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Confirmation Hearings Begin for Barrett; Pennsylvania Judge Denies GOP Bid; Coronavirus Pandemic Update; Political Dead Heat in Iowa; Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 06:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: For us. And what should we expect, Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this confirmation hearing is set to be an unprecedented hybrid with some senators appearing in person, others appearing virtually, like Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris.

Now, we've learned that Amy Coney Barrett will portray herself as a mother of seven, as a wife, and as a justice who will be in line with the late, staunchly conservative justice, Antonin Scalia.

Now, today is just opening statements, but it could be a week of fireworks as Democrats press into a number of important topics.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): It's set to be a Supreme Court confirmation showdown Republicans want to rush through before the election. Amy Coney Barrett has been in the hot seat before, in 2017, when she secured her spot on the Seven Circuit Court of Appeals by a 55-43 Senate vote. But this time, with the ideological balance of the Supreme Court at stake, Democrats plan to delve into issues that they did not focus on before, like Barrett's record on abortion, health care, and election disputes.

REP. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I specifically asked her whether she would recuse herself from any election-related case because President Trump has publicly said that he wants her seated on the Supreme Court in time for the election so that she can rule on any dispute. And she made no commitments to recusal.

SCHNEIDER: The Affordable Care Act will be at the forefront, since the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Trump administration's efforts to dismantle the law, one week after the election. Barrett criticized the chief justice swooping in to save Obamacare and the individual mandate in 2012, writing this in 2017. "Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute." Democrats will also seize on the future of Roe v. Wade. Barrett signed

a, quote, "Right to Life" ad in "The South Bend Tribune" in 2006, sponsored by a group that opposes abortion. CNN's K-File uncovered two talks Barrett gave to anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame that she did not initially disclose in her Senate questionnaire. Barrett said she would abide by Roe v. Wade in her 2017 confirmation hearing.

AMY CONEY BARRETT, NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR (September 6, 2017): As you say, Roe has been affirmed many times and survived many challenges in the court, and it's more than 40 years old and it's clearly binding on all courts of appeals.

SCHNEIDER: But once on the Supreme Court, she won't be as bound by precedent and could vote to overturn the 1973 decision affirming the constitutional right to abortion.

Barrett's faith will also be front and center. She told senators in 2017 her catholic religion played no role in her opinions.

BARRETT: Although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.

SCHNEIDER: So while Democrats may approach the subject of religion with caution this time, new revelations about Barrett's association with a little-known Christian community called People of Praise have sparked intrigue. "The Washington Post" reports a 2010 directory lists Barrett as a, quote, handmade, a title once reserved for women in leadership roles in the tight-knit group but no longer used. "The Post" also disclosed that Barrett lived in the South Bend home of People of Praise's co-founder Kevin Rangan (ph) during law school. The group embraces traditional gender rules, placing men above women. A spokesman tells CNN, "Christian leadership in no way involves superiority or domination among spouses," but, "we have chosen to rely on male leadership at the highest level of our community based on our desire to be a family of families."

A spokesperson for the group would not confirm Barrett's membership and she hasn't spoken publicly about it. But she did disclose she served on the board of the Trinity Schools, an academic institution founded by People of Praise. CNN found several articles from the People of Praise magazine spotlighting Barrett's family in 2006 through 2012, but all of the references were removed from the website between January and June 2017, one month before Barrett's nomination to the Seventh Circuit was announced. Democrats plan to tread lightly on this issue.

COONS: I did not ask her anything, nor would I, about her religious beliefs or anything involved in groups that she belongs to. I don't think that's an appropriate topic.


SCHNEIDER: And Democrats spent the weekend speaking out about this sped up confirmation process. In fact, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on Amy Coney Barrett, if she is confirmed, to recuse herself from the Affordable Care Act case. That's because of her past statements.

Of course, Alisyn, the Affordable Care Act coming up before the Supreme Court one week after the election on November 10th, when the court will decide about the Trump administration's argument to completely eliminate the law.


CAMEROTA: The stakes could not be higher for everyone involved.


CAMEROTA: Jessica, thank you very much.

Major court rulings on ballot drop boxes and a big win for Democrats in Pennsylvania, that's next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So developing this morning, two court rulings in the hotly contested issue of ballot drop boxes. And these rulings could have major implications for mail-in ballots in both Texas and Pennsylvania, which are both states that look like toss-ups.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now with the details.



Well, let's start in Pennsylvania, because this is a huge loss for the Trump campaign and it is an enormous ruling because it is going to shape the way that voters in Pennsylvania, this critical swing state, cast their ballot.

So, what was on the table? Well, the Trump campaign had sued because of drop boxes, as you said. They wanted to limit the amount of drop boxes. They had also challenged the secretary of state's rule that signatures on absentee ballots did not have to perfectly match what the state had on record.

And lastly was about poll watching. They challenged the Pennsylvania law that poll watchers have to serve in the same county that they vote in. They cannot serve outside of that. All of this, they said, was unconstitutional and it would lead to widespread fraud.


Now, I want to tell you what the judge said when he threw this case out. He said, 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. And something very interesting here, guys, is the fact that this judge is a Trump appointee. So this idea that this might have been somehow politically motivated is going to be very hard for Republicans to say.

And, quickly, to touch on Texas, because it is still an absolute mess. We know that the governor had said that there could only be one drop box per county, even in the county that had 4.7 million people. On Friday, a federal judge said you cannot limit drop boxes. However, they -- the state has appealed. That is in court. So right now there is a stay on that, meaning that there is still only one drop box in every county, including that 4 million-person county.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Kristen, I mean this is just coming down to the wire. Thank you very much for the update on all of this.

This morning, thousands of people remain in shelters in Louisiana after Hurricane Delta tore through the state, leaving at least one person dead. The storm also caused flooding and destruction in Georgia and North Carolina. Remnants of the storm are now drenching the northeast and CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has our forecast.

How does it look today, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it looks very wet across much of the mid-Atlantic and the northeast. If you look back at some of these rain totals, we saw anywhere from 11 inches of rain in Alexandria, Louisiana, all the way up to 17 inches of rain in Iowa, Louisiana. And, remember, this made landfall less than 15 miles from where Hurricane Laura made landfall just less than two months ago.

So all of that rain is going to push into the mid-Atlantic, the northeast, as we go throughout the day today. So we have rain spreading anywhere from D.C., all the way up to Philadelphia, New York, Boston will get in on it, as we go through the afternoon.

And we also have a cold front that's going to push through behind it. So once this first round of rain is over this morning, you have a second round that's going to push through later today. And so that's just going to make this Monday even more soggy.

Look at these rainfall totals. We could see several inches of rain up that I-95 corridor, all the way up into northern New England. But we are going to have pleasant temperatures for the rest of the week. That cold front is going to bring some nice temperatures. Fifty-five degrees, your high temperature today in New York. We're looking at temperatures around 69 degrees in Chicago. So really a pleasant day for much of the country, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jennifer, thank you very much.

So countries across Europe reporting record-breaking rises in cases. The United Kingdom expected to announce new coronavirus restrictions today. We have the details, next.


[06:46:36] BERMAN: This morning, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to announce new lockdown rules as countries across Europe have seen a surge in coronavirus cases.

CNN has all of these developments covered for you all around the world.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I'm Nic Robertson in London, where the British prime minister is expected to announce a simplification of COVID regulations that tackle the growing number of infections across the country. He's expected to announce a three- tiered system, media, high, and very high. We know that the city of Liverpool is expected to be in the very high category. They are expecting their bars, gyms and casinos to be shut down, but a lot of other details still to be worked out.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, as new coronavirus infections here in Russia remain at a very high level. Russian authorities recorded around 13,600 new infections in the span of 24 hours. And one of the main epicenters remains the capital here in Moscow with about 4,400 new infections in a single day. The Russian authorities are urging people to abide by the anti-pandemic measures, but also say if the high numbers persist, they might have to put additional measures in place.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean in Berlin, where nearly every large city in this country is now considered a coronavirus hot spot. Stutguard (ph) has even called in the military for help. Berlin, though, is seeing the highest rates of infection. This past weekend, bars and restaurants were forced to close early in response to a recent spike in cases. That is a big blow for a city that is famous for its night life. The health minister, though, is warning for the potential of uncontrolled spread of the virus, fueled by weddings and large religious gatherings. Later today, German officials are expected to announce a new testing strategy and quarantine rules.


BERMAN: All right, our thanks our reporters all around the world.

OK, one of the biggest controversies there is right now, is Jim Carrey actually doing a good job playing Joe Biden on "Saturday Night Live"? We'll cover that.

Plus, their take on the vice presidential debate, next.



CAMEROTA: Twenty-two days until the election. President Trump is returning to the campaign trail. He's set to hold rallies in a number of states this week, including Iowa, where he is locked in the polls with Joe Biden. The president easily won that state in 2016.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live in Des Moines, Iowa, with more.

So how's it looking this time around, Jeff?


The president's travel schedule speaks volumes about the state of the race. The Trump campaign is on defense. That is why the president is coming here later this week to hold a rally. But Republicans also have another tight race on their hands here. One that could determine the Senate majority.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): So, folks, is it a tough election cycle or what?

ZELENY (voice over): Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is feeling the October heat.

ERNST: It is a tough, tough, tough year. But you know what? I'm going to finish first!

ZELENY: Yet her re-election is not entirely in her control, with Republican fortunes tied to President Trump.

MARK MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN VOTER: That's the real terror of this all is that Trump takes down the whole ticket, the whole Republican side of the Senate.

ZELENY: Mark McAllister voted for Trump four year ago. He said he won't do so again.

MCALLISTER: I think he has been extremely divisive to our people. I think he's -- I mean I use the word despicable and I do think he's despicable.

ZELENY (on camera): Despicable?


ZELENY (voice over): In Iowa, where Trump won by nine percentage points, polls now show he's locked in a tight race with Joe Biden. Republican officials are nervously watching the suburbs here, as the president's shaky support threatens to GOP Senate majority and Ernst, a once-rising party star.

KATIE NASET, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: In many ways she's been a disappointment. She's not been a leader. She's basically parroted what the Trump administration has told her to project.

ZELENY: We caught up with her at a weekend campaign motorcycle ride.

ZELENY (on camera): Senator, is President Trump complicating your race? ERNST: No, I would say I'm running any own race.

ZELENY: But you are tied to him, which is beneficial obviously in some parts of Iowa --

ERNST: Well --

ZELENY: But what about the suburbs?


ZELENY: Does that complicate your path there?

ERNST: I -- I think, again, in the suburbs, I've met with suburban women.


They're really concerned about law and order. That -- that type of issue. And that actually is an issue that draws them closer to the president.

ZELENY (voice over): That is unclear.


ZELENY: Her Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield, believes other issues are more pressing.

GREENFIELD: And I will tell you, health care is number one. And certainly during COVID, that has evaluated that conversation and that very difficult health pandemic, coupled with economic crisis, you know, Iowans are concerned for user.

ZELENY: The question is whether Trump's standing lifts or sinks the ticket in a state he's suddenly fighting to defend.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're going to win the great state of Iowa! And it's going to be an historic landslide.

ZELENY: Trump won 93 of Iowa's 99 counties, including 31 that twice voted for President Obama.

Jasper County, once home to the Maytag company, is one of them.


ZELENY: Thad Nearmyer, the Republican county chairman, wasn't initially sold on Trump before he was elected, but now he deeply believes in him and thinks the Trump base is growing.

NEARMYER: I used to think, well, he's done it this time, but he always seems like he overcomes that. So I don't even worry about him anyone.

What we care about is results.

ZELENY: His Democratic counterpart, Michelle Smith, said too many Democrats were not inspired to vote four years ago, which she said won't happen this time.

MICHELLE SMITH, CHAIR, JASPER COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The ones I know that didn't vote are going to vote for Joe Biden this time because they realize by not voting what we've had to endure the last three and a half years.


ZELENY: Now, by all measures, this is an exceedingly close race here, which was not expected only months ago. But the six electoral votes in Iowa are needed for the president to win re-election, no question about that.

Now, he does have strength in many rural areas of the state, but top Republicans here, John, are concerned. One telling me over the weekend, the bottom isn't falling out yet, but we can certainly see it.


BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny, whenever you're back in Iowa, you get a protective glow. Thanks so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

So, "Saturday Night Live" with their version of the vice presidential debate.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President, my first question is for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The topic is coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, you were in charge of the Coronavirus Task Force. And since you took charge, over 200,000 Americans have died. How do you explain that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Susan, I'd like to begin by stalling hard. We're in Utah. Wow. What a magnificent state. Even though their basketball team is named after my greatest fear, Jazz.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what they do, Susan, they avoid taking any responsibilities --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking. I'm speaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well, I'm just trying --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes, but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, but I'm speaking.

See, I'm speaking right now, (speaking in foreign language), Nevada, Arizona, some parts of Texas. I'm speaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Harris, if elected, would you pack the Supreme Court?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Susan, instead of answering that exact question, I would like to tell you the story of when Joe picked me to be his running mate.

Joe told me we were just going out for dinner. And then he got down on one knee. And that's when I knew that he needed help up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry to interrupt, Vice President Pence. There's a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: War on police in this country? I couldn't agree more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, there's a -- there's a giant --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lack of respect for militias? You're darned right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, Senator Harris, help me out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, I'm good! Looking real good, Mike! Keep it up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me at 'em! Let me at 'em!


CAMEROTA: It's hilarious! You're -- John, I really feel like your -- your threshold is too high. You weren't even cracking up during that.

BERMAN: It was OK. It was OK. They're doing OK. I mean, look, I --

CAMEROTA: I think Beck Bennet (ph) as Vice President Pence is really masterful.

BERMAN: Oh, absolutely. You can't tell -- you can't tell any difference at all.

CAMEROTA: He does a great job. BERMAN: And, you know, and Maya Rudolph (ph) was terrific too. It was good. And the fly, which is my favorite movie from the '80s, is also very good.

CAMEROTA: OK, I mean, I guess the lack of uproarious laughter is throwing me off.

BERMAN: I was laughing inside. Normally I'm crying inside.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough.

BERMAN: All right, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is heading back to the campaign trail, hitting a trio of battleground states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people who have been with him say he's fine, he's peppy. He will go on ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's foolish for him to do it.