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THE SITUATION ROOM

Attorney General Compares COVID-19 Lockdowns to Slavery; Pence Staffer Denounces President Trump; Interview with Martin Luther King III; Former Official on Coronavirus Task Force Says, Trump Could Have Saved Lives, But He Was Too Concerned About Re-Election; Pence National Security Adviser Responds to Allegations About Trump Ex-White House Official. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:39]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news, the coronavirus death toll here in the United States now topping 197,000 people, after 977 new fatalities were reported yesterday.

And, tonight, the CDC is projecting as many as 218,000 American deaths from the virus by October 10, just a few weeks.

Also breaking this hour, a powerful new rebuke of the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic by a former top White House official. She's now saying publicly that Mr. Trump could have saved lives, but he was too concerned about reelection.

Also tonight, the president's opponent, Joe Biden, he will take part in an unprecedented CNN town hall. It will be our first ever drive-in town hall because of the coronavirus pandemic. We will have a preview coming up this hour.

But let's begin over at the White House.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.

Jim, a former member of the president's Coronavirus Task Force going public with a blistering critique of the president's handling of the pandemic.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

President Trump has 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 words 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 Pence just describe Troye as a disgruntled former employee.

In the meantime, President Trump made it clear in a speech earlier today at the National Archives he is waging a culture war to win reelection. The president tore into efforts in public schools across the country 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 adviser 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 task force meeting that perhaps the virus was a good thing because he doesn't like shaking hands with -- quote -- "disgusting people."

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: 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 an election year.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the president was hardly focused on the virus as he blasted efforts to teach the evils 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: The 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, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. It's the -- it's the -- it's -- 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-SC): I think that that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, god-awful things I have ever heard.

ACOSTA: While Republicans sidestep this subject.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had not heard of that. So I don't know 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 at.

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?

[18:05:00]

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.

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

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

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

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF 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: As for the campaign, the president is once again heading off to a rally this evening, this time in Wisconsin, where we expect Trump supporters once again will not be wearing many masks or practicing much social distancing.

We should note, Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson will not be making the trip with the president this evening. Johnson found out he was exposed to somebody who tested positive for the virus earlier this week. He has since tested negative -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Better to err on the side of caution.

Jim Acosta reporting for us, thanks very much.

More now on the breaking pandemic news.

Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us from Los Angeles.

Nick, the CDC is now projecting, what, another 20,000 more Americans will die from the coronavirus in about the next three weeks. Is that right?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

We're going to pass the 200,000 dead any day now. But it doesn't have to be this way. The surgeon general just said we already have the tools to stop this, masks, distancing, therapeutics, if only we would use them.

New York City crushed this without a vaccine. So could we all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Teachers on the march in Manhattan. The nation's largest district was supposed to open in person Monday. Not anymore.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We have made a move here of a few days to get it right.

WATT: Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, nearly 30 high schoolers now forced to quarantine after parents sent their COVID-19-positive kid to class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parents knew they shouldn't have done that. The student knew he shouldn't have done that.

WATT: COVID-19 cases rising on college campuses across the country, more than 1,600 confirmed at the University of Wisconsin at Madison since early August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, I don't to have COVID, but it seemed kind of inevitable being at U.W. Madison.

WATT: The hunt for a vaccine rolls on. Moderna hopes to know in November if its vaccine works.

STEPHANE BANCEL, CEO, MODERNA: That's our best plan. Our best plan is October. I think it's unlikely, but it's possible.

WATT: Pfizer and its German partner now saying they will probably submit their vaccine for approval by the end of October. The president has a date in mind, wants a vaccine by Election Day. Many experts say that's dangerous.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Because it makes people who are not by any means vaccine skeptics normally, it makes them skeptical of the vaccine.

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.

WATT: A former CDC director now weighing in on the current director's assertion masks might be more effective protection against coronavirus than a vaccine, which sparked that brutal presidential pushback.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It's really kind of an apple vs. a theoretical orange. Masks are really important. A vaccine, we don't know what the effectiveness is yet. We don't have the studies. No one knows.

WATT: Good news, nationwide, there are now about half the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 compared to mid-July.

But 23 states are now seeing their average daily case counts rise. Perhaps the best indicator of where we are is the number of tests coming back positive. Under 5 percent is the aim. Two weeks ago, we were there, averaging 4.7 percent, now 5.79.

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA EPIDEMIOLOGIST: What science says is that, if you give the virus an opportunity to spread, it will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now there's been a lot of talk of this potential double whammy when we get into flu season, flu and COVID at the same time, but some optimism from Dr. Anthony Fauci.

He says it might not happen. Look at Australia. They are just coming out of winter, coming out of their flu season, which never really happened. Could have been because of all the COVID restrictions in place. Could have been because a lot of people got shots.

So, the message from Fauci, good news, but, still, get a flu shot -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Critically important.

All right, Nick Watt, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is with us.

Sanjay, as you heard, we just learned that a top aide on the White House Coronavirus Task Force is speaking out. She says it was clear back in February that this coronavirus crisis would get really, really bad. But the president, she says, didn't want to hear it.

[18:10:12]

And as the death toll now approaches 200,000 here in the U.S., what do we need to do to get out of this truly awful situation?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what this person's referring to are the same measures that could have been put into place back when she was talking about early on in February, March that could still have an impact now, I mean, basic public health measures, the masking, the physical distancing, the hand hygiene.

I know it sounds so simple as we talk about the race for a vaccine and monoclonal antibodies. But these basic public health measures do work. I will remind you as well, Wolf, we were hearing from the CDC every day about this at that time outbreak, even before it was a pandemic.

And Nancy Messonnier, Dr. Messonnier, who is the head of the National Center for Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said something very early on that got her essentially muzzled. We didn't hear from her again after that.

I want you to listen to what -- I want you to listen to what she said back in February.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but, rather, more question of exactly when this will happen.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GUPTA: She was referring to having significant community spread of the virus in the United States.

And, again, that was February 25, Wolf. As you know, after that, there was still this sort of -- these comments from the president, saying that this will go away, this is not inevitable, we're sort of ready for this.

The sound bells were being alarmed early on, Wolf, and being ignored.

BLITZER: Yes, what could have been -- what could have happened in February, even in March, would have saved so, so many lives here in the United States. Those steps, sadly, were not taken.

This comes after the president publicly, openly questioned his CDC director's testimony on the effectiveness of masks and on the vaccine timeline.

How do these kinds of actions impact the public's trust?

GUPTA: You know, pretty significantly, Wolf, sadly.

And I have been doing this job for nearly 20 years. I never seen anything quite like this, this complete sort of division now between what I'm hearing from public health officials outside of the government vs. this sort of beating up, essentially, the CDC director took within government.

When it comes to the comments that he made about the vaccine timeline, for example, that sort of fits with what everyone else has been saying, including the vaccine manufacturers.

I spoke to Moncef Slaoui, who's the head of Operation -- or the chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed, about this very issue last week, Wolf.

Here's how he sort of framed the timeline for vaccines. BLITZER: I don't think we have that clip.

GUPTA: We don't have it.

BLITZER: But go ahead. Tell us what he said.

GUPTA: He basically said, look, even if we get approvals for this vaccine, authorizations in November, December, the thing is, we still might only have 20 million, 30 million doses or so, can only vaccinate that number of people.

We looked at, Wolf, the likely first groups of people who are going to be vaccinated, as you might guess, essential workers, including health care workers, about 29 million people there, and then the higher-risk populations, about 75 million people.

They require two doses, you're talking about 250 million doses that would be necessary just to get to that first group, point being, to get to the general population, it's going to be a lot longer, which is what everyone has been saying all along, Wolf.

BLITZER: The higher risk meaning people, let's say, over 65, or people of any age with underlying health conditions, right?

GUPTA: That's right.

So, certain preexisting conditions and over 65 in particular, who they're trying to get into these trials right now as well to make sure that they are part of the clinical trial for the vaccine.

BLITZER: They want to make sure these vaccines are safe and effective.

The timeline for a vaccine, we may know, what, by the end of October or November if a vaccine candidate -- there are five or six out there right now -- actually works. But that would just be the first step. Walk us through the process.

GUPTA: Yes, this is really interesting.

And it is a -- very much a moving target. And, on one hand, you really need to marvel at the pace at which this is happening. And I think that that is truly a remarkably good thing.

What they're sort of counting on right now, Wolf, in all -- in these various trials, is that you got two groups of people, people who have gotten the vaccine, people who've received a placebo. They don't know. It's a double-blinded study. And they want to see that the placebo group is getting vaccinated -- sorry -- getting infected at a much higher rate than the vaccinated group.

And I have asked specifically about numbers. And what they'd say is, if you have 10,000 in each group, roughly, you would want about 100 people in the placebo group to have an infection, whereas it'd be much lower, closer to 50, or lower even, in the vaccinated group. That's what they want to see. But the problem is, you will need to have a significant number of

infections in that group of 10,000 people. Right now, we're hearing from Pfizer that they're saying, look, we may not be getting enough of an infection rate in the placebo group.

[18:15:11]

We may need to start recruiting people from Argentina and Brazil, where, right now, they have a higher pace of infections.

So, it's going to be -- it's middle of September now. Full enrollment is not even completed. They may have to adapt the trial to other countries. It's hard to believe that we would have data anytime soon, especially if we wait for a period of time to make sure there's no adverse side effects as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, people have to be assured that they're not going to get these side effects, not going to get sick as of a result of taking these, not necessarily just one, but two shots.

GUPTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much, as usual, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

Just ahead, as we count down to tonight's CNN town hall with Joe Biden, we will talk to his former rival Senator Bernie Sanders. What does he want to hear from Joe Biden later tonight? We will ask him. He's standing by live.

Plus, breaking news: the U.S. Justice Department revealing it looked at possible charges against local officials over the handling of those protests in Portland, Oregon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:47]

BLITZER: So, there's breaking news out of the U.S. Justice Department, where a spokeswoman now says federal prosecutors actually looked into possibly bringing criminal or civil charges against local officials in Portland, Oregon, over their handling of the ongoing protests there.

Our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is working the story for us.

Evan, charges like this would, I suspect, be almost unprecedented, right?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

It is very rare for the Justice Department to bring -- bring something like this. But in light of what we have heard recently from the attorney general, he's definitely pushing for officials to take a very aggressive stance on some of the disturbances, some of the rioting, some of the protests that happened in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

You have heard from the attorney general last night doing a speech, celebrating Constitution Day, and during that speech, he made a very strange comparison to some of the lockdowns that we saw, Wolf, in light of the measures to easy the coronavirus, the spread of the coronavirus in the nation.

Here's him -- here's the attorney general speaking about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And, Wolf, that is a rather strange comparison, the comparison to slavery, when there was no national lockdown, first of all, in this country as a result of what -- the spread of the coronavirus.

BLITZER: Evan Perez reporting for us -- Evan, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on these developments.

Our senior legal analyst, Laura Coates, is joining us. And Martin Luther King III, a global human rights leader, is with us as well.

Martin, let's talk a little bit about what we're hearing. Your father, he devoted his life to this fight for justice here in the United States. So, what goes through your mind hearing the attorney general compare the coronavirus lockdowns to the history of slavery in our country?

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, PRESIDENT & CEO, REALIZING THE DREAM: Well, if this is beyond unconscionable.

It really is unacceptable. It should be quickly changed. I mean, when you look at the fact that, yes, it's been inconvenient for people to be at home for a few months, but to even compare it to the most cruel institution in history, in modern history, slavery, for over 200 years is unconscionable.

It's very sad that that's where we are in this nation, but, also, when you think about the fact that this administration basically does not acknowledge systematic racism, that everyone realizes or most people who see visually that it exists.

This administrator, meaning the president, has stood up in Charlottesville for those who really promote hatred. This administration decided to disable protesters, nonviolent protesters, in front of the White House.

And so when you think about all these things, most importantly, refuses to acknowledge and hold policemen accountable for behavior that becomes fatal for so many in the African-American community, not to mention the virus that seems to affect blacks and browns in a disproportionate level, and a lack of management.

This is unconscionable. That's why people have to get organized, have to mobilize, in the next few days, have to register and have to vote. We need a change in this nation of leadership, and we need it now.

BLITZER: You know, Laura, the -- we know the attorney general, Bill Barr, wants to come down aggressively on violent protesters.

But have you ever heard of local officials potentially being targeted in the way that he suggested?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In a word, no, I mean, not since the now very controversial set of laws that were the Alien and Sedition Acts, when you're trying to say that because people are petitioning to the government, because they are directly addressing or complaining about the way in which law enforcement or public officials or those in power, essentially when you're speaking truth to power, that makes you vulnerable to possibly up to 20 years in prison for seditious acts of trying to overthrow the government?

[18:25:17]

I mean, that really, truly is somebody who does not seem to grasp fully the historical aspects of the law, nor does he actually understand the actual application of laws like this.

And he's the head of the Department of Justice, whose job it is to enforce the laws. And to suggest this really seems more in line with a political, partisan bent that the president has been trying to promote, arguing that these are, as he calls it, so-called Democratic- led cities, and that is the reason to try to bring down the hammer.

But, in reality, that's not the reason to prosecute when you have people who are engaged in otherwise peaceful protest. Now, obviously, those involved in criminal activity, those involved in actual criminal activity -- I'm a former prosecutor -- they should be prosecuted.

But the idea of saying and conflating it all into one thing and saying, any time somebody seeks redress of their grievances from the government, they should be jailed? Well, ironically, on Constitution Day, he need not have gone past the First Amendment to know that was the wrong thing to say.

BLITZER: You know, Martin, the president gave that speech today, hammering the left for pushing what he says amount to anti-American propaganda.

He also mentioned your father. Listen and watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We embrace the vision of Martin Luther King, where children are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. The left is attempting to destroy that beautiful vision and divide

Americans by race, in the service of political power. By viewing every issue through the lens of race, they want to impose a new segregation, and we must not allow that to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what's your reaction to that, Martin?

KING: You know, people always use dad's message to try to substantiate a message.

But it's very clear that they don't understand what his message was, including this president. I would encourage him to go and read the books that he gave several years ago. I believe he gave a set of books of my father's on the pope's. If you -- to the pope.

If you read those books, many of them, you will find out what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. And, yes, we do want to create a society where people are not judged by the color of their skin. Unfortunately, that reality is just not here.

And the way we change that is through education, through diversity, through sensitivity. Just the other day, he said that the government should not have sensitivity training, when we keep seeing racism exhibited all throughout our nation.

And, unfortunately, he leads those voices sometimes, as opposed to saying, we're going to change this behavior and this conduct. We will get that one day, but we're nowhere near there this day.

BLITZER: Martin Luther King III, Laura Coates, guys, thank you very, very much for joining us.

Coming up, my interview with Senator Bernie Sanders. We will talk about the coronavirus crisis, Joe Biden's campaign, much more.

That interview coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now on the breaking news. A powerful new rebuke of the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic by a former top White House official who now says, President Trump could have saved many, many lives, but he was too concerned about his own re-election.

Let's discuss this and a lot more with the independent senator, former Democratic presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator Sanders, as usual, thanks so much joining us. We have a lot to discuss.

And let me get your reaction to what this former White House coronavirus task force member was saying, blasting President Trump's response to the virus.

She has now publicly endorsed Joe Biden. She says it was clear by the middle of February that people were going to die in huge numbers but the president was simply too much focusing in on his re-election.

When you hear that, what is your reaction?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I have to tell you, I am not terribly shocked. That's, I think, what most people now understand. You've got a president who, from the very beginning, downplayed this terrible pandemic. This is a president who continues today to rebuff science and rebuff the doctors who are trying to do their best to protect the American people. He is still not clear about telling us to wear masks. He holds rallies where there are no social distancing, where people are not wearing their masks.

So I appreciate what she -- that takes courage to be one of Pence's assistants there and to come out and say this. But I don't think it shocks the American people. The handling of this pandemic from the Trump administration has been nothing less than a disaster. It has caused us tens and tens of thousands of lives.

BLITZER: Well, it's caused already more than 197,000 lives in the United States. We're approaching 200,000 lives over the past six months lost, Senator.

The president is contradicting the expertise at the same time of his own CDC director. How will the American people supposed to know who to trust in an enormous and deadly crisis like this?

SANDERS: Well, this is the crisis of what happens when you have a president who puts politics in front of science and when facts rejects science.

[18:35:00]

When you politicize groups and organizations, like the CDC or the FDA, when people now have the suspicion that Trump wants a vaccine to be distributed before Election Day, not because it will be effective and safe, but primarily for political reasons, that is an outrage to everything this country is supposed to stand for.

We have some great scientists working for our government, and they're doing great work. But we have Trump trying on politicize what they are doing, and that is just so destructive to our former government, as well as our ability to combat this pandemic.

BLITZER: I want to get to some other issues, important issues. The president today also used a speech here in Washington to go after the left and to fight for racial justice in our country. Listen to this clip and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The narratives about America being pushed by the far left and being chanted in the streets bear a striking resemblance to the anti-American propaganda of our adversaries.

Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist act, holding that America is a wicked and racist nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: When you hear that, Senator, what goes through your mind?

SANDERS: Well, look, what goes through my mind is that, tragically, we have a president of the United States who is a pathological liar, who will do and say anything to get re-elected.

And, by the way, Wolf, that is why Senator Schumer and I wrote a letter to Mitch McConnell, Republican leader, demanding and urging that we have a bipartisan committee to take a hard look at what is going to be happening on Election Day and the days that follow.

Because I have a very great feel, and I think millions of Americans knew, that this is a president who is undermining American democracy. And if he loses the election, all of the polls out there suggest there's a strong chance he will lose this election, that he will not abide by the results.

And it concerns me very much that you've got a president who goes around the country and tells his supporters that the only way we can lose this election is if the results are rigged. In other words, if he wins, that's great. But if he loses, don't accept those results because the election results were rigged. These mail-in ballots were rigged. And this is a very dangerous situation.

And I was very pleased to see that the former director of National Intelligence today came out and called for a bipartisan committee to oversee these elections.

BLITZER: Yes, that's Dan Coats. Like you, he wants this bipartisan commission to take a close look at what's happening in the country to make sure it is totally fair, that people aren't suppressed and prevented from voting and all of that. He wrote that in an op-ed in The New York Times.

SANDERS: That's right. And what Dan Coats did, and Coats, let's be clear, was appointed by Trump to be intelligence director. But I think here is the fear. The fear is that at 8:00 on the evening of the election, Election Day evening, you may have Trump in the lead because the Republicans, according to various studies, are more likely to vote in-person. Democrats are more likely to vote through mail-in ballots.

And I fear very much that what Trump will say is 8:00, 9:00 in the evening, I'm winning, and we have reason to believe, or we have investigated that all these mail-in ballots are fraudulent and we're not going to allow them to be counted. Thank you. I'm your president. Go home. Have a nice night.

We cannot allow that to happen. Every vote cast must be counted. We have a country, especially because of this pandemic, where more and more people are voting through mail-in ballots. Those ballots must be counted. And Trump has got to stop this nonsense about suggesting that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

So we have got to be very, very vigilant about what's going to be happening in the next 50 days. In my view, we've got to do everything we can to make sure that Joe Biden wins, that he wins big. But we have got to be clear that every vote cast in this country has got to be counted.

BLITZER: Yes. And it's going to take a lot, lot longer to count because a lot of people, especially older people, people with underlying health conditions, they don't necessarily want to wait in long lines at the polling stations on November 3rd. They want to vote by mail and sometimes that takes a little bit longer to count those ballots on election night.

SANDERS: Well, it's more than a little bit longer.

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: It might be election week. It might be election month. Who knows?

SANDERS: That's right. And, Wolf, what we have got to make clear to everybody out there, that's exactly what you say, it is quite possible, who knows, we don't know what's going to happen on election night, that the election will not be determined on election night. And we cannot allow Trump to then jump up and say, oh, we're not going to count the rest of the ballots, they're fraudulent.

Remember that in 2016, after he won, you'll recall that he thought he would have won the popular vote, which he lost by 3 million votes. He thought that millions of people voted illegally when he won the election in 2016. What do you think he is going to say now if he loses?

So we have got to do the best that we can in the next 50-some odd days to make it clear to the American people that we have a president for the first time in the history of our country who might refuse to accept the election results if he loses.

I hope Republicans stand up and say, you know what, that's acceptable. That's what people fought --

BLITZER: I was going to say, Senator, in 2000, we had to wait a month, Bush v. Gore, for the U.S. Supreme Court to determine who was going to be the president of the United States. Let's see what happens this time around.

Senator Sanders, thanks so much for joining us.

SANDERS: thank you.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming up next. The vice president, Mike Pence's, national security adviser is standing by live. He is going to respond to what a former top Pence aide who is now publicly slamming President Trump's pandemic response, has just said, we will speak, Lieutenant General Kellogg, there you see him live at the White House, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:16]

BLITZER: Our breaking news, a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence is slamming President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic and publicly endorsing Joe Biden.

CNN's own Jake Tapper broke a story for us.

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 earlier today. She says President Trump doesn't care about anyone else but himself.

We're joined now by the vice president's national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg.

General Kellogg, thank you so much for joining us. You and I have known each other for almost 30 years since the First Gulf War when you were in the 82nd Airborne and I was CNN's Pentagon correspondent.

Let's discuss what's happening today because it's very dramatic. I want to play a little clip for you and our viewers of what Olivia Troye, a woman you know well, is saying about her experience of the coronavirus task force.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER OFFICIAL ON CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: Towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID becoming a big pandemic of the United States, it was a matter of when. But the president did not want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year, and how is this going to affect when you consider to be his record of success. The truth is, he doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very strong words, General Kellogg. How do you respond to that?

LT. GEN. KEITH KELLOGG (RET.), VP PENCE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, I think Olivia's comments are egregious. They're flat wrong.

In fact, we're not -- I've got a copy of, I've got a copy of it now, when he -- when she left the organization in July, she talked how valiantly everybody was working and that we were an inspiration to her and everything we've done.

The simple fact is, what she is saying is not true. I've been through every single task force coronavirus meeting. I've been in the Oval with the president when we met with Tony Fauci, or Bob Redfield, or Stephen Hahn. We've been in those meetings. We've talked about it.

And the president has repeatedly said, we're trying to get it right for America and we're trying to get right for people.

He said he wants to get people well. That's the reason, Wolf, he's pushed so hard on Operation Warp Speed on getting a vaccine and he's got the trials with the Pfizer, with AstraZeneca, and with Moderna. And we think we're getting ready to get those phase three trials up, and it goes to the Data Monitoring and Safety Board for them to come up with the efficacy and safety and get it out, going forward, the vaccines out.

And we're already -- we're already producing today, management at risk, monitoring the flow of the vaccine, we're producing it right now. So, the minute we get the go ahead from the FDA on EUA, we can start going out and shooting people with a vaccine. And I think we've done a lot.

BLITZER: We all hope that the vaccine comes very quickly and safe and effective. Let's hope for the best.

But let's get back to what this woman Olivia Troye is saying.

KELLOGG: Right.

BLITZER: I want to show you and our viewers a few of pictures of this official -- she is sitting there right behind the vice president in these meetings, with you, Dr. Fauci and a bunch of others. Clearly, this is someone who is in the room for so many of these conversations.

Why do you think she's now saying these awful things about the president? She's not saying awful things about you or other members of the Coronavirus Task Force. She's specifically pointing to the president saying he's only interested in himself?

KELLOGG: Well, it's not true. He's not just interested in himself. He's interested in the nation.

And the only thing I can make the assumption that happened today is now she is now a Republican for Biden. She wants Vice President Biden to win the election. That's pretty clear.

But what she is saying is wrong. And I don't think she should not say things that are just not true.

[18:50:01]

I've never heard the president say that. And I've been in all of those meetings out there. He's never said these comments about downplaying the virus and how important it is.

He's talked to doctors. He's got their impressions and their attitudes. He's letting them go forward. But he's kept a very positive attitude about it.

He's getting criticized among other things having a very positive attitude. That's what I want leaders to do. I saw it in the military, I saw it in the business world, I saw it now in the government.

You want a leader out there that's very positive, that keeps the morale up. But at the same time, we're working through trying to get this thing solved. And he knows that (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me ask you, because you know she's not the only former Trump administration who has now emerged not only to endorse Biden but to say awful things about the president of the United States. There is a whole bunch. And you've seen all the accusations from the Bob Woodward book, for example.

How do you respond to all these individuals, most of them you know well, you worked with them, but now they're really condemning the president?

KELLOGG: I just disagree with them, totally. Because I've been with the president now, going almost -- into six years, and I've been with him since the campaign started, through the last four years, and I've seen them operate behind closed doors or as John Bolton said, in the room. And what they say is just not true.

I don't know if it's a personal animus, they don't like his style, I don't know what it is. But the fact is they're wrong.

He is for the American people. He's working for the American people. That's why we're pushing a vaccine so hard, faster than it's ever been produced before, ever in history to get it out to the American people. And he's very, very concerned about that.

BLITZER: When you see the things that John Bolton, the president's former national security adviser wrote about the president in his book, you worked closely with him, didn't you?

KELLOGG: With the -- the earpiece came out. With John Bolton?

BLITZER: With John Bolton, you worked closely with him and he 's saying -- he's saying very blunt and very condemnatory words about the president as well, not just Olivia Troye.

KELLOGG: Yeah, and here's what I would say about John Bolton -- John Bolton is a liar. I can't call it any other way. I have been in situations where I've seen John Bolton do what John Bolton wanted to do.

He came in here and wanted to do things that drove his agenda. It was anti-American agenda. He wanted troops involved in conflicts in the Middle East.

I saw it. I saw it in more than one occasion. He had what he wanted to do.

And I don't know if it's his past experience or not, but the president pushed back on him, he's pushed back on others. He has a very aggressive style. BLITZER: What about General Kelly, for example? What about General

McMaster, General Mattis, what do you say to them?

KELLOGG: What do I say to them? I'm sorry if you don't like his style, he demands results, he wants results and that's the way it goes. And if you don't like, leave.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But you worked closely with those three generals.

KELLOGG: Yeah.

BLITZER: You worked with them for many, many years in your distinguished military career. And now, you know, through the book and through other accusations, we're hearing that they left the administration totally, totally dismayed by what they saw and heard from the president.

KELLOGG: But that's because it goes back to the way they saw it in the last 20 years. The world is different according to the president of the United States.

Look, Wolf, I got skin in the game. I got kids in the military. My son-in-law is the military. My son is in the military. I have great confidence in this president as he goes forward.

I got my daughter, my son and my son-in-law all fight and were decorated in Afghanistan. I've been involved in all the nation's wars since I've been in since Vietnam.

I trust this man. I've seen what he's done, I know what he wants to do, and it's always about Americans first. That's what every decision that's been made. It's always Americans first.

And he does that right now with the coronavirus. This is a terrible pandemic. We've got it. Tony Fauci will tell you that, Bob Redfield will tell you that, but we're fighting our way through it.

And for her to make comments about the president when he's fighting for the American people, when the vice president is fighting for the American people, when the task force which he demeans by her comments are fighting for the American people.

And we're right on the cusp of victory. If we get those vaccines, we're right on the cusp. And for people to say we shouldn't take the vaccine because it's political is dead wrong. That's why you have DMSB. That's why you have the FDA out there.

We're listening to doctors. We always listen to the doctors. And we're going to get it done.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope -- I hope -- I hope there is a vaccine. All of us hope there's a vaccine.

But as you know, this Olivia Troye is certainly not an isolated incident. She's not the only one making these kinds of accusations.

General Kellogg, thank you so much for your service, thanks for all the years and thanks to your family as well for their service. And we really appreciate it.

KELLOGG: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right. So, we're just over an hour or so away from a truly unprecedented CNN town hall with the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us right now with a little preview.

[18:55:02]

Anderson, this is going to be Joe Biden's first primetime town hall since he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination and it's not going to look like anything we've seen before.

Explain to our viewers how tonight is going to work. Set the scene, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: It's not like anything we've done before or that I've really ever seen before. We have the first drive-in town hall. We got about 100 people here. We're just outside Scranton, Pennsylvania.

We've got 100 folks here from Pennsylvania, the surrounding areas, who have come and brought their vehicles, some brought chairs. They're sitting outside their vehicles or are going to be sitting inside the car. There's a chance for them to here and ask questions to former Vice President Biden.

BLITZER: Yeah, we're just a little bit over, what, five or six weeks from Election Day, November 3rd. This could be a really huge, very significant night for the former vice president, right?

COOPER: Yeah, listen, we're in the final stretch here. We have first debate coming up in a very -- even a shorter amount of time, less than two weeks.

So, there's certainly a lot of -- a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure on both of these candidates. And a lot of the people here are very curious to hear what the vice president has to say, how he responds to questions from the audience. I'll be able the do follow-up questions as well. And it'll be a chance for the American people to see Joe Biden in a very unique setting.

BLITZER: And the folks earlier in their cars, this is like a drive-in theater from the old days. I'm old enough to remember going to drive- in theaters. So, they're going to be in their cars or they can walk outside and go to a microphone and ask a question. Is that right?

COOPER: Yes. So, yeah, everybody's socially distanced. People are wearing masks. They are right now either in their cars or in designated areas around their cars. They brought chairs. We said that they could bring chairs if they want to. So, those who

did will be sitting outside. Some may ask questions from their vehicles if they don't feel comfortable going up to a microphone. There's two microphones people can go up to. But again everybody is going to remain socially distanced.

I just got tested for coronavirus this morning. I'm negative. But I'll still be socially distanced from Vice President Biden. We're obviously taking all the precautions we would take with any candidate in this difficult time.

BLITZER: So, you must have taken a rapid test. What was that like?

COOPER: You know, they shove a swab pretty far up your nose, so it's not exactly pleasant. But it's pretty brief and it's quick. You know, it's nice to know I'm negative.

And, I -- you know, it was nice to be able to get a test. It was pretty exciting.

BLITZER: And they give you the results in what? Ten, 15 minutes? Is that right?

COOPER: This one -- it was a couple of hours. But it was very rapid, yes.

BLITZER: I'm happy you're negative as well.

So, you and the vice president will be on the stage. You'll be sitting socially distanced, I'm sure, and then you'll ask him some questions. I've got questions from people walking from their cars or in their cars. But then you'll be able to follow up and get more specific details, I assume, right?

COOPER: Yeah. And just because I've been tested, I'm still remaining socially distanced from the vice president, obviously. And just as everybody in the vehicles and who will be asking questions, they will be a good distance away from the stage as well. We wanted to be safe for the vice president, for our crew, for all the people participating.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to really look forward to this, Anderson. I know it's coming up in a little bit, basically an hour from now, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll watch every minute of it.

Anderson, thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

And join Anderson, once again a little bit over an hour or so from now, CNN presidential town hall with the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. That's tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Finally tonight, as we try to do every night here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we want to pay tribute to some Americans who sadly have died from the coronavirus. Arlene McGuire of Pennsylvania, she was 86 years old. She was known

for her great fashion sense and for always be impeccably dressed. Arlene loved listening to music, especially to the Bee Gees and Abba. She looked forward to visits from her two daughters where they often enjoyed coffee together on her patio.

Louise McCarthy of Arizona, she was 105, a truly loving mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother. Louise was full of life and lived very independently despite her age. Her daughter, Mary, describes her as a very funny person who simply everyone loved.

May they rest in peace and may their memory 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 can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.