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New Day Saturday

Postal Service Warns Mail-In Ballots May Arrive Too Late To Be Counted; Trump Refuses To Answer Question About QAnon While Backing Candidate Who Promotes Its Baseless Theories; Expert Say Human Challenge Trials Unethical And Treat People Like Laboratory Animals. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 15, 2020 - 08:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's undemocratic, it's un-American and it's Donald Trump's fault. He's trying to do everything he can to tilt the election into his favor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New potentially promising developments in the search for coronavirus vaccine. The challenge trial is where you intentionally put the virus literally up their noses and you see how well the vaccine works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I consider it to be unnecessary, uninformative and unethical. Basically it's treating people like laboratory animals.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY Weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A new day it is indeed. Top of the hour now looking across the Hudson River, thank you for being with us. And this morning the postal services pausing one of several controversial changes that critics say endanger mail delivery across the country.

The Post Office says that it is stopping the removal of mailboxes in several western states but this is only after removing the collection boxes in several other states and cutting the hours of retail operations.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And in Washington, President Trump is refusing to distance himself from a Republican candidate for Congress. She's from Georgia who's pushed baseless conspiracy theories. The government is facing push back meanwhile over a possible vaccine challenge trial.

A former Harvard Medical School professor called it unnecessary, uninformative and unethical. BLACKWELL: And the economic crisis is really hurting families across

the country. A lot of them are turning to food banks for the help that they need.

PAUL: I want to go to CNN National Correspondent Natasha Chen who is at the side of the food bank that is set to open later this morning. These food banks have become critical resources for these families, I know Natasha.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actually we're seeing about a dozen cars already lined up here waiting and this doesn't actually start for another couple of hours so they will have been waiting in their cars for three hours at that point.

I talked to some of them. Their situations are pretty desperate right now. Perhaps they were already struggling but the pandemic has made it even worse. Right now in Georgia, we're looking at some serious case numbers as well with the state reporting its highest number of deaths this week, last Tuesday since the pandemic began.

Here's a look at what's going on with the schools as well as kids are returning to class.


CHEN: Georgia is not doing enough to prevent the spread of Covid-19. That's according to White House coronavirus task force recommendations from August 9. A document obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It reads there is widespread and expanding community viral spread and there is no significant improvement in the Atlanta metro area with continued high levels of new cases at a plateau mitigation efforts must increase.

Governor Brian Kemp's office fired back, sending CNN a list of its ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the virus, saying in part, "the DPH lab has been working around the clock with multiple shifts since early summer and that Governor Kemp continues to rely on data science and the public health advice of the state's public health director."

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: Georgia should roll back. I definitely think Georgia should roll back.

CHEN: In a state seeing at least 3000 new cases every day over the last month. The Atlanta Mayor says it's too soon for students to be in classrooms.

LANCE BOTTOMS: And we're seeing that already in our state as schools are reopened, kids are getting infected and it's in my opinion, this is my opinion as a parent, it's more disruptive to think you're sending your child to a situation and then have to pull them all back out.

CHEN: Courtney Smith pulled her daughters out of public school in Atlanta suburbs altogether when they told her they saw 30 to 40 students in each classroom with few people wearing masks. COURTNEY SMITH, PARENT: As parents, our number one task in life is to

protect our babies and I really felt like I was dropping mine off at a death trap on Monday so there were a lot of tears shed by me and shed by my children last week.

CHEN: After two days in their Cherokee county schools Smith transferred them to a charter school which she says is far fewer students in class and more of them wearing masks. On Friday, Cherokee County public school district confirmed 80 new cases of Covid-19 for the week, nearly triple the previous week's count.

Two high schools in the district had to temporarily pause in-person learning.

SMITH: If you want your kids in school, your schools have to stay open and for the schools to stay open, you have to contain your numbers of COVID cases and the best way that we know to contain those cases is to implement mask and to also implement a hyper program where you reduce the number of students in the building at one time.


CHEN: But there is no mask mandate in Cherokee county schools nor at Paulding county schools where North Paulding High School also had to temporarily stop in-person classes due to students and staff testing positive. Starting Monday, that school will use a hybrid schedule with both in-person and digital learning.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R) GEORGIA: There's definitely going to be issues when you open anything. We saw that when we opened businesses. We are seeing that when we open schools. We've given them guidance, we've worked with them to really give them the tools that they need to open.

CHEN: Those tools include shipments of masks that aren't required by the state though Kemp once sued Atlanta's mayor for mandating masks, he says at local school officials are best positioned to make the best rules for their communities.

And this morning we are waiting on a new executive order to be announced from Governor Brian Kemp as the existing one expires tonight. He did withdraw his recent lawsuit against the Atlanta Mayor and Council and last night he tweeted that he is going to be protecting property rights of business owners with the new executive order.

Christi and Victor, back to you.


BLACKWELL: This is remarkable that there are people in line there at the food banks, that give away, three hours before it starts. Natasha Chen reporting for us this morning. Thanks so much. So add to the food insecurity, the eviction crisis. There's a group in New Orleans that's helping people with legal services that says that eviction intakes have tripled since the eviction courts reopened there in June. That's compared to the same time last week, the same weeks last year I

should say and that helps explain what we're seeing here. The chairs and the mattresses and the clothes of the family just piled up on the curb. A little later this hour, we're going to speak with an attorney who's helping struggling renters with some of their cases. We're going to talk about their stories and the effort in New Orleans to stop the evictions.

PAUL: And the CDC, listen to this, says people who've recovered from corona virus, you don't need to quarantine or get tested again for three months.

BLACKWELL: And the White House coronavirus testing czar says the administration has done everything they can to increase testing capacity. CNN's Brynn Gingras is following the latest. Brynn, the U.S. still struggling with testing delays and supply chain shortages so many months into this pandemic.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes and it just angers you when you also look at the death toll that just continues to go up Christi and Victor, a thousand - more than a thousand yesterday. The CDC projecting as you can imagine, it going way up just in the next few weeks.

And as you guys just said, the White House task force testing czar says the country is doing all it can when it comes to testing, said that that right here on CNN. Also in that interview yesterday he said that there is going to be an action announced next week under the Defense Production Act about testing but wouldn't give any further details on how this is going to help Americans and the testing issues that many still face.


GINGRAS: The U.S. averaging more than 1000 deaths a day, not for one week or two but for almost three weeks and now the CDC forecasting by September 5, the country may reach a death toll of nearly 189,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is a good idea, I want to hear it.

GINGRAS: The administration's testing czar Brett Giroir appearing on CNN Friday after health experts challenged his earlier statements that the country is doing an appropriate amount of testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we're testing 700,000 to 800,000 people. A fraction of the number we need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you say enough has been done, enough has been done to make sure that everyone who needs a test gets a test in this country.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH UNDER THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Everything that can possibly be done has been done, I spend every day trying to increase testing. What I want people to understand though is that testing is not the panacea. It is not the answer. GINGRAS: In Georgia where the state reached its highest death toll

this week, the governor is praising his state's testing efforts despite the Atlanta Journal Constitution reporting that recommendations from the White House task force urged the governor to boost mitigation measures since the state's infection rate is nearly double the national average.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to tell me that the data that the governor's looking - looking at and examining is the right data because if it is we wouldn't be in the top 5 with other states that are twice, three times and four times the size of state of Georgia.

GINGRAS: California now at a disheartening milestone after taking a 1- 2 punch from the virus, the state recording more cases than any other state in the country, more than 600,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not out of the woods.

GINGRAS: For 53 straight days, Florida counting more than 4000 new cases daily. There are growing concerns in Illinois which is reporting its highest number of cases since May. One potentially promising note, hospitalizations across the country are declining.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This virus hasn't changed. It's the same as it was before and it's doing very substantial damage to the country. I think we really have to be very focused on mask use, avoiding large gatherings, social distancing, hand hygiene. This plateau we're in now it's fragile. It could go back in the other direction if people begin to relax.

GINGRAS: This week the CDC's director told Americans to expect the worst fall we've ever had. It's why many parents and teachers are still grappling with tough decisions when it comes to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a member of my family that you know is at high risk and so if I'm put into a classroom of 30 more kids, it's a small room, there's one exit. The ventilation isn't all that great for schools.

GINGRAS: In Georgia, one district saw 80 cases of Covid-19 just this week, resulting in the quarantine of more than 1100 teachers and students. Parents there calling on the governor to re-evaluate the reopening of schools.

And the CDC director Robert Redfield telling CNN that this pandemic is going to change the way that teachers teach and students learn even when it is under control, meaning facilities will have to likely change, possibly classes will be offered during the day and also at night.

This as the CDC is saying they are seeing more cases among children. You heard Natasha Chen's report there in Georgia. We'll also - remember guys, we're going to be seeing more schools opening. CDC director says that they're actually going to be releasing guidelines for administrators, specifically for teachers and school staff just to keep them safe as well. Guys.


PAUL: All right, Brynn Gingras, good to see you. Thank you for the update.

BLACKWELL: According to the Russian Health Ministry, the country has started production of its coronavirus vaccine, was approved this week before beginning crucial phase 3 trials. It will gradually be rolled out to high risk people before mass vaccination of Russians starts in October.

Now there's a lot of skepticism from health experts. Russia has not released any scientific data on its testing and CNN is unable to verify the vaccine's claimed safety or efficacy. So the controversy over alleged mail-in voter fraud is escalating.

Last night the Post Office agreed it would stop removing boxes in 16 western states and parts of two others until after the election.

PAUL: Now remember President Trump has repeatedly said mail-in ballots would lead to voting fraud. Election officials have consistently said that is not true. CNN's Brianna Keilar spoke to two experts about how the vote by mail process works.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump has made many baseless and misleading claims, casting doubt on mail-in voting. Here's one.

TRUMP: So we have a new phenomenon, it's called - it's called mail-in voting.

KEILAR: Not true.

DAVID BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION & RESEARCH: Mail-in voting has been in the United States since the civil war. We've been doing it for hundreds of years. There are many states that have actually had a majority of their votes are cast by mail for decades.

KEILAR: Let's begin here. Five states conduct elections almost entirely by mail. By CNN's count, 37 states and the District of Columbia allow you to vote by mail without giving an excuse or using the pandemic as a reason. These remaining eight states like Texas and New York do not allow voters to use the pandemic as an excuse to vote by mail. How you get your ballot depends on where you live too.

In light of the pandemic, Vermont, California, the district of Columbia and New Jersey have joined the original five universal mail- in voting states, sending ballots to every registered voter.

Others send absentee ballot request forms to voters in the mail but most Americans must request a ballot be sent to them.

TRUMP: What they're going to do is blanket the state - anybody that ever walked frankly will get one.

KEILAR: Nope. Registered voters. Just registered voters get ballots and non-citizens are not permitted to register to vote in federal elections. Next.

TRUMP: You look at some of the corruption having to do with universal mail-in voting, absentee voting is OK. You have to apply, you have to go through a process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to apply for mail-in. It's the same thing.

TRUMP: Absentee voting is the -

MICHAEL KANG, PROFESSOR, NORTHWESTERN PRITZKER SCHOOL OF LAW: Absentee voting is done by mail so it's mail-in voting. Basically you have similar procedural checks in both cases.

KEILAR: Pause and now let's rewind to President Trump's most dangerous claim about mail-in voting.

TRUMP: You look at some of the corruption having to do with the universal mail-in voting. There's no way you can go through a mail-in vote without massive cheating.

BECKER: What election officials will tell you of both parties is that voter fraud is extremely rare. It might be counted in the dozens or hundreds of cases out of 150 million ballots cast. It's extremely rare.


TRUMP: Mail-in ballots, you're going to have foreign countries. You talk about foreign countries, they're going to printing their own ballots.

BECKER: When foreign governments or anyone else tried to flood the system with fake mail ballots, it will be detected immediately. They would be segregated, they would not be counted. The ballots that go out differ by state that all use special different paper. They use special different ink. They are usually coated on the outside of the envelope to be matched to a particular voter they've been sent to.

These things would be detected almost instantaneously. It would be one of the clumsiest attempts to interfere with our election. We know the foreign governments are much more sophisticated than that.

KEILAR: Once the ballot arrives, it's filled out to the letter, signed and sealed. It is usually mailed or hand delivered to local election officials and while the process varies, a team verifies identification envelopes and secures the ballot until it's time to be counted.

Generally votes are counted by a voting machine while some may be counted by hand.

KANG: You have people from different parties or you have at least two people doing the counting and kind of checking each other so it's hard to kind of runaway and just commit voting fraud.

KEILAR: And last but not least.

TRUMP: I also don't want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn't mean anything. That's what's going to happen. That's just common sense.

BECKER: No, it's not going to take three months to count the ballots, particularly in a presidential race. In fact just in January which is less than three months after the election and by the constitution, a new President would have to take office on January 20 unless President Trump is re-elected.

KEILAR: But President Trump is right about one thing, the volume of mail-in ballots is going to be far higher than in any previous election in history.

BECKER: Many states haven't seen more than five percent of the ballots cast by mail in past elections. Everything you hear on election night is unofficial. It is a partial count. It could take several days to count all of those ballots. That is normal. That means the process is working.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: And thanks to Brianna there. Listen, there are some real concerns about this wave of evictions expected in New Orleans. An attorney is helping residents there who are just trying to keep their homes. They're sharing their stories and we're going to give you an update on the push to stop evictions there as well.

BLACKWELL: Plus a storm that brought hurricane-force winds to the Midwest just ripped through Iowa and look at what it left behind. We're going to bring you details of how this community recovered after this storm when New Day continues.



PAUL: 21 minutes past the hour right now and more than 1 million people, do believe are still without power in Iowa and parts of Illinois. This is days after powerful storms moved through the Midwest. The storm is called Derecho, right Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes, produced hurricane force winds of more than 100 miles per hour for up to 14 hours. The wind blew so hard that silos collapsed. You can see the mess there now since it's before harvest season in Iowa, the bins were not full but farmers are reporting acres of corn and crops were damaged or destroyed.

The National Guard is helping to assess the damage and restore power. The state is preparing a disaster declaration. The president refused to distance himself from a Republican congressional candidate who is pushing conspiracy theories.

PAUL: I want to bring in Sarah Westwood right now. So Sarah, talk to us about what we know about the candidates and where this is going.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, this candidate's name is Marjorie Taylor Greene and this week she won a primary for a congressional seat in Georgia. She's someone who is openly embraced the QAnon conspiracy theories that have been mushrooming on the internet and the president was given an opportunity to disavow that ideology yesterday during the briefing.

But instead he again focused on really praising green for her primary victory, also for her popularity in the state and when he was pressed by a reporter on whether he would distance himself from those conspiracy theories, he chose to move on and ask another question of a different reporter.

I want you to take a listen from that exchange from yesterday.


TRUMP: Well, she did very well in the election. She won by a lot. She was very popular. She comes from a great state and she had a tremendous victory so absolutely I did congratulate her. Please go ahead.

REPORTER: -- QAnon conspiracy theory -- do you agree with her on that? That was the question.

TRUMP: Go ahead please.


WESTWOOD: Now Greene has said the QAnon theories are worth paying attention to, worth listening to but I want to just walking you through some of the things that the QAnon group promotes online. One of them is that high profile people participate in child sex rings. Again a baseless allegation there that the deep state has tried to sabotage Trump's presidency.

They have spun conspiracies related to mass shootings in two elections and also that 5G is somehow spreading COVID cases. Obviously there's no basis for any of those theories and the president, given that opportunity did not distance himself.

But it's not unfamiliar territory for him. The president has been a proponent of baseless theories in the past from birtherism to suggesting that Ted Cruz's family was somehow involved in the JFK assassination.

And for Greene's part, she also presents something of a headache for Republicans. Over the summer some racist comments that she had made on video surfaced and Republican congressional leaders condemned that rhetoric but after she had won her primary, Republican leadership then came out and said, they looked forward to welcoming her to the capital. That's a reliably Republican district so she is likely to be heading

to Washington. She could be a very divisive figure if she does end up in Congress, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sarah Westwood, thanks so much. Millions of people are struggling and running out of time and options to stay in their homes. Next, we have an attorney who's helping renters in New Orleans and she will share what they're up against as evictions start to increase.



PAUL: OK, we want to show you what's happening just a couple of moments ago. This is in Washington DC. The group you're looking at there is known as Shutdown DC. They're protesting outside Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's home.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he's come under a lot of attention and scrutiny after he made some cost cutting changes to the Post Office like rolling back overtime for employees. Lawmakers from both parties and postal union leaders have raised a lot of concerns over the changes. The Post Office of the Inspector General is reviewing DeJoy's policy changes and potential ethics conflicts.


So you have read the headlines. You've heard the statistics. Millions of people are potentially facing eviction and homelessness with no solution in the near future from the federal government.

PAUL: Yes, I want to give you the numbers right just so you have a grasp of what they look like. I mean look at that. The mattress and the things outside this home. This is from New Orleans, Louisiana. highlighting these photos. This is just one evicted family and just what was left. Their belongings, the things that they own just dumped outside their house.

There were cribs there, there were clothes there and there's more on the corner of the street.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is from the article. The evictions are part of a growing wave of people being expelled from their homes in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Louisiana housing advocates and activists for months have raised this concern about the threat of eviction, bluntly warning that tens of thousands of people in the New Orleans area have lost work and fallen behind on the ability to pay rent in a city that already had a high eviction rate before Covid.

Joining me now is Hannah Adams. She's an attorney for southeast Louisiana Legal Services, a non-profit group that helps low income renters. Hannah, good morning to you.

HANNAH ADAMS, STAFF ATTORNEY, SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA LEGAL SERVICES: Good morning. Thank you for having me. BLACKWELL: Certainly. Give us an idea of the acceleration of evictions

as we are now in what, month five of this pandemic.

ADAMS: Absolutely. So like you said, we entered the pandemic from a place of having evictions at two times the national average in New Orleans and in some neighborhoods, we had eviction rates of as much as 10 percent prior to the pandemic and I will note that a lot of those neighborhoods were historically black neighborhoods.

So this is also a racial justice issue so now our eviction intake in my office where we represent low income renters in evictions is three times what it was last year at the same time. So we're just being inundated with folks who are struggling to pay rent and don't know when they're going to receive a pay check again and on top of that, just had their federal unemployment benefits cut overnight at the end of July.

So we have a lot of clients who are service industry workers, hospitality workers, musicians, performers, all the people that make New Orleans what - what it is and why people come here to visit. All of those folks lost work. If they were lucky enough to get federal unemployment benefits, they just lost those.

So we have folks receiving $30 - $50 - $100 a week now which you just simply can't live on, let alone feed your kids and pay rent.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you have one client that I'm aware of who, she's a single mom, mom of a three-year old. She cleans houses for a living until the pandemic started and that work ended and now that the additional unemployment benefits have expired, she's making $28 a week, five months behind and the landlord tried to take her to court to evict her but because she was a CARES Act or the property was a CARES Act covered property, they needed the 30 days' notice.

How does one know if they are living in a CARES Act covered property?

ADAMS: That is a great question. It is very hard for tenants to find out if they are living at a CARES Act covered property. For folks who are living at larger apartment complexes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have released tools where you can search by address to find out if your property has a federally backed mortgage.

There are a couple of other tools online but for tenants who live at single family properties which are properties with one to four units, there's really no way for them to find out that information. That information is only available to the landlord so you know thankfully, we see in our local courts you know make landlords essentially prove that they're not covered by the CARES Act in order to move forward with the eviction.

However a lot of people fall through the cracks of that process and so often times if there's no lawyer in court to raise these issues, people may get evicted even though it's illegal under federal law so with the client you're mentioning, her property is covered under the CARES Act so the eviction was thrown out but that protection is only going to last until the end of this month. So after the end of this month, she is facing a ticking time bomb. She

doesn't know where her September rent is going to come from. We're barely able to cover her August rent and she has no employment in sight as you know down here our pandemic, our Covid numbers are not looking very good so it's not like people are getting back to work.

So without something to assist her, she's really got nowhere to go. She can't afford rent, she can't afford moving expenses, she can't afford a new security deposit, she can barely afford to feed her kid. I know that the laws and of course our audiences is far broader than New Orleans and the state of Louisiana and laws vary by state but the pictures that we were showing of people's belongings just piled up on the curb.


For people who aren't familiar with the eviction process, how much notice must typically a landlord give before they just throw your things out on the street?

ADAMS: Well, our eviction laws in Louisiana are very bad for tenants. There are very few protection for tenants and the process moves extremely quickly. The notice that is required prior to filing an eviction in court can be waived in a lease and most leases do waive it so the entire process can take less than five days from beginning to end, from literally court notice to your stuff is on the street, which is extremely accelerated.

Also once you receive a judgment in court, you can be given as little as 24 hours to get out of your house and you're not out by then, the constable is going to show up at your door and put all your stuff on the street and physically remove you from the property just like you saw in those pictures.

So what ends up happening is folks on either face - physical removal like that or they just have to leave and leave all their stuff behind. So these low income families are losing all their belongings in addition to facing the financial catastrophe of eviction and trying to find a new home in the middle of the pandemic.

BLACKWELL: It is frustrating. It is heart-breaking, enraging that these were working people and just like that their jobs are gone, the assistance is gone and members of Congress are at home and there is no help for these families. I know that the client we were talking about was waiting for some rental assistance that could last for three months but who knows how long that line in process is.

Hannah, thank you so much for being with us and explaining the process. It's just maddening that we're seeing this happening across your city and across the country. Thank you so much.

ADAMS: Yes, thank you, thank you so much.

PAUL: She gave such great information there and I mean and when you really think about what this means to families, if we put ourselves in those same positions. If you are facing eviction right now, especially during this pandemic, we want you to know that there is help.

So we want you to know what your protections are. First of all organizations such as the Federal Housing Administration, they've extended evictions protections in some situations for single family home renters until August 31 so as a tenant, you may also be protected by a local moratorium so be sure to check the laws in your state that might help.

And finally, if you are in need, you and your family of food assistance, there are places that can help. And starting today, we are going to highlight for you, a local food bank in every state and we're going to continue to do this each Saturday here on New Day Weekend.

So first of all, we want to go to Alabama. Take a look at the contact information on your screen there. If you live near Birmingham, you can contact the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama for help. In Alaska, the food bank is in Anchorage and they are ready to support you if you are in need and then in Tucson, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is assisting people in that area so you can see their contact information on the screen.

Please be sure to call these banks prior to your visit just to make sure that you have the hours and the times correct and you can get what you need. Next Saturday, we'll highlight three more states. We just want you to know that you're not alone through this. We can and we will get through these times together and we will do everything we can to make sure that you are OK. We'll be right back.



PAUL: I want to show you what's been happening in Eastern Europe. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are marching through the capital of Belarus amid these accusations that the country's highly contested presidential elections were rigged.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Senior International Reporter Frederik Pleitgen is therefore joining us from Belarus. Fred, good morning.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning Victor and it really is almost impossible to put into words how courageous the folks are that you're seeing behind me who are coming out and who are continuing their very positive protests, their very peaceful protests despite the fact that there has been extreme repression from what has always been a very extremely repressive state here in Belarus.

In fact, there were reports of people being detained. In fact thousands of people being detained, people being beaten while they were in detentions. People telling us they saw people getting beat up while they were in detention. Women made to strip, made to kneel, people getting paraded around and humiliated on state TV. Yet the folks here are coming out because they say they, they've

simply had it which is what they call decades of rigged elections in this country.

Belarusians are rising up, protesting against what they say was a rigged election, a really rigged election.

We want honest elections, this woman says, we want an honest count of votes, nothing else. I don't want to even say that I'm against something. I just want it all to be honest. President Trump has repeatedly claimed without any sort of evidence that mail-in ballots will lead to the November election being rigged.

TRUMP: I don't want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history if that happens.

PLEITGEN: But here's what an election looks like which parts of the international community say was seriously flawed. Dictator Alexander Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus for around 26 years. He claims to have won more than 80 percent of the vote in the recent presidential election here against opposition icon, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who has since had to flee the country.


The problem despite heavy repression many Belarusians are saying they voted against Lukashenko. Opposition supporters folded their ballots in a special way so even from the outside it was clear they voted against the president and there's images like these appearing to show an election worker climbing out of a polling station window with sacks full of ballots.

The government did not allow international observers and the few people who try to monitor the election are so afraid, we had to meet them in a secret location.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have candidates, we don't have commissions, free commission, we don't have observers and on the final day the actual limit is the number of people who can enter the polling station so we don't have volunteers anymore. Is it an election? No, it's not.

PLEITGEN: This has been the situation in Belarus for the past 26 years but now despite a government crackdown, many people in this country are saying no more.

And that's exactly what they're doing today as well. They're obviously coming out and protesting. Thousands of people here where we are. Certainly yesterday, there was a really big moment here in these anti- government protests when a lot of the anti-government protesters managed to march to the parliament of this country and that's when we saw a really remarkable scene play out when riot police came out with their shields up.

Obviously, ready to crack down on the protesters and all the sudden, the riot police decided to put their shields down instead and they were embraced by the protesters which was an extremely emotional moment here for that protest for this country and certainly also gave the folks that you're seeing here, more courage to carry on and continue to demand change to what has been for a very long time a very repressive government here in this country.

Of course also, a lot of people saying the elections here are rigged by about a quarter, ten percent.


BLACKWELL: Fred Pleitgen there for us there in Minsk. Fred, thank you.

PAUL: So talk about the power of love. It is a real thing for some newlyweds in Texas. The groom, get this, started to improve when wedding plans started. We'll take you to the hospital. Stay close.


PAUL: This year marks the 100th anniversary of American women securing their right to vote. While our series 'Represented' celebrates the suffragette spirit by highlighting modern change makers. Take a look.


IBTIHAJ MUHAMMAD, AMERICAN SABRE FENCER: To be the first Muslim woman to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in hijab, I knew that my journey was bigger than me. I have early memories of being bullied. People refering to my hijab in derogatory terms or even using racial epithets towards me.


I discovered fencing at 12 years old. My mom and I were driving past the local high school and we saw fencers. They were fully covered. It was the first time in my life where I didn't have to adjust the uniforms and my parents didn't have to run to a sporting goods store and buy a long sleeve or buy a spandex to go underneath team shorts. I really thrived. I qualified for my first Olympic team in 2016.


There is a lot talk about a proposed Muslim man and I never shied away from using my platform to change the narrative for my community. For Mattel to treat a Barbie in my likeness was probably the highlight of my career and I know what it means to little girls who are brown to wear hijab who fence. If I want Team USA to look different, I had to be the change.


PAUL: Incredible, isn't it? CNN is exploring the past, the present and the future of women's rights in the U.S. Be sure to tune in. It's next Saturday. CNN's Special Report 'Women Represented: The 100-year battle for equality.' Again, next Saturday at 10:00 PM eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAUL: So not even a coronavirus could stop a Texas couple from getting

married. Carlos Muniz has been hospitalized for nearly a month with Covid-19.

While he and fiancee, look at this, they were supposed to get married last month. He obviously got sick. He has tested negative for the virus. He's still in the ICU though due to complications.

GRACE LEIMANN, WIFE: He's a man full of faith. He's a man that is very giving, very loving and loves unconditionally.

BLACKWELL: So the staff at Methodist hospital in San Antonio, they helped to organize the ceremony and nurses say that once Carlos learned that his wedding plans were being revived, he started to improve. He wore Tuxedo T-shirt and Grace wore her wedding dress. Of course, our congratulations to this couple. That's fantastic.

PAUL: It is. Got to just keep going with it. Got to keep going.

BLACKWELL: More news straight ahead.

PAUL: Smerconish is up next. We'll see you back here in one hour.



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Beware of the blue shift. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We're 80 days now removed from the final day of voting and it's entirely possible that we're headed for a major dispute over the outcome even without foreign interference or fraud. Here's how it could happen.

Say it's election night 2020. The presidential race all coming down to who wins Pennsylvania in order to win the Electoral College.