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Trump Campaigns In Florida As Coronavirus Pandemic Escalates; Confirmation Hearings Begin For Trump's Supreme Court Nominee; Trump's Doctor Says, President Tested Negative On Consecutive Days; Technical Problems Force Long Lines In Georgia On First Day Of Early Voting. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We're monitoring a very, very large crowd just ahead of President Trump's campaign rally in Florida. Looking at these live pictures coming in, live pictures, amid serious fears that it could be another super-spreader event, as the state sees a new spike in cases.

The president is heading there right now. He's aboard Air Force One for his first big appearance outside the White House since his own battle with COVID-19. The president's doctor, by the way, just confirmed for the first time that president has tested negative for the virus on consecutive days.

Also breaking right now, Dr. Fauci tells CNN he's asking the Trump campaign to take down an ad that uses his remarks totally out of context to promote the president's response to the pandemic.

Also this hour, we're seeing more evidence the coronavirus crisis is worsening here in the U.S.; 31 states are now trending in the wrong direction. The death toll in the U.S. just topped 215,000, with nearly 7.8 million cases.

And the U.S. is reporting the highest average daily case rate in nearly two months.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's over at the Trump rally in Sanford, Florida, where there's a huge crowd. They have gathered.

Jim, the president's bout with COVID-19 seems to have little, little, if any, impact on the safety of these rallies. That crowd, I don't see any social distancing at all.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right, Wolf. And I can tell that, just in the last several minutes, we did receive

from the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, a new statement on the president's health. That statement says that the president has tested negative for coronavirus on consecutive days, but it was using a testing machine that is a more rapid testing machine and, in some cases, less reliable.

So we will have to keep tracking that. But, in the meantime, as you said, we're at this rally in Sanford, Florida, just outside Orlando, where, as you can see in this crowd behind me, many people here not wearing masks, not social distancing, potentially setting up the kind of super-spreader event that got the president sick in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even after putting his own health on the line by catching the coronavirus, President Trump is tempting fate with a go- for-broke campaign strategy, with plans for more big rallies, creating the potential for super-spreader events across the U.S.

And there are signs top White House officials haven't learned a thing, as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to wear a mask around reporters on Capitol Hill, despite being exposed to the president.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let me pull this away.

QUESTION: Yes. Pull away.

MEADOWS: And then, that way, I can take this off to talk.

QUESTION: No.

MEADOWS: Well, I'm more than 10 feet away. I'm not -- well, I'm not going to talk through a mask.

ACOSTA: Inside the hearing for Mr. Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, Utah GOP Senator Mike Lee was speaking without a mask after he tested positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks ago. The president believes, now that he's had the virus, he's immune from it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It looks I'm immune for, I don't know, maybe a long time, or maybe a short time. It could be a lifetime.

ACOSTA: The president plans to hold rallies this week in big battleground states, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina. But White House officials say there won't be a major change in safety protocols at the events.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will have the same policies that we have had in place.

ACOSTA: Over the weekend, the president staged a campaign-style rally on the White House South Lawn, where some in the crowd weren't wearing masks.

TRUMP: We've got to vote these people into oblivion. Vote them into oblivion.

ACOSTA: Democrat Joe Biden is blaming the president for that.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis has been unconscionable.

ACOSTA: To bolster his COVID credentials, the president is pointing to Dr. Anthony Fauci in a new campaign ad, creating the false impression the top health expert is praising Mr. Trump.

NARRATOR: President Trump tackled the virus head on, as leaders should.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.

ACOSTA: That prompted Fauci to state he's not offering Mr. Trump his support.

FAUCI: I think it's really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that. To take a completely out-of-context statement and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought, was really very disappointing.

ACOSTA: A former senior administration official who worked on the White House COVID Task Force told CNN, "The West Wing has been muzzling Fauci," adding, "There were conversations about not letting Fauci talk on TV. They would say he's exaggerating, he's alarmist."

The administration is still failing to bring the pandemic under control, as the U.S. is averaging roughly 50,000 cases every day, the highest average since mid-August. Yet the president has been telling the public the U.S. is rounding the turn on the virus.

TRUMP: We're really rounding the turn. And the vaccines are coming. We're rounding the turn. You see what's happening. You see the numbers are plunging. You see how good we're doing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:02]

ACOSTA: And the president will be holding more of these possible super-spreader rallies in the coming days. He goes to Pennsylvania tomorrow, which is obviously a critical battleground state.

But he's also heading off to Iowa and North Carolina, two states that really should be in the bag for the president right now.

But, Wolf, getting back to this crowd here, you can see there are thousands of people here not wearing masks, not social distancing. Even after the president of the United States got the coronavirus, it hasn't changed the behavior for either him or his supporters -- Wolf. BLITZER: And not just the president, but the first lady and so many of

the president's top aides at the White House, they also got the coronavirus. Hard to believe what's going on.

Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. Be careful over there. We will get back to you.

Let's get some more on all these disturbing trends unfolding in the pandemic.

CNN's Brian Todd is putting all of this together for us.

Brian, we heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci just a little while ago. He spoke with our own Jake Tapper, and he sounded very concerned.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is worried, Wolf, Dr. Fauci worried about the projections ahead for fall and winter. But he's also hitting home the point that Americans have the ability to bring some of those dire projections down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a new warning from America's top voice on the coronavirus pandemic, as new cases nationally are up 40 percent from a month ago.

FAUCI: We should be doubling down in implementing the public health measures that we have been talking about for so long, which are keeping a distance, no crowds, wearing masks, washing hands, doing things outside, as opposed to inside, in order to get those numbers down.

We're entering into the cool months of the fall and ultimately the cold months of the winter. And that's just a recipe of a real problem.

TODD: There are new worries that Florida could return to previous crisis levels. Some top experts say Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wasn't tough enough regarding distancing and mask-wearing rules and opened too many places back up too soon.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: Florida is ripe for another large outbreak.

What they have done is opened up everything as if nothing had ever happened there. And you and I could be talking probably in eight to 10 weeks, and I will likely bet that Florida will be a house on fire.

TODD: Florida now joins more than 30 American states with new coronavirus cases trending upward. Many hot spots in the Upper Midwest and Plains states, rural areas where hospitals are overwhelmed.

One public health director in North Dakota told CNN today they had less than 20 hospital beds available in the entire state.

RENAE MOCH, DIRECTOR, BISMARCK-BURLEIGH PUBLIC HEALTH: 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.

TODD: In New York, positivity rates in hot spot neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and suburban counties outside New York City continue to be way above the rest of the state.

And officials say law enforcement will step up measures to enforce shutdown and distancing rules in those communities. Not all of the news is bad. A Brown University survey of more than 200,000 students in 47 states shows that, at least early in the school year, schools do not appear to be the super-spreaders they were feared to be, with infection rates among students and staff often lower than they were in their broader communities.

EMILY OSTER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, BROWN UNIVERSITY: A lot of the schools in our data are doing masking. Some of them are doing distancing. Some of them are doing smaller pods.

TODD: But growing concerns over mental health impacts. A new article published today in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" warns -- quote -- "A second wave of devastation is imminent," a mental health crisis, with increased deaths from suicide and drug overdoses.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This is not just about isolation. This is about people losing their jobs, feeling socially and economically insecure. And that is what is driving many of these mental health issues and substance use issues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: All of which is taxing America's resources and finances.

According to an article just published today by "The Journal of the American Medical Association," the estimated cost of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is more than $16 trillion. The authors of that report say, this is the greatest threat to the U.S. economy since the Great Depression -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. That's awful, indeed.

All right, Brian, thank you very much.

We're joined now by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former Obama White House health policy adviser, now the vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

He just co-wrote a very important new study comparing COVID-19 deaths here in the United States to 18 other countries.

Dr. Emanuel, thank you so much for joining us.

I want to get to that study in a moment. But we just got this letter from the president's doctor, saying the president tested negative on consecutive days with an antigen test and is not infectious to others, according to the president's physician.

[18:10:00]

Does this put you at ease that the president as he's getting ready for this rally in Florida tonight? Or do you have more questions, based on the letter?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Well, having multiple rapid tests is actually good.

As I think your reporter said, the rapid tests are not as precise, as technically sensitive as the PCR test. But having multiple ones does increase your confidence that the result is a true result. And so that is good.

But the impact is more than just the president. The impact is modeling behavior. And the president himself is not modeling good behavior. And he's creating crowds, without masks, without social distancing, yelling and screaming, all of which are, we know, if someone in there has -- is positive, is the kind of situation to create super-spreading events.

And we know that this coronavirus, 80 percent of cases are from these kinds of super-spreading events. So, this is very worrisome from that perspective.

BLITZER: Yes, thousands of people have gathered in Sanford, Florida, right now. We will show our viewers this crowd. It's a huge crowd for this rally tonight.

Very little -- there's no social distancing at all. Thousands of people are there, and not everyone, of course, wearing a mask.

These rallies, they were taking place before the president's illness. It almost looked like -- looks like campaigning as usual pre-pandemic. Look at the crowd, very few people, as I said, wearing masks, very little, if any, social distancing.

From your perspective, Dr. Emanuel, how risky is this?

EMANUEL: And also yelling, Wolf.

BLITZER: They're yelling and screaming. They're applauding, obviously, as well.

EMANUEL: Yelling.

BLITZER: So how risky is this?

EMANUEL: Very risky.

This is the top end of risk. When we did a risk index, having fans go to football games and outdoor sporting events was actually in the highest risk category. And this is basically equivalent to that.

BLITZER: Yes. EMANUEL: And we should not be doing this.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very -- and the president of sets a bad example when he goes out doesn't even wear a mask, even though when -- here's Air Force -- he boarded Air Force One a little while ago to make the flight to Florida at Joint Base Andrews.

Everybody else is wearing masks, but the president clearly not wearing a mask. He could set an important example to his political supporters if he simply wore a mask. He simply refuses to do so.

On average, Dr. Emanuel, the country is recording now almost 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day, even though the president said over the weekend, this virus is disappearing. Dr. Fauci is warning that, if we don't get these numbers down, it's a recipe for real problems, especially in the coming months, as we approach winter.

Is the willpower there to double down after all these months and get this done?

EMANUEL: I think the willpower is there, but it's got to be led. And we have to actually galvanize people.

And the president's not doing that. You have to model the right behavior. You have to get other leaders, whether in sports or entertainment or business or in academia, to all do the right thing, and to model this and create a social norm.

I mean, we showed, when we compared to Italy, right? Right after April and May, when there was all of this overwhelming of the system, Italy actually did the right thing. And they were able to bring the number of cases down. If we had followed Italy, and been able to bring the number of cases down, we'd have 90,000 fewer deaths after that first wave, compared to Italy.

We know how to do it. It's not like Italy has some vaccine or magic treatment that we don't have. It's that they are better at putting in place these public health measures. And we know what they are, right? Everyone knows what they are. And that's the problem.

We're having tens of thousands of people die because we're not willing to do that. And we should be shocked and ashamed of ourselves as a country for that.

BLITZER: It's true.

And, as Dr. Ashish Jha said to me in the last hour, only in the United States is wearing a mask a political statement. Everyplace else in the world, it's accepted as absolutely essential to save lives.

You just published a very important study, Dr. Emanuel, looking at the death rate here in the United States compared to 18 other countries. Tell our viewers what you found out.

EMANUEL: Well, if you compare us to the absolute best countries, like Australia, I mean, we have -- most of the 200,000 deaths we have should be alive.

If you compare ourselves to Italy or Canada, we have tens of thousands of excess deaths after the first wave, after that big bulge, when all the systems were sort of turned upside down, and we didn't know how to cope.

But, beginning in May, if you compare the United States to Italy, we have 90,000 extra deaths. That's 90,000 Americans who should be alive if we were just as good at fighting this pandemic as Italy. And, similarly, if you look at us compared to France, we should have -- or the Netherlands, we should have 100,000 people alive.

[18:15:08]

And if you compare us to Canada, 117,000 Americans would still be alive. We have been doing a very bad job. And other European or Canadian countries have been doing a much better job at doing these public health measures.

And, again, they don't have some magic bullet. They don't have a treatment or something else that we don't have. What they have is the resolve to do those basic public health measures, stay outdoors, stay socially distanced, wear a face mask, do hand hygiene, and keep to small crowds, because we know that large crowds create these super- spreading events.

It's not that hard, but we will only do it as a country if we have the leadership.

BLITZER: It's only going to get worse as the weather gets colder.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thanks for everything you're doing. Thanks for joining us.

EMANUEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead: The president is about to resume his crowded campaign rallies, but are Americans buying his efforts to seem like things are back to normal?

And Joe Biden's campaign is going on the offensive tonight in states President Trump had hoped to win.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:33]

BLITZER: Right now, President Trump is on his way to a packed rally in Florida. Thousands are already there. We're not seeing much in the way of coronavirus safety, unfortunately, despite the president's own recent infection and the infection of so many of his top aides, including others around the president, the first lady, for example.

Let's bring in our CNN White House Correspondent, John Harwood, and CNN Political Commentator, Bakari Sellers. He's author -- the author, by the way, of a new book, "My Vanishing Country:

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

John, you can see the president boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews a little while ago, and he's the only one there. It's raining. But you can see he's not wearing a mask as he's heading to this campaign rally. What do you make of the president's attempts right now to make it look like everything is back to normal, despite the fact he's still recovering from coronavirus, and nearly 1,000 Americans a day are still dying?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think he needs it emotionally and psychologically.

Think about the relentless bad news that he has been receiving over the last several months, poor handling of the coronavirus, racial justice protests in American cities, bad debate performance, bad polls. He's going in reverse direction against Joe Biden. He knows he's losing.

And I think, when he was cooped up, first in Walter Reed, and then in the White House, he's watching television all the time, and the coverage is bad. It's even bad on FOX, as he complains on Twitter. And I think he wants to go out and bask in the adulation of the people who go to these rallies.

And he's heedless of the health consequences for himself, as well as for his supporters. But I think -- I think this is about his psyche right now.

BLITZER: How do you see it, Bakari.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I see it as feeding into a very narcissistic president. We know him to be that.

And I think that the tragedy is that, when he leaves Florida today, we do know that he's going to leave in his wake illness. We know that individuals who go to this rally, there's a high likelihood that, medical experts will tell you, this is one of the most dangerous things you can do during a pandemic.

The president doesn't care about that. And I think that what we're seeing here is not a Democrat or Republican talking point. This is an overwhelmingly American ideal that people should wear masks, that people should social distance. And it's -- this is a new Trump Republican Party that all of a sudden wants to make social distancing and masks a political issue.

A lot of these individuals who are at this rally tonight are senior citizens, or they're young people who will go back home to senior citizens. It's just completely selfish.

And I think that the example is being set, the clear dichotomy between Joe Biden and Donald Trump could not be clearer on a day like today.

BLITZER: John, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, clearly isn't taking all this as seriously as he should.

Once again, let me play the exchange he had with reporters up on Capitol Hill today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEADOWS: Let me do this. Let me pull this away.

QUESTION: Yes. Pull away.

MEADOWS: And then, that way, I can take this off to talk.

QUESTION: No.

MEADOWS: Well, I'm more than 10 feet away. I'm not -- well, I'm not going to talk through a mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What did you think of that?

Because, Mark Meadows, he spent a lot of time with the president when he was over at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, spent a lot of time since then with the president.

But the reporters, understandably, got nervous when he wanted to talk to them without wearing a mask. And then he eventually just left.

HARWOOD: It was ridiculous, Wolf.

One of one of the people pressing him to keep that mask on, by the way, was our colleague Kristin Wilson, a producer on Capitol Hill.

But, look, this shows you that the caliber of White House staff is a reflection of the caliber of leadership that we're getting from the president of the United States. Mark Meadows ought to know better than to behave so irresponsibly, to do such a poor job of modeling the correct behavior.

Even if he has a president who is out of touch with reality and not tracking in any way what he ought to be doing to lead the country, Mark Meadows ought to know better. But he chose to do that.

[18:25:01]

Maybe he's trying to please the president. Maybe he is so sealed up in this non-reality bubble that so many Republicans are sealed up in, that they don't even recognize the true importance of public health measures, the fact that Tony Fauci and Deborah Birx and the members of the task force who've said, wearing -- Robert Redfield of the CDC -- the people who've said that wearing masks is the best single step people can take to prevent the spread of disease, even though Mark Meadows has been exposed to a huge number of people who have tested positive.

It's incredibly disappointing and a reflection of the caliber of this White House right now.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right, John Harwood, thank you. Bakari Sellers, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead: the Democrats' strategy, as confirmation hearings begin for the president's U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

And we will also break down the new statement by the president's physician confirming for the first time that the president now has tested negative for the coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: Confirmation hearings for the president's Supreme Court nominee kicked off today, Senate Republicans pushing ahead big time with their goal of trying to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to by Election Day despite the Democrats' very strong objections.

Our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Matingly, is covering the hearings for us. Phil, after the first day, do Republicans seem to be on track right now with their timetable?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. If there's one thing, and there may only be one thing, that both Republicans and Democrats agree on, it's that, at this moment, Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court nominee, should everything go according to plan, will be confirmed before the November election.

And that actually provide a window into House senators in both parties operated today. In the first day of the hearing, really the introductory part of the hearing, just opening statements from the 22 members of the Judiciary Committee, and the Supreme Court nominee herself. And you saw Democrats focused extremely hard on issues, on the types of things that Amy Coney Barrett may vote on in the future if she does end up in the Supreme Court or on the Supreme Court, whereas Republicans are focused just on defending the nominee and making clear she is imminently qualified. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): This Supreme Court nominee has signaled in the judicial equivalent of all caps, that she believes the Affordable Care Act must go and that the precedent protecting the ACA doesn't matter.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Now, in any measure, Judge Barrett's credentials are impeccable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, you saw some version of that going back and forth between Democrats and Republicans throughout the day and expect to see it when the question and answer portion begins starting tomorrow and continuing on to Wednesday.

Democrats want to make this about the Affordable Care Act. Obviously, the Supreme Court will take up a case to strike down the Affordable Care Act just a few days after the election, a case Amy Coney Barrett would be seated to rule on if she is confirmed to rule before that time.

And Democrats want to make this case, not to try and persuade Republicans to vote against Amy Coney Barrett, they know the 51 votes necessary are already there, but to make the case to the American people at a very, very key moment in time for an election, on an issue, Wolf, that Democrats believe cycle after cycle over the course to last couple of elections, they have won out on, the issue of health care.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting for us, Phil, thanks very much. We're joined now by our Chief Legal analyst, the former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin. He's also the author of the new book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors, the Investigation of Donald Trump.

I know you watched the hearings closely earlier in the day. You've been reviewing Judge Barrett's record, Jeffrey, including her work with an admiration for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. What kind of justice would Amy Coney Barrett be if she is confirmed?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know what specially struck me today was that Judge Barrett didn't just embrace Justice Scalia as a friend and a mentor, she said, I am going to be the same kind of justice.

And so what does that mean? Well, Antonin Scalia thought Roe versus Wade was incorrectly decided and should be overturned. He thought that the Constitution should be interpreted as the framers understood it, so that means no protections for LGBT people, no protections for women. That's how the framers thought of it. And it's a very different approach than Ruth Bader Ginsburg had. But this is the approach that Judge Barrett endorsed without a provocation today.

BLITZER: In her opening statement today, and she will only start answering the senators' questions tomorrow morning, but in her opening statement, she reaffirmed her stance that the court should leave it to legislators to make the law as if she is confirmed. How will that stance inform her decision-making when the Affordable Care Act, for example, comes before the Supreme Court who's supposed to hear arguments a week after the election?

TOOBIN: You know, that was really kind of fascinating, I thought, because you know, you have all the Republicans saying you know, keep the courts out of policymaking, leave that to Congress. Well, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. It is the law of the land passed by the Democratically elected branches of government, but Republicans, over and over again, have asked the unelected judges to strike it down and they're their asking the court to do that again the week after the election. So it will be interesting to see if Judge Barrett engages on that question because it is a pretty contradictory position.

[18:35:04]

BLITZER: It's only about three weeks to go until Election Day. Barrett's confirmation hearing is playing out though as voters are already casting their ballots by the millions here in the U.S. Look at these images, for example, hundreds of voters lining up to make their voices heard as Judge Barrett appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier today.

So, how extraordinary is it, Jeffrey, to see those things happening almost simultaneously?

TOOBIN: Never happened, never happened before in American history, that we have had a Supreme Court confirmation so close to the election. And the Democrats I think recognizing that Judge Barrett is on a glide path to confirmation. They are using this hearing to talk about health care. They are saying this vote is a proxy for whether the Affordable Care Act survives.

They think that's a political winner, as several of these senators, especially several of these Republicans, face the voters in a few days. That's what they're focusing on is the election in November. Not this vote in the Senate, because they know, barring some widely unexpected development, they're going to lose and Judge Barrett is going to win.

BLITZER: What do you expect to see tomorrow morning when the she starts answering the senators' questions?

TOOBIN: Well, one thing I'm sure we're not going to see is any sort of attack on her religion. You saw Senator Holly of Missouri, you know, making out like she's been attacked because of her religion and the senators are going after her. No Democrat even mentioned that at all, her Catholicism. What I expect will be a lot of pressure on her to explain her views about the Affordable Care Act, because that's the case the Democrats are all focused on.

I expect like most or all Supreme Court nominees, since Robert Bork in 1987, she will not engage with the senators much at all about her actual judicial philosophy and it will be very frustrating for the Democrats who try to draw her out.

BLITZER: We'll, of course, have live coverage tomorrow. All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, the president's doctor just confirmed for the first time that Mr. Trump has tested negative for the virus on consecutive days.

Plus, California authorities are investigating several fake and possibly illegal mail-in ballot drop boxes set up in the state. We'll have much more. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: The breaking news we're following in a new statement, President Trump's doctor has confirmed for the first time that the president tested negative for the coronavirus on consecutive days, but he fails to give specific dates.

Let's discuss what we just got from the president's physician with Dr. Megan Ranney, she's an Emergency Room Physician at Brown University. Dr. Ranney, thanks so much for joining us.

Dr. Sean Conley, the physicians says, and I'm quoting now from his letter, I can share with you that he has tested negative on consecutive days using the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen card. Explain what that means. Is that the standard -- that's the fast test as opposed to more reliable, longer test? Is that right?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: That is exactly right. The antigen test is a much more rapid test and it is much less accurate. It received an emergency use authorization from the FDA to diagnose disease in symptomatic people. In no way, shape or form is this test intended to determine infectiousness. And, in fact, its clearance by the FDA specifically says that it should not be used for this purpose.

This letter says to me that the president's physician is cherry- picking tests and cherry-picking results to try to provide the answer that they want to see rather than what is actually going on.

BLITZER: Yes, it's disturbing they wouldn't do that, that other test, which is much more reliable. It takes maybe two or three days to get the result, but that's the gold standard, right?

RANNEY: That's exactly right. The second kind of test is the molecular test, the PCR, the big swab up the nose that any of us who have gotten tested are familiar with. That test can take a couple of days, but there are actually quicker versions of it, where we can get accurate results back in just a few hours.

That's actually what the CDC recommends. If you are going to test to determine whether to stop isolation, they recommend two negative PCR tests more than 24 hours apart. It's really simple to follow the CDC's rules and, again, the president's physician does not seem to be following those rules.

BLITZER: Well, why wouldn't they do a PCR test? That's the better test. You just pick a swab, you put it on the nose, you get the results back.

RANNEY: That's the million-dollar question, Wolf. I don't know why they wouldn't do the PCR test. It is what any physician who takes care of COVID-19 patients is going to recommend. I get why they want the president to be non-infectious so that they can take him off of isolation and get him on the campaign trail, but they should do it the right way. There really is no reason to not do it unless it's not giving them the results they're looking for.

BLITZER: Well, that's my suspicious that he did get the PCR test, but it showed that he was still positive, so they don't want to talk about that. And the really bad thing is that Dr. Conley has refused for a week now to meet with reporters and answer their questions. He releases these short little statements, but he's not meeting with reporters. It's been a whole week right now. The American public, and I'm sure you agree, they have questions. They deserve answers.

[18:45:02]

RANNEY: I 100 percent agree. I mean, certainly, there's patient-doctor privilege. There's HIPAA. Dr. Conley is not obliged to tell anything that President Trump doesn't want him to share.

However, I would argue he's our president. We, as the American public, have a right to know what's going on with him and this sort evasiveness creates a lot of distrust and questions among the medical community, but again, among the voting public who deserve to know if our president is actually healthy or not.

BLITZER: And one more -- one more thing before I let you go, Dr. Ranney. The letter said the president tested negative on consecutive days, but the letter doesn't say which days they're talking about. That's significant, right?

RANNEY: That is significant. Again, the CDC's recommendations say that someone should have a negative PCR test, which is that gold standard swab up the nose test, two days in a row. Not telling us which days this, that the president tested negative on, it could have been three days ago then he had two positive tests and then another negative test, which wouldn't count.

But again, the fact that he's reporting the antigen tests just makes me shrug my shoulder anyhow because it's not a test I would ever use for this purpose.

BLITZER: And that's why we'd like Dr. Conley to come before us and answer questions. The American public has a right to know.

Dr. Ranney, thank you so much for joining us.

Just ahead, we're seeing more long lines as states open for early voting here in the United States. Millions of folks have already voted. Look at these long lines in Georgia just today.

We'll be right back.

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[18:51:16]

BLITZER: Tonight, new voting concerns as Americans cast early ballots across the country, long lines and a technical glitch on the first day of voting in one state and accusations of ballot tampering in another.

Our senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown has been digging into all of this for us.

Pamela, similar problems apparently are popping up nationwide. PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are. And,

Wolf, millions of Americans have already cast their ballots in this election, and one of the methods that they're using right now is getting a lot of attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Roughly 8 million Americans have already cast their ballots. Some standing in line for hours.

JULIA VINEYARD, NEVADA VOTER WHO WAITED 5 HOURS IN LINE: I thought maybe one hour most I would never even have came out to be honest if I knew it would be five hours.

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

SHANNON KAEHNY, CALIFORNIA VOTER: It's insane. I just -- I can't imagine in what world you would think that that would be acceptable.

BROWN: 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 gain traction. So I'm really worried that someone put their ballot in there.

BROWN: In a sermon at the church, the pastor denied tampering with any ballots.

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

BROWN: 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 also gone, as the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office investigates.

KAEHNY: It's an attack on democracy. It's not okay.

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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The poll booths, and I can tell you, we see it, we see it now, they're going to be swamped. Get out and vote and make sure your vote counts.

BROWN: 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.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And in California, Wolf, there were several counties where these fake drop boxes popped up. Now, the D.A. is investigating, and it turns out the state Republican Party bought these fake drop boxes in at least one county but the spokesman will not say how many they bought, where they put them. The GOP, however, is denying any wrongdoing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch all of this very closely together with you, Pamela. Thank you very, very much.

And we'll have much more news right after this.

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[18:58:56]

BLITZER: Finally, in our nightly tribute to coronavirus victims, we honor two brothers who died within 12 days of one another.

Ralph Gismondi of New York was 68 years old. A first responder on 9/11, he went on to work as a flight attendant and he enjoyed traveling the world. We're told he was very close with his family, wife Ann, their two daughters, their grandchildren, and his brother Nicholas.

Nicholas Gismondi of New Jersey was 65. He was in the hospital when he learned his older brother Ralph had died. Nicholas also was known as a family man, as well as an active volunteer, an exceptional baseball and basketball player. Affectionately called Papi, he leaves behind wife Mary Jane, three sons, and two grandchildren.

May they rest in peace. And may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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