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Transition Integrity Project Member Talks about this Initiative; Coronavirus Pandemic Update from Around the World; Unity as Trump Threatens Democracy; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 08:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This country just three months away from the November election, 95 days. What happens if the vote is contested or if President Trump refuses to concede even if he loses? A bipartisan group of experts -- bipartisan has been meeting to consider those very scenarios. And two of them will join me now.

CNN political commentator and former Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. Also with us in a moment, I think when we get the technology issues worked out, Bill Kristol, he's director of the conservative group Defending Democracy. And we're going to bring him on in a moment.

I just want to ask you a question, Governor, is, how seriously are you, is this group, taking the possibility of this president either attempting to delay the election or otherwise interfere with it or not accept the results? And I'll just remind people at home -- this is not a Democratic plot here, this is a bipartisan group that is investigating these scenarios. How seriously are you taking those scenarios?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's the whole point of the -- it's called the Transition Integrity Project. There were 100 participants and, as you say, it was bipartisan, it's sponsored by a non-partisan entity called Protect Democracy. And, honestly, Jim, it was -- it was a real eye opener to many of us. It was pretty scary.

I mean the point of the exercises was not to scare people, but to really figure out what to do now to avoid a crisis in the future -- I mean on Election Day and after Election Day, too, because you're not going to necessarily get the results on election night.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You're not trying to be alarmists. This wasn't -- you didn't do this for your health. President Trump keeps suggesting that he may not accept the election results.


CAMEROTA: You have to play this out, game this out, because he keeps saying it. I mean this is like the kind of war games that the Pentagon plays to prepare. And so it was fascinating to hear behind the scenes that, you know, you were already trying to figure it out. I think we have Bill Kristol now.

Do we?

Is Bill with us?

Hi. Hi, Bill.


CAMEROTA: Oh, wow.

KRISTOL: Hi, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I'm always amazed when technology works, you know?

KRISTOL: Yes, no kidding.

Good to see you all.

CAMEROTA: So, Bill -- you too.

I don't know how much you heard of that, but it's been fascinating to read about the work that you have felt compelled -- felt obligated, I guess, to do because President Trump keeps threatening not to accept the election results.

And so, Bill, what's the plan? If -- if the -- President Trump doesn't win but doesn't accept the results, what is the plan?

KRISTOL: I mean one thing we learned I think from doing this game is President Trump will be President Trump. It's not -- and he, unfortunately, has a more compliant -- more compliant leaders in the executive branch than he did a year or two or three years ago.

Why didn't the Ukraine plot work? Because an awful lot of people didn't go along with him. And so those -- a lot of those people are gone.

But one thing really striking is, Republican leaders, at the federal level and the state level, really matter. President Trump can try to say, they're stealing the election in Florida. The late vote that's coming in is illegitimate. If the Republican governor of Florida says, no, no, no, we're counting the votes, we're doing it in a proper way, keep calm, we'll get this right, you know, after a few days when the absentee ballots come in and so forth, that takes the steam out of Trump.

If Mitch McConnell says, as he did yesterday, look, we have a process here. We may not know the results on election night, but -- if it's close, but let the states go and do their business. If in Jennifer's state of Michigan Trump attacks Gretchen Whitmore, which I'm sure he will, the Democratic governor, but the Republican leaders of the legislators says, no, we, in Michigan, know how to count votes and let us do our thing, I think that makes a huge difference.

So one of the takeaways I take from it is, Trump is hard to pressure, but Mitch McConnell and Republican state legislative leaders and Republican governors, they really need to stand up here and let -- have a -- you know, be responsible in the week or two before Election Day and, obviously, even now in terms of getting some funding for safe and secure elections, but especially on election day -- on the night of Election Day and for the next few days if it's close.

SCIUTTO: Governor Granholm --

GRANHOLM: Can I just say, Alisyn, just real --

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes, please, Jennifer.

GRANHOLM: Just quickly, I mean, you know, as a governor, and there were a couple of governors who participated in this, the point of this exercise is that Trump has got a huge amount of power at his disposal. He's got the military. He's got the secretary of state. He's got compliant Republicans, hopefully they can be persuaded.


But, remember, elections are run by the states and governors and secretaries of state, in every single state, right now should be doing one of these tabletop exercises to game out the west cause scenarios. What if Trump foments right win provocateurs and then sends out the military to put out the fire he created? What if he ceases the ballot boxes? What's the strategy to de-escalate protests? What do state election officials do now to give the public the assurance that vote by mail is safe and doesn't inspire fraud?


GRANHOLM: What do state election officials do now if he defunds the post office, for example? So those things have to be happening right now at the state level.

SCIUTTO: It is, I think -- we should say, it's remarkable we're discussing this in America in 2020.


SCIUTTO: I just -- it's -- it is truly remarkable. And that you, a bipartisan group of former members of government, et cetera, feel the need to address this today. I think folks at home have to pay attention.

Bill Kristol, Governor Granholm brought up the idea of using the military. Now, we saw with protests following George Floyd, the president tried to use active military. The Pentagon refused. But the president, in effect, got what he wanted. He searched around, found a pliant member of the executive branch in the DHS acting secretary and then deployed military like forces in Portland and threatened to do elsewhere. I imagine -- a question here is this. There were the dramatic moves,

the president saying, I'm not going to accept the election. I'm not leaving the White House. But there -- there were moves short of that, right, that the president can do with federal power to have a great effect, to deploy such forces to discourage the vote in certain places where he thinks he's losing, right, or close polling places in places where he thinks he's losing. Is that the more realistic concern and fear here?

KRISTOL: Yes, because if there's no predicate laid for the president saying it's an illegitimate or corrupt or rigged election, he can say he's not leaving the White House but the military and the Secret Service and really then the Justice Department even aren't going to listen to him and he will not be president after January 20th. Do a lot of damage in the -- in the (INAUDIBLE) between November 3rd and January 20th. But, still that's limited.

Yes, I think that you're absolutely right. (INAUDIBLE) more subtle. DHS turns out to be much more -- I think even then when we did the game, I think Jennifer would agree, we were focused a little more on DOD, on the Defense Department. I has real norms, though. We saw that when there was the reaction to Esper and Milley crossing Lafayette Square. The Justice Department and even there I think there's constraints on Barr. DHS is worrisome.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. We hope that you will do that game again and now that things have changed a little bit and share the findings with us.


CAMEROTA: Governor Granholm, Bill Kristol, great to see you both. Thanks for all that information.

GRANHOLM: Thanks so much.

KRISTOL: Thanks, Alisyn and Jim.

CAMEROTA: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson just made a big announcement about reopening plans in the U.K. And it's surprising. More on this developing story, next.



CAMEROTA: Developing this hour, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. will put the brakes on the next phase of reopening because community spread is on the rise.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As we see these rises around the world, we can't fool ourselves that we are exempt.

Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal, squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.

Until the 15th of August, at the earliest, casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, the remaining close contact services must remain closed.



Meanwhile, Brazil's first lady tested positive for coronavirus.

CNN has reporters around the world to bring you the latest developments.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I'm Nic Robertson in London, where a mini heat wave is expected to hit 93 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 to 15 degrees above normal. It will be the same in Paris, 102 degrees, the same in Madrid, 102 degrees there expected. The concern for authorities across Europe that people will come out, they will flock to parks like this. I know this one. You can expect people to be swimming in this pond by the end of day and that they won't observe social distancing.

And this is a major concern in Europe as coronavirus looks like it's about to set off an a second wave. New towns in the U.K. have gone on to lockdown today. That's because they are spiking.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I'm Nick Paton Walsh in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Brazilian first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, has tested positive for coronavirus, a matter of days after only her husband, the president, Jair Bolsonaro, tested finally negative after two weeks of struggling with the disease, after days too in which she'd been around some senior cabinet ministers.

But numbers continue to be terrible for Brazil. And 58,000 almost new cases reported in the last 24 hours. Before that, the last 24 hours was 70,000 new cases, a record.

Jair Bolsonaro himself pictures on horseback among some supporters, occasionally not wearing masks. A deeply troubling time here as the disease continues to escalate.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi, where the government has been running what is arguably the most comprehensive mass testing program in the world. It's now carried out more than 5 million tests in a country with a population just shy of 10 million. That gives the UAE one of the highest per person testing rates anywhere, easily outstripping the U.S. In labs that we've been in to, results were coming back within just two hours.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to all of our correspondents around the world. Meanwhile, President Trump is trying to plant the seeds of doubt about the November election. We get "The Bottom Line" with famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, next.



CAMEROTA: President Trump does not want to or seem to want to move forward with the presidential election in November. He seems to be trying to find excuses to change the date or not accept the results.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" on this and so much more with CNN political analyst and famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

Carl, great to see you.

Before we get to what the president was tweeting or talking about, let's just start with Congressman John Lewis' funeral yesterday because just the visuals of three former presidents, all there together, all speaking, Republican and Democrats, while the current president decided to stay home and tweet.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What you saw yesterday were three presidents of the United States, all whose presidencies were flawed, some in major ways, but nonetheless presidents who understand the idea and history of America. What this country is, what it represents, particularly as represented by the principles of the great John Lewis, why they were there. And at the same time, what we see happening is a presidential emergency, a national presidential emergency, failure of leadership, by a president of the United States such as we've never had in the history of America.


And it's time that the two political parties recognize this national emergency of a president of the United States who is pathologically, according to even members of his own family, Mary Trump, who wrote a book about her uncle, who is incapable of exercising the kind of leadership, responsible leadership that we need. Instead we have an authoritarian out of control, unstable president according to those closest to him.


I know that there's always a deluge of outrageous comments from this president and we have to take those with a grain of salt, but the one yesterday was unique, threatening or discussing delaying the election, a power he does not have, but as we've said on this broadcast before, part of a broader effort by this president to pre-delegitimize the results of the election.

Republicans, as you know, sitting Republicans, have been very reluctant to challenge this president. Yesterday it was a fairly unified and strong voice, even from say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying, no, that's not going to happen. Is that notable?

BERNSTEIN: It's notable, but, first of all, this president does not show a capability of acting in the national interest. Only in his own interest. And McConnell and those leaders know it. But what we need is something that's happened with another dangerous president at a dangerous moment, Richard Nixon, but nothing like what we've seen now, but in the final days of Richard Nixon's presidency, the great Republican leadership, led by Barry Goldwater and others, the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, marched to the White House and told Nixon he had to leave office because of what he had done to undermine the national interests through his reckless and outrageous and illegal acts. Something similar is needed now if only the Republican leadership and other Republicans would go publicly and say to this president, all right, you want to stay through the rest of your term, but we are going to be a caretaker until this election and you must begin to act in the national interests. And, in fact, we would like to find another alternative to run as the Republican nominee for president of the United States.


CAMEROTA: Do you see President Trump --

BERNSTEIN: Some kind of rally --

CAMEROTA: President Trump as more dangerous than Richard Nixon and acting more recklessly?

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. I don't think there's any question about Richard Nixon's competence. He understood history. Watergate was a terrible abuse of power, the likes of which we had never seen, up until that time.

This is a totally different situation. We have a president of the United States now who demonstrably is not capable or stable enough or understands the history or the principles of the United States to act responsibly in the national interests. That is the meaning of what General Mattis, of what his former chiefs of staff were saying when they left and what they have told others and what they have written --


BERNSTEIN: In saying that this president is incapable of acting in the national interests of the United States. Undermining daily our national security.

And Covid is a national security question. Why is Covid out of control? Because of the actions and inaction of this unstable, authoritarian president.

SCIUTTO: And you can't forget, in the stream of news, for instance, not standing up to Russia as it repeatedly has threatened U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He refuses to do so.

I wonder, as the president feels weaker, more under assault, given his loss of public support three months to the election, do you see him becoming more erratic?

BERNSTEIN: Well, we have seen it every day, including what we -- what we saw yesterday. And it's not just a question of erratic, it's a question of willing to undertake dangerous statements and actions, such as he's done in Portland, Oregon, and sending marshals and others into other cities, not to really create order, but to provoke violence is the underlying purpose according to some who know the president and what he's doing.

It's time for the Republicans to act. That is what we need. We need them to set up a guardrail to protect us from this president in the next three months. They need to understand -- including what you saw McConnell do yesterday while he held his nose. They understand the danger of this president of the United States and it's damn pastime that some of them step up and say, we have to save the republic in these next few months, in this national emergency, because we are in a national presidential emergency and those guys know it.


McConnell knows it. He understands it. And it's time that they take some action to protect the United States of America from this president of the United States of America.

CAMEROTA: Carl Bernstein --

BERNSTEIN: And this is -- this is fact, not -- we're talking about facts here. We're not -- yes, I'm -- I'm giving a kind of -- it sounds like pejorative. It sounds like opinion. But it's based on the demonstrable facts that those closest to the president know about him and have expressed to reporters and to the public about his incompetence, ignorance and danger.

CAMEROTA: Carl Bernstein, always great to talk to you.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for giving us the historical perspective and your analysis.


BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, we are moments away, Jim, from the nation's top health officials, that will be Admiral Giroir. We're looking at Robert Redfield right there getting ready. They will be testifying on Capitol Hill about what is the national plan to contain coronavirus? The president says that he has one. What is it?


CAMEROTA: Jim, thanks so much for being here.

SCIUTTO: Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: And CNN's coverage continues, next.