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Republicans Seeking to Cut Unemployment Benefits; Trump Cracking Down on Protesters; John Lewis Honored; Interview With Hialeah, Florida Mayor Carlos Hernandez. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 27, 2020 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The national lead now.

In a new scathing letter, the mayor of Miami Beach is calling out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, saying he has been unprepared and has failed Florida's contact tracing response, causing -- quote -- "unconstrained growth" of coronavirus in South Florida.

And he's not the only mayor to go after Governor DeSantis. The state reported almost another 9,000 cases just today, making Florida second in the nation for the highest number of coronavirus cases, as the governor has been trying to put on a positive spin, saying that the numbers have stabilized.

I want to bring in Republican Mayor Carlos Hernandez of Hialeah, Florida, which is near Miami, with a population of around a quarter- million.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

So, Hialeah, for people who don't know, it's in Miami-Dade County, which is Florida's epicenter of the virus in your state. You have said publicly the Governor DeSantis has forgotten your city.

Why? Why do you think that is?

MAYOR CARLOS HERNANDEZ (R), HIALEAH, FLORIDA: Jake, first of all, we are the second largest city in Miami-Dade County. We're the sixth largest city in the state.

And from the beginning of this coronavirus, I have had one conversation with the governor about our needs. Again, I criticized him early on, and maybe he didn't like that, because, from the beginning, we were asking for a site, a testing site here in the Northwest area of Miami-Dade County.

It took for -- months to get one. I also criticized him when the state was having problems with the unemployment benefits, that people were not able to get into computer system for weeks. Here in the city, we actually had to do a printout and print thousands and thousands of these benefits applications, so people could come and pick him up, and send them to the state. And, again, I have been clear about he has never talked to me. We at the beginning and now we're one of the cities with the most -- that is most effective with the coronavirus. So -- and the last thing was, he had -- a couple of weeks ago, he had a meeting here with some of the mayors here. I was not invited.

I was actually told that I was not welcome because I was not on the list. So, again, sometimes, it feels like we're alone here in the city of Hialeah, which is one of the cities that has been affected the most.

TAPPER: So, I spoke with a different mayor not long ago, who said that the governor, the state has failed when it comes to contact tracing. That's the ability of individual contact tracers to find out who tests positive and find out where they have been to make sure that other people haven't been infected as well.

And this other mayor said that the failure to lead on contact tracing is what has really led to an explosion in cases. Do you agree with that?

HERNANDEZ: That's part of it.

Again, I think that the governor has been late. I think that he sort of like gambled, thinking this was going to go away by itself. But we have this huge problem here. Tracing is a problem. Testing is a problem.

Our hospitals are getting full capacity right now. Actually, we just had a case right now in our city where one of the funeral homes had to bring in a trailer, a freezer, because of how many people are passing away.

So, this is serious right now. We're in a critical situation. And I don't agree if the governor see it any other way.

TAPPER: A new CNN poll shows that 63 percent of Floridians believe that Governor DeSantis could be doing more to fight coronavirus.

You're not only a Floridian. You're a Republican. What do you want Governor DeSantis to do to turn around what's going on? And why do you think he isn't doing it? Why do you think he did, as you put it, this gamble?

HERNANDEZ: You know, that question, he needs to answer. Again, the numbers speak for themselves.

We're in a critical situation, especially here in South Florida. And really what I like to see him is really get ahead of a ball. He's been behind the whole time, with the tracing, with the masks, I mean, everything, he's been behind.

And we really need to get ahead, because this is really getting worse day by day, and it's not going to go away by itself. So, his philosophy from the beginning, I guess, that it was going to go by itself. And here we are in a very critical situation. So, whatever has happened in the past, hey, listen, I'm OK with it. I'm here to serve the people of Hialeah, the people of South Florida.

Let's work together and get this going, because, right now, there's very little communication between the state, the counties, and the cities.

TAPPER: Forty-six hospitals in Florida now say that their intensive care units are either at or almost at capacity, including one of the hospitals in your city, which has only 5 percent capacity remaining.

So, what's happening, if there isn't enough room? Are hospitals in Florida turning patients away?

HERNANDEZ: We haven't gotten to that point yet. And that's where we're behind also.


Where, at the beginning of this, there was a -- actually, in the south part of Miami-Dade County, a temporary hospital was set up. After a month or so was, it never, used, and it was taken -- it was removed. And now I'm asking, when are they going to reopen that or rebuild that temporary hospital, because we're getting to full capacity?

I mean, the hospital here -- we had a press conference here a few days ago where they're actually taking other areas of the hospital to add beds for people to coronavirus. But that's going to come to an end in the next couple of weeks if this growth continues.

And we're behind. We should have that temporary hospital ready to go here in South Dade, the way it was before, but I don't see much happening. That's the truth.

And you said something about Republican, Democrat. This is not about Democrats. It's not about a Republican. This is about leadership. And this is about listening what's happening out there and taking actions as quickly as possible, because every day that you fall behind, it's another day that you have to make up somewhere on the line.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Carlos Hernandez of Hialeah, Florida, thank you so much. Our best wishes to you and the citizens of your city. We really appreciate your time.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: One city's Democratic mayor is warning protesters that they may be playing into President Trump's hands.

Stay with us.


[16:40:58] TAPPER: In our national lead: President Trump is continuing to focus on and perhaps even fuel the already volatile situation between law enforcement and protesters across the country.

The president tweeting that protesters are anarchists who hate our country, the president refusing to distinguish there between the many peaceful protesters and, of course, the ones who are violent.

But leaders in Oakland and Seattle fear that recent violence is giving President Trump exactly what he wants, including in one major city, where police are calling the weekend violence a riot.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov shows us what happened.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger, outrage and frustration across the country, as some cities see clashes, violence and destruction.

In Portland, Oregon, this weekend, demonstrators ripped down the fence surrounding a federal courthouse, that city the focus of a controversial decision earlier this month by the Department of Homeland Security to send in federal officers to arrest and detain protesters, a decision President Trump has repeatedly defended as necessary to restore long order, tweeting: "Their leadership has for months lost control of the anarchists. We must protect federal property and our people."

President Trump has been pushing the law and order messaging for weeks as his poll numbers have slipped.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans want law and order. They demand law and order.

KAFANOV: This morning, he defended the deployment of federal agents, tweeting: "Federal forces are little involved in Seattle, other than we have a large standby team in case of emergency."

Seattle police say they arrested 47 people Saturday during what they called a riot that left 59 officers injured. A peaceful march turned violent, with barricades outside of police headquarters being knocked over in Oakland, California. The mayor of Oakland warning the community they may be playing into the president's hands, saying -- quote -- "Vandalizing our downtown gives Donald Trump the image he wants and the justification he seeks to send federal troops into American cities."

Many demonstrators believe the presence of those agents in their cities are like an occupying force. The protests and violence not limited to the West Coast. In Austin, Texas, a man shot and killed during a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday identified as 28-year-old Garrett Foster.

In Aurora, Colorado, a terrifying scene, when someone drove a jeep into a crowd of protesters. Fortunately, no one was injured. The violence only seeming to fuel President Trump's verbal attacks on the protesters, even calling them terrorists last month.

On Sunday, he tweeted: "The protesters are actually anarchists who hate our country. The line of innocent mothers were a scam."

Those mothers, the so-called Wall of Moms, are real. And they, along with military vets in Portland, formed barriers around the protesters to shield them from authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having the Wall of Moms step up was a way to refocus attention that the most important thing is that we are only lending our bodies to the important work that the black community has been doing.


KAFANOV: The presence and actions of federal paramilitary troops in Portland, against the wishes of city and state leaders, has very much inflamed tensions.

It has brought out a small group of rioters, but, keep in mind, there are hundreds, if not thousands of ordinary citizens who come here day after day to peacefully demand racial justice. Their message, black lives matter -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Lucy Kafanov on the ground in Portland, Oregon, for us, thank you so much.

That extra 600 bucks that was going to unemployed Americans in the middle of this pandemic could now be cut by more than half -- new signs of trouble for the next stimulus bill in Congress.

That story next.



TAPPER: In our money lead: If you were already worried that the Republican Senate trillion-dollar coronavirus relief plan enrolled out today was in trouble, here's just one more sign.

The White House is already floating a smaller kind of plan B. This is a dire situation for millions of Americans whose extra unemployment benefits will expire Friday.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins me now from Capitol Hill.

And, Phil, one of the headlines from this Republican proposal includes cutting this extra unemployment benefits from $600 to $200?


Look, this has been an issue for Republicans really since the first $2.2 trillion economic relief package was passed back in March, the idea that this flat fee on top of the state unemployment benefits would pay some unemployed individuals more not to work than to go back to work.

Republicans have made clear they are not willing to accept that. And what they're going to do in its place is, at least for a two-month period, drop that down to a $200 flat fee and then hope that states will be able to, with their antiquated technology, transfer that over into more of a percentage-based, approximately 75 -- 70 percent of wages.

And this is all part of that trillion-dollar plan. It will include another round of stimulus checks, a second round of small business forgivable loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, about $105 billion for schools.


But, Jake, you hit on the key point. It took Republicans days, almost a full week longer than they expected, to even agree on their own proposal with the White House, working through the weekend just to get to this point. It's being rolled out on the Senate floor right now.

But, obviously, nothing happens without Democrats. There are a number of steps to go, regardless of where Republicans start today.

TAPPER: Well, with so many of these items running out by the end of the week, where are Democrats on this? Are they willing to work with Republicans just to get something in relief to these needy individuals, or where are they exactly?

MATTINGLY: Look, Jake, Democrats say that they have been acting with urgency for months. They passed their $3 trillion proposal, their opening offer back in May, have been waiting for a Republican proposal.

And earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said rather bluntly, once the Republican proposal comes out, she wants all of the key negotiators on the Republican side to meet in her office 30 minutes later to start those urgent negotiations.

Well, the top White House negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, they will indeed be in the speaker's office tonight at 6:00 p.m. Everybody knows the deadlines. They know there's a need for urgency. The question right now is, can they meet that urgency, Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

A symbolic passing of the torch, as the remains of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis passes through Black Lives Matter Plaza -- how the nation's capital is saying goodbye to a civil rights hero.



TAPPER: A ceremony just wrapped up at the U.S. Capitol for the man known there as the conscience of Congress, the late civil rights hero and Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

Earlier, a procession with his casket past key sites, noting his legacy, pausing at the memorial for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a friend of Lewis' and a fellow civil rights leader.

The motorcade stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, where Lewis helped organized the 1963 March on Washington, where he spoke. The procession also stopped at Black Lives Matter Plaza, where Lewis made his last public appearance last month.

CNN's Dana Bash joins me now live at the U.S. Capitol, where the casket of Lewis is now.

Dana, the ceremony at the Capitol there had one resoundingly theme, that John Lewis cared deeply about the United States of America.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, that he cared deeply about the country, so much that he was willing to be beaten almost to death on more than one occasion in order to change it in the way that he and many, many others demanded that people deserved for it to be, which is much more of a true democracy.

He obviously passed away without realizing the changes, the full changes, like the Voting Rights Act that was a big part of it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, without getting that fixed.

But, by and large, what he did today is something that we don't see very much in Washington these days, Jake, which is bringing -- genuinely bringing together Republicans and Democrats, and not just that.

If you look at the screen, Sonia Sotomayor, she is obviously a person of color who was nominated and approved to be a Supreme Court justice. You can bet that someone like her looks to John Lewis and says thank you for changing America.

She came to pay her respects. We are going to see others like that, as we see that he is going to be lying in state over the next 24 hours or so.

But, as I mentioned bringing people together, Pelosi, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, both spoke quite eloquently and from the heart about John Lewis today.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Here in Congress, John was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. We knew that he always worked on the side of the angels, and now we know that he is with them.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As his friend Dr. King once put it, we could build a community at peace with itself. Today, we pray and trust that this peacemaker himself now rests in peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And, Jake, both Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi said that they were at the March on Washington, where a 23-year-old, the youngest speaker, John Lewis spoke all those years ago.

TAPPER: And of the six days of memorials for John Lewis, despite the outpouring, bipartisan and bicameral, there is one notable name not listed on any public itinerary, at least as of now, Dana, President Trump.

And, as of now, we have no indication that's going to change.

BASH: We don't. And we don't believe it is going to change.

In fact, the president was asked today if he was going to come, and he said no. There was no love lost between those two. As you know, John Lewis, very publicly boycotted President Trump's inauguration. And many members of Congress felt comfortable that they could do the same.

I will tell you, Joe Biden and Mike Pence are both expected, though, to come and pay their respects later today.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thank you for watching.

I will see you here tomorrow.