Return to Transcripts main page


Joe Biden Speaks Directly To Voters Tonight In Cnn Town Hall; Former Top U.S. Intel Official Calls On Congress To Create Bipartisan Commission To Oversee Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Voters in battleground Pennsylvania get the chance to question the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, tonight. Biden taking part in a CNN Town Hall tonight 8:00 p.m. hoping some time with voters will help him in Pennsylvania and other key battleground states where he currently is leading.

Let's get straight to CNN political correspondent, Arlette Saenz. She is in Biden's hometown Scranton, Pennsylvania where this town hall takes place tonight. Arlette, you're on the outdoor set I see there.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is going to be a town hall unlike any other. Joe Biden has done quite a few town halls since he's entered the 2020 race. But tonight will be very different. He's traveling here to his birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a state that President Trump won back in 2016. But that Joe Biden is hoping to bring back to the Democratic column, his campaign trying to appeal to white working class voters in areas like Scranton.

Today they released some new T.V. ads aimed at manufacturing and also featuring a former Trump voter who now supports Biden. But as for this town hall, this is going to be Biden's first town hall since he became the Democratic nominee. And it's going to be completely different from what we've seen before. As you can see, I am standing right now in the middle of a parking lot, but in just a few hours, this will be transformed into a drive in style town hall. Cars will come in, carrying voters. The cars will be set up in each of their own designated spaces.

You can see that there are lines marking where these cars will be placed. Then when it comes to actually asking the questions, there are microphones stands set up close to the stage, the microphones are set up in a way so that voters don't have to touch them when they ask their questions. If someone doesn't feel comfortable asking you a question there, a microphone will be brought to their car.

And then that stage behind me, you see the two chairs were Joe Biden and Anderson Cooper, the moderator will both be seated. They will be well distanced from each other. And also those voters asking the questions, now everyone who's coming in here is going to fill out a health questionnaire. They are also going to have their temperatures checked. I had mine checked twice before I came here on the site.

There will be very few people who are actually close to the former Vice President those that are, will be COVID tested. But all of this just shows you the remarkable way that coronavirus has changed the way things are done. We haven't done a driving style town hall before. But tonight we will be seeing that for ourselves when Joe Biden is here in Scranton. John?

KING: It looks pretty remarkable to see just the setup. Can't wait for tonight. Arlette Saenz on the scene for us, very important night for the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, in battleground Pennsylvania, a very important night for us here at CNN, Anderson Cooper moderates this special CNN presidential town hall live from Pennsylvania tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.


Up next, Donald Trump's former director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, delivering a clear new warning about the election.


KING: A new call to action today from the nation's former top intelligence official. Dan Coats says Americans need reassurance about the integrity of the November vote. He wants Congress to create a new watchdog to oversee election integrity. Coats writing this in the New York Times op-ed, we must firmly unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter that the people will express through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted.

Joining us now our CNN national security correspondent, Vivian Salama. Vivian, at the very end Donald Trump's name is mentioned in this op-ed he's not mentioned as Dan Coats makes the case for defending and protecting the democracy. But that part right there about that it will be respected clearly a kind of a message to his former boss.


VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, a stark warning both from former director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats as well as the current FBI Director Christopher Wray today both about the elections warning, both that the election is vulnerable to outside interference, but also we don't want to sow discord internally, so to cast doubt on the results of the election in November.

And Dan Coats who it's important to remember was also a lawmaker really stressed the need for bipartisan efforts moving forward with regard to finding a solution to protecting the election integrity. In that New York op-ed, New York Times op-ed that you just read, he went on to say, if we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats. The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jingping, and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could want that. And so obviously, he's really trying to stress the fact that everybody loses if we don't come together and try to find a solution and also try to, you know, encourage the Democratic process moving forward. Now, remember, when Dan Coates was actually the director of National Intelligence, he and his former boss, as you say, we're really at odds over the nature of Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Dan Coats constantly blasting Russia for its role and the President trying to downplay that, and that ultimately put them at odds with each other. And so, obviously, this is a theme even today where we saw the current FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee. And he also was warning with more detail about the current nature of the threat. Take a listen to what he told lawmakers today.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more than malign foreign influence side of things, social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals, et cetera, an effort to both so device in this and discord. And I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly to primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment.


SALAMA: Now, John, I want to remind our viewers that a couple of weeks ago, the top election security official in the intelligence community put out a rather startling report saying that Russia is trying to denigrate the Biden campaign. He also said that China and Iran are interested or prefer that President Donald Trump lose the election. Still, however, the Trump administration really pressing the China narrative over the Russia narrative, saying that that and not Russia or any other threat is the biggest one going forward in this election. John?

KING: And the safest bet in Washington right now is when the President sees that sound from Christopher Wray. He is not going to like it. But it is candid and it is honest. Vivian Salama, appreciate the important live report there.

Coming up for us, the World Health Organization sounds the alarm over rising coronavirus case count in Europe.



KING: The World Health Organization now pushing European countries to keep quarantines in place. This, as more than half of European nations seeing significant raises in new coronavirus infections. The totals are topping what we saw back in March. Let's go around the world now for other headlines with our CNN international correspondents.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well here in Germany, pharma company BioNTech, which is currently partnering with Pfizer, in the efforts to make a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, has just announced that it's buying a production facility for vaccines here in Germany.

Now they say this production facility will help them increase their capacity to produce vaccines against the coronavirus by about 750 million doses per year. The CEO of BioNTech also once again reiterated that he believes that it's very realistic to think that BioNTech and Pfizer are going to ask for regulatory approval for their vaccine candidate which is called BNT162 by the end of October.

They say they're going to ask for that approval both with the FDA and also with the European regulatory body. Both BioNTech and Pfizer say they plan to produce about 100 million doses this year, about 1.3 billion doses next year. And they have confirmed today that of those first 100 million doses at least a portion will go to the United States.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Here in India, the country has reported almost 90,000 new infections of COVID-19 on Thursday morning, the highest confirm rise of a single country in 24 hours. On Wednesday, India became the second country after the U.S. to surpass 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

It took the country five and a half months to surpass a million cases of the virus and just under two months to add more than 4 million cases of COVID-19. Experts have criticized the government's response. But India's health minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan estimates that the decisions taken by the Indian government on COVID-19 have helped prevent approximate 1 to 3 million cases of the virus and 37 to 38,000 deaths.


India has the third highest number of deaths across the world at over 83,000. According to the health ministry, almost 60 percent of the active cases across India have emerged from just five states. The next phase of easing restrictions is scheduled to begin from September 21st. Gatherings of hundred people or less will be permitted for social, religious, and political functions outside hotspot areas but of course, keeping social distancing measures in mind.

Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in the U.K., a 1.5 people in parts of Northeast England are being put under severe new restrictions to try to head off a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. The new restrictions which take effect tomorrow, ban almost all in person socializing outside of your own household. Bars and restaurants will also have to close early. The U.K. second wave of the virus is starting to translate into more hospitalizations. The health secretary also says the virus is starting to creep back into care homes just as the country is facing a shortage of tests. The U.K. is doing more tests than any other major European country and yet, some health care workers are having to self-isolate for extended periods of time because they can't find one.

Across Europe the virus is making a serious comeback especially in France and Spain. Spain just recorded 100,000 new cases the virus just in the last 10 days. Madrid, which is seeing about a third of the country's new cases is set to announce its own new restrictions tomorrow.

Scott McLean, CNN, London.


KING: Coming up next, why one sports columnist is calling the big 10's decision to play football, the darkest day in conference history.



KING: The big 10 conference now planning to play football this fall reversing after a ton of pressure including from the White House. A decision made last month to postpone play because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Joining us now is CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. Christine, you're never shy but in your column and USA Today. You're pretty blunt. You call this the darkest day in big 10 sports history. And you say this is the potential chaos the big 10 chose when it decided to sell its soul for a few football games. Why do you feel that way?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: John, I'm a product of the big 10. Grew up in Toledo, Ohio, as you know, went to Michigan games all through my childhood, season tickets at Michigan football games, a Northwestern grad, undergrad and masters and I have full disclosure. I am a member of the 64 person, Northwestern Board of Trustees. I played absolutely no role. I had no votes, no input whatsoever on the decision that Northwestern and the big 10 made yesterday.

But the big 10 has always been it's always said anyway, it's about more. It's about academics. It's about the fabulous research institutions that make up the big 10. It sits closer to the Ivy League, many thinks certainly Northwestern thinks then maybe the SEC. And yesterday showed us that's not the case. That's not the case, the big 10 shows football over everything else, the fact that the football players, John, are going to receive the rapid antigen testing. What about the fellow students on campus who can't get that?

Michigan State quarantining so many other problems in the big 10, what about the towns people in those beautiful big 10 cities like Evanston and Arbor and Columbus, do they get them? The professor's on and on it goes and I just think the big 10 sold out for football and I'm happy to say it.

KING: And so like everything else coronavirus collides with our election, sports collides with our election, coronavirus is disrupting everything in our lives. You make this connection, we could call it the Trumpeting of the big 10. It was just two weeks ago that Trump desperate to win votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, told the conference to play football. I never would have expected the big 10 presidents to be so shaky, so fearful, so afraid of their own shadow.

You think in the end, some Republican governors jumped in too, some of the players wanted to play, the coaches wanted to play. But you see the President's thumb on this.

BRENNAN: I do. And the President sees the President's thumb on this, John. As we know that there was an off the record briefing yesterday about this. So he's taking a victory lap whether it means anything in terms of votes that he desperately needs in Michigan or Ohio or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. We'll see. But again, there are adults in the room and then the presidents of the big 10 schools.

And you're now steering football, which by the way, I love college football. I haven't missed a Northwestern bowl game and who knows that knew I would even say those words back in the day in eight years I think. I love college football. But you've got these presidents now steering their student athletes right into the teeth of COVID and the flu in October and November.

And just today, and I wish I were wrong, I wish this could happen. Just today, UNC Charlotte said it had to cancel its game with North Carolina Chapel Hill this week, because it didn't have any offensive lineman because of one COVID positive and then contact tracing. It sounds like something right out of a Mel Brooks movie, no offensive lineman available for a football game. But it's not funny.


And again, that's the decision the big 10 made and they have every right to make it of course. But to go for football as opposed to being correct and sitting back and watching some of the problems elsewhere and saying, hey, we made the right decision. We did not roll the dice.