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New Day Saturday

More Than 20 Million Ballots Have Been Cast; Biden, Trump Make Pitch To Voters In Key Midwest Battleground States; Trump Holds Rallies In WI, MI As States See Surge In Cases. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 17, 2020 - 08:00   ET




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

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, look at this Sunday on the horizon. Isn't that beautiful?


PAUL: Gorgeous shot of the arch there. And guess what, people right now, maybe not right there, might be a little early but right now getting ready. They are voting in every single state this morning, more than 20 million ballots have already been cast and we're still 17 days away from the election.

BLACKWELL: This weekend, President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden focusing on those key Midwest battleground states. Today the president will be in Michigan and Wisconsin.

PAUL: He's scheduled to host two large rallies with thousands of people. We know masks are optional and there will not be any guidance on social distancing there. Both of those states are seeing huge spike in COVID-19 cases so that's notable.

BLACKWELL: So of course, we've got all of the political angles covered for you this morning. Sarah Westwood is at the White House. Arlette Saenz is following the Biden campaign. Natasha Chen is following early voters in Marietta, suburb of Atlanta there in Georgia.

PAUL: Yes, CNN's Sarah Westwood though, we want to go to her first at the White House because the president has a busy schedule today, talk to us about what's going to happen. What are we going to see here in the next few hours?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi and Victor, the Trump campaign moving at full force now during this final sprint to election day with a little over two weeks before voters head to the polls although as you guys mentioned early voting under way across the country.

But at the end of this week we saw a preview of just how packed the president's schedule could be with him hitting multiple states a day, holding these campaign rally. That's expected to continue today. He has a pair of campaign events in Wisconsin and Michigan and he'll end the night in Nevada.

That's coming against the backdrop of a potential spike in the Midwest in Wisconsin. We saw that state hit record high numbers for two consecutive days ahead of the president's visit there but none the less despite these rising number, the president yesterday at an event aimed at seniors, struck an optimistic tone about the virus.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My heart breaks for every grieving family that has lost a precious loved one. I feel their anguish and I mourn their loss. I feel their pain. I know that the terrible pain that they have gone through and you lose someone.

And there's nothing to describe what you have to bear. There is nothing to describe. My message to America's seniors today is one of optimism, confidence and hope. Your sacrifice has not been in vain. The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We are rounding the turn.


WESTWOOD: Now it's not exactly the case that the U.S. is rounding the bend. In fact the U.S. registered more than 68,000 new cases of coronavirus yesterday. That was the highest one-day total since July. So still, a lot of concerning areas across the country in terms of arising coronavirus cases.

But it's all part of the president's strategy so far in which he's downplayed the spread of the virus throughout and promoted optimism that just isn't rooted in facts and at his rallies we have continued to see a lack of social distancing and a lack of mask wearing even though people are encouraged to wear face covering as you can see from images of his events that is just not always the case.


Now ahead of the president's visit to Michigan today, the governor's office released a statement encouraging people who attend these events to socially distance. The statement read, "We always are concerned when there are large gatherings without masks and social distancing. There is a risk of an outbreak when this happens so we encourage people to wear their masks and practice social distancing."

But again the president has routinely been flouting local ordinances about the pandemic when he travels to these battleground states in an effort to make up some ground. He's been trailing in a lot of these key states and he trails Joe Biden by a wide margin nationally. He does have a full slate of campaign events this week, Victor and Christi and it will be the final presidential debate as well.

PAUL: Good points. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: So yesterday, the U.S. recorded the most coronavirus cases, the new cases in a single day since July. Michigan and Wisconsin, to the states where the president is holding rallies today, they're seeing spikes. Yesterday Michigan recorded more than 2000 of its own new cases there. 14 people died and the U.S. Surgeon General said the cases in Wisconsin are going in the wrong direction.

Right now, at least 31 states are seeing a rise in cases compared to last week. 14 states reached their highest ever seven-day average of new daily cases.

PAUL: So former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to campaign in North Carolina tomorrow but he spoke to voters in Michigan yesterday.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's go to Arlette Saenz now following the latest from Washington for us. There are some big names who will be coming out on the trail for Biden. Who are there?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, Joe Biden is back home in Delaware today but he does have some big figures out on the campaign trail for him today. Elizabeth Warren is campaigning in Wisconsin and Magic Johnson, that former NBA player, Hall of Famer is hitting the state of Michigan, his home state to campaign for Joe Biden.

But pretty soon side and we'll have a little help from a friend who also happens to be the biggest democratic political surrogate out there. Former President Barack Obama will campaign for Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday. This is his first in-person campaign appearance for his former VP and will be just one of a handful of stops that the former president will be making in the final days before the election.

The Biden campaign believes that the former president can help, mobilize African-American men, Latinos and young voters to get out there and vote for Joe Biden. Now this will be a solo stop.

We expect Joe Biden to be deep in debate prep on Wednesday as he prepares for that second match up against President Trump but there is a possibility that President Obama and Joe Biden could appear together in the final days before the election. Now Joe Biden yesterday traveled to the critical battleground state of Michigan where he once again honed in on the coronavirus pandemic and slammed the president for his response. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said I think last night in his Town hall, I didn't have the pleasure of hearing it. I was doing one myself. He said we have turned the corner as my grandfather Finnegan might say, were he here, he would say, he's gone around the bend. Turn the corner. My Lord.

It's not disappearing. In fact, it's on the rise again. It's getting worse as predicted.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAENZ: In these final weeks before the election, Joe Biden is really

focusing on the issue of healthcare. The campaign believes that except that it extends to many facets of this election from the coronavirus pandemic to that nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and Republicans' efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Now healthcare was a winning issue for Democrats back in 2018 when they won back the House and that is something that the Biden campaign is hoping to replicate in these final weeks before the election as they're trying to pull out that win.

Now tomorrow Joe Biden will head down to North Carolina, one of those states President Trump won back in 2016. Biden will be campaigning in Durham as early voting is under way in that state and he is trying to mobilize his supporters to get out and vote with 17 days to go to the election. Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Arlette Saenz for us in Washington. Thank you Arlette. Former Trump administration officials are now talking about the president explaining why they think the president is unfit for office.

PAUL: The latest, his former Chief of Staff General John Kelly. He told friends that Donald Trump is "the most flawed person he's ever met" and General Kelly also said, "the depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship though it's more pathetic than anything else."


All of this, those quotes there. All of his quotes and more. Part of a new CNN special The Insiders, a warning from former Trump officials. It airs Sunday night just so you know and let's get Margaret Talev in this conversation. She's politics and White House editor for Axios. Margaret, good to see you. Those are some really harsh words coming from General John Kelly.

First of all what's your reaction and the questions as to why he's not being more public with his thoughts.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That that is I think one of the criticisms or concerns that I hear most often is that General Kelly and some of the others who have served for not just you know a couple months, for a long time in the Trump administration, if they're that concerned, shouldn't they come forward and speak more publicly?

And if they were that concerned why do they stay with the administration for that long through so many of these policies, whether it was a quarter policy on immigration, whether it was just the way the president would conduct himself in the Oval Office, whether it was foreign policy decisions?

So I think the real question is who are these comments supposed to be reaching? Who is John Kelly hoping to persuade or change their mind and it's obviously not the section of the American public that is already made up its mind against President Trump. This is messaging to moderate or more traditional Republican voters who are independent to be Republican to try to convince those people I think. Not you know to pull the ballot for President Trump the second time.

PAUL: I want to get to some reporting from Axios this morning. Actually this came out late yesterday that President Trump's advisors are bracing for a loss. As I understand it, their campaign manager Bill Stepien did talk to Axios. What does he say?

TALEV: Well, that's right. The reporting that my colleague Jonathan Swan broke and the reason why Bill Stepien who's a private - like Bill Stepien is not out there publicly, you don't see him quoted a whole lot.

PAUL: Right.

TALEV: But the reporting that we were hearing was that people who were privy to private conversations with Bill Stepien walked away with the unmistakable and consistent view that he didn't think that the president could win re-election and so Stepien's responses, no, absolutely not, there's still lot of paths but Johnson's reporting really consistently shows that that's not what a lot of people around and in the campaign are hearing about this.

They're hearing things like Stepien using the analogy, the idea, they just have to land the plane at this point using terms like optionality to describe multiple different paths and what you walk away with is a pretty consistent impression that while the campaign hasn't given up and while it's a campaign manager's job to come up with multiple paths to get to 270 in the electoral college, that this there on defense now trying to get it back.

And it's sort of like the image of if you're in a car and you're hurling toward the tree, you don't look at the tree, you look at the ways around the tree. That's what's happening right now.

PAUL: Well and when you look at the numbers that we're seeing this morning of people who are going out and voting. We've got more than 20 million people who've already voted and if you break it down to some of the specific states. Look at this. 400 percent more people are voting now in Illinois compared to 2016 already and we're 17 days away from Election day itself.

400 percent so when you hear that I know that Axios also has this new reporting this morning that even when we see those numbers there are some concerns for voting and race and that there is real fear when it comes to in-person voting. What have you found?

TALEV: We conducted this poll with our polling partner Ipsos around a race and voting series which is going to launch later today and I hope everybody takes a look at it but to try to understand how Americans - you know Americans of color are feeling about voting going to the polls, their access to voting and this was really quite stunning.

If you look at break down by race and ethnicity, they're just much higher level concerns around three things with voters of color. One is fear of physical violence or some kind of armed militia presence turning up at their polling location. Second is fear of police at the polling locations and this belief that you could somehow be like picked up on an outstanding warrant or have trouble somehow with law enforcement and that you'd be a target, sort of a sitting target for that waiting in line.


That is not what is supposed to happen at the polls just to be clear but there is kind of a fear/myth around this that may suppress worrying and the third is fear of coronavirus which we just see at much higher levels among Democrats and Democrats - people of color disproportionately lean Democratic so there are all of these concerns.

And I think how these two stories come together is the idea that if you're Donald Trump's campaign manager right now, your strategy, your path to second victory is through the electoral college, not the popular vote and hoping that that turn out for Biden would somehow be depressed in person and that there would be enough problems with absentee ballots that or legal challenges to voting by mail that those numbers could somehow be you know pressed down in key states like maybe Pennsylvania.

So that's the strategy right now and turning out their own base.

PAUL: All right, all right. Margaret Talev, always so grateful to get your voice here. Thank you so much for getting up early for us on a Saturday.

BLACKWELL: Still have 2.5 weeks until November 3 but the election is now, millions of people have already voted. Natasha Chen is live just north of Atlanta. Natasha.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, polls just opened a few minutes ago and the first people in line told me they came here more than three hours before doors opened so coming up, we'll be talking to some of them and sharing with you why they felt it was so important to be here and cast their vote this way.

PAUL: So there are alarming signs of new coronavirus surges happening across the country. Several key trends in multiple states. They're heading in the wrong direction. Again we're going to take a look at which states are seeing some record high numbers this morning.

BLACKWELL: And some people are making a case for expanding the size of the Supreme Court if Biden wins the White House but it's not a popular move. We'll talk about that next.




PAUL: 21 minutes past the hour and it appears we are indeed seeing that coronavirus resurgence that experts feared.

BLACKWELL: The U.S. added more than 69000 new cases Friday. That's the largest one day total since the end of July. The rate of tests coming back positive, the number of people sick with COVID in hospitals. Those are also spiking. CNN's Polo Sandoval was tracking the latest.

Polo, a lot to be concerned about in these trends.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Victor, especially we have test positivity rates of over 20 percent in states like Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota. That is certainly deeply concerning and it certainly suggests to the rest of the nation that those numbers are going in the completely wrong direction here.

We heard from the U.S. Surgeon General this week say, the first step in trying to get control of that is recognizing where those hot spots are, trying to control the spread and then reversing those infection rates.


SANDOVAL: The United States surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday. The death toll is quickly approaching 220,000. Case numbers are steadily increasing daily according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Health officials from coast to coast are scrambling to contain the rising rate of infections.

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS & EVALUATION: If you look at the map in the U.S. what's happening is actually what we expected. It's the whole northern half of the U.S., transmission is on the upswing.

SANDOVAL: At least four states; Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina and Wyoming reported their highest daily COVID-19 case count to date just this Friday, State health officials said. North Carolina where President Trump spoke to maskless crowds on Thursday set a new record for cases on Friday.

Florida now averaging nearly 2800 new cases a day. That's up from 2400 a week ago. Wisconsin now has a positivity rate of more than 26 percent. United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams warning that Wisconsin is a COVID-19 red state.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL, UNITED STATES: I want you to be aware that Wisconsin is currently one of our red states, meaning your positivity rates are over 10 percent and going in the wrong direction.

SANDOVAL: President Trump taking his campaign to Wisconsin today, a state where coronavirus cases are now at an all-time high. An infectious disease physician in Green Bay Wisconsin says gatherings create a risk.

DR. AGNES KRESCH, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: At this point we are really recommending not to have any kind of gatherings and even to the point of family gatherings where people from different households, they're getting together is a risk too.

SANDOVAL: Earlier on Friday, President Trump said seniors would be the first to get any vaccine once it's approved. Officials also confirmed Friday that CVS and Walgreens pharmacies have been designated to distribute free coronavirus vaccines once approved to long term care facilities.

And Dr. Chris Murray, that includes a COVID modler, also adding this week that if we do not continue with these masked mandates across the country, then our current projection that we could see almost an 80 percent increase in fatalities come this start of February. That would be close to 400,000 lives lost after the start of the New Year.

Victor and Christi, but again, these are projections, these are forecasters where we maybe not necessarily where we have to be.


PAUL: That is the point to be made there. Polo, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Polo Sandoval for us. So California officials say the states GOP has agreed to "no longer deploy unauthorized ballot drop boxes." State officials issued a cease and desist order to the Republican Party over dozens of unofficial ballot boxes that it installed in several different counties.

BLACKWELL: Today, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, both Democrats said that they would continue to watch the party's activities closely and investigate.

Still ahead voters in Georgia have been up, I mean hours now. Many of them in line to vote. CNN's Natasha Chen has been talking to some of the voters. You're going to hear what they have to say and why they've been up 3.5 hours already to get to cast that vote.



PAUL: So have you been counting down the days? Because look at all these people. 17 days left until the official Election Day but this is what's happening prior to it as we are full on election season. More than 20 million people have already cast the ballots in 45 states in the district of Columbia.

CNN's Natasha Chen is with us out from Marietta, Cobb county, just north of Atlanta. Natasha, good morning to you so some of the longest lines in Georgia were in Cobb county earlier this week and there's a line behind you, 8:30. How early did some people get there?

CHEN: Yes Victor and Christi, good morning to you. It has been a very early good morning to these people. This is the end of the line right here. There are even more people behind us.


But right now, according to the Cobb County Web site, the wait is about four hours at this location. You can see this sign right here says that people who are 75 years and older or disabled, requiring assistance, they can actually asked to be bumped up to the front of the line.

So if that is the situation for you, do not let this wait time scare you but I just want to let you see what we're seeing here so if the wait is about four hours and the doors just opened at 8:00 you know, less than 30 minutes ago. We're already seeing some voters come out and be finished with their voting, we're seeing about 30 people - 31 - 31 people who have finished voting thus far and I just want to walk you through the rest of the line that we're seeing.

It doubles back a couple of times and it goes all the way to the front of the entrance and by the way, this isn't even the entire line. There's another section of the line that is beyond - down another corner over there so this does go quite a ways but people have been prepared.

They have brought their lawn chairs, they've brought coffee. The first person in line told us that they were here at 4:30 this morning. That's more than three hours before the doors opened. Here are a couple of women we talked to who really formed a plan together as neighbors to get here early.

MARIE RIVERS (ph), GEORGIA VOTER: We're actually all neighbors and we decided we all received absentee ballots but in my mind, in my heart, having to come here in person early, making sure my count - my vote really do count, specially this time around.

MICHELLE BROWN (ph), GEORGIA VOTER: I didn't know how long I would be here and if I was here for six hours, I wanted to make sure she was here. I have food, I have water and I have walked her already.

CHEN: And so Michelle Brown there. She did put Lowa in a safe place before she went inside to vote and it looks like that party actually just finished voting as well. They're about to come out so we're seeing a lot of enthusiastic people. People who told us that they are here because of how they have felt the leadership in this country has responded to the coronavirus pandemic and to the race reckoning, the racial protests that we've seen this year.

So a lot of people responding to those particular issues and by the way, this is as you mentioned north of Atlanta but in looking at the different counties around this metro area, it does seem that the longest waits are in this section so in the Atlanta area and Fulton County the waits are much lower, under 30 minutes right now.

PAUL: Oh my gosh, that's a big discrepancy. Natasha Chen, thank you so much. That is some dedication there.

CHEN: Thank you.

PAUL: Of those people.


BLACKWELL: Yes, people were dedicated and spirits are high.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: But people should not have to wait four hours in line to vote especially when they're in line for 30 minutes after polls open. That's a disgrace but it's good to see that people are in line and will vote. Listen, let's move to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They will vote Thursday on whether to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate expected to pass along party lines.

Now some people are saying that if Joe Biden wins the White House and you've heard this argument, expanding the size of the Supreme Court would be a fitting response to Republican's fast-tracking Judge Barrett. Now the Director of Take Back the Court, Aaron Belkin says "If the Republicans steal the court then the Democrats unsteal it and if the Republicans steal it again, then the Democrats unsteal it again. It's much better to have that zigzag than just have unilateral surrender"

And we have with us Aaron Belkin now. Aaron, good morning to you. Thank you for being with me.


BLACKWELL: So I want to hear the argument. I want to separate first the ideological argument for expanding the court and the judicial structural argument for expansion so let's start with the ideological, more of that stealing and unstealing. Pull that thread for me.

Yes and I don't really see it as ideological but the Supreme Court has sabotaged democracy by destroying the Voting Rights Act and along the system to be flooded with dark money and blessing hyper partisan gerrymandering and the only way to rebalance the courts, to deliver a court that would allow the next administration to restore democracy is to expand the courts.

So it's really about democracy, it's not about ideology.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about you know the U.S. now has nine justices. It has been five, it has been six. FDR, I think wanted to raise it to 15 but that didn't happen. There are countries around the world who have more than nine justices. What are the structural advantages you see to a larger bench?


BELKIN: Well, the key is to get a court that will get the job done and by getting the job done, that means that we have a court that is not going to be willing to let the next administration restore democracy for example by banning voter suppression.

You just had a story about people waiting in line four hours. That's not supposed to happen in a democracy. We have a court that will not let the next administration deal with policy emergencies like climate change or gun safety, 30,000 gun deaths a year and so to get a court that will allow the next administration to confront the problems that we face and particularly to restore democracy, the only solution to that problem is to expand the court because this court has been packed. You can see it now that the Republicans are rushing through a nomination while people are voting days before an election.

That's not a democratic process. That's not how to get a balanced court. The only way to balance the quarters to expand it.

BLACKWELL: And expand it to how many members do you - would you suggest or do you think should be added?

BELKIN: As many as it takes to get the job done, as many as it takes to get a court that will let the next administration restore democracy.

BLACKWELL: So listen, this is not something that is terribly popular. Latest poll, this from ABC news, Washington Post found that 54 percent oppose, 32 percent support. I read your interview with the Atlantic that you think - that you think the Democrats could sell this idea, 12 percent have no opinion. What's the case?

I've heard you say that to balance it but even with the imbalance, it's still a majority of people, at least a strong plurality who don't believe that this is the right way to go.

BELKIN: It depends on which polling you look at and the majority of Democrats and plurality of independence do support the idea of expanding the court but look, this is before leaders have even made the case to the public about the damage that the court is doing to the democracy.

And so when you consider that the court itself, most of the justices were picked by presidents who did not win the popular vote and the court itself is trying to sabotage democracy because it knows that the Republicans cannot win elections unless the system is rigged, unless we have voter suppression and gerrymandering and the system is flooded with dark money.

And so the only way to fix those problems is to fix the court.

BLACKWELL: So let's listen to former Vice President Joe Biden. This is the Town hall this week on this very issue.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: If they vote on it before the election, you are open to expanding the court?

BIDEN: I'm open to considering what happens from that point on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But don't voters have a right to know?

BIDEN: They do have a right to know where I stand. They have a right to know where I stand before they vote.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you'll come out with a clear position before Election Day.

BIDEN: Yes depending on how they handle this.


BLACKWELL: So you're more than the director of Take Back the Court. You're also a political science professor. You studied this and the former vice president. Any expectation that he's going to change his decades long stance of he believes it's the wrong thing to do or is he just trying not to alienate some members of the left of his party.

BELKIN: No, I mean we have to remember that court expansion was really off the radar for 81 years from 1937 until just a couple of years ago and so President - Vice President Biden, sorry has said clearly that he is not a fan of court expansion and that's clear.

That having been said, the politics are changing really rapidly. Let's see where things stand if the Republicans manage to jump through the Coney Barrett nomination and let's see where things stand if for example the court continues to chip away at Roe V. Wade, if it continues to chip away at the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic.

So we don't know where the politics are going to land in the next administration but we know for now that momentum is building and the politics are shifting very fast.

BLACKWELL: Aaron Belkin, thanks for ne, waking up so early for us on the west coast and being part of the conversation. Good to have you Sir.

BELKIN: My pleasure.

BLACKWELL: All right, so a man is in custody this morning. A police cruiser was set on fire while the officer was still inside it and we've got the video. Of course we're going to be careful with what we air. We've got more for you of what happened, next.




BLACKWELL: So a man is in jail this morning and we've got the video here. He walks up to a Seattle police cruiser with what looks like a torch and there is officer inside that vehicle.

PAUL: Yes, the officer confronted him when he saw the man walking with that torch. Here's what the body and dashcam video show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just walking down the alley south bound with a stick on fire and it is very unfair.



POLICE OFFICER: Hey, Seattle police, stop.


POLICE OFFICER: Seattle police, stop dude.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you hear the shots and the officer called them in. police say the suspect was not hit. The officer had some minor burn wounds but we understand otherwise he's OK.


BLACKWELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, they're at an impasse over the next stimulus package.

PAUL: Yes, with each day that a deal isn't reached though more people are being pushed into poverty here. CNN correspondent Cristina Alesci has the very latest.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, another terrible week for the American worker and another week without relief from Washington DC. Now Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they're still negotiating a stimulus deal but they need senate Republicans on board.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he's not bringing a big stimulus bill to the floor for a vote so Americans should be skeptical about the stimulus deal anytime soon. The Treasury Secretary said as much.


STEPHEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: I'd say at this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult just given where we are in the level of detail but we're going to try to continue to work through these issues.


ALESCI: Now the delay in federal health comes as new data this week show the last round of stimulus was critical to keeping millions of Americans out of poverty and there's more pain ahead. Another 898,000 workers filed for initial unemployment benefits last week while the effects of the pandemic continue to hurt so many workers, sales of luxury homes are soaring and the stock market continues marching higher.

The reality is the coronavirus crisis is accelerating the growing divide between the wealthy and everyone else. Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.

PAUL: So let me ask you a question. Has the pandemic affected your mental health. I know it's caused some anxious moments understandable with all of us here and there's so much uncertainty, not knowing when or if the kids can go back to school, if you can go back to work, if you're going to be doing this till the New Year. We're going to share some advice on adjusting to this new reality from life coach and author Martha Beck. Stay close.



BLACKWELL: A man in Kansas is facing charges for threatening to kidnap and kill the Mayor of Wichita, over the city's COVID-19 mask rules. According to the Mayor Brandon Whipple, Meredith Dowty sent graphic text to a mutual contact and the mayor says that Dowty asked for his address and got into disturbing details about what he planned to do.


MAYOR BRANDON WHIPPLE (D), WICHITA, KANSAS: My reaction was really one of anger to be honest. And I'm not - I guess I'm not proud of that but I got little kids. I have a family.


BLACKWELL: Mayor Whipple thanked police on Twitter. He wrote that violence is never a way to settle disagreements.

PAUL: So we're seeing as we told you, coronavirus cases rising again this morning and I'm wondering if you're feeling another round of that anxiety creeping because COVID's already changed so much. The way we act, the decisions we make, what we value. I call it the reset.

Resetting our priorities here based on what we've realized about ourselves as we live through this era and this week, I talk with life coach and author Martha Beck.


MARTHA BECK, LIFE COACH & AUTHOR: Before the pandemic, there was sort of a sense that the way we were doing it is the way it's done and when you abruptly get shocked out of the way your culture is doing things, they say a man with one watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.

What that means is when you get in one cultural setting and then shocked into a different cultural setting, you realize things are not as solid as I thought.


PAUL: And I know for so many of us, things just don't feel solid right now and a lot of us don't know how to reconcile that so one recurring theme that I have heard from so many of you and thank you for sharing by the way, is that you want more truth in your life, more authenticity and I asked Martha, how do we find that?


BECK: The one thing that teaches us what truth is more than anything else is suffering. So you want to put love at the center of your life but your culture says put money at the center of your life and as that happens, you split and that splitting from your own best life, your own real truth is psychological suffering.

I've seen this with literally hundreds of clients. You say to them something that should make them feel bad like that was never really any love in the home where you were raised or I think maybe your spouse has a mental illness and they go, oh, thank you because it's the truth.

It doesn't matter that it sounds like bad news. The truth heals us, the truth sets us free so that's what I think times of pressure are teaching us to do.


PAUL: Her new book comes out in May and it really speaks to this. It's titled 'The Way of Integrity.' And here's the thing, she's been writing this book for a long time but went back and reconfigured parts of it once the pandemic head because she knows that there's so much suffering right now and we need to know how to navigate that and get back to our own integrity.

I want to thank her. I'm going to put more of her interview that I had with her this week on the web but tell me how the coronavirus and quarantines changed you and your approach to life. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and thank you for doing so. It's important need to hear from you.

BLACKWELL: 20 million Americans have already voted for the presidency and we now know that people will be casting their ballots this weekend, of course. It's happening right now. At 10, we're going to take a look at the six key swing states, both candidates want to win of course.

PAUL: Right now, "SMERCONISH" is up for you. We're going to see you again in an hour.