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CNN TONIGHT

Trump Holds First Rally Since COVID-19 Diagnosis; Biden Campaign Focusing On States Trump Won; Amy Coney Barrett's Confirmation Hearings Begin; States Surging Rates Of New COVID-19 Cases; State Officials Send Cease And Desist Order To California GOP Over Unofficial Ballot Drop Boxes; Fake Ballot Drop Boxes Prompt Investigations In California; Some 2016 Trump Supporters Now Say They Won't Vote For Him. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Twenty-two days till the election and President Trump back on the campaign trail just a week after being hospitalized for the coronavirus. His doctors saying well, tonight that Trump tested negative for the virus on consecutive days.

The president holding a rally tonight in Florida, states seeing a spike in cases. There was no social distancing. And few people were wearing masks. Contrary to what Trump says this pandemic is far from over. 31 states seeing a rise in cases.

Let's bring in now CNN's White House Correspondent, John Harwood and political correspondent Arlette Saenz who has been covering the Biden campaign. And senior legal analyst Laura Coates. Good to see all of you. Thank you so much for joining.

John, your first, what we saw -- what happened out there tonight? I mean, this week Trump is holding rallies in Florida. He's holding rallies in Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina. Pence is going to be in Ohio. Wisconsin and Michigan. What does this tell you about how the campaign feels about the state of the race right now?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the state of the race is terrible from their point of view. But I think what President Trump is doing is he is somebody who has always been driven by the impulses of his ego. When he was cooped up at Walter Reed, cooped up in the White House, he is watching television all day.

The news is all bad from his point of view, he's at a terrible year, bad management of the coronavirus, bad management of racial justice protest, bad debate, bad polls, he knows he is losing and what he wants to do is go out and bask in the adulation of his supporters.

They are not a majority. They know it. He knows he is behind and they know they are a minority and they sort of bask in that shared victimhood. They think the rest of the country is looking down on them. And Trump is out there razing the crowd, performing like a vaudevillian. I think that is what he is doing.

I don't think it's really even about political strategy or winning the race at this point. I think he -- throughout his presidency, he has never tried to expand his base and I think he knows at this point he can't and so what he is going to do is try to rev up the crowd and get as much affection as he can.

LEMON: Vaudeville is a really good analogy, John. Let me ask you something before I move on, with two of the other guys -- ladies. You know, the last time we heard so much about, well, internal polling was different. And the internal polling -- it's not -- is it not showing that this time?

HARWOOD: No. All of the polling is bad. You talk to Democratic and Republican pollsters and they are all pretty much seeing the same thing. He is behind by a wide margin, double digits in the polling averages now. Nationally by a lesser margin in the battleground states but still six, seven, eight points in the three Midwest states that Biden needs to win.

And he is even facing a significant deficit in Florida, which is a state that he carried in 2016. He is trailing narrowly in North Carolina. He is in a dog fight in both Iowa where he goes this week and Ohio. So this is a -- it's a grim picture for the Trump campaign and the one thing we've seen pretty consistently he has hovered down around where his job performance is or a little bit below that, low 40s. That is not a winning situation.

LEMON: Yes. But it's not over till it's over. You don't know. We still have three weeks. And that could --

HARWOOD: True.

LEMON: One never knows do one as they say. Arlette, listen, the Biden campaign is focusing on states Trump won in 2016. Jill Biden is in Georgia and Texas this week, the former vice president is focusing on Florida and Ohio. Do they really think they have a shot at turning these states blue?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, they clearly feel like they are in a position right now to go on offense heading into these states where the president won by pretty big margins. States like Ohio and Georgia and Texas back in 2016.

[23:05:10]

And Biden at this point is doing quite well in the polls in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Which were always going to be tough targets as well, but now you are seeing them kind of start to wade into some of these more reach states as the president has been struggling a bit there. You know, polling in Ohio has shown a very tight race just after four years after President Trump won that state by eight points.

And Biden was there in Toledo, in Cincinnati today. Trying to make that economic pitch about bringing manufacturing jobs back speaking to those white working class voters that he feels might be frustrated with the president's efforts over the past four years and trying to convince them to vote for him coming up in November.

But you know, you have Jill Biden going into states like Georgia and Texas. We haven't yet seen the principals Joe Biden or Kamala Harris go into those states. That might signal just how seriously they are taking it if those could be actual candidates go to campaign there.

But right now they are clearly in this position where they have the financial resources and they feel like they have the time resources to go into these states where the president won pretty handily like Ohio, and try to make a run for it having this November.

LEMON: All right. So, Laura, tonight's rally Trump brought up his Supreme Court pick Judge Amy Coney Barrett there, who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As America saw earlier today, in Amy's opening statements in the Senate Judge Barrett a brilliant scholar who will defend our laws, our rights, our freedom, and our constitution like very few people would have the capability of doing the radical left is hell bent on destroying everything we love and cherish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Barrett's confirmation hearing is playing out as people across the country are already voting, Laura. Explain how extraordinary it is that these two things are happening at the same time.

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it is so extraordinary. Keep in mind people make a big to-do and they should about the hypocrisy about trying to seat Amy Coney Barrett and not trying to seat Merrick Garland. But really, the real issue with that was Antonin Scalia, the former and late justice died 200 and what -- 69 days before an election.

You've got Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dying a mere 46 days or so days before the election. And remember when Scalia died you hadn't even picked who the DNC nominee was. You hadn't picked the RNC nominee. He died in February of 2016, before that. Think about the idea here that now you have people who have already cast their vote. They are not -- the will of the people are trying to tabulate the will of the people right now. So many states are engaged in early voting.

As you think of the will of the people being done and following what the people want to have happen many have already cast their ballot and only are awaiting for it to be counted. This is a very different scenario and as Lindsey Graham said, this is the first time in history that any Supreme Court confirmation hearing that's taken place after July in an election year. In July, of course is normally the convention month. LEMON: Right. Right, right. But Laura, no matter what kind of argument

Democrats make, Judge Barrett's confirmation virtually is guaranteed at this point. What did you learn today about what kind of justice she would be?

COATES: Well, it certainly seems it to be a foregone conclusion provided that all the Senators are capable of voting. Remember at least two actually do have COVID-19. But you have the idea here that her legacy, she wants to be known is very similar to Justice Scalia. Where she talks more about an originalist, interpretation to the constitution meaning you don't want to assign new and more moderate concepts to what the founding fathers actually thought of.

But what you are seeing here is she has said, now listen. You should allow the political branches to engage in making the policy decisions and not look to the courts to do all of the bidding for everyone. And if that is the case here, one of the first cases, one of the first case that she will hear if she is confirmed will be the affordable care act, Don. Which of course has been made about a policy decision by a political and legislative branch of the government.

And so, if she is to be believed that she does not want to have judges usurp those rules it will be interesting to see how she actually rules and has argument on the affordable care act where they have already governed by legislation and if not have been able to have a replacement or even legislate one.

So, I think we are going to see a combination of her wanting to stick to her guns about the idea of an original interpretation and also trying to prove that she is not going to be a political Marinette of President Trump. It is hard really to test sincerity, because as you know every justice in that seat in the last three years has told you oh, no they intend to be impartial arbiters of justice. Whether that is actually true remains to be seen.

[23:10:11]

LEMON: Yes. Of course, you are going to say that at your confirmation hearing that you're going to be impartial, right? But it doesn't mean you are going to actually execute that when you become a justice.

COATES: Of course.

LEMON: Or if you become a justice. Arlette, Democrats were united at today's committee hearing warning that health care is at stake if Judge Barrett is confirmed. How big of a focus is this for Biden?

SAENZ: Well, Don, Democrats have been focused on turning this into an argument about health care that extends from that Senate Judiciary hearing all the way to the campaign trail. And you'll remember in the days after Justice Ginsburg passed away, Joe Biden immediately very quickly started framing this as a debate over health care warning that health care was at risk with the Supreme Court set to hear a case on Obamacare just a week after the election.

You heard in that hearing today his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris very forcefully also speak about this being an issue of health care and this isn't just about the presidential race. This also goes down to those races lower down on the ballots. The Senators who are running for re-election or challenging Republican incumbents at this point.

Voters, what Democrats think is that voters are going to be voting on this issue of health care. That they don't want to see preexisting conditions taken away. That they want to see Obamacare kept intact. And that is just an overall message that you have heard from that hearing room to the campaign trail.

Joe Biden when he talks about Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination, he always puts it in the frame and context of health care as they are hoping to hammer that away with just three weeks to go until the election.

LEMON: All right. Laura, John, thank you very much. Good to see you. I'll see you guys soon. I want to get to our resident fact-checker now, Mr. Daniel Dale. Hi Daniel, oh nice tie, I really like that.

DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Yes. Very nice.

LEMON: So, at tonight's rally the president made multiple false claims about Biden's policy positions. So, give us the fact check.

DALE: Yes, Don, Trump basically seems determined to run against a version of Joe Biden that doesn't actually exist. So for example tonight he said that Biden wants to outlaw private health insurance for 180 million people. Biden of course, explicitly, vocally repeatedly rejected that kind of single pair Medicare for All approach during the Democratic primary. He's running on a plan that would allow people to voluntarily opt into government insurance but wouldn't force people off their government insurance.

Trump said that Biden has a plan to dissolve America's borders and he acted out in exchange with someone was like where is the border, someone else said I don't know. We don't have a border anymore. This is just completely absurd. Biden is proposing a liberalization of Trump era immigration policy but wouldn't you know, eliminate borders of course.

He said Biden wants to destroy the suburbs. Again ridiculous. He said Biden wants to ban charter schools. Now Biden does have a skeptical approach toward charters especially the small minority of them that are for profit rather than not for profit. But he is not proposing a ban. And so, it is issue after issue where Trump is saying Biden would do things that Biden hasn't even come close to proposing, Don.

LEMON: The president also brought up one of his signature 2016 campaign promises, the wall. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Under my leadership we achieved the most secure border in U.S. history and we're finishing that wall. It is going to be finished and so beautiful. Wait until you see that. Wait until you see that. A few more months. We're doing 10 miles a day. And by the way Mexico is paying, I hate to say it, Mexico is paying for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: My god. I can do the fact check on this one. I mean, those people -- they believe him. OK. Go on. It is replacement fence. Whatever makes is nothing -- go on.

DALE: its replacement fence, a lot of it is replacement fence and more importantly tonight, Mexico is not paying for the wall. American taxpayers are paying for the wall, both through congressional appropriated money and money that Trump has basically seized from other stuff like the military.

This is the lie that won't die. And it goes dormant for a while but then it seems like around election time it magically returns. And no, Mexico is still not paying for the border wall.

LEMON: Thank you, Daniel. See you soon.

DALE: Thank you.

LEMON: People in California dropping their ballots off in boxes that it turns out aren't official boxes. In fact, they are owned by the GOP. We are going to take a closer look at that for you tonight considering it is the president who is always claiming voter fraud. But these boxes are owned by the GOP.

Plus, the U.S. seeing its highly daily average of new coronavirus cases in almost two months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALERGY AND INFECTOUS DISEASE: We're entering into the cool months of the fall and ultimately the cold months of the winter. And that is just the recipe of a real problem if we don't get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:15:04]

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LEMON: The president holding his first rally tonight since testing positive for the coronavirus but it doesn't seem like he learned much from his diagnosis. There was no social distancing. Very few masks. Gary Tuchman spoke with some Trump supporters before the rally and they seemed to be on the same page as Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You saw what happened at the White House recently where so many people who were outside at an event got coronavirus including the president ended up with coronavirus. That doesn't concern you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

TUCHMAN: Why doesn't it concern you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm healthy. I have no underlying health issues. And that seems to be the people that are most prone to getting the disease. If you have an underlying --

TUCHMAN: He was healthy too though and he had to take a helicopter to the hospital.

(CROSSTALK)

He had good medical care, right? Do you have care that good?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but I take care of myself.

TUCHMAN: Why not just put on a mask? What is the difference?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A mask can actually do more harm than good to individuals.

TUCHMAN: Why will give you more harm?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can. There's people -- because you know, people can normally can faint because there is too much carbon monoxide going back into their system.

[23:20:05]

TUCHMAN: You think that is the big problem people fainting all over the country from masks and dropping dead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, just enough. Enough people are getting ill because they're wearing a mask.

TUCHMAN: Really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Where did that come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Common sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've also seen the numbers drop every single day.

TUCHMAN: The numbers are going up now though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here.

TUCHMAN: Mr. Trump says it is disappearing but it's not. That is not the truth. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I'm debating on what the truth is for that

because what I can see it's, all the numbers that I've read had been down and I am seeing the flu is taking more people.

TUCHMAN: So, that is what you believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Let me ask you this. If President Trump at the rally said everyone put on their mask --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd put it on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right. Let's discuss now. CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Wow. Listen. OK. Doctor, you hear that woman at President Trump's rally say if the president said put on a mask, she would. And, yet, the president refuses to do that even as he is still recovering from the virus himself. He is holding big rallies. He doesn't care.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, he doesn't care. What that last woman said is the most important thing. If the president had told his supporters in March, hey look we're all wearing masks. This is how we're getting through it, and we would be in a much different place now. There would be about 40,000 Americans dead right now which would still be very tough thing to swallow, but 40,000 compared to 217,000 or 215,000 people soon on our way to a quarter million.

That is all he had to do is endorse mask wearing. Instead he made it into a cult and now you have all of these sort of, quote, alternative facts. Look, you cannot get hypoxic or hypercarbic high co2 from wearing a mask. I wear a mask all day long. I do very complex things while wearing a mask. So do my colleagues. You can't pass out from wearing a mask.

LEMON: It is really unbelievable. And you hear that other Trump supporter talking about how the numbers are going down. The reality is obviously that is not true but in 31 states including Florida they are heading in the wrong direction so President Trump may be a super spreader of the virus and certainly he is a super spreader of misinformation.

REINER: Right. So Florida, the positivity rate is 10 percent, 18 percent in Iowa. In North Dakota, actually in South Dakota it is like 22 percent. It is skyrocketing throughout the Midwest. I think the president has given up on trying to mitigate this virus and it is just simply trying to get elected and he doesn't care about the carnage that occurs. He just wants to have these rallies.

It is very, very, very discouraging. But what I would say to everyone who is listening is that, it doesn't have to be this way. We should do what Tony Fauci says which is to hunker down, mask up, distance. We'll get through this winter. Winter is coming. We'll get through the winter and then we are going to get vaccinated and then we are going to get our lives back. And that is the message we should be hearing from our leaders. Mask up. Take care of each other and then we are going to get our lives back.

LEMON: So, President Trump's doctor, you know, always so cryptic but he says the president tested negative on consecutive days. So read between the lines for us. What questions do you have here?

REINER: OK. This is what we know. So, if you read his statement today what he really said today is the president tested positive with a PCR test. They are following something called cycle threshold. What a PCR test does is amplify by replicating the genetic material of the virus multiple times until it is detectible.

So the smaller -- the less amount of virus you have in a sample the more rounds of replication you need to do until you can detect it. So, that is what he was alluding to today. It is still positive. But you have to do more rounds of replication. So, he used a less sensitive test. This brand-new antigen test which the FDA explicitly does not state should be used in this fashion to follow people to see when they are not infectious.

They are desperate for a quote, negative tests. And here's the other thing he said, he said the president has tested negative on two consecutive days. Well, what about Saturday? Saturday, he hosted this giant rally at the White House. He wasn't negative that day and he is still having, you know, an event at the White House?

Sean Conley is very bad at this. He is not good at communicating clearly. In fact, he is not good at even lying. What we need is straight up answers. Is the president PCR negative? What we know today is he is not PCR negative, but they think that his cycle threshold is so high that he is likely not infectious. That might be true, but then just tell it to us. Just tell it to us. You know, they treat us like we are a bunch of idiots.

[23:25:17]

LEMON: Yes. Wow. You can't even trust the information coming from a doctor and the doctor of the president of the United States. It is unbelievable.

REINER: I don't trust him. I don't trust him.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it. I want to get to CNN's Erica Hill now with the latest on multiple states reporting a surge in new cases.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The numbers are not good. Nationwide we are adding an average of more than 49,000 new cases a day, up 41 percent from just last month.

PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE RESEARCHER, DEAN OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We are predicting a pretty worrisome fall and winter.

HILL: New cases are surging in 31 states with more than a dozen posting their highest weekly averages for new daily cases. Seven states reporting their highest daily new case counts since the pandemic began.

LEANA WEN, FORMER HEALTH COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE: These are extremely alarming trends and there should be warning bells going off around the country.

HILL: Texas now sending extra resources to El Paso as hospitalizations rise. Rural areas across the country also bracing.

GEORGE MORRIS, PHYSICIAN VICE PRESIDENT, CENTRACARE: We have the beds. We have the people. But as we got more of these exposures, what's going to happen to our availability.

HILL: North Dakota which leads the nation in cases per capita has fewer than 20 ICU beds available.

RENAE MOCH, DIRECTOR, BISMARCK-BURLEIGH (ND), PUBLIC HEALTH: People are continuing to operate kind a as they had before COVID even was here and that is leading to a lot of our numbers increasing.

HILL: New research in the journal of the American medical association finds a 20 percent increase in U.S. deaths from March to August adding to the evidence that our current COVID death toll is likely an undercount.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you died from COVID and you also had diabetes you died from COVID.

HILL: As an influential model now projects nearly 400,000 COVID related deaths by February 1st, but if more Americans wore masks that could change dramatically.

PAUL OFFIT, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: If 95 percent of Americans wear a mask we will prevent roughly 80,000 deaths over the next few months. I mean, it is a remarkable statistic. Those are people. I mean, if you saw those people you would try to do something to prevent their deaths but somehow we just ignore it all.

HILL: The human toll is growing both in lives lost and in lives forever changed.

DEEPAK CHOPRA, CLINICAL PROFESSOR DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY MEDICINE AND PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERISTY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: People are going through different stages of grief. So, if some feel victimized, some are angry, some are hostile, some are resentful, some are helpless.

HILL: Researchers at NYU warning of a second wave of devastation. This one tied to mental health and substance abuse. The magnitude they write is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system of particular concern essential workers including those on the front lines. Erica Hill, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Thank you, Erica.

Ballot boxes popping up in California. Boxes owned by the Republican Party. And even though the state says they're illegal, the party is saying they won't remove them. And ahead they voted for Trump in 2016 but --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I've been duped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I did a disservice to women by voting for this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:30:00]

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LEMON: Early voting underway across the country and a potential legal battle brewing over fake ballot boxes that have been popping up in Southern California. State officials issuing a cease and desist order to California -- to the California Republican Party, I should say, to remove unofficial ballot boxes they've placed in at least three counties.

CNN's Pamela Brown has the latest now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roughly eight million Americans have already cast their ballots, some standing in line for hours.

JULIA VINEYARD, NEVADA VOTER WHO WAITED FIVE HOURS IN LINE: I thought maybe one hour most. I would never have even come out, to be honest, if I knew it would be five hours.

BROWN (voice-over): While others are putting them in drop boxes like these. But the seemingly simple process has turned quite complicated throughout the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is insane. I just -- I can't imagine in what world you would think that that would be acceptable.

BROWN (voice-over): This California woman alerted local officials after finding an unofficial ballot drop box at a nearby church. In a Facebook post, the church's pastor told followers that the church had a voting drop box but it wasn't a legal one.

MATTHEW JUDGE, CALIFORNIA VOTER: It was up for like four days before I even saw it, before it started to kind of gain traction. So, I am really worried that someone put their ballot in there.

BROWN (voice-over): In a sermon at the church, the pastor denied tampering with any ballots.

JERRY COOK, PASTOR, FREEDOM'S WAY BAPTIST CHURCH: Obviously, we have a situation here with the ballot box and the folks are saying things that -- that we are tampering and things of that nature. Of course, we're not tampering with anything.

BROWN (voice-over): Meanwhile, California's secretary of state tells CNN, "Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes - especially those misrepresenting to be official drop boxes - is not just misleading to voters, it's a violation of state law."

The box has been removed. The Facebook post is also gone as a Los Angeles county registrar's office investigates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is an attack on democracy. It is not OK.

BROWN (voice-over): And while the president urged supporters on a recent prayer call to get out and vote for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): The poll booths and I can tell you, we see it, we see it now, they are going to be swamped, get out and vote and make sure your vote counts.

BROWN (voice-over): In Pennsylvania, a Trump-appointed federal judge rejected an argument by the RNC and Trump campaign that drop boxes were unconstitutional.

While in Texas, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Republican Governor Greg Abbott's directive for one location per county for ballot drop boxes after a lower court reversed Abbott's decision last week.

[23:35:07]

BROWN (voice-over): And in Georgia, early voting started today at one location with a little hiccup, delays of an hour due to a technical glitch that caused voters' cards to be rejected.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Thanks, Pamela. OK. I have a lot of questions tonight about the investigations into those fake drop boxes. I'm going to speak with one of the people leading them, OK? Orange County district attorney is going to bring us the latest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This is a very important story since we are coming up on an election very closely, very important election, OK, so please pay attention. Fake ballot drop boxes are turning up in some places in Southern California at politically-affiliated offices, candidate headquarters, and even churches.

Where do they come from? The California Republican Party is confirming to CNN that they've been setting up these unofficial ballot boxes in Los Angeles, Fresno, and Orange counties. But the California secretary of state is saying the boxes aren't just misleading to voters, they are also a violation of state law. State officials are sending a cease and desists order to the California GOP to have them removed.

Todd Spitzer is a district attorney for Orange County, and he joins me now. Mr. District Attorney, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us. This is a very important story, and I'm glad that you're here. California Republicans argue that this is just ballot harvesting and that a 2016 bill makes that legal. What do you make of that argument?

TODD SPITZER, DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR OF ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Well, I mean, we are just at the very preliminary stages of our investigation. So, Mio Kelly (ph), who is the registrar voter in Orange County, California which we have 1.7 million registered voters, 3.3 million people, sixth largest county in the nation, so this is serious. This is the real deal.

And we received this investigation yesterday. My investigators have been on the ground immediately interviewing witnesses. We actually have one of those ballot boxes in our possession. And starting tomorrow, we will go through the legal process to be able to search the inside of that ballot box, whatever you want to call it, and we will continue our investigation.

LEMON: What happens to the votes in that box?

SPITZER: Well, I mean, that is a very interesting question, isn't it? Because let me ratchet back just a second about the law. In California, you can give your ballot to a third party, but you have to designate that person and you have to sign the top of your ballot. So, you can't just deposit into a box like a mail box. It is not a mail box. There are only so many official boxes and they're all controlled and regulated by the registrar of voters.

LEMON: So, again, the ballots in that box, the one that you have, are they going to be counted? Are they going to be thrown out? What is going to happen to them?

SPITZER: I would suspect and I would hope that every ballot is counted. So, if an innocent person, a voter put their ballot into one of those boxes, they don't know what's going on, right? So, I'm very confident when we go inside these boxes, we will make sure that those ballots are counted because let's -- we can't blame the voter for putting it in that box. It was under what -- under what pretense was it set up? And we don't have all the answers to that tonight.

LEMON: OK. So, here is the thing, and I want to get to what the California Republican Party, what they're saying. But if those ballots are tampered with or messed with, that's fraudulent. People can go to jail for that. Is there any evidence of that happening?

SPITZER: Well, as much as I would like to answer that question, obviously, we don't have all that information.

LEMON: We don't know.

SPITZER: We are engaged in that investigation, but let me just explain a couple things. If you set up a voting place like a box and you are representing that you're essentially an agent, right, for the registrar of voters, in California, that is a straight felony that can be punished in prison for four years.

LEMON: Right.

SPITZER: So, this is serious business.

LEMON: OK. That's what I was getting at, because if they are doing that and they are tossing ballots out or not turning them in or what have you or even maybe just the process of setting up what, you said it could be fraudulent, and I said jail, but this is serious stuff, prison.

OK. So this is how the California Republican Party is defending these fake ballot boxes. They wrote this on Twitter. "If a congregation, business or other group provides the option to its parishioners/associates/or colleagues to drop off their ballot in a safe location, with people they trust, rather than handing it over to a stranger who knocks on their door - what is wrong with that?"

[23:45:05]

LEMON: OK. What do you say to that?

SPITZER: Well, you know, ballot harvesting is relatively new in California. This is only the second major cycle in which ballot harvesting has been allowed. So, there obviously is going to be litigation about what is ballot harvesting, but we do know this. When I give my ballot to you, I have to designate you.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

SPITZER: And I have to do it in writing, because we have to know that I authorize you to take custody of my ballot.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

SPITZER: If you just drop a bunch of ballots into a box, how have you in any way designated a third party to take custody of your ballot?

LEMON: Yeah.

SPITZER: The only -- that has the legal authority to take custody of ballots are the sanctioned ballot boxes that have been put in our communities by the registrar voters.

LEMON: By the people who work at the polls officially. So, thank you, Mr. District Attorney.

SPITZER: Right.

LEMON: I appreciate it. Before we go, I'm going to let him go, but I just want to put up pictures of what the official ballot drop box looks like or anyone watching who is in California, if we can put that up because that is a service to our viewers. That is what the official ballot box looks like. Drop box. OK? And that's where your vote should be placed, in something that looks like that.

So, they supported Trump in 2016, but many pivotal voters now saying that they're not backing his re-election. We're going to meet some of these voters, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you regret your vote?

HOLLIE GEITNER, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: I -- where we are today? Yes, I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president is heading to Pennsylvania tomorrow. Key to his 2016 victory there are white women voters. What do they think of him now? Kate Bolduan spoke with some of them, and she is here with more. Kate, what do you have?

BOLDUAN: Don, we know Pennsylvania is a battleground state. And Donald Trump is facing an uphill battle there right now. One reason, white women. Some of this key demographic that helped him win the state in 2016 are now rejecting him. And their reasons why are fascinating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEITNER: You all right?

I'm probably a good example of someone who has gone through a lot of change in four years.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Hollie Geitner, a registered Republican, is a working parent of two kids living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and she wasn't alone. Fifty percent of white women in Pennsylvania did the same, according to exit polls.

(On camera): What do you feel today about your vote four years ago?

GEITNER: I can tell you how I felt four years ago. Shame.

BOLDUAN: Do you regret your vote?

GEITNER: Where we are today? Yes, I do. I don't think this is the great again that everyone thought it was going to be.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): So Hollie is voting for Joe Biden. And so is Nin Bell.

BOLDUAN: What drew you to Donald Trump? Why did you vote for Donald Trump?

NIN BELL, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: For his celebrity, 100 percent.

BOLDUAN: It was the brand?

BELL: It was.

BOLDUAN: The image.

BELL: Absolutely. Successful, funny, like, he was funny. I loved his show "The Celebrity Apprentice." Never missed it.

BOLDUAN: Was there a moment when you decided, I cannot support him anymore?

BELL: It was almost instantly.

BOLDUAN: It is not just outside the cities where suburban women are questioning their support for Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. It's even out here in Westmoreland County, rural Pennsylvania, considered Trump country. We are about to meet two of them.

JULIE BRADY, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: She's older.

JOAN SMELTZER, FORMER TRUMP SUPPORTER: I'm older.

BOLDUAN: Oh, you're definitely sisters.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Joan Smeltzer and Julie Brady are registered Democrats, and both voted for Trump in 2016.

SMELTZER: I feel like I've been duped. I got it wrong, and it hurts my heart. I mean, it truly hurts my heart because the things that I saw, I didn't take seriously enough.

BOLDUAN: Throughout the campaign, he was making sexist, misogynistic remarks. And then, there was the "Access Hollywood" tape. How did you guys process and digest that being out there and voting for him?

SMELTZER: It was not easy. I look at myself and I think, how could I do that?

BRADY: I feel like I did a disservice to women by voting for this guy.

BOLDUAN: Was there a moment in the last four years when you said, I can't do this again?

BRADY: The COVID pandemic, the way he handled it, that was the absolute last straw for me. He didn't create the virus, but he kind of left us all in the dark, guessing what was going on, and that wasn't fair to us.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Among the women we spoke to, the coronavirus, the president's handling of the pandemic, and the racial unrest following the police killing of George Floyd were the overwhelming, driving issues.

GEITNER: George Floyd's killing was a pivotal moment for me. When I read that he was begging for his mom, as a mother myself, it just brought me to my knees. And to see what's happened since, I -- I feel like he's added fuel to flames of hatred.

[23:55:00]

GEITNER: That really bothers me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

CROWD: (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Nin Bell, who registered as a Republican in 2016 just to vote for Trump in the primaries, now protests weekly in her town just outside Philadelphia. Often met by groups, she used to consider herself a part of, Trump supporters, setting up counterdemonstrations.

BELL: I think Trump kind of thrives on that -- on that division. I see it in my own town.

SMELTZER: Integrity. That's what we're lacking.

BRADY: And accountability.

SMELTZER: Yeah.

BRADY: Being the mom of a 9-year-old, that's one thing that I push with my son all the time is, you know, you made a bad decision, it's your fault. You learn from it. You move on. We have a president, who nothing that happens is ever his fault, it's always somebody else's fault.

BOLDUAN: There are consequences.

BRADY: There are consequences. He's about to find them out.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: The women we talked to, of course, don't speak for every woman voter in Pennsylvania. But what they have to say and why shows the uphill battle that Donald Trump is facing in this battleground state. The latest polling shows that Trump is trailing Joe Biden by 23 points among women in Pennsylvania. Don?

LEMON: Very good story there. Very good reporting, Kate. Thank you so much. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)