Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
WH to Hold Large Barrett Swearing-in Event Amid New Pence Team Outbreak with at Least Five Staffers Testing Positive; WH to Hold Large Barrett Event as Trump, Aides Downplay Pandemic; Biden Campaign Adds Stops in Iowa, Georgia & Texas in Final Week of Campaign to Try to Expand Electoral Map; Biden Ramps Up Ground Game to Compete with Trump in North Carolina; Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) is Interviewed About the Biden Campaign; Supreme Court Rejects Democrats' Attempt to Extend Wisconsin Mail-In Voting Deadline. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 26, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Who made everyone feel special. May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing. Thanks for watching.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Trump about to host a big in-person swearing-in event for Amy Coney Barrett amid his second White House outbreak. Remember the last Amy Coney Barrett event at the White House, the one Fauci called a super spreader?
Plus, Joe Biden going to Georgia tomorrow and Iowa this week. Kamala Harris going to Texas. What does that tell us about the race to 270?
And Jared Kushner's revealing statement about black Americans desire for success. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, amid a second White House coronavirus outbreak, the President preparing right now to hold a swearing-in ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, major in-person event on the White House lawn.
Now, Barrett is expected to be confirmed by the Senate for the Supreme Court any minute now. We are watching that for you this hour. And then the President will host her swearing-in. And we have just gotten word that for the first time, the first time this White House will enforce the basic rules of wearing masks and social distancing.
Something the President has never before enforced at the White House, including of course at the last big event for Amy Coney Barrett, the one Dr. Fauci called a super spreader, where at least 12 people including the President of the United States and the First Lady tested positive for the virus after the event.
So why the change in protocol that we're just finding out? Is it because of another outbreak of coronavirus at the White House? As of tonight, at least five people who work with the Vice President of the United States, including his Chief of Staff and an aide who works closely with him are all infected with the virus.
The Vice President's office at this hour still not responding to our questions of whether he will comply with CDC guidelines and not attend tonight's event. After he held a rally today and he held one yesterday, he's planning more tomorrow. He's planning more the next day, no mask, no social distancing enforced. Doing all that knowing that people he has come in very close contact with have the virus, knowing that he should be quarantining.
So tonight's use of mandatory mask at the White House is welcome, but it is completely inconsistent with what President Trump and Vice President Pence are doing every single day when it comes to the regular rank and file Americans who go to their rallies. And the President's Chief of Staff said the quiet part out loud on CNN, admitting that this White House is no longer trying to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Why aren't we going to get control of the pandemic?
MEADOWS: Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu.
TAPPER: Yes, but why ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, we do take actions to get viruses under control and any doctor will tell you that. And of course in this case, we could open the economy even more if non-vulnerable people would wear masks inside and when they can't socially distance. This administration, though, is not really trying at all and here's why that's such a big problem.
Right now not a single state in the United States is showing a downward trend in new cases, not a single state, 37 are going up. The seven-day average of new cases at the highest level since the pandemic began and it is not all testing. You can take all that out, it's still up. Deaths are rising, up 13 percent from just one week ago. Those are deaths.
And 11 states are now reporting record-high hospitalizations. Here's how Dr. Fauci described it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Do you want to call it the third wave or an extended first wave, no matter how you look at it, it's not good news.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: No, it is not. Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage tonight
OUTFRONT at the White House. And Kaitlan, what more are you learning about this event for Amy Coney Barrett about to happen right where you are?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it's stunning because this is exactly one month after that last event in the Rose Garden announcing that they were going to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. And now here we are a month later, of course, two outbreaks, the White House later as well and so we've asked White House officials, what are the precautions you're going to be taking tonight.
And we're told that the chairs on the South Lawn where this is going to be held, it's a bit of a bigger space in the Rose Garden road they held that last event. We're told those chairs will be socially distanced. They say masks are required. But the question is will the guests leave them on once they're indoors.
We've seen that play out before like it did at the Republican convention where you had to wear one to get in but you did not have to keep it on while you were in the actual event on the South Lawn. But we're also told that the guests that are around the President are going to be tested. And that last part is not new, Erin, that's a protocol they followed for other events here at the White House including that one a month ago for Amy Coney Barrett and that's something that Chris Christie later said was a reason that he was in this false sense of security because he thought that those around him had been tested.
Of course, that was just the first few rows that have been tested and there was several further back that did not. And of course, we saw how many positive cases of coronavirus were later tied to that event. Though today, the Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to distance it, say that they didn't know all of those cases stemmed from that event.
But of course, the question is what is the logic in holding this event, knowing the risk that they're taking, given what they've seen, play out, the knowledge that they have of how this has played out before. Because Erin, we are told the size of this event is going to mirror that last one, which is about 150 guests in the Rose Garden. So they'll be more spaced out on the South Lawn, but it's still to be determined what it's going to look like 1905 [00:00:45] they are and whether or not they're leaving those masks on while they are at this event.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. And that, of course, is the crucial thing. Are they going to actually do it? Are they going to actually enforce it?
Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. And Phil, the vote there on Amy Coney Barrett's nomination, which of course, is the prelude to the party is about to take place at any moment. Unclear, though, which Republican senators are actually going to show up at the White House event tonight.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's such a fascinating thing. The biggest unanswered question right now on Capitol Hill is not whether or not Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed. She will be likely within the next hour. It's who are the Republican conference for whom this is a cornerstone achievement of the Trump administration of their last four years in the majority will actually attend the White House.
Senators were asked this question throughout the course of the day. The vast majority of them either didn't comment, said they weren't going to go or weren't totally sure. That includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the man who's been central to more than 200 judicial confirmations over the course of the last several years.
And yet, Erin, he made clear that he has not been to the White House purposely over the course of the last several months because he disagrees with the protocols and how the White House has operated in the time of COVID-19. So it remains an open question here on Capitol Hill how many people are going to go.
Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said he planned on going. He trusted the White House would have the proper precautions in place. But Sen. Todd Young of Indiana one of the biggest boosters of Amy Coney Barrett over the course in the last several weeks earlier today, he said he'd RSVP'd yes, but wasn't sure if he was going to go after all. When asked if that was because of safety, Young said it was because of several factors.
So didn't quite clarify there, but one Republican aide told me this morning once his office had gotten the invitation to the White House for another outdoor ceremony regarding Amy Coney Barrett said bluntly, I can't believe we're doing this again. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. So I wonder if all of that is part of the reason why they're now saying they're going to wear the masks. And again, we'll see what happens here.
OUTFRONT now Olivia Troy. She had served as Vice President Pence as lead staffer on the Coronavirus Task Force. She has now endorsed Joe Biden. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at George Washington who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush. And Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst.
Dr. Reiner, we will see what we see when we see it and we may never know if what we see is a result of all these Republican senators pressuring. We just don't know. Here's what I know right now, tonight is the first time this White House says that they will require masks, even as they are going ahead with this event, this party amidst a second big outbreak at the White House on the Vice President's team.
JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, first of all, I've seen this movie before and the ending is horrible. I can't believe we're talking about having mass gatherings at the White House during a pandemic. The last time we did this, we didn't know that any White House staffers were infected. Now, we know there are White House staffers infected and we're still having a gathering.
What's really striking and incredibly insulting and hurtful is that what we're seeing now, perhaps, is that the White House is willing to maybe try and protect some of the VIPs that are coming to this event. A benefit and a courtesy not provided to the supporters who come to all their rallies, who are packed in shoulder to shoulder.
So why is the White House willing to protect the senators and the high value Republican donors who may be coming to this? Why isn't the average Joe worth just the same amount of respect and protection?
I feel that health care providers around the country have been trying to put this fire out, but yet we're being chased by the President who's carrying a torch. It's getting pretty dispiriting.
BURNETT: It is pretty incredible though when you think about it every single day, like the Vice President going to rallies where there's no masking and no social distancing, when people closest to him have virus. But he may not show up tonight, not going to the Senate, because they don't want to be around them. It is an incredible double standard.
Now, Olivia, we did learn over the weekend that Vice President Pence's Chief of Staff, Marc Short, who now has the virus was a driving force against following Dr. Fauci's advice throughout this pandemic.
You were in those taskforce meetings with them, with Dr. Fauci, with the Vice President, with Marc Short, what was going on?
OLIVIA TROY, VICE PRESIDENT PENCE FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: I was in these taskforce meetings, what would happen is that Dr. Fauci and other experts in the room including Dr. Birx would brief data and the facts and what was happening across the United States and Marc Short would go out of his way to make arguments and statements that they were getting in the way of opening up the country at times or he would argue, again, some of the guidelines that CDC was proposing that were really critical for keeping Americans and critical infrastructure workers safe.
This has been going on for months. He just never wanted to acknowledge that this was actually a real threat.
BURNETT: So Gloria, you even have the President says today he got it and he's fine, so essentially people shouldn't worry. Although I do want to point out, they're still testing everyone who goes around him. Now, obviously, he got it somehow right from those people. But the point is, he's saying I have nothing to worry about, but actually I'm still going to test. I still don't want to be around it.
Mark Meadows though, as you as you heard, said they're not going to do anything to control it. The pandemic is uncontrollable, it's like the flu. And then there was this exchange between the President and reporters today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, Joe Biden says you've waved the white flag on fighting coronavirus, controlling the virus.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, he has. He's waved the white flag on life. He doesn't leave his basement. This guy doesn't leave his basement. He's a pathetic candidate, I will tell you that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you given on controlling the virus?
TRUMP: No, not at all. In fact, the opposite. Absolutely the opposite. We've done an incredible job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So they're going broke (inaudible) ...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they're ...
BURNETT: ... he can't switch tracks now.
BORGER: No, no, they're going to broke. Look, they've always lived in an alternate universe and now they've decided that that's the only way for them to survive as they head into this selection to make the case, in fact, that COVID really doesn't exist the way it does, even though cases are spiking all over the country and in red states that are Trump supporters.
And what it seems to me they're even going a step further. When you look at the language the President has been using over the last couple of days, what he seems to be saying is that COVID seems to be a tool of the Democrats somehow, that COVID is something that Democrats are using to get him. And that COVID is fine, letting it be done that way.
And so in a way, it's his own way of saying that it's a hoax without saying that it's a hoax. Just saying that the Democrats are using it to their advantage against him and that poor Joe Biden lives in his basement, and therefore he is 'pathetic' because he pays attention to what his own CDC is saying. And you have the Vice President who is the head of the task force, no less, not paying attention to it. And the President of the United States saying, look, it's not that bad. I survived it, it's fine.
BURNETT: So Dr. Reiner, the Vice President goes out with his rallies, as I said, and the message there is loud and clear, people don't have to mask or socially distance. He did make some changes, though, as more and more members of his staff were found to have the virus.
He finally agreed not to attend that Senate vote. He was going to go there, even though by any quarantine measure, according to CDC, he should and he was going to go but he finally changed his mind on that. And then he said he wouldn't do rope lines at his rallies, still do the rallies, but no rope lines.
The White House says he is essential personnel so that the quarantine rules do not apply to him, true?
REINER: False. The only way he's an essential personnel is if the only mission in his life is to reelect Donald Trump. Yes, then I guess he's essential personnel. But the essential personnel are the nurses that man our ICUs, and the people that deliver our food. And most of those folks, almost all of those folks will quarantine and stay home.
Look, I'm covering right now for one of my colleagues who as well but as quarantining and he treats heart attacks. He's an essential person. He's staying home. The Vice President needs to be home. He needs to be following the rules. He's placing people at risk. He's not essential.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, to go to the Senate I'm sure is the point was made to him by many Republican senators. His vote was not needed for this to go through.
BURNETT: So he was not needed to be there, so why would you put people's lives at risk, many of them vulnerable and older. So Olivia we learned - Jared Kushner said today that people get the virus and it happens and that the cases at the White House have been benign. Obviously, with the exception, I suppose, it goes unmention that the President of the United States was in the hospital for three days and very ill.
Your hometown, El Paso, is now basically shut down for two weeks, because the virus was so out of control.
What does Jared Kushner not get?
TROY: I just don't think he can relate to all of us across America who are suffering and consistently being hit with this virus. And I think he just doesn't care, actually. I've heard him not care. He thinks it's a state problem. He thinks this is an issue that they don't want to own and they clearly continue to perpetuate that narrative right now.
And I think it's extremely offensive for him to get out there and make those comments about you may get it, it may not be that badly and it's very fortunate that these people sitting in the White House are doing OK and that they have minor symptoms, because I'm watching my hometown suffer right now. I'm watching the ICUs get overwhelmed. I'm watching them set up, build hospitals in the convention center. I have family members who are sick with COVID right now and I don't take any of this lightly.
BURNETT: Well, I hope they're OK. And as we said, I mean, across this country deaths are up 13 percent in just one week and cases are surging at a much greater rate than that, hospitalizations are climbing.
Gloria, here is what Dr. Fauci said today, when he was asked about the rallies and events that the President and the Vice President continued to hold sans masks and social distancing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: I'm not going to comment on whether this or that rally should be canceled, except to repeat what I've said many, many times and are repeated here that we should avoid as best as possible congregate settings where you have people who are crowded together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Gloria, he's not being very blunt. He's always been honest, but very blunt. He told me on Friday, he supports the universal mask mandate.
BURNETT: I mean, very blunt at saying what the President of the United States is doing is wrong.
BORGER: Right. And that's why the President of the United States doesn't have him out front and center officially anymore, which is why Tony Fauci has gone off on his own and will spread his message the best he can on his own. And when you look at what's occurred, look at the evolution of all of this, we used to have task force briefings that were sort of taskforce briefings every day. Then the President took them over and use them as political statements for himself, but they were still every day.
Now we don't hear from the test force at all, because the message the task force would give, if it really exists, is that this is getting worse. Hold on. This is not getting better. And so you're not hearing from a task force anymore. You're hearing from the President of the United States, who says don't worry be happy. That is not the message Americans should be hearing right now, but it is the political message that the President wants the public to hear.
BURNETT: Gloria, thank you. Dr. Reiner, thank you. Olivia, thank you and my thoughts are with your family who are sick. Hope they are better.
BORGER: Mine too.
BURNETT: And next Biden headed to Georgia tomorrow then Iowa. Sen. Kamala Harris going to Texas and that is how they are spending time with only days left until the election. Will it pay off? That is a big bet on expanding the map. We are live at the magic wall.
Plus, Jared Kushner's stunning appeal to black voters on the President's behalf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: But he can't want them to be successful more than they want to be successful. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And a state lawmaker, he's also a doctor, he is grieving the loss of his father-in-law to coronavirus. A virus his father-in-law believed was a hoax.
BURNETT: Eight days until Election Day, Joe Biden adding Iowa to his list of last minute campaign stops. Biden also looking to expand the map traveling to Georgia as his running mate, Kamala Harris, heads to Texas. So what is going on? And what does it tell us about how the Biden campaign views its path to 270? Our Political Director David Chalian is OUTFRONT at the magic wall.
So David, very, very different waves of spending your last few days here when you look at Biden's schedule and Trump's schedule. What do they tell you?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, there's no doubt about it, Erin. This is the electoral map as it currently stands, not a prediction of what will be Tuesday night, but where the race stands right now. And right now with the states that are leaning in Biden's direction are safely in his corner. He's at 290. He's already over that 270 mark in this estimate, Donald Trump down at 163. So what does he have to do?
Well, first, he needs to protect the advantage he currently has in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, across those Great Lakes states. That's why we saw Joe Biden pop up in Pennsylvania today and it's why we see him going to Wisconsin later in the week. But Erin, where else is he going, as you noted?
He's building an insurance policies because these toss up states in yellow are really close. So tomorrow, he's going to Georgia, Democrat hasn't won Georgia since 1992. He's off to Florida, obviously, a key battleground states and could block Donald Trump's path. He's going to Iowa. OK. And even you noted Kamala Harris is going to Texas, which is a state leaning in Trump's direction right now.
All of that is gravy, Joe Biden doesn't need any of it. He's already at 290. He has to protect that upper Midwest, that Rustbelt region, the Great Lakes, but now he's just going and making sure there are insurance policies that he has multiple paths.
Here's the thing for Donald Trump, OK? Look at this board, I can give him every toss upstate; Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and the second congressional district up here in Maine, I can give him. That only gets into 248.
Donald Trump has to start going places that are already leaning in Joe Biden's direction and pull them back. So that's why he's going to Arizona this week. He wants to bring that back that gets him to 259. That's why we saw him for three stops in Pennsylvania today and we're going to see him in Michigan and Wisconsin tomorrow.
Any one of these states now, let's say Pennsylvania where he did three stops today, that would get him over 270. So he's got dig in to some of that Biden territory. That's Trump's path. It's a more narrow one, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, David.
So, Democratic pollster, Joel Benenson, who advised President Obama and Hillary Clinton joins me along with Republican pollster, Neil Newhouse, who worked on Romney's presidential campaign.
OK. So we're at this time, people just want to see that map and see every single possible iteration. Joe, let me ask you, though, spending time in Texas, and Georgia and Iowa is about expanding the map. Is that a good use of time just eight days out or you just spend every single second in that upper Midwest to make sure you don't lose it?
Joel BENENSON, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I think what's happening right now is very different from 2016. Joe Biden in the upper Midwest is holding his lead or picking up a point or two in Pennsylvania and Michigan. That's a very different situation than where Hillary Clinton was where we were losing oxygen, beginning about two to two and a half weeks out.
So I think keeping the Trump campaign playing defense in some of these closer battleground states may make some sense, but I'm sure that we'll see Vice President Biden and Kamala Harris in some of those upper Midwest states before this is all done.
BURNETT: So Neil when you look at it, what are you hearing from Trump voters? I mean, the way that David was laying this out, I know there's different ways to look at it, but you gave Trump Ohio, you gave Trump Florida, you gave Trump all of those states. But still he has to turn a state, David's analysis was, that is currently leaning Biden, what are you hearing about where that best chance is? Is it indeed Arizona?
NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, I mean, let's go back a second.
NEWHOUSE: David seemed like he was measuring the drapes for the Biden White House already and it's a far cry from that. Look at the states where Joe Biden's campaigning right now, what's really interesting is 40 percent of voters in Texas and Georgia and Iowa have already voted. So there's limited returns on that.
Is it overconfidence or are they trying to find more pathways to 270. For the Trump campaign, there's no doubt, it is the campaign path to the 270 electoral colleges more like a tightrope. You've got to have Pennsylvania. You got to have Arizona, Florida, North Carolina. I'd throw in Wisconsin.
There simply is no margin for error whereas Biden's got a little bit of breathing room.
BURNETT: Joe, I remember a couple weeks before the election in 2016. I'm meeting with some folks on the clinton team and they had a whole PowerPoint presentation. And I still have it because one of the takeaways was expanding the map in Texas and Georgia. And I saved it as a reminder to never forget what happened there.
But is it really different this time when you see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris talking about the same two states at the same point or even closer?
BENENSON: Well, yes, it's very different. In 2016, you'll also recall, Erin, that you had two candidates who had very high unfavorable ratings.
BENENSON: Both were at 57 percent. Where we are now, the number one issue in this campaign on voters' minds is the coronavirus, which has already caused a quarter of a million deaths in this country. And Donald Trump's approval rating, he's the incumbent, this is a referendum on the incumbent, his approval rating on handling the coronavirus is about 17 points underwater, 40 percent of people approved, 57 percent disapproved.
So this is a moment to be aggressive. I think you know which states you feel confident in with seven days to go. And as I said earlier, some of these states we had already lost oxygen three weeks out in some of these states.
That trend is the opposite. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are a roll holding steady with where they were a week ago. At this point in the Clinton campaign, we were seeing shrinkage in some of those states.
BURNETT: So Neil, let me ask you, Joe Biden was in Pennsylvania today and you talk about Pennsylvania. And he responded to the comment from the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, when Meadows was talking to Jake Tapper making the point, Meadows was that they're not going to control the pandemic, they're going for therapeutics, because this is just too contagious. Here's what Biden said in Pennsylvania.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two hundred thousand could die between now and the end of the year and he said we're not going to control it. Not going to control it. The bottom line is Donald Trump is the worst possible president, the worst possible person to try to lead us through this pandemic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Neil, Biden has been making the coronavirus the core of his campaign. How big of an impact do you think coronavirus has and Trump's handling of it on voter decisions at this point?
BENENSON: Oh, tremendous (inaudible) ...
NEWHOUSE: Erin, it's baked in.
NEWHOUSE: It's baked into the cake right now. I mean, voters they feel about coronavirus and the President, but we back up for a second. The President's been in office for four years. He presided over a strong and growing economy.
He was then impeached. He presided over the COVID pandemic, an economic shut down, a partial recovery. He pushed to a last-minute Supreme Court nomination, that's probably being voted on now. He recovered from coronavirus.
Is there something else that you think voters need to be able to design which candidate they're going to vote for in this race? This -- you know, this is all noise right now, voters of already decided who they're voting for. There aren't any undecided voters left. All they're interested right now is trying to turn out their vote, turn out their base.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Well, thank you both very much.
And actually, one small group of undecided voters right now could be a very, very important. And thank you both very much for your time.
OUTFRONT next, the Trump campaign says it's ground game will be what wins it for them on election day. So, what is the reality in key states, right, with the people who haven't yet voted on that Election Day? We're in battleground tonight, North Carolina.
And coronavirus claims a life of a man who thought it was a hoax. His son-in-law, who's a doctor, treating COVID patients is here tonight with a plea for all of us.
BURNETT: New tonight. More than 60 million voters casting early ballot so far across the United States already exceeding the total number of early votes in 2016.
This as President Trump's campaign manager predicts a victory over Joe Biden due to the campaign's ground game.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL STEPIEN, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The ground game matters. In state after state, we can see the result of President Trump's grassroots operation which is simply the best it's ever been built. They don't have a ground game to draw those votes and turn those ballots into actual votes. (END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: And one state where the ground game could make or break it is the key swing state of North Carolina.
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crowds thunder for President Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, North Carolina. Go out and vote.
ZELENY: And horns honk for Joe Biden.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hello, North Carolina!
ZELENY: But the real work is actually happening here in the neighborhoods of Trump and Biden supporters. In the closing days of the race, volunteers for the Biden campaign are hitting the streets for the first time in eight months after being grounded by the pandemic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go Biden, let's do this?
ZELENY: They have gloves, masks and an urgent task -- finding voters who still haven't been reached.
CAROLYN EBERLY, BIDEN CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEEER: People have been calling and texting and writing and everything they can do and have not heard from these voters. So this conversation or this contact is really important.
ZELENY: Caroline Eberly and Scarlet Hollingsworth have been itching to knock on doors and look those voters in the eye.
SCARLETT HOLLINGSWORTH, BIDEN CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: We say in North Carolina, we don't do landslides, we do squeakers. So we have to really get, you know, those votes out.
ZELENY (on camera): Do you wonder what the other side has been doing and if they've been doing this all along?
EBERLY: We've heard that and seen that the Trump campaign has been out canvassing throughout this all -- all of this. The people we want to elect care about people's lives and so that's why this decision was made to not do it.
ZELENY (voice-over): Until now, team Biden has done most of its work virtually, while Trump has gone full speed ahead with his rallies at the center of it all.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you to Gastonia, beautiful name.
ZELENY: Four years ago, Trump won Gaston County by more than 30 percentage points. To win North Carolina again he is trying to increase those margins.
JONATHAN FLETCHER, CHAIRMAN, GASTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: That is really one of the reasons he wanted to come here was to energize the race.
ZELENY (on camera): So, the rally is part of the GOTV effort here?
FLETCHER: Absolutely, absolutely. Here and everywhere else he goes, you know, that is the point of him going places is to get people out to vote.
ZELENY (voice-over): Yet it's not just big rallies.
Republicans have been going door-to-door for months.
AMY BYNUM (R), CANDIDATE FOR NC HOUSE: It's better to come to their houses and come to people where they are.
ZELENY: Here in the growing Charlotte suburbs, Amy Bynum is running for statehouse. She is also secretary of the county GOP.
BYNUM: It's our job to reach the new folks and get our Republicans out to vote.
ZELENY: North Carolina has more than 1.3 million new registered voters since 2016. As cases of coronavirus soar, turning out voters is a challenge facing both sides, but particularly Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to the polls!
CROWD: Got to the polls!
ZELENY: For Biden to win here, high enthusiasm among black voters is key.
MAYOR VI LYLES (D), CHARLOTTE, NC: With a leader like Joe Biden.
ZELENY: Charlotte's Mayor Vi Lyles says she thinks about this every day, but believes Democrats have an even bigger motivating force.
LYLES: And this time it's been frame by COVID-19 and president's lack of response for it and that's why I think people are going to come out to vote.
ZELENY: Now, more than 3 million people have already voted early here in North Carolina and early voting extends through this Saturday. So enthusiasm is not a question, but the Biden campaign believes they can find more voters through organizing.
Now, President Trump has been in the state twice over the last six days. There's no question he may be the best organizer of all for both sides -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff.
And now, Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond, who is a co-chair of the Biden campaign.
Congressman, good to have you back.
So, Jeff Zeleny going through what's going on in North Carolina, and the ground game there. It is obviously a crucial swing state and right now in the dead heat it appears from the polls.
So, who do you think has the upper hand right now? When you hear what Bill Stepien says, that the ground game of the Trump campaign is unlike anything known in American history and that they're going to -- they're going to win on that?
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): They also said that coronavirus would just magically disappear. So I don't put much weight in the president nor any of his surrogates. They're not based in fact.
What is the fact I think is that the American people are angry that this president knew about the coronavirus, he knew how serious it was, and he covered it up, because he was more concerned with reelection than real people. And I think that people really want to voice their displeasure and they're going to do it at the ballot box, and so, he's a motivating force all within himself.
And then I think Joe Biden has done a great job of showing the country his vision and articulating how you get coronavirus under control. And this White House just basically admitted that they can't control it. And so, I think it's a good -- it's a good contrast.
BURNETT: OK, so you heard our Jeff Zeleny obviously talking about -- you know, the thing about North Carolina is that is so fascinating, that there's so many different voter blocs that are so crucial, sort of microcosms of things we're seeing elsewhere in the country. But he specifically talked about the African-American vote. And we have seen across this country, black voters go into the polls and much higher rates than they did when Hillary Clinton was on the ballot.
In the latest Quinnipiac Poll which is national, Biden beating Trump 81 to 5 with black voters. And that is a slightly better margin than the last time around for Trump, he did 8 percent. But 13 percent according to this Quinnipiac poll, this is what I want to ask you, Congressman, 13 percent either did not know who they were going to vote for or had new answer -- double digit of sort of don't know, possibly undecided among black voters.
Is that a canary in the coal mine?
RICHMOND: No, I don't think so at all. One question would be, out of that 13 percent, maybe they just didn't want to answer will they in fact go out and vote? And that is a -- that's a concern. It's something we're paying attention to.
But the other part about it, and everybody talks about 2016, but one no one ever talks about is the amount of young African-Americans that went out, they did vote. They just voted for Jill Stein and the third party candidate based on either their beliefs or disinformation through Russia and fake Black Lives Matter and Facebook pages and that.
But look, we are -- we are turning over every stone to make sure we communicate with African American voters, Latino voters and female voters, everybody. And so, we are very optimistic that, one, they're coming. But two, we have a very great organizing game and we are confident that it's going to pay dividends come election day.
BURNETT: So --
RICHMOND: And it's already paying dividends if you look at the numbers.
BURNETT: The early voting.
OK. So President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, today, you know, they've been making the case, right, about the president's funding for historically black colleges and universities, for these Opportunity Zones. Today, Kushner appeared to question, you know, whether black Americans actually want to be successful. OK?
That's -- let me play for you the byte and give you a chance to respond to it. Here's Jared Kushner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: One thing we've seen in a lot of the black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump's policies are policies that can help people break out of the problems that they're complaining about, but he can't want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman, what do you say to Jared Kushner?
RICHMOND: That's just -- you know, it's white privilege. It's ignorance and -- but it's to be expected coming from this White House.
I mean, Trump talks about his funding for historically black colleges but what he doesn't tell people is that his executive order where he said no one can teach diversity and inclusion training in that race specific policies and -- will jeopardize your federal funding, which I read an article today that puts HBCU funding smack dab in jeopardy simply because that they teach a robust and thorough history of this country, including slavery, including our fight to be more perfect union. He would stop fighting to HBCUs because they teach that.
And so, Jared Kushner's -- first of all, black people are not complaining. They are articulating the systematic racism that's been in this country since its beginning. They are advocating for policing reform because unarmed black people are getting killed by the police.
And so, we're not complaining and this whole thought that the president could want success for black people more than black people is just consistent ignorance coming out of this White House.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
RICHMOND: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, a Minnesota state senator loses his father in law to coronavirus, a virus his father in law thought was a hoax. A lawmaker out front with a message for Americans who aren't taking the virus seriously.
And live pictures from the Senate floor. Senators are moments from a historic vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court.
BURNETT: Breaking news: the Minnesota Department of Health reporting three coronavirus outbreak in the state tied to three Trump campaign events from September. It comes as Vice President Pence held a campaign event earlier in northern Minnesota. You see him there in the crowd. Not socially distancing, very few masks.
Minnesota tonight reporting record hospitalizations, more than 1,000 cases reached of 19 consecutive days.
And OUTFRONT now is Matt Klein. He's a state senator in Minnesota, also a doctor. And he lost his father in law to coronavirus earlier this month.
And, Senator Klein, I'm sorry for your loss. I know he was very dear to you and your children. You are here tonight because of his experience with this virus. Both how he viewed it and how he died from it. I know it's something you wanted to share. That he had believed coming into it that it was a hoax.
Tell me about the conversations you had with him about the pandemic.
MATT KLEIN (D), MINNESOTA STATE SENATOR, FATHER-IN-LAW DIED FROM CORONAVIRUS: Well, you know, first of all, my father-in-law was a giant of a man. He was a hero of our large family and a hero to his community. He was a blue ribbon grandpa, who was vigorous and built a log cabin all with his own hands and built a small business into a large business all by himself.
He was skeptical, that the coronavirus was a Democratic exaggeration. He was skeptical and thought masks and distancing were little weird. Like a lot of families, I'm a Democratic senator, he was a lifelong Republican. Like a lot of families these days, we had passionate political disagreements.
And, unfortunately, the coronavirus caught up with him.
BURNETT: As you say, he was a Trump supporter, and you talked about him -- you know, you talked with him about wearing masks, right, as a doctor. You talked to him about social distancing. What did he say to you?
KLEIN: Yes. This is a symptom of the times. We always had a good relationship. I know he loved me and I loved him. And he trusted me as a doctor. I think he trusted me as a son in law.
But politics can sometimes supersede those questions in today's day and age, and I think he was suspicious and skeptical. I would advise him to wear masks and then to distance socially and follow the usual regulations and I think he was skeptical about those recommendations.
BURNETT: And so, then, what happened? How did he end up getting?
KLEIN: Yeah, so, he was in Labor -- over Labor Day in Wisconsin. You know, they have large outbreaks there. The court struck down their governors' executive orders suggesting public health measures. And the culture up there was very open. People were largely not masked, they're crowded into public spaces like bars and restaurants.
We believe that my father in law caught the coronavirus over Labor Day in northern Wisconsin. He -- you know, he came very ill. His granddaughter drove him to the hospital, and dropped him off. He walked in.
And that was the last that our family oversaw him. He became very ill, was on a ventilator. And we said goodbye to him over the telephone. And he died on October 7th.
BURNETT: So, you say he was in Wisconsin. Of course, President Trump was in Wisconsin this weekend. And he was talking, Doctor, about why cases and deaths are so high in the United States. And he made an allegation.
The doctors and hospitals are inflating the numbers to get more money. I just wanted to play for you what he said, Doctor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Doctors get more money and hospitals and get more money to get this insensitive. So some countries do it differently. If somebody is very sick with a bad heart, they die of COVID, they don't get reported as COVID. So, then, you wonder, gee, I wonder why their cases are so low.
This country, the reporting systems are really not doing it right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, I believe after this, Senator, you're going to the hospital to treat patients, right? So, when you hear this as a doctor and someone who has lost their father in law, because of his belief in some of the things the president said about COVID. What do you think when you hear the president say this? You're artificially inflating COVID deaths to get paid more money?
KLEIN: Well, look, Erin, this is a president who called our fallen veterans losers and suckers. He didn't understand what was in it for them. I have no doubt that he would require a financial incentive to go care for someone who is sick or dying. And he clearly does not have an understanding of what sacrifice and duty means.
But we do. People who go into the shift that I'm about to go into at the medical center to care for human beings. We know why we are there. And we're doing it for the right reasons.
What was offensive about that statement was that he made it in Wisconsin, literally on the grave of my father in law at a large public event where once again social distancing was not practiced. I felt it was an additional slap in the face.
BURNETT: And what is the lesson you want people to learn from what happened to your father-in-law?
KLEIN: Look, like I said, I loved my father in law and I know he loved me. And like a lot of families these days, we had strong political differences, but somehow public health cannot be one of those political differences. We've got to trust that we want to care for each other and do the right thing for each other. We're not out to trick people. We're not out to, you know, impose a political agenda. We just want to get through this together to be safe and healthy as a country.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Dr. Klein, Senator Klein. Thank you.
KLEIN: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And next breaking news. A win for Republicans tonight -- the Supreme Court blocking an extension for deadline for mail-in votes in the key state of Wisconsin. Now, we only have a few day left until election day. This could be significant. What it means, next.
BURNETT: Breaking news. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling against extending the deadline to count absentee ballots in the key swing state of Wisconsin. The judge is ruling against Democrats who argue they needed more time to count the flood of absentee ballots during the pandemic.
OUTFRONT now, Rick Hasen, election law analyst and author of "Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy".
All right. So, put this into English. Democrats wanted more days to count. What changes there? How significant is it?
RICK HASEN, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, already, the lower court, the 7th Circuit has said there was not going to be an extension of deadline in Wisconsin. And the Democrats went to the Supreme Courts and we're not able to get that overturned.
It was a five-to-three vote. All the conservatives saying that federal courts can't extend deadlines, and 3 liberals on the court dissenting were saying that this was going to lead the disenfranchisement of voters who are not be able to return their ballots in time.
BURNETT: And so, now, getting this deadline now obviously, you know, for anyone who did not already planned for this to happen, they basically have to postmark or also they're not going to count. That's what this means in Wisconsin.
HASEN: And it also means that maybe other ways to get your ballot back. And so, you might not want to rely on the U.S. Postal Service, which is saying is going to get a week to get your ballots back. So, if there's an opportunity to use a drop box and return to a government office, that's probably the best way to go right now.
BURNETT: OK. So, this was a defeat for Democrats. In Pennsylvania though, the Supreme Court their extended the deadline to 3 days after the election in terms of, you know, to count. Now, the Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. So, is this Wisconsin now precedent? What does this mean?
HASEN: It's a different situation. And three of the justices address this, that when it's coming -- the Pennsylvania extension came from the state court rather than a federal court. And at least Justice Kagan and Chief Justice Roberts said we might treat the state court extensions differently than federal court ruling. Justice Kavanaugh said no. We need to defer to state legislature.
So, it's a very different and complicated situation in Pennsylvania, but we are running up against the clock.
BURNETT: And the bottom line is, any other cases you are watching very closely here?
HASEN: Well, you know, the -- we are almost out of the Supreme Court before the election, but if it's very close, we could be looking at some cases after the election as well.
BURNETT: Right, certainly, and all these -- all these questions across the country. I know even now Florida, thousands of ballots with questions of signatures, all of these things could matter in a tight race.
Rick, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
HASEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And thank you very much for being with me.
"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.