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CNN Live Event/Special

First Votes Being Counted In Race To Replace George Santos; Race To Replace George Santos Too Early To Call; Dem Suozzi Takes Early Lead In Race To Replace George Santos. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 13, 2024 - 21:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You don't want to be answering questions about something else at the same time.

So, he wanted to get rid of George Santos, number one, for the integrity of the institution. I do take him at his word.

But number two, those New York Republicans, who led the charge, Jake, they understood George Santos was an embarrassment, yes, but he was also a political liability.

So again, in moments, we'll get votes. This is all of the House districts you see here that Biden won. Tonight, we're focused on this one right down here. Begins in the city, stretches out to Long Island, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Voting ends, just moments from now. Three seconds, look at that, in the contentious fight, to replace ousted Republican George Santos, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And here is our key race alert. It's too early to call, the special election, in New York's 3rd congressional district, between Democrat Tom Suozzi, and Republican Mazi Pilip, as we watch the results come in.

Remember, the outcome, tonight, will expand or shrink the GOP's narrow majority, in the House. It will affect Republicans' ability to push through legislation, or Democrats' ability to block it. Republicans currently have 219 seats versus 212 for the Democrats. We'll see how those numbers change, in the hour ahead.

Let's check in with our correspondents now, who are on Long Island, covering the candidates.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Woodbury, New York, at the headquarters of the Democratic candidate, former Congressman Tom Suozzi.

Miguel, what are you hearing from the Suozzi campaign, about turnout and expectations?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Surprisingly, their sense of the expectation, tonight, is very, very positive. I saw Tom Suozzi, earlier today. He said that because of the heavy

snowfall, early in the day, that the numbers were down, and most likely that was bringing down Republican voters. And it's not clear that that has changed at all.

I want to show you, as the party is ending, for John Berman, the party, here at the Suozzi headquarters, is starting to pick up.

We also spoke to Jay Jacobs, who's the head of the Nassau Democratic Party and the state party. He says the numbers are looking exceptionally good, for them, much better than they were in 2022. He did say the one thing that they are watching for, in this first data dump that we are expecting to come, very soon, are those unaffiliated voters, and how they broke.

The number of Democrats, from early votes, absentee and day of -- and day of are favoring the Democrats. But it's unclear how many Democrats are voting for Republicans. So that first dump will tell them that, and it will also tell them how unaffiliated voters are breaking. And they expect they will have -- they seem to expect they'll have very good news.

Tom Suozzi, his campaign say that he expects to speak here, at around 11 PM, tonight, perhaps a little before, expressing a sense of confidence, they'll have a result by then.


TAPPER: Thanks, CNN's Miguel Marquez, in Woodbury, New York.

Let's go to Glen Cove, New York, right now, where Shimon Prokupecz is at a voting center.

Shimon, what's going on? They're counting actual votes now?


And I want to show you behind me. These are the machines, where folks have been submitting their ballots to. And now, they're starting to print.

You can see here -- Milzie (ph), why don't you come in closer here? And we can see, they're starting to print the results here. And what's going to happen is, once that is printed, they are going to announce, they're going to say out loud, what the results are.

About 566 people voted here, according to the latest count, from the machines here. And the doors have just closed. A couple of last-minute folks walked in, they voted. And now, we are in the process of watching them, as this process takes place here, as they start to tabulate these votes.

This is another -- there are three tables here. This is another table here. Same process. They're going through all the steps that they need to, as they begin to print and start to count these votes. And then, there's another one here, at the end as well. So, the process is underway.

And any minute here now, we should know what the results are, here, at this voting site, which has been relatively steady, all day. Despite the snow, it's been -- people have been coming in, they've been voting. It's been a pretty easy process. And they've been leaving.

I also want to show you that you'll see there are some people here. These are actually representatives, from the different parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, Democrats here. And so, they will be also counting the votes, and marking them down, and then reporting it, to the leaders of the parties here.

TAPPER: Shimon, we're going to come right -- Shimon, we're going to come right back to you.

PROKUPECZ: So, we do, we are seeing the numbers out here.

TAPPER: Shimon, we're going to come right back to you.


TAPPER: We're going to go to John Berman, right now, who's in Carle Place, and get some numbers from him.

John, what's going on where you are?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This is the machine. This is Election District 47, in Carle Place. These are my friends Howard (ph) and Becky (ph), who've been working this machine. We have some results from the tape that was just printed out.

HOWARD (ph), CARLE PLACE, NEW YORK: Correct. Suozzi, 53. Mazi, a total of 117.


BERMAN: OK. So, that was 117 votes, for Mazi.

HOWARD (ph): 170.

BERMAN: A 170 votes?

HOWARD (ph): Total.

BERMAN: Total. 117 for Mazi Pilip. 53 for Tom Suozzi. So, you can see that machine by almost a two-to-one, over a two-to-one margin, here, in Nassau County, in Carle Place, went for Mazi Pilip.

I believe in this machine, we're also getting results. Let me walk over here, to my friend, Brian (ph), who's been working this machine.

This machine?


BERMAN: The tape is just coming out of this machine now. BRIAN (ph): OK, good. So here we go, Mike (ph), it's going as reading out. My sweet lord, look at that. There's our votes. 274. OK, all right, interesting. So, Suozzi pulled out 87 votes. His opposition, Mazi Pilip, 171 on the Republican, and then 15 as a Conservative, 171.

BERMAN: OK. Mazi Pilip, 171. Tom Suozzi, 87. That's two of the seven machines here that tell a similar story, Jake.

So, you can see, the Election Day vote, breaking at least here, in Carle Place, from these two machines, heavily for Mazi Pilip.

TAPPER: All right, John Berman, fascinating stuff.

And let's bring you a key race alert, right now, because we have actual votes coming in. Let's take a look.

With 6 percent of the estimated vote in, Tom Suozzi, the Democrat has 65.1 percent of the vote. Mazi Pilip, the Republican has 34.9 percent of the vote. Tom Suozzi with 7,586 votes, that's roughly 3,500 votes ahead of Mazi Pilip, with just over 4,000 votes.

Remember, this is really early. And John was telling us that he expected a lot of those votes were going to come in, from parts of Queens County, which tends to be Democratic. And also, this would be early vote, which would tend to be Democratic. So, this doesn't mean anything in particular. What we just saw those actual numbers with Mazi, behind Tom Suozzi.

KING: Right. It means that Suozzi's, but based on that doing roughly what he would need to do there. But that doesn't mean -- let me take off the county sign here, so you get the full district, right. The reason you saw zero, zero, there was because I had the county separated, to make that distinction.

But here's where you are right now. So, you're the Democrat, Tom Suozzi. You're ahead with 65 percent of the vote. That looks like a wow.

But to your point, these are early votes. That's why they were able to count so fast. They've already -- they're already in. And they haven't tabulated. And they can't -- they just can't release that until after the election. But they haven't counted. They'll go book (ph).

TAPPER: So, New York's one of those states, where you can count early votes ahead of time.

KING: Right, right.

TAPPER: You just can't release them.

Some states, you're not even allowed to count them until after the vote, the polls close.

KING: Right. Right.

And so, I put up the county line here. I just want to make this distinction. So, this disappears, because we don't count votes by county. We count them by the district. So, I just want to show you that what we're talking about.

All the votes are coming from Queens County, which is the predominantly overwhelmingly Democratic area of the district. It gets more Republican, more competitive, as you move out through the suburbs.

So, let's just take this off, so you see it again. So, it shows you that these are, you know, this is the -- it's you'll see -- you see the whole district blue, right now. The reason I'm doing this is I just want to show that all the votes we have are from inside Queens County, so.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: So, yes.

TAPPER: And just to -- just one note.

KING: Yes.

TAPPER: Because we saw votes coming in, from where Berman was--

KING: Right.

TAPPER: --in Carle Place. That is in the more Republican part? Because those votes were overwhelmingly more than two-to-one, for Mazi -- Mazi Pilip.

KING: Right, right. It was a modest number of votes, from those couple of machines.

But John Berman is out here, in Nassau County.

Shimon, you said you're going to go back to him, when he gets. And he's up here, in Glen Cove, right up here, part of Nassau County.

So, when you're -- when we go live to these polling places, and our reporters are right there, on the scenes, the value of having reporters on the scene, and the local officials read out those votes, then they have to get put through the tabulation and released by the party, and then they'll show up in the map. So sometimes, we'd get numbers that are not yet officially reported.

So, as I said, we have nothing, right now. If you look at our votes, if you just -- I just want to come out to whole district, we don't have anything from Nassau County yet, in the system. That they -- you saw them counting those votes on live. It's just a process. They triple-check the math. They put them into the system and we'll get them.

So, this is, again, 6 percent of the estimated vote. That can fluctuate based on Election Day turnout. But if you're Suozzi, sure, you got 65 percent of the early vote in Queens. The question is, is that their target? I assume they wanted to get two-thirds or more of that vote in the predominantly Democratic area.

And now, we wait, not only for the Election Day vote to come in. But there's also early votes out here in Nassau County. It's just Queens County was ready to go more quickly. But every vote counts.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: We're underway.

TAPPER: And it's a roughly a pool of, we believe, about 160,000 people voted, both leading up to today.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: And today.

Let's go back to Glen Cove, to Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, what can you tell us about actual numbers coming in, from Glen Cove, New York?

PROKUPECZ: So, two of the tables here have reported the numbers. And what we have is 202, for Suozzi, and 142, for Mazi Pilip.


We're now waiting for the tabulations, from the third table here. And we should have that here, any minute. They just posted it. But I can't show it to you, Jake. But I can read it to you.

It says Suozzi, 98. And then, it says, under the Republican ticket, Mazi Pilip, 92. And under the Conservative ticket, 12. So, those are the totals here, on this -- on this third table. Suozzi, 98. And then, 92 and 12, for Mazi Pilip.

TAPPER: So, and Mazi's running on both--

PROKUPECZ: So that will be what, about 1-0 -- 104?

TAPPER: Yes. And Mazi's running on both, which is not uncommon in New York. She's running on two different party tickets, right, the Conservative Party and the Republican Party tickets. So, you combine those. And she has 100 and -- 104 votes. Is that right, from that -- from that one district, or that one voting machine?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, 1-0 -- I believe it's 104. 104, that's correct, Jake. 104, from this third table. That plus additional to the 142, from the other two voting districts here.

TAPPER: OK. John King, did you get those numbers?

KING: Sure.

TAPPER: Or you want -- you want him to repeat it? We can get him to repeat it again.

KING: No. I'm just waiting to see them, as they feed in.


KING: Because you see as -- we have seen some, a very modest change.

TAPPER: Some movement, right.

KING: Very modest change in the vote total. But Pilip's closing the gap just a little bit. And that's what's going to happen, as these smaller precincts start to report, as they start to come in.

And again, earlier, I showed you this. It's just to show the county breakdown, here. We're waiting for more votes to come in out here. But the danger in this is that when you go to the county, it shows zero.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: So, I don't want to do this that often, because I don't want to confuse people at home. To see them, if they see zero votes, and then they see a lot of votes. Just want to make the distinction that that big early tranche of votes is coming--

TAPPER: You're just showing people that all the votes--

KING: --is from here.

TAPPER: --so far, are from the Queens County, part of the congressional district.

KING: Sure.

TAPPER: But most of the congressional district is--

KING: Right.

TAPPER: --Nassau County.

KING: So, you come out here.


KING: So, now we're waiting. And we'll see more of those votes tabulate, as they come in. So, that's probably the last time we go back, because it does confuse people, when it goes back to zero here, and then all of a sudden, they see 15,000, 16,000 votes.

But when you see Shimon and John Berman, on the ground, again, they're reading out the machines' totals there. Then, they have to report it to the party. Then, they're fed into the system, and they will start to post up, as we go through it. But--


KING: --we're 9 percent. But the value is you see, it's nine -- it's what, almost 12 minutes after the hour? We're getting votes. They're counting pretty quickly. TAPPER: Yes. So, we checked in with Miguel Marquez, who was at Suozzi campaign headquarters.

Let's go to CNN's Lauren Fox now, who is at Mazi Pilip's headquarters. She's the Republican. She's in East Meadow, New York.

Lauren, what is the thinking inside Pilip's camp? What are you hearing about voter turnout? Any goals they tried to reach? What's the story?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Republicans overall are watching this race really closely. And, Jake, they're nervous about the fact that turnout was low, today.

There was the snowstorm, in this district. Obviously, that is having an impact on how many Republicans, they were able to get to the polls.

You heard from Mazi Pilip, earlier today. She was encouraging voters to get out on the road, saying it was safe to get out on the roads, and telling them that they needed to call, and get a ride, if they were uncomfortable.

Because Republicans know that their voters vote on Election Day. That is why it's so important for them to have turnout. And when they're looking at the fact that turnout just wasn't what they wanted it to be, that makes them nervous.

I talked to one Republican operative, who told me it would really suck to lose this race, because of a snow day. But their argument is, that's totally a possibility, given the fact that weather was not on their side today.

Now, there could be a number of reasons, right, why Republicans are losing it. Doesn't all have to do with the snow. But I do think that that perspective is really interesting.

Republicans also spent money to get snowplows out today. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a powerful Super PAC, spent money, to make sure the roads were clear. I think that shows you how important turnout is, for Republicans, today, and why they were so concerned. So, they're nervous.

People are starting to show up at this election party. They're hopeful that Mazi Pilip is going to be able to pull this off. But obviously, they are watching those numbers really closely, given the fact that they felt like they were doing well, in terms of the pacing on early vote. They're concerned about what the numbers were today.

TAPPER: All right. Miss Fox, we appreciate it. We're going to come back to you in a second.

Both parties, of course, have poured millions of dollars, in tonight's special election, Democrats more than Republicans, we should note. But it is a clear indication of the high stakes of the race.

CNN's Political Director, David Chalian, is digging into all of this now. David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Jake. I know there was snow this morning.

But there have been a blizzard of television ads, in this race, for quite some time. And this was another place, where Democrats had an advantage over Republicans.


Take a look here at the spending, you see. And we're talking about the Democratic candidate, the DCCC, the House committee that is electing Democrats, the Super PAC. The whole Democratic universe totaled about $13.8 million of advertising, compared to the whole Republican candidate campaign's Super PAC universe at $8.1 million. So, big disparity there, in ad spending.

And take a look, Jake, at how the ad spending broke down, by topic. Immigration, far and away, had the most money behind it. $12.4 million went to immigration. And by the way, that number, it split about two- thirds. Of that $12.4 million was Republican advertising on immigration. Only about a third was Democratic advertising in immigration.

The rest there, you see law enforcement at $5.6 million, abortion at $4.5 million, and it goes down from there. But clearly, immigration front and center in this race.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: David Chalian, thanks so much.

In fact, let's show one of the ads, because both candidates were running obviously a lot of ads on immigration. That was the biggest one.

Let's show Pilip's ad, hitting Suozzi, on immigration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biden's open border leads to violence right here.

TOM SUOZZI, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-NY): I support the President's agenda, a 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Suozzi, soft on illegal immigration, but tough on taxpayers.


COOPER: It's, I think, a lot of Democrats were thinking ahead of time perhaps that abortion would be the issue that would bring people to the polls here. It clearly seems to be immigration.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I think we've seen what's happened on the border has become such an issue. And it's not just because, you know, obviously New York is not a border place, and it's not something they've had to worry about.

But they feel, voters feel like it's happening in their backyard, especially with the event that just happened, last week, in Times Square that you were referencing earlier.

And I do think one piece of context is important here, based on what Congressman Lawler said earlier, saying that he tried to kick ICE out, previously -- Congressman -- or Tom Suozzi. That was in a moment, where he's explained that saying that was because the ICE officers pulled their guns, on Nassau County Police officers, actually, the ICE agents did. And he's someone, who've resisted calls actually, to defund ICE, when that was a popular slogan among progressive Democrats.

But he has walked -- walked to this issue really carefully. And he has criticized President Biden on it. He said that the border should be temporarily closed. And you've just seen how Democrats are trying to run on this. And we'll see if it provides a playbook.

COOPER: Let's take a look at Suozzi's ad that he ran, defending his own record on immigration.


SUOZZI: The southern border is 2,000 miles away. But the migrant crisis has landed right in our own backyard. In the past, I've worked with Republican Peter King, on a compromise solution, for the migrant problem. I'll work with anyone to get it done.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That ad right there, plus another one, on the ICE issue, Kaitlan that you referenced, where he shows a clip of himself, on Fox News, touting that he's one of the few Democrats, willing to stand up for ICE, shows you just how bad this immigration and border issue is, for Democrats, in swing districts. They sound -- he sounds like a Republican. And it's going to be and I'm saying--

VAN JONES, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well -- you're saying like it's a -- that's a bad thing. Look--

JENNINGS: Well it's a good thing. But it's -- I'm just saying, it's going to be that way--


JENNINGS: --in suburban swing districts, all over the country, which is--


JENNINGS: --it's amazing, because that's not where the energy of the Democratic Progressive left is. JONES: I'm going to -- I'm going to tell you, we're going to be able to fight Republicans to a standstill, on the issue, for a couple reasons.

First of all, Republicans gin this up. They're abusing human beings, shipping them up to blue states, for political purposes, and then won't help them.

And so now, you have given us the opportunity to show that the Republican Party's politicizing the issue, doesn't care about the people. And Democrats are going to be tough on the border and also care about the people. This is not going to be the layup that the Republicans think it is. You'll see that tonight.

JENNINGS: I think that the issue of helping them is trumped in a lot of these places by the issue of can't we just shut down the border--

JONES: We're trying.

JENNINGS: --until we can figure out.

JONES: We're trying. Republicans won't. And here -- but this -- this is my point.

JENNINGS: I don't. I don't--

JONES: The Republican Party has been -- was begging, crying, saying please, we got to do something, about the border, terrorists are going to come up here. They're going to kill everybody.

And Democrats said, you know what? Maybe you're right. Let's close the border.

And Republicans back-flipped. Now, they're the ones running not to close the border.

COLLINS: You know?

JONES: And Democrats are on the right side of the issue.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: But what would be interesting to me is whether or not -- I mean, I -- listening to you, Scott say people are concerned about the issue. But the question is, what do they think the solution is.

And I think this particular district is going to test whether or not the solution for wealthy suburban mostly White, but in this district, also Latino and Asian voters, is the solution to shut down the border, or is it something else?

And I don't know that the answer in the suburbs of New York, even to the same problem is going to be -- is going to be that, or it might be something else. Maybe it's closer to what Tom Suozzi is selling. I just think this particular district might be asking for solutions of a different nature.

COOPER: We're going to do -- we're going to go back to Jake, in D.C.


TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.

Joining us now, is one of the most high-profile members, of the New York congressional delegation, Democratic congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC.

Thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: Do we have the latest votes? We don't have those yet? OK.

So let me just go dive into the interview.


So, President Biden won this district by eight points in 2020. Now, Congressman -- former congressman, Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, is trying to get it back. But he's distanced himself from Biden. He didn't want his endorsement. He didn't want him to campaign with him.

Do you think that's OK, if that's what swing battleground district Democrats need to do to win?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think we -- our main prerogative is to win the House back.

I know that representative -- former representative Suozzi, he knows his district, he knows his territory.

But I also think we can acknowledge the fact that we don't have to be afraid to be Democrats, either.

As you mentioned, President Biden won this seat by eight points. That is not one or two or three. That is a significant margin.

And we also can run up the numbers with an enormous amount of enthusiasm, especially in an -- in a special election, like this, which is really about a base race, between the two parties, getting out your most enthusiastic voters, especially on a snow storm, like this.

And that's with messages, on everything from abortion rights, to making sure that we're having just solutions, and comprehensive solutions on immigration, that don't also have to just be on the defense.

TAPPER: So, Pilip, Mazi Pilip, the Republican running, has tried to paint Suozzi, as a member of the Squad, which is your progressive group.

In their debate, Suozzi distanced himself from you, and the Squad. He said, "For you to suggest I'm a member of 'the squad' is about as believable as you being a member of George Santos' volleyball team," unquote.

What do you -- what do you make of her trying to tar him as a member of the Squad?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, I would agree with Tom Suozzi, the idea that we are, you know, that we are a part of the same kind of cadre in Congress is incorrect. It's wrong. But that doesn't mean that we're not on the same team. We're part of a Democratic coalition. That's a broad base.

But I think it also shows that Mazi is desperate. You don't go for those enormous reaches that are frankly so laughable, especially to the people of Queens and Long Island, who know Tom Suozzi. He had 80 percent name ID going into this race.

To claim something like that, in a backyard that knows him is, it really shows that they're reaching and that they're pretty desperate to try to land a punch there.

TAPPER: But the way he's been campaigning is he sounds like a conservative Queens or Long Island Democrat. It's what he sounds like.


TAPPER: He sounds conservative on the border.

What do you make of that? And what do you make of the border issue? And as the last week has played out, and Republicans originally demanded border be added to the foreign aid bill.


TAPPER: And then, they didn't want the border compromise. That probably was too conservative for you, I would think. And now, they're even rejecting to vote on the foreign aid bill.

Talk about the border part of it. And then, we'll talk about the foreign aid.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. Well, I mean, it's a -- it's a gamble. But also, this district is very complex. It's right here in our -- in our backyard, in New York City. You have a district that spans parts of New York City and Queens, but also reaches all the way out to Nassau County.

There are parts of this district that are quite conservative, and parts of this district that are very, very progressive. And so, to be able to thread that needle, and try to achieve turnout, is a very challenging -- it's a very challenging feat, to be able to accomplish.

Now, I do think that we need to be careful to not demobilize parts of the Democratic coalition, especially young voters, voters of color, because you have to run up your numbers, in places like Queens, in order to help buttress against any evenness in Nassau County.

TAPPER: If the bill that passed the Senate, early, early this morning, $95 billion to -- for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, if that were to be voted on, in the House, which is a big if because it doesn't sound like the Speaker wants--

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's a bigger if.

TAPPER: --to do it.

But the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, your fellow New York Democrat, he wants that to come to the floor.

If it came to the floor, would you vote for it?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I don't think I could bring myself to vote for it. I think that the provisions in the bill from not just the border provision -- or not just the provisions that we see across the board.

But especially when it comes to foreign aid, the increased restrictions on UNRWA funding, the U.N. Refugee Assistance funding, the complete lack of humanitarian aid, especially on the heels of this invasion on Rafah, I think we are at a point, where we have to do something, to protect innocent people, innocent lives of Palestinians, in Gaza.

And I'm very concerned about the Netanyahu -- the Netanyahu administration's lack of restraint, and their stated intent, and lack of regard for saving innocent lives.

TAPPER: I asked Senator Chris Coons about the foreign aid bill. And I'm going by memory here. I'm not 81. But my memory isn't always perfect. And I think he said that there was $10 billion in aid, for humanitarian aid, for Gaza.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: We'd have to see. But as it stands, the UNRWA is the number one central corridor, for humanitarian assistance, to enter -- to enter Gaza. And so, to see how it would be structured, this is something that is, I think, of prime concern.

And to also block off the main corridor -- corridor of humanitarian aid, is a major, major move, from the U.S. Congress, especially that it's predicated on allegations that are still being investigated.

But as those investigations continue to go on, the basis of them do seem to be eroding. And so, we have to ask ourselves, why. Why would we do that?

TAPPER: So, before you go, there have been a lot of questions, especially since that Special Counsel report, last week, that cleared President Biden, of any wrongdoing, legally, but certainly impugned his memory.

And this come -- that came on the heels of just a few days before him, talking about conversations he had, in 2021, with world leaders, who had died, several years before that. He was confusing world leaders. Tom Suozzi told the local news station, when this question was raised, about Biden, quote, the bottom line is he's old. I mean, he's 81- years-old. He wouldn't say, Suozzi, whether Biden would be the Democratic nominee, at the party convention, in August. Do you have any concerns about his age? Do you have any concerns about

whether or not he should be the nominee?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, I think, right now, when it comes to the President's age, folks are talking about how he's 81. But we have to look at -- first of all, Donald Trump is around the same age as the President.

TAPPER: 77, yes.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: He's 77-years-old. They could have gone to high school together. And beyond that, Donald Trump has 91 indictments.

And well I know who I'm going to choose. It's going to be the -- one of the most successful presidents in modern American history, that passed the Inflation Reduction Act, that got us the American Rescue Plan, that ensured that we could pass one of the largest federal investments in climate change, in U.S. history.

And as far as we go, as we know, virtually all the filing deadline -- deadlines have passed. There's already been a primary. Voters have outright rejected Dean Phillips. President Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, and hopefully, he'll be reelected as President of the United States.

TAPPER: Are you worried about -- at all about these challenges from the left? Jill Stein? Cornel West? I don't know where RFK Jr. is.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, I--

TAPPER: Whether he's left right or center.

But -- but there is a real fear that they could take votes away from Biden.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: That is real, that is real, especially in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, critical swing states.

But we need to understand what we are staring down, in this country. If Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, we do not know if there will be a verifiable next election that has integrity. He already tried to -- we saw on January 6th. He tried to overturn the results of a presidential election by force, by inciting a riot.

And I think we need to be very, very realistic, about the grave, grave impacts, of a Donald Trump election. It is not a joke. It is not a game. We need to protect our democracy. And ideally, it's going to be on progressive values.

TAPPER: Democratic congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Always good to have you. Thank you so much.


TAPPER: It's still very early in this special congressional election, with the strength of the Republican majority, in the House, on the line. We're standing by for more votes to come in, after this quick break.



TAPPER: I have another key race alert for you fine folks. Let's take a look at what's going on.

With 13 percent of the estimated vote in, former Congressman, Tom Suozzi, the Democrat, is ahead, with 61.8 percent of the vote. He has 15,248 votes. It's about 5,800 votes ahead of the Republican, Mazi Pilip. That's with 13 percent of the vote in, right now.

John King, what is going on where you are? Where the -- oh, I see like more votes are coming in, from Nassau County. You can't sneak that by me. I saw it.

KING: It's good, when you walk over. That's observer (ph). Let's stay in the district wide first, then we'll get into that.


KING: But yes, we are starting to see more votes come in.

Now, if you're Tom Suozzi, you've opened up an early healthy lead. For those of you at home, that's what you want. You'd rather -- you'd rather be on top. That's about -- we're roughly around 13 percent of the vote, so we got a long way to go.

So, you see the whole district here, filled in blue. I just want to split it by county to make the point you were just talking with the Congresswoman. This district has a base here, in New York City, sort of the easternmost part of New York City, Queens County, Queens.

Tom Suozzi is getting 62 percent of the vote, to 38 percent of the vote, if you round that up there. And this is where the big vote totals are so far. Just remember these numbers. He's got almost 15,000 votes. She's got 9,000.

Then, you come over to Nassau County. We're just very early in the count, in Nassau County. 709 votes, when you match it all up. 57 percent for her. 43 percent for Suozzi.

But it does tell you we're starting to get -- we just saw the numbers change right there. The numbers just changed, as we're here. So that votes are starting to come in from Nassau County. And it's pretty obvious the challenge.

As the votes come in here, number one, how high is the turnout? Number two, if he's getting 62 percent, we're up to about 80 percent, there, we think, right? So, that's -- they dropped a bit. But he stayed above 60 percent. If he's getting above 60 percent, closer to 63, 64 percent of the vote here, then simple math, she's got to match it, and run it up here, and she needs the turnout.

This is a populated, very urban area, the urban area of the district. She needs in this big suburban area, for turnout to be up. And our correspondent -- that was a concern, raised by our correspondents, both Shimon and John Berman, on the ground.

Republicans do tend traditionally, to honor voting, on Election Day. They think it's more cool, traditionally, to vote on Election Day. Did they turn out? Did they get there?

Now, very early. But we think we're about 1 percent in the Nassau County part of it. So we got a ways to go.

But if the Democrat has a giant base, in the urban area, of the district, the Republican, better run it up in the suburbs, as those votes come in, in the time ahead. And that's when you pull out to the whole district. There's where we are, about, yes about 14 percent.

TAPPER: So, the two factors hear that -- what I'm hearing from you, and from our correspondents on the ground, are A, geography that Suozzi--

KING: Right.


TAPPER: --does better, closer to Manhattan. And Pilip -- Mazi Pilip does better the farther out you get.

But B, also, when people voted. Because John Berman said that about 80,000 people voted before Election Day.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: And Democrats appear to be winning those, at least according to party registration, as to who voted.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: That means 80,000 people voted today. And that would mean that we would -- we would -- the -- Pilip -- Mazi Pilip would hope--

KING: Yes.

TAPPER: --that she matches that, on the other side, in terms of the proportion of Republicans versus Democrats who vote.

KING: Right. And to do that she's going to have to pull people back to the Republican fold. Voters who, if you go back to the George W. Bush days, before that, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush days, George Pataki, when he was governor days, suburban Republicans, right, affluent people with college education, upper middle-class or even higher than that, who were Republicans, who became Democrats, in the Obama, in the Biden years, in their -- some of it as they're running from Donald Trump. A lot of suburban--

TAPPER: Right.

KING: A lot of suburban Republicans ran from Donald Trump. Can she pull them back?

To that point, just to make, yes, make the point, in this district.

Coming back for me here. What am I doing here? All right. Doesn't work well. Well, we'll come back to that in a little bit.

But this is -- this runs -- the education level in this district runs about one and a half times the national average, the percentage of people with a bachelor's degree or higher. More than one and a half times the national average the percentage of the income, median income of this district.

So, can she get people, who -- come back to the county line. She's winning right here now. But it's 1,000 votes.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: But can she keep a -- keep this red, and keep it red? This is where, you've mentioned during the interview, with the Congress -- Republican congressman, and the Democratic Congresswoman, Joe Biden carried this district, by eight points.

Was 2022 a blip? The New York Democrats had a problem drawing the map. It was the midterm election. Was that the blip? Or are the suburbs starting to trend back to the Republicans? Can she hold it? That's one of the questions, tonight.

TAPPER: That's the big mystery, we're going to see. And we expect more votes to be reported very soon. We'll see if Tom Suozzi's lead holds, or if Mazi Pilip closes the gap, in his high-stakes special election.

Our coverage continues right after this.



TAPPER: And we're back. We have another key race alert for you.

With 14 percent of the estimated vote in, Democrat Tom Suozzi remains in the lead, with 61.1 percent of the vote. That's 15,552 votes, roughly 5,600 votes ahead of Republican Mazi Pilip, with 38.9 percent of the vote. But it is early yet. There is still a lot -- there are still a lot of votes to count.

Now, let's go to Kristen Holmes, now to the Trump factor, how it is and is not playing out, in this special election.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is in West Palm Beach, Florida, covering the Trump campaign. And Kristen, Donald Trump, he's pretty much stayed away from this race. In fact, it wasn't until a few days ago that Miss Pilip acknowledged that she voted for Donald Trump. She did so reluctantly.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Mazi Pilip was eager to avoid talking about Donald Trump. And Donald Trump and his team were more than happy to avoid wading into this race.

If you'll remember, back in 2022, former President Trump tried, unsuccessfully, to wield political power, with a number of endorsements that ended up losing in the general election. That gave Republicans a lot of blame on Donald Trump, for those lackluster results, in those midterms. They want to avoid that now, particularly as Donald Trump is -- seems to be headed towards the nomination.

I talked to a senior adviser, tonight, who said that they are being much more cautious, about who they give endorsements to, what races they wade into. And this is part of that that they -- this is not a sure thing. And they believe that if Mazi Pilip is to lose, that Donald Trump would be blamed, if he did endorse her. So, they wanted him staying out of this race.

Now, I do want to point out one thing. Now, Donald Trump might have stayed out of the district. But the district didn't totally stay away from Donald Trump. There was a notable guest, at Trump's victory party, in New Hampshire. A disgraced Congressman, George Santos, was dancing in the crowd, and celebrating when he won the New Hampshire primary.

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes. Thank you for not showing a clip of that. I appreciate it.

Joining me now, one of the New York Republicans, who voted to oust George Santos, Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, who represents nearby Staten Island.

Thank you so much for being here.

Quick question, and then, I want to let Jeff have the second question, which is the same question I asked, Congressman Lawler.

What if Suozzi wins? What if the Democrat wins? Will you regret your push, to get George Santos out of Congress?

REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): Look, we had to get rid of George Santos. What he did was wrong. It was unethical. It was illegal.

And we had done the right thing. We had sent it to the Ethics Committee. We asked for them to thoroughly investigate it. They did. And they came back, and was able to show us the receipts that he indeed was using his campaign donations inappropriately. He even stole from a fellow colleague, a credit card number, and was charging things. So, that was -- that has to be past us. We need to move forward.

It would be disappointing, if we didn't hold the seat, obviously. But there's always November. I do believe that it's still early in the night. I think that the numbers that you're seeing are because Queens has come out strong early. We've always expected that we weren't going to win the Queens part.

Remember, they're almost done now, Queens. It's almost all counted. And the rest is going to be Nassau County. I think that was -- last I checked was 2 percent only, in for Nassau County, where we expect Mazi to do very well. And so, I think the night is still early, and she can win this race.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And if she does win this race, tonight, what do you think this will tell us about former President Trump's role in the suburbs?

Will too much be read into this? As Kristen was saying, he's largely stayed out of this. She did not even say she voted for him. So, can you really read a lot into the outcome of this election, vis-a-vis Trump?

MALLIOTAKIS: I think this election is less about Trump, and more about what's happening in New York. I mean, people are really upset with what's happening.


This migration crisis that's happening, crime, the assault of those police officers, by individuals that many people believe should not be here. That's -- that is all part of the issue. The fact that New York doesn't cooperate anymore with ICE detainer request, to deport criminals, that's a factor here as well.

But I do think that if you look at Nassau County, how it's trended, over the last two cycles, Republican, they flipped everything. They flipped everything from the county executive, to the county district attorney, to the county legislature, and won a bunch of local little town supervisor seats as well. So, I think that's telling it that Nassau County is trending very much Republican.

ZELENY: How about those other key New York races, though? Is he still a drag on the ticket in the fall? Or too soon to say?

MALLIOTAKIS: I don't think so. I think things have changed significantly.

I think there's a lot of buyers' remorse for President Biden. If you look at in my district, for example, I mean, Trump did win my district. But what I will say is he's very much in the tank, President Biden. I mean, he probably have 33 percent approval rating, last we checked, and that is not good, I think, overall.

And I think a lot of -- things have changed, right? President Biden has had the opportunity to govern. And I think there's a lot of people, in these districts that are not happy. They're paying more in terms of food cost. They're seeing the border crisis continue. It's now come to New York. They're still upset with crime and the bail law that the Governor put in place, where she almost lost last year. So, I think there's a lot of things that are happening locally, which

is why New York trended different than a lot of other parts in the country, where we won a lot of seats in New York, where we were losing in other seats that we thought it was going to be a red wave, and we didn't win those areas.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, no, that's very true, Congresswoman.

But you, of course, are talking about a lot of the issues that are driving voters in New York. You live there. And you've been watching what's happening in New York 3.

But talk about it, vis-a-vis, what you do here, in Washington, and how -- is there anything that you see trending there, besides immigration, that gives you pause, as a Republican in a very, very narrow majority?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, look, I think, right now, what you're seeing, we have that narrow majority. And the Senate obviously is split.

So, everything that you're seeing happening, whether it's avoiding the default, whether it's avoiding the shutdowns, whether it's making sure that we pass the NDAA, which we did, now we're going to go on to FISA, and some other stuff. It's all going to be done in a bipartisan manner.

I mean, the bottom line is, you're going to see, as you've been seeing this year, far-right, far-left vote against these things. And the vast majority of the middle, over 300 members, vote for these things.

And so, you're going to see, I think, more bipartisanship actually, as a result, when it comes to getting these things done. Like just -- like the tax plan that we passed, last week, that expanded the Child Tax Credit, that reinstated some of those winning provisions, for the economy, for our small businesses rely on, the R&D tax credit, and those things, those, that was done in a bipartisan way, bicameral, right?

So, I think anything you're going to see for the remainder of the year has to be in a bipartisan way.

BASH: I can't believe you didn't mention SALT.

MALLIOTAKIS: Well SALT's a -- we're taking a vote tomorrow, on the rule. We'll see. But I think 2025 is the year--



RAJU: Is that going to pass?


MALLIOTAKIS: I think there is a problem there. But 2025 is the year where the SALT provision expires. And I think that's where the New York members are going to have their most leverage, to get something done, or our constituents.

TAPPER: SALT, of course, a reference to state and local taxes. It's a thing that we'll go into that later.

Congresswoman Malliotakis, thank you so much, for stopping by. I really appreciate it.


TAPPER: As more votes come in, how are the candidates feeling about the race, right now? We're going to check in with the campaigns. And standby for more numbers on this suspenseful special election night. That's all ahead.



TAPPER: More votes are coming in. So, we got another key race alert for you. Let's look at the big board.

With 14 percent of the estimated vote in, in the congressional race, the special election in New York's 3rd, Democrat Thomas Suozzi has 61 percent of the vote, 15,592 votes. That is 5,615 votes ahead of Republican Mazi Pilip, who has 39 percent of the vote.

I will remind you it is early yet. It's only 14 percent of the vote. And we did expect Democratic votes to come in more heavily early on.

Let's check in with John Berman, now. He has now moved to the Nassau County Board of Elections in Mineola, New York.

John, what is happening in Mineola?

BERMAN: To be -- it's all happening, first of all, Jake, in Mineola. We're at the Board of Elections in Mineola. All the votes from Nassau County are coming here, to this loading dock, outside.

You can see that car pulling up right there. That car, we believe?

Well, each one of the cars that does pull up here, and there have been quite a few that are coming up. They hold all the voting materials, for each of the election districts, which you might know as precincts, from around Nassau County.

Each one of the cars is unloaded with those voting materials.

OK. Here we go. You're seeing this. You can see right there, those red pouches, on top there. Those red pouches hold the flash drives. Remember, I was at those voting machines, earlier, in Carle Place. Each one of those red pouches has a flash drive, from one of the voting machines.

The yellow bag holds absentee ballots that were delivered to each of the polling places, today.

We'll walk in.

Once they arrive here, at the loading dock, they come in here. This looks like a cage, like an evidence room, from "The Wire" or something. But it's behind this cage, where all of these flash drive pouches are scanned in, right? There, you can see them being scanned in, like at a supermarket checker. That's to make sure that each one of the machines produces a flash drive that can then come here and be counted.

The pouches are then opened. You can see the flash drives being taken out in some cases.

And then, the flash drives themselves are taken into a room, in the back, where we are not allowed. Most of the people here, in fact, not allowed. That's where the officials here, in Nassau County, put the flash drives, into the computer, and count the votes themselves.

At last count, we had 25 or so in. I imagine, we're up over 50 now, of these flash drives. So, they're getting up there, in terms of the votes coming in here, to Nassau County, loading them into the computer. And then, they will be counted.

What we're going to try to do is get an early read, if we can, on what the actual votes are, Jake.


But it is interesting seeing the process at work here, with the votes, literally coming in here, to Nassau County.

TAPPER: Fascinating stuff, John Berman, also wearing a red cravat as a style homage to George Santos, perhaps.

John King, let us know more about the votes coming in, where they're coming from, who they're going to.

KING: Very quick point, I've made it before. I want to make it again. Those are amazing people.


KING: Doing the work of democracy. There are people, in our politics, including a former President, to pummel them all the time. They're doing their work. I don't know, if they're Democrats. I don't know if they're Republicans. They're counting votes. And they're doing it the way it's supposed to be done.


KING: Where are we, right now? So, we're at 61 percent, for Tom Suozzi, to 39 percent, for Mazi Pilip. We're at about 14 percent of the vote. It's a special election. So, that's an estimate right now.

So, if you're looking at this, and you've been with us, since we started counting votes, 55 minutes ago, after the polls closed, you said, oh, he's above 60 percent for the whole hour now, pretty much, so that must mean he's going to win.

Let's slow down. Let's slow down. Number one, we're early. We've got 80 percent of the vote-plus, still to count. Number two, remember, we talked about this earlier. This district is divided. This is Queens County, New York City.

I'll pull this out here. This is Queens County, New York City. Tom Suozzi is running 62 percent of the vote, there, running it up in the urban New York City part of the district, like a Democrat has to do, right? But she's getting 40 percent (ph). Just look at that vote total, 15,000, 9,000, right, 82 percent reported.

I just want to go back two years ago. Now, this is a special election. So, the numbers won't exactly match up. The turnout tonight is not going to be the same as the 2022 midterms. We don't expect it to be anyway.

But in the 2022 midterms, OK, Robert Zimmerman was the Democratic candidate. He won Queens County with 52 percent. So, Tom Suozzi, right now, is overperforming Robert Zimmerman, who lost. So, Tom Suozzi, that's good, you're overperforming the last guy. But just look at the total there. 48,000, close to 49,000 votes when you add all that up there.

Come over to Nassau County. This is where George Santos won the seat, because he won out here. More than four times as many votes, were cast in Nassau County, than in Queens County part of the district.

So, come back to where we are tonight. We're only at 1 percent here, right? Pilip is winning 57 percent to 43 percent. But so Suozzi is winning 62 percent. But we're almost done counting, in Queens, right? We're almost done -- not almost done. But you're -- you're most of the way at 80 percent. Then you come here, we're just getting started.

So, you're at 80 percent, you're just getting started. There is plenty of time, plenty of votes, out here, in a much larger, more populated part of the district.

Two years ago, four times as many votes--


KING: --cast in this part of the district. Right now, we only have 1,000 votes and some change.

TAPPER: So, can you go back to Queens County, for one second?

OK. So, 82 percent of the vote in. And it's roughly 24,000, 25,000 votes.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: So, we expect it's going to be a little bit over 30,000 votes, will be from Queens County.

KING: Right. TAPPER: And we think, based on what John Berman told us earlier that about 160,000 people voted.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: So it really the question is just what that huge chunk, how many of them voted, and they're all in Nassau County.

KING: Yes, they would be in Nassau County.

Again, in the 2022 midterm election, more than four times, not quite five times as many, more than four, but well in excess of four times is more votes cast here than here.

So, the question is, does that hold true tonight? If it does, and she stays if it -- you know, again, this is 1,000 votes and change. So, she's at 57 percent. If she stays at 57 percent, and although there's enough votes out there, well, then guess what? She's got to come back and pass. I'm not saying that's going to happen.

I'm just saying that because we are so early in the count -- and John just showed where he was. He's in Mineola, which is right down in here. Forgive me if you live in Mineola, from an inch or half an inch off there. But Mineola's right about down here. That's where the Board of Elections is.

You saw that happening right there, the scanning, bringing everything in. And that's the integrity of the election process. But guess what? Also tells us now that we see them coming in, you put the flash drive in the machine, and the count can come pretty quickly, once they have them, in that central counting location.

Takes a while to get in there. You see the old mode of transportation, right? You drive them. You drive them and you get them there.

But I would expect quite quickly, the Nassau County numbers. The Nassau County pieces of this are going to change pretty quickly. We're at 1,050, you know, 1,059 votes. That's going to change pretty quickly. And when it does, that's when we will know, does that change?

TAPPER: Yes. What else can you tell me about this congressional district? Can you tell me who they voted for, for President, in 2020, in 2016? I know that congressional districts changed.

KING: The districts changed, and especially the New York City maps have changed.

But we can go back in time, to the degree that we can. I mean, if you come back to 2020, in this district, Joe Biden -- well you have to come in and carry, look at the district, Nassau, you can do it by county, the congressional district.

Well I can probably find the CDs if I can -- see if my CDs are still in.

TAPPER: Sorry. See, I did not prepare him for those. KING: Yes. Yes. That's OK. That's OK. But you can look -- you can look roughly here. Nassau County, Joe Biden won the county, which is, again, to your point, right, little off.

But this is -- this is when the suburbs abandoned Donald Trump. And Donald Trump narrowly won the suburbs, nationally, in 2016, against Hillary Clinton.


KING: They abandoned him in 2018. That's why Nancy Pelosi was Speaker. They abandoned him in 2020.

This is New York. Joe Biden was going to win New York anyway.


But to that point, if you go back in time, you come here 2016, Nassau County, it's closer. You see there. You come through. Just want to go way back in time. Bill Clinton won this area pretty decisively. So, not exactly the greatest analogy that way because the maps do change.

But as we look in here, let's just come back in, and see if the numbers have gone up at all. We are stuck right here, still, 61 to 39, in the race, right now. But a very important point. Most of the vote, it's from the Queens part of the district, very little of the vote, from the much more Republican suburban area.

Jake, hopefully, we get more count just in the minutes ahead.

TAPPER: All right, John King.

And if you are just joining us, we are covering the special election to fill the House seat, previously held by ousted Republican George Santos.