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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

New Book Reveals More about Donald Trump's Presidency; New Exit Polling in California Recall Election; Interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); New Exit Polling In California Recall Election; Voting Underway In California: Gov. Newsom's Job Stake; Data: 9.1+ Million Pre-Election Ballots Cast; 52% From Dems; Tropical Depression Nicholas Slows, Dumps Torrential Rain. Comedian Norm MacDonald Dies At 61. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks so much. I appreciate your time.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. It is a big night in California where polls and the gubernatorial election closed -- a recall election, excuse me close in exactly three hours. Now, in a moment we'll have new exit polling, and we'll talk to Senator Bernie Sanders who campaigned for Governor Newsom in California.

The race not only will determine whether Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom holds on to his job, but as President Biden said during a campaign stop last night for the California Governor, quote, "The eyes of the nation are on California." In part for what this election says about the mood of the electorate, but also what it says about the shadow the former President has cast over the election.

Both he and the leading Republican candidate in the race have already without any evidence began talking about a rigged election in that state, and that gets us to our breaking news.

There are new excerpts from a forthcoming book about the former President and his administration, co-authored by legendary journalist, Bob Woodward and his "Washington Post" colleague, Robert Costa.

Jamie Gangel has breaking new information on the book all day and has new details right now. So Jamie, let's start with the reporting about the call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Joint Chiefs Chairman General Milley.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So let me just say the book has new details about what Trump was doing on January 6 during the insurrection, how Mike Pence kept asking if there was a way to help Trump, and what Trump says behind Kevin McCarthy's back, but let's start with Milley and Pelosi. What we know is the General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

took secret action to limit President Donald Trump's ability to order a dangerous military strike or to use nuclear weapons according to Woodward and Costa.

Just to set the stage, it's January 8th, two days after the assault on the Capitol and Woodward and Costa reveal that Milley is deeply shaken by the attack, that he believes President Trump has become increasingly unstable and unpredictable since his election loss and they also write that Milly believed Trump was in serious mental decline.

It turns out that so does Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She calls Milley because she is worried about the nuclear weapons. And after the call, Milley -- he reassures her, but he thinks to himself, she is right. I need to act.

He knows from Intelligence from China that China is on the edge and that China is concerned Trump may do a wag the dog, a military strike to stay in power. So Milley calls an extraordinary meeting.

He calls the Pentagon War Room, and he brings in all the generals and the officials. And he says to them that as a precaution that he wants to make sure that they follow the proper procedures.

And this according to Woodward and Costa, is what Milley says, quote: "If you get calls, no matter who they're from, there's a process here. There's a procedure. No matter what you're told, you do the procedure, you do the process and I'm part of the procedure."

Now, technically as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley is not in the chain of command, but remember, he is the top adviser to the President and what he was doing here was just making sure that there were no illegal or dangerous orders.

Woodward and Costa do write that Milley may be criticized for what some may think is overstepping his authority, but that Milley believed his actions were a good faith precaution against something dangerous happening.

COOPER: It's really -- I mean, that's extraordinary. There's also new detail in the book about what the former President was doing while attackers and rioters were breaking into the Capitol.

GANGEL: Right. So we've known that from past reporting that he was apparently sitting and watching television. But what Woodward and Costa report is that Pence's National Security adviser, retired General Kellogg is in there with Trump and he is watching Trump, and he is watching it get more and more out of control, and he finally says to Trump, according to Woodward and Costa, "Sir, Mr. President, you really should do a tweet. This is out of control. They're not going to be able to control this. Sir, they are not prepared for it. Once a mob starts turning like that, you've lost it."

And according to Woodward and Costa, Trump said, "Yes." He blinked and he kept on watching television. [20:05:04]

COOPER: You've also got some previous reported information about what former Vice President Pence was reaching out for advice on what to do in Congress on January 6th.

GANGEL: Right. So we know that Pence got to the right place on January 6, but what's extraordinary in the book is Woodward and Costa report that he really appeared to be struggling and was looking for a way to help Trump. It seems as if over and over, he's asking people, is there anything I can do?

And Woodward and Costa have a remarkable scene where Pence reaches out for advice to former Vice President Dan Quayle, also from Indiana. And in the book, Pence asks Quayle over and over and over, is there anything he can do? And over and over, Quayle has to basically shut him down.

Here's what from the book. He says to Quayle. "You know, is there anything I can do?" And Quayle says, "Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away." Pence: "You don't know the position I'm in?" Quayle: "I do know the position you're in. I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That's all you do. You have no power."

COOPER: I mean, we all saw on the immediate aftermath of January 6 that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that he thought Trump bears responsibility for what happened. He quickly backtracked.

Now, he spent a lot of energy backtracking ever since then. What does the book say about the relationship?

GANGEL: There's the famous picture of him going down to Mar-a-Lago. Well, it turns out that the book reveals Trump is still very angry with the Republicans who blamed him for the insurrection, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. And McCarthy may think, Anderson, that he is back in Trump's good graces.

But according to Woodward and Costa, this is what Trump told friends in the book, quote, Trump said, "This guy called me every single day, pretended to be my best friend. And then he effed me. He's not a good guy. Kevin came down to kiss my ass and wants my help to win the House back."

Look, as we know, Kevin McCarthy has one goal, to be Speaker of the House. That doesn't sound like an endorsement, Anderson.

COOPER: It's really fascinating. Jamie Gangel, thanks so much.

GANGEL: Thank you.

COOPER: Perspective now from two Republicans, CNN political commentator, Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and former Congresswoman, Barbara Comstock of Virginia.

Congresswoman Comstock, I'm wondering what you make of this new reporting?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think the American people should thank Vice President Dan Quayle. First of all, that was solid and good advice.

None of this information is too surprising. What is happening now with these books, and what will happen with the January 6th Committee and the subpoenas and the texts and the e-mails that come from all of these people close to the President, we're going to see it in a lot more detail.

And unfortunately, as we get more detail, it is going to look even more awful for Donald Trump, because every time you think you're in the basement of awfulness with Donald Trump, there's another basement below it.

But the great news, and I think that is coming out in these books and will come out in the hearings also, is that you had Republican officials even within his own White House, certainly within his administration, who said no to him.

And you also had officials in Arizona and Georgia and other states, who also said no, and unfortunately, are paying political consequences, but I think history will reward them. And a party that keeps trying to hitch itself to this sore loser who is a dangerous, but a very diminished and unpopular politician is going to be a losing party.

COOPER: Scott, do you believe General Milley did the right thing?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR Well, I think he probably would say he did the only thing he could do, which is try to keep things on the rails, you know, long enough for a new President to take over.

And although as you know, Anderson, I've been quite critical of what Donald Trump did in the aftermath of January 6th and the events leading up to January 6th, I'm very concerned about the prospect of our military leaders. In this case, our top military commander essentially going around the President, going over the President, having secret meetings inside the government, according to some reporting in this book, maybe even calling China, which is our adversary and having conversations with his counterpart over there.

To me, as concerned as I am about a Commander-in-Chief being off the rails, I'm also concerned about our unelected military leaders doing things that are not in the character of a civilian run military.

So this entire episode to me is extraordinarily concerning and I actually think General Milley has some questions to answer about what he did.

To me if he was that concerned, Anderson, he should have gone public. Instead, he kept all of his concerns private and did things privately and although some will applaud him, I think we have to have a public accounting of this. [20:10:18]

COOPER: That's interesting, Scott. I mean, you think it would have been better for him to publicly come out and say something about his concerns about the President as opposed to talking to Generals, and as you said, you know, whatever the details of his conversation with China, if there was one?

JENNINGS: Yes. I think that it's obvious that he had extreme concerns. I mean, he said, according to the book, he thought the President was in mental decline. He had concerns about the President's decision making capacity.

And although I'm certain there are legal steps that he took inside of his position that were appropriate, I do think if you have the top military commander in the country with these concerns, enough of a concern to call these extraordinary meetings, and maybe even contact foreign countries, I do believe public knowledge of that would have been warranted at the time.

And I certainly think now, public knowledge of it is warranted, and we really need an accounting of how all that went down. Maybe there's more to learn in the book when it comes out. But it's all very troubling that you had both the civilian military leader and the top military leader doing things that were really not in the character of our normal chain of command.

COOPER: Congresswoman, what do you think?

COMSTOCK: Well, I think what he was doing was saying there is a proper procedure, if any of these actions are taken, and he was certainly alerting all of the people to that. You had people in the same timeframe who were going to senators, who are going to Members of Congress and saying the same type of things.

Remember, some of his Cabinet quit the day after. There were people calling for the 25th Amendment to be invoked. I was. I know Adam Kinzinger and others were saying we need to have the 25th Amendment.

So what was said by General Milley and others is not something that wasn't said by many Republicans. And that's what I mean, when I say, as this comes out, you're going to see there were lots of people both within the White House and elsewhere, and thank you to General Milley for using the procedures, I think all he was doing, and I think this is what will come out and sure he can testify and talk about it, as should General Kellogg, and many others who were there with the President that day.

But what he was doing was saying, this is an unstable person we're dealing with. I can assure you that was said by lots of Republican Members of Congress. And we need to make sure that all of the processes that are in place are taken if he tries to do something, anything untoward because this was an unstable person who we know was calling up people.

And I think one of the voices you haven't heard from that I think we really need to hear from is his counsel's office, his chief counsel. All of these calls that were being made, you know that the President himself made, they were made because his own counsel said you shouldn't do this, according to reports. Because he knew if he did the kind of things that Trump did, he might be up for disbarment.

So I think you need to hear from all of the people around the President who told him to stop doing many of the things he was doing, and they did -- you know, they ignored his commands, too, because they were unconstitutional. And they were not things, you know, whether they were amoral, immoral, unconstitutional, they were things that many of the people including his own family -- I mean, look, the reporting is that Ivanka and Jared didn't want to have anything to do with it.

Well, if they didn't want to have anything to do with the President, they shouldn't have been in there as family members and also pretending to be staff. When it came down to it, they didn't want to talk to dear old dad and tell him what he should do.

So, all of these people should be out there with a public accounting, but I thank General Milley. I thank all of the people who stopped this President from his unconstitutional actions and we need -- that's why this January 6th commission is going to be so important and God bless all the Republicans who are out there fighting for it.

COOPER: Congresswoman Comstock, appreciate it. Scott Jennings as well. Thank you very much.

Still to come tonight, our coverage of the California recall election, including John King at the magic wall on Democrats and Republicans chances, plus which counties to watch for tonight, a sense of where this recall election may be headed.

Also ahead, we'll speak with Senator Bernie Sanders about the state of the race and about that long shadow the former President and his conspiracy theories have cast over this California race.



COOPER: In a moment, we'll have the latest exit polling on the California recall race including opinions about Governor Newsom and how he has handled the pandemic, but before we do that, I want to go to magic wall and our John King. So how hard, John, would be for Governor Newsom to lose tonight.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it would simply take a giant revolt among California Democrats, and what do I mean by that? Here's the question.

Question one on the ballot. There are two questions, one, is keep Newsom, recall Newsom. Do you want to keep your Governor and let him finish his term or you want to recall him and stop midstream? For that to happen. Let's go back to the history. 2018, Gavin Newsom wins the election with 62 percent of the vote.

California is an overwhelmingly blue. State fast forward to 2020 and the presidential election. Let me click that right up here.

Joe Biden wins by an even greater percentage, 63.5 percent to 34 percent for Donald Trump. California even more. Voter registration trending even more in favor of the Democrats. So Gavin Newsom, not only -- but all the Republicans have to turn out and vote against him, a lot of Democrats would have to vote against him or stay home. It's that perfect storm of a revolt among Democrats that it would take.

The polling suggests that won't happen, but we'll be counting votes in a little while.

COOPER: And Larry Elder, what does he need to happen in order to win?

KING: It's the flip side of that. If you look at this map, this is the presidential race. Let me look at the race for Governor where you do see more red Republican counties. Larry Elder or any Republican to beat Gavin Newsom, we need every one of these republicans to participate tonight. But they would need even more than that, Anderson, again, because of that math.

Let me show you. Number one, we know the math so far in the here and now in the pre-election voting. More than half of the ballots returned are from Democrats. That's not -- it does not mean they all voted no. Some Democrats may have voted to recall their Governor. Of course, there are frustrated Democrats in California.

But by more than two to one, Democrats have returned ballots that more than exceeds the Democratic advantage in voter registration. Here is another way to look at it. The math is stacked against any Republican, including Larry Elder.

If you go back 25 years ago, I was covering politics back then, 36 percent of California registered voters were Republicans. Look at the steep decline. That is now 24 percent. So for any Republican to win, including Mr. Elder, not only would every registered Republican have to participate in this recall, again, you would need a lot of Democrats and Independents to run away from Gavin Newsom.

COOPER: In what counties are you watching to kind of get an early glimpse of how the night might go?

KING: But the main thing is, you look at where the people are, right? And so, the most populous county in California is Los Angeles. It's not only a huge part of the Democratic base, it will tell us, are Latinos voting? What is the percentage? How many Democrats are saying sorry, Governor, we want to recall you? The largest county in the state will give us a good glimpse of that.

Other places to watch, San Diego is the second largest county in the state. You see back here. Now, turnout is going to be nowhere near where it was in the governor's race. But I point this out because Gavin Newsom carries San Diego, but not by as big a margin. Republicans or recall supporters, if you will, need to flood out here and then if you come up here, you can look at Orange County, back in Ronald Reagan's days. This was the bedrock of the Republican Party. It has trended, it's now about 50/50.

Again, recall supporters need an overwhelming turnout here. This is blue tonight. Gavin Newsom will stay in his term as governor. A few other places, Anderson, the Governor, Gavin Newsom used to be the mayor of San Francisco. His political base is up here in the Bay Area. Many large counties up there, San Francisco County, Alameda County. You move out here toward Contra Costa County, et cetera, we'll look at those.

And then you see all these red counties, most of them don't have a lot of people and only two -- only two of the top 10 -- in terms of population -- counties in California are red back in the last governor's race. So these smaller counties -- it's just like the Trump election in 2020. Not only do the recall supporters have to win these smaller red counties, the turnout has to be overwhelming.


COOPER: All right, John King, thanks very much. We will check in with you a lot.

More perspective now from Senator Bernie Sanders, who urged California to support Governor Newsom in a recent anti-recall ad. Senator Sanders, thanks for joining us. So, you heard John King, many Democrats optimistic tonight about Governor Newsom's chances to fend off this recall. Do you share that optimism?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I am not much into political speculation, we will find out the results of that election in a few hours. But I think Governor Newsom has done a good job under very difficult circumstances, and I think what you're seeing in California, and all over this country is a lot of anger and frustration.

You know, we're dealing with COVID. We're dealing with economic problems. We're dealing with climate change. But I think in California, the Governor has done his best, done well, and I think the people will respond accordingly.

COOPER: It also seems that Governor Newsom sort of made the decision to try to nationalize the race, to talk about the big lie, about Trumpism, and I'm wondering if you think that was a wise thing to do?

SANDERS: Yes, I do. I mean, I think the truth is that California does not need a right-wing Governor -- Republican Governor. I think it is historically been in recent years, one of the most progressive states in the United States and I think the people want it to stay that way.

COOPER: Larry Elder and the former President have already made it clear that if Governor Newsom holds on to his job, they're going to say the election was rigged. I mean, is this now going to happen in every race where a Republican wins.

SANDERS: Well, it may. And this is one of the crises that we face right now. Which is why, by the way, I'm working so hard as the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee on this reconciliation bill.

I think a lot of people in America are losing faith in government. When you have Republicans saying that every election that took place that they lose was rigged, then people are not going to believe very much about the political process. And what we are trying to do right now, in the United States Senate, in the house is pass the most consequential piece of legislation in the modern history of this country, which tells the working families of California and Vermont and all over this country, that maybe, just maybe the time is now for Congress to address the crises that is facing working families, and not continue to just worry about the needs of the wealthy and the powerful.

So I've been focusing on that issue, and we look forward to getting it passed in the near future.

COOPER: Yes, just to remind viewers, you are Chairman of the Budget Committee. I mean, there is a struggle within your own party, obviously, to present a united front on the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that you support. Senator Manchin told Dana Bash on Sunday that there is no way he would vote for anything close to that. He indicated maybe he would support a $1.5 trillion package.

His vote obviously is incredibly important in terms of passing. Is there a solution here? Is that just a negotiation tactic?

SANDERS: Yes, there is a solution. Look, I mean, I think we negotiating -- we're negotiating with 50 people. Everybody in the caucus has their needs and has their concerns. But this is what I think every member of the Democratic Caucus understands and that is we live in a country where the people on top are doing phenomenally well, while working families are struggling.

Does anyone deny that our childcare system is a dysfunctional mess? No. People are paying $10,000.00, $15,000.00 or $20,000.00 a year for childcare. We have a million women who would like to return to the workforce, but can't because they can't find adequate child care. We have to deal with child care.

Does anybody deny that our higher educational system is unaffordable? I don't think so. We need to make sure that our young people get the training that they need, get the college credits they need in a way they can afford it. That's why we're trying to make two years of community colleges tuition free. I would go further than that. That's a start.

Does anybody in America think it's appropriate that we got elderly people who have no teeth in their mouth, that can't afford hearing aids, they can't afford eyeglasses, that's why we're trying to expand Medicare to cover those issues -- and on top of all of that, I hope there are very few people in America who do not understand that we are facing a massive crisis in terms of climate change.

And that if we do not begin the process of transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel, the planet, the country that we're going to be leaving our children and grandchildren are increasing -- will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable.

Among many other issues we did -- what we are trying to do, Anderson, which is unprecedented, what the President is doing is taking a look at the crises facing America and saying you know what, whether it's high cost of prescription drugs, healthcare, whatever it is, we are going to address those crises rather than give more tax breaks to the rich and the powerful.


COOPER: So, how will the final figure be decided? I mean, where --

SANDERS: It's going to be $3.5 trillion dollars. That's the compromise that's already been made. I think what we perceive right now. I mean, you should stick around me for a day. You hear all these folks coming at me, "Bernie, I need to do more on childcare. We need to do more on pre-K. We need to do more on affordable housing. We need to do more."

The truth is $3.5 trillion is not enough. And I will tell you this, that over the next 10 years, when you look at the gross domestic product of the United States, we're talking about close to $300 trillion over the next 10 years. This is $3.5 trillion, barely more than one percent of that.

And furthermore, it is -- if I have anything to say about it, this legislation, $3.5 trillion will be paid for, will not add to the national debt. And it'll be paid for by finally demanding that the wealthiest people in this country when some would pay zero, they pay less than the average fire person or teacher, pay zero in Federal taxes. Large corporations pay nothing in Federal taxes. We're going to change that. So it will be paid for.

COOPER: So $3.5 trillion for you, that's there -- it can't go lower than that.

SANDERS: No. And in fact, as you know, we compromised already. Most of the members of the caucus wanted $6 trillion, which is a more appropriate number.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, CNN political director David Chalian in what we're learning from the exit polls in California about the two major things on voters' minds, COVID and the economy. He has new polling next.


COOPER: Welcome back. We are following breaking news. The recall election in California. Polls close at 8:00 p.m. there, which is 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time, about two and a half hours from now.

At this hour, we are getting some insight into what voters are thinking. I want to check in with our political director, David Chalian who has the latest on the exit polls. So, what are you hearing from voters about Governor Newsom's handling of the pandemic?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, this is issue number one, Anderson, the coronavirus.

And take a look at this question about the vaccine and how California voters in this recall election consider it. Sixty three percent of voters in this election say it is a public health responsibility. They consider it more that than only the 34 percent that say it's a personal choice. Again, I think you see why Gavin Newsom in these closing days of this campaign has been leaning into his vaccine mandate policies.

Also, we asked what about his overall policies for the coronavirus? Forty five percent of the voters according to these early exit polls in this California recall election say it's about right. A smaller portion, 32 percent, too strict; and actually 17 percent say not strict enough.

COOPER: And what about the economy?

CHALIAN: We also asked, what is your sense of the condition of the economy in California? Only five percent say excellent, but a healthy chunk here, 44 percent say good. And if you look overall, this sort of splits in half. The good excellent totals up to 49 percent, 26 percent not so good, 22 percent poor. That totals up to about 48 percent. This is a split electorate in terms of how they perceive the economy.

And in terms of the cost of living, and this finding whether or not governor Newsom survives the recall, if he does survive the recall, he's going to have to deal with this. Thirty eight percent say the cost of living in California is manageable, but nearly six in 10 voters in this recall effort, say 59% of them anyway, that it's unmanageable the cost of living in their community. That is the kind of fervor that gives life to this kind of an election of recalling a governor.

COOPER: Yes, David Chalian, appreciate it.


COOPER: Want to get perspective now, CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama joins us, and CNN political commentator, Van Jones, former special adviser to President Obama, and chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

David, what's your biggest takeaway from the exit polls?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look Gavin Newsom made a bet here. And he made this a referendum on his COVID policies and everything going into this suggests in polling that that is a winning formula for him, it was going to be a referendum on him. And his general performances, he's focused on this.

So listen, it would not be a surprise if this recall loses this, there's two to one Democratic edge in the state, more than two to one edge on spending on his side, Biden carried this the state by 29 points, but the manner and the margin are what people are going to be watching because Democrats all over the country are going to say, is there something we can learn here as we enter the 22 cycle? And I think a lot of it's going to be around this issue of how they treated the COVID issue.

COOPER: And -- yes, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's an issue that has shifted, because before the Delta variant --


BORGER: -- he was in trouble.


BORGER: Because people thought he was too draconian, that's why you got the recall in the first place. Republicans say he's doing too much on such.

COOPER: He's gone such a through such a highs and lows.


BORGER: Totally.

COOPER: I mean, he was, you know, praise early --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- then.


COOPER: Then attacked.

BORGER: Then attacked.


BORGERL And now Delta variant, and people are saying, wait a minute, I want to feel safe, six in 10 say that it's a public health issue. That's, that's really important to him. And then he got another gift, which was candidate Elder, and he could use him as a target, which he decided to do because you can't win an election without saying your opponent is bad. Now he had an opponent that was an overwhelming favorite among the 46 running against him. And that worked for him also.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, there are bad disasters, and they're good disasters. Gavin had an unbelievable number of bad disasters, the fires, the flood, homelessness, a pandemic, and he had a good disaster. Larry Elder he's a disaster for the Republican Party. And look, you had Gavin on the ropes. COOPER: Disaster because?

JONES: Disaster because he is a terrible person. I mean he is Larry Elder has been somebody.


JONES: A terrible person --


AXELORD: He's not certified.

JONES: Yes. He defended the killer of Trayvon Martin. He said he would rather have George Zimmerman as a neighbor than Trayvon. This guy is so extreme. He is so offensive. He's done so many awful things that once he -- and he's been in L.A. for a long time, once you realize that Larry Elder is going to be the governor, people who were really sitting on their hands wanting to kind of punish Gavin said, we're not going to punish ourselves this much by inflicting this disaster on state.

AXELROD: Well, you know, Gloria, you call it a gift. It really wasn't a gift. The fact is, as Van points have 46 candidates, and he emerged overwhelmingly --

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: -- what does that say about the Republican Party? He --

COOPER: Oh, it wasn't that a lot that just name recognition. I mean, he was somebody --


AXELROD: The -- one of the candidates Kevin Faulkner --

BORGER: Faulkner.

AXELROD: -- is the former mayor of San Diego, who was thought to be perhaps the most formidable opponent for Newsom, either now or in 2022. He may not reach double digits if the polls are right in this election. It just underscores that this is Trump's party. And that can be a liability for Republican candidates around the country. It helps you in a primary, but in a general election out California is not the typical state, but it's very clear. We'll see how independent voters vote in this election.

Polling indicates that they were breaking heavily for Newsom and I think part of it is they don't want to be associated with the right wing extreme Republicans.

BORGER: Which is why Joe Biden was there talking about Trump, saying that Larry Elder is Trump's candidate, saying that he would be another Trump and they raise that and they also raise the issue on health of these Republican governors Abbott and DeSantis who have had not a lot of success with COVID because of their own policies, and voters might be thinking, well, OK, I don't like Gavin Newsom that much, we have problems in the state. But do I want somebody who agrees with Governor Abbott or Governor DeSantis to be my governor?


COOPER: It's also one thing for the former president to continue the big lie. I mean, that's obvious that he's going to be doing that, you know, when he's dead in the ground to, you know, or he's talking to. But for any reputable person, candidate to really claim this rigged election stuff. It's just -- I mean, it is -- it shouldn't be a mark of --

AXELROD: Well Anderson (INAUDIBLE) --

COOPER: -- like the mark --

AXELROD: -- and CNN's own polling, a majority of voters associated themselves with that notion that that --

COOPER: Right, but I'll say --


COOPER: -- folks who have not really looked into themselves, you're just listening to -- I mean as somebody who's actually running a race, who wants to be a leader of people --


COOPER: -- to really claim that, to me is just such --

AXELROD: I couldn't agree with you more. I'm just talking --


AXELROD: The reality of where we are, the reality of where we are is that this is table stakes for Republicans who want to run in main --

COOPER: Yes, no, I agree.


COOPER: But if you want to be a leader and you're clinging to something for which there was no evidence. In fact, there's counter evidence --

BORGER: In advance.

COOPER: -- it's just it's not --



(CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Van, I'm sorry.

JONES: Well, I think I want to say is that, you know, you had Gavin in a situation where he was vulnerable, and there was frustration. The Republican Party should have sent a tank after him. Instead, they sent a clown car after him. And now it may be an ambulance. In other words, Gavin Newsom, you think about Scott Walker in Wisconsin, he survived a tough recall and he became presidential candidate. Gavin Newsom, you talked about the ups and the downs. If in fact, Gavin Newsom winds up being where -- let's -- where you may be, because he made this about Texas and Florida. He's saying, I am Gavin Newsom, I'm doing better in my state than Texas and Florida. He's becoming a real figure now. So I think what's ironic is that people -- the Republican Party thought they had this guy, they may have actually made this guy.

BORGER: Right. And to Anderson's point, though, on the election, trutherism. I think now, tonight, we have to see if Elder loses what he does. And what he says because before this race -- before he first said, Joe Biden was fairly elected, then he sort of took it back. Now he's talking about election shenanigans, right? So what is Elder going to say, if he loses? How are Republicans going to react? And does this set the table yet again, for the sort of rigged election narrative that is so phony and ridiculous --

COOPER: I mean what he --

BORGER: -- particularly in California.

COOPER: I mean he'll go back to being a radio host, which of course, then -- I mean, I understand radio hosts and, you know, Fox News pundits, making up stuff about a rigged election, because --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- that's where their bread and butter is. But again, for somebody who wants to hold off is that --

AXELROD: It is, well --

COOPER: -- should be a higher standard.

AXELROD: Leaving the politics of it aside. It is really, really destructive for democracy if people fundamentally their reaction to an election is, if I don't win --


AXELROD: -- I'm going to claim fraud and all my flock will fall away. And Donald Trump has a vested interest in seeing them all do this by saying, you know, I think 80, 85% of people vote by mail in this election. He wants to discredit that in order to keep his big lie going.


AXELROD: And so everybody in this Republican Party, not everybody, but the people who follow him like Larry Elder, they are affirming his story again. But it's not just about their own election. They're saying this is a this is endemic to our system. It's corrupt. It is it is fraudulent. That is a real hammer blow to democracy. That's a legacy of Donald Trump.

BORGER: Exactly. Unless you win in which case, of course, it is perfectly fine. And if you win the election, then of course, it isn't rigged at all. But, you know, this is Donald Trump -- even in 2016, when he won the state of California, you'll all recall that he claimed, I had 4 million more votes or something than he then he, I mean, money, lost the state -- lost won the presidency, lost the state. He claimed that he actually had 4 million more votes than actually had.

JONES: (INAUDIBLE) about Gavin. One of the things is that the labor movement in California kind of was holding back from Gavin a little bit because there are a couple of ballot measures that he had been there for months up like that. He was able -- he's been able to pull that coalition back together and that coalition was fragmenting. And I do think he's coming through this a lot stronger. He's going to do it a lot more connected to the grassroots and he had been, and (INAUDIBLE) Gavin went up getting some credit for some of the stuff that he's done.

So, he's actually turned a breakdown into a breakthrough. And that's it (INAUDIBLE).


AXELROD: He also, he also, I mean, the big the great fear was that there would be a slumbering Democratic electorate and by really focusing on the threat, the threat on public health, the threat of Trumpism --


AXELROD: -- he really galvanized.

COOPER: David, Van, Gloria, thank you. We'll be seeing a lot more of everybody tonight.

It's also going to be a long night for Governor Newsom and Larry Elder, we'll check in with our reporters their headquarters, next.


COOPER: Back to our breaking news, California is going to the polls tonight in the gubernatorial recall election polls closed a little more than two hours. That the election will decide Governor Newsom will keep his job but its impact will certainly be felt across the country.

We've got reporters the governor and his leading opponent. We have senior correspondent Kyung Lah is in Sacramento with the latest from Newsom camp and Lucy Kafanov is at the Republican Larry Elders headquarters in Costa Mesa. Let's start with Kyung, what's the feeling there tonight optimism?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolute optimism and what we're hearing from that is also extreme confidence. What we are hearing from Team Newsom is that is not the outcome that they're wondering. It's just when they will know. The Governor's top advisor already told reporters that there is no scenario which they believe that this doesn't end up in a win for Team Newsom. And we're also hearing that same strategy is saying that at the end of the night, this will end up being quote a rejection of this appalling partisan power grab. Why are they saying this Anderson? High turnout. Numbers are on Democrat side with those high voter registration numbers, Democrats outnumbering Republicans in the state two to one, they are feeling very good with two just over two hours left to vote, Anderson.


COOPER: And when do -- do we hear from Governor Newsom tonight, do we -- is there any indication of what he'll talk about? Because he clearly was nationalizing this, this race?

LAH: Absolutely nationalizing it, but I think what we should focus on is that it's really going to be how he speaks to the public and how he speaks to Californians tonight. This isn't going to be a party. We're not anticipating balloons or confetti. You're going to see a governor, look at what he has been talking about in recent days, the urgency of the moment that he understands Californians want him to govern this state out of some of the crises facing them, homelessness, the economy. COVID and that is what we anticipate the Governor will be focusing on when he speaks to reporters.

COOPER: Kyung, thanks very much.

Want to go to Southern California, Lucy Kafanov off at Elder headquarters in Costa Mesa. How is it there, Lucy?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the campaign is tight lipped for now, the official message is that they're optimistic. But it is interesting that he hasn't had any public events of supporters. Today, this is the only public event on the books the campaign describing this as a victory party, they will be letting it supporter shortly, they have surrogates here they booked a band that's about to start.

The campaign tells me that Elder spent the afternoon in the morning to radio interviews with local media. In one interview with the Fresno Station he was asked whether he plans to run for governor if the recall fails once Governor Newsom is up for reelection in a second term. His answer was telling he says, I have now become a political force here in California. I am not going to leave the stage. Anderson.

COOPER: President Trump released a statement today calling the election rigged. Does the Elder campaign think that helped them?

KAFANOV: Well, it certainly helped Governor Newsom's campaign. The Elder campaign is not formally responding to the Trump statement, but it is the second day in a row that the former president has issued a statement along those lines. I had a chance to ask Elder about this yesterday when he was campaigning, he'd sort of dodged the question just saying that he was hoping for a fair election. I should stress of course that no votes have been counted, yet any allegations of fraud are baseless at this stage in the game, but it is a message that has been resonating with some of his supporters.

In fact, several Republican voters that we have spoken to said that they were waiting until today Election Day to cast their ballots in person. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Lucy Kafanov, appreciate it.

Up next, we have more breaking news and update from our weather center on Tropical Depression Nicholas, which has stalled and is dumping torrential rain on an area still trying to recover from Hurricane Ida. We'll be right back.



COOPER: More breaking news, more extreme weather the residents of Houston Texas have been asked to stay home tonight due to quote dangerous conditions in the aftermath of Tropical Depression Nicolas. The system made landfall as a category one hurricane this morning leaving flooding in Galveston and other cities. It's now stalled with more than 6 million people under flash flood watches from Texas, the Florida Panhandle and an area still trying to recover from Hurricane Ida.

Our meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now from the Weather Center. So what's the latest?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, at the APM advisory Anderson, from the National Hurricane Center's it's kind of weakened to a tropical depression. But we want to point out the speed limit, it's only six miles per hour, you could actually outrun the system. And that's where we start to have problems. It's not very well organized. But it hasn't been since the very beginning of this. When you go back and look at the birth of this system, it was hard for the National Hurricane Center to even find a center. So if you can't find a center, you don't know where landfall is going to be.

But just before landfall, which was 12:30 in the morning, local time, it did reach that hurricane status, and it stayed that way for three hours. And because those winds were able to intensify, we have some damage. There's no doubt about it. Look at this, you get up to over 80, 94 mile per hour wind gusts. So we do have damage to homes and businesses uprooted trees, snap trees, power lines down. Again, about a half million people lost power with that.

But some good news here all of the rain as you notice Anderson is off to the east. So we really got lucky even though they're saying residents stay home in areas of around Houston. I mean, they flood four or five inches of rain, this could have been much worse, even down toward Corpus Christi, they were saying. But look at some of these totals already, now this first one nearly 14 inches as an outlier. It was a public a -- private recording and measurement there. So the National Weather Service is going to look into that one. But still here up, you know many areas already attended. It's still raining. And now it's moving in, as you mentioned to those vulnerable spots.

Again, it's Lake Charles, Louisiana hit by Lara, just last year, thousands of homes still have tarps. And then you get the areas that were hit by Ida where you have the exposed homes, a lot of debris, of course, in the roadways and still in streams and creeks. And that's where I think this is going to be a problem going forward. We even had a warning in New Orleans earlier that's been allowed to expire but rain all the way to Pensacola.

COOPER: So in terms of flooding over the next 24 hours, you're concerned about New Orleans like Charles?

SATER: Yes. Anytime a tropical system moves at a snail's pace, you know, bad things happen. And that's what we're watching here. So you got a good 6 million with watches, there's that warning for Lake Charles more of those will be issued most likely. But here we go. Again, a weather prediction center, a very rare level four out of four for excessive rainfall. The last time we had one of these besides, you know, yesterday was when it moved up into areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, we remember those images.

So again, the good news if we can find it, even though it's going to move at a snail's pace six miles an hour to slow but it could even get slower Anderson, but I think the rainfall rates are not going to be two and three inches an hour. We've seen a half inch to an inch but still with this moving through this vulnerable area and the saturated ground. We could easily see another six to 10 inches areas from north of Lake Charles over to Baton Rouge, Slidell, Hattiesburg to Mobile. It's going to be a long couple days.

COOPER: Yes. Tom Sater, will check in -- with you throughout the night. Thanks very much.

Up next, we remember comedian Norm MacDonald.



COOPER: Comedian actor and writer Norm MacDonald has died after nearly a decade long battle with cancer which he kept private. MacDonald was incredibly talented comedian probably best known for his work on Saturday Night Live including anchoring Weekend Update. That's him there on the far right, there's his version of Burt Reynolds on Celebrity Jeopardy.


WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN: Mr. Reynolds, what are you doing?

NORM MACDONALD, COMEDIAN: Yes, I found this backstage oversized, is that funny?

FERRELL: No, it's not.

MACDONALD: Fairly it's funny, it's funny because it's bigger than yes, a normal hat.

FERRELL: I see that, get back to your podium.


COOPER: MacDonald also impersonated former Senator Bob Dole when he ran for president. Those paying tribute on Twitter sharing this photo and writing, Norm Macdonald was a great talent. And I love laughing with him on SNL. As Norm McDonald's big break in the business after Tom Arnold writes on Twitter quote, one of the easiest things I've ever done was hire my bud Norm MacDonald to write the Roseanne show in 1992, harder was letting him out of his contract in 1993 so he could take his dream job on SNL.


Norm was fearless and comedy and life and his unique voice is missed by all of us today. Norm Macdonald was 61 years old.

I'll be back at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for CNN's special coverage at the California recall election.

Now it's time to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.