Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Stuart Appelbaum, President, RWDS Union, Discusses Why Employees Should Not be Responsible for Enforcing Mask Use. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 14:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: With the 2020 election more than three months away, she made a dire statement today that the administration is withholding information on election security from the public.

To talk about this remark, I want to bring in Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And thank you, Speaker, for being with us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My pleasure to be with you.

Yesterday, we laid John Lewis to rest. Now we have to keep his ideas alive.

KEILAR: And can you tell us a little bit about what information is being withheld?

And I certainly have a question for you about John Lewis for sure.

But I want to get to this information about election security. What information do you think is being withheld?

PELOSI: Not being withheld. I'm talking about what we have said for weeks.

That Mr. Schumer and I and the chair of the -- Adam Schiff, chair of the Intelligence Committee, the ranking vice chair, I guess they call it in the Senate, Mike Warner, and I sent a letter weeks ago, saying we thought the American people should have a right to the information regarding Russian interference in our elections.

That information is being withheld. And therefore, won't be able to disclose it here. But it has been well known that the Russians interfered majorly in the 2016 elections.


Since then, the Intelligence Community has told us they're 24/7, being involved. And there's very specific ways that I'm not at liberty to divulge what we think the Intelligence Committee can do --


PELOSI: -- without jeopardizing sources and methods.

KEILAR: And we certainly understand you cannot divulge that.

We did hear from the attorney general this week. And he affirmed, yes, 2016 Russia meddled in the election and said we should assume they're doing it in 2020. We've heard intel assessments and reporting of intel assessments about that.

But I guess, then I can ask you this. What is the reason for that information not being more broadly shared with Americans?

PELOSI: I don't know. And that's a question we're asking the Intelligence Community.

What they put out, response to our letter was bear leads. It was a poor excuse.

Truth matters. The American people have a right to know.

And their response to us, they said American people have to have the information so they can make an informed judgment in the election. And yet, they're withholding information that would enable them to have an informed judgment about the election.


PELOSI: This is very serious. It's about our democracy. We're very disappointed in what they conveyed, how they treated the information they conveyed this morning to members.

KEILAR: You mentioned yesterday laying John Lewis to rest. I want to play some sound of President Trump, who was just asked about former President Barack Obama's eulogy at John Lewis's funeral, which was received very well by Democrats, but certainly not by Republicans.

Here's what President Trump just said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A universal mail-in are a disaster. You're going to see an election that -- and we're going to do very well in the election. Nobody wants that date more than me. I wish we could move it up, OK. Move it up.

But you're not prepared for what they're doing. And they're using COVID. They're using the China virus.

China must be very happy about it because they hit us with a virus and now they screw up an election like you will never see. You watch what happens.


KEILAR: All right. I'm sorry about that. I wanted to ask you about something he said about the eulogy.

But let's go back what the president is saying about mail-in ballots and delaying the election. You know he tweeted the suggestion it could be delayed. You know, obviously, he doesn't have the authority to do that.

So, what is your concern about what his motive is?

PELOSI: Confusion, distraction. Because yesterday was a report on how the impact of the coronavirus has on the GDP of our country, on the impact on our economy. And what does he want to do but divert attention from that.

And doing so, at the same time, as we're bearing a hero on voting rights, our democracy, he goes out and says something beneath the dignity of the White House. But he does that almost every day, beneath the dignity of the presidency.

So, he said something he knows he doesn't have the authority to do and people around him certainly should. But it's about diversion.

And it's a tactic. And the reason he does it is because the more people hear something like that, the more they're discouraged to vote. Why should I vote? Because it's going to all be confused. They may not count my voted the way I cast it. So, it's a way to suppress the vote.

Again, beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States. I declared this morning that I've known for a long time now that I have more respect for the office of the presidency than the current occupant.

And 95 more days until the election. I would hope in one of those days he would respect the office he holds. The Constitution of the United States, that voting is the life blood of a democracy and not try to suppress the vote, but instead to encourage it.

KEILAR: He was also asked about former President Obama's remarks, his eulogy yesterday, as we talked about at John Lewis's funeral. And what were clear allegations against President Trump that he's targeting minorities and attacking voting rights.

And when he was asked about it, President Trump said, quote, "Well, he did a bad job for minorities. I did much more for minorities than he did. And if you look at the numbers prior to the plague, those numbers came back, you'll see I did a much better job, by far, than President Obama did for African-American, Asians, any group at that you look at. Far better than Obama did."

PELOSI: I don't intend to come on these shows and talk about the, shall we say, wandering of and the notion maundering of the president of the United States. He succeeds because all we do is talk about it. So, why are we talking about this?

[14:40:08] Three presidents praised John Lewis. George Bush, a Republican president, Bill Clinton, President Bill Clinton, President Obama. And Jimmy Carter, President Jimmy Carter sent a letter of respect.

You would think that there would be an ounce in that big frame of decency to say something about the importance of voting in our democracy instead of criticizing somebody else's eulogy.

I have to say, with all the respect in the world for our freedom of the press, which I believe be to the guardian of our democracy -- and I thank you for the great work you're doing -- truth matters in terms of COVID and the rest.

But we spend far too much time asking people what they think about some notion mongering, some stuff that has no prospect of success and doesn't have any relationship to fact, truth, data, evidence that this notion monger is putting forth.

KEILAR: I hear you on that but this is it the president saying it. So we have to ask about it. This is the president who said this.

PELOSI: Well, the fact is we're saying we have a bill called the HEROES Act that is going to be able to get rid of the Trump Virus. This is more than 10 weeks ago.

In that time, nearly 70,000 people had died. Three million people have been added to the list of those that are infected.

This thing is moving like a freight train because of his denial, his delay, his distortion of all of that.

And that is what we should be focusing on, saving the lives of the American people, and let's compare how we intend to do that with other ideas all springing from our scientists.

And not spend our time hung up on, again, the deadly comments of this president of the United States. And just because he said it -- how about we report on the fact that his policies are slamming the economy. How about if we talk about that?


KEILAR: So, let me ask --


PELOSI: Just because he said it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


KEILAR: He's a key part of the negotiations, obviously, when it comes to moving forward on more relief for Americans battling with the economic and health effects of the virus.

And the White House offered a short-term approach of continuing with the $600 additional federal money to go on top of state unemployment insurance payments. And you rejected it.

Explain --


PELOSI: Let's just set the records straight.

KEILAR: Explain --


PELOSI: They made no such offer. So, doesn't accept something as fact just because the White House said it.

They made no such offer. They talked about something for six or seven days. That's not any offer. And it's not anything that they can even pass in the Republican Senate. So, why don't we just try to stipulate to fact.


KEILAR: So, you're saying they made no short-term offer on extending these payments?

And the reason I ask is because it's widely seen as something that I think is significant. Broadly, I think it's seen as significant. But also, it's seen by Democrats as something that you have other priorities as well that you think are important.

And I guess my question is: Why would you -- what would you worry about losing in order to get that short-term assistance for Americans?

PELOSI: First, I think that the important in these discussions to understand what is fact and what is a statement coming from the White House.

Let me just say this. Right now, there's food and security among millions of children in America. For this day, for the 19th straight week, over one million Americans applied for claimed unemployment insurance. Families are concerned about paying the rent.

The virus is a threat to the lives and the livelihood of the American people and they're asking about doing something for a week. That is completely -- first of all, it isn't even real because they can't pass it in the Senate.

We passed our bill. Our bill is passed and it's on the table. Their notion mongering, making up things that they say they're offering and the rest.

But understand this. Passing something for a week without all the other things that should go with it is not any path we go down. It's a public relations stunt on their part. And we're very much concerned about that.

[14:45:11] But just so you -- since you're talking about what they claim to be doing. What they did do yesterday was put on the floor $200 a week. That's what they put forth yesterday, $200 a week. That's not what -- that's so beneath the value of America's work force, their meetings and needs of the American people.


KEILAR: You're saying that's what the White House put on the table?

PELOSI: I'm sorry?

KEILAR: You're saying that's what the White House put on the table?

PELOSI: No, that's what the Senate put in the Senate.


PELOSI: That's what the Senate put in the Senate. So, if we're going to have discussions, let's see where the reality is.


PELOSI: But $200 is their proposal. That is not enough. While they're giving tax breaks to their wealthy friends day in and day out.

They have $150 billion in the CARES Act that is retroactive in terms of the tax advantage for high rollers in the country. They did it in the dark of night. There it is in the bill. We want to undo that. We could use that money for working families in our country.


PELOSI: But I appreciate your line of questioning because it gives me an opportunity to say perhaps you mistook them for someone who cared about these people. That's not where their priorities lie. And that's where their legislation, what their legislation indicates.

We're having our conversations. We'll find our common ground. In every bill that we've had, we've had to turn what they're talking about upside down to spring from the needs of the people, rather than trickle down from the elites. And this is --


PELOSI: -- this is very serious because --


PELOSI: -- it's livelihoods.

KEILAR: It is. Of course.

You're negotiating with the White House and Senate Republicans. And to that end -- and they're offering, it appears, different things. And I know this is a moving target, these negotiations. But as you're dealing with the White House, you met with Mark Meadows,

the chief of staff, and you knew him previously as a member of Congress. Do you trust him in these negotiations?

PELOSI: What I trust is our meeting the needs of the American people. When they come to terms with that, we'll have an agreement.

I think we will have an agreement at some point because it's very necessary. It's very necessary for having a strategic plan on testing so we can open our economy. And --


KEILAR: Do you trust him as a negotiator, Speaker?

PELOSI: That's not an appropriate question for you to ask.

I will say this --


KEILAR: How is that not appropriate if you're negotiating with him, you must be able to trust him in order to negotiate with him --


PELOSI: Why would I have to trust him? He's a representative of the president. That's who the president sent. President Trump trusts him. That's what that -- that's the relationship.

It's a question of where we can pragmatically come to terms on an agreement. The president trusts him. He sends him in the room. We assume he's speaking for the president.

Although, they all have to go running back and ask the president this, that, or the other thing. But that's OK. That's the way it is. I'm not complaining about that.

What I am complaining about is they don't have shared values and they want to wave some -- they have not -- you're also inference that I'm drawing from what you're saying is these offers he's making. They don't exist. They don't exist.

So, let me just say this. So $600 is a number that families need to succeed. It's kept many people out of poverty. There's a number that is also something that makes sense in most of the country.

They're trying to say these people are just taking that money and staying home instead of going to work. That is disrespectful.


PELOSI: And we have the data to prove it isn't even true.


PELOSI: I'm sorry?

KEILAR: You want it attached to a more comprehensive proposal, not just --


PELOSI: And we want a proposal --


PELOSI: -- that honors our heroes, our men and women in health care, whatever, teachers, transportation, sanitation, first responders, food suppliers. They work for state and local government. We're honoring our heroes. We have no right to honor them if we're not willing to pay them.

Secondly, we are saying open our economy by having testing, tracing, treatment, separation, masks, sanitation and the rest. We don't have a virus until we do. We have the tools that contain the spread of this.


Third, we want money in the pockets of the American people. We don't want to say -- and I'll leave you with this thought -- we're not saying to the American people, we have a terrible virus, it is spiking, it is spreading. And we're going to give you a cut in the benefit you have received attached to this virus.


KEILAR: I do want to ask you --


PELOSI: -- a cut in the benefit. That is what they're offering to the American people. We cannot let that happen.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, because, obviously, look, Congress can't do its job unless it stays well enough. And that really hit home this week when Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID, someone who has not worn a mask.

You this week decided to make masks mandatory on the floor. There has not been widespread available testing on Capitol Hill. I know that you say that is the purview of the physician's office --

PELOSI: It is.

KEILAR: -- there in the capitol.

But look, with all due respect, you are the speaker. And for folks familiar with your leadership style, I think the expectation is that if you wanted that testing and that were a priority for you, it is something that would happen.

Is that something that is going to happen. PELOSI: That is not true.

KEILAR: And also do you wish that on the floor you had made masks mandatory previously?

PELOSI: Well, what is important to know about masks, we ask people to wear masks and in committees and all of the rest.

But what is important about the mask requirement is enforcement. And until we could get the go ahead that we would have enforcement from the capitol police, it could only be a recommendation.

But now we have their approval to say it is a requirement and that people will not be allowed on to the floor of the House if they don't have a mask on. And if they don't have a mask we have one for them. And if they take their mask off, they'll be asked to leave.

So it is not just about what I want. It is about what is enforceable.

Secondly, in terms of a physician, it may sound strange to you, I think. This is about science. It is what the doctors tell us what we need to do. It is not that I say so, so that I could come on a show and say I called for testing. It is not just about testing members of Congress. We have the support staff. There are 20,000 people who make the Congress function. Now they're not all there now because of the coronavirus. But thousands are.

So it is not just about us and why should we take precedence over people out there, especially in the minority communities who don't have access to testing.

And that takes us back to science. And what we want the president want to do is to have the Defense Production Act to produce the equipment that enables us to have enough tests for everybody that wants to be tested to be tested and for the machinery that -- equipment to get a result from the test in a shorter period of time than one week and have the tracing, therefore, that would go with that.

So this is about science. It is not about, you're the speaker, you could make it up. We have to act in a way that is scientific.

And somehow or other, the Republicans have an aversion to science and to governance. But we have to respect the role of both in all of this. Those are the tools to stop the spread of the virus, which is moving like a freight train.

And it is about lives. It's about livelihood. And it's about the life of our democracy. When we have to have -- we don't want people to have to make a choice between voting or jeopardizing their health because of the coronavirus.

This is all very important. And we'll get our job done. We have had four bipartisan bills before. The need is only greater now because of the increased number of those infected.

And sadly, today, on the floor, we had a motion -- a moment of silence for 150,000 Americans who have died of the coronavirus. Very sad. We mourned John Lewis. But as he said to me before he left us, this is one life we're mourning, and 150,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and more to come.

Let's have a lot of sympathy for those people and prevent more of that from happening. We can do it. We have the tools. We have to look to science for the best possible route. That is what we intend to do.

KEILAR: But you don't wish that you had put a mandate for masks on the floor sooner?

PELOSI: No. We couldn't do it until we had enforcement. We asked people to do that. We asked them not to come to the floor without it.

But now we have the enforcement authority that -- not only on the floor of the House, but, by their own authority, then the capitol police and that could say that that holds true for other congressional buildings and rooms in the capitol complex. They have an authority that is there.


But if they put out, when I first said the first mask requirement, that they didn't intend to enforcement it. Now they will.


PELOSI: The Gohmert thing really got the fear of the Lord into a lot of people, sadly.

KEILAR: All right, Speaker Pelosi, we really appreciate your time. Thank you for being generous with it.

PELOSI: You're welcome. My pleasure. Thank you.

KEILAR: As stores are trying to survive the pandemic, many are clinging to mask mandates to keep the doors open. Some of the nation's largest retailers require masks but workers say the requirement puts them at risk as they try to enforce the policy.

The leader of the nation's largest union of retail workers is calling on companies to hire security staff to enforce their policies.

We have Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who is here with me now.

Thank you so much for taking time on this.

You've been in contact with many of your union members. We've seen a lot of stories about how tough this is for them enforcing the mask policies. What are they saying?

STUART APPELBAUM, PRESIDENT, RETAIL, WHOLESALE AND DEPARTMENT STORE UNION: Well, I think, first of all, we have to recognize that it is the employers' responsibility to provide a safe workplace. And that means everybody has to be wearing masks. Some retailers say they have a policy now, but they're not enforcing

it. Similar to what the speaker just said. If you do not enforce a requirement, there's no requirement.

Workers should not be the ones enforcing it. It is the retailer's responsibility. They need to have managers doing it, they need to have security doing it, not the workers.

KEILAR: So managers and security. And does that mean that security needs to be hired? What are you looking for here?

APPELBAUM: If there isn't sufficient security or managers to enforce the requirement, then they need to hire more personnel.

When workers go to work, they expect they'll have a safe workplace. It is unreasonable expectation to think that a retail worker is going to go to work and put their life on the line. The retailer has to make sure everybody is wearing a face mask.

KEILAR: How can companies enforce these policies if a swath of the population is refusing to comply?

APPELBAUM: I think that they enforce many policies. They require people to wear shoes. They require people to wear shirts. It is even more important that they wear face masks.

They have the responsibility to say we are not going to put our employees and even our customers in danger because people are not wearing face masks.

They have to wear face masks and retailers have to enforce it. It is a matter of life and death.

KEILAR: Stuart, thank you so much for coming on. We really appreciate it. Stuart Appelbaum.

And our special coverage will continue now with Brooke Baldwin right after this.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You're watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

New evidence this afternoon that we are nowhere close to getting a grip on this coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization just revealed that a record number of new cases, nearly 300,000, were reported around the world in the last 24 hours. More than 17 million people globally have now been infected.

And here in the United States, the situation is just as bleak. The U.S. is on the verge of surpassing 4.5 million cases today after once again topping 60,000 new cases on Thursday.

[15:00:04] Even more troubling, more than 1,200 Americans were killed by the virus yesterday alone as the daily death toll exceeded 1,000 for the eighth consecutive day.