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Report: Top Prosecutor Quits Trump-Russia Case Due in Part to Pressure to Produce Results Before Election; A Top Prosecutor Probing Trump-Russia Investigation Quits; Source: She Operates "At The Highest Ethical Standards"; Fauci Disagrees With Trump's Claim That U.S. is "Rounding The Corner" on Coronavirus Pandemic; NC GOP Official Receives Backlash for Urging Trump to Wear Mask; Dems Lead in Absentee Ballot Requests in Florida and NC; Oregon Officials Preparing for "Mass Fatality Incident" Amid Wildfires, Dozens of People Missing. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 19:00   ET



GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Never forget those who rushed to save lives and, in the process, gave their own.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a top prosecutor suddenly resigns amid a report she was pressured to produce results by Election Day to help Trump.

Plus Dr. Anthony Fauci publicly rejecting Trump's claim that the deadly pandemic is 'rounding the corner'. And now one Republican leader telling the President, mask up. He's my guest.

And deadly and destructive wildfires sweeping across the west coast, taking more than a dozen lives and destroying an area the size of New Jersey. We are live on the ground tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, a surprising resignation and then a damning report of political pressure to help Trump get reelected. Tonight, a top prosecutor working on Attorney General Bill Barr's investigations into the origins of the Russia probe has quit. According to the Hartford Courant, colleagues say Nora Dannehy is quitting, she's quitting over concerns of political pressure. Pressure to deliver a report that President Trump thought would benefit him and to deliver that report before election day.

Dannehy is highly respected career prosecutor. She was working with the U.S. Attorney John Durham, Bill Barr's pick to lead the investigation. An investigation that Trump says will go against Bob Mueller's investigation and show a conspiracy among Democrats to bring him down.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Durham's coming back and I hope it's going to be soon, and I would imagine he's got plenty.


BURNETT: Trump wants the Durham report and he wants it out stat. That pressure is loud and clear. In fact, he has publicly pushed Barr to get that report out.


TRUMP: Bill Barr can go down as the greatest Attorney General in the history of our country, or you can Go down is just an average guy.


BURNETT: Trump wants the report out, because he thinks it will support his conspiracy theories and his chances of winning in November. It is about Election Day. The Russia report by Election Day, a coronavirus vaccine by Election Day, not about truth, not about safety, it's about his election victory.

Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT live in New York. And Kara what more are you learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Erin, as you said Nora Dannehy, a career prosecutor, someone who is very close to John Durham has resigned. The spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut where she was working confirm the resignation but did not say why. But as you said, the Hartford Courant has reported that they spoke with colleagues of her who say that she'd resigned in part because of concerns of political pressure to release the report on this investigation before the election.

Now, Dannehy he was appointed by Durham to join her in this investigation last year. He was appointed By Attorney General Bill Barr. As you said, this investigation has been very political. The President is hoping that the results of the investigation will help discredit the FBI investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and we also have a statement, excuse me, from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal who has known Dannehy for years.

He said that her resignation leaves a huge red flag about political pressure by Attorney General Barr. He says she is a career prosecutor, well known to many of us in Connecticut for her professionalism and integrity. A lot of questions here about why she stepped down. We reached out to Dannehy, we've not heard back yet.

But people who have known her, lawyers we've spoken with, have said that she has a stellar reputation. She's a by the book prosecutor and they themselves say that it's very puzzling about why she would step down now, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, especially working with someone that she's known for a long time, obviously, very important in her career. Thank you very much Kara.

And I want to go now to David Gergen, who served as advisor to Four Presidents, Nixon and Clinton among them, Anne Milgram, former Federal Prosecutor and former New Jersey Attorney General and Paul Fishman, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Anne, let me start with you. You have been talking to very reliable sources on this. What are you learning about what happened here?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So what I've been hearing is that there's pressure to put out an interim report from the Department of Justice related to the Durham investigation and that Nora basically said she didn't want to be a part of that.

And so what that means to me and I think probably to any alum of the Department of Justice is that no one, and remember she was a political corruption prosecutor for a period of time, she's prosecuted both Democrats and Republicans, and everyone at DOJ abides by this informal policy that you don't charge folks beforehand. You don't do anything that could influence an election.

And obviously, John Durham's investigation into the 2016 election would have an impact on the 2020 election.


And so in my view, there's no reason to do it now and not to wait until after the election. And I think what we're seeing is at the moment where John Durham was counting on her loyalty, she went the other way and didn't want to risk her professional reputation on appearing political. Because there's no cover for this right now, if they do an interim report. There's no legitimate reason, in my view, that they would do that.

BURNETT: I mean, it's a pretty incredible thing to have happen, to have someone with such a stellar reputation, a career person with a close relationship with the person for whom she's working to do this. I mean, it's a major step. It's a courageous thing to do.

Paul, I know you know, Dannehy. Would she resign like this without a serious, a good reason as Anne lays out?

PAUL FISHMAN, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: This is a stunning thing to me, having run an office like that myself. The idea that someone who is in your front office, not just somebody that's in your front office, but - I don't know her or John all that well. I've met them both a few times.

But they are, by everybody I've talked to, they are as close as brother and sister. And her husband is still the Chief Deputy in that office. So the idea that she walked out the door on a Thursday, not at the end of the week, not saying I'll be gone in a month, but I felt so compelled to leave immediately means that there was such a profound disagreement between them about something that she couldn't say. And I can't recall something like that happening in my memory.

BURNETT: It's pretty incredible as you say. I mean that their closeness of being like a brother and a sister that she would do this in this way. I think the word you use is a powerful one, profound, a profound disagreement on something so crucial.

David Gergen, what does this say? What does someone like this quitting like this do to the legitimacy of the investigation itself?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: As you well know, Erin, the investigation was suspect right from the start. Now, Bill Barr had gone off to a bad start as Attorney General. He looks like a lackey for the President again and again. And to take that investigation, which was questionable right from the beginning, I think that investigation is now badly compromised.

I do think we ought to say thank goodness for Ms. Dannehy standing up. There have been so few people who have been willing to do that, most of them pay a heavy price as we saw in the Mueller hearings. But nonetheless, she was willing to do it and that's an act of courage, putting the country first and thank goodness.

BURNETT: So Anne, how integral was Dannehy to the investigation? And as David points out, there's been a lot of questions about the investigation itself. Durham obviously many had said had a very good reputation, but this was Bill Barr and Trump and what they wanted. What does her leaving due to the investigation itself?

MILGRAM: Yes. I think that's a great question. I think there's two points that are worth making. The first is as Paul says, she and Durham are very close. And basically, her leaving, it is catastrophic for him, because it also destroys his political cover. So she sort of called the flag on the play and now he's out there and he's basically been put in this position of now having to defend. Anything that comes next will appear to be the reason she has resigned and he, I think, it forces his hand in a way that he will look completely political if he does anything before the election.

And the second thing, which is just worth noting is that when you do investigations like this, and again, I agree with David, I think that this is suspect. But as a rule, she was acting like his deputy in many ways. They've worked together for years. They're very close. He clearly trust her judgment. She was a deputy there for a long time.

And so she's really - like he's lost one of his key players and probably his most trusted ally on his team. And again, he's now out there on his own because she stepped down in protest.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, it's incredible when you think about the personal relationship here at stake and just what it would take to blow something like that up.

Paul, the President was asked about the Durham report on Monday. I played a brief clip of it, but let me just play a bit more.


TRUMP: Let me just say something, President Obama and Biden, Sleepy Joe, he knew everything that was happening. They were spying in my campaign and they got caught. Let's see what happens with the Durham report. But this started at Obama and some people would say and some people,

"Well, but he was the President," like, "Let's leave him alone." If it were me, they wouldn't be leaving me alone.


BURNETT: So according to CNN's reporting, Paula, inside the Justice Department, there's concern. The Barr's public comments on Durham's work as well as the President's repeated claims of, wait for the Durham report, I think it's going to be great, just like he is off to do are damaging, damaging on their own to the legitimacy.

Now, obviously, you have this unbelievable moment, as you call it, a stunning thing in terms of Dannehy's quitting. But when you add up Barr's comments and Trump comments, does it look to you like the administration was trying to interfere, was trying to be political about this?


FISHMAN: Well, so look, first of all, the one place I will give Bill Barr some credit is he has said that there's no evidence that President Obama or Vice President Biden had anything to do with whatever decisions were made by the FBI or the intelligence community, so at least you have that.

But I think there are a couple things that we should pay attention to. First, this is not Nora Dannehy's first rodeo. She was the first assistant, the Chief Deputy in the Bush administration in that office. So when the U.S. Attorney O'Connor resigned in 2008, she became the acting United States Attorney. A position she held until May of 2010 in the Obama administration, so she has the respect of people of both parties, that's first.

Second of all, we have to look at the context here and somebody just - I think David just said, we're talking about what Bill Barr has said in the context of this investigation. He has basically gone on The Laura Ingraham Show, The Sean Hannity Show and talked about an ongoing criminal investigation.

I can't recall an Attorney General of the United States doing that and doing it in a way that is clearly prejudging the evidence that he's going to get from this fellow when he's asked to do the investigation. He has said things like, it wasn't just sloppiness. It wasn't just innocent mistakes and that itself is another stunning thing.

And I think what Nora's resignation does here is it undermines the credibility of everything that they're doing. And it's been next in a long line of examples of Bill Barr using his position as the Attorney General to help to protect the President and the President's friends and associates.

BURNETT: And David as Bill Barr does that and the President is - now you're hearing, the whole point was to get this interim report out before election day to help Trump. That's not the only thing that the President has been rushing and interfering with, with his words, to help him on election day, right, not by far, because what about this from just the other day?


TRUMP: We're going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I'm talking about.


BURNETT: Yes. We all know what data is talking about, David. You've worked in a lot of White Houses, does anything compare with the way this President is using his office, his bully pulpit, to try and win reelection?

GERGEN: Erin, it's like so many other things we've seen with the Trump presidency, something of what he has done does have that and that goes in the past, other presidents have used the office to advance their reelection, there's no question.

But typically and in this case, President Trump goes so much farther than anybody in history, that it amounts to a series of abuses of office and really calls into question the legitimacy of the entire regime. Whatever they say, when they say something about vaccines, now we just have the Bill Barr case, that's going to influence what you think about vaccines, that's going to influence the way we all think about efforts to suppress the vote and to setup these problems.

But I'll tell you one thing, I think this is going to make it more difficult for Durham to bring forth the October surprise as what the President wants. Because he puts his whole - he could shred his own reputation and his relationship with Dannehy, this may be a way to try to box in the President.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it Paul, Anne and David.

And next, a Republican official speaking out, telling Trump put on a mask. Now he's facing the wrath of some of the President's supporters.

Plus, 750,000 absentee ballots already requested in North Carolina where voting is underway, already. More than half of those are going to Democrats. What does that mean? Should Trump be worried or not?

And the death toll rising tonight as wildfires are crushing across the West Coast, destroying homes and businesses. We are going to take you to the frontlines tonight.



BURNETT: Tonight, the United States has not rounded the corner. That is from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, delivering a blunt specifically worded rebuttal to the President who, of course, has said, just said the other day that the U.S. is rounding the corner on the pandemic.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with that because if you look at the thing that you just mentioned, the statistics, Andrea, they are disturbing.


BURNETT: They are disturbing. The U.S. death toll just shy of 200,000, the number of new cases hovering around 40,000 a day and an influential model that the White House cites all of the time predicts the death toll will more than double by the end of the year. That's 400,000 people dead by the end of December.

And yet Trump's behavior continues to scorn mask wearing or social distancing. His rally yesterday, you see it, 3,000 supporters more than that actually packing an airport hangar in Michigan without masks, without social distancing. And you might say why, why are they doing that.

Well, it is clear they are following the leader. The person that they are there to support, they are following the President. Just listen to them and then listen to the President.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care for it. It's really that simple.

TRUMP: I don't see it for myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am young and a lot of people who are here are not ...

TRUMP: Young people are very strong against this horrible disease.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not wearing a mask because I had my temperature taken already and I'm not sick.

TRUMP: Not necessary here. Well, everybody has been tested and I've been tested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a hard time understanding people when they talk, so that's why I don't wear it.

ACOSTA: But you could hear me right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear you.

TRUMP: You're going to have to take that off, please. You can take it off. Your health - how many feet are you away?

JEFF MASON, REUTERS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'll speak a lot louder. TRUMP: Well, if you don't take it off, you're very muffled ...


BURNETT: All of those Trump supporters, Jim Acosta speaking to them, getting those very powerful sound bites. Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT. And Jeremy, very strong words from Dr. Fauci tonight, specifically using the words rounding the corner. No, we're not right. The exact words the President used to rebut his claim.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No question, Erin. Dr. Fauci typically tries to avoid directly contradicting the President's or directly confronting and putting himself in opposition to the President. It tends to happen quite a bit simply by the fact that the President often downplays the threat of this virus and Dr. Fauci is stating the facts.

But it is notable to see Dr. Fauci here directly contradicting the President saying I have to disagree with him on that.


And he does because ultimately Dr. Fauci does rely on the facts. He relies on the science. And the facts and the science show that the President by any metric you consider is wrong when he says that the United States is rounding the corner on this.

And, of course, we started this week, Erin, with the revelation that the President had intentionally misled the American public about the deadliness of this virus. He said that he likes to downplay it and what's remarkable is that we are finishing this week with the President continuing to do exactly that. Because the President is saying that we are rounding the corner, he is saying that the numbers of coronavirus cases are plummeting, when in fact, we know that we are at a plateau of nearly 40,000 cases, nearly a thousand deaths per day and Dr. Fauci is warning about a potentially difficult fall and winter.

And of course, it's also remarkable when you see this rally that the President is holding 3,000, more than 3,000 people huddled together, very few of them wearing masks. And obviously, it's coming from the fact that the President is his rhetoric has really downplayed those things.

Yes, he has acknowledged in recent weeks that mask wearing is important. He's called it patriotic, but he is still not modeling that public health behavior. And, of course, for months on end, the President downplayed some of those significant public health safety measures and as you just showed, in that video, the President's words, so often being mimicked by his own supporters, erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeremy, thank you very much.

And earlier, we spoke to David Plyler. He's a local republican official in North Carolina and he spoke out this week urging President Trump to wear a mask during his rally in that state. The state by the way, I want to make it clear, has a mask mandate. So we asked him why, why does he feel the President should wear a mask and here's what he said.


DAVID PLYLER, (R) CHAIRMAN OF THE FORSYTH COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: The President is a citizen of the United States and anyone in North Carolina is asked to voluntarily do that not as a matter of health alone, but in a leader's situation. It allows the leader to be seen by the people he or she represents and they generally, hopefully, would follow suit.

As an elected official, I've been asked to look up for the safety and health of our community and that's exactly what I was doing.


BURNETT: So that's just the reality. That's how it should be. But this has become political Plyler happens to be Republican. So he got some feedback on this comment about the President. Here's what he told us about that.


PLYLER: Well, I got backlash from everybody and they didn't call and say I'm a Republican, I'm a Democrat, I had 1920 [00:02:32] for South Carolina who taught me cuss words [00:02:37] I've never heard before.


BURNETT: So we also asked Plyler why he felt the need to speak out, why did he do it. He could have just been quiet and just rolled his eyes and been angry about it, but he didn't, he spoke out and he said that mask should be worn and the President should wear one. Why did he do that?


PLYLER: It's something we have to do, we have no choice. And this is not the first time that a plague of this type has hit this country, nor will it be the last, I'm sorry to say. And we've had plagues across the United States, we've had plagues in Europe, we've had them in England, China, it just goes around the world. I just hope we can get out of this.


BURNETT: So reasonable, so calm, collected. I want to go now to Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at George Washington University Hospital, who also advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.

So you heard Dave Plyer. I mean, it's just so reasonable, so clear, and he wants the President's followers to wear masks, he wants the President to wear masks. Yet you heard them, they scorn it, they disdain it. It comes from the top. Do you think it's possible the pandemic would be a lot less worse if the President had from day one said wear mask?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think if the President had said from day one, everyone is wearing a mask, we'd have about 45,000 deaths in this country. And I say that because that's extrapolating the German experience. They've had a middle of the road. They haven't been the best. They haven't been the worst. They've been OK in their pandemic response and they've had about 10,000 deaths.

We have four times the population of Germany, so we'd have about 45,000 deaths in this country, so about 150,000 people would be alive. If you want to think about why we still have 40,000 cases a day and a thousand deaths a day in this country, is because we're still talking about masks. It's so basic.

And it just seems so nefarious now that we've heard the President really articulately express how dangerous this virus was on February 7th. He knew the route. He knew how lethal the virus was, he knew that this was an asymptomatic people.


REINER: He understood yet he decided not to protect the people.


It was a conscious decision not to protect the people even now, even today. I mean, do you think his supporters would go and be unmasked if they knew what he knew? You think Herman Cain would have gone to Tulsa, sit there shoulder to shoulder without a mask knowing what the President knew?

BURNETT: Yes. So Dr. Fauci, the president said that we are rounding the corner, the latest in his many salvo saying it's going away, but that's what he just said. Dr. Fauci came out today and said we're not rounding the corner. I mean, he didn't talk around it or generally obliquely rebutted. He rebutted it using word for word, because he thought it was important and then he went on to say this.


FAUCI: When you're in the middle of a pandemic and you're trying hard to address all the appropriate issues, it is truly a waste of time to have to debunk nonsense. But unfortunately, we've had to do that.


BURNETT: This frustration is coming through in a way I haven't seen before.

REINER: Yes. Well, I admire the man so much. I mean, he is a brilliant scientist who's devoted his life to protecting America from all kinds of horrible pathogens and he's still at it, and he does not get discouraged. Look, it is a waste of time for him to have to deal with some of this nonsense, but it's necessary. He has to debunk it. We rely on him. If only the White House brought him out to these press events and let

the press on mask ask him questions, wouldn't that be refreshing? But I'm grateful for him every day.

BURNETT: Dr. Reiner, thank you.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And tomorrow morning on CNN, don't miss the Sesame Street town hall with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our own Erica Hill. They're going to answer your questions on going back to school, virtual learning in the time of coronavirus. There's so much uncertainty for all parents and kids. That is tomorrow morning at 10 am Eastern.

And OUTFRONT next, voting underway tonight, the crucial state of North Carolina. So who has the momentum?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The stuff that he says it's just like embarrassing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're saying get beyond that rhetoric.


BURNETT: And more, Attorney General Bill Barr's attempts to help the President win, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud.


BILL BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are going to be ballots floating around and collected.


BURNETT: Arizona's Secretary of State responds OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, voting underway in the key swing state for 2020. I'm talking about North Carolina, where new data from the state shows that nearly 389,000 Democrats have requested absentee ballots. That is more than three times the number of Republicans, as you see on the screen.

And then, of course, there's the un -- you know, unaffiliated, huge number.

What does this tell us about voter enthusiasm in North Carolina, crucial swing state?


JAMIE OSWALD, UNDECIDED VOTER: I want to vote for somebody other than Donald Trump, but I don't want to vote for Biden. It's hard.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Jamie Oswald, a hairdresser and undecided voter. She grew up in a Republican family and likes President Trump's economic record, but not much else.

OSWALD: If he could just not talk, you know. The stuff he says is just embarrassing.

ZELENY: If he could just not talk, that's saying something about the president of the United States.

OSWALD: It is, saying a lot.

ZELENY: Yet so far, she's not sold on Joe Biden.

OSWALD: I think he's been in office for so long and he really hasn't done a whole lot.

ZELENY: Oswald says she's never voted but will this year, inspired by the pandemic that left her unemployed for more than two months. She's one of 1.3 million new voters in North Carolina since 2016 when Trump narrowly won the state by 173,000 votes.


ZELENY: Now it's a battleground. He's visited three times in the last three weeks. Voting here is already underway. A sign that coronavirus is influencing the election, including how people cast their ballots.

BAKARR KANU, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: It's very important for everybody to go out this time because there's a lot at stake.

ZELENY: Bakarr Kanu, a professor, received his absentee ballot in the mail this week. He dismisses any talk of fraud, saying Trump is trying to intimidate voters.

Yet the president's supporters here are already echoing his questions about the election's legitimacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And mail-in ballots, I wouldn't trust it. I will definitely go in person.

ZELENY: At the end of the challenging week for the president, where his own words to Bob Woodward became a flash point, Trump supporters are unwavering.

Sara Ready Jones (ph) who leads a women's Republican group believes in part now more than four years ago, in part because of judicial appointments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four years ago, President Trump wasn't my first, second, or third choice. We're saying, get beyond that rhetoric and go with the record of accomplishment.

ZELENY: That record does not sit well with bar owner Blake Stewart (ph) who believes the president's leadership on coronavirus has been appalling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had the opportunity to grab this bull by horns. Instead he let it run us over.

ZELENY: His business is still closed. For that, he blames Trump, not the state's Democratic governor. He planted this voter registration sign outside, hoping to find new voters to help block the president's path to reelection.

There's little question Trump supporters here are fired up. But there are also sign he's awakening the other side. His presidency motivated Angela Levin (ph) to become politically active for the first time and work against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I became a much more informed voter. That's why I got the blue wave tattoo. This is to remind me never to assume someone else is going to do all the hard work.


ZELENY: And North Carolina also has one of the most competitive Senate races in the country as well as well as the key governor's race, that combined with the presidential campaign has turned this into one of the epicenters of all battlegrounds. Now, to see how important Trump campaign sees North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes, not only has the president been here three times in three weeks, Erin, this week alone, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump all visited North Carolina -- Erin.

BURNETT: Wow. Certainly putting a lot of effort and time there.


Jeff, thank you.

So, let's go now to Van Jones, who is special adviser to former President Barack Obama and Scott Jennings, who is a special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

OK. Great, thanks the both of you for being with me.

So, Scott, 1.3 million new voters in North Carolina since 2016. That's a pretty stunning number.

And, look, it's a place a lot of people want to move. And now with coronavirus, I mean, it's exciting because there's so much unknown.

But let me just show you the numbers again that we do know -- 758,000 absentee ballots requested from the state, more than half from Democrats, which is three times more than a number of GOP requests.

What do you make of that? Does that concern you? SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it doesn't concern me.

Democrats have done a much better job over the years of socializing the idea of early voting and mail-in voting. Republicans still culturally strongly prefer to vote on Election Day. So, I expect Democrats to lead that.

I think these numbers, though, are also reflective of the fact that generally speaking, in all these states, there's going to be a much higher turn out in the election than 2016.

And, finally, a lot of folks don't want to vote in person this year because of the coronavirus concerns. So, you are going to see an increase in people choosing to vote other ways.

So, I think thank mixture is why you're seeing such large numbers. But, generally speaking, Republicans expect to lose early voting in a state like North Carolina and try to win it on Election Day.

BURNETT: Right. So, Van, that's the math I that try to do, right? So, that's North Carolina. I want to go back to North Carolina, but first Florida for this point, Van.

You got half a million more Democrats asking for absentee ballots in Florida compared to Republicans at this point. But a new poll found that just 10 percent of Trump supporters prefer to vote by mail. That's a point Scott is just making, compared to 49 percent of Biden supporters.

So, are these numbers deceiving to Democrats and do they really give a road map to team Trump to say, okay, here's the number of Democratic requested ballots. That's you number I need to solve for on Election Day, I can do it.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, that's one way of looking at it. The behavior you're seeing from Democrats is from two very strong emotions. There's rage against Trump and there's fear of the virus. You put those two emotions together, you get I'm going to vote. I am sure going to vote, but I'm not going to go vote in person.

And so, that's why you're seeing this kind of voting behavior. And what you don't know is, are these people -- I think Scott's right. There's going to be more people voting on both sides than before.


JONES: But are we just basically banking a bunch of votes right now that will get wiped out on Election Day or is this an early wave that will be even bigger by the time you get to election day.

BURNETT: OK. So, Scott, to that point, I want to go back to the numbers we do know on absentee. I did GOP and Democrat. I want add in another number, so I want to go back to North Carolina, as I promised.

Absentee ballots in North Carolina, more than 240,000 of those ballots were not Democrats or Republicans, OK? So, you've got 389,000 Democrats. You've got 200 plus thousand independents or unaffiliated, right, and 127,000 GOP.

So, that means that a lot of people who respect going to admit they're one or the other are passionate and want to vote but they want to do it absentee. What does that tell you?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't read too much into unaffiliated voters. I think there's a misconception in the punditry class that if you're unaffiliated, that means you're sort of a moderate. And that's not necessarily true.


JENNINGS: You could be a liberal. You could be a conservative. You may just dislike being affiliated with either party. In fact, I think right now, fewer people feel kindly towards either party than ever before.

And so, it doesn't necessarily mean these are center cut voters. I can tell you this. Both parties do a huge amount of data work to try to figure out who these people are. So, even if they don't have a party affiliation, parties do a lot of data work to try to figure out, are these people more likely to vote for me or they're more likely for the other party.

And so, even though we don't know as media people who they're with, the parties, you can bet, do have data that gives them a strong indication of where they might be leaning.

BURNETT: So, Van, when you add this up, and I know that's the holy grail of figuring out who those people are, right? I understand the point, generally, people unaffiliated tend to go one way or the other. But these people clearly want to vote, right? They have their ballot request in on the day they were allowed to hit the button and start sending them out, I believe September 4th for North Carolina.

So, Van, the Cook Political Report has North Carolina has a toss up state. They have just moved Nevada from likely Democrat to lean Democrat which is a little bit less of a strong leaning and Florida from lean Democrat to a toss up. Are you worried about this, that this race is tightening at this point? Those are obviously both moving away from Biden.

JONES: Well, look, it always tightens after Labor Day no matter what, and Democrats tend to do really well in the summer. And then you get that tightening effect.


However, you still got to -- you would rather be Biden. If you believe these polls and some people challenge the polls. If you believe these polls, you still rather be Biden. I mean, you're talking about states that you would imagine, you know, in the Trump, super variable Trump scenario would be off the table, still leaning or likely in our direction.

Now, Florida is -- should be a toss up state. It's always going to be tough in Florida. It's always going to be close in Florida. But Florida is in play in a serious way for Democrats. So, that -- if you're Trump, you've got to be worried about that.

BURNETT: Yeah, but it's also a COVID epicenter and you would think that would be from Biden's perspective that should be fertile territory and yet it doesn't seem to be. It's a toss up.

JONES: You've got -- but you've got two ways of look at this. For Democrats, we say listen, the COVID virus was handled horribly by the White House and if you're paying attention at all, you've got to give Biden a shot because look at how bad Trump did. But there's a different way of looking at it that says, listen, the virus came, it came from China. Trump was doing a good job before. He's going the have a vaccine in a couple weeks and it's all going to be fine.

So, just because you've got a epicenter there doesn't mean people interpret that the same way. Democrats have to continue making the case the thing could have been handled way better. It's a disaster and it will get worse if we don't have a change of leadership.

BURNETT: Quick final word, Scott.

JENNINGS: Yeah, I agree with Van's analysis, people take in a lot of different information. Just because Trump's job approval on coronavirus is under water, it doesn't mean the same voters couldn't believe he's going have a better plan for recovery, especially on the economy.

I also think Biden has got some softness in the polling with Hispanics. It would be concerning if I were him in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and maybe Colorado.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both.

And coming up next week, joining us for a special CNN Democratic presidential town hall from -- live from Pennsylvania moderated by Anderson on Thursday night at 8:00.

And next, Attorney General Bill Barr attacking mail-in voting while in Arizona, a state where most people do mail in their ballots. So, the state secretary of state will respond in just a moment on our show.

Plus, deadly fires burning out of control across the West Coast, and tonight, Oregon's governor warning people to prepare for the worst.


GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state's history.



[19:46:22] BURNETT: Tonight, Attorney General Bill Barr helping President Trump raise doubts about mail-in voting for the presidential election, claiming in Arizona, with zero evidence, that it opens the door to fraud.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's no secret vote. Your name is associated with a particular ballot. So, the government and the people involved can find out and know how you voted. The -- and it opens up the door to coercion. We know because of the inaccuracy of voting lists, there are going to be ballots floating around and collected.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, the Democratic secretary of state from Arizona, Katie Hobbs.

Secretary Hobbs, voters in your state can vote by mail for in reason and in fact tend to do so. 2018, no pandemic, 80 percent chose to do so, right? So, you're used to doing this in mass. And obviously, that number I would assume would be much higher than 80 percent even this year.

So, what do you say to the attorney general -- there's going to be ballots floating around and collected, it opens up the door to coercion?

KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the attorney general's comments really indicate that he doesn't understand the system at all or he's purposely trying to mislead the American people about the security and safety of voting by mail. Those things are just absolutely not true. There are rigorous systems in place to track and secure ballots by mail.

And the first thing that happens after the voters' identity is verified by their signature on the envelope is those ballots are separated from the envelope. So, there is no way to tie a ballot back to a voter.

BURNETT: Which obviously is very important when it comes to coercion, right, or fraud.

OK. But as we know, this is not the first time that -- well, certainly the president has done this repeatedly, right? I mean, he said that if he loses, it's because the whole thing was rigged because of mail-in.

But Attorney General Barr has attacked expanded vote by mail and he has sounded very similar to the president on this topic. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't do the mail- in ballots because you can have tremendous fraud.

BARR: I do think it increases the opportunity for fraud. TRUMP: They take them out of mailboxes.

BARR: Those things are delivered in the mailboxes, they can be taken out.

TRUMP: Will they be counterfeited by groups inside our nation? Will they be counterfeited maybe by the millions by foreign powers who don't want to see Trump win?

BARR: It does leave open the possibility of counterfeiting, counterfeiting ballots, either by someone here or someone overseas.


BURNETT: All right. First of all, what do you make of the word echo? And secondly, is there anything that they say where they have a point? Foreign powers trying to use mail-in, for example, as a way to, you know, cause fraud and ruin the election?

HOBBS: Well, again, there are very rigorous systems around the mail- in ballots in terms of printing and mailing them, tracking them. And so, I don't even -- I can't even fathom how counterfeit ballots could get into the system because the ballots are tracked. And it would be something that would be almost impossible to do.

And so, again, this is just an attempt to undermine the American public's confidence in the vote my mail system.

In Arizona, it is clear that voters have confidence in the system. You mentioned 80 percent in the 2018 election voted by mail. In our primary that we just held last month, it was nearly 90 percent. And we expect that to continue into this November election.

BURNETT: Well, that's a lot. So, can I just ask you a question? What's the biggest challenge you face with that?

Whether -- I mean, it's from fraud or how long it takes you to count them, you know, when this whole issue comes or how long is it going to you take to know who wins?


So, you're doing it with 90 percent of your voters. You've dealt with this. So, what do you -- what do you see happening in November?

HOBBS: Right, we've had no excuse absentee voting for a while and its use is increasingly popular. So, we have the systems and the infrastructure in place that any increase isn't really going to change how things happen on election night.

We know that it's going to take longer than election night to finalize the results, and that's because we're working to get right. That's really critical that every voter that cast a ballot knows their ballots are going to be counted.

And quite honestly, it's the misinformation coming from the president and his cabinet that is making our job harder.

I think here in Arizona, we are successfully overcoming that misinformation, the confidence in the system remains apparent by people's -- by voters' continued participation. And so, I think we're winning in that regard.

BURNETT: So, look, your confidence and your experience that gives you that confidence is really important and I think it instills confidence in voters. But I do have to ask you, you know, broader than your state, right, you're going to see mail in voting in a way it's never been used before.

So, we can look at statistics historically and they show facts, right? Republican secretaries of state say it. Democratic secretaries of state say it. Fraud just doesn't happen in any significant way, right? It just doesn't.

But this time, you're going to have a lot more people doing it and a lot of states that aren't used to having it done, and you got U.S. intelligence officials saying that Russia wants to meddle in the election, right? These are ripe areas to do it.

So, what would you say needs to be done this time to make sure that there isn't voter fraud, that somebody doesn't figure out a way?

HOBBS: Well, again, there are rigorous systems in place, not just here in Arizona but across the country, around voting system, to ensure their security. And we've been having conversations at the national level. The secretaries of state and election officials to ensure that those states who haven't done vote by mail to the scale we've done here are prepared and ready, and I feel really confident in our (AUDIO GAP) that we're prepared to handle it.

And obviously, this misinformation is another challenge, but I think there are strong systems across the country.

BURNETT: All right. Secretary of State Hobbs, appreciate your time. Thank you.

HOBBS: Thank you so much.

BURNETT: And next, massive wildfires raging across the West Coast. Many families now barely escaping the flames. We are live along the front lines of this disaster.



BURNETT: Breaking news, tonight, officials in Oregon say they are preparing for a mass facility incident as devastating wildfires grow longer across the American West Coast. The governor of Oregon says dozens of people are missing and half a million residents in Oregon being ordered to evacuate their homes.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the West, an explosion of raging infernos devastating and deadly. The flames consuming over a million acres in Oregon. Dozens are missing. At least 15 killed in Oregon, California and Washington, among them 13-year-old Wyatt Tofte and his grandmother Peggy. Both died in the wildfires, the boy trying to escape the flames was found in the car with the body of his dog in his lap.

More than half a million residents have been ordered to evacuate, more than 10 percent of the state's population. Highways packed as residents flee approaching flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I grabbed my family and my dog and supplies, but otherwise, it's awful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel sorry for the people. Hopefully they got all their animals and stuff out.

KAFANOV: Many coming back to find their neighborhoods incinerated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my front room. There is my oven. My cast iron wood burning oven.

KAFANOV: In neighboring Washington state, the fire claiming the life of this 1-year-old baby boy badly burning his parents who are hospitalize in critical condition.

Smoke-choked skies casting an eerie, orange glow across much of Oregon and the city of Portland. The mayor declaring a state of emergency. The air quality here one of the worst of any major city on earth.

The fires across the west fueled by winds and dry conditions, climate scientists say hotter and drier temperatures are causing flames to burn with unprecedented intensity.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: We're in the midst of a climate crisis. We are experiencing weather conditions to the likes of which we've never experienced in our lifetime.

We're experiencing what so many people predicted decades and decades ago, but all of that now is reality. It's observed.

KAFANOV: Satellite images show smoke smothering the west coast from California to Washington state, 100 major fires are burning over 7,000 square miles, an area the size of New Jersey.

In California, five of the largest wildfires ever burning this year. More than 1,400 firefighters battling to contain the blazes that have scorched over 3.1 million acres.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is fire on all sides, all around us, all the roads.

KAFANOV: And with no end in sight, many are fearing a scene like this one. In Phoenix, Oregon before and after satellite images show the town obliterated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is gone. It's devastating. It's awful. It's awful.


BURNETT: And that was our Lucy Kafanov. She is there on the ground just dealing with some difficult transmission issues given what is happening there.

Thank you so much for all of you for joining us and we'll see you on Monday.

"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.