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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/3/21

Guests: Josefa Velasquez, Deanna Paul, Rebecca Roiphe, Mary Trump, Mark Kline


President Joe Biden and New York Democrats call on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after New York attorney general report finds that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. In Louisiana, 47.1 percent of people 18 years or older are fully vaccinated. Louisiana has the sixth lowest vaccination rate in the United States. With Americans in three states taking advantage of a federally funded program that actually pays people $100 for getting vaccinated, President Biden announced today what the United States is doing for the countries in the world where most people don`t earn $100 in a month.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Nicolle. And thank you very much for that Ohio report because that is now everything I know about the Ohio House races tonight. There is so much news pouring down on us that I have not been able to get to that one tonight. So you have just taught me everything I know about it.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: The tea leaf reading is always -- having worked in politics, there is too much tea leaf reading. Tea leaves to be read should you choose.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have tea leaf time tomorrow on those election results tonight.


WALLACE: Have a great show.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Nicolle.

Well, Andrew Cuomo is a man alone tonight. He is a politician very much alone tonight. Every Democrat whom New Yorkers have heard of have called for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. Every Democrat in the New York state congressional delegation, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked New York`s Democratic governor to resign.

The final political isolation of Governor Cuomo came just before 5:00 p.m. this evening when the president of the United States said the Democratic governor of New York should resign.


REPORTER: Back in March, you said that if the investigation confirmed the allegations against Governor Cuomo, then he should resign. So will you now call on him to resign given the investigators said the 11 women were credible?


REPORTER: Are you now calling on him to resign?



O`DONNELL: It was another terrible and difficult day for the women who have accused Governor Cuomo of sexual harassment having to re-live those accusations in the media today, seeing them portrayed by us in the news media.

It was also a politically and only politically difficult day for Democrats like Joe Biden. Joe Biden has been a long-time friend of Andrew Cuomo and began working with him in the 1990s when Joe Biden was in the Senate and Andrew Cuomo served in the Clinton cabinet as secretary of housing and urban difficult. It was difficult for Democrats like Joe Biden who were friends with Andrew Cuomo`s father, the three-term governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, would was widely admired in the Democratic Party for many years.

And it was a politically difficult day for the highest ranking woman in the government of the state of New York, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul of Buffalo. She is the only Democrat who decided not to call for the governor`s resignation today, not out of loyalty to the governor, but to avoid any appearance of a political motivation because Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would immediately become the governor of New York, if Andrew Cuomo followed Joe Biden`s suggestion today and resigned.

The resignation of Andrew Cuomo would immediately produce New York`s first woman governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul, who would serve the remaining year and a half of the governor`s term. If the state legislature simply begins the impeachment process against Andrew Cuomo, the governor must, by state law, be temporarily removed from office while the impeachment process proceeds, and during that time, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would become the acting governor of New York.

Today, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement saying, quote, I believe these brave women and she called the governor`s actions as described in an investigative report by the state`s attorney general released today, quote, repulsive and unlawful.

It was a stunning press conference today when Democratic Attorney General Letitia James and the lawyers she hired to investigate sexual harassment charges against the governor revealed what they found, including accusations from a state trooper that have never been made public before.


ANNE CLARK, SDNY SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: The governor also several times inappropriately touched a state trooper assigned to the unit to protect the governor. In an elevator while standing behind trooper he ran his finger from his neck down her spine and said, hey, you.


Another time she was standing holding the door open for the governor. As he passed, he took his open hand and ran it across her stomach from her belly button to where the hip where she keeps her gun. She told us that she felt completely violated to have the governor touch her as, as she put it, between her chest and her privates.


O`DONNELL: That state trooper who is identified in the attorney general`s report as trooper number one described the governor`s behavior as, quote, flirtatious and creepy. The attorney general`s report says the governor asked her, why don`t you wear a dress? Trooper 1 replied, that it was because she wears a gun and would not have anywhere to put the gun if she wore a dress.

According to the report, the state trooper immediately told another state trooper in the governor`s protective detail, quote, oh, my God, can you believe the governor asked me why I don`t wear a dress? She was wearing a gun to protect the governor, but the attorney general`s report says no one in the governor`s office was trying to protect the women around the governor from sexual harassment.

Governor Cuomo released a prerecorded, fully scripted video response to the attorney general`s report today in which he said he never touched anyone inappropriately. The governor specifically addressed some of the accusations from the 11 women who the attorney general says were found to be telling the truth, about the governor`s conduct with them. The governor did not, though, say a single word about the state trooper`s accusations against him.

The attorney general`s report has corroborating evidence for many of the accusations against the governor, including text messages sent immediately after the governor did something inappropriate. The report says in a text exchange with a close friend contemporaneously with one conversation with the governor, Ms. Charlotte Bennett texted, something just happened and I can`t even type it out. Going to burst into tears. Yes, I`m shaking, I`m so upset and so confused.

In his video statement today, Governor Cuomo said he was only trying to be helpful to Charlotte Bennett after she confided in him about having been a victim of sexual assault.

Tonight, Norah O`Donnell asked Charlotte Bennett about that on CBS.


NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think he is gaslighting you?

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, CUOMO ACCUSER: Absolutely. He is trying to justify himself by making me out to be someone who can`t tell the difference between sexual harassment and mentorship. He sexually harassed me.

I am not confused. It is not confusing it. I am living in reality and it`s sad to see that he is not.

N. O`DONNELL: And at one point, he said he was trying to help you work through a difficult time. Did that seem like that was his intention?

BENNETT: No. His intention was trying to sleep with me.


O`DONNELL: Today, the attorney general`s investigators said this about the possibility of criminal charges against the governor.


CLARK: I will state that it`s our understanding that for the young woman whose breast was groped, that the Albany police department has a report about that. As for anything else the attorney general stated all the information is fully documented in the report and any prosecutors or police departments can look at the evidence and determine if they want to take further action.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Rebecca Roiphe, a professor of law at New York Law School. She`s a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney`s office.

Deanna Paul, staff writer with "The Wall Street Journal" covering New York state. She is also a former New York City prosecutor.

And Josefa Velasquez, senior report for "The City".

And, Josefa, let me begin with you because Lieutenant Governor Hochul said today, one of the things she said in her statement is she doesn`t want to comment on this process and that it is now up to the assembly under New York state law to decide what happens next and, of course, that means impeachment on no impeachment.

What do we know about the status of impeachment of the governor tonight in Albany?

JOSEFA VELASQUEZ, SENIOR REPORTER, THE CITY: So, following the attorney general`s press conference assembly Democrats who control the chamber held an emergency closed-door meeting, closed-door over zoom, and it was determined that any support that the governor had prior to this report has banished. The conference says that they are -- they no longer have any faith that Andrew Cuomo can keep serving as governor.

So, right now, the question is whether or not he resigns or if they impeach him.


Right now, the assembly has impaneled the Judiciary Committee to run an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against the governor along with other things, like his administration`s handling of nursing home deaths, a $5 million book deal and once that concludes, we are going to try to figure out whether or not there are grounds for impeachment.

Unfortunately, the state constitution doesn`t spell out what is an impeachable offense. So the assembly is trying to make sure to cross their T`s and dot their I`s before they draft up these articles of impeachment. Once those happen, all you need is a majority vote in the 150-seat chamber which sources say the numbers are there for that.

O`DONNELL: Deanna Paul, what do you see in this story legally both on the civil side and on the criminal side?

DEANNA PAUL, STAFF WRITER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: So there is a lot of liability that could be in the future for the governor, and for some of his senior officials. This is the beginning of a long road it seems. There are mounting calls, as we`ve said, for his resignation. There is an impeachment proceeding.

And based on the report we saw today, there is possible civil liability for both him and, again, his senior officials. There is also the Albany district attorney who said there is an ongoing criminal investigation and the federal investigation into his handling of nursing homes during COVID- 19.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the Albany District Attorney said to Lester Holt tonight.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Based on what you have seen in this report, is any of the behavior described and attributed to the governor, would any of that be considered criminal?

DAVID SOARES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ALBANY COUNTY, NY: Well, the allegations early on certainly led myself and other prosecutors with concurrent jurisdiction to believe that criminal activity in fact had taken place, but we will conduct our own independent investigation. It will be done expeditiously and we will arrive at those conclusions.


O`DONNELL: Professor Roiphe, your reaction to that?

REBECCA ROIPHE, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: I think the vast majority of the conduct described in that report really is civil in nature. You know, it`s absolutely right that the piece that has been carved off that the Albany district attorney is looking into could be a crime under New York law for. Forcible touching is a crime if done in order to exert power or ingratiate yourself sexually.

So, entirely possible charges come out of that. But I think this is a pattern and practice that fits best into sexual harassment, a civil case. It`s a really strong case, especially because even the people who didn`t witness the sexual harassment described workplace that was essentially somebody -- the governor who was exerting his power and enforcing loyalty through bullying and intimidation which is consistent with the sexual harassment described by the women in the allegations.

So I think that the vast majority of this we will see on the civil side, but that`s not to say there might be more criminal charges coming out of it.

O`DONNELL: Kathy Hochul, lieutenant governor, has never been close to the governor. They have frozen her out of the administration. The governor tried to knock her off the ticket when they were running for election last time for various reasons.

But she is standing apart from everyone else in the Democratic Party at this point in not calling for the resignation because there would be, in effect, a direct benefit to her. She would immediately be elevated to governor.

Does the image of Kathy Hochul taking over as governor in Albany, is that something that Democrats see as actually a political outcome that they want, a way of cleaning this slate if they can get to that?

VELASQUEZ: Well, Lieutenant Governor Hochul has really had more of a celebratory role in this administration. She travels around the state quite often doing things that, quite frankly, the governor doesn`t want to do -- openings, talking to advocacy groups and supporters, and really governor -- or Lieutenant Governor Hochul, rather, hasn`t had those sorts of relationships with state lawmakers.

Right now, it seems that if she were to take over for the governor, it`s really more of a holdover until 2022 when she would be up for re-election. So right now, the dominos are going to fall quite quickly if they do fall. The lieutenant governor will become the governor. It`s unclear whether or not she would run for governor to begin with and whether or not she has the support.


I mean, New York City alone has 8 million people and she hasn`t really had -- doesn`t really have a base here as opposed to some other contenders that might throw their hat into the race.

O`DONNELL: Chris Cuomo, the governor`s younger brother, appears in the attorney general`s report several times. He actually had to testify in the attorney general`s investigation because Chris Cuomo is one of many people who have absolutely no involvement in state government, who were advising the governor throughout this situation as more and more accusations were emerging against him.

The attorney general`s report finds fault with that process. It says: We also find it revealing and consistent with the executive chamber`s overall approach that when faced with allegations of sexual harassment brought against the governor, the inner circle of confidants brought into control and direct response included a number of individuals with no official role in the executive chamber.

The report goes on to say, as a result of this dynamic, the state employees who are not part of this inner circle of loyalists would rightfully believe and did believe that any complaint or allegation about the governor would be handled by people whose overriding interests is in protecting the governor.

And, Deanna Paul, that comes at the end of the attorney general`s report where it is saying so conclusively not only what the accusations were against the governor, but how the governor`s office acted repeatedly in trying to cover them up and make them disappear, and then how this illicit group, as it were, was brought in, political consultants and others, brought in and shared confidential information about these state workers, was shared with these people illegally in an effort to come up with a strategy to protect the governor.

PAUL: Yes. So one of the things the report does a very detailed layout of is this workplace that was ripe with bullying and intimidation. And in addition to state and federal laws that weren`t being followed, there was internal office policy not being followed. When a complaint of harassment was made to a manager, a report should have been filed with the governor`s office of employee relations and that wasn`t done.

And so that is something we see in the report. Instead, there was this unspoken policy of not leaving the governor alone in a room with certain people. I think something that stood out to me in the report is there were even witnesses who said that the workplace environment was so abusive and so hostile that special treatment by the governor was preferable.

O`DONNELL: And, Professor, when I first heard about, you know, Chris Cuomo`s involvement with his brother, it just read to me as a brother advising a brother with a problem about how to handle it. There was an innocence to it, when I see -- in my initial reaction to it.

When I see it in the attorney general`s report, it becomes something very, very different, especially when it involves the sharing of confidential information about these state employees with Chris Cuomo and with others outside of the government, and that feeling that it correctly gave to people in the Cuomo administration that if you bring any kind of complaints like this, it`s not going to be dealt with in any legal process. It`s going to be dealt with by the friends of the governor who do not work here.

PAUL: Right. I mean, you know, I think that, again, just as Deanna Paul is saying, there is a consistency between this side story and the allegations themselves, which is here is a person who does not play by the book and enforces his will through this -- through these sort of extra legal measures that are not the way things are done and he does that to intimidate people into doing what he wants them to do.

And so, this story, which I agree with you at first it doesn`t seem that bad, a brother helping another brother, once it`s described you understand it`s part of this pattern and practice and it is, all of these little stories, part of what makes the report itself all together seem so damning because they do, all these pieces fit together to give you a portrait of a really troubling situation within that office.

A really troubling governor who uses his power in a way that is extremely abusive.

O`DONNELL: Rebecca Roiphe, Deanna Paul, Josefa Velasquez, thank you all very much for starting off our conversation tonight. I really appreciate it.

ROIPHE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, psychologist Mary Trump`s first book was about diagnosing her uncle who was then president of the United States.


Her new book is about diagnosing the country that produced him and the 74 million people who still support him. Mary Trump joins us next.


O`DONNELL: In her first book, psychologist Mary Trump diagnosed her uncle Donald Trump and the pathologies he brought to the presidency in her new book entitled "The Reckoning." Mary Trump widens the focus around patient Donald Trump to include the 74 million Americans who support his pathologies.

Mary Trump writes: I have heard people say this is not who we are, but right now, this is precisely who we are. Thanks to an outdated and inherently biased political structure, exemplified by the undemocratic electoral college which has repeatedly putting the losing Republican candidate in office and a divided Senate in which one half of the membership represents 41 million fewer citizens than the other.


We are a nation in which a virulent minority has an outsized voice and the majority underrepresented and forced into a bystander role suffers mightily in silence.

We are going to be dealing with the consequences of the Trump administration, the pandemic, and particularly the insurrection of January 6th, for a very, very long time, just as we are going to be confronting the fact that 74 million people wanted four more years of whatever they thought they got in the last four.

Joining us now is Mary Trump, author of the new book, "The Reckoning: Our Nation`s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal", which comes out on August 17th.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "THE RECKONING": It`s great to be here, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: So, it seems diagnostically you have widened the focus on the patient you were examining in your last book, and in that book your focus was wide enough to include your family members, Donald Trump`s father and what shaped him and the family.

Now you are taking a look at the country that shaped him, the country he grew up in, the lies this country has told to itself, which is all part of Donald Trump`s own conditioning in lying about himself throughout his life.

M. TRUMP: Yeah. When I started to formulate the idea for this book, we were back in the worsening era of COVID, the second wave, I believe it was in September/October, still before the election. Things were looking quite desperate politically and from a health standpoint, and I wanted to figure out how we got to this place where we were so vulnerable as a country on almost every level.

Our democracy was on the brink. The American experiment was on the edge of failure. And hundreds of thousands of Americans were dying needlessly because of the malfeasance and ineptitude of Donald`s administration, and it seemed that -- I felt like we needed to go back farther to figure out how so much unraveled in such a short period of time. I found two really interesting and disturbing coincidences, similarities between what I found in my family and what I found in American history.

One is Donald has never been held accountable and historically practically no powerful white men have been held accountable in America. And also that we never, we never looked clearly at where we came from, from slavery to the end of the civil war and the failures of reconstruction on through the present day.

O`DONNELL: You write in the book about Donald Trump. He is constitutionally incapable of making the right choice in any way, real or imagined. Doing so might conflict with his self-interest.

Because COVID hit blue states first and was found to effect communities of color disproportionately, it was even easier to make that choice. It ensured his base would embrace the China virus is a hoax narrative because it reinforced their belief in white supremacy and catered to their own need for divisiveness.

That is the first explanation I have read about what`s happened on that disbelieving side of the country about COVID-19.

M. TRUMP: Yeah. And, you know, another thing that became incredibly clear -- I mean, not that we all shouldn`t have been aware of it, and many Americans have been aware of it forever, is the extent to which white supremacy has played a role and continues to play a role.

And one thing Donald did is expose the extent to which being an open racist is a winning proposition in the Republican Party.


And all of these things are connected. And we need to start seeing them that way or I`m afraid we`re never going to be able to get beyond it.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes. The Republican Party has been trying to appeal in varying degrees of shaded language since 1968, at least `64 with Barry Goldwater, to the racist side of our voting.

They were trying to get those southern Democrats who had been voting for racist southern Democrats.

And Donald Trump came along and just took all of the shading away from it and just made it extremely clear. He is one of them.

TRUMP: Yes. And it`s remarkable. Maybe it shouldn`t be remarkable, quite honestly. But it`s disheartening, shall we say, just how effective it is, just how appealing that is to so many people to have been given that permission. And it`s no accident that practically 100 percent of the people at the insurrection were white people. And it`s no accident that the Republican leadership has embraced Donald, has embraced what the rest of us might view as the worst things about him, which are the worst things in America because they know they have a very narrow path to stay in power, and it is by appealing to the worst instincts in the American people.

O`DONNELL: Another passage in your book says, Donald is an instinctive fascist who is limited by his inability to see beyond himself or as the historian Timothy Snyder puts it, his vision never went further than a mirror.

Still arguing about whether to call Donald a fascist is the new version of the media`s years long struggle to figure out if they should call his lies "lies". What`s more relevant now is whether the media and Democrats will extend the label of fascism to the Republican Party itself."

Should we extend that label to the Republican Party?

TRUMP: Without question. It`s a waste of time and. quite honestly, it`s a waste of our opportunity to turn things around. The next year and a half will be incredibly crucial to see if we can put a stop to this trend.

And the Democrats in particular and the media in general have to face this in a way that demonstrates that they understand the seriousness of the threat.

Democrats can`t keep playing by old rules because Republicans have burned the rule book. There are no rules anymore. So pulling punches and using language that`s polite isn`t going to get us where we need to be.

O`DONNELL: I have a lot more notes here about your book. And if you can stay with us across a couple of minutes of commercials, we can get in a few more questions.

TRUMP: I`d love to.

O`DONNELL: Ok. Great. We`ll be right back with Mary Trump.



TRUMP: In her new book "The Reckoning", Mary Trump writes, "The United States engages in its own form of toxic positivity, a series of deep denials that perpetuates our two-tiered system, and maintains double standards and keeps our wounds from healing. This recurring urge to move on, this impatience with doing the hard work of atonement, of accountability, of tearing down the structures of oppression and rebuilding new ones that work for everybody, traps us in the same cycle of privilege and denial of privilege that keeps us separate, hostile, and suspicious.

And Mary Trump is back with us. That passage there where you just talked about this recurring urge to move on, the impatience with doing the hard work of atonement, we are seeing a version of that in the Republican`s reaction to a January 6th commission -- committee in the House now to investigate exactly what happened on January 6th and leading up to it.

TRUMP: We are. And it shouldn`t surprise us. We have been seeing the Republican Party make the conscious decision to put up with Donald from the election onward despite his egregious behaviors, despite his unconstitutional behaviors, despite the fact that he`s cruel, incompetent, and has done so much damage to this country because they believe that`s what they need to do in order to stay in power no matter how illegitimately.

What is equally, if not more, troubling, however, is the inaction by the DOJ as far as I can tell to delve into what was really going on in this administration in terms of trying to steal the last election and trying to determine who in the administration was involved in organizing the insurrection.

We have active seditionists in our government right now. And if we don`t deal with this, if we don`t face this and hold people accountable, which again is something this country has never been able to do from Robert E. Lee on down, then I really don`t know what is too much because the message will be, if you get into power, you can get away with anything.


O`DONNELL: You make the point in the book that if Donald Trump had been convicted in the Senate trial, which by the way only would have required a minority of Republican senators to join with Democratic senators to get to that two-thirds threshold to meet that requirement.

You say, if he had been convicted, he would not have been able to run for office again. And you say, if nothing else, taking that step would have made it impossible for Donald to pretend he planned to run for the presidency again in 2024 and thereby shut down his ability to Raise money off that pretense.

My guess about this has been that he is not going to run again and this is all about raising money. Is that what you are saying? You don`t believe he is going to run again?

TRUMP: You know, Lawrence, I thought that for a long time because he lost so badly to Joe Biden, that I didn`t think he would ever want to put himself in a position of losing again. And I think that would have been the case if not for two things.

One, that he seems still to be getting away with everything, right?

And two, the Republican Party is trying to engineer a system in which the minority can come into power because of all of these, I think we are up to hundreds now, of voter suppression bills that are being passed in every single state.

So if they are successful in doing this, if they are successful in rigging the system even more than in their favor, then -- and Donald gets the message that if he runs, he can`t lose because it`s going to completely break his way, then I`m not so sure. And that`s pretty depressing.

O`DONNELL: Well, I`m not so sure he isn`t going to be a convicted criminal defendant by that time either in Georgia or in Manhattan. And the other weird thing about this is, having said that, that even if he is convicted of state crimes in Georgia, I`m not sure that prevents him from running for president again.

TRUMP: O5And that -- it`s an ever growing problem, right. I think that, in some horrifying ways, increases his credibility with his party, you know?

So we`re in a pretty bad situation right now, and I hope you`re right. I hope that, especially the New York A.G. and D.A., that they are able to hold him accountable for crimes that he allegedly committed decades ago and has been committing over decades, financial crimes, et cetera, but again it would be as if he is still getting away with the big stuff and the people around him are still getting away with the big stuff. And when is it going to stop?

O`DONNELL: Is there a passage that I missed in my dabbling with social psychology in college that explains the 74 million Trump voters?

TRUMP: Yes. There is actually a large part of one chapter entirely devoted to trying to understand those 74 million people. And what I`ll say about that is one of the worst things about not having him convicted, besides allowing him to run in the future, was that he was allowed to run in 2020.

He was treated as a totally normal candidate, and it allowed 74 million people to give their support to him and representation matters. And sometimes that`s an incredibly good thing and it doesn`t happen enough, but sometimes it`s a really bad thing.

So 74 million people were allowed to express their support and feel their power and so was he. So the wrong message was sent, and it`s, again, it`s put us in a really dangerous situation.

O`DONNELL: Mary Trump, your professionally-trained insights into your uncle are invaluable to this audience and to this country. We really appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much for joining us.

TRUMP: Thank you so much. It`s been a pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Mary Trump`s new book is "The Reckoning: Our Nations` Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal."

Coming up, the delta variant of COVID-19 is a danger to children. The top doctor at Children`s Hospital in New Orleans, which is currently filled to capacity, will join us next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be crystal clear about what`s happening in the country today. We have a pandemic of the unvaccinated. This is a tragedy. People are dying and will die who don`t have to die.


O`DONNELL: Today New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York will become the first U.S. city to require proof of at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine to enter indoor dining facilities, fitness centers, and indoor entertainment venues. In New York City, 66.2 percent of people 18 years or older are fully vaccinated.

In Louisiana, 47.1 percent of people 18 years or older are fully vaccinated. Louisiana has the sixth lowest vaccination rate in the United States. Louisiana has the highest rate in the country of COVID cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days.

Dr. Mark Kline is the physician in chief at Children`s Hospital New Orleans.


DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: I`m a pediatric infectious disease specialist by training. I have practiced pediatric infectious diseases for more than 35 years. I`VE worked all over the world. I have studied pandemics and worked with epidemic and pandemic diseases for my entire career.


DR. KLINE: And I have to tell you that I am as worried about our children today as I have ever been. This virus, the delta variant of COVID, is every infectious disease specialists` and epidemiologists` worst nightmare.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Children`s Hospital, New Orleans.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

What is the situation at your hospital tonight? It`s fully occupied. How many of the children are there with COVID?

DR. KLINE: Lawrence, I think just about every pediatric facility in Louisiana is full tonight. And we have a modest number of children admitted with COVID, it`s a very high intensity care that these children demand.

We currently have 11 in the hospital. Two in our intensive care units. We`ve had totals as high as 20 over the past week which far exceeds the number of children that we have had on any given day throughout the entire course of the pandemic up until just the past week.

O`DONNELL: What are the ages of the children you`re seeing suffering with COVID?

DR. KLINE: We`re seeing the full age range, from several weeks of age to late adolescence and everything in between. About half of the children are under 12 years of age and therefore are not eligible for vaccination just yet.

And the other half are adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age and could be candidates for vaccination.

O`DONNELL: You spoke of a myth that children are immune, that that was a belief going around for a long time and possibly still is. Are you encountering that among any of the parents who are bringing their children in with COVID?

DR. KLINE: We are, Lawrence. You know, over the first year of the pandemic, it was said by some that children maybe couldn`t contract COVID at all. That if they did, they wouldn`t get sick. About 6 percent of the cases of COVID that were identified in the United States in 2020 were among children, but today about 20 percent of new cases in Louisiana and really across the United States are being caused -- are occurring among children 5 to 17 years of age.

This new variant, the delta variant, of COVID is a game changer and it seems to have a propensity for causing severe disease in children and adolescence. And so that`s what we`re dealing with currently.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I know every parent of children watching this right now wants to ask you, Doctor, what should I be doing? What should I be doing for my children?

DR. KLINE: Well, it`s a good question. Certainly if the child we`re talking about 12 years of age are older, that person should be vaccinated just as every adult should be vaccinated.

For children under 12, it`s a little bit more difficult because there`s only one group in the United States today that has a zero percent rate of vaccination, and that`s children under the age of 12. They`re not eligible for vaccines.

And so as a society and as adults, we need to protect them by being vaccinated ourselves so that we won`t transmit the virus to young children.

And I think if there were ever a time and ever a compelling reason to get vaccination, that time and that reason are right now.

Beyond that, it`s the tried and true approaches. Good handwashing, social distancing and masking up.

Governor Edwards here in Louisiana announced a new statewide mask mandate just yesterday that pertains to indoor settings and applies to schools and children as young as five years of age. And really that should be modeled across the United States.

As kids go back to school, that`s one of the best things we can do in the short term to help ensure that children will not become infected.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Mark Kline, thank you very much for the work that you do. And thank you for sharing this information with us tonight.

DR. KLINE: Thank you, Lawrence. Happy to be here.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



O`DONNELL: With Americans in three states taking advantage of a federally funded program that actually pays people $100 for getting vaccinated, President Biden announced today what the United States is doing for the countries in the world where most people don`t earn $100 in a month.


BIDEN: As of today, we have shipped over 110 million doses to 65 nations. According to the United Nations, this is more than the donations of all 24 countries that donated any vaccine to other countries, including China and Russia -- all those nations combined.

Vaccinate America and help vaccinate the world. That`s how we`re about to beat this thing. We`re always going to have enough doses for every American who wants one. Our work in donating vaccines to the world is about America following through on our promises and delivering what we say we`ll deliver.

We still have a lot of work to do. There`s a need for several billion doses around the world. We have committed to over half a billion doses.


O`DONNELL: The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 was first discovered in India. Variants can develop anywhere in the world, especially in countries with the lowest vaccination rates.


O`DONNELL: Providing vaccines to the world is not an act of pure generosity, it`s an act of self-defense that is necessary to help protect Americans from the spread of future variants of COVID-19.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.