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CNN NEWSROOM

Baltimore Schools CEO: 65% of Students Attending Online Class; Marshall Berton, UGA Junior & Executive Director, UGA Votes, Discusses UGA Reversing Decision to Allow In-Person Campus Voting; David Laufman, Attorney for a Military Whistleblower Adam DeMarco, Discusses Defense Department Official Wanting to Use Heat Ray on Protesters; Joe Biden Speaks Directly to Voters Tonight in CNN Town Hall; Indonesian Village Making Anti-Maskers Dig Graves for COVID Victims. Aired 2:30- 3p ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:32:13]

BRIANNE KEILAR, CNN HOST: The city of Baltimore is struggling to launch its virtual school year with 27,000 students not present for online classes.

CNN's Bianna Golodryga has more on this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, as most major cities across the country, including Baltimore, have started the school year fully online, a startling revelation from the Baltimore public school CEO.

A week and a half in, fewer than two-thirds of students have been able to log in every day without interruption for virtual classes.

Officials say some of the students may not have been accounted for because they were using unofficial log-ins, a practice that is banned moving forward.

In response, the city is increasing outreach to families, making sure they have devices they need, in addition to deploying community school coordinators to help students get connected -- Brianna?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Bianna Golodryga, thank you so much.

At the University of Georgia, officials have reversed an earlier decision and now say they will offer on-campus voting to their students.

Initially, they said, due to the pandemic, they couldn't allow in- person voting on campus this year. But the school was loudly criticized since it is allowing an estimated 23,000 fans into the Bulldog's first home football game October 3rd. Marshall Berton is a junior at UGA. He's the executive director of the

nonpartisan student-run voter registration group, UGA Votes.

Marshall, thank you for being with us.

And tell us what happened when you tried set up a place to vote in the 2020 election.

MARSHALL BERTON, UGA JUNIOR & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UGA VOTES: Thanks so much, Brianna, for having me.

We initially approached some UGA officials on the issue. We hosted early voting back in 2016 and 2018 at the Tate Student Center on campus. This is our student university building.

We approached them about hosting early voting at that location. That request was denied because the Tate Center has narrow hallways and tight corners, not the best for social distancing.

So we proposed utilizing the coliseum a few weeks ago and the decision was ultimately approved by the Athletics Department but denied by university officials.

So we were happy to hear news this morning that the university has decided to change course and they're going to allow in-person early voting on campus this fall.

KEILAR: What's your understanding of today's announcement that they are allowing voting in the arena? Are there going to any logistical considerations that could get in the way of this or are you confident this is going to take place?

BERTON: I received confirmation from the Board of Elections that they are all go to go as well. So we should be clear moving forward.

We'll maintain social distancing at the voting location. And there are going to be some logistical challenges to make sure that we can distance out the line.

But I'm confident the university administration, ourselves, and the Board of Elections can all collaborate together to ultimately make this happen.

[14:35:07]

KEILAR: Marshall, we'll be watching.

Marshall Berton, we appreciate you joining us.

BERTON: Thank you so much for having me. Take care.

KEILAR: Take care.

In Massachusetts, parents sent a COVID-19-positive teenager to school and now more than two dozen of his classmates have to quarantine.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is following this for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, 28 students from a Massachusetts school are home, quarantining after a student from that school, who knew they had the coronavirus, attended classes anyway.

The mayor of that town telling CNN that the parents of the child used poor judgment when they sent their kid to school just days after receiving a receiving a positive test result.

And they're also saying the parents thought that their child only needed to quarantine for a few days.

Anyone in that school who had close proximity to the student are home.

The mayor and the school district reminding parents that if your child is waiting on test results or has a positive test result, keep them home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Next, Attorney General Bill Barr claims COVID lockdowns are second only to slavery when it comes to civil rights violations.

Plus, a military whistleblower claims the D.C. National Guard wanted to use a heat ray on protesters. It's a device that makes your skin feel like it's burning. The whistleblower's attorney will be joining me live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:32]

KEILAR: A whistleblower has come forward saying a Defense Department official requested a heat ray to potentially use on those protesting near the White House back in June, peacefully protesting.

The device makes your skin feel like it's burning. These protesters were gathered at Lafayette Park on the same day that smoke canisters were deployed on them to clear the way for President Trump to do a photo op in front of a church across the street from Lafayette Park.

The whistleblower here is D.C. National Guard Major Adam DeMarco. He testified before a House committee in June and provided this new information in a letter, responding to follow-up questions from lawmakers.

In it, he describes how and when defense officials asked if the Guard had a heat ray to use on protesters.

We're joining for attorney, David Laufman, who is representing Major DeMarco. David is also a former counterintelligence chief at the Justice Department.

David, thanks for being with us. Tell us what motivated Major DeMarco to come forward.

DAVID LAUFMAN, ATTORNEY FOR WHISTLEBLOWER, NATIONAL GUARD MAJOR ADAM DEMARCO: He felt he had a moral obligation to come forward with information that was deeply disturbing to him in the first instance, the unprovoked use of force against demonstrators in Washington, D.C., in Lafayette Square, who were peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.

A disproportionate amount of use of force in those circumstances.

And out of that hearing, out of his testimony came follow-up questions by the committee, which resulted in the information he disclosed about the active denial system or heat ray, as it's known, and the prepositioning of live ammunition at the D.C. armory in the days after June 1st.

KEILAR: The prepositioning of live ammunition.

The Pentagon sent a statement saying, "A military police officer informally inquired about a number of non-lethal devices as", quote, "a matter of due diligence and prudent military planning."

And it goes on to say that the joint force headquarters' national capital region, quote, "Do not possess these systems, did not request such systems, and no further action was taken as a result of the officer's e-mail query."

What is your reaction to that?

LAUFMAN: Brianna, under what circumstance would it be prudent military planning to contemplate the use of a heat ray against citizens of the United States, peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights in our nation's capital, of all places?

Under what circumstance did someone think that might a wise course of action?

There's a lot of unanswered questions. Among them are, who was behind that requests and in what situation did they contemplate the use of such a system.

I'm not aware that such a system has ever been used in the United States. And the U.S. military disfavors it outside of our borders.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, because of your background in counter-intel at DOJ, we've heard a lot from the attorney general lately, including he attacked his own department. He compared the rank-and-file to preschoolers.

You have the breakdown to tell us. What's the impact going to be on folks in the department?

LAUFMAN: There has to be dispiriting. Career people don't have a lock on judgement any more than political appointees do. I've been a political appointee at the Department of Justice as well as a career attorney.

But what they are intended to do is be led by an attorney general who is committed to the impartial administration of justice.

And that means making rational decisions based on a law in facts. And not being a tool of a president bent on subjugating the Department of Justice to his political will and interfering in the ordinary course of justice to reward his friends and punish his adversaries.

And this attorney general, day by day, continues to debase the office of the attorney general.

KEILAR: A source tells CNN that the A.G. wanted his Justice Department protesters to consider charging protesters with sedition.

What's your reaction to that?

LAUFMAN: The section I formally and responsibility conceptionally with, you know, considering investigations or prosecutions for sedition, not once would it have ever entered my mind or the mind of the attorneys working with me to contemplate charging with sedition Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights on the streets of American cities.

KEILAR: Sir, thank you so much. David, we really appreciate you being with us.

LAUFMAN: Thank you, Brianna.

[14:44:55]

KEILAR: We're just hours away from Joe Biden's live CNN town hall. Hear what he just told congressional Democrats about the race.

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KEILAR: Voters get a chance to put their questions directly before Joe Biden tonight. The Democratic presidential candidate is taking part in a town hall right here on CNN.

You can watch it live at 8:00 eastern from just outside his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

CNN political correspondent, Arlette Saenz, is there for us.

Arlette, tell us what we can expect tonight.

[14:50:06]

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, Joe Biden is traveling here to the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania for a CNN town hall that will look like none other held before.

Essentially, a drive-in-style town hall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Voters will drive by in their cars, stay in their car while they ask the question. People undergoing a health screening test as they arrive, their temperature checked.

And Anderson Cooper will be away from the stage as he answers questions. The first holding since becoming the Democratic nominee.

In addition to the town hall, we'll see him here in Pennsylvania in a few hours.

Biden also held a conference call with Senate Democrats a little earlier today where he talked about the state of the race.

Several of the Senators who were on that phone call telling our colleagues up on Capitol Hill that Joe Biden said he is not taking anything for granted right now in this race, despite polls having him up ahead of President Trump nationally and in some battleground states.

Those Senators also said they left with the impression Biden would be maintaining a vigorous schedule in those final weeks before the election.

But tonight, we will hear from Joe Biden directly at this town hall as he makes his case not just to Pennsylvania voters but voters across the country on why he should be elected in November -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Arlette, thank you so much.

And don't miss the Biden presidential town hall live from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Anderson Cooper moderating, starting tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

One nation is making anti-maskers dig graves for COVID victims. We take you there.

Plus, we're live on the gulf coast after Hurricane Sally left neighborhoods underwater and is knocking out power to hundreds of thousands moving north.

But first, this week's "IMPACT YOUR WORLD." We introduce you to a nonprofit that is providing free books with black characters for young African-American readers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIENCE BOSEMAN, CO-FOUNDER, YOUNG, BLACK AND LIT: When a child sees themselves reflected in the books that they read and the books are a mirror to them, they feel valued.

It wasn't something I really thought about until my niece came around, and it really kind of saddened me that there were bookstores that she would walk into and not be able to feel seen.

Young, Black and Lit is a nonprofit organization base in the Chicagoland area. Our mission is to provide children's books to youth featuring black characters at no cost to the youth or their families.

DERRICK RAMSEY, CO-FOUNDER, YOUNG, BLACK AND LIT: Since 2018, we've provided over 5,000 books to community centers, organizations, schools and directly to students' homes.

KAREEM WILSON, AMIR'S FATHER: It was just always a challenge finding the ones for his age. They introduced the program to the school. He was pretty excited about it. Show them your favorite.

AMIR WILSON, RECEIVES BOOKS FROM YOUNG, BLACK AND LIT: Other people say they can't do stuff, and then they prove them wrong.

BOSEMAN: We try not to focus just on historical figures. I know we value their importance, but we also focus on some of the simple everyday life activity that you can go through. But we have blitz around getting a haircut.

AMIR WILSON: And that's the best Spider-Man ever. His suit is better than all the other suits and he has powers.

K. WILSON: He thinks -- you think he's the best Spider-Man, yes?

[14:53:34]

AMIR WILSON: Yes, I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:58:31]

KEILAR: An Indonesian village is making an example out of people who violate the mask mandate, forcing them to dig graves for COVID-19 victims.

CNN's Selina Wang has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Each villager in this part of Indonesia who has refused to wear masks were then forced to dig graves of COVID-19 patients as punishment. The goal, that manual labor and empathy would convince others to do their part.

The mask-wearing in public is mandatory in Indonesia. A very vocal part of the population has been reluctant.

Experts say that's made it harder for authorities to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It's infected nearly 230,000 people and killed more than 9,000 in Indonesia.

Local officials there are able to decide how to punish people for breaking the rules.

In this particular area, the district leader says those caught not wearing a mask can accept a fine or social punishment. He hopes options like grave digging will show, quote, "first-hand the real and serious effect of COVID-19."

Jakarta is taking a similar approach. A man there was required to sit in a coffin in public after being caught not wearing a mask.

But it isn't clear if these penalties are actually working.

Indonesia has the second most cases in southeast Asia. Infections there are still on the rise.

In Jakarta, the health system may be nearing a breaking point. Officials said the emergency units in all 20 Jakarta hospital approved to treat COVID-19 patients are full.

Selina Wang, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[15:00:03]

And our special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin.