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Former WH Aide Says Trump Didn't Want to Hear About Rising Covid Cases or Deaths: "Biggest Concern" was Reelection; Trump Holds Crowded Event as U.S. Nears 200,000 Deaths; Ex-WH Aide: Trump Doesn't "Care About Anyone Else but Himself": Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) Michigan Discusses About Trump's Rally Packed With Supporters With No Masks, No Social Distancing; DOJ Repeats Suggestion of Sedition Charges for Violent Protesters; 59 Western Wildfires Burn Nearly 6 Million Acres, Trump Blames Poor Forest Management, Not Climate Change. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You could tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a bombshell from a former White House official who served on the Coronavirus Task Force. Trump could have saved more lives but didn't because he only cares about the election, that's what she says and that is not all the former aide is claiming tonight.

Plus, a town hall with Joe Biden like you've never seen, a drive thru in Pennsylvania. It's going to be right here on CNN and we are moments away. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Biden's supporter is OUTFRONT.

And more breaking news, a federal judge tonight saying President Trump and the U.S. Postmaster General are involved in a politically motivated attack on the post service - Postal Service - I'm sorry, and that damage has already been done to the old election. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, a blistering takedown of President Trump from a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence. Olivia Troy accusing the President of failing to protect the American people from the deadly pandemic. You see her there in those shots with the Coronavirus Task Force.

It's a stunning attack from the Vice President's former Homeland Security Adviser. She was his number one aide on the Coronavirus Task Force, Olivia Troy. There she is attending nearly every meeting, sitting behind Pence in the Situation Room. Here she is tonight in her own words.


OLIVIA TROY, VICE PRESIDENT PENCE FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID would 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 election year and how is this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success.

It was shocking to see the President saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything is OK when we know that it's not. The truth is he doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself.


BURNETT: Let me just be clear here about who Olivia Troy is, as I said, Pence's top aide in the Coronavirus Task Force instrumental and at every single meeting sitting behind the Vice President, also a life long Republican. And she saw the President behind the scenes during the pandemic, she's now accusing him of putting politics ahead of the health of Americans, including the health of his supporters, who tonight have lined up for hours outside an airport hangar in Wisconsin to hear Trump speak.

There you see, hours waiting, no social distance, no masks, a state where the virus is surging. Wisconsin reporting over 2,000 new cases in the past 24 hours. It is the highest number of cases in the state since the start of the pandemic.

And now some new pictures to show you inside the hangar. You can see people lined up shoulder to shoulder, packed in, no masks. And what does the President think of people like this, people who are so loyal that they're going to go to a rally and by god proudly not wear a mask, risk their lives to be there for him? What does he think of them? Here again is Olivia Troy.


TROY: When we were in a taskforce meeting, 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. Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about.


BURNETT: Disgusting people. That's how he refer to his supporters. The very same people who wait hours to meet him, the most loyal, the ones that he allows to show up proudly without masks and jam together.

Today, our Ryan Nobles asked one of them about why no mask and this was the response.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't been a mask wearer since the beginning. I feel it's important that we need to kind of expose ourselves to different things and I also think god's got my back.


BURNETT: That is something that the President could stop if he stood by the science and made it clear that this isn't something about god. This is something about science and facts and you can protect yourself something that his top experts do day after day after day, despite his undermining their words.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense. I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We believe if the governors and mayors of every locality right now would mandate masks for their communities and every American would wear a mask, we can really get control of this virus.




BURNETT: OK. Like I said and like you hear all the time, they say that sort of thing constantly. They are the top experts in the Trump administration, masks work, masks are as effective if not more than a vaccine. But tonight they're not the only experts saying that masks are a vaccine. OK. Wait for this. This is Carlos del Rio.

He is one of the doctors leading the Moderna vaccine trial. That is one of the top two trials of vaccine that is one of the top two contenders to be ready first.


CARLOS DEL RIO, RESEARCHER: But I want to emphasize that we have a vaccine right now, it's called wear a mask.


BURNETT: The vaccine trial doctor says we already have a vaccine right now, a mask. That is something the President could tell his supporters helping them, helping this whole economy get back on track, frankly, helping his reelection but he won't.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT live in Wisconsin where the President will be speaking momentarily. And Ryan, I know you spoke to supporters there, Olivia Troy coming out endorsing Joe Biden. A major rebuke of the President as he's going to another rally against the advice of his scientists. RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly right, Erin. And

I think those words from Olivia Troy struck me the most having covered so many of these rallies with President Trump and seeing how passionate his supporters are. In the case of this rally that we're at here today in Wisconsin, we saw supporters lined up as early as five hours ahead of the President's expected arrival here later this evening.

These are passionate people who deeply support the President and the idea that he was cavalierly throwing away their support and their safety in these meetings is really something to behold. The administration is already pushing back in a big way against these comments from Ms. Troy, much like they have with a long line of administration officials who've been publicly critical of President Trump after leaving his service.

In particular, Vice President Pence himself who Troy worked the closest with was out today and he described her as just another disgruntled former employee and he described her comment as something that was just being said because we are in a political season. And even went as far as to say is that some of his current staffers said that she voiced some of these concerns while she served on that Coronavirus Task Force working closely with the Vice President on a day-to-day basis.

So even admitting that she was raising these concerns when she worked for Vice President Pence, but that doesn't change the reality here on the ground, Erin. There's going to be thousands of people here tonight that have been packed in for a significant amount of time and none of them wearing masks, all of them shoulder to shoulder at great risk of either infecting someone else or being infected themselves by the coronavirus.

And one interesting wrinkle about this rally here tonight in Wisconsin, which we haven't seen in many of the other rallies that we've been to, as folks walked in today to try and encourage them to wear masks, they had to put a mask on as they came inside the venue. They were given a wristband to signify that they had the mask on when they came in, but that was the only kind of accounting for wearing the mask after that fact.

They may have had that wristband on, but they could take off the mask immediately as soon as they came here tonight. And as you could see here behind me, Erin, very few of them are wearing masks as we speak, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, we could see in the videos that we had. Ryan, thank you very much.

I want to go now to begin here with Dr. William Schaffner, former CDC official, now Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University. OK. I'm glad to have you back here to give some perspective on this. So I just want to start with what we're looking at the Trump rally tonight. They're there, they're packed in, they're not wearing mass, hanger, part of it inside. You heard what Ryan reported, he's been there all day. So they were

packed in and in line five hours ahead in a state currently reporting its greatest daily cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began. How dangerous is it?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Oh, Erin, it makes me shudder because those people all packed together so many of them, some of them brought the virus with them. Statistically that's absolutely correct. The virus is there among them and as we're speaking, it's spreading from person to person.

My friend Carlos del Rio is right, a mask would have provided huge protection. But, of course, they should have also social distanced, that's so important. Those large gatherings with people close together that accelerates the epidemic. It makes it spread. Those people are going to go home and they will spread it to others in their neighborhoods. Some of them will get very, very sick, I'm afraid. This is exactly the wrong thing to do.

BURNETT: So Dr. Schaffner, the Vice President's former lead staffer now speaking out on the White House's Coronavirus Task Force. She happens to be a lifelong Republican. She was the top aide to Pence at every single one of those meetings and every single one of those pictures. She says that Trump failed to protect the American people because he only cared about getting himself reelected.


As I said, every task for meeting, she says that he spoke pejoratively about his supporters. The good thing about it, the pandemic, was that he wouldn't have to shake hands with disgusting people. How disturbing is this allegation?

SCHAFFNER: It's beyond sad. It's beyond said. I keep saying let's listen to the public health authorities. They have it right. Let's not listen so much. We can screen out the politicians, but let's listen to the public health authorities. Their whole careers are devoted to the health of the American people.

Please everyone, wear a mask, social distance and avoid those large group gatherings please. COVID is going to keep spreading in this country unless we buckle down and do a better job.

BURNETT: Dr. Schaffner, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

And I want to go straight now to Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic Governor of Michigan. Governor, I want to show again the pictures of what we're seeing right now. This is live in Wisconsin right across Lake Michigan from you. When you see these images of all these people gathered and there are, not that I can see being used, any masks in this picture. And you have a state right with a record daily caseload since the pandemic began. What's your reaction?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D) MICHIGAN: Well, I think like Dr. Schaffner said, I'm sad. I'm sad to see that because we know that the President who's luring them out know that this activity can expose them to this dangerous virus that can take their lives. But this is how COVID spreads and he's known this for a long, long period of time.

And yet these people are going out to support him and I don't wish them any ill will, I just feel terrible that they are being treated so poorly that COVID-19 is going to spread amongst them and they're going to bring it home to their families and communities. And it's going to make it harder on us to get this economy back up and running and most importantly, people are going to lose their lives because of it.

BURNETT: Governor, the President has been blaming blue states, obviously, including yours for a high number of coronavirus deaths in the country saying, oh, this would all be fine if it weren't for these Democratic states. Here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The blue states had tremendous death rates. 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.


BURNETT: He obviously then went on to specifically mentioned your state along with that of North Carolina and Pennsylvania. What do you say if it just took out the deaths in your state it would all look good?

WHITMER: Well, first of all, he's flat out wrong, but I'm not surprised by that. He frequently gets the facts wrong. Secondly, we're all Americans. I tell you, we've lost over 6,600 people in the State of Michigan. I've never once asked which party that person voted in. They're Michiganders and that's enough for me.

My job is to protect everyone in the state and the U.S. President's job is to protect everyone in the United States. It should not matter what state they're from, it should not matter what side of the aisle they set up. The fact of the matter is, this is a virus that is deadly and it does not respect party line. It does not respect state line. We should be in this together against a virus and need an American president who understands that.

BURNETT: So you issued stay-at-home orders early in the pandemic and you have not ruled out issuing them again, if there's a big jump there. The Attorney General Bill Barr spoke out about that sort of order today. Here's what he said.


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


BURNETT: Greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history. What do you make of the comparison to slavery?

WHITMER: I mean, I just think the Attorney General is unhinged and it is deeply disturbing that our chief law enforcement officer is promulgating this kind of craziness. The fact of the matter is the worst thing that we can do for another American is to give them a virus that could kill them. That's the biggest violation of our civil rights is, and an administration and a government that is undermining our ability to protect ourselves and our lives and our livelihood.

BURNETT: Governor, I want to ask you about something else the President did today specifically about you, slamming your state for a ballot issue. He tweeted, "The Democrat Trump Hater Secretary of State of Michigan purposely misprinted Ballots for the Military, putting the wrong names on the Ballot, and actually listing a member of another party as a replacement for Vice President Mike Pence.


Everybody is totally confused by their egregious behavior, which is just the way they want it. This was not a mistake, it was done illegally and on purpose."

Now, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State in your state did confirm there was a temporary error that resulted in 400 ballots being downloaded incorrectly saying it was unintentional. How did it happen? And putting aside the President trying to stir the pot and stoke the flames, does it concern you about being able to say the ballots in Michigan are all accurate and all clean?

WHITMER: Well, obviously, we have the duty to ensure that the integrity of this collection and that means ballots that are accurate. A computer glitch that printed 400 ballots incorrectly was caught quickly. The Secretary of State's office has handled it and taken care to ensure that the problem is fixed.

But the fact of the matter is it's 400 ballots, it was caught immediately and it was a computer glitch. We are working overtime to ensure the integrity of this election. It's actually misinformation that's coming out of the White House that is the biggest, I think, threat to getting this election right and to ensuring that everyone can get their votes counted. As you've acknowledged, they've tweeted six times more about ballot than they have about the threat of COVID- 19 or taking a minute to even acknowledge the almost 200,000 people that have lost their battle with COVID-19.

We're gonna get the selection right. We've made great strides in Michigan, our Secretary of State is on it and this one computer glitch has been fixed.

BURNETT: All right. Gov. Whitmer, I appreciate your time. I'm glad to see you again. Thank you.

WHITMER: Thank you. BURNETT: And next, Joe Biden is about to take questions from voters

at CNN's first ever drive-in town hall in the era of COVID. Anderson is going to join me next to show you exactly how this is going to work on the ground, so you can see the drive-in.

Plus, Attorney General Bill Barr urging Justice Department prosecutors to get tough with some protesters charged them with sedition, which is plotting to overthrow the U.S. government.

And new details tonight about the urgent manhunt for the shooter who ambushed two sheriff's deputies in Compton.



BURNETT: Tonight, Joe Biden vowing to ramp up his campaign schedule. Biden is seeking to reassure Senate Democrats in a call today telling them he is not taking polls showing him ahead of Trump for granted. It comes as Biden is set to stage in just a few moments at a CNN Town Hall that you've actually never seen anything like before.

We know how to do town halls, but this is a new one, a drive-in. Anderson Cooper hosting the town hall tonight joining me from Scranton. So Anderson, look, this is really cool, looking behind you at the cars. Like it's almost like techno modern/meets 1950. Tell me how it's going to work.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I haven't been to a drive-in since I was a little kid in my pajamas to see a horror movie, but this is the first town hall drive-in. We have about a hundred people who have come. Usually, you have people come with at least one other person from their families so that they can kind of sit together. Everybody has social distance from each other. They were allowed to bring their own chairs if they wanted. If they don't want, just stay in their cars if they wanted to sit out, it's a lovely evening here.

So we have about a hundred people who are here, about 35 cars or so. And they will have the opportunity to ask questions to Vice President Biden. I'll obviously be following up as well. But it's the first time certainly we have done anything like this and it's actually got a kind of a really interesting kind of feel to it.

A lot of folks have been waiting here for a couple hours and they are excited and wanting to put questions to the Vice President.

BURNETT: I love how it looks. It looks neat. And so we're going to see Anderson doing that in just a few moments and I know you've got a few minutes left to prepare, so we'll look forward to seeing Anderson with the Vice President in just a few moments.

I want to go out front now, though, to Ambassador Susan Rice, one of Biden's top supporters. She served as National Security Adviser under President Obama and wrote the book Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. Ambassador Rice, I appreciate having you with me tonight. So we've

never seen anything like tonight's drive-in town hall, not physically, in how it looks, not sort of psychologically on how it's going to be executed. I mean, how challenging is it, when you just think about a moment like this, for Biden to connect with voters?

And I did a town hall with him in Iowa before all of this and in the commercial breaks, he's jumping off the stage, he's going in amongst the people. He's talking to them. That's what he thrives upon is that face-to-face. Now that's taken away, how hard is it for him to connect with voters when you think about how things are now?

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N. UNDER OBAMA: Well, as you know, Erin, Joe Biden is a people person. He cares about each of us individually. He cares about the American people. And while it's a consequence of COVID that we can't have the face-to-face, hand-to-hand warmth that we would like as individuals and Joe Biden understands and respects that, I think what you'll see tonight, out of him in his town hall will be in stark contrast to what we saw from Donald Trump a few days ago.

Trump was disconnected from reality. He lied. He was mean spirited. He couldn't relate to the individuals that he was speaking to. Tonight, you'll see Joe Biden be Joe Biden, warm, knowledgeable, empathetic, fact based and committed to doing his utmost for the American people relating to the individual concerns of each of the voters that he'll speak with.

So I think you'll hear him talk about the plan he announced today for our middle class tax cut, putting money in the pockets of regular Americans, as opposed to Trump, who wants to give $30 billion in additional tax breaks to the hundred richest billionaires in this country. He will talk about the bread and butter issues that Americans care about from the pandemic to putting their kids back in school to recovering our economy and making it work for all of us.

BURNETT: So, Ambassador, he's obviously in Scranton tonight and as you point out, he has taken a very different approach to campaigning. The Vice President has been told, you're not supposed to have all these people in a room, so we Hasn't.


Trump though has held several packed rallies and has weaponized Biden's choice not to. Here he is.


TRUMP: Biden remain silent in his basement.

Joe hiding, we have a new one, Joe hiding. We call him Joe hiding.

Finally, he left his basement and he said we got problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: OK. So that's what he says as he goes to rallies across the

country. It's not true. Biden has been visiting the key swing states you see here, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. He's gone to all of them. He's just held smaller events, so you don't get the same images.

And one Democratic chair in a crucial Pennsylvania county told The New York Times, Ambassador Rice, "It feels like asymmetric warfare." Are you worried that this stark difference in images and the perception that Biden isn't there, because there isn't the pictures to show could hurt him?

RICE: No, I'm not worried at all. That's ridiculous. Donald Trump is out there incredibly irresponsibly, doing huge rallies in packed venues with no masks. And it's emblematic of his total disregard for the health and well-being of the American people, even his closest supporters.

And by contrast, Joe Biden is leading by example. He's showing the American people that this pandemic is serious, that it has killed over - almost 200,000 Americans and has the potential according to estimates to kill another 200,000 before the end of the year. We've got to take this seriously, so he's wearing a mask. He's honoring social distancing. He's following science and he's refusing to politicize things like a vaccine.

All of these are responsible steps that we need from our president to conquer this pandemic and Donald Trump could care less. He's only out for his own personal political advantage. That is the key theme of Donald Trump's presidency.

BURNETT: So he just said something else today, signing the executive order actually creating the '1776 Commission'. And the goal of it and I want to quote from the order is to restore patriotic education to our schools as if that education, of course, has been gone. He went after The New York Times for its '1619 Project', which aims to reframe this nation's history with a greater focus on slavery. Here's what the President said.


TRUMP: America's founding set in motion the unstoppable chain of events that abolish slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal and prosperous nation in human history.


BURNETT: What is your response to the President?

RICE: This was one of the most astonishing speeches I've heard him give. He talks about patriotic education, I thought I was listening to Mao Zedong running Communist China. We don't have a system of patriotic education where the dear leader tells the people what they must learn. We open students' minds. We give them facts. We teach them how to analyze. We teach them civics and the foundations of our Constitution.

And when you study the Constitution, which appears Donald Trump hasn't, you understand that it is a living document that has evolved? He herald today the signing of the Constitution in 1787. Yes, great day, and it was and I love this Constitution, I've sworn an oath to protect it and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

But in 1787, you and I, Erin, and all women in this country couldn't participate in our democracy. We had no vote. And if you were African- American and a male, the Constitution of 1787 said you are worth three fifths of a human being.

So to celebrate that and deny the realities of our history, positive and negative, and to wipe out the history of slavery in this country and call the teaching of it unAmerican is the most communist, retro crazy thing I've heard out of Donald Trump's mouth in a while.

BURNETT: Ambassador Rice, I appreciate your time. Thank you for joining me.

RICE: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next, Attorney General Bill Barr sounding more and more like the President now going after hundreds of the prosecutors who worked for him at the Department of Justice, calling them preschoolers.

Plus, a federal judge blocking recent changes at the Postal Service calling them politically motivated, an attack by Trump, and saying that it's too late. Damage to this election is already done.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the Justice Department doubling down on its threat to charge violent protesters with sedition, which is a formal term for essentially plotting to overthrow the government. In a memo sent to U.S. attorneys across the nation, the Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen says he wants to, quote, re-emphasize federal prosecutors, quote, consider seditious conspiracy as a potential charge against protesters.

This comes as Attorney General Bill Barr is under fire for comparing coronavirus shutdowns to slavery.

Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attorney general ramping up his provocative comments comparing COVID restrictions to slavery.

BILL BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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 would 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.


They 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 no way to run a federal agency.

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

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: All of these matters that are causing so much consternation within the department are matters that seem to touch the president's personal interests or his political interests. That's what's so troubling to these career officials and career officers.

SCHNEIDER: The attorney general is increasingly parroting the president.

BARR: Wait a minute, we just discovered 100,000 ballots. Every vote must be counted. No, we don't know where these votes came from.

SCHNEIDER: Hinting at a rigged election without any proof.

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

SCHNEIDER: Barr bashed Democrats on their COVID response.

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

SCHNEIDER: This comes as a source tells CNN the attorney general is frustrated with local prosecutors for 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 black lives. They're interested in props. A small number of blacks that were killed by police during a conflict with police, usually less than a dozen a year, who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.


SCHNEIDER: And tonight, we've learned the Department of Justice considered criminally charging local officials in Portland, Oregon, for not doing enough to stop the violence that erupted after federal officers moved in to protect the federal courthouse there.

Erin, over the past summer, the Department of Justice has charged more than 250 people in connection with those protests all over the country, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Jessica.

I want to go now to our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our political correspondent Abby Phillip.

Thanks to both of you.

So, Abby, you hear Congressman Clyburn coming out calling these comments at best tone deaf.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: At best tone deaf, at worst, completely ahistorical. I think it's clear that the facts are not on Barr's side. But what is astonishing about the comments is that Bill Barr is a very highly educated person. He's been in this country for a long time, long enough to know what, you know, the Jim Crow South looked like at certain parts of this country's history, long enough to have an understanding of what the civil rights movement was all about n which, you know, people were literally trying to have the same right to go to the same water fountain as white people.

And so, Barr knows what this is about, but he's choosing the most provocative version of this argument, in part, I think, to stick a thumb in people's eyes. But I think it reveals this and a lot of other comments he made, he has a really expansive view of the federal government in some areas. And in other areas, he is disdainful of things like stay-at-home orders, which are designed to save lives.

I think there's no rhyme or reason behind it, except in some cases it seems to align politically with what the president's narrative is.

BURNETT: Right, if you were going to be consistent with it, you could say it's my point of view of interpretation. When it becomes, you know, changeable, then all of a sudden, your motives become in question.

So, Gloria, I want to ask you about this news that is breaking this hour. A former aide to vice president Mike Pence works on the coronavirus task force, appears in an ad saying she's going to vote for Biden.

I just want to be clear, she was instrumental here. She was the top aide on the force for Pence. She sits behind him in every single meeting. She's at every single meeting. She's a life long Republican.

Here's a little bit more of what she says.


OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I would come at night and look myself in the mirror and say, are you really making a difference? Does it matter, because no matter how hard you work and what you do, the president is going to do something that is detrimental to keeping Americans safe, which is why you signed up for this role. It was awful. It was terrifying.


BURNETT: You heard Ryan Nobles talk about people who worked with her say she expressed these concerns while serving the vice president.


BURNETT: How effective will this ad be do you think?

BORGER: I think taken alone, probably not going to change a lot of minds, but given the fact that there are an increasing number of people at all levels from the Trump administration who have said to varying degrees that this president is dangerous or that he is unfit for office, ranging from generals to this woman.


I mean, it takes a certain amount of courage for her to come out and do this. She knows that the White House is going to slap her down, which we've heard. The president called her just a disgruntled low- level employee, et cetera. She's going to take a lot of grief. She understands that.

And so, I think taken altogether, when you hear what the president said to generals about losers and suckers, when you hear what he said about John McCain, what you hear what former aides of his have said, when you look at Bob Woodward's book, which is not called "my friend." It is called "Rage." His first book was called "Fear."

I think taken all together, there is a picture that has been drawn of this president that those who may be undecided, who might not like Joe Biden, take a look at this and say, well, if they're standing out there and doing this, there must be a reason.

BURNETT: So, Abby, the president was asked about the ads this afternoon. And, by the way, Olivia Troye who I laid out very clearly was instrumental in the task force and for Vice President Pence also said that he thought the pandemic -- I'm sorry, the president, was -- you know, could be beneficial because he didn't have to shake hands with these disgusting people, while referring to his supporters. That's what she said.

He denies knowing her and then added this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any time someone leaves our big massive government, they leave and they try and they get coerced. They're just saying bad things and it's very unfortunate. It's a very sad thing.



PHILLIP: Coerced by whom?

You know, the problem for President Trump is that this doesn't actually happen to other presidents. This has not happened to other presidents. There have been no other presidents that have seen a parade of senior former officials leaving and disparaging the person that they worked for.

So, it's unique to him, and I think that that's what is notable about this. And you have to ask why. Why are they all painting the same picture of this man, and why has he not been able to instill the same kind of loyalty on a very basic level that other political figures and other presidents have.

BURNETT: Yeah, it's a really good point. It has not happened before. People don't just come out and say this.

Thank you both.

And next, 60 wildfires now raging in the U.S. Six million acres burned. A hurricane season like we've never before seen. And yet the president laughed off any connection to climate change.

The former California Governor Jerry Brown is OUTFRONT next.

Plus, investigators have new leads tonight in the massive manhunt for the person who shot two deputies point-blank.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the United States now has 59 uncontained large fires burning in Western states with nearly 6 million acres burned so far. It's a jaw dropping number, and it comes as parts of Florida and Alabama are still under water from Hurricane Sally. And behind that hurricane several other tropical storms active right now in the Atlantic Ocean, scenes adding to urgency on climate change.

Yet the president consistently questions the science.


TRUMP: It'll start getting cooler. You just -- you just watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish science agreed with you. TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows actually.

REPORTER: But what about the scientists who say it's worse than ever?

TRUMP: You'd have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.

Men and women, we do have an impact. But I don't believe the impact is nearly what some say.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Jerry Brown, former governor of California.

Governor, I appreciate your time.

Climate change is your life's passion. You did make it a signature issue while in office. And obviously, now, your state burning.

What is your reaction when you hear President Trump again and again, it'll start getting cooler, Californians, you just watch?

JERRY BROWN (D), FORMER GOVENOR OF CALIFORNIA: Look, this is the most deviant human being in the history of the American presidency. By deviant, I mean far, far greater departure from the norms that have characterized presidents from Washington right up to Obama. So, we really are in for a tough ride here.

Look, he says it'll get colder. Yeah, the winter's coming. It will get cooler.

But if you're saying will these fires continue to burn in the years ahead? Yes. Because of climate change, things are going to get worse and worse.

And what we need to do is to immediately bring down emissions, carbon emissions, to the maximum degree. I say we -- I mean the U.S., China, India, Europe and the other countries. If we don't do that, what we're seeing today will be child's play.

But to avoid making it even worse in the years and decades to come, we must have a national climate policy now.

Trump has his head in the sand. He's dead wrong.

Ninety-eight percent of all climate scientists say the opposite of what he said just said. I don't know why he's doing that, whether it's oil companies, whether it's a belief system. I don't know. But it's wrong.

I can tell you I've been around politics for 50 years. I've heard everything, seen everything. This is unbelievable.

BURNETT: So, I want to give you a chance to respond to one point he made that Governor Newsom did acknowledge is part of the problem here, and that is basically forest management, burning regularly, controlling it and getting rid of underbrush, right? And according to "ProPublica", between 1982 and 1998, California burned about 30,000 acres a year. That number was then cut in half for almost the next two decades, which did include most of your second stint as governor.

Is it possible that these wild fires are a result of some of that, of the poor forest management not burning through, as the president is now clearly alleging?

BROWN: Yeah, no doubt. Of course, that's Monday morning quarterbacking.


Everything that you just said is absolutely true. We have to manage our forests a lot better. But it's not that easy. If it were easy, we would have done it.

I mean, there's money. First of all, let's take President Trump himself. He owns, as the leader of the federal government, 60 percent of the forests of California.


BROWN: So, everything he said (INAUDIBLE) presidents before him.

So he's got to clean up his act. So does California, so do private land owners. But it's not that easy. It's going to cost billions of dollars.

It takes technology to handle all the wind waste. It takes fires that you have to control. It takes personnel. This takes a commitment of money that, frankly, no one has been willing up to this moment to make.

BURNETT: Governor Brown, I want to ask you about one other story moving at this hour. A federal judge tonight is issuing a nationwide order blocking recent changes at the Postal Service, calling it a politically motivated attack. That's a word of the judge by the Trump administration, but then add this crucial comment, and I quote, harm has already taken place. The judge saying that could slow down ballot delivery, resulting in substantial voter disenfranchisement.

These are deeply concerning things. Harm already taken place to slow down delivery and result in substantial voter disenfranchisement.

How worried are you about this election, Governor?

BROWN: Well, everything I hear and just this latest makes me more concerned. Look, we now have a president who is sowing distrust in our democratic process, in the ability of an election to pick a winner. Number two, he's taking action through the Post Office to make it likely that tens of thousands or maybe millions of people's votes might not be counted.

I mean, this is horrendous. It almost borders on some kind of treason. We have to wake up and we got to put measures in to protect. And maybe this court order will help us.

We've got to pull together. We can't really engage in this polarized political discourse. But there we are. We have to build confidence for the election. We have to get Trump or the post office to knock it off, and get those ballots out and get all these sowers of dissent and doubt.

It's not just Putin. We all say that. It's a lot of media people, it's a lot of politicians, and they're trying to undermine our democracy, and they're playing with fire. It's highly dangerous. And yes, I'm worried.

BURNETT: All right. Governor Brown, I appreciate your time. Thank you tonight.

BROWN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, new information about that urgent manhunt for the person who ambushed two deputies.



BURNETT: Tonight, the Los Angeles county sheriff says there are new leads in the search for the gunman who ambushed two sheriff's deputies.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five days after two Los Angeles County sheriff deputies were shot in an ambush style attack, investigators in a desperate search to find the man responsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detectives, I've spoken with them recently. They're confident they're on the right path, they're making progress.

SIDNER: The surveillance video shows the gunman shooting into a squad car and the heroics of the 31-year-old deputy and mother who helped save her 24-year-old partner after both are shot multiple times. Now her partner is out of the hospital, but her wounds are too severe to allow her to be discharged.

At the same time, the manhunt intensifies, the sheriff's department handling of a radio reporter outside the hospital is now under investigation by the Los Angeles County inspector general.

Josie Huang clearly identifies herself in video, but the sheriff questions that and says she was too close to the action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She claimed that she said KTCC, but if you claim you're a reporter, but at that point, you're already being handcuffed.

SIDNER: She was there covering the small group of people, outside the hospital, one calling for the death of the wounded officers.


SIDNER: The relationship between the sheriff's department and the community of Compton is a strained one.

COMPTON RESIDENT: You don't know if you need to truth them or not to truth them.

SIDNER: The recent deputy shooting of Dijon Kizzie after trying to stop him for a bicycle violation sparked anger. Sheriff investigators say Kizzie was pointing a gun at them, but his deputy disputes that claim.

Over the years, so has accusations that the department's deputies formed their own gangs, including new accusations of a deputy formed gang called the "Executioners" in Compton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no gangs within the department.

SIDNER: But in the same breath, the sheriff tells Erin Burnett the investigation into deputy gangs is not over.

BURNETT: But you're saying that investigation has concluded and there is no alleged gang?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we have not concluded that investigation. We're taking positive action. We did an investigation at East Los Angeles station that resulted in 26 employees being either disciplined or terminated.

BURNETT: That happened in 2018 after a deputy formed gang called the Banditos was involved in attacking younger deputies in a brawl. The alleged deputy gangs or cliches are sporting the same tattoos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm absolutely sickened by the mere allegation of any deputy hiding behind a badge to hurt anyone.

SIDNER: But some residents say they want more deputies in their community, and are sickened by the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel sorry for the families of the officers that that happened to. But, you know, it's kind of hard because now instead of looking at a person as an individual, it's like if you're in a uniform, you're no good. And it's the same, they feel if you're black or brown walking down the street, you're no good.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Compton.


BURNETT: Thanks to Sara and thanks to all of you.

Our town hall with Joe Biden moderated by Anderson starts now.