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Disneyland in California Reopening as COVID-19 Vaccination Continues to Increase in U.S.; Kentucky Derby to Take Place at Churchill Downs with Limited Capacity Due to COVID-19 Restrictions; Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan Interviewed on President Biden's Proposals for Increased Spending on Education; Raids by Federal Agents of Rudy Giuliani's Apartment and Office Possibly Raising Fears among Former President Trump's Inner Circle; Florida Law on Voting Reforms Draws Criticism of Restricting Voting Access. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 1, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


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[10:00:48]

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I hope Saturday morning has been good to you so far, and this first day of May, if you can believe it. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Boris Sanchez. Christi, always to pleasure to see you. Grateful that you can join us for this CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: Let's start with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She says deaths are falling, vaccinations are rising, which means the U.S. could be headed for a full reopening by July 1st.

SANCHEZ: Right now, more than 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly 145 million others have had at least one vaccine dose.

PAUL: Over the past couple of weeks new cases have dropped by almost 28 percent, and the number of hospitalizations and deaths are sliding as well.

SANCHEZ: We're seeing the beginning of a return to normalcy. Disneyland in California reopening its doors yesterday, still with some restrictions, though. Indoor dining limits will soon increase in New York. And Delta Airlines, the last U.S. air carrier to keep middle seats blocked, will soon start selling them again today.

PAUL: So, let's begin with CNN's Polo Sandoval who is in New York right now as we see some of the lowest averages in terms of the people who have been dying in the U.S. in nearly a year. It certainly feels, Polo, like we are on to something, does it not?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Boris and Christi, we also can't lose sight of the fact that there are other parts of the world that certainly are dealing with this crisis, but to your point, it's important to keep in mind just where we've been and, of course, where we're going. Just think back to mid-December when the entire country watched as a New Jersey nurse received the first public vaccine here in New Jersey, and now just months later, you saw that number, over 100 million people in the United States now fully vaccinated. Quick reality check, that is about one-third of the U.S. population, and experts have said time and time again that in order to get to the point where the transmission of this virus just isn't happening in the numbers that we've seen before, we do have to see that 70 percent to 85 percent of the population that needs to either be vaccinated or have those antibodies because of natural infection. And that's where, of course, that term "herd immunity" comes into play.

So, we still have a long way to go, but that 30 percent is enough to give us another dose of normalcy. We talked about, for example, Disneyland is actually welcoming back visitors, for now California residents, for the first time in over a year, obviously with capacity restrictions, with masks, and those cast members keeping their distance. Here in New York City already we have July 1st to look forward to, which is what the mayor has described as the official reopening of this city. Next Friday we will see indoor dining go up to about 75 percent capacity. So it's really these little things that really begin to add up, especially for many of us who have been frustrated and tired of taking those kinds of precautions but nonetheless have been doing them. And then when you hear from experts looking back at where we've been and recognizing the fact that we are on a really good path right now. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think we can confidently say the worst is behind us. Barring some crazy, unforeseen variant that none of us are expecting to happen, we will not see the kinds of suffering and death that we have seen over the holidays. I think we are in much better shape heading forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: Now, a big factor here will be continuing with that vaccine momentum. Yes, there have been decreases in interest there. The number of daily vaccinations going down to about 2.6 million. Authorities here in the United States certainly want to see the number continue to go much higher than that, Boris and Christi, back to where we've seen it immediately after the rollout was announced.

PAUL: Good point. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for the wrap-up.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, guys.

PAUL: So, there is an exciting marker of just how far the country has come. Today fans are back at the Kentucky Derby.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: And they are dressed and ready to go. Capacity still limited, we want to point out, 50,000 people are expected at Churchill Downs for today's race, but that could make the Derby the most attended sporting event since the pandemic began.

SANCHEZ: Let's get right Churchill Downs and CNN's Evan McMorris- Santoro. Evan, what other safety measures are being taken today?

[10:05:05]

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It's a beautiful morning here in Kentucky. And as you mentioned, the biggest change here at Churchill Downs is that number. This place can hold up to 170,000 people on Derby weekend. This year 50,000 or so is what is expected because of all the social distancing rules and all the rules about ticket limitations trying to keep the numbers down. Everyone who is in here is going to be having their temperature checked before they come in, and then they're going to be given goodie bags with hand sanitizer, things like that.

And then of course when you're not drinking a julep or eating a hot brown, you have to wear one of these, a mask. The problem with that, of course, is that this kind of ruins your duds, ruins you look, which is a big part of the Kentucky Derby. So I wanted to figure out what you're supposed to do about that problem. And the best person to ask, Christine Moore, the preferred milliner of the Kentucky Derby. Christine, nice to see you. So you have brought some of the hats that will be worn here at the Derby. So let's start with this.

CHRISTINE MOORE, FEATURED MILLINER OF THE 147TH KENTUCKY DERBY: That's a fascinator.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: This is a fascinator. And I'm told to put it on behind my head like this, right?

MOORE: Yes, perfect, over your part side.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: On the part side, OK

MOORE: Yes, you have elastic or a head band, and the elastic goes around the back of your head. And then you want the lowest hart of your hat to be at your eyebrows. You are doing it perfectly. Over your part side --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: It's working.

MOORE: Yes, it's working.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now, the thing is, you mention, so this is how the fascinator goes on.

MOORE: And ever since the royal weddings, this has been a part of fashion and people choose that. But we also have the traditional hat, which is the American racing style is the hat. And, of course, for the Kentucky Derby it's southern belle, and you said you're from North Carolina?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That's right.

MOORE: There you go. MCMORRIS-SANTORO: This feels like the right hat with the big wide brim. Let me ask you a question, are people trying to come to you and say I need a hat, I need to look good for the Derby when I have to wear a mask. What are you telling them? How is this working?

MOORE: I say you have a matching mask. So, we've been doing a mask to match the hats. And of course, the hat is the main thing. So, it's usually a plain mask, but some people have had little decorations on, like pearls or flowers, because it's go big or go home, go over the top, especially this year, because if you're going to come to the Derby, if you're one of the 50,000 that's going to go, you're going to do it right and you're going to do it big. A kickoff of life going back to normal.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That's right. People, I think they're feeling nervous that they can't go out and have a normal life because we do have these things like masks, we have all these rules. But you're basically saying I can go, I can have formal wear, I can look good, which I right now look good, I think you can agree on that part.

(LAUGHTER)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: I can wear this and I can do it and I can still be safe and wear a mask.

MOORE: That's right, exactly. And it's the same thing like we've done in New York. If you don't like the situation, back out and make some space, but keep your mask on and enjoy the day. And you can take it off to have your sips and your --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Got it.

MOORE: Yes.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, Boris and Christi, that's the news from the Kentucky Derby. You can look good and wear a hat. And I've always wanted to say this to you both, but my hat is off to you at Churchill Downs.

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: No, don't take it off, don't take it off. Put it back on. In fact, wear it from now on. I think it will look great on an array of different stories.

PAUL: Listen, there is no question, Evan McMorris-Santoro does what he does to get the story.

SANCHEZ: That's right.

PAUL: I love it, evan. Awesome.

SANCHEZ: It looks fantastic.

PAUL: Your awesome, Evan, thank you.

SANCHEZ: Evan McMorris-Santoro, enjoy a mint julep for us. Take care.

Laughs aside, we have to focus on the numbers and the effort to fully eradicate coronavirus from the United States and from the rest of the world. So with me to share thoughts on all of this is Dr. Richina Bicette. She's an emergency medicine physician and the medical director at Baylor College of Medicine. Doctor, good morning and thank you so much for sharing part of your weekend with us.

We are seeing the United States begin to reopen more and more. Disneyland in California reopening its doors, the Kentucky Derby where Evan was wearing that hat, they have some 50,000 people in attendance. Are we ready, you think, as a country to begin doing these things while roughly 70 percent of the population is still not fully vaccinated?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Boris, when you look at the numbers, what's interesting is that our daily case count and our number of people who are hospitalized in the United States hasn't really changed that much compared to what we were seeing around August or September of last year when everything was closed. What has changed, however, are our massive vaccination efforts. About one-third of the entire U.S. population has been vaccinated. But if you look at the numbers for adults over the age of 18, those figures actually jump to at least 55 percent of adults over 18 have gotten at least one shot, and 39 percent of adults over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated.

[10:10:00]

And then if you look at our most vulnerable population, our seniors, that number is even higher with 82 percent of seniors over the age of 65 having gotten at least one shot. So, though the numbers are still high in the United States, and of course this pandemic is not over and coronavirus is still here, people are offered a little bit more protection with these vaccines.

SANCHEZ: Yes, so I want to bring up that graphic, new cases in the past week versus previous weeks, at least 21 states trending down, 26 essentially holding steady. Over the past 14 days the U.S. new cases percentage is down more than a quarter, almost 28 percent. If we continue on this trend, do you concur with the officials who say the U.S. could fully reopen by July 1st?

BICETTE: If we continue on the trend, and the operable word in that sentence is "if". I think during this pandemic what we've seen is every time the numbers start to dip, we roll back restrictions, we have events, people begin to travel, and then we see a spike in cases again. The way I like to think about it is this pandemic isn't over until it's over. There's no imaginary finish line that we're racing towards. What we're trying to do is to get as much of the population as vaccinated as possible so that we can fully reopen safely. We don't want to take two steps forward and then take five steps back.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I want to ask you about Joe Rogan, the podcast host. He's very popular among younger Americans. A lot of my friends certainly listen to him. He essentially said that if he were giving advice to a young person in their 20s, he would tell them not to get vaccinated. Is there any science that backs him up? Is there a harmful message that he's spreading?

BICETTE: I would love to come on his podcast and pick his brain about why he's making that recommendation. Myself as a physician with a medical degree and being board certified in emergency medicine, I don't concur occur with that. I do think that all adults should get vaccinated if they are able. People want to get back outside, they want to travel, they want to see their friends and their family, they want to go to events and have weddings. The safest way to do that is to get vaccinated. Again, COVID is not gone. Yesterday we had 58,000 cases in the United States and, again, like I said earlier, we're still seeing similar numbers to where we were in July and August. This pandemic is far from over.

SANCHEZ: The heady play is to listen to people who know their stuff like Dr. Richina Bicette. Thank you so much for your time this weekend.

BICETTE: Thank you, Boris. Have a great day.

SANCHEZ: You too.

PAUL: Part of President Biden's ambitious economic agenda is a plan to expand free education and learning opportunities in America. Does it go far enough, some are asking. Former education secretary Arne Duncan has thoughts on that. He's with us in a moment.

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[10:16:58]

PAUL: So this week President Biden announced ambitious plans to help American workers and families. Part of his plan includes money to improve and expand educational opportunities for children and teachers. His plan includes $109 billion for up to two years of free community college. It would raise pay for pre-K and head start employees to $15 an hour. It includes $200 billion for universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds, and more than $4 billion for teacher residency programs, special education teacher development, and teaching programs at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions.

Let's talk about this with Arne Duncan, former education secretary in the Obama administration, and author of the book "How Schools Work." This last year -- Secretary Duncan, thank you for being with us -- has just pushed state and local governments to understand what they need to improve in terms of education and in terms of access to it. So when you look at this plan as a whole, what do you think are the two top priorities of this plan that have the best chance of passing?

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: Let me just frame in first, and thanks so much for the opportunity to be with you this morning. This is truly a transformative idea. And for the past century, for the past 100 years we have basically had a K to 12 system of education, and generally it has served our nation very, very well. We were the first country to have compulsory high school, and that drove upward economic mobility in the rise of the middle class.

But I would argue that today that's important, but it's insufficient. We have to start younger with our babies, with our three and four- year-olds. We can't have children entering kindergarten already behind academically, socially, and emotionally. And while a high school diploma is critically important, it is insufficient to get a good job in today's economy. So moving to a K to 12 system that, again, has served us decently well for the past 100 years, to a pre-K to 14 system starting with our babies and going beyond high school, this is a game-changing idea for the next several decades that President Biden is trying to put in place.

PAUL: So you had said to that note that you are mentioning that some form of education beyond high school, whether that be a two-year degree or vocational training, you said has to be the norm. Does this plan establish that?

DUNCAN: It absolutely does. And again, as you just said, two-year community college or university, trade, technical, vocational training, some form of education after high school has to be the goal for every single high school graduate in our country.

It's interesting, people can talk about what is a Democrat idea or Republican idea. I always say a strong military is our best defense, but a great educational system is our best offense. And this idea of free community college is something President Obama and I talked about. You know who actually did it and did it at scale was Governor Haslam in Tennessee, who happens to be Republican. He saw it as a tremendous investment in the most valuable asset in his state, and that's his workers, that's his people.

[10:20:00]

As we know, community colleges, they serve 18-year-olds, but they also 38-year-olds and 58-year-olds and people coming back to retrain and retool as some jobs disappear and enter the new economy. So this is such an extraordinarily important idea for families, for communities, and ultimately for our country. If we want to keep high wage, high skilled jobs in our nation, we have to have the best educated workforce in the world.

PAUL: So let's talk about a couple of things here that may have some realistic expectations that are in question. For instance, the community college free, if that would pass, that would put the onus on some state governments, obviously, to contribute to the cost of that. Can they do so? Some could. It would be different, I know, for each state. But what kind of burden would that put on some?

DUNCAN: Well, again, I think these are things that have to be led at the national level. We don't have 50 state militias. We have an army for the United States to defend us. We need an education system to propel us forward. So to have a federal investment in community college to make that free, again, for young people or people who are working but their jobs are becoming obsolete and they need to go back to school to train, that's still critically important. And then at the younger end, Christi, our three and four-year-olds to

have access to pre-K. Dr. James Heckman, who is a Nobel Prize winning economist at the University of Chicago has studied this for a couple decades and he talks about a seven to one ROI, return on investment. For every dollar we put into pre-K, high quality pre-K, we get back seven dollars. Less teenage pregnancies, less dropouts, less incarceration, more people being successful and entering the world of work, becoming taxpayers and productive citizens. And I always say if I had one additional tax dollar, I would put it into high quality pre- K.

PAUL: So, progressives had some bigger goals here. They wanted, for instance, to cancel student loan debt. Where do you stand on that?

DUNCAN: I think, obviously, reducing debt would be fantastic. College is too expensive. But this is the right investment now. What I always say while debt is a real challenge, where people graduate and have that college degree, that debt is less of a burden. It's when you have that debt and no degree, when you drop out, when universities don't take seriously making sure those young people graduate, that's where the real problem lies.

But again, I think the focus on starting with our babies, not in kindergarten at five, but with our three and four-year-olds, making those grades 13 and 14 the norm once you graduate from high school, I think that's exactly the right place for President Biden to be and what our nation needs to, again, compete in a globally competitive economy.

PAUL: Secretary Arne Duncan, so good to have you back with us. Thank you, sir.

DUNCAN: Have a great day. Thanks for having me.

PAUL: You as well.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, as Rudy Giuliani pushes back against that probe that led to the FBI raiding his home, new reporting today about how the investigation has created a sense of fear for some within former President Trump's inner circle.

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[10:27:29]

SANCHEZ: Raids by federal agents of Rudy Giuliani's apartment and office this week are raising fears among former President Trump's inner circle.

PAUL: Sources close to the former president tell CNN his allies are concerned the raids signal the Justice Department is more willing to investigate the 45th president and his inner circle than they had previously believed. CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us now. Katelyn, good to see you. I know the searches are linked to this criminal probe of the former mayor's dealings in Ukraine. What do we know this morning? KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Good morning. What we

learned this week from these searches is that this puts the investigation into Rudy Giuliani, which we have known about for some time now, at a significant place. These are quite overt steps that are being taken by the Justice Department to search Rudy Giuliani, his devices, several computers, we believe, were seized, and also search warrants and subpoenas for at least two other people that he had contact with.

That sort of step would need approval by senior leadership at the Justice Department, and also would be reviewed very closely by a judge, because this isn't just anybody. This is a lawyer to the president, the former U.S. attorney in New York.

And so the question now is, what is being looked at here? That question we know does relate back to what came up in the first impeachment of Donald Trump, it was the effort to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Yovanovitch. And what the criminal investigation would be about and we know Giuliani has even said this, that it was whether he was working for a foreign government or a foreign power as a foreign agent. Now, he says that he denies this, he was not a foreign lobbyist and not working for a foreign power. Here's what he said on FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: It is an illegal, unconstitutional warrant, one of many that this department of injustice tragically has done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POLANTZ: So now what we have is we are gearing up for a fight. Even if this criminal investigation is in its latter stages, we do believe that both sides are preparing for what we would call a privilege fight, a fight over the confidentiality of what is seized by the federal government. That could create a situation where Giuliani is in court fighting with the Justice Department and could create another step of judges to review what the federal government has seized. So we just don't know, and we're still looking to see more developments in the coming weeks. Christi and Boris?

SANCHEZ: Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much for that reporting.

[10:30:00]

Let's get some legal analysis now. Joining us is Elie Honig, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and a CNN senior legal analyst. Elie, always a pleasure to see you. Sources have told CNN that Trump's inner circle is watching all of this with a bit of nervousness. If this is over just unregistered lobbying for a foreign government, which Giuliani denies, is there cause for concern?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Boris, for sure. This is a brand new era for DOJ. First of all, in contrast to the prior DOJ under Donald Trump, under William Barr, and eventually Jeffrey Rosen, DOJ really made its signature intervening in cases to try to protect Donald Trump and those around him. Think about Michael Flynn, Roger Stone. Think about DOJ's refusal to even open a case on this Ukraine scandal back when it happened. Now we have a whole new administration, we have a new attorney general, Merrick Garland. People under him, Lisa Monaco, they are experienced prosecutors, they've shown that they are not goes to hesitate to go after people who may have broken the law no matter how powerful or well-connected those people may be.

SANCHEZ: Elie, it strikes me that conducting these raids and collecting this evidence, not only from Giuliani, but from his assistant and another attorney, a fellow attorney, again over unregistered lobbying for a foreign government, something that amounts to not filling out paperwork, not an often-used statute by the Justice Department, is this simply a way for the DOJ to get a foot in the door to gather hard evidence because they believe Giuliani may be culpable of something bigger?

HONIG: Yes, so this foreign lobbying statute is obscure, it's rarely used. It's not even commonly understood. I never heard it used, I never used it certainly during my 14 years as a prosecutor. However, it's more than simply a failure to fill out some paperwork, because the principle behind it is our government needs to know if it's being influenced by foreign actors, especially when it comes to our foreign policy.

Now, you make a really good point. Once you go in as a prosecutor on a search warrant, whatever you get off of those phones, off of those laptops, whether it relates to foreign lobbying or any other crime, you can use it subject to the privilege issues that Katelyn talked about. So it's really open game once you get those phones as a prosecutor.

SANCHEZ: And I wanted to dig in on this issue of privilege, because immediately investigators are going to recognize that on these devices there's almost certainly communication between Giuliani and his clients, including former President Trump. How do they contend with that?

HONIG: Yes, so there's a process here. First, they set up what's called a wall team. That's not the team that's going to be prosecuting the case. They will first review all the communications. If they determine that a communication is privileged, Rudy Giuliani providing advice to Donald Trump, legal advice, they will hold that information and keep it away from the actual prosecution team. All the other information that's not privileged, they will pass through.

But two important things. One, Rudy Giuliani can challenge that. He can say that's privileged, that should not go through. He doesn't have much of a chance of success. Michael Cohen challenged a lot of those determinations with almost no success.

The other thing is, if there's a communication between Rudy Giuliani and anyone he's representing, Donald Trump or otherwise, and they're talking about committing a crime together, that is not privileged. So, we are going to have legal disputes over this to come. SANCHEZ: Elie, I think this is a really important question, because

there's so much distrust of the Biden administration out there among Trump supporters specifically. Legal thuggery is how Giuliani's attorneys are describing the search. They argue that this is purely political. Giuliani has made all sorts of allegations against Joe Biden and his son Hunter during the 2020 election. He's suggesting that this is payback. To be clear, the White House insists that Biden in no way, shape, or form is involved with the DOJ's dealings in authorizing this search. But for those who buy Giuliani's defense, how does the public know with certainty that Biden isn't involved?

HONIG: It's sort of sad to see Rudy Giuliani devolve to this point where he's claiming everything is political. And by the way, he's taking the same book out of the Donald Trump playbook, the same page as Matt Gaetz is taking, which is just claim everything is a witch hunt. It's all political. That is not what the DOJ is about or should be about. I think it became that way under the Trump administration.

The White House has said Joe Biden didn't know about this. I don't see any reason to think otherwise. I've actually seen reporting that Joe Biden was not happy, or the administration was not happy that this search happened on the day of his address to Congress. Whatever the case was, DOJ ought to be entirely separate from the White House. DOJ should not be informing the White House about anything, should not be taking any instructions from the White House, should not be giving them heads-up. All indications so far are that this new DOJ has abided by that separation. And we'll see. If they don't, we'll call them out on it.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and I'm almost certain we're going to continue this conversation, because it is complicated, but it is vital. Elie Honig, thanks again for your time.

HONIG: Thank you, Boris.

PAUL: So Florida is one of the states in which Republicans did not declare rampant fraud in the 2020 election.

[10:35:00]

Why did they just pass a sweeping bill, then, to restrict voting, some are asking? We'll talk about that in a moment. Stay close.

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PAUL: So, Governor Ron DeSantis says he will sign a bill adding new restrictions to casting a ballot in Florida.

SANCHEZ: The measure passed this week after some contentious debate. The sunshine state's Republican-led legislature is the latest to make a move like this following record turnout in the 2020 election. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Tallahassee with more.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Christi. Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, as well as the Republican sponsors of this legislation, have spent the past few months praising Florida's 2020 election, calling it transparent, efficient, and secure. But they still put up this bill, saying that they thought there was a need for guardrails in case someone tried to game the system in the future.

[10:40:00]

Now, Democrats have said that they believe that this is the result of their party members using more mail-in ballots than Republicans in 2020 for the first time in decades in the state of Florida.

So what exactly does this legislation do? Well, it changes a lot about elections in the state of Florida, but some of the main changes are adding new identification requirements to vote by mail. It limits who can return a completed mail-in ballot. And it requires a voter to request a mail-in ballot annually instead of every two years like they've been doing in Florida. It also expands the power of those partisan observers during the ballot tabulation process.

Now, probably one of the most obvious parts of the bill that you can see a change is new restrictions for drop box use. And, again, Democrats say that they tried to convince lawmakers this wasn't the necessary fix for things in Florida right now, even citing the fact that local election officials, bipartisan officials, said that this would make things harder in the state. The debate was emotional leading up to the bill passage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH, (D) FLORIDA HOUSE: We found zero cases of voter fraud, so what is the problem that we're trying to fix? Oh, here's the problem. Florida Democrats cast 600,000 more vote by mail ballots in Florida.

REP. MICHELE K. RAYNER, (D) FLORIDA HOUSE: What kind of democracy seeks to make it harder for people to participate? Ask yourselves that question here today.

REP. RALPH MASSULLO, (R) FLORIDA HOUSE: I take some issue with the fact that we're trying to somehow restrict the vote. There are more ways to vote in Florida and a longer opportunity than just about any state in the nation. You all know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now, of course, Florida joining states like Iowa, Montana, and Georgia in passing legislation that has components that could make it harder for people to vote. Of course, we have seen this as a pattern from coast to coast in the United States. The left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice says it has tracked 360 bills in 47 states that would restrict ballot access in some way. Boris, Christi?

PAUL: Dianne, thank you so much.

Mark Earley is with us now. He's the supervisor of elections for Leon County. That's home to Florida's capital Tallahassee. Mark, good to have you here. I know that you told "Politico" on Thursday the final bill had, quote, "no show-stopper," but you did say this about fines for not following rules. You said our drop boxes, quote, "We still see the $25,000 civil fine as an insult to a group that had the best elections in the nature under unprecedentedly difficult circumstances. Thanks for the slap in the face." What is your level of vulnerability, do you think, to these new rules? Help us understand your concern.

MARK EARLEY, SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS IN LEON COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, I think the initial bill language was very problematic. I think it took everyone by surprise in the elections community, but also, frankly, probably the legislators because we did such a good job in Florida. I think there was outside pressure to push some of these bills through, and I think -- I'm proud of the election supervisors for being so capable and able to push back and get the changes much more manageable.

PAUL: I want to talk more about those outside powers that you just mentioned there. Let's listen to Governor DeSantis, what he said on Thursday on FOX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We've had voter I.D. It works, it's the right thing to do. We didn't do unsolicited mail ballots this last election. We made sure the right people were in place. And there's always -- we counted 11 million votes by midnight on election night. It was free, it was fair, it was transparent.

So, we think we led the nation, but we're trying to stay ahead of the curve to make sure these elections are run well. But in Florida you can have confidence that your vote counts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: So, you've said in pre-interview notes here that powers outside of Florida are trying to distort our election system in support of the big lie. As an election supervisor, you're going to need to oversee the elections impacted by this, this bill, once it's signed. How are you going to handle that given the concerns that you have with it? Do you foresee staying in your role?

EARLEY: Certainly, I foresee staying in my role. I think all the elections officials in Florida are very dedicated to providing good service and good elections to our voters. It's kind of our duty. That's where we get the passion to keep doing what we do.

I think the biggest part of our job as far as working through this bill was in defeating some of the worst problems that were in the initial language. I think we were pretty successful with that. Certainly, some problems remain, but I think ongoing -- I spoke to the big lie earlier, and it's that there was fraud in the 2020 elections, and that you couldn't trust the results.

[10:45:00]

I think the results are absolutely trustworthy, and I think the educational process for our voters going forward is to work against some of that disinformation.

PAUL: So, you say they're trustworthy, as many have. But let's look at this new CNN poll and how it may apply to Florida. I want to talk to you about that. There are partisan divides on what measures make an election fair. Look at the differences between the Democrats and the GOP's here on early voting on evenings and weekends and requiring photo I.D. and sending absentee applications to everybody. And the drop box, limiting access to that to voting hours, you see those numbers and there's such disparity there. How do you move forward? Or do you see any way to close that divide and bring some sort of balance and confidence to the voters that you serve?

EARLEY: Well, I think we can do our part as elections officials by speaking directly to our voters in each county. I think the local officials, the local election administrators are actually very well trusted in every county. So I think it's incumbent upon us to really help get that message out. Certainly, there are partisan divides here, and I think the messaging is very divided. And I think that's very unfortunate. That gets back to the broader national dialogue and the big lie that we're unfortunately still trying to work against.

PAUL: So one other issue I want to ask you about is expanding the partisan observation power here during ballot tabulation. Observers have to be close enough to directly observe ballots as they're canvassing or working to authenticate voter signatures on absentee ballots. This was a problem in 2020 with Pennsylvania and Arizona. It got very heated. Do you see the same thing happening as we approach 2022 and 2024? How do you think that particular issue will hover over Florida?

EARLEY: Well, that was certainly one of the issues that was addressed in the bill. The initial language really allowed observers to get in amongst our staff in our secure areas, and that was a big security risk. But, also, many counties just don't have the space to handle the volume of people and observers in that kind of a secure area. We did get that bill language watered down a little bit so we can potentially provide video feeds to help display what's going on, but many counties don't have the technology or the money to make that happen or even the space to make that happen. So there's still concerns going forward with that, but I'm sure we'll do our best to work it out.

PAUL: Mark Earley, we appreciate you taking time for us today. Thank you, sir.

EARLEY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Derby day is here, the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is tonight, and one jockey has a chance to do something that has not been seen in well over a century. Get the bourbon and mint ready. We'll take you to Churchill Downs after a quick break.

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[10:52:20]

SANCHEZ: Break out the oversized hats and Seersucker suits and some of that bourbon and mint. And we're just minutes away from me breaking it out right here on the set. It is Derby day.

PAUL: I just want to see you in a Seersucker suit. That's all I have to say.

SANCHEZ: One of these days.

PAUL: Yes, yes. Andy Scholes is live from Churchill Downs in Louisville this morning. No Seersucker, but he is styling. It's all good.

SANCHEZ: He's got a three-piece suit on.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Yes.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I appreciate it, guys. I bought it specifically for the Kentucky Derby. It's my first time ever being here, and I tell you what, it could not be a more beautiful day for this year's Derby, when the fans are back this year.

But it's not the normal 150,000 plus. They're expecting between 40,000 to 50,000 fans here for the big race. And everyone watching could see history later today. Kendrick Carmouche is the first black rider in the Derby since 2013. He's going to be on Bourbonic. Black jockeys have a rich history here at the Kentucky Derby, winning 15 of the first 28 races. But a black jockey hasn't won since 1902, as many were forced out of the sport in the Jim Crow era. And I caught up with Kendrick and asked him how it feels to be competing in the Kentucky Derby for the very first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENDRICK CARMOUCHE, BOURBONIC JOCKEY: I can't believe it. Like I made it, man. I'm finally here. I'm here to go run for the roses. It's just a feeling that you would have to hug me to understand, like that's how good it would make me feel as a young kid coming from Louisiana, making it this far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Now, the heavy favorite today is Essential Quality. The three-year-old is undefeated in five races. Today's Kentucky Derby is a chance at redemption for his jockey, Luis Saez. In 2019 Saez rode Maximum Security to victory in the Derby only for the win to be stripped away for a rules violation. It was the first time ever a winner had been disqualified in the Derby. Essential Quality's trainer Brad Cox says he has full confidence that Saez can get the job done today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD COX, ESSENTIAL QUALITY'S TRAINER: It would be huge. It would be huge. I've thought about that, and I am so glad that I'm in a Derby with him. Luis is a fantastic jockey, world-class rider. He's won races in Dubai, Saudi Arabia. He's a very focused rider, individual, very low-key, classy guy. And he's ridden a lot of horses since Maximum Security, and I don't think that's going to have any weight on what happens on Saturday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:55:00]

SCHOLES: Post time for the 147th Kentucky Derby is at 6:57 eastern. Here are your odds as of 10:30. Essential Quality, the heavy favorite, followed by Rock Your World and Hot Rod Charlie. You know guys, it's always fun to look at the horses in the race, 19 this year, and pick out one you want to root for. Soup and Sandwich another fun name. But like I said, beautiful day here at Churchill Downs. The races are already under way. Looking forward to an awesome day.

SANCHEZ: Refreshing to see folks back in the stands, and, of course, refreshing to sip on a mint julep. Andy Scholes, we know you will. Thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you so much for spending time with us today. We hope you make good memories.

SANCHEZ: We do appreciate it. There's much more ahead in the next hour of the CNN Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.

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