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Trump's Refusal to Start Transition Comes as COVID Ravages U.S.; U.S. Sees Record Cases, Hospitalizations, 1,400 Deaths in One Day; Trump Attacks Philly's GOP Election Official for Saying No Fraud. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 11, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Don't go anywhere though, a busy news day. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.

As the nation sees one of its darkest days of the pandemic, another crisis brewing in the nation's capital, President Trump still has not accepted his loss to President-elect Joe Biden and his administration is refusing to start the transition process needed to keep the government going and to keep Americans safe.

His actions are causing alarm and panic at the Pentagon, firing top national security officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replacing them with Trump loyalists.

At the state department, one official calls it scary. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is helping to fuel the president's denial by refusing to acknowledge Biden's win.

And this comes as the coronavirus is spiraling out of control in America. In the past 24 hours alone, cases and hospitalizations are hitting a new record and more than 1,400 Americans have died from the virus.

From the Pentagon to the State Department, Trump's refusal to acknowledge Biden's win is turning into national security nightmare.

We have our correspondents in Washington taking it from here.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: When the Pentagon comes back to work after Veterans Day, the big question will be what happens next. Now, Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired and gone, a new acting secretary, Chris Miller, installed, other new members of the top levels of the Pentagon Trump loyalists who are clearly earmarked to carry out the president's wishes are. But the problem is nobody at the Pentagon knows what those wishes are. So there's a good deal of unease, a good deal of anxiety. And one of the big questions is will Mr. Trump make some big military decisions before he leaves office?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kylie Atwood at the State Department. American diplomats around the world are outraged after Secretary Pompeo's comments yesterday when he was asked about working with the Biden transition here at the State Department, he said there would be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration. And diplomats called that incredibly scary for him to say.

Some told me they felt sick to their stomach after hearing those comments. And others were angered because they thought that he appeared to undermine their work.

Now, American diplomats around the world work to advocate for free and fair elections. They encourage world leaders not to challenge the results of elections if they were the result of a democratic process. And that is precisely what President Trump is doing now with the backing of America's top diplomat.

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Vivian Salama in Washington. President Trump and his allies are dislodging officials across government and burrowing loyalists to the president in agencies in a way that could complicate the transition process or make it hard to have them removed when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next year.

Already since the election, more than half a dozen senior officials have either been fired, demoted or quit. And in some cases, political appointees loyal to the president have been placed in career positions which come with civil service protections, all of this as President Trump refuses to concede and as his government waits to designate Joe Biden as president-elect, a designation that is critical in the national security sphere in particular because it is legally required before Biden's transition team gets access to classified information.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristen Holmes in Washington, D.C. President Trump showing no sign of conceding this election any time soon to President-elect Joe Biden. Now, senior White House officials are spreading the word across the administration to agencies not to have any sort of cooperation with the Biden transition team. They have made it clear that they should not be taking any steps that indicate that President Trump did not win this election.

Now, remember, this all revolves around this ascertainment that we've been talking about. This is done by the General Services Administration, something that happens every election and is usually done without a hitch. They ascertain who the winner is.

What that does is it opens up millions of dollars in government funding for the transition and also allows the Biden team to formally begin their transition and work with those agencies as well as for the president-elect to get those highly confidential daily briefings. It is unclear right now when that is going to happen. And we should remind our viewers that the person who is meant to ascertain that Joe Biden is the winner is a current Trump political appointee.

Now, they did issue a statement from the General Services Administration saying that the administrator would follow the laws and compared this to the Clinton administration and that transition with that ongoing lawsuit back in 2000.


I have heard from several officials who say that this is simply just not the same situation.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alex Marquardt in Washington. Concern is growing that the director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, may be on the president's list of national security officials who he wants to get rid of. President Trump's view of Gina Haspel has been eroding most recently because of her reluctance to help declassify and release documents relating to the FBI's Russia investigation.

Haspel leads an agency that is fiercely apolitical under a president who demands loyalty. On Tuesday, Haspel got a strong show of support in Congress after meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who continues to back the president's decision not to concede the election.

KEILAR: Thank you, Alex, and all of my colleagues for those reports.

As each day passes, where the Trump administration refuses to comply with a transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, the more vulnerable the country is. That's according to the 9/11 commission, the independent bipartisan commission that extensively investigated the September 11th attacks and the factors that contributed to them.

The commission warned that things fall through the cracks when a transition is delayed. It founded in 2000 because of the infamous recount the delayed transition, quote, hampered administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.

Among the commission recommendations that there will be no disruption of national security in policymaking, that the outgoing administration provide the incoming one with a detailed summary of national security threats as soon as the day after the election, that security clearances begin immediately on any incoming officials and transition leaders.

This was a big focus of the 9/11 commission hearings.


FRED FIELDING (R), 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Especially in areas of national security intelligence, there is a very vulnerable moment when the baton is handed off in that period of time during a transition RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CHIEF COUNSEL: It appears from what we have heard that the administration officials leaving government and Clinton administration were willing to be generous with their time but they didn't always connect up with the right people, it seems. And I think we ought to have a recommendation with respect to institutionalizing transition in these times which require immediate response to issues.

HANET RENO, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it is absolutely critical that this nation sit down and come together and let the president of the United States, whoever he or she is, have the people that they think can best represent the interest of the administration that has just been elected.


KEILAR: So knowing this, every day counts during a transition. And there's reason to be alarmed when the president starts firing key people and installing loyalists in top positions, as he is doing at the Pentagon.

I want you to meet the Pentagon's new acting top policy official, retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata. His nomination to this position failed after CNN's K-File reported on past Islamophobic and other offensive comments he made. Lawmakers from both parties have opposed his placement in this very role.

Tata called Islam, quote, the most oppressive, violent religion. He called President Obama a, quote, Muslim Manchurian candidate, also a terrorist leader. He called Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Maxine Waters violent extremists.

And take a look at this, Jim. Tata telling former CIA Director John Brennan to, quote, pick your poison, firing squad, public hanging, life sentence as prison B-word or just suck on your pistol.

This is not a serious or even stable individual but the president just installed him in this key policy role anyway and now Tata is in a top spot for the next two months.

And it's not just the Pentagon. At the State Department, this comes from secretary of state.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.


KEILAR: Pompeo tried to clean that up later on the president's favorite cable channel.


POMPEO: We'll have a smooth transition and we'll see what people ultimately decided when all the votes have been cast. We have a process, the Constitution lays out how electors vote. That's a very detailed laid out. I'm willing to comply with all of that. And then I am very confident that we will have a good transition, that we will make sure that whoever is in office on noon on January 20th has all the tools readily available so we don't skip a beat.


KEILAR: But this is America's top diplomat, the person charged with selling democracy to the world who is pouring baseless doubt all over America's democratic election. Keep that in mind next time Mike Pompeo delivers words like these to other nations looking up to the U.S.



POMPEO: The goal is to replace Maduro's illegitimate dictatorship with a legitimate transitional government that can hold free and fair elections.

We should all watch very closely when those elections are permitted to take place in a free and fair fashion.

The united stands with the Iranian people who continue to support their voices. These are people who are desperately eager to be heard in a free and fair election.

Belarusians deserve the right to choose their own leaders in a truly free and fair election under independent observation.

We also call on free and fair elections in Haiti as soon as technically feasible.

The United States continues to support democratic values, fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.


KEILAR: And for anyone who believed that Pompeo's smirk meant that he was joking, well, it doesn't quite matter since the one person who really needs an intervention gave him an atta boy for it. President Trump pointing to Pompeo's denial of the election results as to why he was, quote, was number one in his class at West Point.

Pompeo, by the way, has a pattern of doing what the president wants, like when Trump criticized him for not releasing Hillary Clinton's emails before the election.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: She had 33,000 emails. They are in the State Department, but Mike Pompeo has been unable to get them out, which is very sad. Actually I'm not happy about him for that reason.

He was unable to get them out. I don't know why. You're running the State Department, you get them out.


KEILAR: Now, 24 hours later, Pompeo was back on Trump's favorite cable channel making him happy.


POMPEO: We've got the emails, we're getting them out, going to get all these information out so the American people can see it.

I certainly think there will be more to see before the election.


KEILAR: An empty promise, because key race alert, the polls are closed just like the president's chances of reelection.

And, ahead, the president attacks the Republican in charge of Philadelphia's elections for saying there is zero evidence of fraud.

Plus, Joe Biden's popular vote, his lead there getting bigger as Republicans focus on key electoral dates.

And a disturbing day in the nation's coronavirus crisis, record hospitalizations, record cases and more than 1,400 Americans dying in one day.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: The coronavirus is surging here in the United States and hospitals are feeling the impact. Right now, there are nearly 62,000 Americans who are hospitalized with coronavirus. This is a record number. It is higher than any other time in this pandemic.

Tuesday was the eighth straight day that the country topped 100,000 cases and it also marked highest single day of cases as we topped 136,000. These aren't just numbers here that you're looking at, these are people and families that are struggling through insurmountable loss.

CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, with me now. And, Elizabeth, we are heading into flu season. The numbers are getting worse. How bad is it going to get?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to get worse before it gets better. And the reason for that is, as you said, we also may have flu with us. And even if flu is very tame, it's getting colder and colder and colder. And that means more people are staying inside. And, of course, that means the virus can spread more quickly. Let's take a look at this graphic. What we're seeing here when you look to the far -- to the right end of this graph is that that number is on a very dramatic upswing. That means that, as time goes on, you're going to see more hospitalizations and, unfortunately, also more deaths. There are 45 states out of 50. The numbers are going up, 45 out of 50. Texas has become the first state to exceed 1 million doses. Brianna?

I'm sorry, 1 million cases.

KEILAR: 1 million cases. And, Elizabeth, the CDC has updated some guidance. I always feel like there's this lag of this though, right? They update the guidance and it tends to be based on something that we've already seen in studies. And what this guidance says is that masks not only protect other people when you wear them, they also protect you, the person who is wearing them.

So what more do we need to know about this?

COHEN: Yes. Brianna, I think a lot of people sort of instinctively knew this. If a mask protects the other person, then it must also be protecting you. So this is the CDC putting their stamp of approval on what in many ways is common sense.

However, you do need to be wearing the right mask in order to protect yourself and other people. So, let's take a look at some masks that are maybe not sufficiently protecting you, a silk mask may not do the trick, bandanas, handkerchiefs, they are just too thin, they're not tightly woven enough. And also masks with valves, that valve looks good, right? I mean, a valve must help. No, it doesn't help. In fact, it hurts. So don't use those. As a matter of fact, a lot of airlines won't even let you on the plane with valve masks.

better choices are those blue surgical masks that you see are in supply and you see those in many drugstores, et cetera, also polyester works better and multiple layers. So if you're using a sort of a homemade mask, multiple layers work. And some cotton is okay. It just -- it's better if it's tighter if it's more woven. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Great tips, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for all of that.

The coronavirus crisis is overwhelming Texas in particular. The state just became the first in the nation to hit 1 million COVID infections. And if Texas were its own country, it would rank 11th highest in the world for coronavirus cases.

Deaths are also on the rise there. And that is forcing one county to take drastic action. El Paso is now requesting additional mobile morgues on top of the six that are already on the ground there.

CNN's Omar Jimenez in El Paso for us.


And, Omar, there is still debate over what action to take next. What are you learning?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is, Brianna. Basically, the two sides of the debate here is that the county judge here put in place a shutdown on non-essential businesses for at least a two-week period, which, as we understand, is expected to extend likely so today.

Now, on the stateside of things, there is a lawsuit filed by some local businesses which the state backed them up on saying that, well, there are other ways to get this under control, we don't need to shut down everything. And there's an appeals process that was in place but we do understand that the Texas Supreme Court denied the state's temporary relief request from this order. So we'll continue to watch how that plays out.

But, bottom line, when you look at the impact of COVID-19 in this community, based on the total population and the number of active cases, one in every 29 people actively has COVID-19 here in El Paso, hospitalizations at record levels, over 1,000 at this point. The city has had to bring in mobile morgues and requesting to deal with the number of deaths that we have seen here as well.

And, of course, frontline workers, one in particular, a man by the name of Daniel Morales, he was 39 years old and died trying to protect others from -- or he died succumbing to what he was trying to protect others from. And it's a weight his mother still carries with her to this day.


MINERVA MORALES, SON DIED OF COVID-19: We have an empty chair now. We have a void that will never be filled. And you know what, if I lose my house, if I lose my car, I'll replace it, I'll rebuild, but you cannot bring my son back. You can't. And they are arguing over this, and it makes me angry.


JIMENEZ: And part of her anger is what we've heard from county officials here that at least when this order first went in, different jurisdictions were on different pages as to how they were going to tackle this and move forward. And, obviously, lives are being lost along the way.

And one other thing I want to point out is Daniel's mother went on to talk about what his children -- he left behind four children -- what his children's biggest fear is these days, and it's for their mother, who is also a nurse. Their biggest fear is her going to work, because the last time they saw their father, he was going to work. Brianna?

KEILAR: Omar, that is heartbreaking. And her anger is understandable, that family going through what they are going through. Omar Jimenez, thank you so much for bringing us that story.

Philadelphia's public official in charge of election says there is zero evidence of voter fraud and President Trump doesn't like the truth. Hear how he responded.

Plus, the Trump campaign puts military spouses and service members on a list of potential voter fraud violators. One spouse will join me.

And just in, Georgia says it will conduct a recount by hand, which includes millions of votes.



KEILAR: President Trump is still denying that he lost the election and his campaign is filing lawsuit after lawsuit in states where he lost in a blatant attempt to appease him. One election official in Philadelphia, a Republican, says his office has received death threats as votes continue to be counted there.

My colleague, John Berman, spoke to Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt earlier today.


AL SCHMIDT (R), PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONER: On a personal level, I'm sure it's not easy for any of us here. There's a real disconnect with the job that we're doing, which is a good thing. We just had the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia and the people here work night and day to do our job to count those votes.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I ask you this not just as a city commissioner but as a Republican city commissioner given where we are right now, what evidence of any widespread fraud have you seen in the count in Philadelphia?

SCHMIDT: I have not.

One thing I can't comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies and to consume information that is not true.


KEILAR: And the president must have been watching. He was lashing out on Twitter. Quote, a guy named Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia commissioner and so-called Republican, is being used big time by the fake news media to explain how honest things were with respect to the election in Philadelphia. He refuses to look at a mountain of corruption and dishonesty. We win, exclamation point.

And John Berman, who did that interview, is joining me now. And, John, the president's reaction to your interview shows how problematic it is for him that there are election officials from his own party who are saying there's no fraud.

BERMAN: Election officials who say they are conducting the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia.


Al Schmidt made crystal clear that he has seen no evidence of fraud at all.