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CNN TONIGHT

Joe Biden Calls Trump's Virus Response Close To Criminal; Ex- White House Aide Olivia Troy Slams Trump On Coronavirus; Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks USPS Policy Changes Nationwide; Attorney General Trashes His Department Of Justice Employees; The Department of Justice is Doubling Down on William Barr's Suggestion to Charge Protesters with Seditious Conspiracy; The Department of Justice Looked into the Possibility of Charges Against Officials in Portland or Over Handling of Protests; More Than Two Dozen High School Students in Quarantine After Parents Sent COVID-19 Positive Student to School; President Trump Dismisses Virus Deaths of Americans in Blue States. Aired 11p- 12a ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. here on East Coast. 47 days until Election Day and we're following multiple breaking news stories that could impact how Americans cast their votes in the 2020 election. Joe Biden, well, taking questions from Pennsylvania voter at tonight's CNN drive-in town hall. The former vice president slamming President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The idea that you're going to not tell people what you have been told that this virus is incredibly contagious, seven times more contagious than the flu. You breathe the air, you get it sucked into your lungs. But he knew it and did nothing. It's close to criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And it is not just Biden slamming the president's handling of coronavirus, a former White House coronavirus task force aide, Olivia Troy, accusing Trump of failing to protect Americans from the pandemic, because he's too consumed with re-election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVIA TROY, FORMER TOP ADVISER OF VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The truth is, he doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself. Towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID could become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when. But the president didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year and how was this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: As of tonight, more than 197,000 Americans had died from the coronavirus. The CDC now projecting that that number will rise to 218,000 by October 10th. We're going to get to all of these stories and more in the hour ahead for you.

But I want to start with CNN White House correspondent, John Hardwood, Susan Glasser, as well, staff writer for the New Yorker. Good evening to both of you. Susan, you interviewed Olivia Troy, the former coronavirus task force member who said that Trump could have saved more lives. Listen to another clip from her and then we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROY: When we were in a task force meeting, the president said, maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with this disgusting people. Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Disgusting people. When you spoke to her, you say she sounded more than a little scared. Can you tell us about that?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right, Don. She was, you know, bracing for impact. It's a big thing to go public and accuse the president of the United States of deliberately mishandling a deadly pandemic because he was consumed by his own re- election.

Nonetheless, she went through with it. And you know, look, it's really quite amazing right that this young woman, she's 43 years old, has everything to lose in her career, was willing to put her name and go on the record at a time when people like Jim Mattis and Dan Coats, the former director of National Intelligence.

They have great concerns about the president but have relayed them anonymously. They threw others and have refused to do what she has done. So, I was struck by her courage in doing it. But she just -- she seemed really shock at what she had seen in the coronavirus task force. She was there as Vice President Mike Pence's top aide.

Trump, several times, by the way, Don, would refer and go on and on apparently about Fox News and the coverage he thought he deserved to get on Fox when they were trying to focus him on the task agenda of the coronavirus meetings themselves. She couldn't believe that he did it. Although as she said when I asked were you surprised, she said no, it was exactly what you would imagine.

[23:05:18]

LEMON: Why didn't she? Did she tell you why she decided to speak out, Susan?

GLASSER: You know, I think that -- what the way she described it to me was an accumulation of things over time, but definitely mostly it was concern about the coronavirus and the fact that it's not going away. She reiterated to me that she was very worried that they would apply political pressure to have the appearance of a vaccine before the election and to interfere in ways that could compromise people's health.

She said, she wants people to take a vaccine, but she also wants to make sure that they're not interfering. And she felt that that was a real possibility based on her experienced in the White House. Which by the way was up until this -- some weeks ago. This is a very recent experience inside the White House at the coronavirus task force.

LEMON: Yes. John, so, tell us how the White House is responding.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House is describing her -- Mike Pence called her a disgruntled employee. Keith Kellogg went on with Wolf earlier in the evening to say the things she was saying were simply not true and she had earlier, you know, praised the administration.

But, look, there's a pattern here. High-ranking members of the administration -- Jim Mattis, John Bolton, John Kelly, middle ranked people like Miles Taylor, from the Department of Homeland and Security. Olivia Troy, they're all telling the same story, they are telling a story of a president who is consumed with himself and his own interests, not concerned about the interest of the country, dividing the country, not locked in to the substance and the facts of the situation that he's dealing with and generally displaying qualities that we don't expect in the president of the United States.

And at some point, when so many people, including members of the president's own family come out and say it, reasonable rational people have to look at this and say this is true. And that's part of the reason why the president is losing in this election right now, both nationally and in battleground states.

LEMON: You know, John, while the president was on his way to a rally tonight he was slamming his own FBI Director on Twitter because he testified that Russia is actively interfering in the election to try to hurt Biden. What was going on here?

HARWOOD: Look, this is something that we -- it's so familiar that we can forget. Let's don't forget. Robert Mueller did an investigation, found that Russia illegally interfered in the election. Trump welcomed the help. And he has taken a series of actions as president to advance the interests of Vladimir Putin's Russia, Trump's foreign policy attitude towards NATO, believing Putin over his own intelligence officials.

Today when you had Trump's appointed FBI Director emphasize Russia's active interference in the election right now, the president took to Twitter within hours to chastise Wray and say, well, you're wrong. It's really more about China -- much more about China than Russia.

The president is advancing the public propaganda of Russia, both directly about Russia and indirectly in terms of trying to sew distrust and doubt about the election. That is (inaudible) with Russia. And at some point, we all remember Hillary Clinton in the debate in 2016 saying, Vladimir Putin wants a puppet, and Trump said no, no puppet, you're the puppet. Hillary Clinton's side of that argument is a lot stronger -- looks a lot stronger after four years.

LEMON: Susan, let's talk about the town hall. This is what Joe Biden said about how he would handle the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: What presidents say matter? People listen. I will make it clear what is needed to be done. I cannot mandate people wearing masks, but we're just been told we should expect another 215,000 dead by January. But if we wore a mask, we'd save 100,000 of those lives doing nothing but that. We have the make sure we lay out to the American people the truth.

Tell them the truth. And I would make sure that I would call every Governor in the country into the White House, say, you should be putting mandates out. And if they don't, I call the mayors in their towns and cities and say, put out mandates. You can save lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Contrast that to the current president, Susan, please.

GLASSER: Well, that's a big contrast, Don. I mean, just yesterday you had the president in a remarkable spectacle contracting the head of the CDC who said something similar to what Joe Biden said tonight. Essentially what Biden is saying there is following the advice and the scientific expertise that America's public health officials are trying to offer the public.

[23:10:20]

But the president of the United States is saying, no, the head of the CDC, he had misinformation. He doesn't know what he's talking about. Some people don't like masks, this is what the president said yesterday when challenged on that the other day on the town hall at CDC he said, waiters. Some waiters don't like masks.

And again, I mean, you know, I was really struck in this conversation with Olivia Troy, the staffer who worked on the White House coronavirus task force. She said he politicized the wearing of masks. It didn't have to be this way. The problem was coming directly from the top.

And I think, again, you know, Joe Biden isn't really saying anything different than what you know, officials are saying in countries around the world. By the way, officials who have very different political viewpoints. It's not meant to be ideological statement. But in the United States in 2020, Trump has had a conscious policy of turning it into an ideological statement.

LEMON: John, I have to ask you about this historic decision, just tonight form the federal judge in Washington State, a temporarily blocks the post service office and Louis DeJoy from changing policies ahead of November's presidential election.

And here's what she writes, she says, it is easy to conclude that the recent postal services changes is an intentional effort on the part of the current administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local state and federal elections, especially given that 72 percent of the high speed mail sorting machines that were decommissioned were located in counties where Hillary Clinton received the most votes in 2016. That is an extraordinary rebuke. What effect will this have? What happens next?

HARWOOD: Well, I think it adds to a general sense, Don -- and there was also a decision, a favorable decision for Democrats in Pennsylvania today on mail-in balloting, extending the due dates and expanding the places where people can drop their ballots.

The Democratic pushback is working. And they're pushing back all across the country, and this judge's ruling makes clear, people simply aren't going take the administration's word for it anymore, and there's good reason for that.

Because it's very difficult to sort out what changes that the postal service was making are ordinary business changes associated with trying to make the system more efficient and deliberate attempts to interfere with mail balloting.

But because the president himself advancing Russian propaganda as I mentioned before -- is so aggressively raising doubts in a way that's false about the integrity of mail-in balloting and it flows in exactly the same direction as the potential slowdown at the postal service. The benefit of the doubt is gone from the administration.

And so I think that is a positive development for Democrats. It is unclear whether the postal service is going to appeal, DeJoy. The Postmaster General had already said he was going to stop some of the policy changes that he had instituted, the Democrats were challenging.

So don't know the exact practical effect but as a political matter there's a lot of wind at the back of Democrats right now as they try to stand up for the integrity of the election against a president who is lying about it.

LEMON: Thank you, Susan. Thank you John, I appreciate it.

Just ahead I'm going to talk more about the former White House staffer who is slamming President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Jonathan Reiner is here.

And the Attorney General Bill Barr trashing his Justice Department employees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employees' decisions are deemed sacrosanct. There aren't. There aren't any. Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is a no way to run a federal agency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:15:00]

LEMON: A former top aide to the Vice President Mike Pence who was his lead staffer on the White House coronavirus task force rebuking the president, accusing him of failing to protect Americans because he only cares about his re-election.

I want to bring in Dr. Jonathan Reiner, director of The Cardiac Catheterization Program in George Washington University Hospital. Doctor, thank you. So good to see you again.

So, this is Mike Pence's former aide. Her name is Olivia Troy. She alleges that the president said, maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people. That's not a good thing, doctor.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: No. It's not a good thing for any person, especially the president of the United States. Look, he's talking about his supporters. He's talking about acolytes, that want to reach out and touch him, and he's, you know, repulsed by them. But we see the same sort of disregard for their safety at his rallies.

The president is separated a safe distance from the attendees, but they're packed in and virtually all not wearing masks. He doesn't care about what happens to them. You know, this is just a cheesy reality show and they're his disposable props. He doesn't care. They can be replaced at the next event. He just needs to noise and feeds off the energy. But he doesn't really care what happens to them. It's really sad.

LEMON: You know, doctor, I want to read -- this is from the Washington Post. It says Trump rarely attended task force meetings and was briefed only on top level discussions by Pence or the government's public health officials.

[23:20:10]

When Trump attended one meeting, Troy said h spoke for 45 minutes about how poorly he was being treated by certain personalities on Fox News. OK, that's interesting. He spent more time about who was going to call Fox and yell at them to set them straight than he did on the virus. Dr. Reiner, I am sure that you could think of a checklist of things that he should have been focusing on given the crisis at hand.

REINER: Yes, testing, masks, shutdown, PPE, on and on and on. You know, the Washington Post had a very interesting story today about a plan that HHS and the postal service had for the beginning of April that coincided with the CDC's announcement that American you should wear masks. And what the postal service was prepared to do was deliver 650 million masks. Five mask per household, all throughout United States. They are going to do it rapidly.

They go to every zip code, obviously, they are the post office. And it was nixed by the White House because the White House didn't want to cause concern or panic people by sending them masks. Think about that. That one decision, the decision not to let the post office do something amazing -- deliver, you know, almost three-quarters of a billion masks to Americans. That one decision probably cost 150,000 lives.

And the reason why, because it went counter to the president's narrative that there was nothing to worry about, that this virus was simply going to disappear when it gets a little bit warmer. Keep your eye on the stock market, the stock market is recovering. He was panic about tanking the stock market. He didn't care about burying people. That one decision killed 150,000 people and counting.

LEMON: Yes. More here -- the staffer told the Washington Post that the president would often blindside the task force with public comments like, his support for hydroxychloroquine and his skepticism of masks. How much of his bogus and unproven claims set us back as a country?

REINER: What a horrible distraction. You know, his people, instead of creating policy and enacting policy, they had to scramble to exceed to his really nut job ideas. Look, the president -- there was so much bandwidth taken up throughout the spring about hydroxychloroquine, a drug really with no benefits. We now know the president himself was taking it. We know the president was taking zinc, which is basically, you know, one step away from wearing garlic to ward off vampires.

It's such a distraction. Instead of doing the things we needed, you know, invoking the defense production act to make N-59 masks, right? Having industry make swabs, tremendously ramping up testing, these were the real things that needed to be done. And obviously getting the country to wear a mask. This were the things that the president needed to do, except he focused on this nonsense and continues to focus on nonsense.

Look, the reason why the president is desperate for a vaccine is that he considers it a magic bullet. He thinks that once a vaccine is approved, he's done, he moves on, the pandemic is done. Once a vaccine is approved, I'm going to call that the end of the beginning of this pandemic. Then the next step, then we're going to be in the middle. But the president doesn't see it that way. He's always searched for a magic bullet.

LEMON: Yes. Dr. Reiner. Thank you, sir. See you soon.

REINER: My pleasure, Don.

LEMON: The Attorney General Bill Barr's actions and comments seeming to become more detached from reality. CNN is learning that the Justice Department explored bringing charges against Portland, Oregon, officials over their handling of the protests there. Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler weighs in, he's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:25:00]

LEMON: So, this is new tonight, the Justice Department doubling down on the Attorney General Bill Barr's proposal to charge violent protesters with sedition. A top official sending a memo to federal prosecutors today emphasizing that he wants them to consider seditious conspiracy as a potential charge. The move comes as Barr is increasingly under fire for comments that he's made.

Here's CNN's Jessica Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Attorney General ramping up his increasingly provocative comments in a speech to a conservative college Wednesday night comparing COVID restrictions to slavery.

BARR: Putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. It's you know -- other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.

SCHNEIDER: The highest-ranking black American in the house aghast at the comparison.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): That statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous tone-deaf God, awful things I've ever heard. It is incredible the chief law enforcement officer in this country can equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives.

SCHNEIDER: Bill Barr used the speech to assert his authority as Attorney General and slammed the hundreds of DOJ prosecutors working under him.

BARR: Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employees' decisions are deemed sacrosanct.

[23:30:00]

They aren't. They aren't any. Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency.

SCHNEIDER: Barr seemed to be criticizing the decision by several career prosecutor to resign from the Roger Stone case after Barr stepped in to reduce Stone's sentence.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: All these matters that are causing so much consternation within the department are matters that seemed to touch the president's personal interests or his political interests. That is what is so troubling to these career officials and career officers.

SCHNEIDER: The attorney general is increasingly parroting the president.

BARR: Oh, wait a minute, we just discovered 100,000 ballots. Every vote must be counted. You know, we don't know where these freaking votes came from.

SCHNEIDER: Hinting at a rigged election without any proof.

BARR: I don't have empirical evidence that on this scale, you know, these problems were materialized.

SCHNEIDER: Barr bashed Democrats on their COVID response.

BARR: They treat free citizens as babies that, you know, can't take responsibility for themselves and others.

SCHNEIDER: This comes as a source tells CNN the attorney general is frustrated with local prosecutors who are handling riot-related crimes across the country and pushing them to explore a rarely used sedition law to federally charge protesters.

BARR: They're not interested in the black lives, they're interested in props. A small number of blacks killed by police during conflict with police, usually less than it does in a year, who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And Don, tonight, we've learned the Department of Justice considered charging local officials in Portland, Oregon for not doing enough to stop the violence that unfolded when federal officers were brought in to protect the federal courthouse earlier this summer.

So far, the Department of Justice has charged more than 250 people associated with those protests that have been going on around the country since the early this summer. Don?

LEMON: Jessica, thank you so much. So, let's bring in now the mayor of Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler. Mayor, thank you for joining us. You heard the report. You know what is happening here. The DOJ says they are looking at trying to bring criminal charges against leaders in your city. Do you know who they might be targeting and are you concerned about this?

MAYOR TED WHEELER (D-OR), PORTLAND: Well, look, obviously, he's at least considering me and other elected leaders in the city, as well as other cities around the country. I want to make clear though this is not the first time that the President Trump or other members of this administration have threatened us with investigation or threatened us with arrest.

And what's clearly going on here is this is an overstepping by the president of the United States to threaten any duly elected official with arrest merely because he disagrees with our politics. This to me is outrageous. It's condescending and it's more befitting a totalitarian regime than it is the greatest democracy on this planet. It's ridiculous.

LEMON: Is it -- you said it is all of those things. Is it politically motivated, you believe?

WHEELER: Of course, it's politically motivated, Don. Look, this isn't the first time that the president has threatened. He threatened us with investigation and arrest when we stood up for immigrant rights. He was condescending to my city when we decided to oppose his actions to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border. He again threatened us when we stood up for climate action.

And so this is nothing new to us. But here we are in the Pacific Northwest in the midst of a COVID crisis he has failed to manage, the economic crisis resulting from that, and now we have broad forest fires here in the Pacific Northwest.

We need the federal government to work with us and help us serve our constituents, not constantly threaten us with investigations or arrests. It's ridiculous. I frankly can't wait for this president to be gone come January.

LEMON: You have been a fixture in the president's Twitter feed for weeks now. He has been calling you a fool, a dummy, saying that you're putting people's lives at risk. Here's what he said at a rally tonight. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Portland, ah, I'd love to go there. That would be so easy. Now, it's a terrible thing that's going on, all in democratic-run, super liberal-run cities. The red -- the red cities are doing great. I think we're doing great all over. The republican cities, you know, we're fair. We're not stupid. How stupid these people are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, why are Portland and other cities led by Democrats such a target for Trump?

[23:34:57]

WHEELER: Because this president fails to understand that everybody in this nation, including people who have different political views than himself, are still joined by being Americans.

You heard him say in that clip, we, referring specifically to cities or to jurisdictions run by Republicans. I assume, therefore, that I represent them.

That's not the way to be the president of the United States, that's the core failure of this presidency, is he has divided us rather than finding a way to unify us and bring us together during a series of crises.

He has instead capitulated his leadership, required local and state governments to take up the slack where he has failed to lead, and we are the ones at the state and the local level who are working together to solve these crises. He, meanwhile, is engaged on a Twitter binge. The president needs to go and the sooner the better for the rest of us.

LEMON: You know, the Justice Department is doubling down today on a plan that Barr recently brought up to potentially charge some violent protesters with sedition, effectively characterizing protesters as seeking to overthrow the U.S. government. Is that a threat to the protected right of public protest?

WHEELER: I believe it is. I think it's a threat to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the right to assembly, the right to free speech. What this president fails to understand is the reason millions of Americans are taking to the streets isn't because they're trying to take over the government, they're coming to the streets because they want racial justice and equity in the United States.

It is way past due. This is our national reckoning. And rather than being scared about it, as the president clearly is, he should be embracing this as a leadership opportunity to move this nation forward in the face of a history of racial discrimination and inherent unfairness in the way we've created our institutions. This is a leadership moment, not a time to rile people up, scare them, and divide them.

LEMON: Mayor Wheeler, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us.

WHEELER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: A group of high schoolers in Massachusetts under quarantine after the parents of one student knowingly sent their COVID positive child to school. The mayor of Attleboro says he is baffled, and he joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: More than two dozen high school students under quarantine tonight after the parent of a COVID-19 positive student sent their child to school. The Attleboro, Massachusetts school nurse is determining which student should isolate for 14 days based on how close their seats were to the infected student.

So, let's discuss now with the mayor of Attleboro, Massachusetts, Paul Heroux. Mayor, thank you. This is a very serious concern here. The parents found out that their child tested positive for COVID last Friday, then the child attended school on Monday. How did that happen?

MAYOR PAUL HEROUX (D-MA), ATTLEBORO: Well, it shouldn't have happened. You know, the city nurse learned about this on Monday night, and Tuesday morning, she contacted the family and the family basically said that the -- you know, their doctor had given them the OK to go back to school and they had quarantined for long enough.

We find that claim dubious. You know, it just doesn't seem to make sense. Maybe it is something got lost in translation. But there's actually five other students who were COVID positive that did not go to school and then this one COVID positive student that we did not know about ended up going to school. A lot of parents are very upset about this right now.

LEMON: So, listen, give me some more information here about when the school was notified and how contact tracing worked in this instance.

HEROUX: OK. So, I'll take you through a quick timeline. The student went for a test on September 9th, which was last Wednesday, and the test results came back on September 11th, which was Friday, and the test result was positive.

The city learned about this, like, we were given information from the state on Sunday. The city nurse then turned that information over to our contact tracing team and they followed up immediately, basically started Sunday night working into Monday. And by Monday afternoon, the student was already out of school.

And it was Monday, kind of late afternoon, early evening, that we learned about the -- the city nurse learned that we had this other positive student. So that's when she contacted her supervisor, the city health region. Tuesday morning, they contacted me, and then, you know, the city nurse contacted the family.

It shouldn't have happened, though. The school department did everything right. They have a lot of measures in place to prevent this from happening. We follow up with the new cases that we get from the state department public health basically immediately. The city nurse does or the contact tracing team does. But this one is where some parents used some pretty poor judgment and sent their kid to school.

LEMON: Well, listen, we're going to be following this one. Keep us updated and let us know how it goes. We appreciate you joining us. Everybody is thinking about it and also wanting to learn from this episode from you guys.

[23:45:01]

LEMON: Thank you, mayor.

HEROUX: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. President Trump is dismissing huge swaths of America, saying that coronavirus deaths wouldn't be so high if you just ignored blue states. Why he sees this country only as red and blue states of America. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump making it clearer than ever this week that he doesn't see himself as president of all Americans, saying that the massive coronavirus death toll in the U.S. isn't that bad if you take out blue states.

[23:50:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you take the blue states out, we're at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at. We're really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue-state- managed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's discuss now with senior political analyst Mr. John Avlon. John, good to see you. So --

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, man.

LEMON: -- put aside how callous it is to talk about loss of life like that. Has America ever had a sitting president be so openly hostile to parts of the country that he views as his political opponents?

AVLON: No. No, because look, it's the only job in our politics where a person has the responsibility to represent all the people. But one of (INAUDIBLE) tells is that this president's re-election campaign is predicated, not on winning a majority of votes.

He really sees himself as the president of red states. So that was a real tell (ph). By the way, it was wrong. You know, we still have 11 percent of the world's deaths, if you only count -- quote/unquote -- "red states." But it's the opposite of the way a president should think.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

AVLON: You know, there are no red states, there are no blue states. What Biden said tonight, you know, I am a Democrat, but I'll be a president for all people. That's the role that the president is supposed play, and Donald Trump seems unable to imagine himself in that role.

LEMON: Well, today is Constitution Day, John, commemorating --

AVLON: I know.

LEMON: -- the signing of the Constitution on this very day in 1787. I want to talk about the Electoral College. Republicans have won the White House three times in the last 25 years while winning the popular vote only once. A lot of people say that that is unfair. That every vote should count. Is it time to abolish the Electoral College?

AVLON: You know, Don, I've come around on this one, and I actually think it is, because just on the most basic level, it violates a fundamental premise that's also embedded in the Constitution, one person, one vote.

It is basic. Your vote should count the same, whether you live in a handful of swing states or you are in the other 42 states in the nation. It's a crazy way to do things. This election is really showing why it's such a problem because the Trump team is not trying to win the popular vote. They're playing an electoral game. And that means dividing to conquer.

You got to imagine, if the situation was reversed and -- and Democrats had only won the presidency once with the popular vote in the last 25 years, Republicans would be screaming bloody murder. In 2012, Donald Trump said national -- the Electoral College is a disaster for democracy.

LEMON: Yeah.

AVLON: But (INAUDIBLE) matter where they sit.

LEMON: You're right on target with that. But this is a concrete example, OK? Trump has given very little attention to the historic wildfires on the West Coast. There are Republicans, in all of those states, millions of them. If we had a national popular vote, would those states be getting more resources and quite frankly more attention from the president?

AVLON: They should. They should. By the way, they should, anyway. The fact that partisan politics is intruding in disaster response is a sign of a deeper sickness in our society and in this president, because hyper-partisanship is twisting people's moral compass. Look, there are more Republicans that live in California than live in Wyoming.

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: And so, you know, this is about helping fellow Americans in need. It should not be done through a partisan prism. But we saw it even in the earliest days of the COVID crisis when, you know, according to reporting in Washington Post and Vanity Fair, they said this is primarily a blue state problem, it's not affecting our people, so maybe 11 electoral benefits. It's that kind of cynicism that runs totally counter to the basic duty to care.

LEMON: You know, it's possible, if President Trump wins re-election, John, that he could be the first president in U.S. history to win the Electoral College, lose the popular vote twice. What could that do to the public's faith in our political system?

AVLON: It will rip it apart. It will rip it apart. And again, imagine if the roles were reversed. And it's because he isn't even trying to win. And look at this, you know, if you talk to a lot of folks who do statistical analysis, our Harry Enten is great at that, you know, basically, the feeling is that Biden got to win more than 4.5 percent in the popular vote.

So he can -- you know, if a Democrat can win the popular vote by one or two points and the presidency is still likely to go to the Republicans, that is not sustainable because it violates that fundamental premise and promise of one person, one vote. This was pushed through, as a compromise, in the Constitution, at the last minute.

James Madison hated it, wanted to redo it. We've had constitutional amendments pushed before. There are other ways to handle this, as well. At the very least, it shouldn't be winner take all. Think of national popular vote interstate compact. There is a great book on this by Jesse Wegman. But this is a real problem.

[23:55:00]

AVLON: We cannot further fray our bonds that connect us. And making people feel like their vote doesn't count for something as powerful and impactful as the presidency is a recipe for disaster.

LEMON: Having people in the least populous places really make all the policies and decide who the president of the United States should be over the most of the people, the majority. Thank you, John Avlon. I will see you soon, John. Say hi --

AVLON: Take care.

LEMON: Say hi to the better half of the family.

AVLON: Always.

LEMON: I'll see you later. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

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