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Former Official on Coronavirus Task Force: Trump could have Saved Lives, but He was too Concerned about Re-Election; Ex-W.H. Official: Trump Doesn't Care about Anyone but Himself; DOJ: Prosecutors Looked Into Possible Criminal Or Civil Charges Against Portland Officials For Handling Of Protests; A.G. Barr Blasts Own DOJ, Compares Officials To Preschoolers; CNN Hosts First "Drive-In" Town Hall Due To Coronavirus Pandemic; Second Coronavirus Lockdown Begins Tomorrow In Israel; BioNTech CEO: Will Seek Vaccine Approval In Late October. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:19]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.

We're following breaking news. As the U.S. coronavirus death toll is nearing 200,000, tonight, we have a very grim new forecast of what to expect in the next few weeks. The CDC projecting about 20,000 more Americans could die by October 10. This is as a former top official in the Trump White House now says the President could have saved lives lost to coronavirus, but he's been too concerned about re-election.

Standby for more. There's very public condemnation of President Trump's handling of the pandemic by a lifelong Republican who is now endorsing Joe Biden.

And just a few hours from now, CNN will host a truly extraordinary town hall with the former Vice President Joe Biden. It will have an unprecedented drive in format to comply with social distancing.

First, let's go to our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, first of all, tell us more about this truly stunning rebuke of the President by a former top Trump administration official.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump as a new former administration official turned critic, Vice President Mike Pence's former Homeland Security Adviser, Olivia Troye, came out today to slam Mr. Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Troye says in a video for an anti-Trump Republican group that the President thought COVID-19 might be a good thing because he wouldn't have to shake hands with people. The White House is denying the claims coming from this former aide and Vice President Pence just described Troye as a disgruntled former employee. That just came in a few moments ago. And in the meantime, President Trump made it clear in his speech at the National Archives, he is waging a cultural war to win reelection. The President tore into efforts in public schools to teach children about slavery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): She's just the latest ex-Trump administration official to blast the President, Olivia Troye, former advisor to Vice President Mike Pence says Mr. Trump failed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic because he only cared about one thing, reelection.

Troye says the President remarked at one COVID-19 taskforce meeting that perhaps the virus was a good thing because he doesn't like shaking hands with, "disgusting people."

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER ADVISOR TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: 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 one. But the President didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in election year.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the President was hardly focused on the virus as he blasted efforts to teach the evil of slavery in public schools during an incendiary speech that turned the National Archives into his latest reelection prop.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The left has launched a vicious and violent assault on law enforcement. The universal symbol of the rule of law in America.

The left wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left wing indoctrination in our schools.

ACOSTA: President's remarks come less than a day after Attorney General William Barr ignited a firestorm of his own when he compared lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic to slavery.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, 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.

ACOSTA: Democrats slammed Barr's comments as insensitive.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: I think that that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous tone deaf god awful things I've ever heard.

ACOSTA: While Republicans sidestep the subject.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I had not heard of that. So, I don't know anything about it.

Yes? ACOSTA: But the President's race baiting appears to be just the latest distraction from the nearly 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Mr. Trump has signaled he's playing divide and conquer in his bid for reelection blaming blue states for the pandemic.

TRUMP: If you take the blue states out we're at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be.

ACOSTA: That outraged Democrats too.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): What a disgrace. It's monstrous. Not a shred of empathy, not an ounce of sorrow. What kind of president do we have?

ACOSTA: The President is playing politics with the virus as he and his top scientists remain at odds over the importance of masks, with the director of the Centers for Disease Control urging Americans to protect themselves until there's a vaccine.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take the COVID vaccine.

[17:05:08]

ACOSTA: The President simply doesn't want to hear it.

TRUMP: When I called up Robert today, I said to them, what's with the mask? He said, I think I answered that question incorrectly. I think maybe he had misunderstood it.

ACOSTA: While other top administration scientists just want to stay out of the line of fire.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: One of the reasons that I think I have credibility is that I don't say things that I don't know on the basis of scientific data.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, as for the coronavirus pandemic, the President is once again heading off to a rally this evening, this time in Wisconsin where we expect Trump supporters won't be wearing many masks or practicing social distancing as we've seen in previous rallies.

We should note, Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson will not be making the trip with the President. Johnson found out he was exposed to somebody who tested positive for the virus. He ascends tested negative, but out of an abundance of caution, Wolf, he's not making the trip with the President. Wolf.

BLITZER: Which is probably very smart. All right, Jim Acosta, reporting for us from the White House. Thank you.

There's more breaking news we're following, this the rising pandemic death toll right here in the United States. Let's go to our National Correspondent, Erica Hill.

Erica, the CDC now projecting into early October anticipating thousands and thousands more Americans are about to die.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. We know the CDC forecast deaths out only a few weeks, unlike some other models. And the latest information we have from the CDC is now that there could be as many as 218,000 deaths by October 10, of course, just a few weeks from now.

Meantime here in New York City, after weeks of protest about planning, ventilation, staffing, PPE and other issues, the mayor says he is hearing those concerns about public schools and announcing changes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): Desks and hallways will remain empty a bit longer in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a huge undertaking.

HILL: The nation's largest school system delaying in person learning for a second time until at least September 29.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are doing what needs to be done to make sure that you have your education but it is also safe.

HILL: The city also adding 4,500 educators to address staffing concerns. More than 40 percent of families in the city have already opted for fully remote learning.

In Massachusetts, 30 students at this high school now in quarantine, because a classmate came to school after testing positive for the virus.

MAYOR PAUL HEROUX, ATTLEBORO, MASSACHUSETTS: Parents knew they shouldn't have done that, the student knew he shouldn't have done that. I mean, we're six months into the pandemic and that shouldn't have happened.

HILL: With more than 50,000 cases at colleges nationwide, quarantines in isolation are becoming more common on campus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, I don't want to have COVID. But it seem kind of inevitable.

HILL: New cases are up in 23 states over the past week, much of New England which was on the decline now deep breath. The numbers are also surging in Europe.

DR. HANS KLUGE, WHO REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE: Weekly cases have no exceeded those are afforded when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.

HILL: One of the easiest ways to slow the spread wear a mask. DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: A mask is the single greatest, most important tool that any one of us has to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from COVID-19, full stop.

HILL: Clear science which the President continues to ignore.

TRUMP: I think there's a lot of problems with masks. The mask is not as important as the vaccine.

DR. MIKE RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAM: It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels and not turning that into some kind of political football. It's about genuinely communicating with people.

HILL: The push for a vaccine moving into overdrive.

STEPHANE BANCEL, CEO, MODERNA: Our base plan. Our most primal plan is November

HILL: But having a vaccine is only the first step.

FAUCI: If you have a vaccine that is highly effective but very few people get vaccinated, you're not going to realize the full important effect of having a vaccine.

HILL: Until then.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: But I want to emphasize that we have a vaccine right now, it's called wear a mask.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: We're also hearing from the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, today who said we don't need to wait for a vaccine to get this virus under control. In fact, he pointed to New York City here in the city, the positivity rate has been under one percent. He noted for several weeks, we should say nationwide, it's inching up closer now to six percent at this point after dipping a little bit a couple of weeks ago.

He also said what we really need, we know we've got the tools, he said we need the will of people to come together. Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly do. Erica Hill in New York for us, thank you.

Joining us now, Dr. Richard Besser, he's a former Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He's now president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us.

[17:10:01]

Let me quickly get your reaction to this former White House task force member now speaking out publicly. She says it was clear back in February that this coronavirus would become a major crisis. And the President, she says simply didn't want to hear about it. How revealing is that to you?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, one of the biggest challenges during this entire response so far has been the disconnect between what public health has been saying, which is this is an incredibly severe pandemic. This is a public health crisis in what we've been hearing from political leadership.

And when you have that kind of conflict between messaging, it gives the wiggle room for people who don't want to do what public health is saying wearing masks and social distancing to not do so, because they're hearing from the highest level levels that it doesn't matter. That's been a major problem here.

BLITZER: It certainly has been. And this comes Dr. Besser, after President Trump publicly, yesterday we saw it live here on CNN, not once but twice undermine the CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. But Redfield isn't considering resigning we're told.

As someone who previously led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have you ever seen anything like this, a public humiliation of the CDC director?

BESSER: Well, when I was leading CDC at the start of H1N1 during the swine flu, it was critically important that what I said as the as the leader of the public health agency, was amplified by the president. I remember when I briefed the cabinet and the president on what we were doing for response, the following day on his weekly radio address, he hit the exact same messages that I'd given. And that kind of unity where you hear from a president that everything will be based on science gives the entire nation -- with those measures. And it leads to a situation where, where the country is coming together.

This should be something patriotic that we're doing for each other in terms of taking these measures. It shouldn't be something that's seen as a partisan political move.

BLITZER: And instead of that, the President on the sensitive issue of vaccine as well as on wearing a mask, he said Dr. Redfield was either confused, he didn't understand. He didn't know what he was talking about, and he was flat out wrong. That's what the President said publicly about the current director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You've also, Dr. Besser, written an op-ed on the dangers of political interference over at the CDC saying if this continues, it will, in your words, "open the door for more death and more suffering." As the death fell here in the United States now approaches 200,000. Are you scared about what the next few weeks and months could bring?

BESSER: I'm very scared. I've never seen a response in this nation that has been so politicized. And when you look at the trajectory of this pandemic at nations around the world where they've been able to get this under control and you look at what's happened in the United States, where on a given day 1000 people are still dying from this. That should be unacceptable.

And Wolf, you know, we've talked about. This before, this pandemic is hitting every community, but it's not hitting every community equally. You know, black Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, lower income Americans are getting devastated by this. And as a nation, we have to say that's unacceptable because we could implement measures so that that wasn't happening. And we just aren't doing that.

You know, in that op-ed, I was calling out because the CDC's communications, when they write in their weekly journal, what they're finding what they're learning, public health officials have to trust that that's the best public health science out there, and that it hasn't been tampered with. And if we're hearing in reports that political operatives are reaching down and changing things that the CDC is recommending, not only will the public health not trust what's coming out, but public health officials won't trust that and that can have grave consequences in terms of lives.

BLITZER: It certainly can. Dr. Richard Besser, we're always grateful to you for joining us. Thanks so much. Thanks for everything you're doing as well.

BESSER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, we have a preview of CNN's unprecedented drive in town hall with the former Vice President Joe Biden. It will be unlike any presidential event we've ever seen before. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:18:37]

BLITZER: Our breaking news here in the Situation Room a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence is now slamming President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic and publicly endorsing Joe Biden. The story broke in the last hour by our own Jake Tapper.

Olivia Troye, who was a Homeland Security adviser to the Vice President and his lead staffer on the White House Coronavirus Task Force released a video today she says President Trump doesn't care about anyone else, but himself.

We're joined now by another former Trump administration official, Miles Taylor. He's now a CNN contributor.

Miles, I want to play a little portion for our viewers of what Troye's video shows. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROYE: 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 one. But the President didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year and how is this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success. The truth is he doesn't actually care about anyone else, but himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, this, Miles, this is someone like you who was in the room with top task force officials. How revealing are these comments and how does that line up with your own personal experience in the Trump administration?

MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: Well, thanks for having me, Wolf.

[17:20:00]

I'll tell you this, this is an absolute bombshell. OK? Olivia Troye was the lead staff member on the COVID-19 task force at the White House. Her testimonial is the clearest evidence yet that the President botched the response and cared more about his re-election effort than he did the lives of Americans. This is truly devastating to the White House.

And I'll tell you, Wolf, I know Olivia firsthand. I recommended Olivia to the Vice President's office for her job. She had a front row seat at this White House to what was happening not just in the Vice President's office, but what was happening in the Oval Office.

And in fact, the Vice President, his chief of staff and his national security adviser on multiple occasions have thanked me and the Department of Homeland Security leadership for recommending Olivia to that office. So, no matter what the White House is saying, they've always thought she was a top tier staffer that's why they kept her there for two years. So, this is truly damning for the White House, Wolf.

BLITZER: And now they're saying she was simply disgruntled.

Take us inside the room, Miles. I know you weren't necessarily in those specific task force meetings. But in general, what was it like to be working on these really critical life and death issues and to then realize that the President just didn't want to hear about it? Would you guys make eye contact? Would you discuss it afterwards?

TAYLOR: Well, look, Olivia's testimonial proves what we've all known to be the truth about the Trump administration is that the people closest to him, watch the President on a daily basis and feel that he is genuinely not capable of performing the functions of his office. I'm talking about the President not being able to stay on topic, remember facts, focus on the core point of the meeting, and actually be able to execute on a decision and Olivia saw that firsthand. But on one of the most important national security issues this administration has faced and that's the response to the greatest pandemic we've seen in a century.

And Wolf, it's exactly as you say it is, in the meetings you would exchange look, sometimes you would pass notes and afterwards you would express genuine concern that the President was off kilter. And often he would leave these meetings and the President would have made a decision that people in the room felt like could be reckless, perhaps would push back against and say this is either reckless or inappropriate or unethical or even illegal, Mr. President. Oftentimes he wouldn't care. So afterwards, you would have to strategize, how do we get the bad idea back in the box? That was always the struggle.

And certainly as we saw with Olivia, the bad idea didn't get back in the box. The President failed to manage this response adequately, and thousands of Americans have died.

BLITZER: And this official, Olivia Troye, Miles, also describes it incredibly insensitive comment she says she heard from the President. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROYE: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So that's pretty shocking to hear that. Is that surprising to you, Miles?

TAYLOR: Not at all. I mean, this is the president of the United States who looked at me and told me when we're deciding who to let in to the United States, he didn't want us to accept people who had, "missing toes or funny foreheads." Right. This is how the President talks about human beings on a regular basis.

And I'm not surprised to even hear him talk about his supporters being disgusting. I mean, the true President feels that way. I mean, he may say on the outside, that he's the president for all Americans, but he doesn't act like it in private, Wolf.

And, again, that's not shocking. And I think Olivia's testimonial really goes to show who Donald Trump is.

BLITZER: You think we're going to be hearing from more Trump administration officials who like you and Olivia are going to be coming out and saying they can't support President Trump for re- election?

TAYLOR: Well, look, you will, Wolf. So today, we launched something called the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform, the acronym is REPAIR. And our organization is focused on repairing the Republican Party post Trump and repairing the country from the damage that he's done.

I'm also proud to announce today that this is the largest group of ex- Trump officials that have come out against the president. And in addition to Olivia joining REPAIR as an advisor, we also had Josh Venable join us. He was Betsy DeVos's chief of staff at the Department of Education. And I'm hoping you'll hear from him and the other advisors that are in the organization REPAIR in the very near future here about what we need to fix from the Donald Trump presidency and how we get back on track.

BLITZER: Pretty amazing stuff. Miles Taylor, thanks so much for joining us.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Coming up, we'll take a closer look at what to expect tonight CNN presidential town hall with Joe Biden. It will be a town hall unlike any you've seen before.

Also, we'll also have a closer look at the Attorney General of the United States William Barr's, rather bizarre comparison of the coronavirus lockdowns here in the United States with slavery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:29:47]

BLITZER: We have breaking news on Attorney General Bill Barr's push for aggressive action against violent protesters after he reportedly suggested charging them with sedition.

Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is joining us right now. Jessica, what are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Attorney General doesn't just want protesters prosecuted. But we've also learned the Department of Justice has looked into bringing charges against local officials in Portland, Oregon, both criminally and civilly for the way that they handled all of the unrest and the violence that unfolded outside the federal courthouse when those federal officers were brought in. Now, this is just part of the Attorney General's aggressive tactics to crack down on protests nationwide. And the news is coming at the same time that Barr is making some controversial comments on everything from COVID to people within his own department.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Attorney General ramping up his increasingly provocative comments in a speech to a conservative college Wednesday night comparing COVID restrictions to slavery.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Putting a national lockdown, stay-at- home orders is like house arrest. It's the -- 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 (voice-over): The highest ranking black American in the House aghast at the comparison.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: 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 (voice-over): Bill Barr used the speech to assert his authority as Attorney General and slam 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 (voice-over): Barr seemed to be criticizing the decision by several career prosecutors to resign from the Roger Stone case after Barr stepped to reduce Stone sentence.

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

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): 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 (voice-over): 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 (voice-over): Barr bash Democrats on their COVID response.

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

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): 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 charged protesters.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And the Justice Department has brought charges against more than 250 people all related to the unrest that has unfolded across the country since June. Of course, Wolf, Portland, Oregon was a flashpoint and we're learning tonight the Justice Department did consider charges against local officials there for not doing enough to stop the violence. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you. Jessica Schneider reporting for us.

Let's get some more on this. The President and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson is joining us. Also joining us, CNN Legal Analyst, the Criminal Defense Attorney, Joey Jackson. Derrick, what's your reaction to hearing the Attorney General of the United States compare coronavirus lockdowns to slavery?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, beyond insensitive. There's a reason why this nation have been able to do like so many other nations around the globe to contain the spread of the virus is this type of mindset. But it's also this type of mindset that led NAACP to oppose his nomination to begin with. He's the Attorney General for the United States, not the Attorney General for the President, not the Attorney General for the Republican Party, not the Attorney General for the re-election of the person sitting into the White House. It's appalling of what we're hearing right now,

BLITZER: Joey, we're not getting a sense of just how aggressively the Attorney General wants to go after and not only violent protesters, but also Portland officials for their handling of all the unrest over there. Have you ever heard of anything like that before?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have not, Wolf, and it's a disgrace and it is for a number of reasons. Number one, if you want citizens to trust the government, citizens have to know that people are being prosecuted because there are violations of law. Not because they lean to the left, not because they lean to the right, not because of who they love, not because of their color, not because you can have differences that are principled differences. That is just wrong.

[17:35:11]

It's wrong for other reasons in terms of principles of federalism. We have governors across this country, those governors are elected by people in their states that respect what they do, and that look to their leadership. And just because you at the federal level, disagree with what they're doing, that's not a call for prosecution.

And finally, Wolf, you know, we impanel juries in this country. And we ask those jurors to respect the rule of law. And we say without regard to fear or favor, do your job. If we can expect jurists to do that, why can't the top law enforcement official in the country do it? And so it's troubling indeed to see that.

BLITZER: You know, Derrick, the President also used the speech today to go after the many Americans who are fighting for racial justice in our country, saying the left is simply trying to destroy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision by viewing every issue through the lens of race. What do you see as this goal here with a speech like the one he delivered today?

JOHNSON: It was fear mongering. It's out the playbook of a pivot to the lowest common denominator to create a level of fear with the American voting citizens, that's unconscionable. None of the children of Dr. Martin Luther King would agree with him. Not the speeches that Dr. King made is consistent with the statement.

And, in fact, as the Attorney General, you know, I wonder if we should be looking at ways we can impeach him. We should not, in this moment, politicize the Democratic principles of allowing people to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest in the street. We should not politicize the administration of elections. In order for us to continue to represent that with the strongest democracy -- emphasis democracy in the world, we must open up access to voting, not politicize it to try to sway the outcome of an election.

BLITZER: I'm going to speak in the next hour with Martin Luther King III. We'll continue this conversation. Joey, the President railed against the groundbreaking project, as you know, and you're familiar with it by the New York Times, to teach, to teach about slavery, saying he wants a patriotic and pro-American curriculum in the schools of the nation. Does he want to ignore this huge part of our history, slavery?

JACKSON: You know, Wolf, I don't know what the President wants to do, or what's on the President's mind. I just know that it's a troubling time in America. So, let me get it straight and understand this. On the one hand, you know, erect monuments, have those monuments don't do anything. You shouldn't protest against monuments, we have to preserve our history.

But when it comes to issues of teaching what that history is, and letting people know what the past existed, how it was like, the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, the beginnings of slavery, abolition, you know, we don't want to teach that because that's not part of making America great. We have to embrace what occurred before, we have to make better what occurred before and we have to ultimately acknowledge what occurred before. I think to do that and to pretend it doesn't exist, it's just misguided in addition to disingenuous. And so, again, very unfortunate, and the consequences I think in November are significant.

BLITZER: Joey Jackson, Derrick Johnson, guys, thanks very, very much. An important day as we get closer and closer to the presidential election. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Coming up, you've never seen a presidential town hall like the one you're going to see tonight right here on CNN. Because of the pandemic, voters will actually be driving up to ask questions of Joe Biden. Standby, we'll give you a preview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:16]

BLITZER: We're counting down to tonight's CNN presidential town hall with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. It's going to be a town hall like you've never seen before.

Let's get a preview with our CNN Political Director David Chalian, and our Correspondent Arlette Saenz, she's in Moosic, which is just outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. Arlette, so walk us through, set the scene, how is this going to work later tonight?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe Biden has done quite a few CNN town halls, but this town hall will be entirely different. This parking lot has been transformed into a drive-in style town hall. As you can see behind me, some cars have already started to arrive. There will be 35 cars carrying these voters who are asking questions of Joe Biden. The voters can either sit in their cars and listen on the radio or they can sit outside. Some people already setting up some folding chairs to watch tonight's events.

Our moderator Anderson Cooper will call on the voters where they will approach a microphone stand to ask those questions. If they don't want to get out of their car, we will take a mic over to them to ask those questions. Now, everyone who's coming in here is being screened. They're answering a questionnaire, also having their temperatures checked. I went through that myself.

All of these protocols put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. CNN making sure to follow the state and local regulations, ensuring that the gathering size is the proper limit and all guidelines are followed for this first of its kind town hall.

BLITZER: It's going to be pretty amazing. So, David, what are the stakes for Joe Biden tonight? What does he have to do to succeed?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, Joe Biden knows his way around a town hall. But it is interesting to note, in addition to sort of the sign of the times, of the wave of town halls occurring that Arlette just point out, this is his first real town hall with voters as the general election nominee.

[17:45:06]

Now, listen, where we are in this race, Wolf? Joe Biden is the current front runner. So mission number one, as it would be for any front runners, do no harm tonight. But there's another critical mission here, which is Joe Biden, who has not been able to get out and press the flesh and surround himself with voters during this pandemic. This is an opportunity to connect with voters one-on-one in this critical battleground state of Pennsylvania and also show that sort of empathy edge that he has over the President to the broader viewing public.

BLITZER: You know, Arlette, you'd been doing a lot of reporting on the Biden campaign. What's the Biden team strategy going into this town hall tonight?

SAENZ: Well, Wolf, they see this as another opportunity to connect one-on-one with Pennsylvania voters and they are telling me that they expect the former vice president to talk about his plan to get the coronavirus under control that has been central to his campaign over the course of the past few months, also talking about getting Americans back to work. And how the country can unite to try to overcome these crises really trying to appeal to these voters in that critical battleground state of Pennsylvania and across the country. BLITZER: You know, Pennsylvania is critical. David, President Trump did a town hall on Tuesday. How does Joe Biden want to contrast himself with President Trump?

CHALIAN: Well, that's the entire Biden message day in and day out, is that contrast with Donald Trump. His bumper sticker basically is, I am not Donald Trump. That's sort of the campaign he's running and they are eager to take what the President presented at his Pennsylvania town hall earlier in the week, which was denying his own words that he downplayed the virus, saying he actually up played it. In other words, Donald Trump's version of reality not matching up with actual reality is something that Joe Biden wants to contrast himself with, to put himself more on presidential footing to show his version of presidential leadership contrasted with what he thinks is clearly a failed version of leadership given where we are in this pandemic.

David Chalian, Arlette Saenz, guys, thank you very, very much. And once again, tune in later tonight for a special CNN presidential town hall with Joe Biden. Our own Anderson Cooper will moderate, it's at 8:00, 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight only here on CNN.

Coming up, we'll have a closer look at coronavirus headlines across the globe including this, a very stark new warning about a continent wide resurgence of the virus in Europe.

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[17:52:36]

BLITZER: In global coronavirus headlines, there's a new and very ominous warning about a resurgence of the virus across Europe. CNN's Scott McLean is monitoring the situation for. Scott tell us more.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, across Europe, governments are scrambling to head off the second wave of the coronavirus which is already eclipsed the first and weekly new cases. France and Spain have really taken the brunt of the viruses' resurgence with Spain recording 100,000 new cases of the virus just in the last 10 days. The World Health Organization calls the situation in Europe very serious and says these latest numbers ought to serve as a wake-up call.

The U.K. is doing more tests than any other major European country and yet, it is still facing a shortage of them at the worst possible time. Across England, new daily COVID-19 infections have increased 167 percent in September, and now a million and a half people living in parts of Northeast England are facing severe new restrictions that ban almost all in person socializing with people outside your own household. Wolf?

BLITZER: Scott McLean in London, thank you very much.

Israel, meanwhile, begins a second lockdown tomorrow, a very desperate effort at the end of a week that's seen record new cases. Let's go to CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us from Jerusalem. Oren, what are you seeing? OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's the last night out across the country for many as Israel's second general lockdown is set to start on Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying this lockdown is necessary because of the surging number of coronavirus cases, numbers that have consistently set and broken that same daily coronavirus case record over the course of the last couple of weeks. Netanhayu says he considered strengthening the restrictions to try to limit the spread of coronavirus, but for now he'll see how the virus goes.

In remarkable statement on Wednesday night, the country's President Reuven Rivlin apologized to the nation from his heart, saying that the country's leadership failed in the management of the coronavirus pandemic. He urged everyone to obey the restrictions as they kick in a second general lockdown so the country can get through this together. Wolf?

BLITZER: Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, the German firm that's working on a vaccine with the U.S. drug company Pfizer is making a move that could, could potentially speed up distribution. Let's go to CNN's Fred Pleitgen, he's joining us from Berlin right now. Fred, what are you hearing?

[17:55:00]

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, German pharma company BioNTech, which is currently cooperating with Pfizer trying to make a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. They announced today that they've acquired a production facility here in Germany from another pharma company. And they say that's going to help them increase their potential output by about 750 million doses of vaccine per year.

The CEO of BioNTech today once again said he believes that the vaccine candidate which is called BNT162 will be ready to submit for approval by about the end of October. BioNTech says they're going to ask for approval both in the U.S. with the FDA, and then also with the European regulatory body as well. They plan to produce about 100 million doses this year, about 1.3 billion next year. And they confirm today that all those first 100 million doses, at least a portion will go to the United States, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Fred, thank you. Fred Pleitgen reporting.

We have major breaking news coming up here in "The Situation Room". Another former White House official now blasting President Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis, and publicly endorsing Joe Biden.

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