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Trump Ad Misleads on Coronavirus; Interview with North Dakota Public Health Official; Pennsylvania Judge Throws Out GOP Voting Challenges. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 10:30   ET



LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: So this really leads to the question of would Pelosi and President Trump cut a deal and then force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to have to make a decision whether or not to bring it to the floor?

You're also getting a sense that some Democrats in the House are getting frustrated by Pelosi continuing to hold out. You have this tweet by Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, saying, quote, "People in need cannot wait until February. $1.8 trillion is significant and more than twice Obama stimulus. It will allow Biden to start with infrastructure... Make a deal and put the ball in McConnell's court."

This just speaks to all of the different members -- both on the Republican side and on the Democratic side -- that are applying pressure to their leadership, trying to get them to make a deal. But like I said, Poppy, no deal in sight yet.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Unbelievable. I cannot believe that we're still here. All right, Lauren, thank you very, very much.

Also this morning, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, tells CNN the president's campaign took his words out of context when they used his words in a campaign ad without his permission. This is the relevant part of it, watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America. Together, we rose to meet the challenge. President Trump tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.



HARLOW: So here's the thing. When Dr. Fauci made that comment, it wasn't now, it wasn't October. It was back in March and he wasn't talking about the president, he was talking about, quote, "public health officials." Olivia Troye is with me, former Homeland Security advisor to Vice President Mike Pence. She worked on the COVID Task Force, she is now endorsing Joe Biden for president. Also Abby Phillip is back with us, our political correspondent.

Olivia, Tim Murtaugh, the campaign communications director, said, "Those are Dr. Fauci's words and Dr. Fauci was praising the Trump administration." Not exactly. Your thoughts?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: No, those are Dr. Fauci's words but similar to the e-mail that they tried to spin when they said that, you know, prior to the narrative of me (ph) getting fired where they tried to say that I wrote a note to President Trump -- similar to that, where I was praising the work of the Task Force, that's exactly what Dr. Fauci was doing back in March.

He -- I remember that and we were all in the trenches. We were working day and night, hand-in-hand next to each other. These are the Task Force members and the experts and some of the cabinet members. We had numerous conference calls.

He is 100 percent talking about the work and effort of these people. And you'll notice that the president at the time was actually already calling the virus a hoax, and he was completely undermining these exact people that Dr. Fauci is talking about.

HARLOW: Just to be clear, the president, when he used the word "hoax," he was talking about the Democrats and their -- the words that they were using, Abby, about coronavirus and how they were talking about it.

But, Olivia, I take your point, downplaying it over and over and over again.

Abby, the president's back on the campaign trail: Florida, and then four rallies in four days this week. But I want to focus on Florida because he and Joe Biden are there this week, showing again the importance of the state. And this new Quinnipiac poll finds Biden ahead of the president, 55 to 40 percent among Florida voters age 65 and over.

Is this a president desperate to close that gap among such a critical voting bloc in Florida?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really where the president is seemingly hurting the most although there are other weaknesses including Biden's competitiveness among white voters. But when you look at older voters, this kind of slide is really dramatic and it matters in Florida. That's why you saw the vice president, Mike Pence, at The Villages senior home doing an event there.

Look, this for President Trump is all about the coronavirus, it's all about his handling of this issue. And that ad demonstrates that they're trying to turn, you know, a bad hand into a good hand on the coronavirus, but it's hard for me to see how that argument necessarily works with seniors.

I mean, the reason the president is in this position is because they've seen his behavior, his attitude toward this virus, his downplaying of mask-wearing, his claims that it's just going to go away. Even this morning, the president saying that the virus is basically just going to kind of burn out or pass. Seniors are not buying that, and they're giving him very low marks. And until he turns that fundamental narrative around, I don't see this really changing.


In Florida, also, the president is doing better with Hispanic voters but the slide with older voters is I think what's making that state more competitive than they'd like it to be.

HARLOW: Yes. Also, a reliable voting bloc, right? Older voters go and they vote, that matters a lot, especially in that state.

I'd like to turn to the Supreme Court. We are in the middle of the beginning of a big week of these Supreme Court nomination hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Olivia, you're a lifelong Republican, I should note. You are endorsing Joe Biden. Joe Biden will still not answer the question, when directly asked over and over again, if he would support packing the Supreme Court if elected.

Listen to this exchange that happened with a reporter in Nevada over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this is the number one thing that I've been asked about from viewers in the past couple of days.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well you've been asked by the viewers who are probably Republicans who don't want me continuing to talk about what they're doing to the court right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, sir, don't the voters deserve to know --

BIDEN: No they don't deserve -- I'm not going to play his game.


HARLOW: He said they don't deserve to know. And then on Saturday, here's what else Vice President Biden said.


BIDEN: Court-packing's going on right now. It's going on with Republicans packing the court now. It's not constitutional, what they're doing.


HARLOW: It -- he says it's not constitutional, what they're doing. It -- you know, it's not unconstitutional. But Olivia, to the deserving to know point, do you think that voters deserve to know what, if he becomes president, he and Harris would support?

TROYE: I think it's fair to ask Joe Biden to talk on this topic, especially because of what we've seen with the Trump administration repeatedly with the Supreme Court, but I can understand his viewpoint of really focused on the now.

And quite frankly as a Republican, I am upset at the behavior of the Trump administration, trying to push this nomination forward. I really think that the Supreme Court is something that is critical and should be taken so seriously for our country, there (ph) are (ph) the fundamental values on the court.

And personally I think that it is the People's Court. And to force this nomination through the way they are doing it, I think, is quite frankly as a Republican, I find it embarrassing for the Trump administration to (INAUDIBLE) this behavior.

HARLOW: Abby, my colleague Jake Tapper smartly pointed out yesterday on his show that we actually kind of do know where Joe Biden stands on this issue of packing the court. Not only from a year ago, but also from 1983. Listen to these two.


BIDEN: President Roosevelt clearly had the right to send to the United States Senate, the United States Congress a proposal to pack the court. But it was a bonehead idea. It was a terrible, terrible mistake to make.

I would not get into court-packing. We added three justices. Next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We began to lose any credibility the court has at all.


HARLOW: Bonehead idea, I wouldn't get into it. Why won't he answer now?

PHILLIP: Yes, this is one of the more odd things about where we are in this campaign. The only thing I can surmise is what Biden said in the earlier clip that you played, which is that he doesn't want to play Trump's game.

I think the Biden campaign recognizes that the Trump campaign and Republicans are trying to set an agenda item, putting court-packing on the table and forcing Biden to reject it or accept it.

But as you pointed out, he doesn't support this idea, he hasn't in the past. And I do think it's odd that he won't just put this to bed. Look, Democrats on the left of Joe Biden have stomached a lot of other rejections on a lot of other issues whether its Medicare for All or you name it. And I don't see why Democrats wouldn't stomach this one if Biden would just say, no, I don't support this.

But I do think there's is a strong sense among the Biden camp that they don't want to let President Trump just sort of put random ideas on the table and then they are forced to respond and being put on the defense.

HARLOW: I hear you, but good for that reporter in Nevada -- who said, by the way, this is the number one issue I'm getting asked by voters in his state.

So all right, ladies. We're out of time, we'll have you both back soon. Thanks very much, Olivia Troye and Abby Phillip.


Growing concerns this morning over these rising COVID numbers in a state that has very few mandates -- there's no mandate on masks for example in North Dakota. I will speak with the public health official there about the disturbing trend and the toll it's taking on the hospitals.


HARLOW: Well, North Dakota's hospital system this morning is being pushed to the limit. The state is seeing record hospitalizations and record new number of cases.

Joining me now is Renae Moch, director for Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health. It's really good to have you. When I first started reading these headlines about North Dakota last week, I was really worried and hoping things might turn the corner over the weekend, but it doesn't appear that they have. How stretched are your hospitals right now?

RENAE MOCH, DIRECTOR, BISMARCK-BURLEIGH PUBLIC HEALTH: So right now, our hospitals have less than 20 beds available across the state of North Dakota. It's really concerning for us because we have some major hospitals that are able to take on more serious cases, but we have some hospitals in very rural areas that are having difficulty meeting the demand and having to send patients to different areas across the state of North Dakota, and even had to send out of state at some point to Sioux Falls and also Billings, Montana.


HARLOW: To send people out of the state of North Dakota because you don't have enough resources to take care of them?

MOCH: That's correct.

HARLOW: Wow. And you've said that you feel -- your word -- "powerless" in all of this. Why?

MOCH: So as a health official, we're working to educate the public on the importance of practicing measures such as social distancing, avoiding large crowds, wearing a mask. And without that mandate or enforcement piece behind it, it becomes very difficult for us to try to make a difference in the number of cases that we're seeing and really trying to take -- have this taken seriously by the public that we're working with. And so that's been a real challenge for us in public health. HARLOW: There's no mask mandate in North Dakota, it's one of now

fewer than 20 states that doesn't have one. As I understand it from you earlier, people are having big weddings, there's not a whole lot of social distancing going on at some of these events. Are a majority of people wearing masks?

MOCH: Unfortunately, North Dakota, majority are not wearing masks. At this point, we have been given the message from the state level that personal responsibility is the way to go when it comes to masking up and wearing masks and social distancing.

And so we've seen large weddings, people are continuing to operate kind of as they had before COVID even was here. And that's leading to a lot of our numbers increasing, and we're seeing lots of different clusters and such in -- across North Dakota.

HARLOW: You have said that you're having -- there's been a real issue there in terms of contact tracing. Why? What's happening?

MOCH: Yes, so I think we're at the point now where a lot of people are frustrated. I know we've been in the pandemic now close to seven months here, and when we do our contact tracing, there are individuals that are refusing to cooperate so we're dealing with people maybe saying they don't have any close contacts. Or if they have been to a wedding or a large gathering, they're not giving us that information.

And so that gives us a real hard time to try to do the contact tracing work and contain some of the spread there. If we would have that information, we would be able to make contact and do outreach, but we're just not getting that.

HARLOW: So people actually refusing to tell contact tracers who they've been in contact with?

MOCH: They're refusing, exactly. So some are you know, not even answering the contact tracer's call, or they will answer the call and say that they have no contacts or haven't been anywhere. And so you know, we have -- we live in a small enough state that we know some of that is not true because we have the proof for that, so it's unfortunate.

HARLOW: Well, Renae, thanks for the work you're doing on this front. I'm sorry you're in a position to feel so powerless in the middle of this. Good luck to everyone in the state right now.

MOCH: Thank you very much.


HARLOW: We are just 22 days out from the election. We're seeing a major court ruling when it comes to ballot boxes in two key states. Your election, your vote is next.


HARLOW: Every day, we are keeping a close eye on this 2020 race. This is your election, it is your vote and your vote is critical. Here are the big headlines this morning.

Early in-person voting begins in Georgia today. We've seen a packed polling place in Atlanta already this morning, and election officials say they're bracing for record turnout. We are also following key court rulings made in Texas and Pennsylvania over drop boxes. Let's talk more about this, Kristen Holmes joins us in Washington this morning.

Good morning. What do those rulings say, what do they mean practically for voters?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, let's start in Pennsylvania because this is a big deal. Keep in mind, this is going to shape the way that voters in this critical swing state cast their ballot in just 22 days. So essentially, here's what was on the table.

Republicans, the Trump campaign had sued the state on three categories, one being ballot boxes. They wanted to limit those ballot boxes, saying they were unconstitutional. The other was on signatures. The secretary of state had said earlier this year that absentee ballot signatures did not have to perfectly match what was on file. Again, Republicans fighting on that.

And the third thing here was poll watchers. The law in Pennsylvania says that poll watchers can only serve as poll watchers in the county that they vote in, and Republicans were fighting that.

Now, the judge has thrown this out. Now -- before I read what he said, just keep this in mind. The overarching argument here is that these things are unconstitutional because they lead to fraud. So here's the statement that the judge said.

It says, "While the Trump campaign may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is," quote, "'certainly impending.' They haven't met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions."

Now, one thing to keep in mind here because we hear President Trump say this all the time, this is a Trump-appointed judge. So any kind of rhetoric on how this was politically motivated will be nearly impossible.

And just to quickly touch on what's going on in Texas, because we are just weeks from the election, and it is an utter mess. As we know, the governor there had restricted ballot boxes to one per county. And Poppy, that included counties that had over 4 million people in them, so really making it hard for people to vote.

Now, a federal judge on Friday overruled that, said you couldn't limit the number of drop boxes. However, the state has now appealed, meaning that there is a stay-in-place. So there's still going to only be one drop box for the time being while those judges rule -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And when Ed Lavandera did that piece, it was like they're open 9:00 to 5:00, right? Not like those are people's work hours or anything.

HOLMES: Yes. Incredible.


HARLOW: Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for the reporting.

We'll see you tomorrow. Thanks to all of you for joining me today, Jim and I will both be back here tomorrow. NEWSROOM with John King starts after a quick break.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello everybody, I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing a very, very busy news day with us.

Opening statements this morning on Capitol Hill, the prelude to a brutal confirmation fight over Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the United States Supreme Court. More on that, ahead.