO: I know the truth. He knows the truth.

GINGRAS (voice over): Thirty-two-year-old Brittany Commisso who still works in the administration spoke to CBS News and "The Albany Times Union" about the sexual misconduct. She says she endured by the Governor on multiple occasions.

COMMISSO: That's when he put his hand up my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra. I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand thinking to myself, "Oh my God. This is happening."

GINGRAS (voice over): Commisso is one of at least 11 women who the A.G.'s report found Cuomo sexually harassed over the last seven years. The report also stated the Governor violated State and Federal laws, but stopped short of recommending criminal prosecution. The Albany County Sheriff's Department is now investigating Commisso's

accusations after she filed a criminal complaint last week.

COMMISSO: To me and the other women that he did this to, it was not normal. It was not welcomed and it was certainly not consensual.

GINGRAS (voice over): Cuomo's team did not comment on the interview, but his personal attorney spoke about the accusations on CNN this weekend.

RITA GLAVIN, GOV. ANDREW CUOMO'S ATTORNEY: I will be quite clear, the woman -- Executive Assistant #1, he did not grope her.

GINGRAS (voice over): And the Governor denied the allegations laid out in the A.G.'s report in a video statement, Tuesday. The interview with Commisso airing just hours after the Governor's top aide, Melissa DeRosa resigned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like an atom bomb dropping in the Governor's inner circle.

GINGRAS (voice over): DeRosa, who was seen as one of the Governor's most loyal confidantes was mentioned in the A.G.'s report as participating in retaliation against at least one of Cuomo's accusers. She has not responded to those allegations.

DeRosa calling the past two years quote, "emotionally and mentally trying," adding, "I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state." Her statement notably did not mention the Governor.


COOPER: I'm joined now by Brynn Gingras in Albany State Capitol. So Brynn, other than that recorded statement last Tuesday, the Governor hasn't said anything. Do we know what he's been doing? Where is he?

GINGRAS: Yes, we haven't really -- yes, Anderson, we really haven't seen the Governor. He hasn't said anything like you just noted, really letting his attorney do most of the talking for him. But what we've learned from sources is that he's in, quote, "a fighting mood."

We're reporting that some of his closest aides actually met with him and tried to convince him that it's time to resign, believing that there's really no way out of this, but we're learning from sources that the Governor has remained steadfast that he wants to wait this out, that he doesn't believe his time is up.


And he just wants more time. Now of course that could all change he could change his mind as certainly as we see more people coming forward and speaking out against him.

The next date though to remember Anderson is this Friday. That's when Cuomo's attorneys can submit evidence they want assembly members in that Judiciary Committee to consider as they continue this investigation impeachment investigation, which we're hearing could wrap up in weeks. Anderson.

COOPER: Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Thanks.

Perspective now from Christine Quinn, former speaker for the New York City Council who now serves as president of Women in Need. And Kimberly Wehle, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at the University of Baltimore.

So Christine, I mean CNN reported that Governor Cuomo was in a, quote, fighting mood over the weekend. I know he's probably kind of always in a fighting mood, but even his aides tried to convince him to resign. How long can he keep fighting? I'm not sure who he's actually views himself as fighting against. But I mean, at a certain point, it becomes a disservice to the state of New York I assume.

CHRISTINE QUINN, PRESIDENT, WOMEN IN NEED: Oh, it's a terrible to sip service to the state of New York. I mean, think of all the work that needs to be done on the pandemic on an inclusive economic recovery for the state. But Andrew Cuomo really has one gear and that gear is fight.

And when this all broke last week, I thought he would take it into impeachment. Because he that's what he knows how to do is fight. He usually wins and I can't really imagine although I think it is the wrong decision, him stepping down or not stepping down anytime soon. It's just not who he is. It's not his DNA.

COOPER: Kim, you heard Governors Cuomo's executive assistant telling what she said happened, her version of it her account. How much more weight does she give too tall of this?

KIMBERLY WEHLE, FMR ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, there's -- she's not alone. There are 11 that are mentioned in the 168-page report. And this was an independent report that was actually authorized by the governor's office under New York law Letitia James could not have started this investigation absent Mr. Cuomo's -- Governor Cuomo has authorization. So now to be saying it's somehow biased or not credible, is very difficult. And as was mentioned in the setup, there are now additional allegations outside the governor's office from state troopers.

So, this is if you read the report, it's this is not a recent event. This is something that is deep within the bowels, so to speak of the governor's mansion, and a lot of people propped up this culture of harassment, bullying and retaliation. And it's hard to imagine with this avalanche of evidence that either political or legal accountability won't follow for a Governor Cuomo.

COOPER: Kim, this accuser says she doesn't plan to drop the criminal complaint that she filed against Governor Cuomo with the Albany County Sheriff's Office. I want to play with the sheriff said over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At some point we're going to have our victim back in for probably a very lengthy interview could be a series of interviews. And at that point, depending on the facts and the circumstances, we'll sit down with the district attorney and make a decision to move forward with a criminal charge.


COOPER: And clearly, it is up to the legal authorities whether or not they move forward. Can you just walk us through the kinds of legal trouble that the Governor could potentially face down the line?

WEHLE: Yes, really important distinction there that you make, which is that it's not like a private person can press charges. But her willingness to testify is the critical piece of evidence, and that the prosecutors could then use to bring a charge. And there's, you know, New York State law relating to sexual assault is actually quite complicated. There are many levels of potential crimes, from misdemeanors all the way up to felony rape. But the key element is lack of consent.

And so, you're groping someone touching up a personal part of her body without her consent, if proven would be a misdemeanor. And so that could be potential criminal liability. The report lays out sexual harassment, civil liability for the state of New York potentially, under both federal and state law, and then there could be potential civil liability for Mr. Cuomo, personally, depending on some things like sovereign immunity, et cetera.

But I really think the key element here is impeachment and under like under -- unlike under federal law, where you we saw with Donald Trump twice, nothing happened because it's the conviction didn't happen in the Senate, under the New York State Constitution, the charge itself of impeachment, which requires only 76 assembly members, that would displace him as governor pending the trial. So we could see some immediate action relating to his position that we didn't see at the federal level with the former president.

COOPER: Just very quickly, what is the punishment for a misdemeanor of groping? I mean, if groping is just a misdemeanor, what is what's the potential punishment for that?

WEHLE: Well, it looks like it could be something as minimal as parole or probation, I should say. Not necessarily jail time, which tend tends to be triggered more with a felony. And of course, given his position and posture again like we're seeing with the former president there's a sobering element to prosecuting any former government -- governor or someone at that high level that these prosecutors have to take into account. But it sounds like there's at least five offices that are looking into this in New York.


COOPER: But Christine, I mean, the fact that Governor's top aide, I mean, who's been, you know, his right hand and probably left hand as well. I mean, what does that tell you? QUINN: You know, that Melissa left, I mean, you're right. She was kind of his everything. He didn't take a move, without running it by Melissa that she has left really signals that this is over. She is the most loyal person he has ever had, and that she is left means it has basically, all forms falling apart.

And the governor should look around and realize that because all he's doing now is hurting the state when your most loyal, hardest working person leaves, you've got to realize that the end is near and you're not going to get out of this one.

COOPER: But Christine, you know that I mean, clearly his theory is he's just going to tough it out. And that in this day and age, bad behavior, there's so much, you know, coming information swirling around that people will move on and stop paying attention, and then he can just outlast everybody else with shamelessness. Do you think there's a chance of that?

QUINN: Absolutely not. When the assembly Democrats met last week and the assembly is vast majority Democrats and the Speaker Heastie did kind of a roll call to see if there was anyone in the caucus who was supporting the governor, not one Democrat. He has no support. He can not wait it out. And what's happened to your 11 women as trooper I mean, that really is shocking. He can't wait this one out. He's already lost and he needs to resign.

COOPER: Christine Quinn, Kim Wehley, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, we got supporters in California Governor Gavin Newsom have real concerns about the upcoming recall election. The reason this and enough Democratic voters are paying attention. Coming up.



COOPER: California Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a multitude of challenges from both his own Democratic Party along with a raft of Republicans in that recall election now said for a little more than a month from now. There's enthusiasm among some of the Democratic faithful to keep Newsom in office. But for the party's voters at large the election doesn't seem to be uppermost in their minds.

Our Kyung Lah now with the story



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what I'm telling, you guys got the rip.

LAH (voice-over): To save California's governor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fight, just fight.

LAH (voice-over): Volunteers fanned out across South Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'd like to leave you this flyer.

LAH (voice-over): A Democratic stronghold.


LAH (voice-over): Five weeks to go before the recall election in California.

VICTORIA MACKY, VOLUNTEER: We got far more people voting no then we have this point to vote. Yes, are just going to ignore the selection altogether.

LAH (on-camera): You just got to reach them.

MACKY: Just got to reach them.

You want to put? No.

LAH (voice-over): In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one. The recall of Governor Gavin Newsom is being met by a collective yawn.

RAY RUFFIN, INDEPENDENT, VOTED FOR NEWSOM: It's ridiculous. I think he'll still be our governor.


LAH (voice-over): Unconcerned or unaware about the off year election.

(on-camera): You sense that people are paying attention or talking about it at all.



LAH (on-camera): The governor?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh they want to like remove him.


LAH (voice-over): Apathy equals opportunity for Republicans. Here's how the ballot works. Question one is yes or no to remove Newsom. If enough Democrats don't save Newsom, a GOP Challenger and question two could win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for joining us a special coverage of the very first gubernatorial debate to recall Gavin Newsom.

LAH (voice-over): Republican challengers at the first debate stressed enthusiasm is on their side. Sure, celebrity names like Caitlyn Jenner and radio host Larry Elder who did not show up here may snag headlines. And one candidate has grabbed attention by campaigning with a bear.

The California's conservatives believe this recall is a rare political opportunity. A chance to pull off an upset.

KEVIN FAULCONER, GOP CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: Oh, I think Governor nuisance worried and ought to be. I think Californians are angry and frustrated.

BILL CARRICK, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If you're a Democrat, it's scary.

LAH (on-camera): If you're paying attention.

CARRICK: If you're paying attention.

LAH (voice-over): Most are not as longtime Democratic strategist, Bill Carrick, but there's still time. Newsom, who won in 2018, with more than 60% of the vote has millions more in the bank than Republicans and is now blanketing the airwaves with ads.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Vote no to protect California and our democracy

LAH (voice-over): Republicans do have challenges of their own.

CARRICK: They haven't done well in California in years. No statewide offices. Less super majority of Democrats in both Houses of the legislature. Closing that gap from where they are in the registration, that is one big mountain to climb.

LAH (voice-over): Another Republican dilemma Donald Trump. So toxic in California that on CNN, Larry Elder jumped through hoops to avoid any connection.

LARRY ELDER, GOP CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: I have not voted for a Democrat since 1976. I'm a Republican, and I've consistently voted Republican. So to call me a Trump supporting radio host, a little unfair is my opinion.

LAH (voice-over): California's progressive poll gives Newsom the advantage, but in politics, nothing is ever certain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, after Trump, there's no way of like ever being sure.


LAH: And the governor's forces are sounding the alarm saying hey, look, Democrats can win. They just got to pay attention. They just got to care. There's also a number of issues facing this governor, the COVID numbers are on the rise here in California. You have wildfires, you have drought. So a litany of roadblocks, Andrew where they simply cannot predict the outcome. Anderson.

[20:45:04] COOPER: Yes, Kyung Lah, appreciate it.

Just ahead the former president's attempted coup and the alleged actions of one official in the Justice Department to turn false claims about voter fraud into something more than just words. Closed door testimony this weekend on Capitol Hill, the chairman of the committee conducted the investigation, next.


COOPER: Over the weekend with her more about what Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus calls a quote, slow motion attempted coup plotted in secret at the pinnacle of government. These were the events just before the January 6 riot foiled. As Marcus writes, quote, by the resistance of a few officials and it was just a few.

Two former top officials at the Justice Department former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his Acting Deputy Richard Donoghue testified behind closed doors about attempts to push voter fraud allegations. According to a source familiar with the testimony, much of what they said before staff the Senate Judiciary Committee was about attempts by one particular senior department at lawyer Jeffrey Clark, to use department resources to push these false claims.

Just before the program I spoke with the chairman of that committee, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin about the testimony and investigation.



COOPER (on-camera): Chairman Durbin I appreciate you joining us. Based on what your committee has recently heard from these two former high ranking Justice Department officials in the last administration, Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, how concerned are you about the pressure they were under to interfere with the election results, which to their credit, they refused to do?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Oh, let me tell you something, the pressure was as tough as it gets in this town of Washington. And then here's the President of the United States, basically saying, here's what I want you to do. And if you can't do it, I've got somebody to replace it. That's pretty powerful.

COOPER (on-camera): I mean, all this information coming in the wake of the report from ABC News last week that Jeffrey Clark, a DOJ, environmental lawyer and loyalists, the former president, had circulated a letter within the department after the election, which he wanted to send to state officials in Georgia falsely claiming the Justice Department had identified what he called significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election and multiple states, including the state of Georgia.

He was trying to get the DOJ to essentially pressure Georgia State officials to wade into the election results. Do you think the public grasp just how dangerous something like this is? DURBIN: I'm not sure they do. I mean, there were so many bizarre twists and turns in the Trump administration. I think finally, people were numb to it. Then the election happened. The President did not accept the results. He went to the courthouses around America, looking for a friendly judge.

He couldn't find any one of them to buy his theory that he actually won the election. So then he turns to the Attorney General. Well, Bill Barr, the man who had done his bidding for four years, basically said I'm out of here, I resigned, it was a valid result and a valid election.

And so, in came Jeffrey Rosen, a lot of us were skeptical, who's Jeffrey Rosen, you know, we knew his position beforehand, but to be at the top of the heap is an important thing at that moment in history. Well, Rosen was challenged by the President and his statements before our interviewers made it clear repeatedly and of course, the ultimate threat. If you don't do this, as I wish you'll be gone.

COOPER (on-camera): And I understand your this week your committee is set to interview the Trump administration, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who resigned abruptly in January, it happened days after a phone call was made public in which then president was heard pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to find votes to overturn the election. What do you hope to learn from that interview?

DURBIN: Well, I don't know for sure, that I'm anxious to hear it. And I do want to say this, all those appearing before us, Donoghue, and Rosen and POC (ph), all of them have done this voluntarily without a subpoena. So they've come before the committee.

And we have attorneys representing the Republicans on the committee and attorneys representing us Democrats on the committee, taking turns asking questions, it's as bipartisan as can be. And I want to thank all three of those witnesses for stepping forward.

Now, we'd like Jeff Flake -- Jeffrey Clark to do the same. I'm not sure what we're going to find. We're going to ultimately issue a report and make public as much as we possibly can. But it really is been an illumination for most of us to hear it directly from Jeff -- Jeffrey Rosen, what he went through.

COOPER (on-camera): I mean, if the Department of Justice had, in fact backed the idea of that there had been fraud, which there wasn't in Georgia and elsewhere. That's essentially as close to a coup or the beginnings of a coup as one can get in this country. Wouldn't it be?

DURBIN: Well sure, the smacks of it from my point of view. Listen, sometimes, dictators just take over the whole government and don't even mess around with the people with the titles. In this case, the former President Donald Trump was checking the boxes. He went to the courts, no luck, decided to go to the Attorney General put the pressure on, no luck. Brought his mob scene down to the January 6 rally, turned them loose on the Capitol. It didn't work.

So he was trying every trick in the book. I'm not sure what was left. But I'm glad he didn't try anymore.

COOPER (on-camera): And for people wondering why these interviews are happening behind closed doors without the public seeing in real time, as you said, you're seeing the bipartisan and that would be something obviously, in this day and age, I think the public would like to see. Why are they behind closed door?

DURBIN: It's tradition that we do these behind closed doors and then make a public report. We're trying our best to make sure we don't step into territory we shouldn't. I don't think we're going to have a problem. You know, the Attorney General said two weeks ago, that he was waiving all privileges as far as our interviews were concerned, and that the witnesses should answer as they wish. That's really a green light. I think most of the information that we received in these interviews the public will see, it'll probably be complete transcripts, very little deleted.

COOPER (on-camera): There's also the House Select Committee investigating its direction, of course on January 6, how much overlap do you think there will ultimately be between your committee and the House Committee?

DURBIN: There could be and I've made it clear as far as I'm concerned. Nancy Pelosi has a bipartisan committee at work. This is a bipartisan effort. Whatever we come up with an transcript is certainly available to her or to any or o the public for that matter. So if it's helpful in getting to the truth, we want to use it.


COOPER (on-camera): Senator Richard Durbin, appreciate your time. Thank you.

DURBIN: Thanks, Anderson.


COOPER: I want to give you a programming note. In the next hour Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the Congresswoman shares very personal painful memories she was forced to relive during the January 6 riot is the first episode of a new CNN series about the people behind the public faces "BEING AOC" airs in just minutes at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

First, vote is set on Capitol Hill for the infrastructure deal. What we know about that, next.


COOPER: Some breaking news just in, signaling a win for the President but also to some extent for the notion that the two political parties can cooperate and get popular things done. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tonight announcing the Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement for final passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. There's a very good day, he said, calling it a very good thing for the

country. The Senate will vote on final passage tomorrow morning. That's anticipated to be at 11:00 a.m.


That does it for "360". Dana Bash's special "BEING AOC" starts right now.