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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos; Interview With Fairfax County, Virginia, School Board Superintendent Scott Brabrand; Interview With Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Interview With Miami-Dade County, Florida, Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 12, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Back to school? The president pushes schools to fully reopen, ignoring safety warnings from his own administration again.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Stop this political nonsense.
BASH: But where is the administration's plan to keep children, teachers, and families safe?
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is next.
And wrong direction -- daily death tolls rising, hospitals running out of beds. Americans wait days for test results. How much worse will things get? As Florida scrambles to stop the spread, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez joins me ahead.
Plus: all the president's friends. In a move one Republican senator called historic corruption, the president commutes the sentence of a former adviser convicted of lying and obstructing his work for the Trump campaign.
TRUMP: In this country, they want justice.
BASH: Is this justice? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi coming up.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper, in Washington, where the state of our union is worried about our children.
This morning, Americans are waking up to a shocking image, President Trump wearing a mask in public for the first time during a visit to a military hospital, a strikingly responsible picture, after months of downplaying the importance of face coverings, a tool recommended by his own health officials.
And despite the president's assessment this week that we are in -- quote -- "a good place," the U.S. still is breaking unwanted records for new coronavirus cases. And the daily death toll rose this week, as states across the Southwest struggle to contain outbreaks.
There are now nearly 135,000 Americans dead and over 3.2 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S.
The ongoing crisis is making the issue of schools increasingly urgent and confusing. President Trump is demanding schools open, while criticizing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control provided to help schools keep students, families, teachers, and communities safe, and issuing a threat to cut off funding, which he does not have the full authority to do.
BASH: And joining me now is the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning.
And let me start by sharing that everybody shares the same goal. They want children to be back in school.
So, what I want to ask you about today, Madam Secretary, is how we do that safely. You said this week -- quote -- that "There's nothing in the data that suggests it would not be appropriate to have kids in school."
So, want to take a look at that data.
The U.S. hit a record number of new cases on Friday. The number of new cases per day is higher now in 45 of the 50 states than when schools shut down in March. Hospitalizations are climbing in several states. And some ICUs are at or near capacity.
So, yes or no, can you assure students, teachers, parents, that they will not get coronavirus because they're going back to school?
BETSY DEVOS, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Well, the key is that kids have to get back to school.
And we know there are going to be hot spots. And those need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall. They have been missing months of learning.
Many of them are going to be so far behind, difficult to catch up. And we know that this is a matter of their health in a multitude of factors or multitude of dimensions. We know that their emotional well- being, their mental well-being.
And particularly for kids from low-income and vulnerable populations, this is devastating to be out of school and not learning for months on end.
BASH: Madam Secretary, I don't think anybody disagrees with that. I'm a parent. I want my school-aged child to go back to school as much as you are saying you want for everybody.
But the question is, can it happen safely?
So, can you -- by saying what you just said, also assure parents, students, children, everybody who's there, that they're going to be able to do so safely?
DEVOS: Well, we know that children get the virus at a far lower rate than any other part of the population.
And, again, there's -- there is no -- nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is -- is dangerous to them. And, in fact, it's -- it's more a matter of their health and well- being that they be back in school.
And we have seen this in countries, other countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world, where students have gone back to school and have done so very successfully. That should be the goal.
BASH: Well, we do know that children can spread the virus.
For example, there was a summer camp in Missouri which closed after 82 campers and staff tested positive. Texas says more than 1,300 children and employees in a child care facility tested positive.
And here's what the CDC guidelines say: "If children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk. Children can pass this virus onto others who have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19."
That's your own federal government's guidelines.
DEVOS: And we also know that the -- we also know that the YMCAs that provide child care for front-line workers across the country have been studying this very carefully, and that there has not been high incidence of viral spread in those situations.
So, it really is a matter of paying attention to good hygiene, following the guidelines around making sure we're washing hands, wearing masks when appropriate, staying apart at a bit of a distance socially, and doing the things that are commonsense approaches to ensuring that kids can go back to the classroom and can go back to learning.
BASH: So, there's -- there are a lot of things to unpack there.
First of all, you talking about YMCA is -- I mean, that's great news, but I'm asking you about your own federal government's guidelines, the CDC guidelines.
And what the CDC has said is that, if children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk.
DEVOS: Well, the CDC has also been very clear to say they never recommended schools close down in the first place. And they are very much of the posture that kids need to be back in school for a multitude of reasons.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has said the same thing. Kids need to be in school. They need to be learning. They need to be moving ahead. And we can't -- we cannot be paralyzed and -- and not allow that...
DEVOS: ... or not be intent on that happening.
BASH: So -- so, you're right. The APA -- AAP, rather, has said that the goal, of course, is for children to be back in school.
But they also signed a letter saying schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts.
And it sounds like what you're saying is you, as the secretary of education, is compelling -- you are compelling schools to reopen regardless of what's happening.
DEVOS: No, what we're saying is that kids need to be back in school, and that school leaders across the country need to be making plans to do just that.
There's going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall. And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis.
And there's a -- there ample opportunity to have kids in school. You know, there's many counties across the country that have virtually no cases. And so school leaders need to be looking at the granular data, the -- right on the ground where they are, and -- and looking at, if there are problems, then how are you going to deal with them?
But the -- the goal needs to be that kids are learning full-time again this fall.
BASH: And I -- again, I don't -- I just want to make clear, nobody has any goal that's different from that.
Everybody wants children to learn in the best possible conditions. But there's also the question of safety and balancing those. And I'm not hearing a plan from you on how to get to that goal of children in school learning, but doing so safely.
Does the Department of Education have a plan to do that?
DEVOS: Well, the Department of Education has been working hard the last several months.
All of my team, we've been working closely with state school leaders to ensure that they had maximum flexibility, waiving tests, providing student loan relief, all things that have helped local education leaders and state leaders do the right things for their students.
But we know the spring that far too many kids...
BASH: But a lot of these leaders -- but...
DEVOS: Far too many kids didn't have any kind of a learning experience.
Going into the fall, we need to ensure -- education leaders need to ensure that kids are going to be able to be learning full-time, no matter how that looks.
DEVOS: If they're in an area with high incidents of virus, then they need to be learning remotely full-time.
BASH: OK, Secretary DeVos -- OK, Secretary DeVos, on that note, the CDC -- let's talk a little bit more about what the CDC is recommending, installing some physical barriers, closing playgrounds, keeping desks six feet apart, and not sharing books.
President Trump says he disagreed with those guidelines, calling them very tough, expensive and impractical.
The CDC director said this week that the recommendations are going to stand.
So, I want to be clear from you. As the secretary of education, should schools in the United States follow the CDC recommendations or not?
DEVOS: Dr. Redfield has clearly said, these are recommendations, and every situation is going to look slightly different.
And the key for education leaders -- and these are smart people who can figure things out. They can figure out what is going to be right for their specific situation, because every school building is different, every school population is different, if you have an elementary school or a middle school, or you have a K-12 campus.
BASH: That's completely understandable.
But what I want to know is if the federal government is all on the same page. As the secretary of education, should schools follow the guidelines of the CDC?
DEVOS: It's very much on the same page.
Kids -- kids need to get back to school. They need to get back in the classroom. Families need for kids to get back in the classroom. And it can be done safely.
BASH: Well, OK. Let me... DEVOS: There are guidelines that are very clear and also -- and also -- also very acknowledging that situations are going to be different. But the rule has got to be that kids go to learning full-time.
BASH: I want to just -- I want to just tell you that I don't know that it's clear, because the CDC guidelines lay -- do lay out steps in which they see a vision for returning to school safely.
And I don't hear that coming from you.
DEVOS: Well, I know for a fact that there are many schools that have been working hard to put together their plans for moving ahead.
And we want to see every school district, every state doing the same thing...
DEVOS: ... to say not what we can't do, but what we're going to do and what we can do.
We're -- we're a country of action. We're a country of doers.
BASH: OK, let's talk about...
DEVOS: We have education leaders who can work hard and figure this out.
BASH: OK, let's talk about -- let's get specific.
Let's talk about one area, one leader you have singled out who is trying to do just that, Fairfax County, Virginia, the school district that you called a disaster, and you really criticized when it comes to their back-to-school plan.
I went there on Friday. They are saying that it's -- they're going to -- the parents and students are going to have a choice, two days a week in school, the rest virtual learning, or complete virtual learning.
I want you to listen to what the Fairfax County superintendent told me about what it would take for every student to go back to school following CDC guidelines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BRABRAND, SUPERINTENDENT, FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA, SCHOOL BOARD: Our default on a normal school day in Fairfax County is 18 inches, not six feet, not three feet, 18 inches.
We're the size of five Pentagons. You would need another five Pentagons of space to be able to safely accommodate all of the students in Fairfax County Public Schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: So, what he's saying, Madam Secretary, is, it's not feasible to bring everybody back and follow the very guidelines from your federal government, CDC guidelines, that you're making demands that is -- they're just not possible.
DEVOS: Well, I'm glad you brought up Fairfax County, because I think it's a very important contrast to, for example, the plans that Miami- Dade County has in place.
And I understand you're having leaders from both of those districts on your program today.
I -- the contract between the two is stark. In Miami-Dade County, they have a continuity-of-instruction plan that has been robust. I mean, they -- granted, they had this plan or they've been working on this plan because they often experience hurricane damage.
But this plan has multiple...
BASH: Well, can we just stick -- can we stick on Fairfax County, ma'am, and not Miami-Dade, because this is something that you...
DEVOS: Yes, I'm going to -- I'm going to contrast it.
BASH: ... that you have -- that you have brought up, and you have said it's not...
DEVOS: But I'm going to contrast it, because it's a multiplicity of platforms.
It's a -- it's a wide variety of approaches to -- but with the expectation that, if you have to move to a remote instruction situation, that you have full-time learning going on for all students at all times.
BASH: OK, I spent time in Fairfax County. I don't want to get to -- much into this, but...
DEVOS: The Fairfax County plan is not -- it is not a full-time learning plan.
BASH: But they do have full-time virtual learning.
DEVOS: The full-time -- the Fairfax County plan is not -- no, no, four days a week, either four days a week online and online, and the fifth day not, and two -- or two days a week in person.
These are not valid options and choices for families. And it's not full-time instruction.
What -- what you are saying is you want kids back in school. What he is saying is, because they have almost 200,000 children in their school district, they would have to build the size of five Pentagons in order to accommodate what you are asking for. They're a wealthy district, but, even with money, it's just not
So, what is your recommendation, given that reality?
DEVOS: My recommendation is, he take up the offer to meet with my team and some of the folks from the CDC and the task force to talk about ways that they can look at this freshly and differently on behalf of the students they're serving.
I have many of them on my -- on my team.
BASH: Should they follow CDC guidelines?
DEVOS: The CDC guidelines are just that, meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation.
And so I would look forward to...
BASH: But you understand how confusing it is and how hard it is...
DEVOS: I would look forward to work -- to working with him to...
BASH: ... to have CDC guidelines on one hand...
DEVOS: Can I finish my statement?
BASH: Sure. Go ahead.
DEVOS: I was just going to say, I would look forward to meeting with him, along with some of the folks from the task force, and talking about how this can practically happen.
I think we're all on the same page. We want kids to get back to school. We want them to be learning full-time, full-time...
DEVOS: ... not just a part-time, not just an episodic situation. But kids have got to be learning full-time...
DEVOS: ... and have the expectation that the next school year is going to give them at least a school year's worth of learning, if not more...
BASH: Let's move on...
DEVOS: ... because so many of them fell behind.
BASH: Let's move on to what happens if there's an outbreak.
What are experts telling you about the appropriate level of transmission for a school before it has to shut down?
DEVOS: Well, I know that that's an area that the CDC is helping to provide further insight into.
I can't, as a non-physician or a non-medical expert, tell you precisely what to do in the case of one child in the classroom or five child -- children in a classroom.
But the key is, every school should have plans for that situation to be able to pivot...
BASH: Right, but...
DEVOS: ... and ensure that kids can continue learning at a distance if they have to for a short period of time.
BASH: But you're the secretary of education. You're asking students to go back.
So, why do you not have guidance on what a school should do, just weeks before you want those schools to reopen, on what happens if it faces an outbreak?
DEVOS: You know, there's really good examples that have been utilized in the private sector and in -- and elsewhere, also with front-line workers in hospitals.
And all of that data and all of that information and all of those examples can be referenced by school leaders who have -- who have the opportunity...
BASH: I -- I'm not -- OK, but I'm not hearing a plan from the Department of Education.
Do you have a plan for -- for what students and what schools should do?
DEVOS: But the -- you -- the plan -- so, schools should do what's right on the ground at that time for their students and for their situation.
There is no one uniform approach that we can take nat -- or should take nationwide...
BASH: But can I just ask you? I want to...
DEVOS: ... because the needs of a school in the city of Detroit are very...
DEVOS: ... in my home state, in the city of Detroit, would be very different than that of a school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
BASH: But that's -- exactly. And that's the point. That's completely understandable. But you are arguing over and over that they should handle this on a
local level. But, at the same time, as the secretary of education, you are trying to push them to do a one-size-fits-all approach, which is, go back and reopen schools.
You can't have it both ways.
DEVOS: I am urging all schools to be re -- to open and to be providing their students a full-time education.
We all acknowledge that that could and may well look different in a certain area that has a flare-up of the virus. But the -- but the go- to should be that schools are opening and fully functional and operational and giving...
DEVOS: ... parents and families the flexibility that's necessary, so if there is a situation where a child is a vulnerable...
BASH: So just to be clear...
DEVOS: ... is a -- has a vulnerable underlying condition, that the parents could have a choice to be able to -- to educate their...
BASH: OK. So, just to be clear, are you saying, then, areas where there is a flare-up, that schools should revert to remote learning?
DEVOS: I'm saying that schools should have plans, like Miami-Dade County has. They should have plans, and the parents and families should know what their options are and what they can do to ensure...
BASH: I'm asking you, Madam Secretary of Education, if there is a flare-up, should schools revert to remote learning?
You're very aggressive about saying reopen. And I just -- the next question, the obvious question is, what happens if they feel that they can't? Are you comfortable with remote learning if they can't?
DEVOS: I think the go-to needs to be kids in school, in person, in the classroom, because we know, for most kids, that's the best environment for them.
And we have to also under...
BASH: I understand that, but what if they can't?
DEVOS: What -- what if they can't what?
BASH: What if the school district feels that they can't safely go into the school because there is a flare-up in that district? Remote learning, are you OK with it in that situation?
DEVOS: If -- if there's a -- if there is a short term flare-up for a few days, that's a different situation than planning for an entire school year in anticipation of something that hasn't happened.
That's a very different thing.
BASH: OK. Let me...
DEVOS: Kids have got to be back in school. They've got to be back in -- in the classroom.
And working families have to have their children in school and knowing that they're continuing to advance in their learning.
I -- again, I know you keep saying that kids should be back in school. Nobody is disagreeing with that, because of schools, because of child care, everything. We know the reasons for that.
I want to ask you about teachers. A new Kaiser study this week found that almost 1.5 million teachers, one in four nationwide, are at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus because of age or underlying conditions.
And we just learned this morning that three teachers in Arizona contracted COVID, and one of them died.
So, if teachers don't feel comfortable going into the classroom, should they go in or stay home?
DEVOS: Well, first of all, I can -- I can -- I feel for a teacher that has a vulnerability or an underlying condition and know that this is something that is concerning.
But the reality is that there are ways for those teachers to be able to continue to do what they do. And every district, every state has the real opportunity to work with and figure out the best scenario for those teachers. Maybe younger teachers are in the classroom, and an older teacher...
BASH: Should those teachers go in if they don't feel comfortable?
DEVOS: That's something for them to work out with their local district.
But it -- again, that's the exception, not the rule. The rule needs to be, schools need to get open. Kids need to go back to school. They need to be learning.
DEVOS: Teachers want to be there. They want to be in the classroom with their kids.
And kids -- and teachers are...
BASH: Again, I know you -- Madam Secretary, you keep repeating that. And nobody is disagreeing with you. I'm asking you very detailed questions about how to do that, the
mechanism and the rules and the guidance that you give them, as the top person in this -- in this area federally.
I want to ask you, on that note, about money. You are threatening to withhold federal education dollars from states that don't fully reopen schools this fall. To be clear, you don't have a lot of authority. About 90 percent of funding comes from the state and local level.
But you do have control over some.
Republican Senator Susan Collins said -- quote -- "I think we need more funding, not threats to withhold funding."
How does it help to take any money away from school districts during a pandemic?
DEVOS: There's no -- no desire to take money away.
In fact, we want to see schools open and have been committed to ensuring the resources are there to do that.
Remember, the CARES Act fund, over $13 billion has been distributed to the states...
DEVOS: ... all of it in the states now. Only 2 percent of it has actually been spent yet or drawn down to do just the things that schools can be doing.
BASH: So, no more threat to withhold funding?
DEVOS: The -- the reality is, we are committed to ensuring all students and all schools have the resources necessarily for kids to be able to continue learning.
And where schools don't follow through on that, parents should have the opportunity and the option to find a school that is going to open and is going to serve their children.
BASH: So, yes or no, is the threat to -- is the threat to withhold funding still alive or not, yes or no?
DEVOS: We are committed to ensuring students are in school and learning. And parents need to have...
BASH: OK. I didn't get -- I -- OK.
DEVOS: ... the flexibility and the resources to be able to take their kids to a school that...
BASH: OK, that -- that's not a yes-or-no answer.
DEVOS: If their school refuses to open or doesn't serve their students. BASH: You didn't -- you didn't answer the question.
But I appreciate you coming on this morning.
And, again, I just want to reiterate, nobody disagrees with your goal. Everybody wants students to get back to the most robust learning environment as possible.
DEVOS: Absolutely. We all want that.
BASH: Thank you. Thank you.
BASH: And up next: a rare response by Robert Mueller to President Trump, after a move one Republican senator called historic corruption.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be here in minutes.
And the coronavirus death rate is rising in the South -- the latest on the spike in cases, overcrowded hospitals, and what could happen next.
Stay with us.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.
With four months until Election Day, Democrats are seizing on polls that show Joe Biden leading President Trump.
As for the president, he continues to follow his gut. And his latest move is to save his friend Roger Stone from prison time. And it's drawing a rare rebuke from former special counsel Robert Mueller, who's defending his prosecution of the Trump associate.
Joining me now from Capitol Hill is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And, Madam Speaker, we're going to get to that in a minute.
But I just want to ask you for your reaction to the interview that I just had with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Given what you just heard, briefly, are you confident that students and teachers will go back safely to school in the fall?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No.
I think what we heard from the secretary was malfeasance and dereliction of duty. This is appalling. They're messing, they're messing -- the president and his administration are messing with the health of our children.
It is -- we all want our children to go back to school. Teachers do. Parents do. And children do. But they must go back safely.
And when you hear what the administration is saying, we know that they have no appreciation for the failure that has brought us to this point.
Going back to school is -- presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus. They ignore science, and they ignore governance in order to make this happen. If there are CDC guidelines, they should be requirements.
But, most importantly, most importantly -- and I hope the Republicans will join us -- we have to call upon the president to have -- implement the Defense Production Act, so that we can have the PPE, the personal protective equipment, as well as the testing equipment and the equipment to evaluate the test.
It's no use taking a test if it's going to take seven days to find out what -- whether you're positive or negative. All of these things are central to controlling this virus and essential to whether our children go back to school safely.
BASH: I just want to ask you about something you just said. You said the CDC guidelines should be requirements.
BASH: How do you make that happen? Do you have to pass something in Congress to make that so?
PELOSI: No, you have to have a science-oriented administration to require it, instead of the head of the CDC saying...
BASH: Do they have the authority to do that?
PELOSI: Of course they do.
You just require, just as a governor would, that you have mask wearing, that you have social distancing. You -- they have those guidelines that they have, and that they were going to change because of a tweet from the president.
We think guidelines should always be improved -- there's no question of changing -- improved on the basis of science. But they shouldn't be -- they should be mandates, not requirements.
BASH: I want to ask about something that could be on your plate coming up.
And that is something very specific that you all passed in the first round of coronavirus relief, which is $600 per week in additional unemployment benefits for millions of American families.
Those benefits are set to expire in just two weeks. Are they going to run out? And if so, what would that mean for those families? PELOSI: Well, thank you for taking us to the HEROES Act, which does
three things, honors our heroes and, very essential, if we want our children to go back to school, our teachers, our health care workers, our custodians in the schools, our transportation workers, our sanitation workers.
The state and local governments need the resources in order to meet the needs of the American people, including the education of our children.
Secondly, in the HEROES Act, we talk about opening the economy, testing, tracing, treatment, social distancing, mask, sanita -- hygiene and the rest, and the money to do that.
And that's where the president must have the Defense Production Act to make -- for us to have the equipment to get the job done.
And third is where you are, putting money in the pockets of the American people.
PELOSI: Not only will the $600 expire. Unemployment insurance will expire.
BASH: So, will you be able to extend that? Will you find a compromise in order to be able to extend that?
PELOSI: Well, we have to find a compromise, because we must extend it. We must extend the unemployment insurance. It will expire at the end of July.
And then the direct payments to people, so that we have $6,000 for a family of five. People are desperately in need. It also has funding for, which the Republicans have resisted, food stamps and emergency food, money for Election Day, in terms of voting from home, an OSHA standard that says, if you want to be protected as a worker, as an employer, have a strong OSHA standard.
PELOSI: And, of course, it also protects the Postal Service, just to give you an array of concerns.
BASH: So, just to button it up, do you feel confident that, when Congress comes back, that you will be able to pass and work with Republicans to negotiate another round of funding?
PELOSI: Well, let me just say this.
When we first passed our bill, they said nothing, never, no, we need a pause. Now they know that we -- we don't need a pause. We need to act. Then they said, well, we're not going to spend any more money. Now they're saying a trillion dollars.
That's not enough. BASH: OK. So...
PELOSI: That's not enough. But we will have to find common ground to pass legislation that...
PELOSI: Now, let me just say this.
They have spent they trillion -- they, the Fed, has spent trillions of dollars bolstering the stock market. We think we should spend trillions of dollars bolstering the American middle class.
BASH: OK, Madam Secretary, I want to move on to other issues.
BASH: Before I do so, I just -- there's a lot of understandable criticism of the administration's response to this outbreak.
I want to ask about yours and Congress and what you said initially in particular. On February 29, about two weeks before many states shut down, you said -- quote -- "There are no indications of widespread infections in the United States."
And you suggested that the first $8 billion package fully address -- would fully the scale and seriousness of the public health crisis.
Looking back, knowing what you know now, did you underestimate the crisis also?
PELOSI: No, what we did was, at that exact time, was writing the first COVID bill, which we brought to the floor and passed on March 4.
And it was about testing, testing, testing, because, if you don't test, you don't have a handle on what the problem is. And that was to address, OK, this is out there. Let's find out the measurement.
BASH: So, no regrets on your part?
PELOSI: No, not at all. We have had four bills, all bipartisan.
But they have not been implemented by the administration. And, no, we said testing for March 4. We were writing the bill to find out what the threat was to us...
PELOSI: ... while the president was saying delay, denial, calling it a hoax, and causing deaths.
BASH: I have got to ask you about what Robert Mueller said. He broke his silence yesterday to defend his Russia investigation
after the president commuted the prison sentence of his former associate Roger Stone.
He said -- Mueller said that Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so. You called the president's commutation an act of staggering corruption.
Is it an impeachable offense?
PELOSI: It's staggering corruption.
But I think it's important for people to also know that it's a threat to our natural security. The whole impeachment process was about our national security.
Why we are at the Supreme Court on these -- we are on the Supreme Court on these cases was to find out about the Russian connection. And we will continue to pursue that. This case was about the Russian connection.
So, what the president -- we will have legislation that says a president cannot commute or pardon or offer clemency to anybody who commits a crime, is convicted of a crime that affects the president's behavior and his culpability.
But the -- again, people should know, this isn't just about lying to Congress -- that means lying to the American people -- witness tampering and the rest.
PELOSI: It's about our national security.
And, Madam -- Madam Speaker, before I let you go, just one word after you saw the president wearing a mask. Your reaction?
PELOSI: Well, I'm so glad that he obeyed the rules of the Walter Reed. You can't go see our veterans who are there without wearing a mask.
Now he's crossed a bridge. That's an admission that, if you're going to see our soldiers, you have to wear a mask. If you're going to be with our children, you have to wear a mask. If you want -- if we want to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we have to -- you have to wear a mask.
BASH: Thank you.
PELOSI: So, hopefully, by his example, he will change his attitude, which will be helpful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
BASH: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, thank you for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.
PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you.
BASH: Thank you.
PELOSI: Thank you.
BASH: And Disney world has opened its doors again, but it's not clear if people feel safe going back.
The latest on increasingly dire situation that's going on in Florida -- that's next.
Plus, what are schools doing to reopen in the fall? We talked a little bit earlier, but I got an inside look at how one county is preparing.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
While the president wore a mask on his visit to Walter Reed yesterday, he declined to do so in Florida on Friday, as that state faces a spike in cases.
Joining me now is the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining me.
Six hospitals in your county have reached capacity. You currently have the most hospitalized patients of any county in Florida. How long do you think it might be until your hospitals reach capacity?
CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: It won't be long.
Look, we have reached capacity in some, but we also have reserve space. And so, in our system, we have another 1,200 beds that we can crank out pretty fast for critical care beds. We have another 500 ICU beds that we can crank up. We have right now a capacity -- we have probably about 1,500 vacant beds on our critical care.
It's our ICU capacity that's causing us concern. But, again, like I said, we can crank up another 500. Once they stop doing elective surgery here, the recovery rooms then can become ICU rooms, and we can do that fairly quickly.
Our ventilator space, our ventilator usage has gone up also, close to 200 now. And so we have had -- we definitely had a sharp increase in the number of people going to the hospital, the number of people that are in ICU, and the number of people on our ventilators.
GIMENEZ: We still have capacity, but it does cause me a lot of concern.
BASH: I'm sure it does. And you're obviously a local leader there working hard on the safety of your constituents.
This week, the president visited your county. He didn't wear a mask. He repeatedly touted a drug to treat coronavirus that can have negative side effects for some people.
He has publicly criticized Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert on his own task force.
So, you're on the local level. I want to ask you, from the federal level, from the president of the United States, do you feel that your constituents are getting good advice?
GIMENEZ: Well, we get our -- a lot of the measures that we have taken here are -- come directly from the CDC. So, we follow CDC recommendations.
When we reopened Miami-Dade County, we -- we do that with our medical experts. We have a panel of infection control experts that advise me on a just about daily basis on the things that we have to do. They rely on the CDC and they rely on other scientific journals, et cetera, to let me know what it is that we need to do down here in Miami-Dade County.
BASH: Are you worried that...
GIMENEZ: When we opened up Miami-Dade County...
And are you worried that, in following those recommendations, you are being undermined by the president of the United States in what he is saying and doing, or, in the case of being in Florida, in your county this week, not doing, not wearing a mask then?
GIMENEZ: Well, I understand why the -- what the president did, why -- what he did just -- I was on the tarmac to greet him. And myself and everybody else that was there was tested an hour before. He kept his distance.
So, I understand. And they take care of the president. And I understand what they do.
Look, we take our measures here. And it's local in nature. We do the things that we have to do here. We have a mask order inside and out.
GIMENEZ: And, really, what I'm asking our citizens in Miami-Dade, because we have such a high positivity rate, and it's been this way since April, that we need to keep -- it's the way that we act, that we have to keep our masks on inside and out.
And we have to keep our distance. We have to wash our hands. And if we all do that, then we're going to be able to tamp down the virus. That's what we're trying to do here in Miami-Dade, in addition to other things that we're closing, that we have had open.
Interior spaces of restaurants, we closed that this week. We put a curfew to start to limit the social interactions that really we thought caused the big spike in cases that we had here that we can see. We can trace it back to about the middle of June. And that's when it all really started.
BASH: Well, let me ask you about another big factor, and that is schools.
I'm not sure if you heard. Secretary DeVos was on this program talking about, again, that schools might reopen. She alluded to the plan that you have there in Miami-Dade.
But the superintendent there said opening schools would be counterintuitive, should the Miami-Dade School District follow President Trump and the secretary's advice and fully reopen schools.
Do you agree with that?
GIMENEZ: Well, look, what I -- what the superintendent -- what I got from the interview that you had with the secretary was, it was local in nature.
And so it's local here. And we're a hot spot. And so I have teamed up with the superintendent. We're going to work together to find the solution. And we don't know what this virus is going to look like six weeks from now, when the school system is supposed to open up.
And we like to -- he's got a set of options, and I think we need to work on a set of options of, if the virus is here, what we're going to do, if the virus is there, what is it that we are going to do.
GIMENEZ: And it really all depends on the positivity rate and the state of the virus in six weeks.
Whether it's in room or in classroom setting...
GIMENEZ: ... or it's some other kind of learning, it's all going to be guided by our science. And it's all going to be guided by our number one priority is keeping our kids safe. But like, as you said, everybody -- the number one goal is to try to
get them back in the classroom. But, hey, it all depends on the virus and what it's doing here at that time.
BASH: Real quick -- we're almost out of time -- good idea for the president and the Republican National Committee to hold an in-person convention in your state of Florida in the next few weeks, yes or so?
GIMENEZ: It depends on, again, where it's at and the state of the virus.
They can wear masks indoors and keep social distancing. Look, two weeks ago, we had spaces open here, public spaces that were open. But the positivity rate and the state of the virus in this community forced us to close those spaces.
So, you can't have it here in Miami-Dade. I'm not sure what's going on in Jacksonville.
Thank you so much for your time this morning...
GIMENEZ: You're welcome.
BASH: ... the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Thank you so much.
GIMENEZ: Thank you.
BASH: And should you send your kids back to school this fall?
What schools say they need and what other parents are deciding -- that's next.
BASH: It's safe to say parents want their children to go back to school this fall, but the question is, can it happen safely?
I visited one of the largest school districts in the country to find out what's possible.
BRABRAND: As you come in, you can start to see the signs that we're putting into our schools about six-feet social distancing.
BASH: Right. Mm-hmm.
(voice-over): Mantua Elementary in Fairfax County, Virginia, prepping for back to school in the age of COVID-19.
BRABRAND: We're going to have Plexiglas.
BASH (on camera): This is new? This was not here before, the Plexiglas?
BRABRAND: This is -- this is new.
BASH (voice-over): And limited, just two days a week in-person learning, the rest virtual.
Parents also have the option to keep their kids home entirely.
BRABRAND: So, you're in a classroom now where we have spaced apart desks at six feet. We're going to have PPE for all of our teachers and students, and we're going to have a return to school in a new normal.
BASH: Scott Brabrand is the superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, a D.C. suburb, which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently singled out, criticizing its return-to-school plan.
BETSY DEVOS, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: One of the most well-funded, I would call it an elite public school system in America, offered families a so-called choice for this fall.
BASH (on camera): Her argument is that there's no excuse for you all not being able to figure out how to get kids back to school full-time.
BRABRAND: Well, COVID doesn't discriminate based on wealth or poverty.
COVID hits all of us. And the guidelines for six-feet social distancing simply mean that you can't put every kid back in a school with the existing square footage footprint. It's just that simple.
BASH (voice-over): Fairfax County is one of the largest school districts in the country, more than 188,000 students from pre-K through 12th grade.
BRABRAND: We're the size of five Pentagons. You would need another five Pentagons of space to be able to safely accommodate all of the students in Fairfax County Public Schools.
BASH (on camera): Doesn't sound very feasible.
BRABRAND: It doesn't sound very feasible.
BASH (voice-over): Fairfax County parent Miriam Aguila says, she hopes the best they can do looks a lot better than it did in the spring for her daughter, a rising kindergartner, and her third-grade son.
(on camera): How did virtual learning go at the end of the school year?
MIRIAM AGUILA, PARENT: It's hard. It was.
Getting him logged on, the technical difficulties, just being there. You know, half the time, I felt like an I.T. person, which I.T. is not my field. So, it was crazy.
BASH (voice-over): She says, the school uses multiple online platforms, which made it confusing.
AGUILA: This generation of kids, they're very technology-savvy, so they should be able to do this on their own. But they can't, because it's got, like, different links to different things.
BASH: She's a single mom, but considers herself lucky. She can work from home and has help, including her own mother, who lives with them.
AGUILA: Even my mom being here, even with that help, sometimes, I'm -- you got to be, like, quiet. You know, I'm on a call.
Sometimes, I'd be up until 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, just because, like, when the house is quiet, I can focus. And then, you know, you have to be up in the morning trying to do the best you can.
BASH (on camera): So, you have two full-time jobs.
BASH (voice-over): Despite all that, she plans to choose full-time virtual learning for several reasons, including protecting her 71- year-old mother.
AGUILA: I don't want to put her in a position where my kids are going back and forth from school. We can all be very cautious, but you never know.
BASH: Her plea to the superintendent: Make virtual learning a lot smoother for her and her kids.
(on camera): What's your response to that, and how have you worked to fix it?
BRABRAND: We had two weeks where we struggled, and then we had two months where we soared.
I wish we were able to do that out of the gate. We have lessons learned, and we're using those lessons to help us be ready to have a successful fall.
BASH: Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.