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tv   Washington Week  PBS  August 6, 2021 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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yamiche: covid crisis and the cuomo controversy. pres. biden: if you're not going to had, at least get out of the way. >> if you're trying to lock people down, i'm standing in your way for the people of florida. yamiche:s the pandemic deepens, president biden as far as with g.o.p. governors over vaccine and mask requirements. >> peoples lives depend on it. yamiche: after the c.d.c.'s moratorium on evictions expires, the biden administration faces pressure to step in. brian: -- pres. biden: i think he should resign. yamiche: new york governor andrew cuomo faces calls to leave office after an investigation finds he sexually harassed multiple women.
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next. announcer: this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided by. >> for 25 years, you're welcome cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service to help people community -- communicate and connect. to learn more, visit >> additional funding provided by the estate of arnold adams, koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. and sandra and carl delay-magnuson. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator yamiche alcindor. yamiche: good evening and welcome to "washington week." president biden celebrated a return to some parts of norm
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normal life amid the pandemic 33 days ago but tonight our lead story is resurgence of covid-19. this week, daily covid cases in the u.s. surpassed 100,000. the delta variant has been a game changer. at an event this week, new jersey governor phil murphy discussed anti-vaccine protestors. >> please get vaccinated. period. these folks back there have lost their -- you've lost your minds. you are the ultimate knuckleheads and because of what you're standing for people are losing their life. yamiche: many republican governors are defiant. some are banning local officials from enacting their own mask mandates. on tuesday, president biden took aim at the governors of texas and florida. those two states account for one-third of all new covid-19 cases in the country.
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here's the war of words between the president and florida governor ron desantis. pres. biden: some governors aren't willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic. governor: why don't you do your job. why don't you get in border secure and until you do that, i don't want to hear a blip about covid from you. insight and analysis are four top reporters, lisa lerer, national correspondent for the "new york times," katherine wu, staff writer for the "atlantic" covering science, and joining me in studio, leigh ann caldwell, capitol hill correspondent for nbc news and josh dawsey, political enterprise and investigations reporter for "the washington post." katherine, the white house is continuing to urge people to get vaccinated and pointing out that vaccination rates are going up in critical areas. what's the latest on what is working in terms of getting more people vaccinated and what more do we know about how the virus has been evolving? kathy: thank you for that
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question. it's been really encouraging to see an uptick in vaccinations in the past couple of weeks but it is not nearly enough. i think it really did take a little bit of fear to get people moving and rolling up their sleeves in the past couple of weeks. we've seen the new variant surge immensely especially in places where vaccination rates are low and i really hope that unfortunately through difficult means that is encouraging people to protect themselves. i wish it hadn't taken more deaths and hospitalizations to do so. what's critical at this point is making sure we're closing that gap. we have roughly 90 million people who are eligible in this country who are not yet lining up in droves and we know there are 50 million children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible and that makes a huge portion of people that can catch and spread the virus and experience serious outcomes from it especially as kids head back to school. in terms of where the virus is coming, the virus is not going to wait for us to line up in an
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orderly fashion. viruses evolve much faster than humans can react to it in this pace but the best tool that we have on our side is the intelligence to make a vaccine and deploy it quickly and we know that is working and the best path out of this is to vaccinate as many people as we can. yamiche: the virus will not wait for us. i want to ask you, also, what are experts saying about booster shots and bakthrough infections? katherine: so this is an incredibly important topic this week especially with the news that booster shots may soon become available especially to people immunocompromised and less well equipped to respond to the first one or two doses of vaccine. not everyone's immune system is built the same way. some can be suppressed with drugs that are necessary to keep healthy. at this point i think it is an
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option that officials are debating but we have to keep in mind that boosters will not necessarily be an option for everyone at this point. for people are who immunocompetent, most people don't need the boosters. the vaccines are holding their own including against this new variant. there are places abroad that still don't have enough vaccines in arms and it would be unfair to give third helpings before some have had their first. yamiche: one more question to you because you're a health reporter. this week new york city became the first major city to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining and gyms. what's your reporting reveal about the impact of schools and public places trying to stay safe through actual requirements? katherine: this has been a little bit controversial but i do think it may be time for this to happen. i've seen more experts come out
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in support of mandates like these. it's a combination of carrot and stick. if you want to have these privileges, being out in society, leading a normal life, it is a good idea to do that vaccinated to ensure not only your health but those you're interacting with. we know so much at this point about how well the vaccine stops severe disease and to a lesser extent but still an important extent, infection and transmission. this gets to your question about break breakthroughs. we know they're happening and in general, much milder. and to have the confidence that the people you're interacting with are also vaccinated makes a huge impact on return to normal life. yamiche: many have found the messaging from the c.d.c. and the white house confusing on this issue of masks, of what to do. what's your reporting say about the white house's handling of all of this and what's it mean that we're back up to 100,000 cases a day on president biden's
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watch as he continues to say he's following the science? lisa: there have been complaints about how the white house has messaged this both from democrats and republicans. some democrats feel the white house moved towards declaring victory too early. we remember that july 4 barbecue theyad over there but the reality is the white house is in a really difficult spot on this. we know from polling, from data, analyzing, voters and trump counties that went for trump versus counties that went for biden that republicans are more vaccine hesitant. that the areas of the country where people are most skeptical of vaccine, many tend to be republican and those are the exact areas where the president's words are likely to have the least amount of sway and may prompt the kind of political pushback that we saw from governor desantis. there is political motivation from republicans such as desantis who is tossed around as
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a potential candidate in a couple of years, to push back on the white house's messaging on this, particularly when it comes to masking and mandates. that's a reason the white house has shied away from mandates and pushing local jurisdictions and private corporations to impose those things. the question is whether that's enough and the reality is politically it doesn't matter voters of which party is getting sick, biden is the president and he will own this. yamiche: biden is having to own this and i want to come to you, josh. we're seeing covid culture wars intensifying. i was struck this week -- i'm a native of florida. florida governor ron desantis has mitigated and really tried to essential ban a lot of the mitigation efforts. there's also this idea that he said this week "this is our covid season." it took my breath away and i think it did the same for a lot of people. i wonder for you what's this mean that covid season is the
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thing republicans are talking about and is there a winning political strategy to normalize this pandemic? josh: in the minds of republican voters, you have a lot of folks on the right who have vilified dr. fauci and he is kind of anathema to folks on the right and the public health experts and president biden and his administration and people like ron desantis and mcmasters in south carolina, a lot of states have resisted these measures to try to restrict the virus, having a mask mandate, vaccine mandate, saying we want our people to have free choice and do what they want and in some of these places you see cases surging but in a lot of these states, i think florida, south carolina, where i'm originally from, in texas, these are popular positions from these governors. they're saying the people in the state even with these cases surging across the state do not want more lockdowns, do not want some of these measures in place.
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and you have places where i think they would be resistanceant -- resistant to that happening and these governors are emphasizing that. yamiche: leigh ann, i'm struck by representative ralph norman of south carolina, one of three republicans in congress who fought a lawsuit against nancy pelosi over the house mask mandate. there was an official in texas on facebook posting about anti-vaccine messages. he died of covid. ralph norman has covid now, i'm not implying this will be fatal and i hope he recovers but that said, what's going on on capitol hill? what's going on with republicans when you see this? and what's the big pushback on this maskssue at the capitol? leigh ann: ralph norman was one of the house members who walked across the capitol to the assistant to protest the mask mandate in the house because the senate side doesn't have an
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actual mandate, it's just required that you wear masks. and speaker pelosi called out ralph norman today in her press conference saying there's a member suing her who now has come down with covid. as far as republicans on capitol hill, it's much more dramatic in the house of representatives but they're now tying two culture wars into one by talking about anti-masks and also tying it to what's happening at the border and how there's a surge of immigrants with covid at the border so now they're saying the president of the united states can't say anything about us wearing masks until they get a handle with what's happening on the border and as far as covid is concerned so they think this is a good political issue for them regardless of the health and human impact it's having. yamiche: i want to turn to this important topic which is the c.d.c.'s nationwide moratorium on evictions expired six days ago. tuesday the c.d.c. put in place
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a ban that is new but more limited after the white house faced pressure from progressives. congressman cori bush of missouri, once homeless herself, camped on the steps of the capitol and demanded president biden and lawmakers take action. here's what she said. >> we are working to make sure that the people know that the house, that the docratic house, is standing up for them. we cannot have the majority put seven to 11 million people on the street. yamiche: leigh ann, you've been digging into the story on evictions all week. what does your reporting say about why it took so long for the white house and c.d.c. to act? and what does it mean that cori bush, one democrat, a progressive democrat, can pressure officials in this way? leigh ann: the white house and democratic leadership really dropped the ball on this issue, did not bring it up until one to three ds before the eviction moratorium was set to expire. now, the house of
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representatives, democratic leadership, tried to get the votes to pass something in the house on that friday before they adjourned for seven weeks. it didn't happen. so cori bush started this impromptu protest on the capitol steps and that raised natiol awareness to the issue, put a lot of pressure on speaker pelosi who in turn put her pressure on president biden to do something. so it was a really rare but very effective moment of activism and protest at the capitol that moved policy and while it took three days since the eviction moratorium ended, it's actually moving very quily for washington speed that they did so immediately. yamiche: lisa, the jobs report came out today. there is in some ways strong numbers there but there are also americans struggling. could you connect what we're
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seeing, the real challenge democrats have, especially as the midterm comes up, to try to convince americans that things are getting better? lisa: republicans really see the economy as one of their potentially strongest arguments for the midterms and what they're focused is inflation. the jobs report, i think in terms of people's lives, they feel the price of milk is going up and the price of daily goods and gasoline -- so republicans see that as a strong argument that they're going to be able to make as they get into the midterms that the economy isn't rebounding like the administration promised with that early covid relief package and that they'll be able to argue that there's too much spending and democrats have taken the wrong approach. obviously, the midterms are a long way away and things feel unpredictable especially with thresurgence of the virus so we'll all have to see how this plays out but you can see republicans and their responses to this report laying the
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groundwork to make that argument. yamiche: leigh ann, before we turn to cuomo, infrastructure, where is it? what's going on? the senate will be there saturday. i'm struck by the reporting by a house democratic campaign chief that said if the midterms were held oday, democrats might lose their majority but also democrats are possibly able to pull together this infrastructure deal. tell us the latest. leigh ann: the bipartisan infrastructure bill is going to pass. it's just a matter of when. is it going to be saturday? is it monday? it could be as long as wednesday depending on how the process goes and it's going to pass because i'm told that polling in individual states including republican states with republican constituents really like this infrastructure bill so we could see up to 20, maybe more republicans, actually vote for this bill. and getting back to the campaign head in the house of representatives talking about how they could lose, well,
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that's because the republicans have been -- let's just say democrats are in control and it's hard for democrats to win in a midterm after the president of the same party won but i will say that speaker pelosi today said she likes running from behind so that was admitting that they are behind and they have a lot of work to do and they're hoping this bipartisan infrastructure bill combined with the $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill will help them at the polls. yamiche: striking. thank you so much, katherine, for talking with us about your covid reporting. it was really important. i want to turn to the sexual harassment investigation into new york governor andrew cuomo. tonight, governor cuomo stands defiant as democratic party leaders including president biden and house speaker nancy pelosi call on him to resign. in the meantime, state lawmakers have set up their wide-average -- wide-ranging impeachment inquiries. investigators say they have
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evidence governor cuomo harassed at least 11 women. >> governor cuomo sexually harassed current and former employees. none of this would have been illuminated if not for the heroic women who came forward and i am in inspired by all the brave women who came forward but more importantly, i believe them. yamiche: governor cuomo fired back in his own taped statement. here's what he had to say. governor: i want you to know directly from me that i never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. that is just not who i am. and that's not who i have ever been. i accept responsibility and we are making changes. yamiche: today, news broke that
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a cuomo aide has filed a criminal complaint with the albany county sheriff's department. josh, i want to come to you. talk about what the new york attorney general says she found in her investigation and i'm wondering what the latest on whether or not the governor could face charges. josh: the new york attorney general found 11 women who she deemed and two outside investigators deemed to be credible, who accused the governor of sexual misconduct that ranged from groping a woman under her shirt to touching inappropriately to sexual comments, a whole range of comments. she did 179 interviews and interviewed everyone in the governor's inner circle. she found contemporaneous notes from these women where they told bothers it at the time and it was a damning portrait. what we learned yesterday, executive assistant, one of the women in the complaint has gone to the albany county d.a. and filed a criminal complaint about
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the governor allegedly groping her and the district attorney has said they found that allegation to be credible and you have multiple other district attorneys in various parts of the state -- manhattan and westchester, looking that the evidence that's compiled by tish james' team, to see if other supervisions -- investigations will go forward. yamiche: now his legacy is in tatters. talk about how his handling of this reveals his character and who the governor is. josh: he's been incredibly pugilistic in refusing to resign. biden, pelosi, the chair of the democratic state party that he appointed, even his lieutenant governor criticizing him. there's no one left in democratic pol twhoix have defended him and he's stayed ensconced in his mansion refusing to resign, thinking he can fight back and fend off impeachment.
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the governor is alway engendered a brutal work force, a toxic, tough place to work and he's always believed in his own willingness, ability to maneuver out of tough situations and his own ability to convince people he's right and here you have really an unparalleled situation for governor cuomo, who, as you said, at the hght of last spring, was kind of the national elixir to many democrats of covid and the contrast to trump and now it's totally different. yamiche: lisa, build on that. governor cuomo has a number of problems that are involved in this impeachment investigation. talk about that and can he actually beat this? can his legal team? is he still viable? lisa: i think it's the first important to reflect on who the governor is. it's not just that he was a hero, of course, during the pandemic, for a lot of democrats, which he was. they saw him as a white knight
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who would save the country from covid. he is someone who is from one of the most storied political legacies in american politics. his father was a major player in the democratic party, also a new york governor. andrew cuomo was in bill clinton's cabinet. he was an adviser of sorts to president biden so this is not just sort of some random democrat. this is someone who is one of the most prominent democratic family names in the country and that's why it was so striking to see the speed at which democrats moved to really dump him and say he has to resign and as josh pointed out, everyone from the president down. yamiche: if i could interrupt you. this is a political dynasty ending. could he survive this? lisa: it's really hard to see but it's also not impossible. i think the strategy right now is to buy time. the state assembly has indicated they want to move quickly on moving forward with impeachment.
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there really isn't much precedent for doing an impeachment there in the modern era and there is disagreement over the scope of that. initially their impeachment would have a broader scope than the sexual harassment and now there's disagreement whether they should narrow that to move quickly. we've seen that his lawyers came out today and really have mounted this ferocious defense and i think most democrats want to limit the political damage to the democratic party by getting him out as quickly as possible and clearly that is not the strategy he has in mind. it is really hard to see how he could be politically viable to run for that fourth term. that's been his goal for so long. something his father was unable to do. early polling has shown democratic voters don't want to see him do that. 75% of democrats in the state of new york would prefer somebody else runs for governor. yamiche: and leigh ann, there's this idea that he is, of course, being defiant. lisa talked about the political
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damage this could mean for democrats. what does it mean for democrats that he refuses to resign and how are republicans squaring going after cuomo when obviously many of them for supporting former president trump who faced allegations of rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse? lisa: there's one thing about democrats in this case that you can't say all the time is that democrats are at least being consistent on the issue, on the issue of sexual harassment, sexual assault, started with al franken in the #metoo movement and they have been consistent which is not the same for the republican party who were silent amidst allegations of the former president so the democratic party wants to get rid of the governor. yamiche: democratic party as well as republicans are in some ways seeking to see this as a political benefit for them but i think it's a challenging thing
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to walk when you have republicans who are still sticking by the former president. i i have to leave it there. thank you to lisa, leigh ann and josh for sharing your reporting. a reminder of the sacrifices made during the january 6 capitol attack. thursday, president biden signed the bill awarding the congressional gold medal to a group of officers who defended the capitol building and those inside, a stark reminder of the deep trauma of that tragedy that still lingers. tune in to the "pbs newshour" for climate crisis, landmark u.n. report and dire warnings. that's monday on the pbs nowrss. we'll continue the conversation on "washington week extra" and be answering your questio about the pandemic. thank you so much for joining us for this important conversation. i'm yamiche alcindor. good night from washington.
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