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Texas Gov. Abbott & State A.G. File Petition To Block Dallas County Mask Mandate; Federal Judge Decides House Dems May See Some Of Former President's Financial Records; Civil Arrest Warrants Issued For Absent Texas Democrat Lawmakers. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Chris is off tonight.

In this hour of 360, big breaking news for anyone, who might have a medical need for one more shot of COVID vaccine, CNN has learned that the FDA is expected, within the next 48 hours, to authorize booster shots, in some cases, for people with compromised immune systems. Now, the CDC estimates about 9 million Americans are immunocompromised, making this a major development.

So is this, according to the CDC, the country has crossed an important milestone. More than 60 percent of adults in this country are now fully vaccinated, now stands at 61.3 percent with nearly 900,000 shots being given every day.

Meantime, with the Delta variant, sending more and more people, especially kids to the hospital, California's governor today became the first, in the nation, to order vaccination or regular testing, for all teachers and other school personnel statewide.

And in much harder-hit Texas, more counties defied orders, from their governor, and imposed mask mandates. Dallas County became the latest today.


JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: Governor Abbott and, you know, some people in his political party, following President Trump, have politicized this masking, public health, and vaccination, when there really is no politics here.

The virus doesn't care what your politics are, what your political party is, how you feel about any issue.


COOPER: That is Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. He'll be joining us shortly.

First, the breaking, vaccine news, and all the other developments, today. With us, again, this hour, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, with us well is Michael Osterholm, Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

So Sanjay, there's news that the FDA is expected to give emergency authorization for a third dose of the vaccine, for some people, who are immunocompromised. Can you explain what that means, and who you think would be eligible?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think we're talking, as you mentioned, 9 million to 10 million people here, 3 percent to 4 percent of the population, roughly.

These are people, whose immune systems are weakened, either because of underlying disease, or because of medications they may be taking, for example, cancer patients, who are getting chemotherapy, or transplant recipients, who have to take immunosuppressive drugs. That's primarily who we're talking about here, again, 9 million to 10 million people.

Let me show you a little bit of what this might mean, for transplant recipients specifically. This was a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, specifically looking at what was the effect of a third shot.

And if we have the graphic, we can show that.

But basically, we saw what happened after a single shot. And then, we saw a significant increase overall, in antibodies with that third shot. And they compared that in this particular study, which if they have the graphic, we'll show.

You can look it up. It was in the New England Journal of Medicine.

COOPER: I don't think they have the graphic.

GUPTA: I don't think they have it. OK.

So they have a - they had a placebo. They compared it to, and they saw no change, really with that placebo. So, this is what it's about, basically, sort of this idea that people who did not mount as strong an antibody response, actually did get significant benefit, by getting that third shot.

COOPER: And Sanjay, what do you think it means for people, who received the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

GUPTA: Well, I hope that they address this. I think it's really important. I mean, this, we've heard, for example, in communities like San Francisco that have made a shot of Moderna or Pfizer available, to those, who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson. About 22 million people in the country received Johnson & Johnson. We don't know what percentage of them have this - are also immunocompromised.

But I really hope that they address that, because we have seen waning protection with the Johnson & Johnson shot. So, this should be part of that discussion, from both the FDA and the CDC, this week. COOPER: Professor Osterholm, how do you think the FDA will roll this out? I mean, do people then go to a pharmacy, and say they're immunocompromised? Do they have to have a note from their doctor? I know doctors can - will doctors give the third dose? I mean, how does it work?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, FORMER MEMBER, BIDEN'S TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, this is a very important consideration. And it's not been worked out yet, so that we have people who really need this additional immunization versus those who just want it.

As you know, the World Health Organization has put out a statement, calling for a moratorium, on booster doses, for those who don't have this kind of immune-suppressive condition, but just want a third dose.

And so, what Sanjay is describing here, and very well, is the fact that this really isn't even a booster dose. This is really a third dose of a three-dose series that immune-compromised people should get.

And so, we have to work this out. I think, in many cases, people will be going back to their primary doctors, so that the record management will be complete, and people will get permission to do that.

COOPER: Sanjay, a study by Johns Hopkins researchers found that unvaccinated - excuse me - that vaccinated immunocompromised people are 485 times more likely to end up in the hospital--

GUPTA: Right.

COOPER: --or die from COVID, compared to the general population that's vaccinated.


So, why did experts think immunocompromised people would be protected, and might not need this third dose? And why did it apparently turn out - didn't turn out that way?

GUPTA: Well, I think at the beginning it wasn't clear just how much antibody response or just overall immunity response these people would generate.

I mean, keep in mind, we measure antibodies, understandably. It's a fairly easy thing to measure. But the question was was there immunity that was being generated in the body by these vaccines, in the form of T cells and B cells. Just wasn't clear.

Now, as you point out, it is pretty clear that if you're vaccinated and immunocompromised, you are far more likely to end up being getting severely ill, if you become infected. So, I think the data has become pretty clear on that.

Why did they sort of not anticipate this? Part of it is what they did - they didn't know. But also, we talk about this term "Herd immunity," and maybe we use it too much.

But part of the herd immunity was to basically say, "Look, we know not everyone's going to be able to get protected. If we get enough protection out there, though, we can essentially form a herd of protection, around those who are vulnerable, including those who are immunocompromised."

We didn't get to that point in this country. And that's part of the reason we're having this discussion now.

COOPER: Professor Osterholm, when it comes to kids, how concerned are you that the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost, according to them, almost 94,000, new COVID cases among children were reported in the week ending of August 5th.

Is this part of the so-called "Category 5 hurricane" you thought might happen earlier this year?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think this entire surge is part of what we were concerned about. I appreciate the fact we keep talking about, when we hit 60 percent, or 61 percent, or 62 percent, of the population vaccinated.

But if you look at countries, like the United Kingdom, or Israel, where they even have much higher levels of numbers of people vaccinated, Israel had their highest number of cases reported today than they've had in the entire pandemic, and yet they have these high levels of vaccination.

So, we know that we have to vaccinate virtually everyone, or someone, who is not vaccinated, will likely know a COVID-related outcome.

So, for kids, we're seeing it in spades today. The virus is, particularly as we talk about Delta, is highly infectious in children. So, we do need vaccines as soon as possible. And they are working on that, clearly to get the dosing down, to assure the safety. But as any of us know, that can't come soon enough.

COOPER: So Professor Osterholm, when you say the Delta variant is highly infectious in children, is it more infectious? I mean, do children - are they more vulnerable to the Delta variant than they were to what we - what originally we're dealing with, here in the United States?

And I mean we heard - I heard one doctor, in an interview, saying that what they're seeing is more, I think, it was particular lung cases with children, and she says kids are getting--


COOPER: --hit harder. Is that actually, factually, do we know that nationwide?

OSTERHOLM: Well, let's take the - break that into two separate issues. One is, is it more transmissible? And I can tell you, when we were dealing with the strains of the

virus, last year, when much of the data was collected, about how infectious it is, in kids, we saw often very little transmission between or from kids to others. And the conclusion was made it's not very infectious.

The Alpha variant came along, changed that, where we started to see more transmission. We had a number of outbreaks here in Minnesota tied to youth sports.

And now with Delta, we're seeing that the transmission in kids, at least that (ph) we see in adults. So, we're not saying that it's more. We're just saying that it now has not been restrained, as for some reason we saw a year ago.

As far as the severity of illness, that's still an open question. Surely possible that this is more severe, but it doesn't take anyone to think twice about the fact that what it is doing right now is, in fact, a major, major health problem.

And, as you know, you're seeing in your network here has broadcasts, from these hospitals around the country, showing just the impact that this is having in kids in children's hospitals.

COOPER: And Sanjay, just briefly, do we know about long COVID in children, I mean, and the Delta variant? Or do we just not have enough studies in time at this point?

GUPTA: I don't - I don't think we have enough data in time.

But I can tell you that I'm glad you raise it, because I think oftentimes, we measure these things, in terms of who has lived or who has died. And people often say, "Look, this is not a serious illness in children."

I don't think we know. I think Michael Osterholm would agree with me. You don't want this virus, because there is so much about it--


GUPTA: --that we still don't know, no matter what.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, Michael Osterholm, thank you. Appreciate it.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.


GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Live reports from two of the hardest-hit states, so far, Florida and Texas, where governors of both states are resisting mask mandates.

And later, what happens now? The federal court has paved the way for lawmakers to see more of the president's - former president's taxes. [21:10:00]


COOPER: As you probably know, Florida's governor Ron DeSantis is one of several, who have issued orders, or signed legislation, barring mandatory masking, even as the Delta variant surges.

Even as the evidence grows, as we learned in our last hour that having kids mask-up at school can prevent most spread of the virus, several big counties in the State of Florida have defied him on this. But now, it looks like both sides might be softening somewhat.

Governor DeSantis, meantime, also finds himself at odds with White House - the White House, on ventilators, for his state's overburdened ICUs.

We have more now on all of this from Randi Kaye, in Palm Beach.

So, DeSantis spoke today, at a school, alongside teachers and educators. What did he have to say?

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, he has always said that masking in schools should be left up to the parents. It should be their choice. Not the government's.

And today, he said if the federal government plans to step in, and overrule parents, he would quote, "Fight back vociferously" against that.

He also tried to play down the impact that COVID, and this very contagious Delta variant is having on children. Listen to this.



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): What we have in Florida is we have about 1.3 percent of the COVID-positive patients that are hospitalized, are pediatric cases. And for the whole Pandemic, we've been between 1.1 percent and 1.4 percent of the census, on any given time, has been pediatrics.

So, there's been no change in the proportion of pediatric patients, who are COVID-positive.


KAYE: And Anderson, we actually checked the governor's math, and it's not quite right.

According to the CDC, about 2 percent of COVID patients hospitalized, throughout the whole pandemic here, in the State of Florida, are pediatric patients. The governor had said, as you heard there, 1.1 percent to 1.4 percent. The CDC is saying it's higher.

And right now, Anderson, there are about 200 children, hospitalized with COVID, here in the State of Florida.

COOPER: So, where does the debate about masks in Florida schools stand right now?

KAYE: Well, the governor, as you know, issued that executive order, last month, saying that you can't have a mask mandate, in schools.

Many counties have gone ahead with the mask mandate, including right here in Palm Beach County and Monroe County that you mentioned. But they don't have any type of rules, around that mask mandate, so anyone can opt out of it.

But in three counties, in the State, you actually have to have a medical reason, or a doctor's note, to opt out. And so today, one of those counties, one of those three, Leon County, where Tallahassee is, actually reversed that, and said that now parents can opt out for any reason.

And part of this is because the Governor and his Education Commissioner had actually threatened to withhold funding, they threatened to take away the salaries of the Superintendent and the School Board.

And in a letter, the Education Commissioner actually threatened to remove the School Board. So, the Superintendent and the School Board did not want to lose their jobs. They didn't know who they were going to be replaced with. So, they went ahead and rolled that back.

So now, we'll have to see what the other two counties, who have those mask mandates in place with that medical reason for the opt-out, we'll see what they have to do, because right now they're under investigation for non-compliance, Anderson.

COOPER: And what about the - there was a story about ventilators that were sent to Florida?

KAYE: Right. The governor was asked about these ventilators yesterday. And these were his words. He said he was unaware of the request for the ventilators. He'd have to check and he doubts that was true.

Well, CNN has confirmed that hundreds of ventilators were sent by the Biden administration, to the State of Florida, earlier this week. And our Kaitlan Collins was told that the White House says it doesn't send ventilators to states without their interest in receiving them.

So, in other words, somebody must have requested them, whether it was the Governor's Office or the State Health Department. They weren't just sent randomly, according to the White House.

But still, the governor has not addressed that today, hasn't cleared up how those ventilators ended up here, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Randi Kaye, I appreciate it. Thanks.

Now, Texas, where hospitals are so overburdened that the governor, Greg Abbott, today announced plans to bring in medical personnel, from out of state. However, he's not reversing his order, barring localities from imposing mask mandates.

Public health experts seem confused.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you have authorities for reasons that I mean, I can't explain, is it political? Is it libertarian? What is it?

I mean, how can you prevent the local authorities, from doing what it takes, to protect the children? For what reason is more important than protecting the health of the children?


COOPER: In a moment, the top elected official in Dallas County, who's fighting Governor Abbott on this.

But first, the latest from Dallas, CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us.

So, the Governor says he's sending help. What are you hearing from hospital officials about what they need?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, hospital officials across the state that I've spoken with today are really sounding an alarm - the alarm in a way that I haven't heard, even in the worst days of this pandemic, here in this state.

There are more than 10,000 people hospitalized with Coronavirus. This has spiked dramatically and quickly. These are numbers we have not seen since, late January, early February.

There are just under 370 available ICU beds, across the state. And some regions are reporting single-digit number of ICU beds available for Coronavirus patients.

And the CEO of the Harris County Health District in Houston, speaking to State lawmakers today, said that the State is headed for a medical catastrophe, if urgent action isn't taken soon. And he says he's frightened about what's coming in the weeks ahead.


DR. ESMAEIL PORSA, CEO OF HARRIS HEALTH SYSTEM IN HOUSTON: There is no intervention out there that I am hearing about, from the State, or anyone else that is going to have an impact on those numbers anytime soon.

If this continues, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, there is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this. There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this.


[21:20:00] LAVANDERA: And that Hospital executive also described a scene, in one of his hospitals, this week, where there are 30 different Coronavirus patients, in need of ICU care, who were waiting in an emergency room lobby. And then, in some of those cases, it took 30 hours to get those patients into a room.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Texas insists that the time for mask mandates is over. He has once again talked about how it is the personal responsibility of Texans, across the state, to get the virus under control. But you really see once again, the struggle between local officials, here in this state and the state leaders.

COOPER: And we've seen to talk to - talking about that, we've seen local county officials in Dallas County, seeking to defy the governor's edict against mask mandates.

How has the Governor responded?

LAVANDERA: Well, you're really seen Anderson, an open revolt from county officials, school superintendents, across the state, who have been issuing mask requirements, in defiance of the governor's executive order.

The governor and the attorney general here have filed a petition to block the Dallas County mask requirement. They're calling all of these local officials, "Activist characters." And they're vowing to take any of them to court, if they continue to issue these mask requirements.


COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it.

Joining us now, the man at the center of all of this, Clay Jenkins.

Judge Jenkins, I appreciate you being with us. Hey, welcome.

I wonder what your reaction is to this petition from Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, to block the Dallas County mask mandate that you issued earlier today. How do you respond?

JENKINS: Well, the courts will deal with that.

What has happened is thus far, the courts have agreed with us that the governor doesn't have the authority, to stop an emergency response.

He has the authority to suspend certain regulatory laws, to make it easier, for instance, for nurses and doctors, from out of state, to practice here, but not to stop an emergency response.

COOPER: In his statement, the Texas Attorney General, essentially called you, not by name, "An activist character" and "Attention- grabbing judge."

It certainly doesn't help the situation we're in right now, to be kind of hurling invectives like that. But what does it say about where this debate is right now, in the stakes, for public health? JENKINS: Well, so this is not about Democrats and Republicans. We should all be on Team Public Health. That virus doesn't care what your politics or anything else is. It's just relentlessly looking for a host. And so, I don't want to get into the name game or the blame game with people.

I'm listening to what our doctors and the CDC are telling us, which is we are in a state of crisis, and we have to act quickly, and we need to put mask on people, in public settings.

Anderson, today, in the Metroplex, which has 7.7 million people, a 19- county area, we had two pediatric ICU beds open, for anything, car crashes, cancer, anything.

So, our doctors are making it - and it's not much better for adults. Our doctors are making decisions now on care for people that would have been un-thought of two weeks or three weeks ago.

And the time to act is now, not when it's even worse.

COOPER: You signed the executive order, this afternoon. What is your next step?

JENKINS: So, the next step is starting tomorrow, all students in public schools, childcare centers, and pre-K will be wearing a mask. All shoppers and employees in - or customers and employees and businesses will be wearing masks, and people in county buildings will be wearing a mask.

And that the doctors tell us will help slow the spread, give them a little bit more time.

What's happened here in Texas is the governor stopped supporting the hospitals with temporary staff. That staff has gone to other states. And headhunters have taken staff, from our hospitals, further increasing the problem.

The people in our hospitals have been working non-stop, for 19 months, they were retiring early at record numbers. So although the numbers in our hospitals are currently lower than they were, at the peak, the bed to staff ratio, or doctor and nurse to patient ratio has never been worse in the history of North Texas.

COOPER: So, the governor--

JENKINS: The modern history.

COOPER: --the governor, as I mentioned, made an announcement today that over 2,500 medical personnel will be deployed to hospitals, around Texas, to care for the increasing number of patients.

How do you square that action with - I mean, is that enough? And how do you square that action with his edict about masking?

JENKINS: So, you can't square those two things. And those doctors will certainly help. But, of course, it takes time for them to get there. And this is a race against the virus, to give us enough bed capacity, so that we can avert a catastrophe.


Look, here's my view. And it's real simple. The virus doesn't care about politics. And so, we need to listen to those adults, who have trained their entire adult life to advise us in these moments. And that's the doctors.

And they're all uniformly, including the governor's former advisors, when he had health advisors, telling us all the same thing. Masking indoors is a critical component, to saving lives, at this time, and we need to do it.

COOPER: Judge Clay Jenkins, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

JENKINS: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, a member of Congress who may eventually see the former president's tax returns, after major decision today, by a federal court, about the privacy of those records. Details ahead.


COOPER: Another major setback for the former president's years' long attempt to keep his tax returns away, from investigators.


A federal judge has decided that House Democrats, on the Oversight Committee, may indeed see several years of his returns, as part of an investigation, into foreign payments, and possible violations of the Emoluments Clause, which forbids such payments.

Now, in this case, it involves the hotel he operated on federal property.

I'm quoting from the judge. "The Committee has presented "Detailed and substantial" evidence that President Trump, at least through his business interests, likely received foreign payments during the term of his presidency."

In what was really a partial victory for the former president, the judge limited the Democrats' subpoena for tax returns, just the years that he was actually in office.

I'm joined now by a member of the Oversight Committee, Congressman Ro Khanna.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. What is your reaction, first of all, to the ruling today?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Anderson, as Judge Mehta issued a careful narrowly-tailored ruling, perfectly consistent with Justice Roberts' guidance, on the Supreme Court, he had two basic findings.

First, that Trump, himself, admitted to reimbursing the Treasury $400,000 for foreign payments. And the judge said, the American people, our committee, deserves to know what foreign payments, did Trump receive. And that's why we need his tax returns.

Perfectly reasonable. If a member of Congress was receiving foreign payments, I think the American public would want to know.

And second, the judge said Trump had a deal for his hotel with the government. The government contract said that no government official should ever benefit from the deal.

Obviously, Trump was president. He was benefiting from the deal. We should find out whether that contract was legal, and whether Trump should have divested from that property.

COOPER: Were you disappointed that the judge only allowed for tax records, from when the former president was actually in office, and not going back to 2011, as the Oversight Committee had originally sought?

KHANNA: I was, because I believe it's relevant, those prior tax returns, to seeing whether Trump had a financial interest, in foreign engagement, and foreign activities. But it's actually what shows that the judge was very careful and fair.

He restricted some of our requests. He had the narrowest possible ruling. And he said what is certainly relevant are the tax returns, while Trump was president. And that's why I think the ruling will stand, even if the former president appeals it.

COOPER: It was interesting, because the judge did specifically refute the argument from the former president's allies that the committee is on a baseless fishing expedition, which is what they had said.

And that there was, quote, "Detailed and substantial evidence that President Trump, at least through his business interests, likely received foreign payments, during the term of his presidency."

In order, I mean, are you - does there have to - for there to actually be a violation, does there have to be proof that not just foreign money was received, from foreign guests, staying at the hotel, or that they were overcharged, but that that actually resulted in some sort of foreign policy decision or legislation?

KHANNA: I think if there is a tie between the money that was received, and any influence, on a foreign policy decision, obviously, that is the most blatant violation. But short of that if you have evidence that Trump was receiving compensation, beyond the market rate, that also is deeply concerning.

Look, the Oversight Committee is one of the most careful committees. I often want to move faster than the committee staff. They are very deliberate. They are very careful. They don't overreach. And the judge's decision was a vindication of how carefully they prepared this. They had the evidence of why we deserve those tax returns, for legitimate purposes. COOPER: One of your colleagues, Democratic congressman Gerry Connolly, tweeted out something. I want to read it. He's on the Oversight Committee.

He said "We'll see some of Donald Trump's tax returns, and that's a good thing.

Let's be clear. We issued this subpoena two years ago. That he was able to run out the clock and avoid accountability until he left office is not a victory for the rule of law.

It is an abject failure."

How concerned are you not only with the time that has taken, but that the former president is now out of the White House, and never had to face this really head-on?

KHANNA: It did take too long, Anderson, because our system wasn't designed for someone like Donald Trump.

I mean, every president before that, complied. They would either put their assets in a blind trust. They would disclose their tax returns. A lot of our constitutional democracy depended on norms that both Democrats and Republicans followed.

Obviously, Trump flouted them. And it has taken years for our legal system to catch up with that. But now that we know that that is possible, what Congress needs to do is enact laws, so that this never happens again.

Disclosure laws, I think every elected official, for example, should have to disclose any foreign payments that you're receiving while in office. That would be one reform that would prevent this.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman Ro Khanna, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

KHANNA: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, the other big battle in Texas, a new bid to pressure Democrats, who abandoned the State House, to stop a voting rights overhaul. Some remain out of state. The question is will they be forced to return?

We'll talk to leading Texas Democrat, next.



COOPER: Tonight, more than 50 Texas Democratic lawmakers, who left the state, in protest, now face civil arrest warrants.

Many remain outside Texas, to try to block Republicans from calling the State House to order. Otherwise, it would clear the way for passage of a voting rights bill that they consider to be nothing more than voter suppression.

We should note that while the warrants would force lawmakers to be brought back to the Capitol, in Austin, they are not criminal arrest warrants.

With me now, State Representative Chris Turner. He chairs the Texas House Democratic Caucus.

So, Chairman Turner, you are currently in Texas. How concerned are you that you might be arrested, brought to the Capitol?

STATE REP. CHRIS TURNER (D-TX): Good evening, Anderson.

I'm not concerned. The Speaker did sign civil arrest warrants, as you pointed out. So far, those warrants have only been handed over to the House Sergeant-at-Arms, who visited all of our Capitol offices today, is my understanding.

I wasn't there to see it. But that's my understanding of what happened. And, to my knowledge, that's the extent of what has happened, so far. So, I'm not concerned. This is a civil matter, not a criminal one. So, in our view, there's really not a role for law enforcement to play here.

COOPER: So, several of your Democratic colleagues are still in Washington, trying to prevent the Republicans, in the state, from passing voting restrictions. How long does this continue?


I mean, you clearly - you've returned. You still have, I guess enough, who are still out of state, to stop there from being a quorum. Is that correct?

TURNER: Well, there's a - I'd say, 20 or less in Washington, still. Most members left over the weekend, at the end of the first special session, which ended last Friday, because we said we were staying in Washington, until that session was over, to kill the bill in that session. That's what we did.

But we also don't see a compelling reason to go back to the House right away, when Greg Abbott has called another special session. That's nothing more than a 30-day campaign commercial for his reelection campaign.

And so, we're not interested in helping them pass an anti-voter bill. We're going to continue to use our voices to argue for federal voting rights legislation.

And frankly, a lot of us - all of us have work to do, in our districts, in our communities, to combat the COVID-19 crisis that is unfolding, across the state, thanks to, unfortunately, to Greg Abbott's failed leadership, on this issue. You were just talking with my friend, county judge Clay Jenkins, in Dallas about that.

And we have a lot of work to do to get people vaccinated, get people wearing masks again, and combat the spread of this pandemic, which is spreading like wildfire, right now, in Texas.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, regarding the voting rights, though, yes, I mean, you've said that the way this has to end is Democrats in Washington passing a federal voting rights bill.

Senate Democrats tried to pass a bill, again last night, were blocked by Republicans. I mean, this could just go on indefinitely. There don't seem to be the votes.

TURNER: Well, you're right, that that's what I've said that that's how this has to end, is Congress has to enact strong federal voting rights legislation.

But we are encouraged, one, the vote last night, there was no surprise how that vote was going to turn out. We knew that Republicans were going to vote along party line. It was very fitting. It was Ted Cruz, who did it himself, as someone who's defended a lot of these anti- voter laws from his time in the Attorney General's office.

So, what hopefully that vote does, and what it should do, is pave the way for Senate Democrats to say, "You know? We've tried to work with Republicans on this. They're not interested in being bipartisan. Now, it's time to revisit the Senate rules and decide how we're going to get a bill passed in the in the U.S. Senate when we come back in September." That's number one.

Number two, there's some very good news, on the House side, in that the U.S. House, the Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said yesterday that the House is going to come back, the week of August 23rd, and is likely to take up H.R.4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

That's a good six weeks at least, ahead of schedule, what they previously had planned, before we went to Washington. And we firmly believe that our advocacy in the House and the Senate has helped accelerate developments, on both these very important bills, because we need them both to pass.

COOPER: Yes. Chris Turner, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

TURNER: Thank you.

COOPER: Still to come, New York will have a new governor, in less than two weeks. For a lot of people, this is the first time they are meeting her. We'll tell you who she is.

CNN's Brynn Gingras spoke one-on-one with the Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. What she said about her soon-to-be predecessor, and whether she'll run for a full term, next.



COOPER: With New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, leaving in, under two weeks, so many questions about the relatively little-known lieutenant governor, who will replace him. Brynn Gingras spoke one-on-one with Kathy Hochul today, has the details about who she is, and whether she plans to run for a full term.


LT. GOV. KATHY HOCHUL, (D) NEW YORK: Our work has already begun.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kathy Hochul ready to become the 57th Governor of the State of New York, and the first woman in that role.

HOCHUL: I will fight like hell for you every single day, like I've always done, and always will.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The 62-year-old speaking publicly to New Yorkers, in her first news conference, since Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, Tuesday, promising a different kind of leadership.

HOCHUL: No one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Immediately setting herself apart from Cuomo.

HOCHUL: I think it's very clear that the governor and I have not been close.

No one who is named - who is named as anything - doing anything unethical in the report, will remain in my administration.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The longtime Democrat assumes the role in less than two weeks.

She's no stranger to politics, holding offices from the U.S. House of Representatives to County clerk. The transition to governing a state of about 20 million people, coming at a challenging time, with the Pandemic, Hochul says, being top priority.

HOCHUL: I'm going to be working with the communities, where the rates are higher, new infection, and the vaccination rates are lower, and to come up with a very strategic approach, to target that, and make sure we overcome the hesitation and worries.

GINGRAS (voice-over): With 16 months left in the term, when she takes over, Hochul tells CNN, in a one-on-one interview, she plans to stick around.

GINGRAS (on camera): We understand you formed a political team. Does this mean you're going to seek a full term in 2022?

HOCHUL: Yes. It's not the time to talk politics. But I am prepared to run for re-election and begin the process, as soon as we get everything under control, in the state.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo said he would step aside, after mounting calls for him to resign, based on the Attorney General's report, which found he sexually harassed multiple women. Claims, he denies.

The Governor, expressing confidence, in his successor, Tuesday.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent. This transition must be seamless.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Hochul says she's intent on leaving the controversy, surrounding Cuomo behind.

But she'll be coming into the Governor's Mansion with a conflict of interest. Her husband is General Counsel, Senior Vice President and Secretary of the Buffalo-based hospitality and gaming company, Delaware North, and could be impacted by his wife's calls being made from the Executive office.

HOCHUL: I have a recusal policy in place already, since I was lieutenant governor.

GINGRAS (on camera): So, that's the same plan?


HOCHUL: And we are re-examining--

GINGRAS (on camera): Got it.

HOCHUL: --that to see if there's anything that would change, with my responsibilities changing.


GINGRAS: And in that one-on-one interview, I had with Hochul, after that news conference, I asked her, does she think the Governor should be impeached, or was his resignation enough?

And Hochul said that she isn't in a position to comment on that, or interfere with the process. But she says she has full faith in lawmakers.

As far as that impeachment process, Anderson, the Judiciary committee is going to meet again, on Monday, to discuss what the possible next steps could be, or what that will look like.

They have received all of the documents from the Attorney General's report, and a source telling CNN, all options are on the table.


COOPER: Brynn Gingras, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan. But they may not be the only reason the Taliban is seizing ground so fast, while steamrolling Afghan forces.

Our Clarissa Ward joins me next, from Kabul, Afghanistan.



COOPER: For Americans, Afghanistan has been this nation's longest war. But with that war coming to an end, the Taliban is quickly rampaging through Afghanistan town-by-town. Nine provincial capitals have been overrun, just since Friday.

Now a senior administration official, familiar with the U.S. Intelligence assessment, warns that Afghanistan's capital city Kabul could be isolated by the Taliban, in as soon as a month.

That's where our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, joins me tonight.

Clarissa, the speed with which the Taliban is recapturing, retaking city's territory is really stunning, not perhaps all that surprising.

But it's remarkable that after all this time, in which the U.S. was pouring in, billions and billions of dollars, to build up the Afghan Police, build up the Afghan National Army, they're just collapsing, it seems, in the face of this.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, and that's certainly what we have been seeing on the ground, Anderson.

We just got back from a trip to Ghazni city, and we drove past an Afghan army checkpoint. It was taking fire from a Taliban sniper, in a nearby position. And we literally watched Afghan soldiers running down from the base. They hailed a civilian car, jumped into it, and drove off.

And the next day, when we returned, through the same checkpoint, there were still Afghan soldiers, manning the checkpoint. But they were wearing civilian clothes, because they're trying to keep a very low profile.

And I think that really speaks to the sense of morale, or the lack of morale, within the Afghan army. There's the sense that they know that they're losing.

And most prominently, they don't want to die, Anderson. That's the crucial difference between them and the Taliban. The Taliban are ready to die. The Afghan army don't want to die.

COOPER: How are things in in Kabul? I mean, are people panicking? Is it - how does it - what is it like there?

WARD: So, I don't think we're at panic yet. But it's grim, Anderson. It's definitely grim.

The writing is on the wall. I think, at this stage, we've heard all sorts of predictions. It could fall in a matter of months. And I think it's a little early to predict, when Kabul might fall. But certainly, it's not looking good. And there's a lot of fear about what comes next. How do people get out of the country? How do they protect their families? Will they be targeted by the Taliban? Can they go into hiding?

And there's resentment too, not because - I think people do understand that they can't rely on the U.S., to sort of stay here forever. But there is a sense, among a lot of people, particularly in Kabul, that the way, in which this withdrawal was carried out, was somehow hasty.

It was chaotic. There weren't enough sort of measures put into place to ensure that the Taliban had to meet certain conditions before that withdrawal would be complete. And now, we're looking down the barrel, three weeks left, or whatever it is. And yes, people here are very frightened about what happens next.

COOPER: Do you think the Taliban will take over - be able to take over the entire country? Will there be pockets like Kabul? Or, in the past, even when the Taliban was there, there was the Northern Alliance, which relied on warlords and their forces.

WARD: So, President Ashraf Ghani is trying to get the warlords involved again. We've seen that happening already. Yesterday, he also called on ordinary people to take up arms, to go and join the various militias, and launch a kind of popular uprising.

I mean, the risk you have there is that the thing becomes even more fragmented, right? And you're not just trying to get two people to sit down, at the negotiating table, potentially, in a year's time. You might be trying to get five different people to sit down at the negotiating table.

What I don't think is clear yet, I think the Taliban believes, from what we've seen, and heard that they can win an outright victory. But it's not completely clear to me yet, whether they want to indeed, take Kabul, take the entire country over.

I do still think the one bit of leverage that the U.S. has, in terms of the peace talks in Doha, other than the airstrikes, is the idea of recognition by the international community.

I don't believe that the Taliban wants to be an international pariah, once again, as it was in the 90s. Now, at the same time, how far does that go? Does that mean they're willing to make key compromises, key concessions? At this stage, it's not looking good, Anderson.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, I appreciate you being there. Thank you so much.

WARD: Thanks.

COOPER: I want to let you know about a special event that's taking place in New York City, to try to celebrate the city's efforts to reopen, after the Pandemic shut down.

Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, Earth, Wind & Fire, will all be at stage, in Central Park, along with more great musicians. You can watch "We Love New York City: The Homecoming Concert,"

Saturday, August 21st, exclusively on CNN.

The news continues. Want to turn things over now to Don, for "DON LEMON TONIGHT."

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.

And I've got to get right into this, OK?