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State of the Union
Interview With Stacey Abrams; Interview With Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX); Interview With Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired March 14, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Independence day. Get ready to fire up the barbecue, says President Biden, because life could feel a lot more normal by summer.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not relent until we beat this virus. I need every American to do their part.
TAPPER: But can the vaccinations come quickly enough to ward off another spike? Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan are next.
And in crisis. The Biden administration struggles to confront a surge of migrant children at the border.
ROBERTA JACOBSON, WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR FOR SOUTHERN BORDER: The border is not open.
TAPPER: As the president's allies on Capitol Hill face a big hurdle in expanding voter access, can President Biden deliver on his key campaign promises? Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams and border Congresswoman Veronica Escobar ahead.
Plus: Canceled? The embattled New York governor loses the support of state Democratic leaders, including the state's senators, but Andrew Cuomo says he won't go.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Let the review proceed. I'm not going to resign.
TAPPER: Will it work?
TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is springing forward.
One year ago this weekend, reported deaths from COVID-19 were still just in the double digits, just under 70 confirmed deaths, as we all started to scramble to adjust to a sudden new normal, life in a pandemic.
One year ago tomorrow, March 16, 2020, President Trump announced 15 days to slow the spread. It would have been difficult at the time to imagine we would still be living under restrictions one year later.
Today, there are more than 534,000 Americans dead from this virus. But, in some ways, this moment does feel a bit optimistic. One in five Americans has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC, nearly three million people yesterday alone.
In his first prime-time address as president, Joe Biden outlined an aggressive timeline for the vaccine, saying the U.S. will have enough doses for every adult by the end of May, and pointing to the Fourth of July as the beginning of America's independence from the virus.
As states move to relax, rapidly, restrictions and air travel reaches its highest level since March 2020, however, health experts are continuing to warn that now is not the time to return to normal.
Here to explain why and what's next, the president's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us.
The government of Italy is imposing another lockdown tomorrow, as new variants caused cases to surge there. In some cases, the vaccines are less effective in combating the variants. How worried are you about that happening here?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, it definitely is of concern, Jake, which is the reason why I and so many of my public health colleagues say that, although we are going in the right direction, and things look really quite bright, in the sense of positive thinking concerning the vaccines, which, every day, we get better and better with it -- we have had, as you mentioned, three million doses going into people's arms just yesterday -- that we're going in the right direction.
But if you look at the numbers, Jake, even though the numbers have gone down, over the last couple of weeks, they have plateaued. And when you see a plateau at a level as high as 60,000 cases a day, that is a very vulnerable time to have a surge to go back up.
And that's what exactly happened in Europe. They had a diminution of cases, they plateaued, and they pulled back on public health measures. You see the pictures in the paper and on TV. They have opened the restaurants. They have opened some of the bars.
The younger people particularly stopped wearing masks, and then, all of a sudden, you have a surge that went right back up. And that's where we are right now.
We can avoid that, Jake. We can avoid that if we continue to vaccinate people, get more and more protection without all of a sudden pulling back on public health measures. We will do that. We will gradually be able to pull them back. And if things go as we planned, just as the president said, by the time we get into the early summer, the Fourth of July weekend, we really will have a considerable degree of normality.
But we don't want to let that escape from our grasp by being too precipitous in pulling back.
TAPPER: So, we have been living with this virus now for a year. There's still so much we do not know about the coronavirus.
What is the biggest outstanding question for you about this virus?
FAUCI: Well, I mean, there are so many things.
But the one that's obviously the looming one is the issue of what impact these variants are going to have. We know that, when you get a very high degree of antibodies resulting from the vaccination, that, even though it isn't specifically directed against the variant, that high level of antibody can protect to a certain degree and certainly protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
So, the best way that we can avoid any threat from variants is do two things, get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can, and to continue with the public health measures, until we get this broad umbrella of protection over society, that the level of infection is very low.
There's a tenet in virology that's so true, Jake, and that is, viruses don't mutate unless they replicate. And replication means it's spreading around in the community. If you can blunt that, you will be blunting the evolution of mutants, for sure.
TAPPER: So, President Biden has promised to have enough vaccine supply produced for every adult in America by the end of May.
Of course, there's a big difference between having enough supply and getting those shots into arms. When do you think it's going to happen that everybody who wants a shot has gotten a shot?
FAUCI: Well, I hope that's just going to be a couple of months after that, I mean, hopefully, by the time that we get into the summer, and towards the end of the summit.
Logistically, let me tell you what's going on, why I feel optimistic about that. What the president has announced and will -- happening is the opening up of community vaccine centers, up to 500 of them, and over 900 of the community health centers from HRSA, to get people vaccinated in those centers.
Number two, to give the pharmacies a lot more leeway in being able to administer vaccines, particularly in areas of the country that are poorly serving, in the sense where minorities are demographically represented to a high degree, getting mobile units out to get to poorly accessible areas, and get a lot more people that can do vaccination. That means the military. That means retired physicians, nurses, and
health care providers. So, you're absolutely right. There are two issues, getting enough doses, which we will have with the new contracts with the pharmaceutical companies, but, once you get those doses, to get it into people's arms.
And that's the reason why, when the president said by the Fourth of July, we believe strongly...
FAUCI: ... that, if we do all these things, we will reach a certain degree of normality by then, and then well into the summer, we will get even better and better towards normal.
TAPPER: So, let me ask you about that, because Biden said there's a good chance Americans will be able to gather in backyards and neighborhoods for cookouts on the forth.
The CDC already has guidelines for gathering outside with masks and distancing. So, can you explain the difference? Does that mean people will be able to return to a sense of normalcy without masks, without distancing on the Fourth of July?
FAUCI: Well, yes.
First of all, there will be a great degree of confidence. When you have a situation where you have 70,000 infections per day, I mean, that is a feeling that you don't feel very secure about mingling, about having people around, feeling comfortable about it.
If, by the time we get to the Fourth of July, with the rollout of the vaccines, we get the level of infection so low, I'm not going to be able to tell you exactly what the specific guidelines of the CDC are, but I can tell you, for sure, they will be much more liberal than they are right now about what you can do.
TAPPER: The CDC finally released some guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated. But those people are still not allowed to have medium-sized gatherings. They're still not allowed to travel, according to the CDC.
Why? Why -- what do you as a health expert...
TAPPER: ... need to see to say it's OK for vaccinated individuals to travel or to be in a crowd?
TAPPER: I mean, it's -- it doesn't make sense to a lot of people.
FAUCI: Well, Jake, let me tell you how it goes with regard to the CDC. The CDC is a science-based organization. So, they really would like to get the data that would allow them to go to the next step. If they don't have the data, they will do modeling. If they don't have the modeling, they will use as you say, commonsense expert opinion.
So, what we have seen was the first installment of what you can do if you're vaccinated, and that's what you just mentioned, what you can do in the home setting, with the vaccinated people together or vaccinated people with an unvaccinated person.
You're going to see very soon similar types of guidelines for the American public with regard to travel, the workplace, all kinds of different things that you're asking right now. You will imminently be seeing those types of guidelines coming out.
FAUCI: They just want to make sure that they get it right. Now, some people think that's a little bit too slow, but they're going to get there, and they will get there soon.
TAPPER: So, in terms of CDC guidance, as you know, the guidance for social distancing, for how far people should be, there's a discrepancy.
Some places, some health organization say three feet, or a meter, is enough. But here in the United States, we say six feet.
TAPPER: There's this new study from researchers in Massachusetts just out this week. It found no significant difference in coronavirus spreading in schools where there was six feet of distancing vs. three feet of distancing.
TAPPER: But that six-foot requirement, that's one of the main hurdles to reopening schools.
FAUCI: Right. Right. And...
TAPPER: Does this study suggest to you that three feet is good enough?
FAUCI: It does, indeed.
And that's exactly the point I'm making, Chuck (sic). What the CDC wants to do is, they want to accumulate data. And when the data shows that there is an ability to be three feet, they will act accordingly.
They have clearly noted those data. They are, in fact, doing studies themselves. And when the data are just analyzed -- and it's going to be soon. I mean, Jake, you're asking the right questions. And the CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look more like three feet or OK under certain circumstances. They're analyzing that.
And I can assure you, within a reasonable period of time, quite reasonable, they will be giving guidelines according to the data that they have.
TAPPER: So, any mayors or...
FAUCI: It won't be very long, I promise you.
TAPPER: Any mayors or governors or school district heads listening right now, if they hear you right now, and they say, well, it sounds like Dr. Fauci thinks three feet is good enough, that will enable us to open our school, that's right?
FAUCI: Well, Jake, I don't want to get ahead of official guidelines.
I can tell you and promise you I talk to the CDC, to Dr. Walensky every single day. She is acutely aware of the accumulation of data and the fact that her team will be acting on the data the way they always do.
TAPPER: All right.
FAUCI: So, stay tuned. It's going to come, and it's going to come soon.
TAPPER: Well, we are staying tuned for a lot of us who want schools to open -- safely, safely, of course.
TAPPER: Dr. Fauci, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time today.
FAUCI: Good to be with you, Jake. Thank you for having me.
TAPPER: Maryland's governor surprised many in his state when he lifted COVID restrictions on businesses this week. Why risk another surge? Governor Larry Hogan will join me next.
And it seems like a simple question. Shouldn't we encourage as many people, citizens, legal voters, to vote as possible? Stacey Abrams is coming up.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
As health officials plead for governors to wait just a few weeks to relax their COVID restrictions, on Friday, Maryland became the latest state to move forward anyway, lifting restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms, and other businesses. Joining me now, Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan.
Governor Hogan, thanks so much.
Let's start with your decision to relax restrictions.
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Good morning.
TAPPER: Just hours before your announcement, Fauci told local Maryland officials -- quote -- "Now is the time for us to keep the foot on the accelerator" with regards to adhering to public health measures. You just heard him in the segment before saying that we should not be relaxing these restrictions.
Why are you pushing ahead with that anyway?
HOGAN: Well, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Fauci. And we have worked together over the past year very closely.
We also have his former colleague Dr. Redfield, who's one of our advisers, along with a whole team of public health experts and epidemiologists, who we meet with on an ongoing basis nearly every day.
We didn't lift restrictions. We did raise capacity limits, but we kept the most serious mitigation measures in place, which is masking and distancing, which many states have changed. We did not. I think we took a -- kind of a balanced approach that's trying to continue to keep people safe, but also try to get some folks back to work and help support some of our small businesses.
And our metrics in every category, from positivity rate, to cases, to hospitalizations, are better than they have been in many, many months. But Dr. Fauci is right. It's -- we're not through this, and we're going to continue to follow the public health guidance and keep everybody safe.
TAPPER: In his prime-time address a few days ago, President Biden called on states to make every adult eligible to get vaccinated by May 1, to have enough vaccine for them.
Right now in Maryland, residents under the age of 65, including most of those with underlying health conditions, are still not eligible, per Maryland, for the vaccine.
The CDC ranks your state 30th in terms of vaccines administered per capita. Why are you lagging behind?
HOGAN: Well, we're really not.
I mean, there's a lot of different numbers you can utilize. But it's -- it's all based on supply. So, we're 13th in the nation in the total number of doses. We're number one in America in utilizing the J&J vaccine. I think we're 15th and 16th in several other categories.
That one number you're talking about, a percentage of vaccination, it's based on false numbers, because the federal government's counting doses that went to their federal agencies that we don't have anything to do with or have any control over.
But it's all about supply right now. We can do 100,000 shots a day. We just hit 56,000 yesterday. We're actually doing a much better job than at least 30 or 40 other states. But I think it's great that they're promising to get us more doses, and we sure hope that they can meet those time frames.
We're just waiting for more doses. We utilize 90-some percent of all the ones we get almost immediately.
TAPPER: So, you say you hope you can make the May 1 deadline, so that anybody who's eligible can sign up. Do you think you're going to be able to make the May 1 deadline?
HOGAN: We could do it today. All we need is the vaccines from the federal government. We can't purchase vaccines. We can't manufacture vaccines.
So, if the president and his team is able to deliver, we don't have to wait until May 1. We can get moving even faster.
TAPPER: The biggest problem in terms of vaccine skepticism is among Trump supporters.
A new poll out this week found that nearly half of Trump supporters do not intend to get vaccinated. Now, President Trump, he got vaccinated, but he did it secretly before he left office. He did not participate in a joint public awareness campaign with all the other former presidents.
Do you blame him for this vaccine hesitancy among your fellow Republicans?
HOGAN: Well, I think he certainly didn't help any with his messaging throughout the -- throughout the pandemic on masking and not speaking out strongly enough on the vaccines.
But it's -- you can't pin all of it on him. I mean, there's a lot of disinformation campaigns out there from the right and the left, a lot of people who are vaccine-hesitant. And we're doing everything we can to overcome that with public information spots, spending millions of dollars to try to convince people.
And I think we're doing pretty well. We have now vaccinated more than 65 percent of the total eligible population, and we're going into communities where we -- where we really need to get more people vaccinated, and we're doing everything we can think of.
We're going to have to get more people vaccinated, and get more -- everybody willing to take this vaccine, if we're going to get it under control and try to get life back to normal.
TAPPER: President Biden also said during his prime-time address he condemned the wave of racist attacks against Asian Americans. He called it un-American.
Your wife is Korean American. You tweeted out your appreciation for the president's remarks, along with a picture of your family.
That's a gorgeous family, by the way.
HOGAN: Thank you.
TAPPER: We have all been horrified by the spike in violence against the Asian American community.
What's been the past year like for your family? Has your family faced discrimination or harassment?
HOGAN: Well, it's really -- it really has been a serious problem. My wife, my three daughters, my grandkids, all Asian, and they -- they have felt some discrimination personally.
But they also have close friends, friends of my wife's from church, some of my daughter's friends who've been -- who've really been treated pretty terribly. Hate crimes in general last year were down 7 percent, but it was up 50 -- 150 percent in the Asian community.
And it's outrageous. It's unacceptable. And I think it was great that President Biden brought this up. It's something that I have been focused on. We feel it personally with my daughter, who sort of is sometimes afraid to come visit us, with people who had best friends that were being harassed at the grocery store, or being called names, and people yelling about the China virus, even though they're from Korea and born in America.
It's something we have to get under control. And I wish more people would be speaking out. And I appreciate the president's remarks.
TAPPER: Yes, it's hideous.
I want to ask you about your successor as the head of the National Governors Association, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The majority of New York's congressional delegation, Democrats, including Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, have called on Cuomo to resign over both his hiding the data about the nursing home deaths and also allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.
Do you think Governor Cuomo needs to step down?
HOGAN: Well, look, I -- these are obviously serious allegations that do need to be looked into, and it has to be investigated.
I don't think it's up to me to be speaking for the people of the state of New York. But I think -- I think, obviously, there are investigations under way. And, hopefully, we're going to get to the bottom of this, because it's pretty serious allegations and growing every day.
TAPPER: All right, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, thank you so much for your time this week. We really appreciate it.
HOGAN: Thanks, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: The Senate majority leader calls Georgia's new voting rules -- quote -- "racist, plain and simple."
I will ask my next guest whether she agrees and what she's doing about it. Stacey Abrams will be here.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Across the country, many Republican legislatures are reversing pandemic era rules meant to make it easier for citizens to vote.
While President Biden and congressional Democrats want to expand voting options, it's not clear they will be able to even get a Senate vote on the floor because of the filibuster.
And joining me now, Georgia Democrat and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams.
Leader Abrams, thanks for joining us.
So, Republican state lawmakers in your home state, Georgia, have introduced almost two dozen bills to make it more difficult to vote. They are going to end no-excuse mail-in voting, which has been there since 2005. They're going to reduce voting on Sundays, ask for stricter I.D. requirements, take away drop boxes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in D.C., he called this effort by Georgia Republicans -- quote -- "racist, plain and simple" -- unquote.
Do you agree? And is there any way for Democrats to stop these efforts?
STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: Well, first of all, I do absolutely agree that it's racist. It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.
We know that the only thing that precipitated these changes, it's not that there was the question of security. In fact, the secretary of state and the governor went to great pains to assure America that Georgia's elections were secure.
And so the only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like. And so, instead of celebrating better access and more participation, their response is to try to eliminate access to voting for primarily communities of color.
And there's a direct correlation between the usage of drop boxes, the usage of in person early voting, especially on Sundays, and the use of vote by mail and a direct increase in the number of people of color voting.
TAPPER: And, in fact, the secretary of state, Raffensperger, a Republican, has said that he thinks it's Donald Trump insulting the process that led to so many Trump voters not turning out for the special elections, thus handing the U.S. Senate to the Democrats.
We should point out, of course, it's not just in Georgia. Republicans in 43 states are pushing more than 250 pieces of legislation that would make it more difficult for individuals to vote. They say they're doing this for vote security.
Arizona Republican State Representative John Kavanagh told CNN -- quote -- "There's a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they're willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud. So, we don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote. But everybody shouldn't be voting" -- unquote.
What's your reaction when you hear that from a Republican elected official?
ABRAMS: Well, my reaction when I hear that from any American is that I'm fundamentally disappointed that they misunderstand our democracy.
Our system of government demands active participation from citizens to direct the future of our nation. And we should be deeply disappointed in anyone, any American citizen, and certainly anyone who took the oath of office who seeks to restrict access to the right to vote, and uses this false predicate of fraud, which we have seen disproven in multiple courts and by the Supreme Court, as well as by the governors and secretaries of state in almost every state.
We know that voter fraud did not happen. But we know that voter participation did increase. And we should all be small-D democratic, in the sense that we should want as many people as possible who are eligible to have a voice in the direction of our nation.
If we are willing to invest our dollars, we should be allowed to have a voice in our system. That was the fundamental premise of this nation. And that's why H.R.1., S.R.1, and H.R.4 are such essential pieces of legislation, because, whether it's happening in Georgia, in Arizona, in Pennsylvania, in Kansas, in Iowa, where voter suppression is rearing its head yet again, it is our responsibility to ensure that, no matter where you live in the United States of America, the right to vote and the access to that vote is protected.
TAPPER: We shouldn't say there's no fraud. There's no significant fraud. But there obviously has been some fraud here and there. I know of at least two or three Trump voters in Pennsylvania who voted for their dead parents. So, there has been some fraud, just not anything that would change the course of the election.
Are you worried, if these laws happen, that they could cost Democrats Senate races, gubernatorial races, even the White House in 2024?
ABRAMS: I'm less concerned about the impact on Democrats and more concerned about the impact on Americans.
When you tell Americans that their right to vote has to be determined by whether or not the party in power thinks that they should be heard, we are completely reversing our course, the progress we have made becoming a more democratic society.
This is not about any individual politician. It's about the right of the people to be heard. We just watched the American Rescue Plan pass, where we're going to lift half of the people in poverty out of poverty. In the state of Georgia alone, 88 percent of Georgians and 88 percent of Georgia's children will receive funding, and we will lift 171,000 children out of poverty.
It should be anathema to us in the United States that we would allow anyone to deny the right to vote to any American, so we can choose the direction of this country.
TAPPER: The House just passed a sweeping voting reform bill. It's about to run into the Senate filibuster.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said it would be catastrophic if the filibuster was allowed to be used to block these efforts to ensure voting rights. What's your message to Democratic senators such as Kyrsten Sinema or Senator Joe Manchin or even to President Biden, who all support voting rights, but have made clear that they're not in favor of eliminating the filibuster, which will all be guarantee this bill dies?
ABRAMS: I don't believe that it's necessary to wholly eliminate the filibuster to accomplish the purposes of passing these bills.
The Elections Clause in the Constitution guarantees that the Congress alone has the power to regulate -- to regulate the time, manner and place of elections. That is a power that is sacrosanct. We are watching across this country as individual legislators try to use the big lie to restrict access to the right to vote.
And just as we have seen an exemption carved into the filibuster rules for judicial appointments, for Cabinet appointments, and for budget reconciliation, the protection of our democracy, especially in the wake of the insurrection on January 6 and its continued ripples throughout our state legislatures, it demands that the entire U.S. Senate acknowledge that that protection of democracy is so fundamental that it should be exempt from the filibuster rules.
And we encourage everyone to go to FairFight.com to learn more.
TAPPER: Lastly, before I let you go, I want to ask you.
On Friday, the majority of Democrats in New York's congressional delegation, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, publicly called on Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign because of the myriad scandals and sexual harassment allegations against him.
As a high-profile voice in the Democratic Party, do you agree with them that Governor Cuomo needs to step down?
ABRAMS: I believe that women should be heard, that any accusations of sexual misconduct should be investigated.
But my focus right now is not wading into what's happening in New York. I believe New Yorkers will decide what they need to do. And I believe the women who have come forward should be heard and should be listened to.
But our -- my focus remains on protecting democracy in New York and Georgia and around this country, because the fundamentals of our democracy are at risk. And we cannot forget that, just because the election is over, we know that the big lie continues, and it's reshaping our nation in ways that we should not countenance.
TAPPER: Stacey Abrams, thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
TAPPER: President Biden promised to reverse President Trump's policies at the border, but is that actually increasing the surge of unaccompanied migrant children trying to get into the United States?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The Biden administration yesterday evening directed FEMA to help manage a brewing crisis along the Southern border.
That's the Federal Emergency Management Agency, though, the Biden team has yet to call this an emergency, as the administration faces a surge of unaccompanied migrant children already overwhelming border facilities, where some children say they have not been able to shower for days or contact their parents according to lawyers who interviewed them.
Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas. She represents a border district.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
So, almost 4,000 children are in Border Patrol custody right now. That's more than during the peak of the 2019 crisis. The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, called it overwhelming in an e-mail this week.
In 2019, you called the influx of migrants at the border a humanitarian crisis. Is this a crisis?
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Good morning, Jake. Thanks so much for having me on your program.
In -- what I called the crisis was the government's response that created the inhumane conditions where we had families and small children outdoors in triple-digit temperatures sleeping on rocks. That was truly a humanitarian crisis.
There is no doubt, Jake, that what we're seeing today is an enormous challenge. And it's unacceptable. But we also, I think, need to acknowledge that the flow of humanity arriving at our front door never stopped.
The Donald Trump administration didn't stop them. And what we are seeing today is the consequence of four years of dismantling every system in place to address this with humanity and compassion.
The Biden administration is working day and night to do it. I have been in close contact with federal law enforcement here, with Border Patrol, with everyone involved, and with our advocates and lawyers and the folks offering hospitality.
I do want to also point out, Jake, that we began seeing the increase in unaccompanied minors going back to last April 2020. This is not something that happened as a result of Joe Biden becoming president. We saw the increases dating back almost a year. And this was during the Trump administration.
TAPPER: So, more than 450 unaccompanied migrant children are crossing the border every day, 450.
HHS can only place a fraction of those children with family and with sponsors. We saw this in 2014 under President Obama and in 2018 and '19 under President Trump. Now we're seeing it again under President Biden, who is now sending FEMA to help for the next 90 days.
What should be the plan to deal with this, with these kids who have nowhere to go?
ESCOBAR: Yes, you know, on Friday, I toured the central processing center here in El Paso, where they are at capacity. And they are waiting for HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, to take those kids out of their care, place them in licensed high-quality facilities, and then quickly reunite them with their families.
The challenge, as I kind of mentioned at the top of our conversation, is that these systems were dismantled by the prior administration. So, there are fewer licensed high-quality facilities. The Biden administration is working very hard, HHS and ORR told me and others, to get as many of those licensed facilities online. They are embedding HHS personnel in these processing centers to
immediately engage with the children to find out their parents' phone number -- many of them are coming to meet their parents -- to find out their parents' phone numbers, their location, so that they expedite safely and humanely that processing and that stay in a shelter.
I want to offer context for just how impressive -- this is unacceptable, OK? But I want you to know how impressive the progress has been even in this very short period of time.
Last year -- or pre-COVID...
ESCOBAR: ... when I toured a number of shelters, I was talking to children who had been in shelters for three months, six months, for up to a year, while the Trump administration held them in for-profit shelters.
The Biden administration has shaved down that time to between 30 and 35 days...
ESCOBAR: ... in a shelter, before they're able to get those kids to their family.
TAPPER: No doubt -- no doubt these are very different...
ESCOBAR: It's still -- there's a lot of work to do.
No doubt these are very different presidents with very different approaches. But let me just ask you. The president of Mexico, Lopez Obrador, said that they see Biden as the migrant president. And so many fields are going to reach the United States.
Is there not a degree to which whatever messages have been sent from the Biden administration, it is encouraging what is happening and is encouraging these kids to come, creating this tragedy?
ESCOBAR: You know, Jake, here's what that kind of focus does.
It obscures the bigger picture that many of us, myself included, have been talking about for years. The flows -- the flow of humanity ebbs and flows. There -- as I mentioned, in April, we began seeing -- in April of 2020, under the harshest of conditions, a Trump administration and COVID, we still saw people arriving at our front door.
TAPPER: I'm just quoting the president of Mexico.
(CROSSTALK) ESCOBAR: No, I got you.
And I -- but even the president of Mexico, that comment obscures what we have to do...
ESCOBAR: ... which is what I believe President Biden finally will achieve, which is address the root causes of migration.
We're going to be having this conversation year in and year out...
TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.
ESCOBAR: ... until we have leaders in this hemisphere who are willing to work together.
I hope President Lopez Obrador works with the presidents of the Northern Triangle, President Biden. We need to get Canada involved.
Thank you so much, Congress...
ESCOBAR: This is a challenge that has -- that we've been seeing for several years. It's not going away...
TAPPER: Thank you so much.
ESCOBAR: ... until we fix it.
TAPPER: Thank you so much, Congresswoman. We really appreciate you coming on the show today.
ESCOBAR: Thanks, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Friday morning, despite five women publicly having made allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, only one House Democrat from New York, Congressman Kathleen Rice, had called for him to step down. But by sundown Friday, 16 out of the 19 House Democrats representing New York state and both senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, had done so.
So what changed? One House Democrat tells me a major factor was a report in the Albany Times Union of a new accuser, so far unnamed publicly, alleging a recent and physical incident. Now, CNN has not been able to confirm the details in that report and the governor has denied the allegations but the House Democrat tells me that is one of the main reasons for the sea change.
And another reason, the impeachment proceedings beginning in Albany led by the Democratic State senate leader and assembly speaker. Cuomo, who did not respond to multiple requests to appear on the show today, shows no public signs of going anywhere anytime soon.
On Friday he gave an audio statement to the press in which he disputed the allegations, suggested his accusers were lying, and questioned their motivations while claiming he was not questioning their motivations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): There is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged. Period. I won't speculate about people's possible motives, but I can tell you, as a former attorney general who has gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It is perhaps telling that the governor does not actually specifically deny everything that has been alleged. He has not denied that he asked personal questions of former staffers Anna Liss and Charlotte Bennett who has publicly accused the governor of sexual harassment.
Indeed Cuomo has not denied asking some of the questions that Bennett said made her feel as though he were proposing a sexual relationship. He just said that generally his comments had been misconstrued. Quote, at work sometimes I think I am being playful and I make jokes I think are funny, he said in a statement, so as to, quote, add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business, unquote.
Really? So just some jokey questions to a 25-year-old subordinate about whether she dated older men and when the last time was that she had, quote, like really hugged somebody, not a parent. Asking a survivor of sexual assault whether she is still sensitive to intimacy. It doesn't sound like joking. It sounds like fishing.
Which prompts me to wonder if that line of whatever it was had ever led to intimacy with a female subordinate. Now, notably, the governor refused to answer a question about whether he had had intimate relationships with any of his own staffers. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: I think the question that a lot of us have is, was there some kind of a consensual romantic relationship with any of these women, that you understood?
CUOMO: My statement could not be clearer, I think. I never harassed anyone, I never assaulted anyone, I never abused anyone. To the extent you get these people who say well he took a picture with me and I was uncomfortable, I apologized for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Took a picture. What? That's not what the question was. It should not be difficult to say whether he perceived a consensual intimate relationship with any of his accusers, or any employee for that matter.
Now, Governor Cuomo is entitled to due process. He has every right to say that the two investigations should go forward but only he knows the full extent of what might be brought to light. By now he has to know there is a chasm between how he perceives how he talks to women on his staff and how some of those women perceive it, as in some of them perceive it not only as inappropriate but as pressure to sleep with him.
Now how many women? Only he knows what other names and incidents might come forward as he digs in. One wonders if that is even a remote consideration.
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.