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Trump Raises Over $170 Million Since Election Day with Baseless Claims; Democratic Officials Caught Not Following Their Own Coronavirus Guidelines; McConnell, Democratic House Leaders in Talks on Stimulus Deal; The Most Important Relationships in Congress Critical for Biden Early in His Administration. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 2, 2020 - 13:30   ET

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


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[13:33:20]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Even though it hurts the nation, and it undermines American democracy, part of why President Trump is dragging out his baseless protest against the election result, other than being a sore loser, is that he is raising cash off of it. A lot of it.

Since the election, a source tells CNN he has raised more than $170 million. That's 170 million bucks in 30 days.

And his campaign and allies have sent more than 400 fundraising e- mails, like this one, to get it, urging supporters to donate to a purported election-defense fund.

Well, it turns out, that's not where the majority of the money is going. The requests are being made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which shares its funds with Save America. That is a new leadership PAC.

And if you read the legal fine print here, it will tell you Save America actually gets the first cut of any money that comes in, 75 percent, to be exact. Most of it.

So the money purportedly being raised for his election legal team is really just a slush fund for Trump.

Joining us now, Larry Noble. He is the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission. He is also a CNN contributor.

You know, Larry, we look at this, it's, very clearly, deceptive. Is it legal, though?

LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's probably legal. And -- and good afternoon, Brianna. Yes, it's probably legal.

Look, most presidential committees use joint fundraising accounts to help them raise money for different parts of their -- of the campaign or for the political party.

But what's deceptive about this is that he is really selling it, not as helping him, but as his defense fund.

And -- and most of the money, as you said, is not going to defense fund but 75 percent of it is going towards what's called a leadership PAC.

[13:35:00]

And a leadership PAC can raise money and spend it pretty much on whatever he wants. They're limited in what they can give in contributions to other candidates.

But they can fly him around the country. They can employ his relatives, his friends. They can give gifts to people. They can pay his debts.

And so what I don't think most people realize is that you're not really paying into his defense fund when you make these contributions.

Rather, what you're doing is you are putting it into a large account -- or 75 percent of your money is going into a large account that he can spend pretty much any way he wants.

KEILAR: So he can spend it pretty much any way he wants, is what you are saying.

And I'm curious what your expectation is. Because we know, based on his past patterns of, say, the family foundation, which abused its access to money and misused it.

What would your expectations be for how this is spent?

NOBLE: Well, I think there may be a couple of ways he spends it. Traditionally, when a candidate has a leadership PAC or an officeholder has a leadership PAC, what they will do is use that money to fly themselves around the country, ostensibly, to be supporting other candidates.

But it's really about supporting themselves and keeping their names in the news. With him, that is a very big issue.

So, I suspect he is going to be using a lot of the money to travel around the country and to promote himself.

And then, beyond that, we may see it become a place for him to, basically, put people who he wants to stay loyal to him. He can pay family members through the leadership PAC.

I think it's all really going to promote him and the people he wants to -- wants to keep close to him.

And as you said, given his history, I think we have to be very careful watching it, watching exactly how they spend that money.

The good news is that it's all reported, how he spends it.

But are people really going to pay attention? Are -- are his contributors really going to pay attention? Because this really is equivalent to a slush fund for him.

KEILAR: Wow.

Larry, thank you so much for explaining that to us. Larry Noble with us today.

NOBLE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next, we're going to roll the tape on Democratic officials who are not following their own coronavirus rules.

Plus, just in, the head of the FDA summoned to the White House, again, as the president remains frustrated with the pace of vaccine approval.

And the emotional and fiery plea from a Georgia conservative to the president, about pushing election lies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED GEORGIA CONSERVATIVE: Someone's going to get hurt. Someone's going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[13:42:13]

KEILAR: A number of Democratic leaders, apologizing or reversing course, after multiple occurrences of "do as I say, not as I do." They have been caught, not following their own coronavirus guidelines.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed facing backlash after it was revealed she attended a birthday party last month at the French Laundry, the famed and exclusive Napa Valley restaurant, with seven other people at her table.

The mayor's office says it was an open-air table, which seems like semantics, since it was a partially-enclosed room complete with a ceiling and chandelier, according to the "San Francisco Chronicle."

And when this party happened, such gatherings were discouraged by statewide guidelines, even if indoor dining was permitted in Napa County.

The mayor traveled to the dinner outside of her own city, which was on the verge of entering its red tier, the second-most restrictive for the state.

And yesterday, Breed warned San Francisco may close all outdoor dining because the restrictions have not been working.

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MAYOR LONDON BREED (D-SAN FRANCISCO): We have to continue to do our part to distance ourselves from one another, and to limit our -- our activities.

We are in trouble. And we are sounding the alarm, as I said before. So that's going to mean some real challenging months ahead.

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KEILAR: Now the restaurant has been quite the draw for Democratic officials defying the spirit, if not the letter, of the very regulations they are telling their constituents to follow.

The day before Breed's dinner at the French Laundry, Governor Gavin Newsom also attended a party there with at least a dozen other people from different households. He, later, apologized for it.

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GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The spirit of what I am preaching all the time was contradicted and I got to own that. And so, I want to apologize to you because I need to preach and practice, not just preach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: In Los Angeles County, supervisor, Sheila Kuehl, voted to close outdoor dining last week, and then dined at a restaurant before the order took effect.

While explaining her vote, she said that it's magical thinking to say that people can wear masks and distance at a restaurant.

Kuehl's office says she felt sorry for the restaurant business's struggles and vowed she would not dine out again until the county permits it.

And in San Jose, California, Mayor Sam Liccardo is also apologizing for ignoring state restrictions during Thanksgiving when he attended a gathering with his elderly parents that included guests from five different households.

California limits households at private gatherings to three.

Before his large Thanksgiving dinner, Mayor Liccardo tweeted this guidance, quote, "Cancel the big gatherings this year and focus on keeping each other safe."

In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock told residents of his city to skip large Thanksgiving dinners. Quote, "Stay home and stay in touch with friends, family by phone or online."

[13:45:01]

He sent that tweet and then he promptly appeared at the Denver airport and flew to Mississippi to spend the holiday with his wife and daughter. The mayor's office confirming his traveling.

And Hancock later releasing a statement asking his city for forgiveness.

He said this, quote, "I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all- but-essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father. And for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that were born of my heart and not my head."

Now, he apologized to the residents who saw his decision as conflicting with guidance. But to be clear, this isn't a matter of interpretation. He did the exact opposite of what he told everyone else to do.

And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo last week told a local radio host his Thanksgiving would include his 89-year-old mother.

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GOV ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY) (voice-over): My mom is going to come up, and two of my girls, is the current plan. But the plans change.

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KEILAR: Then in the very same interview, Cuomo told New Yorkers that this couldn't be a typical Thanksgiving for them. That they shouldn't have friends and family gathering.

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CUOMO (voice-over): I'm trying to say to people, now, you know, you watch all these commercials on TV. And they're selling commercial Thanksgiving, right? Twenty people around the table. Pass me the wine. Pass me this.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: That's not happening. That can't happen. It can't happen.

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KEILAR: Now, the backlash was quick. Cuomo suddenly changed his plans.

One of the governor's advisers telling CNN that the next day Cuomo would now be working on the holiday.

The past few weeks brought into relief a pattern of leaders failing to lead by example, asking Americans to make sacrifices that they, themselves, are unwilling to make, and appearing sorry only when they're caught.

Trust is built slowly but it evaporates faster than reservations at a fancy restaurant.

A lot of these leaders, they are looking across the aisle to blame Republicans who aren't taking mask wearing seriously.

But maybe, it's time they also look in the mirror and ask themselves if that was really worth it.

Still ahead, the most important relationships in Congress that will be critical to the president-elect early in his administration. We will talk about that.

Plus, election officials across the country are getting death threats in the wake of President Trump's baseless-conspiracy theories. And I will be speaking, live, with one of them.

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[13:51:56]

KEILAR: This just into CNN. Republicans and Democrats are now in talks to try to get a stimulus deal passed to help millions of Americans.

House Democratic leader, Steny Hoyer, telling CNN he and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, have a talk scheduled today. He also said the two spoke on Monday.

Time is quickly running out. The current program expires at the end of the year.

President-Elect Joe Biden will be needing to rely on a few key relationships if anything gets done.

On the plus side, after 36 years in the Senate, he has more experience on Capitol Hill than any of his predecessors.

On the other hand, many of the lawmakers that Biden served with are no longer in office.

I want to bring in CNN's Michael Warren in Washington, D.C., to talk about this.

Michael, what are the most important relationships we should be keeping our eye on between Biden and those on the Hill?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: We'll you know, Joe Biden will have a very divided Washington, a narrow Democratic majority in the House. Depending on how these Georgia runoffs go, a narrow Republican majority perhaps in the Senate.

So if he wants to get anything done, he's going to have to deal with two different groups on Capitol Hill, leadership and moderates and centridts.

So let's talk about leaders first.

Mitch McConnell, the likely or possible Senate majority leader, no matter what happens, will still be a gatekeeper for so many important things that Biden will want to do early on, traditional nominations, cabinet appointments. Any big legislation will have to go through Mitch McConnell.

The good thing for Joe Biden is that they have a longstanding relationship. They served for nearly 25 years together in the Senate.

And then during the Obama administration, when relations between McConnell and President Obama were frosty, Joe Biden came in as sort of a chief negotiator for the administration on a lot of the fiscal cliff and some of the spending standoffs.

So that's an important relationship to watch.

Let's go over to the other side of the capital and the other side of the aisle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrats, again, a longtime colleague, she in the House, Biden in the Senate. They have known each other for more than 20 years.

And they also worked together closely in the Obama administration the very first couple of years on some big legislative items, like the stimulus and the Affordable Care Act.

Finally, on the leadership front, there's James Clyburn, the number- three Democrat in the House, the top-ranking black lawmaker in Congress.

Without his endorsement in the early part of this year, before the South Carolina primary, we might not be talking about a President Joe Biden.

Clyburn has putting a lot of pressure on the Biden team, privately and publicly, to increase the diversity of some of these cabinet picks and other advisers around President-Elect Biden.

KEILAR: When we look at Republicans, it's interesting to point out so many of them have still not acknowledged that Biden won the election.

Which Republicans are going to be key people that he will have to work with?

WARREN: Let's look at some of those Republicans who have in fact publicly acknowledged Biden and congratulated him.

The first was Mitt Romney, the Senator from Utah, who, of course, we remember challenged the Obama/Biden ticket in 2012. There doesn't seem to be bad blood between them.

[13:55:04]

Three years ago, Mitt Romney invited Joe Biden out to a summit in Utah. Romney told our colleague, Manu Raju, that he had a good conversation with Biden at that event.

And that will be something to watch because Romney has been willing to cross his party. And has said he would be willing to give Joe Biden's nominees for his cabinet some deference to Joe Biden.

The other who has congratulated Joe Biden is Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Senator from Alaska. She is up for re-election in 2022. She's also been willing to cross her party.

That's another relationship to watch as we wait for the Joe Biden administration to begin.

KEILAR: Michael, thank you so much for taking us through that. Much ahead of us. We'll be watching it with you.

There's some major new developments in the race for a vaccine. And they come at the same time that the CDC director is warning the next three months will be the most difficult in America's health history.

Plus, why would the president discuss pardons for family members who may not be under investigation?

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KEILAR: It's the top of the hour. I'm Brianna Keilar.

[13:59:56]

A ray of hope that vaccines are on the way clashing with the dire new statement from the CDC director moments ago.

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DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times.