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CNN "The Lead with Jake Tapper" - Transcript Interview with John Garamendi


Date: Sept. 14, 2020
Issues: Environment


Joining me now is Congressman John Garamendi of California, a Democrat. And the largest fire in state history is currently burning in his district. The fire is just 30 percent contained. Garamendi is also a surrogate for the Biden campaign.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

President Trump today focused on forest management as the solution for alleviating some of the fires and for the problem in the future.

You have touted your efforts on preventative forest management to make them more resilient to wildfires. So, is there any truth to what the president is saying here?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Certainly, there is. Certainly, we do need to manage the forests better. Certainly, there are many things that can be done.

But I notice he didn't bring a rake with him, nor did he bring money. That's what it's going to take to do it. And it's only this year that we were able to set up a funding mechanism for the U.S. Forest Service that allows them to manage the forests with some money.

Previously, all the money was spent on fighting the fires. Nothing was left to manage the forests. But the issue is far, far bigger than raking the leaves. It's an issue that we have to deal with climate change.

Jake, we knew back in the 1990s. I was deputy secretary at the Department of Interior. In the run-up to the Kyoto climate conference in 1998, we studied what would happen if the climate got warmer. We predicted exactly what is happening today, with hurricanes, with floods, with superstorms, and with fires.

We knew the forest we're going to die. And here we are, 22 years later, and the president denies climate change. This man is a danger, not only the pandemic, but he's a danger to our communities.

TAPPER: And also, Congressman, Governor Newsom, California Democratic Governor Newsom today pointed out to President Trump that a majority of the forests in California -- I think I -- I think I have this right -- are federal lands, and it's a small minority that are that are state lands.

Is that correct? And how does that relate to this issue of management of the forests?

GARAMENDI: Well, as I said a moment ago when talking about federal forest money, previously, the money was consumed in fighting fires. There was nothing left over to manage.

We now have a new funding mechanism in place. We do need to manage the forests. But it's -- and the great majority of forests in California are federal. But the fires are occurring not only in the federal forests, but they're also occurring on private lands. And they are occurring in our cities, certainly, as you saw in Oregon.

We're having firestorms in our cities, in our suburbs in the cities. And it is directly related to climate change. We know this.

TAPPER: Right.

GARAMENDI: Unfortunately, the president simply refuses to accept the responsibility that is his.

Thank God Biden made it very, very clear what he will do as president. He will address these issues.

TAPPER: So, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday. And he suggested to me that, in his view, President Trump responds to disasters in Republican-leaning states more quickly and more aggressively than he does when the disasters are in Democratic-leaning states.

Take a listen.


ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: And from the president. I wish that we would get as much attention, not based on an electoral map, but just purely on being Americans and the need for leadership to be from the White House for all of America.


TAPPER: Do you agree with that sentiment? President Trump is more readily offering support to Americans in primarily Republican-led states, like Texas or -- let's say Texas?

GARAMENDI: Well, we certainly know that the president is paying attention to the red states, and even more so to the states that are in play, the swing states. With regard to California, yes, we do need federal help. We do need assistance. And, frankly, we need the HEROES bill. Unfortunately, the president refuses to recognize that state, local governments around this nation, red, blue, independent, whomever, swing and not, are all hurting for money.


And so the HEROES bill, which is in play -- which is, unfortunately, not in play here in the Senate, has to provide the money that these local governments need, not just to sustain the firefight, but also all of the other, the fighting the coronavirus, the testing, the tracing, all of those things.

And I must go back and just -- Biden gave an exceptional speech earlier today just ahead of the president -- and the stark difference between a Biden that's looking to the future, protecting America from all of the climate catastrophes that are already with us, and a president that simply denies that there even exists such a problem.

We have got to -- we have got to make a change. We cannot let time go by any longer without fully addressing the climate crisis. And Biden laid it out clearly what he would do.

TAPPER: One last question for you, sir, about the coronavirus and this new recording from Bob Woodward with President Trump.


TAPPER: I want to play an excerpt of President Trump talking about his efforts to tackle the pandemic. Take a listen.


WOODWARD: You and I...

TRUMP: Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


TRUMP: I acted early. I acted early.

WOODWARD: We will -- we will make -- this will...

TRUMP: We will see.


TAPPER: Do you agree with that? Nothing more could have been done and he acted early?

GARAMENDI: What's the current count on lies that the president had has stated? We're at 20,000 lies over the last four years. You can add that one more to it. The fact is, he didn't act early. All he did was to shut down some of

the travel from China. He opened -- left the door open to Europe, and he left some, I don't know, 60,000, maybe 100,000 additional people come into the United States from China. That's all he did.

But worse than that is that he denied the reality of the pandemic. He knew back in February that this illness was far more serious than the common flu. He said it himself in the tapes to Woodward.

And now here we are, nearly 200,000 Americans dead, dead as a result of the infection that has overtaken us, and an economy in rubble, in ruin. It is an indictment, an indictment of the Trump administration, and specifically of Trump himself.

He had the knowledge. He had the information. He refused to act to protect Americans. And, for that reason, for that reason alone, he must go.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California, as you can see, also a forceful advocate for the Biden campaign, thanks for your time today.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of California, Oregon and Washington.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.