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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Miami, Florida, Mayor Francis Suarez (R); Florida Governor Concealing COVID-19 School Data?; Biden Courts Latino Vote; California Manhunt. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:31:04]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Developing right now in our national lead: a massive manhunt for the criminal who ambushed and shot two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in cold blood.

This video may be disturbing to watch, but, in it, you can see the suspect walk up to their official vehicle Saturday night, fire multiple shots, and take off.

A department official says both deputies, a 31-year-old mother and a 24-year-old man, were critically injured, but are out of surgery.

CNN's Sara Sidner joins me now live from Los Angeles.

And, Sara, what do we know about the condition of the deputies today, as well as the frantic search for the suspect?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have just learned, Jake that the deputies are still in critical condition here at the hospital that you see behind me, struggling to survive after being shot multiple times.

We understand from the sheriff that one of the deputies was shot in the face, the other in the head and in the arm as well. And at one point, this -- one of the deputies, this 31-year-old and a mom, ended up helping put a tourniquet on her 24-year-old partner in this particular case, trying to help save him. He had a terrible wound to the arm.

When you look at this video, though, it is chilling. You see the suspects walking up to the deputies' vehicle. They are sitting outside of a metro station here in Compton. And he just fires off shots. And we're saying he because they have given a very, very vague description that it was definitely a male shooter in this particular case.

But they're also warning people that, when you look at this video -- and they release it, obviously, hoping to try and get some leads as to who this person might be -- that the video is coming from the metro's surveillance camera, and that surveillance camera is a bit of a fish- eye lens. And so you're getting a bit of a distorted picture of what the person actually looks like.

It looks like the person is very short. All of this is a bit distorted from the lens. But these two deputies are fighting for their life right now in the hospital after being shot multiple times in what a sheriff is calling an ambush -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Sara, some shocking news.

After the two deputies were rushed into surgery, there were actual protesters outside the hospital, people saying that they wanted the officers to die?

SIDNER: Yes, there was about four or five, maybe six people who came out. And you could hear them yelling at police. They were protesting police. And you did hear one of them say that he hoped the officers die, and also cursing at police.

And we found out and figured out which group that was, because they identified themselves. The person said he was with the L.A. African Town Coalition. And he explained in a subsequent post on Facebook that this was -- he hopes that this was in retaliation to the number of people that LASD had shot here.

And so you can see this just horrific situation happening. And then they're trying and fighting for their lives and you have people outside wishing for their death. The mayor saying there is absolutely no place for this here in Los Angeles -- Jake.

TAPPER: Absolutely disgusting.

Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

Our thoughts and prayers, obviously, with those two sheriff's deputies.

Joe Biden says the gloves are off in the fight for key voters in a critical state -- how that has impacted his travel plans. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:42]

TAPPER: In our 2020 lead: Tomorrow, Joe Biden will make his first visit to Florida, as the official Democratic presidential nominee, after polls show the race tightening in that electoral-rich state and show Biden struggling there with Latino voters.

The latest NBC/Marist poll showed President Trump edging out Biden with Florida Latinos 50 percent to Biden's 46 percent. Hillary Clinton lost Florida, but she won Latino voters there handily.

CNN's M.J. Lee is in Wilmington, Delaware, ahead of Biden's trip to Florida tomorrow.

And, M.J. the Biden campaign making Hispanic outreach a main objective of this trip.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: They are, Jake. And we should also note that this is Joe Biden's first trip to Florida

as the Democratic nominee for president. And that's right. This is going to be his focus tomorrow. And what the campaign says their strategy is right now is, of course, working on Latino outreach in the states that you would expect.

We are talking about states like Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, but they also say that they want to recognize that there are plenty of other states where there are growing Latino populations. So, they said that they want to make sure states like Georgia, Iowa, and Michigan do not get left behind.

And then, of course, it's things like growing the number of Spanish- speaking surrogates that the campaign has and making sure that they are investing in Spanish-language ads.

[16:40:01]

Biden just wrapped up a speech here in Wilmington, Delaware. And as he was walking out, reporters asked him about his trip tomorrow. And this is what he said: "I will talk about how I am going to work like the devil to make sure I turn every Latino and Hispanic vote."

He also said that his Hispanic support overall is better than Donald Trump's. But he conceded he needs to get those numbers up among Latino voters.

TAPPER: It's definitely a weak spot.

And, also, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, once a competitor against Biden in the Democratic primaries, is now committing to spend $100 million in Florida specifically to help Biden. Is he going to spend the money on Latino-focused ads? Do we even have any idea how he's going to spend that money?

LEE: Well, we're going to get the answer to that in the coming weeks, see exactly how they spend that money.

But this is a huge sum of money. That is not an overstatement. And it is the kind of money that could help make the difference in a huge state like Florida, where the media market is very expensive. It is important to note, though, Jake, that this isn't just about Florida. This obviously frees up the Biden campaign to use their resources to target other battleground states that are not just Florida, so certainly a boon for the Biden campaign right now that this huge amount of cash influx is going into their Florida operation.

TAPPER: All right, M.J., thanks so much.

I want to bring in our panel on this.

Let me start with Laura Barron-Lopez.

Laura, today marks 50 days until the election, seven weeks as of tomorrow. That's less than two months. Will Biden's Latino outreach in a state such as Florida, basically starting now, is there a risk that it's too little, too late?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in a state like Florida, it's all about the margins, Jake.

So, I mean, there's definitely time and both campaigns are fighting for Latino voters in that state. Trump clearly has the upper hand with Cubans that are predominantly Republican, Venezuelans who also lean Republican.

There's also a sizable Puerto Rican population in the state. And they are more inclined to vote Democratic. The campaign has released ads in Florida, Spanish-language ones, that are very specific in terms of the accents of the Latinos that are featured because, they're trying to show that they're paying attention to the diversity of the Latino population there.

TAPPER: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: But, again, there are issues. And the polls are showing that.

So Biden's trip there is trying to make up for that. The campaign also held a call yesterday where they were trying to show that they're very much focused on Latino voters.

TAPPER: Toluse, in 2016, Trump won Florida, but exit polls showed that Hillary Clinton won 62 percent of the Latino vote in that state, compared with Trump's 35 percent.

If recent polls reflect reality, most Latino voters won't be voting for Biden at all. They will be voting for Trump.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that could be a big problem for Joe Biden, just because Florida is always a very close state.

All campaigns try to sort of shave at the margins of the different voter groups. It's a very diverse state. And even the Hispanic community in Florida, as Laura was saying, is incredibly diverse. And if President Trump is winning overall, that will make it very hard for Joe Biden to eke out a win in Florida, which is expected to be very close, down to the wire.

Now, Biden is doing well with seniors. He's trying to improve also with African-American voters and white suburban voters. But without sort of getting to the Hispanic vote and really turning out as many Democratic Hispanic voters as possible, it could be hard for him to win Florida.

I think that's part of the reason he's going down to the state tomorrow. And I think you can expect to see a lot of Joe Biden, a lot of Kamala Harris, and a lot of Biden campaign staffers and surrogates in Florida, speaking to those Florida voters, trying to get them to turn out in high numbers.

TAPPER: Yes, I have seen that movie before. Laura, your publication, Politico, reported today that disinformation

campaigns and conspiracy theories about Joe Biden and the Democrats are flooding Florida Latino communities. Tell us about that.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes.

So it appears that a lot of this disinformation, as well as QAnon conspiracy theories -- those are conspiracy theories that have been promoted by the president himself. He's promoted QAnon supporters or followers.

But it's really prevalent on WhatsApp, which is a text messaging app that is heavily used among the Latino and immigrant community. And it's also been prevalent on Spanish-language radio. And as one Democratic source in Florida told me, if it infects Spanish-language radio, then that could have an impact on Latino voters.

Again, the vast majority of the voters -- of the Latinos that it appears to be influencing are ones that lean Republican, Cubans and Venezuelans, but also Colombians, which are about split in terms of how they vote for Democrats and Republican.

So it's certainly something that a number of Democrats are paying attention to. I asked some Latino sources, Democratic sources in other states like Arizona if they're seeing things at this level that they are in Florida, and they said, no, not so far, not beyond the disinformation and conspiracy theories that we have seen largely across the country in terms of coronavirus.

[16:45:06]

They haven't seen it to the level that it's permeating Latinos in Florida.

TAPPER: Let's be clear, though. Let's call it what it is. It's cheating. When you put out conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns to target voting populations, that's cheating. That's not how elections are supposed to be done.

Toluse, right now, President Trump is headed to Arizona for a roundtable with Latinos. I want you to take a listen to what he heard at a similar event in Las Vegas yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have done more for this country in my lifetime than any other president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The law and order that you propose, it's what we want in all our states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The PPP, the disaster loan, me personally, there's no way that my business would still be alive if it wasn't for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So, as the president has to Arizona, a new CBS poll shows that

he and Biden are near even statewide. Biden has 47 percent, compared to Trump's 44 percent. That's within the margin of error, which is 3.9 percentage points.

Arizona typically votes Republican. This year, it is a battleground state. What do you make of that?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, no Democrat has won Arizona at the presidential level for the past 24 years.

So it would be a swing state in which Democrats are sort of fighting uphill. Now, we have seen in recent elections suburban voters really flee the Republican Party. And that's what Joe Biden is relying on. That's part of the reason President Trump is there this week and this weekend.

He's trying to spend a lot of time directly trying to increase the Hispanic vote, trying to increase his numbers when it comes to suburban voters, talking about those business issues like the PPP loan. The president is not giving up on Arizona, even though there have been some polls showing Joe Biden way ahead.

I think, as we get closer to Election Day, we're likely to see those numbers tighten. And Arizona, just like Florida, is one of those states where both campaigns see it as key to their route to 270 votes. And both campaigns are fighting to try to make sure that they can secure Arizona's electoral votes by looking at the diverse community in the state, including Hispanic voters, college-educated white voters, suburban voters, and even the few rural voters who remain in the state.

TAPPER: Yes.

Toluse, Laura, thank you so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

And speaking of Florida, the governor there asking school districts not to release key COVID-19 data, which could help parents decide what to do with their kids.

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:52:08]

TAPPER: In our national lead today: Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is facing pressure to disclose coronavirus cases school by school in his state.

Overall, there has been a 26 percent increase in cases involving children, but what's not clear is how many of those children returned to in-person learning when it started a month ago in Florida.

And now CNN's Rosa Flores is pressing Governor DeSantis for answers, as parents are forced to make tough decisions with not all the information they need.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Classrooms like these are what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been pushing for, for months.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Because the risk, fortunately, for kids is extremely, extremely low.

FLORES: But he did not present a statewide safety plan. And more than a month into face-to-face learning, he has not released COVID-19 data on school.

For families like the Richardsons, the lack of information made it difficult to decide between virtual and in-person schooling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was stressful.

REESE RICHARDSON, STUDENT: It was -- even up to the last second, I was still having second thoughts.

FLORES: Reese Richardson started seventh grade in-person at Martin County Public Schools, one of the first districts to reopen in the state.

One day after reopening, an entire classroom and the district was placed under quarantine and hundreds more students just days later. CNN was given access to Jensen Beach Elementary School, where there has not been an outbreak. The halls are marked to facilitate social distancing. The dining area is disinfected after every use.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys.

FLORES: But the desks are not six feet apart because there is not enough room.

JAMIE MCNEALY, TEACHER: If we took the bookshelves and things out, I might be able to space them out more. The superintendent says parents were warned.

LAURIE GAYLORD, SUPERINTENDENT, MARTIN COUNTY, FLORIDA, SCHOOL DISTRICT: Yes, that was information that was put up right up front.

FLORES: Unlike the state, the Martin County school district does release its own COVID-19 data. So far, it's reported 23 positive or presumed positive cases and has quarantined about 510 students.

(on camera): Why has the state not released a statewide COVID-19 death..

DESANTIS: Every single day, on the -- when you get the...

(CROSSTALK)

DESANTIS: Excuse me.

FLORES: But specifically for school districts, Governor.

DESANTIS: Excuse me. When you get the daily report, you can see by age how every new positive case is broken out.

FLORES (voice-over): State data shows a 26 percent increase in cases among children under 18 since classes started, and the overall positivity rate is 14.3 percent.

The pandemic has also killed eight children in Florida, including a 9- year-old with no preexisting conditions. Now Florida's largest teachers union is running TV ads to pressure DeSantis to release the data.

ANDREW SPAR, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: When we deny that information, it just causes the spread to grow much faster.

[16:55:01]

FLORES: Reese stopped going into school after a week-and-a-half.

RICHARDSON: Kids were taking off their masks. They were touching. They were close in the halls.

FLORES: Last week, 40 students at her school were quarantined.

Until Florida gets a handle on the COVID-19 situation in schools, the Richardsons say they're staying home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: Now, we did find one school district who said that the state pushed back on them for releasing this information.

But as you saw in this piece, school districts are releasing the information anyway. Now, despite the fact that the state of Florida has not released school-specific data, Governor Ron DeSantis has just moved Miami-Dade County into phase two of the reopening plan.

And, Jake, what that means is, that paves the way for Miami-Dade County Public Schools to reopen. And that is the largest school district in this state -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores, great reporting.

Thank you so much.

Let's now discuss this with the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, who's a Republican.

Mayor Suarez, I want to get to phase two in a second, but dozens of classrooms, some entire schools have been temporarily closed in your state because of coronavirus outbreaks. I don't understand why Governor DeSantis would order school districts, some of them, to stop releasing school-specific data. I know he cited privacy issues.

But you don't have to name the kids who have it. Isn't this a case where the more information the public has, the better?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: I would think so.

As a parent, I think transparency throughout this entire COVID crisis has been a positive tool, so that people can make the very best decisions for their health and for the health of their children.

Obviously, knowing what school, where someone is infected in a school is something that's going to motivate parents to decide whether or not the child should be attending in-person learning at that school.

So, to me, I think, as a parent, that'd be information that I would want to know. If someone was sick at my son's school, I would certainly want to know that.

TAPPER: Right? We don't need to know who it is or how old they are or what class they're in. It just -- it's good to know, so that we can make, as parents, these decisions.

Let's talk about Miami-Dade County. Your county was able to choose virtual learning because of the high case count in July. Now that case numbers have gone down and the county of Miami-Dade is entering phase two of reopening, there's going to have to be a decision about whether schools will reopen in-person, in-class learning.

What will that decision be? Would you be comfortable, based on what the levels are now, sending your children to the classroom?

SUAREZ: Yes, and let me give you a little perspective of where we were and where we are now.

We were at 3,500 new cases per day just over a month ago, and we had a positivity rate over 20 percent. Just a couple days ago, our positivity rate was close to 5 percent. And, yesterday, we had 250 new cases, so less than one-tenth of the total amount that we had at the peak.

So I think things have improved dramatically. The superintendent had originally targeted October 5. That was his original target date. He had an eight-point criteria that he was going to utilize to determine whether or not it would be safe to open schools.

He has -- he has said publicly that that criteria has been met. But he has not yet decided what day, if any day before October 5, in-person learning will occur.

And I do know that parents have been very frustrated, whether you're a public school or private school student, with virtual learning. It's been very, very difficult for all parents, irrespective of your socioeconomic class.

TAPPER: Yes, look, it's really tough. I get it, but 5 percent is still not low in terms of the infection rate.

What do you think, as a parent? What are you going to do with your kids? SUAREZ: We're -- it's a struggle. It's been tough, obviously, to have

our child learning virtually, because it's difficult. We both have the ability to be home a lot of the time, but it's still very, very difficult.

TAPPER: Yes, it sucks.

(CROSSTALK)

SUAREZ: Yes, we're probably going to -- we're probably going to have him -- our school is allowing him to go. And it's not a public school. It's a private schools. It's allowing him to go one week on, one week off. So we're going to try that.

If something -- if we feel in any way that he's in jeopardy or anything like that, obviously, we have the ability to have him go virtual. So that's probably what we're going to go for now.

TAPPER: I wish that there was testing at the level that health experts said we needed to be at this point, so that your kids and my kids could get tested and have all their classmates and teachers and faculty and school support tested, at least every few days or something.

That would be really helpful, but we're not there.

SUAREZ: Yes, that would be really helpful.

And, also, the contact tracing has not been where it's at. And I have been working with all the experts from Hopkins and across the country to try to find app-based solutions that make contact tracing easier.

We're using a horse-and-buggy system that hasn't worked anywhere in the country very effectively. So, contact tracing is not where it should be. And, certainly, testing, had we been able to get testing like some of our professional athletes, it'd be better for our children.

TAPPER: Yes, if only, if only as good as our professional athletes.

Mayor Francis Suarez, thank you. Best of luck to everybody in Miami- Dade. Best of luck to you and your family.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.