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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Soon: DeSantis Launches Presidential Bid On Twitter; Trump, Allies Plan Effort To Upend DeSantis' Announcement; The Atlantic: "Twitter Is A Far-Right Social Network"; Negotiations Signal They're No Closer To A Deal On Debt Ceiling; Rep. Drew Ferguson, (R-GA), Is Interviewed About Debt Ceiling; Rep. Brendan Boyle, (D-PA), Is Interviewed About Debt Ceiling; Florida School Limits Access To Inaugural Poem After A Parent's Complaint; Strongest Storm In Decades Slams Guam. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This hour, we're just moments away from the biggest threat to Donald Trump's winning the Republican presidential nomination, officially announcing his 2024 bid, at least based on today's polls. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's big reveal will come during a live audio event on Twitter with Elon Musk at 06:00 p.m. Eastern.

Trump has focused his attacks entirely on DeSantis and is even attempting to counter program DeSantis's Twitter event. The big question, will Trump used this moment to make his return to Twitter? Let's go straight to CNN's Steve Contorno, who's following DeSantis's upcoming announcement live from Miami.

Steve, what are we expecting from this audio event on Twitter with Elon Musk?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jake, Ron DeSantis has already filed the paperwork to run for president this afternoon. So all that is left for him to do is to say the words, I'm running for president. And we expect him to do that tonight at this virtual town hall with Elon Musk.

The event will start in about an hour and last for about an hour. And during that time, he will take questions, he will give a statement, and he will finally enter this race.

He has spent months and months in this slow rollout. He's been on the road, he's had a book tour, he's done international travel, and now it becomes official. His campaign has been hyping this moment for the last couple of days, including posting this video to Twitter on the social media accounts of Casey DeSantis, his wife.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Do I have the courage? Is it worth the sacrifice? America has been worth it every single time.


CONTORNO: Now, DeSantis also took care of a bit of housekeeping. Today, he officially signed a bill that makes clear that he does not have to resign his current office in order to run for president. That is a quirk in Florida law that requires that for most candidates. However, they have made an exception for Ron DeSantis, and he assigns it into law today.

TAPPER: Once DeSantis makes the announcement in about an hour, then what? What happens next?

CONTORNO: Well, he has assembled 100 of his donors in a conference room in Miami, at a hotel here, and he is -- and they are expected to immediately start raising money. They are -- some of them are meeting tonight. Tomorrow, a big group of them will actually gather with DeSantis, and he will give them the go ahead to start making those calls.

And then from there, he will hit the campaign trail. We expect him to mount an aggressive campaign to immediately start to address the concerns that he is not ready to run for president, that his agenda has been too divisive, that he is not clear eyed about the challenge of taking on Trump.

He has been working behind the scenes with donors to quiet some of those concerns, and now is the time for him to address them publicly as he officially becomes this candidate who is supposed to take on Donald Trump and wrestle the future of the party away from him, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Steve Contorno in Miami, thanks so much.

Let's discuss with our team here. And, Kaitlan, let me start with you. DeSantis has had a rocky few months as a presidential prospect, and Trump has been able to widen his polling lead over the Florida governor by a significant margin. What do you think DeSantis needs to do today and going forward to try to recapture some of the momentum in the race that we saw him have earlier?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, what we know, Jake, is he has established himself. He's got a strong national name I.D., he has a lot of money, as Steve was noting there. But the key here and what is going to change is how he distinguishes himself from Trump in a party that is still so dominated by him.

And you know, now that he is making it official, when he's been asked in recent months and weeks, as he was when he was on that trip to Japan back at the end of April about those poll numbers and the fact that there is about an average of a 30 point difference between him and Trump, he said, well, I'm not a candidate yet.

Well, of course, today he becomes one official. He became one yesterday. And so that is the question here is how he distinguishes himself from Trump without alienating his voters, but shows that he can still be, you know, that dominant force in the Republican Party that he was once seen as. That is obviously going to be the biggest test for him going forward. He's been polishing up his stump speech. He'll be trying that out on the campaign trail. I think it obviously remains to be seen what it looks like now that he is officially in the race.

TAPPER: And David, DeSantis regularly takes questions from Florida reporters wherever he is. But when it comes to longer interviews, he pretty much sticks to friendly outlets like Fox. Even today, he's speaking with Elon Musk, who's already really kind of expressed some support, at least tacitly, for DeSantis.

And then he's going to talk to Trey Gowdy on Fox, a former republican colleague of his from when he was a Republican in the House. Do you think he needs to step outside of this bubble for -- and do more longer interviews and such?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Yes, 100 percent, he's going to have to do that, you're correct. People do know Ron DeSantis across the United States, but he's really going to be out on the stump introducing himself to people, introducing himself, his ideas, who he is as a person. He gives a great speech.

He's a very bright guy, but people are going to want to see if he has it that intangible it. Is he likable? Can he exchange and sit down and have an exchange with somebody to diner in New Hampshire or in Iowa where the camera is glaring, not being kicked out, not having the media leave, but having the media stay there and watch the interchange?


People are going to want to see that, and he's going to need to do lots of that. Say what you want about Donald Trump. He is not shy with the media. He walks up to the rope line, takes questions from unfriendly reporters, and takes lots of questions and give and take at every off the record stop he does. So, I think people are going to be judging Governor DeSantis against Donald Trump and others who are in the race doing that exact same thing, Jake.

TAPPER: And Karen, DeSantis, we should point out he won reelection handily in November, a nearly 20 point win in a state that's normally known for razor thin margins. He even won the Latino vote by 18 points. He won Democratic stronghold, Miami-Dade County. I mean, if he's able to replicate that nationally, that's -- and that's a big if, but still, I mean, that's a threat to Democrats.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SR. ADVISER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Well, it is, but again, I think the next 24 hours are critically important for Ron DeSantis, because again, the hype is meeting the hype, right? There was so much hype about his candidacy, and then we heard from within Republican ranks some disappointment.

And so now that he is actually becoming a declared candidate, can he do exactly what David was just saying? Can he meet the hype? Can he -- how is he on the campaign trail?

But as he does that, as he has to try to make gains, not just with Republican Party donors, which he seems to be very popular with, can he peel away support not only from Donald Trump and build that his own Republican base, but can he do that with an eye towards the general election, as you mentioned, Jake? And can he build support?

I mean, he didn't have the same record that he does now, having the six week abortion ban, some of the things he's done on guns. I mean, he's a very extreme record. And so, part of the question will be, can he win in a Republican primary and still create a pathway for himself that would be viable in a general election -- electorate with -- given that many of his policies are not very popular nationally?

TAPPER: All right, you three, stick around, if you would. Donald Trump and his allies are planning a coordinated effort to upend DeSantis's launch today. CNN's Kristen Holmes is following this part of the story for us.

And Kristen, what do we know how Donald -- about how Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner by far, and his team are planning to counter program DeSantis' campaign kickoff?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we know if there's one thing that Donald Trump is good at, it is sucking up all of the oxygen, whether intentionally or not. And in this case, he and his team want to do that. They want to turn the narrative around, get the media attention away from Ron DeSantis and this announcement. That includes releasing videos around the announcement. It also includes a social media blitz.

They are going to be relying heavily on these big conservative commentator, high profile social media stars, new media stars, to try and get messaging out. They plan on hitting Ron DeSantis on a number of issues. So far, we've really seen Trump go after Ron DeSantis most on entitlements, but we also are told that he's going to go after him on a range of policy issues, including trade policy, China, his COVID- 19 response when he was the governor of Florida.

And I do want touch one thing that you said. You mentioned at the top of your show whether or not Donald Trump would get back on Twitter tonight. That is something his aides have been urging him to do, to get back on Twitter since he was reinstated. They believe that it's easier for him to take control of the narrative in this GOP primary if he is back on Twitter.

And I will tell you, three months ago, a Trump adviser floated the idea to me of actually getting him back on Twitter the night of Ron DeSantis announcement. Not that, of course, was before DeSantis announced he was doing this with Elon Musk on Twitter, but something to wait and watch and see, Jake.

TAPPER: Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

Let's go back to our panel for this part of the story. And Kaitlan, it's very clear who Donald Trump sees as the threat to him in this race. When Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina announced on Monday, Trump wished him luck. But with DeSantis, he's launching Trump an all- out media blitz. COLLINS: Yes, well, and if Tim Scott was polling where Ron DeSantis is, I think you would see Trump treating him the way he is treating Ron DeSantis. The other layer to this, of course, is back at what happened in 2018 when it was widely seen as Trump's influence on the party when he endorsed Ron DeSantis in that 2018 Republican primary for the governor's race in Florida.

And obviously, DeSantis came away from that with a victory, and that was seen as that. Things have really changed now, and he has been attacking him relentlessly from early on. Some people had urged him to wait until DeSantis has actually gotten the race.

And instead you've heard from some Republicans in recent days questioning if DeSantis maybe waited too long to get into this Republican primary and if he missed a window where he had a lot of momentum. We don't know that yet. Obviously, that's up to the voters.

But the biggest question that Ron DeSantis has to answer is whether or not he is going to get Republican voters to move on from Trump. So far, they have not proven willing to do that and that is going to be what he is up against on the campaign paint trail, talking about that stump speech that David had just mentioned.


TAPPER: So David, I want to get your reaction to this new attack ad from Trump's Super PAC going after Ron DeSantis. Here's a little snippet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump defeats the liberals and heads to Washington to train the swamp but swamp creature, Ron DeSantis, is about to start his third term in Congress, and he's already voted repeatedly to cut Social Security and Medicare. In Washington, one was a leader and one let us down. Even DeSantis admitted there are big differences between him and Trump.

DESANTIS: Obviously there is because I voted contrary to him in the Congress.


TAPPER: I mean, first of all, he completely leaves out the part where he endorses Ron DeSantis as governor even though he's a swamp creature. But do you think that's effective?

URBAN: Well, listen, it's going to be effective in drawing a contrast in the narrative of Social Security, some of these entitlement programs that Americans are, you know, it's the third rail of American politics, right? You can't discuss Social Security even though the system as we know is going to be bankrupt in the future, not too distant future, excuse me.

So, look, it's political fodder. There's going to be a good give and take from the Trump campaign on this. I think, you know, Kaitlan hit it on the nail on the head, too. You know, let's not forget this is personal Trump in some regards and that he believes that he created Ron DeSantis in endorsing him.

He came from nowhere, DeSantis was down in the polls, he was really on the ropes and was going to lose, and then like a phoenix from the ashes, he arose with a Trump endorsement.

I think the president -- former president, really does take it personally. And we all know that Susan Wild is the president's camp -- one of his main campaign advisers, worked for Governor DeSantis and was dismissed in a not too nice fashion, according to her. And so, I think this is personal for the Trump --


URBAN: -- campaign as well.

TAPPER: And Karen, Nikki Haley, also running for President, is also welcoming DeSantis to the race with a negative ad. Take a look.



DESANTIS: Then Mr. Trump said you're fired. I love that part.

TRUMP: Make America great again.

DESANTIS: Make America great again.

TRUMP: Anybody here would do it. Judges are a priority, and honestly --

DESANTIS: And honestly, we have businesses that have been locked down and lives --


TAPPER: America deserves a choice, not an echo, it says.


TAPPER: Really going after Ron DeSantis as not even being his own man.

FINNEY: Absolutely. I mean, she's clearly trying to undercut DeSantis's argument for why he is different than Trump but Trumpy enough for the base, right? So she's clearly trying to cut into that. But if you think about it, that's really the best strategy she has at this point.

I mean, as our polling has shown, people may be interested in learning more about who she is, but in order to try to really make some gains and move votes, she's got to try to show that she too can sort of take away some of the DeSantis mystique, if you will, before he really gets into this race and we see really what he can do. So that's kind of her best hope.

I mean, it'll be interesting to see when we have all of these candidates on a stage on a debate, how they interact with each other, not just how they do on the campaign trail, but how they engage with each other around these issues. I'd be curious to see her try to make that argument to him, for example, when he's, you know, just feet away from her on the debate stage.

TAPPER: Thanks to all of you. And Governor Nikki Haley is going to face voters in the next CNN presidential town hall. The former ambassador and South Carolina governor will be joining me in Iowa on June 4 only on CNN.

With Ron DeSantis announcing his campaign on Twitter, has the site become officially a conservative social media network? That's next. Plus, the typhoon that is walloping a U.S. territory with fierce winds, heavy rain, lots and lots of water. Plus, what's love got to do with it? Look at the life and legacy of musical icon Tina Turner.



TAPPER: And we're back with our tech lead. Ron DeSantis' decision to announce his 2024 campaign on Twitter with CEO Elon Musk has unleashed new criticism of Musk and Twitter. A new article in The Atlantic goes as far as declaring, quote, "Twitter is a far right social network." The author of that article, Charlie Warzel, joins me now.

Charlie, longtime reader, first time caller, Musk has been sharing conspiracy theories on Twitter for months. He's reinstated white nationalist accounts that have been banned. So why make this declaration now?

CHARLIE WARZEL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think that you can just see over the last couple of weeks, honestly. You know, and despite what Elon Musk is doing with his own tweets, right, you've seen the platform as basically like a safe haven for people who've either, you know, lost their sinecures on cable news or people who've been, you know, demonetized on Twitter.

And I'm talking about the Daily Wire, which got demonetized a couple of their channels for anti-trans commentary, and Tucker Carlson, who lost his tenure on Fox News. Those people are seeing Twitter as a safe place for them to go and perhaps to share revenue. And Elon Musk seems to be, you know, welcoming them in with open arms.

And you know, yesterday was sort of the last sort of making all the subtext text where, you know, he's inviting Ron DeSantis to come launch a political campaign there. So, I think, you know, this isn't about the content that you can necessarily see. You could still obviously see liberal, leftist, you know, mainstream media content, all sorts of stuff on Twitter.

But when you talk about the actions and the outcomes at the platform that you're seeing on the platform, I think it's -- you know, it's really just balls and strikes here. This is a right wing social media platform, that's what it's courting.

TAPPER: So, Musk, if he were here right now would say, hey, it's just a free speech platform. It's just different than it was under the previous owners and we're just inviting voices that were unfairly shut out. Why do you disagree?


WARZEL: Well, I mean, I think that it's actually a bit of a business strategy here. When you are looking at some of the other, you know, called alt tech, alternative tech platforms that have catered to conservatives, and I'm talking about, you know, Truth Social or Parler, you're seeing that, you know, their numbers have actually gone down since Elon Musk has taken over the platform. And that's because there's really, you know, no real need to build a right wing Twitter clone because Twitter serves that role so well right now.

And I think, you know, if you look at, you know, Elon Musk's purchase in general of the platform, it was an explicitly political act. Yes, it's couched in the language of free speech, but what he's essentially saying is there's a lot of, you know -- there's a woke mind virus out in the world, to quote him, and he wants to counter that by bringing all these different voices in and honestly, to drown out a lot of the voices that he doesn't like.

And this is not a, you know, town square. This is a company that is run by a man who has a very specific ideology that he's not afraid to share with people. And I think he's making decisions with the social network, with the platform that are intended to advance that ideology.

TAPPER: And you see Ron DeSantis announcing his presidential race on Twitter spaces, which is an audio as part as a natural progression of that.

WARZEL: I do. I think that, you know, there are a lot of platforms that, you know, he could -- that he could go to, that Ron DeSantis could go to. He's choosing Twitter because he sees the owner as sympathetic to him, as someone who's not going to, you know, say if he came on CNN and, you know, got raked over the coals, perhaps or really pressed on a bunch of issues. He has a sympathetic audience here.

And I think that he can see, too, that the people who are sort of left on Twitter now after there's been a big exodus and the people who are most sympathetic are these people who share this ideology, who love that, you know, DeSantis is -- has an extremely online campaign and loves to own the libs.

I think that, you know, these things are real reasons why DeSantis and his campaign chose Twitter as a venue. And I think that it's just more evidence that, you know, this platform is explicitly catering to and a safe space for a, you know, far right ideology.

TAPPER: Charlie Warzel, thank you so much. Good to see you.

WARZEL: Good to see you too. TAPPER: How one parent forced the school to remove Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem from the elementary school section of the Florida public school's library. Wait until you hear the part that that parent objected to.



TAPPER: Our money lead now, we are only eight days away from the deadline for the U.S. to raise the debt ceiling, according to the Secretary of the Treasury, and seemingly zero days closer to a deal that would avoid a first ever catastrophic default by the U.S. government.

Negotiations are continuing today as House Republicans and the White House seem to be at an impasse. Republicans say they want to raise the debt ceiling, but only if it includes spending cuts. Democrats say they want a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling.

Joining us now for a bipartisan discussion, Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania and Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson of Georgia. Thanks to both you for being here.

Congressman Ferguson, I want to start with you because one of your Republican colleagues, Matt Gaetz, who was referring to the House GOP bill when he says limit save grow, just said this about the debt ceiling to semaphore and I want to get your response to it. Let's take a listen to Congressman Gaetz.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think my conservative colleagues, for the most part, support limit, save, grow. And they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage."


TAPPER: They don't feel like, meaning Republicans or conservative colleagues that we should have negotiate with our hostage. He seems to be saying that Republicans have taken the economy as a hostage? Is that how you view it?

REP. DREW FERGUSON (R-GA): No, I don't. Look, we have done our work in the House. We're the only body here in Washington that actually voted responsibly to raise the debt limit, and we wish that our Senate colleagues would do the same. And we wish that President Biden would have engaged in this debate earlier.

Look, we have got some very modest spending reforms out there, things that we know that Americans are for, and we just -- we need the other parties to come to the table.

TAPPER: Congressman Boyle, did your party make a mistake by not passing a clean debt ceiling bill last December when you still controlled the House? And why didn't you? REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): Well, as you may know, Jake, I actually led an effort to do exactly that, as well as pass some permanent reforms last term. And obviously, I wish that that would have taken place. But we're here in the present right now. And so, rather than worrying about or wondering what may have been, I think it's important to focus on the here and now.

And I have a different effort that I'm pushing, the discharge petition. We just reached 213 signatures. Every single House Democrat has signed that petition. We are ready and willing to have a vote to raise the debt ceiling today and end this potential catastrophe once and for all. And I certainly hope that a number of Republican colleagues will step up, add their name to that petition, and we can end this right.

TAPPER: Congressman Ferguson, he needs five Republicans to sign that discharge petition to force this bill on to the floor for a House for a clean debt ceiling bill. I know you're not there now, but would you do that if we were about to hit default and there was still no progress? Is that something you'd be willing to do?

FERGUSON: No, it is not because we are going to make progress, and we have got a spending problem in Washington, D.C. As a function of GDP, we have the highest tax receipts coming in that we've ever had. The problem is, we have the highest spending that we've ever had. And it's unsustainable. And look, doing things like simply saying we're going to spend less money this year or next year than we did last year is not unreasonable.

Thinking about getting our able-bodied adults that are ages 19 to 49 to work and participate in our economy, we need their participation in the economy in order to receive some federal benefits, that's not unreasonable. The pandemic is over. Taking quality back unspent COVID funds makes sense. And America needs to be energy independent, you know, (INAUDIBLE), and some good permitting reforms both for fossil fuels and the green energy sector, all reasonable asks.

We think if those things go into place, it makes our economy grow, it makes it stronger, we're able to save some money, and we have already voted to raise the debt limit in this responsible manner.

TAPPER: Congressman Boyle, polls indicate that 60 percent of the American people want the debt ceiling raised with spending cuts. Is there anything that your colleague just said there when he was making a list of things that he said are not unreasonable, that you find unreasonable?

BOYLE: Well, there are a few points to keep in mind, Jake. First, I voted a number of times, as did my Democratic colleagues, to raise the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was president. So did Republicans. Three increases in the debt ceiling. None of them had any spending cuts. The only thing that has changed is now we have a Democrat in the White House instead of a Republican.

I have said, though, moving forward, of course I am willing to negotiate about what next year's budget looks like. We have to do that every year any way by midnight, September 30th. We certainly should have that negotiation.

But it should be separate on the fundamental question as to whether or not America will pay its bills. We must avoid default. That cannot be negotiable. But sure, we should negotiate about what spending looks like next year and the year beyond.

But let's be clear, when we talk about the national debt, there are two sides of that equation. There's the spending side, but there's also the revenue side. Unfortunately, too many of my Republican friends want to pursue tax cuts for the richest 1 percent that only add trillions of dollars more to the national debt.

TAPPER: Congressman Ferguson, I have to say it doesn't sound like you two are very close when it --

FERGUSON: I mean, it's, you know, we talk about giving tax cuts to the wealthiest. Just look at the Inflation Reduction Act and we're now almost $1.2 trillion of green energy tax credits that are going to the richest companies and the richest individuals to offset their taxes. So there's a little hypocrisy hearing this.

Botton line, look at the revenues coming in, they're at the highest level. Look at the spending, it's at the highest level.

TAPPER: Right.

FERGUSON: We have got to focus on driving spending down. And by the way, what we're asking for to spend at '22 levels, that's exactly where we are right now. So if you think the world is going to come to an end if we spend at '22 levels, fiscal year '22 levels, what we're doing is spending exactly where we are right now.

TAPPER: So, Congressman Ferguson, we're out of time. So I just -- this is a yes or no question. Should Congress break for Memorial Day weekend given the fact that you guys are still -- your sides are still so far apart, yes or no?

FERGUSON: Well, we've done our job in the House. We asked the Senate to come forward and do it. We're willing to meet any time to solve this problem.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson, Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

BOYLE: Thank you.

TAPPER: The library book battle that's being waged by just one parent at a Florida public school. Why Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem was targeted. Stay with us.


[18:38:27] TAPPER: In our "National Lead," some children at a school in Miami- Dade County, Florida, no longer have access to a poem, a G-rated poem, after one parent complained. The poem is called "The Hill We Climb." It was recited by the author and poet Amanda Gorman at President Joe Biden's inauguration in 2021.

Listen to the part that was at the heart of this one parent's complaint.


AMANDA GORMAN, NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE: We've braved the belly of the beast. We've learned that quiet isn't always peace. And the norms and notions of what just is isn't always just is. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished.


TAPPER: I mean, I don't even understand what's objectionable in that.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is in Miami.

Carlos, even the part of the complaint that had listed the author was wrong. They claimed Oprah Winfrey was the author of the poem. It's Amanda Gorman. Oprah did write the foreword.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Jake. And I spoke to the parent who made the complaint. I had a bunch of questions for her, but she didn't want to be interviewed, and she did not want to answer any of those questions.

Now the parent was able to challenge the book under Florida's Parental Rights in Education law. In the complaint, the parent wrote that she objected to the material because the poem, quote, "is not educational" and have indirectly hate messages.


She said the poem, quote, "cause confusion and indoctrination." Now I asked her when we were on the phone what part of the poem she found hateful and confusing. She wouldn't say. A committee made up of educators at the school agreed to move the book from the elementary section to the middle school section of the K-8 school's media center -- Jake.

TAPPER: How has Amanda Gorman responded to this?

SUAREZ: Yes. Well, as you can imagine, Gorman is gutted by the decision, those were her exact words. She wrote a letter saying that children are being robbed at the chance to find their voices in literature.

Now, a parent with the Florida Freedom to Read Project, that is a group that tracks these book bans across the state of Florida, they said their restricting access to this book is still censorship. Here's what this one parent told us.


RAEGAN MILLER, FLORIDA FREEDOM TO READ PROJECT: I want to see these districts understand that removing access is actually a ban, and, you know, and I want them to be more transparent with parents like me so that I understand what's being removed, you know, from my child's library, and I have the opportunity to appeal that decision.


SUAREZ: And Jake, this controversy really is not going anywhere. Miami-Dade's mayor has weighed in on all of this. She invited Gorman here to south Florida to do a reading of her poem -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Carlos Suarez in Miami, Florida, thank you so much.

Joining us now is poet Elizabeth Alexander. Dr. Alexander recited her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.

And Dr. Alexander, over the weekend, at Yale, the commencement there, you spoke about this very issue about banning books. Here's a little snippet of what you said.


ELIZABETH ALEXANDER, MELLON FOUNDATION PRESIDENT: Right now, we're feeling the impact of these bigger and bigger steps toward restriction, censorship and disempowerment in education. And I must ask, what exactly do those who are banning education fear?


TAPPER: What do you think they fear?

ALEXANDER: Well, I mean I really do have questions. Do they fear a fully functional, multicultural democracy, where everybody's voice is important, and where we acknowledge that we come from many different places and together make up this extraordinary country? Do they fear learning itself?

Do they fear exposure to ideas that are unfamiliar to them? Although I must say, in the case of this inaugural poem, which I'd love to speak about for a moment, that the job of the inaugural poem is to speak to everyone at a moment where the country is doing its democracy, if you will.

It is transferring power, it is on the stage with the entire elected federal government on that stage. And that is what Amanda Gorman, I think, in a very extraordinary way, for a very young woman, who has served as a role model to many, managed to talk about our complexity at the same time that she brought hope and aspiration. And that's, I think, the job of the inaugural poem. So my answer to what do they fear is more questions, because I really don't know. TAPPER: Certainly we can understand a parent who thinks that some book

has sexually explicit content that should not be available to a 7- year-old, an 8-year-old, a 9-year-old. But I don't even remotely understand what this parent is objecting to, and I don't really understand why one parent gets to decide or at least create this -- even if it's temporary -- censorship of something that is perfectly innocent.

ALEXANDER: Well, this book is being challenged along a continuum with a tremendous increase in book banning and challenging. And of those books that have been banned and challenged, the vast, overwhelming majority of them are by people of color and deal with issues of sexuality and gender, as well.

So now that the different voices -- I think Amanda Gorman said, you know, it was so hard for so many of those voices to get onto the book shelves in the first place. And now, not only a disproportionate rate, but driven by a very, very small number of people.

TAPPER: Right. So let me just jump in there because "The Washington Post" did an analysis, and their analysis suggests that there are only 11 people who filed these complaints or challenges against books, and these 11 had an overwhelming influence on dozens of books being banned or restricted.

Why -- it's almost a tyranny of the minority that this small group of people get empowered to decide what thousands of children have access to, even if their parents don't have a problem with it.


ALEXANDER: Well, I think that's exactly right. And I think the problem with sowing fear is that then other people become afraid and they don't even know what it is that they're afraid of, and they don't even know what they haven't been exposed to.

But I also want to hone in, a small number, but whose stories, whose lives, whose history? If we're going to tell American history in all of its fulsomeness, we have to include the many people who are part of American history.

And I think that that is what's important, as well. You know, the American Library Association tracks what they call book challenging, what we may call book banning, and it has been increasing at a tremendous rate.

In the speech -- graduation speech at Yale that you mentioned, I told the graduating seniors that five times as many books had been banned now compared to 2019 when they entered college in the first place.

So, I mean, I think also the question for those people graduating with their education is, what does it mean if some people have access to knowledge and it is kept from others?

TAPPER: It was a different commencement address, at a different Ivy League school, but President Eisenhower at Dartmouth in the '50s said, don't join the book burners. That's a lesson I wish more people would get.

Poet Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, an honor to have you on the show. Thank you so much.

ALEXANDER: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Daylight just breaking in Guam where a powerful typhoon is slamming that American territory with strong winds, heavy rain, mudslides, blackouts. A look at the most powerful storm to hit that island in 60 years. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "World Lead," it is a bit early for hurricane season along the U.S. East Coast, but it is far different story in the South Pacific. Take a look at what smashed into Guam today, which is a U.S. territory. Typhoon Mawar passed just north of the island but as CNN's Ivan Watson reports, the storm is so immense, people in Guam endured exceptional winds, storm surge and torrential rainfall.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The island of Guam is taking a beating. America's western most territory hammered by Typhoon Mawar, possibly the most powerful storm system to hit the Pacific Island in decades.

BRANDON AYDLETT, METEOROLOGIST, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.

WATSON: The National Weather Service reporting winds of 115 to 140 miles per hour. Apparently knocking out the agency's wind sensors.

AYDLETT: Those winds are generating some massive sea and we're seeing maximum sea heights around 40 feet at the Ritidian buoy. That is incredible.

WATSON: In anticipation of dangerous winds and storm surges, the territory's governor ordered an evacuation of low-lying coastal areas. She's instructing the population to stay indoors.

GOV. LOU LEON GUERRERO, GUAM: Please, I ask you to follow these instructions for your safety and for your protection. Stay home until I declare condition of readiness for.

WATSON: By mid-afternoon on Wednesday, only 1,000 of the Guam Power Authority's 52,000 customers still had electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is incredible. I don't think I've ever seen so much lightning in a typhoon before.

WATSON: The eye wall of Typhoon Mawar lashing the northern end of the island. That's the location of Anderson Air Force Base, a sprawling military installation we filmed from a plane in better weather back in 2017.

(On-camera): We've also passed over Anderson Air Force Base where B1 bombers have been flying out of.

(Voice-over): Guam is home to thousands of American military service personnel and their families. The island's total population of more than 150,000 inhabitants now facing a very tough night.

AYDLETT: This is going to be kind of a long night. It is going to be scary. And hear the sounds, the winds are howling. Things are breaking. And so just be together, talk to each other and things will slow down toward midnight and continue into Thursday morning.


WATSON: Jake, the sun came up over Guam about two hours ago. I just got off the phone with a resident there who said the water was out, the electricity was out. There's almost no telecommunications to speak of. Debris everywhere and everybody she'd spoken to had some flooding through windows and doors into their homes.

The USS Nimitz carrier strike group, Defense officials tell CNN's Oren Liebermann, is on its way to Guam and can provide assistance. President Biden before the storm struck announced he granted emergency declarations. FEMA is on the ground there to help.

TAPPER: All right, Ivan Watson, thanks so much.

As we reported earlier, legendary singer Tina Turner has passed away. A look at some of the tributes pouring in, but first, here is CNN's Wolf Blitzer with what is next in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, we're standing by for a major development in the race for the White House. The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is just minutes away from publicly throwing his hat into the ring during an unconventional interview on Twitter. According to a new CNN poll, DeSantis is by far the biggest threat to Donald Trump's path to the Republican nomination, although he now trails the former president by more than 20 points in our new poll.

The DeSantis campaign hopes the audio announcement will help him reclaim some of the momentum from his landslide re-election last fall. All of that coming up right at the top of the hour right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."



TAPPER: Sad news in our "Pop Culture Lead." Music legend Tina Turner has died at the age of 83. Her family says she passed away peacefully after a long illness.


TAPPER: The queen of rock and roll of course rose to fame from humble beginnings and overcame a horribly abusive marriage to become one of the most popular artists of all time.

Angela Bassett who portrayed Turner in the film "What's Love Got to Do with It," said in a statement, quote, "Through her courage and telling her story, her commitment to stay the course in her life no matter the sacrifice, and her determination to carve out a space in rock and roll for herself and for others who look like her, Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion, and freedom should look like," end quote.

May her memory be a blessing.

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