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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

July 22, 2020

Wolf Blitzer: We have breaking news we're following. The President about to hold a coronavirus news briefing over at the White House as the U.S. is now on track to add 1 million new cases in just two weeks. Then, just a few moments ago, the President announced his administration will send federal agents and officers to Chicago, as it already has to Portland, Oregon. Listen to this.

President Donald Trump: Today, I am announcing that the Department of Justice will immediately surge federal law enforcement to the City of Chicago. The FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, and Homeland Security will together be sending hundreds of skilled law enforcement officers to Chicago to help drive down violent crime.

Blitzer: Alright, let's discuss with the Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio, thanks so much for joining us. And I want to get your thoughts on the potential deployment of federal officers to your city in just a moment, but let me get the latest from you now – the latest developments on what's going on as far as coronavirus in New York is concerned. As you well know, New York City, moving into phase four of reopening this week, even as much of the country is imposing tighter restrictions. And you want to go even further by eventually reopening schools, but look at this chart, if you can – look what happened in Israel in early May when they reopen school and eased restrictions, all sorts of other restrictions – look at those numbers simply went up and up and up. What gives you confidence, Mayor, that New York won't see a similar spike if you roll back some of these restrictions too quickly?

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Wolf, we're very aware of what happened in Israel and we've seen what's happened all over the United States, and there's a common link there, which is when governments make decisions based on something other than the data and they move too quickly, either because of political considerations or other reasons, and we're just not going to let that happen here. We take a health and safety-first approach. And every decision as we've gone through each of the four stages, it's been a decision leading up to it was the facts – were the facts there, the data to prove we could move into that next stage. Now, so far, Wolf, we feel very good, continue to see a low level of positive numbers in terms of the coronavirus testing, continue to see very few hospitalizations. We went through hell, as you know, back in March and April, but we learned extremely crucial lessons on how to keep people safe, going forward. And we're not going to let our guard down. I mean, New Yorkers know, you've got to do the social distancing, you've got to wear the face coverings, and as we get closer to decisions on things like schools, it's going to be based on the facts and the data. And if they support it, yeah. A vast majority of our parents want kids back in school, but if the data doesn't support it, we're not going to do something that's not safe.

Blitzer New York, as you know, is facing a lot of the same lab shortages plaguing the rest of the country, which means it's taking days for people to get their test results. Do you worry, Mayor, that delay means you won't necessarily be able to detect a spike in new cases due to the, let's say, reopening of the schools?

Mayor: Oh, I worry about it on many levels. Yes, we need information, we need it quickly. Now, we are finding ways to address this through our own public hospital system and our own lab capacity. We're able to in recent days get quicker results. But the bigger problem is absolutely real, Wolf – there is no national testing strategy. Here we are in the fifth month of this crisis, no national testing strategy. I keep saying it, the President must invoke the Defense Production Act, must convert all over the country facilities to do this lab work, to get the chemical reagents produced that we need so we can get prompt testing. If we don't have it, my first concern is just a bunch of people don't get tested at all. My second concern is your point, that we get people tested, but the results take so long to come back that it's a dangerous gap. But look, the White House still doesn't have a testing strategy after five months. It's breathtaking.

Blitzer: Let's move on, Mayor. The President, as you heard, he just announced that he could deploy federal agents to additional cities in the coming weeks. If that includes your city, New York City, I understand you're threatening to take the Trump Administration to court. Tell us why.

Mayor: Wolf, it's simple – there's no precedent for this. It's absolutely unacceptable. It's unconstitutional for the federal government to go into a local jurisdiction, to do day-to-day law enforcement that our police do, our police know how to do. You send in outsiders who don't know our circumstance, who are not welcome, who are not coordinated with us, and I fear, in fact, more violence, more problems, exactly what we've seen in Portland – violation of people's rights. We've seen these officers sent to do crowd control and to inhibit protest, as the President said, to "dominate" protest. That's un-American and people all over this country are pained by what they see in Portland, and we will not allow it here. So, if the Trump Administration tries to send federal law enforcement in, we will see them in court, and we will beat them in court, because, again, the Constitution honors the rights of localities to make their own decisions about safety. The federal government doesn't run our police, cities run their police forces.

Blitzer: But as you know, the administration – their legal arguments are that they have the right to protect federal property anywhere in the United States. Would you object, Mayor, to federal officers coming to New York if they were deployed with a very narrow mission to protect federal property in New York City?

Mayor: First of all, Wolf, they already have federal officers here who do that effectively. Secondly –

Blitzer: What if they needed more?

Mayor: Well, look – and we would do that, because we do it all the time, our police do it all the time right now. But, look, if they come to us with a proposal, we agree to it, that's a different matter, but it is the fact that the President started reeling off cities that he was just going to force federal officers into against the will of those jurisdictions. That's what's dangerous. And also, these officers doing something far outside their mandate. If they're doing crowd control, if they're trying to stop protest, none of these federal agencies are supposed to be doing that. That's not what the law says their role is. That's dangerous. If they come to an agreement with New York City or any other city, that's a different matter, but we are not asking for them to come here. That's the bottom line.

Blitzer: But you do admit that they have the right to protect federal buildings, if necessary, let's say, New York City police decide not to protect those buildings. You would, welcome, I assume, or you would want federal authorities to come in?

Mayor: Wolf, if I respect the federal government's authority over its own buildings, sure, but we would always protect their buildings. We always do. And there's never a situation in which they should come into a city to confront people in the middle of legal protest or to do crowd control. That's not what Homeland Security was created for. That's not what any of these agencies are meant to be doing. And that's a very slippery slope, Wolf, when federal agencies are supposed to have specific missions to protect people, turn into agents of repression of public speech and public assembly. That's dangerous and unconstitutional.

Blitzer: Alright. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, thanks very much for joining us. We'll see where this leads. Let's hope there is peace and quiet in all these cities. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's happening right now. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mayor: Thank you.

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