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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO); Interview With Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Interview With White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx; Interview With Stacey Abrams. Aired 9- 10a ET
Aired April 26, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Open for business? With more than 50,000 Americans dead, states begin to reopen. But is it safe for Americans to go get a haircut or a tattoo?
I will speak to Colorado Governor Jared Polis and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams next.
And medical advice? Health officials rush to warn Americans not to take the president's word when he mused about injecting disinfectants.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was asking a question sarcastically.
TAPPER: For the latest in the White House pandemic response, I will speak to the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, in moments.
Plus: in the red. As more than 26 million Americans file for unemployment over the past five weeks, Democrats say, more help is on the way.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will be ready soon with our next bill.
TAPPER: But with Republicans opposed to what they're proposing, did Democrats miss their best chance to get it done? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi join me to discuss next.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is anxious.
Two months ago today, February 26, President Trump said we were a couple of days away from -- quote -- "close to zero" cases of coronavirus in the United States.
Today, we're at over 900,000 confirmed cases and more than 53,000 Americans dead. Now, after weeks of near total lockdown, more than a dozen states
across the country are beginning to reopen. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp is pushing an aggressive reopening, despite warnings from officials, including President Trump.
But testing remains a huge issue across the country, with governors scrambling to find enough tests and testing agents and other supplies to get critical information about the spread of the virus in their states.
We are going to speak live in a few moments with the White House coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx.
But I want to begin with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joins me now from the Capitol.
Speaker Pelosi, good to see you. I'm glad you and yours are all well.
PELOSI: Thank you.
TAPPER: Let me ask you.
Nearly all of your members traveled back to Washington to cast their votes in person on that bill. But a new report in "The Washington Post" this morning says that more than a dozen Democrats think the House right now is failing to meet its constitutional mandate, because it can't really legislate or oversee the coronavirus response.
You heard Congressman Jason Crow says he hasn't had a classified briefing in six weeks. Congressman Denny Heck says Congress is ill- prepared. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin says the House has not found its footing yet.
What's your response to them? Is it time to allow remote voting during a pandemic?
PELOSI: Well, they're two different issues.
First of all, I'm very proud of our House Democratic Caucus. Their unity, their ideas were able to give us a bill that was so very much improved over what the administration was presenting.
Two weeks ago, the secretary of the Treasury called me and said, I need a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars in 48 hours. I said, I don't think so. We will get back to you.
And when we did, with the leadership of Maxine Waters and Chairwoman Velazquez of the Small Business Committee, Maxine of the Banking Committee, we were able to expand that initiative to include over $110 billion more for small businesses.
And that was a very major achievement, because it strove to -- what it strove to do was to say, no longer will we -- will we harden the lack of access to credit for small women-, minority-owned businesses, Native American, veterans, rural businesses, and the rest. We will open the door. So, we got hundred $110 million (sic) more loans, more grants and the rest. And we got $100 billion for hospitals and testing.
We think that was a good piece of work for those two weeks.
PELOSI: Yes, I share the frustration that they have about the committees.
And we are -- I'm all for doing the remote voting by proxy. I want it to be bipartisan. The Republican leader, Mr. McCarthy, has assured me that he will consider this. He's not there yet. He could be there.
But whether he is or not, we will we -- our process was to strive to make it bipartisan. But we will -- of course some of the members are frustrated, because we -- our physical presence isn't here to have a classified briefing. That presence would be necessary.
But, overwhelmingly -- I was very proud that, overwhelmingly, our members participated with their ideas, made the proposal better and worked with us to insist that we will have state and local in the next bill.
The administration would not do that...
TAPPER: Well, let's...
PELOSI: ... despite Chuck Schumer working on that as well.
TAPPER: Yes, let's talk about that, because you and -- right.
You and Senator Schumer made this major concession on the most recent legislation, because you made it OK...
PELOSI: It wasn't a concession, yes.
TAPPER: ... in this one for the -- no?
PELOSI: It was...
TAPPER: Well, I mean, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo -- let me...
PELOSI: I understand what Andrew Cuomo said, and I respect his perspective as the governor, but the fact is this.
They wanted 250 for the PPP. We support the PPP. We were part of developing it. Small business is entrepreneurial, part of the optimism of America, so we're for that, but we wanted to include more people and more money for the program and for the hospitals.
TAPPER: Right. No, I...
PELOSI: So, it was always an interim bill. It was always an interim bill.
We always said that CARES 2 would be the bill where we would go for state and local.
PELOSI: And we will in a big way.
TAPPER: I -- I get that, but I just want to play for you the sound from New York Governor Cuomo, because he said he needs money for his state to save New York from an economic tsunami.
Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We have been talking about funding for state and local governments. And it was not in the bill that the House is going to pass today. They said, don't worry, don't worry, don't worry, the next bill.
I said to my colleagues in Washington, I would have insisted that state and local funding was in this current bill, because I don't believe they want to fund state and local governments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, Cuomo says he would have insisted on state funding in the last bill.
You -- and now Senator McConnell is saying he wants to push the pause button. Was this a tactical mistake by you and Senator Schumer?
PELOSI: Just calm down. We will have state and local, and we will have it in a very significant way. It's no use going on to what might have been.
The administration never even wanted to do -- let me recap this for you. When we said we're not doing 250 unless you open the door for these lower -- unbanked -- we call them unbanked businesses who don't have a fancy banking relationship or this or that, the -- Senator McConnell said, absolutely no, we're not doing one penny more than 250.
And then, unanimously, he passed on Tuesday $480 billion with many of these increases, including hospitals.
And what we have said for the working on -- we have been working on CARES 2, and on that, we are including not only the outlays that they have for the coronavirus, but also the loss of revenue that they have.
The governors are impatient. I'm a big fan of Governor Cuomo. My own governor, Gavin Newsom, has been spectacular, my mayor, Mayor Breed. The state and local have done their jobs magnificently. They should be impatient. Their impatience will help us get an even bigger number.
PELOSI: And that goes for Republican governors too. Governor Hogan of Maryland has been spectacular in all of this.
So, it's many governors...
PELOSI: ... many mayors, bipartisan, for us to get the largest amount.
I'm sorry that we had to have an intervention, because we were going from CARES 1 to CARES 2. The intervention came.
PELOSI: We made the most of it.
And so, as I say to members, judge it for what it does. Don't criticize it for what it doesn't, because we have a plan for that. And that will happen.
I think you see the response, even from Republican senators, that Mitch McConnell is getting.
TAPPER: So -- well, there's one thing, one point of clarification I was I was wondering.
Vice President Joe Biden's campaign told me earlier this month that he supported President Trump's partial travel restrictions on January 31 blocking foreign nationals from China from coming to the United States.
Do you agree that it was the right move by President Trump at the time?
PELOSI: Well, let's go into the future, OK?
The -- actually, tens of thousands of people were still allowed in from China, so it wasn't, as it is described, as this great moment. There were Americans coming back or green card holders coming back. But there were tens of thousands.
So, if you're going to shut the door because you have an evaluation of an epidemic, then shut the door.
But let's go into the future. What the American people want is for us to have a plan to go forward. And our plan to go forward addresses their concerns.
Their first concern is that our -- our heroes be taken care of, our health care workers, our police and fire, our emergency services, our teachers, our food service people, our -- our transportation workers, our Postal Service, that they be taken care of... [09:10:08]
PELOSI: ... because they are taking risks to do their jobs.
Secondly, they want their check. Where's my check, my direct payment, my unemployment check? We're -- and the checks from this PPP. They have all not gotten them, and we have to have oversight as to how quickly that could -- that should be moving.
And the third thing they do not want, what they do not want is...
PELOSI: ... any taxpayer dollars, at this difficult time, being used by the big entities that receive billions of dollars for anything other than to keep people at work.
PELOSI: They don't want to see any buybacks, any corporate increases in pay, bonuses, dividends, and the rest of that. That makes them very angry.
And we have oversight to do all of that. Protect our heroes.
PELOSI: Support our workers.
And we were very pleased, in that everything that we did from the first bill, the CARES bill, which was a corporate trickle down to our bill, which was a worker bubble up. We have done four bills.
TAPPER: All right.
PELOSI: We've done them in a very bipartisan way. I'm proud of that.
But we just have to have a path to the future, if we're going -- if and when we can open up, testing, testing, testing, tracing, tracing, tracing, isolation.
PELOSI: And when we're ready, we will go out there.
But we all -- there's planning. We spend a lot of time on what the president said, when...
PELOSI: ... and disinfectant in the body.
PELOSI: You know what they call that? They call that embalming. That's the medical term.
TAPPER: All right, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much.
We're glad that you are well and safe. We look forward to hearing more about voting by proxy with you and Minority Leader McCarthy.
Thanks so much.
Some worrying news about coronavirus for people in their 30s and 40s White House task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx will join me next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
More than 50,000 Americans are dead of the coronavirus.
And now, after many weeks of staying at home, Americans are wondering, when will it be safe to resume some kind of something remotely resembling a normal life?
Joining me now, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.
Dr. Birx, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time. And thanks for the work that you do on the task force.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Good morning.
TAPPER: The U.S. is still struggling when it comes to testing. There are more tests out there than tests being conducted.
Companies are not producing the reagents needed. There's a shortage of nasal swabs. Labs have not added people or equipment to keep up with the demand.
This problem has been going on now for more than two months. Why is it taking so long to fix it?
BIRX: Well, I think, first, starting in March, we went to the diagnostic companies and asked them that already had RNA platforms -- and that saved us a lot of time -- to ask them to make tests for their platforms.
And all of them have done that. They have been rolled out over the last four to five weeks. And that's really dramatically increased our capacity.
For every lab, though, they're now -- they now have six or seven platforms that they have to integrate and utilize. And labs are learning now how to bring all of those platforms up to hopefully double and increase our testing ability across the country, and to really align the needs.
As you described, there's capacity, that tests are not being run. And I think ensuring that they have the swabs, ensuring that they have the tubes to transport the swabs in, and then ensuring that all the laboratory platforms are up and running, and that's the information we gave to the governors.
There's over 5,000 pieces of equipment in the United States that can run these tests. And we're very excited to see all of those utilized.
TAPPER: You remember, though, during -- there was a vaccine for SARS being developed back in 2003.
And then Dr. Fauci tried to get a company to manufacture it. But, by then, SARS had been taken care of. There wasn't as much of a dramatic need, and so no pharmaceutical company manufactured it.
In the free market system that we have -- and I'm glad we have it, but there isn't the incentive for financial companies, for businesses to do things just out of the goodness of their hearts.
And so the idea that the swabs are wanting, the reagents are not being produced, that's because these companies don't think that, necessarily, they're going to be lucrative to do so.
Doesn't the president need to invoke the Defense Production Act and force these companies to make these supplies, so that we can get testing up and running?
BIRX: Well, certainly, he has. And he has utilized that.
And I think what we have been doing -- and I know it's not ever visible because it's behind the scene -- it's going company by company, and, at the same time, getting FDA to approve new swabs and new technology.
I think every American will remember that we started just five weeks ago with this nasopharyngeal swab, and now we have moved to about five or six different swabs that can be utilized, different transport media that can be utilized, down to even saline.
And this is what FDA has been doing behind the scene to unlock capacity day after day after day.
And I think what's really the question now -- and I think you raise an important point -- we know, from protective -- the PPE, to many of the ventilators, to many of the extraction reagents that really extract the RNA, so that we can measure it, are not made in the United States.
And I think this is really a wakeup call for all of America to really ensure that we have internal capacity, because everybody's supply chains are very stressed right now, whether you're in Italy. I know you watch the data coming out of the U.K. They're struggling with PPE. So is Italy. Fortunately, we did not struggle with ventilators. And I'm really
proud to say that every American that needed one has received one. And that's very critical.
But other countries weren't as fortunate. And so there's amazing positives, but there's also a real analysis of, after we move through this into the summer months, to really ensure that we have more vibrant internal, at least Northern Hemisphere and North America, supply chains that we can count on.
Several states across the country are now beginning to relax their stay-at-home orders, even though these states do not appear to be following the White House guidelines, which calls for 14 days of consistent downward trend in new coronavirus cases.
Are you concerned about a potential surge in new cases and deaths after these states take these actions?
BIRX: You know, I'm always concerned.
And that's why we put out key, key gating criteria. And that gating criteria was not only looking at the epidemic. It was looking at the health care workers and making sure that the health care workers were protected. And it was also looking at capacity within the hospitals.
But the second page that people often aren't getting to is, there's very important pieces in that -- in talking to the states to say, this is not just about diagnosing cases, that you see them.
Over the last few weeks, we are really beginning to understand how much asymptomatic cases and asymptomatic spread may be out there. So, in that guideline is also to set up what we call sentinel surveillance, our monitoring proactively in long-term care facilities, in inner-city clinics that have multigenerational households, in prisons, among Native Americans, to really ensure we find the virus before people even get symptoms.
And that's a key part of this also that, sometimes, I think is missing when we're talking about diagnosis and contact tracing. We also have to diagnose the virus before it is evident in communities.
TAPPER: Well, that's my point, because I don't know any states that are really up to the degree of readiness that you just described, that's in the White House presentation from a week ago, especially when it comes to contact tracing, which, for people who don't know, that's the ability of a state or local government to, once they find somebody who has contracted the virus, get an investigator to find out everybody that that individual has come in contact with in the previous weeks to make sure that those individuals do not -- had not got it from the -- from the person, from that patient, and also perhaps self-quarantine.
It seems like states are on their own, though, to figure out how to do this contact tracing, even though they're starting to relax these measures. The CDC Web site -- Web site still says that detailed guidance on contact tracing is forthcoming.
So, I guess my question is, are the states ready for what they're doing, given the fact that your guidelines seem to suggest and require them to be up to speed, to a degree that I don't see any evidence they are?
BIRX: I think three things are happening in parallel.
One, CDC is increasing its presence in every state. Two, governors and local officials have been extraordinary through this. The amount that they have had to learn -- I mean, I do this for a living. I do it every day.
They have learned to sample data from all of their counties, to work on upscaling their testing, knowing where each piece of equipment is. And they have come up with parallel strategies in state after state to really be sampling in nursing homes and creating strike teams to support long-term care facilities, at the same time setting up contact tracing for new cases diagnosed through emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics.
So those pieces are happening at the state level and the county level. And I think those governor calls that I'm privileged to be a part of really call out the best practices. And governors are sharing with each other.
And I think that's extraordinarily powerful, as they learn and we learn together how to do this more effectively. We have never had to do this before as a country. And so we're learning, as a federal government, how to better support the states, and the states are learning how to share critical information about how we work through this together.
TAPPER: Antibody tests have become a key part of this recovery effort.
The World Health Organization said in a new scientific brief on Friday -- quote -- "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection" -- unquote.
Do you agree with that?
BIRX: OK, so let -- the WHO is being very cautious.
So, let -- let's talk about normal viral infections. So, if you and I get a normal viral infection, we develop antibodies. Some of those antibodies are what we call functional antibodies, in that they can neutralize the body -- the virus.
Other ones are what we call binding antibodies, and they help our cells that pull out those viruses and help eat them and kill them.
So, all of that is happening simultaneously, along with what we call natural killer cells. That's all happening in your body.
So, when we talked about studying this -- so, the CDC is not only measuring antibody, but they're also looking and see whether that antibody is neutralizing. Is it a functional antibody and are functional assays.
At the same time, through the FDA and working with hospitals, they're collecting plasma and giving plasma and recovering antibodies -- recovered people's antibodies back to sick people to see the impact it has.
So, all of that data together, I think, is going to create a very clear picture about antibody.
I think what WHO was saying, we don't know how long that effective antibody lasts. And I think that is a question that we have to explore over the next few months and over the next few years.
But I think everything that the WHO said should be happening, we're doing here in the United States to help the American people.
TAPPER: There was an odd moment on Thursday, when President Trump at the briefing mused aloud about whether injecting U.V. light or disinfectant into the human body as a way to treat coronavirus could be something that you look into.
You were sitting right there, as you know.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, you -- which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way.
And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute.
And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or -- or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Dr. Birx, I just want to give you the opportunity right now.
What should the American people know about disinfectants and the human body?
BIRX: Well, first, that was a dialogue he was having between the DHS scientist and himself for information that he had received and he was discussing.
We have made it clear, and he -- when he turned to me, I made it clear, and he understood, that it was not as a treatment.
And I think that kind of dialogue will happen.
I think what got lost in there, which very -- is unfortunate, I think, in what happened next is, that study was critically important for the American people.
And you say, why was that important? Because we had an MIT study just from a few weeks ago that said -- that suggests, when people are talking and singing, aerosolized virus could be moving forward.
What this study showed for the first time is that sunlight can impact that aerosolization outside.
BIRX: This -- this is why we asked them to do it.
We're trying to understand why people should be wearing masks. You're wearing masks because you could have asymptomatic infection, and you will decrease your transmission to others.
BIRX: And I think the half-life in the sunlight is very important as we move forward to really understand how we can effectively create decontamination in different environments.
No, look, I get it. And I understand the importance of that study that the DHS official was discussing from the lab in Maryland about the effect of sunlight on having or, even more effectively, the life of coronavirus, the effect of disinfectants on nonporous solids, like doorknobs.
But that's not what the president was musing about. He was talking to about ways to take that science and somehow turn it into injecting U.V. light or disinfectants into the human body, which, as you know, especially with disinfectants, can be lethal.
And the CDC had to issue a statement. Lysol had to issue a statement.
I understand that you're taking a generous approach to this when it comes to President Trump musing aloud. But this is potentially dangerous. I mean, poison control centers got calls from people, and they had to issue statements saying, do not internally use disinfectants.
As a doctor, doesn't that bother you that you have to even spend any time discussing this?
BIRX: Well, I think it bothers me that this is still in the news cycle, because I think we're missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing, as an American people, to continue to protect one another.
And we should be having that dialogue about asymptomatics. We should be having that dialogue about this unique clotting that we're seeing.
And we're the first country that really had young people to this degree. Italy and Europe is about 8 years older than us, as a median age. So, this is the first experience of this virus in an open society, where we really can understand what's happening to every different age group.
These are the things that we should be talking about and focusing on.
So, I think, as a -- as a scientist and a public health official and a researcher, sometimes, I worry that we don't get the information to the American people that they need, when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night.
So, I think I have answered that question. I think the president made it clear that physicians had to study this. I think I have made it clear that this was a musing, as you -- as you described.
But I want us to move on to be able to get information to the American people that can help them protect each other and also help them understand how devastating this virus is to different age groups and different symptoms and different comorbidities.
TAPPER: Well, I would agree with that.
I would say that I think the source of the misinformation is not the news media on this.
But, Dr. Deborah Birx, we appreciate your -- your coming here and taking our questions.
And best of luck with your job. God bless you.
BIRX: Thank you.
TAPPER: Several states are beginning to reopen, but should Americans feel safe going back out into the world?
The governor of Colorado will join me next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
On Monday, the state of Colorado will begin to reopen. And, by the end of the week, people will be able to visit salons and tattoo parlors and dog groomers, under strict precautions.
Joining me now to talk about the reopening process is the Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis.
Governor Polis, thanks so much for joining us. I have to ask you. The White House guidance for reopening requires a
decrease in confirmed coronavirus cases over a 14-day period. But, when you look at a graph of coronavirus cases in Colorado, on Thursday and Friday, your state had the two highest numbers of new cases in your state since the pandemic started, 959 on Thursday, 718 on Friday.
Your cases aren't going down, sir. They're going up. Why on earth are you starting to reopen?
GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Well, first of all, what we're doing is we're going to a sustainable phase of social distancing that we can keep up.
Those two days are -- are not the cases that are in those two days. Those are from weeks before that we finally found and attributed to those two days. So it looks strange on the graph. But we have also released the information that shows the steady -- the steady trend over time, where this -- this aggressive intervention, which is the stay-at-home, has been effective in leveling and plateauing the curve, which is absolutely critical if we're going to have any way to sustain the social distancing, for not just weeks, but likely months, Jake, I mean, probably May, June.
I mean, it -- we don't even have an end date in sight, until there's a vaccine or a cure.
TAPPER: I don't think anything could be a bigger rejection of this reopening idea than the actions of Denver, Colorado, Mayor Michael Hancock, who announced that he is going to be extending Denver's stay- at-home order, despite the state's new guidance, adding -- quote -- "We need more time to scale up our testing and tracing capacity."
How are you ensuring that cities and towns across your state have the testing and tracing capacity that they will need to reopen?
POLIS: Yes, we're happy to work with Denver to increase their capacity. They have a very achievable goal to do.
They have -- we have a -- we're a very big, diverse state. So, Denver, 2,500 cases, that's like 5 percent of their population. And, you know, as you know, some of these -- some of these are underdiagnosis. It could be more than 5 percent.
We also have counties in our state with zero, like Bent County. We have counties with a very low rate, like Mesa County.
So, one of the very first counties that was hit hard, Eagle County, actually request -- that was one of the -- Vail, world class-ski areas. Skiers brought it in from across the world. It's been one of the first to emerge from the stay-at-home phase, through a request by their health community, their hospital, their commissioners, to leave the stay-at-home phase a few days ahead of the rest of the state.
They have been very successful in their public health effort. And we're cooperating closely with counties across the state to meet their needs. TAPPER: Jonathan Samet from the Colorado School of Public Health said
that another spike is coming in your state in late July and that -- quote -- "could be bigger than what we just saw."
Does that warning give you any moment of pause?
POLIS: Yes, we're all worried about a potential for a second spike, whether it's in the fall, in -- along with flu season in September or October, whether it's July.
It's why we have really been really laser-focused, as an administration, on figuring out how we can -- how we can endure and sustain these kinds of social distancing measures -- our target is about 60 to 65 percent social distancing from the way people used to live -- and how we can do that over a period of months in a psychologically sustainable way, and, of course, an economically sustainable way that meets the health goals of the state.
TAPPER: Starting on May 4, you're going to allow offices to reopen with reduced work force.
If you see cases start to spike again, as Jonathan Samet warned about as a possibility, will you reissue the stay-at-home order?
POLIS: Well, we -- we will have to adjust, and we expect that we will have a lot to adjust, the degree of social distancing in real time, meaning we're going to look at those early indicators, the mobility data. We're going to look at disease data. We're going to look at a number of different proxies and, as we need to, adjust it in real time.
May 4, offices going back half-capacity, they need to have that social distancing. They have, you know, half the number of people in their workplace than they used to. They need to make sure they're spacing people appropriately.
And just as importantly, Jake, if not more, they need to make sure that members of the work force that are over 65 or that meet other at- risk criteria, like moderate to severe asthma, are given priority for not coming to work, for continuing to telecommute, continuing to be able to work from home.
And we're encouraging that every Coloradan who can works from home, and every business that doesn't have to open right away waits a few weeks and takes their time, and making sure they do it in as safe a way as possible.
TAPPER: Governor, this might be the most important decision that you ever make, and this might be the most important crisis that you ever have to face as a public official.
Are you worried that you're making a decision that could theoretically cost your constituents their lives?
POLIS: Well, we always wish, Jake, that I had next week's information and next month's information available to me today.
That's not the world we live in. We have to make the best informed decisions, based on data and science, with the information we have.
What we know is that what matters a lot more than the date that the stay-at-home ends is what we do going forward, and how we -- how we have an ongoing, sustainable way, psychologically, economically, and from a health perspective, to have the social distancing we need at workplace, where people recreate, and across the board.
Otherwise, if we can't succeed in doing that on an ongoing basis, the stay-at-home was for nothing. It doesn't accomplish anything, if it's not replaced with practices that are sustainable for the weeks and months that it's likely to remain with us.
TAPPER: All right, I hope -- I hope it goes well, Governor.
Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
POLIS: Thank you.
TAPPER: Black leaders say, Georgia's decision to reopen will hurt communities of color.
Stacey Abrams will join me next to talk about that and why she wants to be your next vice president.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The governor of Georgia is moving ahead with his plan to reopen the state for business, despite concern from health experts and mixed signals from President Trump on the matter.
Governor Brian Kemp declined our request for an interview.
Joining me now is former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and statehouse Democratic leader Stacey Abrams.
Ms. Abrams, Leader Abrams, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to start with Governor Kemp's decision to reopen the Georgia economy. President Trump has publicly said that he opposes it.
You are, I believe, siding with President Trump on this one.
STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I give President Trump no credit.
He actually caused this challenge by tweeting for weeks that we should liberate our economies. And when someone took him up on it, he did as he normally does, which is bend to what he thinks public opinion is.
But the problem is that Georgians are at risk. We have the 14th highest infection rate, the seventh slowest testing rate.
I spent Friday on a call with more than 200 people, having a conversation about Southwest Georgia, where they still don't have adequate access to testing, they don't have the medical facilities, and they don't have doctors in a lot of these communities.
We are not ready to open. And this is a dangerous decision. We cannot open an economy when the people who will power that economy are at risk. And until Georgia can trace and track and treat, then we cannot reopen the economy.
TAPPER: A coalition of civil rights organizations, including the Conference of National Black Churches and Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, have said that some governors lifting stay- at-home orders are demonstrating -- quote -- "reckless disregard for the health and life of black residents" -- unquote.
Our CNN colleague Van Jones called it a death sentence for communities of color.
Do you agree?
ABRAMS: I will tell you that, in the state of Georgia, African- Americans comprise 32 percent of the population, yet we're 54 percent of the deaths.
And across this country, we know that, in the Navajo Nation, their lack of access to testing and treatment has caused incredibly high death rates.
We know that communities of color suffer from systemic inequities that can be addressed in this pandemic, but only if the federal government pays attention and if states do what they can to protect their communities.
That's why we have government, because individuals cannot solve global crises like these. And, instead, we need leaders who are willing to understand the mistakes of the past and prepare for the future.
And we know that, unfortunately, under Trump and under Kemp, the preparations haven't been there. And, in fact, President Trump undid things that could have prepared us for this moment.
But no matter where we are, we deserve the protection of our government, and we deserve the treatment and support that should come, not this rush to reopen.
TAPPER: Staying on Reverend Sharpton, "The New York Times" is reporting that he is planning on endorsing you as soon as next week to be Joe Biden's running mate.
Biden says he's going to choose a woman as his running mate.
Do you think Biden can win if his running mate is a white woman, or does he need to choose a woman of color to win?
ABRAMS: Vice President Joe Biden has done this job. He knows what he needs to do to win, and he knows what he needs to do to serve and to lead and to help our country recover from four years of incompetence and chaos.
I trust Joe Biden to make the best decision. He's got a smart team around him. And he has no shortage of good candidates to choose from.
Certainly, for the African-American community and for communities of color, because of this pandemic, there is a great deal of distrust, because these communities are being left to survive on their own often, without the support that they need from those who are called to lead.
But I want to make one thing very clear. Joe Biden enjoys the trust of communities of color, and he will take no one for granted. And I believe that he will make the right choice, based on what he understands and what his team leads -- and recommends that he do.
TAPPER: Biden is already saying, to a lot of criticism from conservatives, that President Trump might try to influence the 2020 election, he might try to postpone it, suggesting he's threatening to defund the post office in order to block voting by mail.
Will Democrats accept the election result if President Trump wins in November?
ABRAMS: First of all, I refuse to concede that that's going to happen. But here's the challenge.
We know that the Republican Party has invested millions of dollars in fighting access to safe and accessible elections. We saw that they went to court to force Wisconsin to hold an election that has caused COVID cases to rise in those communities, when people had to stand in line.
But, more than anything, we know that voter suppression is real in our country.
But we have an antidote. And that is vote by mail, in-person early voting, and in-person Election Day voting.
Vice President Biden understands how critical this election is, but, with four decades of experience, he also knows the tricks that Republicans will use to block change.
We can't survive another four years of Donald Trump. And that's why my organization Fair Fight 2020 is working nationally in 18 states to ensure that we have a president who actually believes in and trusts in the American people.
TAPPER: But is it responsible for Vice President Biden to be raising what some are calling conspiracy theories about President Trump pushing the election, blocking the election, stopping the post office, so that they can't deliver absentee ballots?
Is that responsible, do you think?
ABRAMS: I think what is the most responsible thing is to call out what's happening as it does.
President Trump has said that he believes that vote by mail, if it is allowed for the population to use this very safe and accessible way to vote, that he doesn't believe he can win.
And so, as a follow-up, he does not want that to be a way to vote. He has said that he is unwilling to fund the post office, which is essential, not only for delivery of vote-by-mail ballots, but medications and support and resources.
And so it's not a conspiracy when you're simply repeating back what the president has said, which is that he doesn't want people to have the voice that they need in our government, and that he doesn't want to maintain the infrastructure.
And, unfortunately, Vice President Biden has watched, as have the rest of Americans, as Donald Trump has dismantled infrastructure that we need to protect ourselves and protect our democracy.
South Korea just held a national election. And President Moon was able to hold an election in the midst of a pandemic that achieved the highest rate of turnout in 30 years.
If South Korea can do it, America can. And Vice President Biden is going to make certain that America continues to be a leader in democracy.
TAPPER: I have asked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham about the possibility of being Biden's running mate over the last few weeks.
They both took the more traditional path for possible V.P. nominees by playing coy, to a degree.
You're taking a different strategy when it comes to this. You're openly advocating for yourself to be picked to be the running mate. Why?
ABRAMS: I would say this.
I have been asked this question since last year. I was brought into the national conversation. And I have been very honest about my willingness to serve.
As a young black woman growing up in Mississippi, I learned that, if you don't raise your hand, people won't see you and they won't give you attention.
But it's not about attention for being the running mate. It is about making sure that my qualifications aren't in question, because they're not just speaking to me. They're speaking to young black women, young women of color, young people of color, who wonder if they too can be seen.
My responsibility is to follow the process, if I'm included. And I trust that Joe Biden and his team are going to put together a process that will pick the best running mate for him, because, fundamentally, it's his choice.
What I try to do is tell the truth and be direct. But I understand that there is a process that will be at work, and that he has no shortage of qualified candidates to choose from.
TAPPER: Stacey Abrams, thanks so much. Continue to stay healthy and safe. Thank you so much.
ABRAMS: Thank you for having me.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Are (ph) some folks are having trouble wrapping their heads around it. After hearing from a Department of Homeland Security official about ways the biology of the novel coronavirus was being studied and the virus' susceptibility to sunlight and ultraviolet rays in the air and to disinfectants on nonporous solid surfaces, such as doorknobs, the president mused aloud about injecting ultraviolet rays and disinfectant into the human body.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, you can -- which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way. Then I see the disinfectant knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs."
TAPPER: Injection of disinfectant into the human body, it's the kind of musing that is so nonsensical children laugh about it. It's also the word of the President of the United States of America, a man so beloved and trusted in some circles. Government emergency tip lines had to issue warnings for constituents to not use disinfectants to treat the virus. Lysol had to issue a public warning to consumers that under no circumstances is internal admission of disinfectants appropriate.
After the president's statement, his new press secretary who is apparently so eager to defend her boss she seems to not understand that we can all hear the words she says and read the words she issues. She claimed that the president had been taken out of context. He of course had not. His musings were there for all to see and hear. And then the president undermined his own press secretary by claiming he had been sarcastic and he was challenging reporters, which was just a bald-faced lie.
In fact, while attempting to spin this the president even said to a reporter that surely the reporter understood he was being sarcastic because the president had said it right to him. And the reporter told the president he had not been there at the time.
REPORTER: Some doctors felt they needed to clarify that, after you --
TRUMP: Well, of course, all they had to do was hear (ph) -- just you don't know (ph) the way it was asked. I was looking at you.
REPORTER: No sir. I wasn't there yesterday.
TAPPER: We're running out of words to describe this era. Republicans in Congress and in the Trump administration know that not only is the president failing to rise to this moment to, for example, get the nation on a path to wide spread testing, the president's now making open ponderings about treatments that experts worry could actually harm people.
His a (ph) scientific -- anti-scientific musings have been dangerous. We saw this with his weeks of downplaying the virus. Two months ago today the president said he'd done a good job since the U.S. had only 15 cases which would soon go down to almost zero. Then the president was pushing the use of hydroxychloroquine. What have you got to lose he said. Well the FDA on Friday issued a caution against the use of that drug outside a hospital or a clinical trial due to the risk of heart rhythm problems.
Republican leaders need to acknowledge the reality of the situation. They need to intervene. They need to convince President Trump to defer to the experts and focus on the needs of not his ego but the sick and the dying and the people trying to care for them.
There is going to be a history of this era written and those who are pretending this irresponsibility is not happening, they will be remembered as villains.
Thanks for spending your Sunday with us. Fareed Zakaria GPS starts now.