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Illness Prompts Suspension Of Antibody Treatment Trial After Second U.S. Vaccine Trial Also Paused Due To Illness; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Is Interviewed About Stimulus Bill; Dems Drill Down On Health Care As Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Faces Day-Long Questioning By Senators; New Jersey Reports 993 New COVID-19 Cases, Seven Additional Deaths; More Than 10.5 Million General Election Ballots Cast So Far. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 13, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: During this difficult time his family says they're holding tight to Norman's favorite quote, "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. May his memory be a blessing. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news. Growing evidence that a much-feared fall resurgence of the coronavirus is beginning as the U.S. death toll now tops 215,000 people with 7.8 million cases. And now cases are on the rise in 33 states. That includes Pennsylvania, by the way, where cases are up 63 percent.

Despite that, this hour, President Trump will be heading there to hold his second campaign rally in two days. And it's expected the late last night's rally, there will be few masks and no significant social distancing at all.

And there's more breaking pandemic news we're following, the drug maker Eli Lilly is pausing its trial of its a monoclonal antibody to treat the coronavirus likely because a volunteer became ill.

We'll talk about all the breaking news much more in just a few minutes with the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Standby for that.

But first let's go straight to the White House. Our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us.

Kaitlan, the President is clearly energized by these political campaign rallies, despite the very serious public health threat they pose.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And despite his own battle with this deadly disease very little at these rallies has changed. They look a lot like they did before the President contracted COVID-19 as he is trying to defend his unpopular record and response to the ongoing pandemic.


COLLINS (voice-over): After his own COVID-19 hospitalization, President Trump is back on the campaign trail tonight in a state where infections are rising.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel so powerful. I walk into that --

COLLINS: The President holding a rally in Pennsylvania after tossing out mask to supporters in Florida who mostly weren't wearing them or social distancing.

TRUMP: I'll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and everybody. I'll just give you a big fat kiss.

COLLINS: Trump's doctors says he's tested negative, though Dr. Conley has stayed away from the cameras for over a week now, leaving his patient to spend his own health while insisting he's immune even though the science is still out.

TRUMP: I went through it. Now they say I'm immune.

COLLINS: White House officials are touting the President's return,

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: As we saw from last night, he's got his dance moves ready, ready to go in every swing state from now to the election.

COLLINS: But they haven't explained why they'll release some of Trumps test results but not others.

Why can the President's doctor release his last negative results but not --

MORGENSTERN: I'm not going to get to that.

COLLINS: After being forced off the trail, Trump is trying to make up for lost time with rallies in Iowa, North Carolina, Florida and even Georgia, an unusual stop for a Republican three weeks out from the election.

Tonight, President Trump is also reviving his criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci after he objected to being used in one of the President's campaign ads, he says, took him out of context.


COLLINS: Instead of responding to Fauci's requests to take that ad down. The President mocked his pitch at a baseball game and said his arm is more accurate than his COVID-19 prognostications.

Trump's tweet ignoring how the campaign is using Fauci's likeness to appeal to voters as Fauci says he won't leave his job over the public presidential dispute.

FAUCI: I'm certainly not going to give up. This is too important a problem. I mean, I've devoted my entire professional life to fighting infectious diseases.

COLLINS: Trump is trailing Joe Biden in many polls and his support with seniors has been hurt in part by his response to the pandemic. His surrogates, including his daughter are now claiming he didn't downplay coronavirus early on, but others did.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: At a timeline, most people you know, except through the lens revisionist history, most people were not taking it very seriously on the hill or elsewhere.

COLLINS: Today, Senator Mitt Romney issued a blistering statement about the state of politics in the U.S., saying, the "World is watching America with abject horror and it's time to lower the heat."

Though he singled out Democrats, Romney was especially critical of the President and said "Many Americans are frightened for our country. So divided, so angry, so mean, so violent."


COLLINS: Now Wolf, we haven't actually seen the President today. We've only heard from him on Twitter, but he is leaving the White House here in the next few moments to go to that rally in Pennsylvania.

And if he takes questions from reporters, Wolf, it'll be the first time he's done so since he got back from the hospital over -- a little over a week ago.


BLITZER: We'll see if he does once he walks out that door heads towards Marine One. Thanks very much, Kaitlan, for that report.

Let's get some more of the breaking pandemic news that's unfolding right now. CNN's Brian Todd is working in this part of the story for us.

Very troubling numbers as the United States, Brian, moves into the fall and winter.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Tonight, more states are moving in the wrong direction regarding new coronavirus cases. Experts are worried about at least two potential super spreader events. And some medical advances that Americans have been counting on have stumbled a bit.


TODD (voice-over): Another medical research setback today, a therapy to help people with coronavirus put on hold a trial for an antibody treatment that Eli Lilly is developing similar to what Donald Trump took when he had coronavirus is paused due to a potential safety concern.

It comes a day after Johnson and Johnson said it paused the advanced clinical trial of its experimental vaccine because one of its volunteers suffered an illness. The company didn't say what the illness was.

This is the second phase three vaccine trial to be paused in the U.S. following AstraZeneca is paused last month. Is the vaccine timetable in jeopardy?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDRENS HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: I think it is likely that we will have a vaccine or vaccines by early next year. I think that these clinical pauses do slow things down somewhat, but I think in the long run we will see these as a bump in the road.

TODD: But the number of states with increases in new cases keeps going up. Thirty-three states as of tonight trending upward with the country averaging nearly 50,000 new cases a day.

Today Dr. Anthony Fauci said he's particularly worried about the central U.S. as uptick in positivity rates.

FAUCI: Which is often and in fact, invariably highly predictive of a resurgence of cases, which historically we know leads to an increase in hospitalizations, and then ultimately, an increase in deaths.

TODD: In Nashville, Tennessee officials are investigating this religious concert on Sunday, hundreds of people crowding together, many not wearing masks.

Another potential super spreader that experts are now worried about, President Trump's crowded rally in Florida on Monday.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The problem is that while there are people who have been really responsible and careful when it comes to COVID-19, there were other people who were very cavalier, who were letting their guard down. And that put everybody at risk.

TODD: Walmart isn't taking that chance, temporarily closing one of its stores in El Paso County, Colorado, where there's been a new spike in cases.

Meantime, the news on young people and school reopenings is mixed tonight. A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association reports a 13 percent increase in child cases of coronavirus between September 24 and October 8.

But in New York City, where all eyes are on the nation's largest school district reopening for in person learning, the mayor says only one person tested positive out of more than 1,700 who went through a recent round of testing.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITy: We've started our monthly sampling in every one of our schools. And this has just begun. It's going to grow, but we're seeing a very encouraging results. And the results that are consistent with what we've seen with the detailed testing efforts outside of schools.


TODD: And the mayor does report some other positive news outside of New York City Schools. He said today that in those neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens where they saw those very worrisome clusters of coronavirus spikes recently, they're starting to see those areas level off in new cases. The mayor saying the restrictions they put in place hopefully turning the tide in those neighborhoods. Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to speak to the Mayor de Blasio later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Our Medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen is joining us.

Dr. Wen, thank you so much.

I want to begin with your thoughts on this drug maker Eli Lilly pausing its experimental antibody treatment trial after an illness apparently in a volunteer. This the same type of drug are very similar to the type of drug that the President actually credits for his coronavirus recovery. Different in some respects from the Regeneron drug. But he says he's pushing hard, the President says he's pushing hard to get both of them authorized as quickly as possible for emergency use. Is this a big setback for a really promising class of treatments?

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: I don't know that we can say, Wolf, yet that it's a big setback. It is a pause. It's a voluntary pause. And I think it's a reminder to us that we should be following the scientific process that there are safeguards that are put into place exactly for this reason.

All we know is that there was some kind of serious adverse outcome, but we don't yet know whether that serious outcome is because of the study drug or something else. I mean, sometimes when you have clinical trials that involve a lot of people, someone could have, let's say a heart attack or it could be diagnosed with a cancer. We don't know that this is what happened here.


But serious outcomes do occur. And you have to then figure out using this independent committee to see what that's due to, is this related to the study trial or drug at all. And I think this is just a humbling reminder to all of us, though, that we should let science drive the process and not try to predict timelines and certainly not inject politics into the approval process.

BLITZER: The pause in this Eli Lilly, a treatment, it's not a vaccine, it's a treatment follows what happened yesterday, Johnson and Johnson pause. It's a vaccine trial after an unexplained illness in a volunteer, do you see that as a potential setback or an indication? This is the way it's supposed to work, they're taking safety very seriously.

WEN: I see it as the ladder. I see this as -- this is -- these are the safeguards that the scientific community has put into place. And again, right now, we don't know what this serious outcome was, if this is related to the vaccine or not. And again, should be a reminder to all of us that we cannot predict the timeline, that we need to let science do its work, that already operation work speed with the vaccine. We're expecting things as much as we can. But we cannot skip steps when it comes to ensuring safety and efficacy.

BLITZER: So let's take a look at the big picture, Dr. Wen, the U.S. is clearly heading right now in the wrong direction according to almost every indicator. And we haven't even seen the beginning of the flu season here in North America. How bad could things get over the next few months?

WEN: Well, for sure, this is not where we want it to be heading into the colder months. And we always knew that this second surge was going to happen as we had more things that were reopens while there was quarantine fatigue occurring at the same time. And I think we need to be attentive to a new trend that we're seeing, which is it's not so much in formal settings. It's not even so much businesses and schools where these new infections are occurring, it's informal settings. It's gatherings of extended family and friends that's really driving the surge.

And so I hope that everyone will remember that there's no face of someone who has COVID-19. Fifty percent of the spread is by people who are asymptomatic. If we're not going to be getting together with random people that we met at the grocery store, we also should be really careful when gathering together with loved ones.

See, people outdoors as much as possible wear masks if you're going to be indoors and just use an abundance of caution because otherwise we could see the convergence of COVID together with a flu and other respiratory pathogens. And we could be headed into a very serious winter where we could have hospitals becoming overwhelmed affecting not only patients with COVID-19 but also patients coming in for treatment for other illnesses too.

BLITZER: Good advice from Dr. Lean Wen, very important advice could save a lot of lives. Thank you very much for that Dr. Leana Wen, helping us as usual. Appreciate it very much.

Up next my one on one interview with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There you see here. What's her message to millions of Americans now facing some growing financial hardship because of the pandemic? My interview coming up with her after this.

Plus, Senate Democrats drilling down on healthcare as President Trump's Supreme Court nominee faces day long questioning. We'll be right back.


[17:17:34] BLITZER: Welcome back.

Hope have a new economic stimulus bill before Election Day three weeks from today is quickly fading as the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has rejected the White House offer of a $1.8 trillion economic package.

The Speaker is joining us right now.

Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining us. And as you know there are Americans who are being evicted from their homes, they can't pay the rent, many Americans are waiting in food lines for the first time in their lives. Can you look them in the eye, Madam Speaker and explain why you don't want to accept the President's latest stimulus offer?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, because -- Thank you very much, Wolf, and I hope you'll ask the same question of the Republicans about why they don't really want to meet the needs of the American people. But let me say to those people, because all of my colleagues, we represent these people.

I have for over 30 years represented my constituents. I know what their needs are, I listen to them. And their needs are not addressed in the President's proposal.

So when you say to me, why don't you accept theirs? Why don't they accept ours?

Our legislation is there to do three things primarily to honor our workers, honor our heroes, our health care workers, our police and fire first responders, our teachers, our transportation, sanitation, food workers, the people who make our lives work, we couldn't be doing what we're doing without them. Many of them have risked their lives so that they -- and to save lives and now they will lose their jobs because --

BLITZER: But they really --

PELOSI: -- Mitch McConnell says that the states go bankrupt.

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting --

PELOSI: That the states go bankrupt.

BLITZER: Madam Speaker, they really need the money right now. And even members of your own --

PELOSI: I understand that. But if --

BLITZER: But even members of your own caucus --

PELOSI: -- you ask me a question --

BLITZER: Even members of your own caucus, Madam Speaker, want to accept this deal, $1.8 trillion, Congressman Ro Khanna for example. But let met just quote Ro Khanna, a man you know well. I assume you admire him. He's a Democrat.

And he just said this. He said "People in need can't wait until February, $1.8 trillion is significant and more than twice the Obama stimulus. Make a deal, put the ball in McConnell court."

So what do you say to Ro Khanna?

PELOSI: What I say to you is, I don't know why you're always an apologist. And many of your colleagues, apologist for the Republican position.

Ro Khanna, that's nice. That isn't what we're going to do and nobody's waiting till February.


I want this very much now because people need help now. But it's no use giving them a false thing just because the President wants to put a check with his name on it in the mail, that we should not be doing all we can. Tell people pay the rent, put food on the table, then enhanced benefits that they don't lose their jobs if they're state and local.

That they -- that this -- we're talking about the consequences of a pandemic, that the symptoms of a problem that the President refuses to address. And that is --

BLITZER: But you know, Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: And that is the coronavirus.

BLITZER: We know --

PELOSI: That is the coronavirus.

BLITZER: We know the problem out there, but there are millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, they can't pay the rent, their kids need the food --

PELOSI: That's right. And that's what we're trying to get done.

BLITZER: One point eight trillion dollars and the President just tweeted "Stimulus go big or go home." He wants even more --

PELOSI: That's right.

BLITZER: -- right now. So why not --

PELOSI: That's right.

BLITZER: -- why not work out a deal with him?

PELOSI: That's right.

BLITZER: And don't let the perfect, as they say, here in Washington be the enemy of the good? PELOSI: Well not let the wrong be the enemy of the right.

BLITZER: What's wrong with a $1.8 trillion?

PELOSI: You know what, do you have any idea what the difference is between the spending that they have in their bill and that we have in our bill? Do you realize that they have come back and said all these things for child tax credits and earned income tax credits are helping people who have lost their jobs are eliminated in their bill?

Do you realize they pay no respect to the fact that childcare is very important for people whose children cannot go to school, because they're doing remote learning, and yet they minimize the need for childcare, which is the threshold with which people, mothers and fathers can go to work if they have that? Do you have any idea of how --

BLITZER: That's precisely why, Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: -- they're concerned?

BLITZER: That's why it's so important right now. Yesterday, I spoke to Andrew Yang who says the same thing, it's not everything you want --

PELOSI: Yes. But you know what --

BLITZER: -- but there's a lot there.

Participant: OK. Honest to God, you really -- I can't get over it. Because Andrew Yang, he's lovely. Ro Khanna, he's lovely. They are not negotiating this situation.

They have no idea of the particulars. They have no idea of what the language is here.

I didn't come over here to have -- so you're the apologist for the Obama, excuse me, God forbid.

BLITZER: Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: Thank God for Barack Obama.

BLITZER: -- I'm not an apologist, I'm asking you serious questions, because so many people are in desperate need right now.

PELOSI: I'm saying to you --

BLITZER: Let me ask you this.


BLITZER: When was the last time --

PELOSI: Let me respond to you --

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you -- PELOSI: If you're going to answer your own question --

BLITZER: -- when was the last time you spoke with the President about this?

PELOSI: I don't speak to the President. Speak to his representative.

BLITZER: Why not call him and say, Mr. President, let's work out a deal. It's not going to be everything you want. Not going to be everything I want. But there are so many Americans right now who are in desperate need. Let's make a deal.

PELOSI: What makes me amused if it weren't so sad, is how you all think that you know more about the suffering of the American people than those of us who are elected by them to represent them at that table.

It is unfortunate that we do not have shared values with this White House, and that they have in their bill, why don't you talk about their bill, a tax break for the wealthiest families in the country while they cut out the earned income tax credit for the poorest families in our country and the poorest children in our country. That we have to fight with them to get them to address the coronavirus crisis, because they have said it was a hoax, it was magical, its miracle was going to cure it, it hasn't. And that's why we find ourselves in this situation.

I feel very confident about the knowledge that I bring to this. But more importantly, the knowledge that my chairs, our chairs of jurisdiction, science based, academically documented, institutionally suggested in terms of what the cost would be to do it, and to do it that way.

And about say, we talk about childcare, yes. We talk about safety in the workplace, safety in the workplace, that's a very important issue especially in the time of pandemic.

So what I say to those people is, we're going to get a deal, and when we do, it will be retroactive. It will be retroactive.

BLITZER: Here's what you wrote in a letter to House Democrats, Madam Speaker, and I asked these questions only, as you know, so many millions of Americans are suffering.

PELOSI: But you quote two people who know nothing about the agreement.

BLITZER: Well --

PELOSI: There is no agreement. But what the suggestions are as if there's some authority on the subject. Please, give equal way to 12 to all of the chairman on the committee who have written this bill.

BLITZER: But so many of your fellow Democrats in the House, they want a deal right now.

PELOSI: No, there isn't -- BLITZER: The problem solvers, they all want to deal right now. And

here's what they're complaining about because you wrote a letter to House Democrats and you said this.



BLITZER: Let me read a line from the letter you wrote. "The President only wants his name on the check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up." Is that what this is all about, not allow the President to take credit if there's a deal that will help millions of Americans right now?

PELOSI: No, I don't care about that. He's not that important. But let me say this with all due respect, with all due respect, and you know we've known each other a long time, you really don't know what you're talking about.

If the plural of anecdote is not data, yes, there's some people who said this or that, overwhelmingly, my caucus wants, what is right for the American people. Overwhelmingly, our chairman who wrote the bill, read their statements, they'll put out their own statements, when they saw what the White House was proposing. So do a service to the issue, and have some level of respect for the people who have worked on these issues, written the bill to begin with.

Now, let me just say this in terms of the numbers, I want people to do the math, we had 3.4, which would meet the needs of the American people for a sustained period of time, so that there was some certainty and what would happen. The Republican said, no. And so we took it down a trillion dollars, by cutting the time. We took it down another $2 trillion 200, excuse me, $200 billion, so we're now 1.2 hundred billion dollars down. We came down to 2.2.

At the same time, since tomorrow will be five months since we passed the bill, at the same time, the small -- because there was no resolution, Mitch McConnell said, let's pause, the virus didn't pause. And now we're at a place where we need more money.

We need more money for PPP for our small businesses. We need more money for our airlines. We need more money for our schools. So we have absorbed nearly a half a trillion dollars more of expenses still within the 2.2 --

BLITZER: I understand all of that. And I have only the greatest respect to you.

PELOSI: -- by cutting that. So do the math. We have come down --

BLITZER: Madam Speaker, I have only the greatest respect for you.

PELOSI: -- we have come down 1.6 or seven trillion dollars.

BLITZER: I just want to point out $1.8 trillion, $1.8 trillion is a lot of money. The American people need that money ASAP, because they're suffering right now. And I'm not saying it's perfect, but I'm saying --

PELOSI: And you don't care how it's spent? And you don't care how it's spent.

BLITZER: I care of course how it's spent. But why don't understand is why not --

PELOSI: Well, you don't even know how it's spent.

BLITZER: Why not --

PELOSI: You don't even know how it's spent.

BLITZER: -- talk to the President, personally call him up and say, Mr. President, let's get a deal tomorrow.

PELOSI: Look, let me say this, the President has sent Mr. Mnuchin to negotiate. That's what we've done with the other presidents. This isn't unusual.

With President Bush, we had -- we did this quite a bit, because that's how you negotiate. And then you take it to the President.

This, Mr. Mnuchin, I think he has integrity representing his position.

BLITZER: Who wants a deal.

PELOSI: May I finish, please? But he has integrity representing his position. But his position has no integrity. They do not share our values.

Have a little respect for the fact that we know something about the subjects. And there's a big difference between Democrats and Republicans and whether they want to give a big tax cut to the wealthiest people in the country in their bill. In the CARES Act, we tried to take it out in this bill. Instead they took out earned income tax credit, child tax credit, expanded health benefits to UI benefits to the extent that it was agreed to before.

BLITZER: All right.

PELOSI: So this is -- I have every confidence in what -- in the arguments that we make, because it's based on science and documentation. Our chairs know their stuff. They know what they're doing, with all due respect to the kind of people you were referencing.

And I welcome their enthusiasm. I welcome their interest. I welcome their originality of their thinking. But the fact is, we have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people in a retroactive way so they're not at a total loss, they are at a loss because the President has ignored the virus.

I wish he would spend time on the fact that if he had not ignore the virus, we wouldn't be in the position we're in. But we are at what we are. And let me say about that also, I hope that -- I'm pleased that these pharmaceutical companies are taking the responsible position to halt and hopefully then resume because we want the public to have confidence in whatever therapies or whatever vaccines come along that they will take that.

BLITZER: All right.

PELOSI: And do people say well, I don't trust Trump on that. If we trust the Food and Drug Administration for what they are doing, the scientists, they've been working 24-7 for months and months and months. Excellent science, the science would call the shot. And when they do, we should all trust it.


BLITZER: And let's hope they get more treatments. Let's hope they get a vaccine.

And Madam Speaker --


BLITZER: -- I certainly respect you, but I also respect Ro Khanna, I respect Andrew Yang, I respect members of the Democrats, who are members of the problem solvers. They want a deal because so many people right now are suffering.

PELOSI: Well, the problem solvers, by the way, don't have any earned income tax credit or child tax credit in their proposal either. But let's not go into that.

BLITZER: But it doesn't -- yes, we've gone through that.

PELOSI: You evidently do not respect the chairman of the committees who wrote this bill.

BLITZER: I respect all of you.

PELOSI: And I wish you would respect the knowledge that goes into getting the -- meeting the needs of the American people. But, again, you've been on a jag (ph) defending the administration all this time with no knowledge of the difference between our two bills. And I thank you for giving me the opportunity to say that to you in person, --

BLITZER: All right. Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: -- virtually.

BLITZER: -- these are incredibly difficult times right now and we'll leave it on that note. Thank you so much for joining us.

PELOSI: Yes. No, we'll leave it on the vote that you are not right on this, Wolf, and I hate to say that to you.

BLITZER: All right.

PELOSI: But I feel confident about it and I feel confident about my colleagues and I feel confident in my chairs.

BLITZER: It's not about me, it's about millions of Americans who can't put food on the table, who can't pay their rent, who were having trouble --

PELOSI: And represent them, and we represent them.

BLITZER: -- who are trouble getting by --

PELOSI: And we represent them.

BLITZER: -- these long food lines that we're --

PELOSI: And we represent them.

BLITZER: I know you were --

PELOSI: We know them.

BLITZER: I'm just saying --

PELOSI: We represent them and we know them.

BLITZER: As we say --

PELOSI: We know them. We represent them. Yes.

BLITZER: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, as they say --

PELOSI: It is nowhere near perfect.

BLITZER: Madam Speaker --

PELOSI: Always the case, but we're not even close to the good.

BLITZER: All right, let's see what happens because every day is critically, critically important. Thanks so much for joining us.

PELOSI: Thank you for sensitivity to our constituents needs.

BLITZER: I am sensitive to them because I see them on the street begging for food, begging for money, Madam Speaker, thank you so much.

PELOSI: Have you fed them? We feed them, we feed them.

BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation down the road for sure. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're keeping a very close watch on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's marathon question and answer session today which is part of the Republicans efforts to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible. Let's go to our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, have there been any surprises?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not quite. In fact, just moments ago, Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham told me that he believes that she is on track to get confirmed by the end of the month and that will be one of the quickest confirmation proceedings in American history, certainly in modern times. And one reason why is that she has avoided getting pinned down on so many hot button issues, whether it's the Affordable Care Act case that could come before the court soon after the elections are not saying whether or not she would recuse herself from any case involving an election dispute.

If one were to arise, and she's the justice, she said that you she could not say that at this moment. And also not going as far as she has gone as a private citizen when she raised concerns about the Roe versus Wade case that legalized abortion rights. In fact, when she was asked about that, she said that she couldn't weigh in on this because it's a matter that could come before the court, although she said that it was not a, quote, super precedent, which means that it's something that potentially could be touched by the Supreme Court.


AMY CONEY BARRETT, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Roe is not a super precedent because calls for its overruling have never ceased. But that doesn't mean that Roe should be overruled. It just means that it doesn't fall on the small handful of cases like Marbury versus Madison and Brown versus the board that no one questions anymore. I haven't even written anything that I would think anybody could reasonably say, oh, this is how she might resolve an election dispute.

And I would consider it -- let's see, I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people. I have not made any commitments or deals or anything like that. I'm not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act. I'm just here to apply the law and adhere to the rule of law.


RAJU: And that last part came out in regards to a article that she wrote before she became a federal judge raising concerns about John Roberts, the Chief Justice, his decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. She said that that does not apply to the -- this next case that's coming up before the Supreme Court because as she said, it turns on this completely different issue. And she did not want to weigh in on that issue. And that left Democrats, in particular, very frustrated and Republican still confident that she'll get the seat on the court. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thanks very much. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring in our Chief Legal Analyst, the former Federal Prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin. He's the author, by the way, of the new book entitled, "True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump". So, Jeffrey, you've been watching closely, as Judge Barrett takes questions from senators today. Have you learned anything about what type of justice she would be assuming she's confirmed that all indications are that she will be confirmed? Or has she adeptly avoided tipping her hand?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, I think she's reinforced the record that we knew she had. Look, she's extremely thoughtful, intelligent and presents herself very well. She explains legal concepts in plain English. And I thought one of the most revealing moments was when she was asked to explain what is originalism mean.


And she said, look, what -- the Constitution, the words of the Constitution should be understood, as the people of the 18th century understood them. When they used words like due process, when they use words like freedom of speech. That's what the -- that's what we should -- that's what we should follow.

But it's important to remember what the implications of that are. Because it is true that in the 18th century, they were not thinking of the rights of women, they were not thinking about abortion, they were not thinking about the rights of LGBT people, they -- and so, if you are an originalist, you do not believe that the Constitution protects those groups. And that's the kind of justice she appears that she's going to be.

BLITZER: You say, Jeffrey, that Judge Barrett is minimizing the significance of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, as it's called. That case, will come before the U.S. Supreme Court a week after the election. Explain what's at stake here. And why you say she is downplaying?

TOOBIN: Well, the point she made in answering the question is, she said, the challenge that's going to be argued on November 10th, is only about the issue of severability. And what that means is there's a part of the Act that the plaintiffs claim is unconstitutional. And the issue she says in the case is it, does that mean, just that part is unconstitutional, or the whole statute is unconstitutional. And she said, well, this is just a case about severability. It's not about pre-existing conditions, it's not about, you know, lifetime limits on benefits.

But it is about that, because if the court decides as the Trump administration is urging them to decide, that you have to get rid of the whole statute that the -- that provision is not severable, it all goes. The whole statute gets struck down. So, that's what's at stake in this case. It's not just an arcane dispute about severability.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, as usual, thank you very much.

We're also following breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey is now reporting almost 1,000 new cases and seven additional deaths as coronavirus cases are surging across the United States right now.

Joining us now to discuss, the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy. Governor Murphy, thank you so much for joining us. And as you know well, new cases arising all across the Northeastern United States, including your state of New Jersey, what are you doing to try to tamp down these outbreaks in your state before, God forbid, they grow out of control?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Amen. Good to be with you, Wolf. There's no question, we're seeing a rise in cases. It's a combination of a number of factors. We've had some hotspot communities, we've had some hotspots in our higher education community. There's no doubt those broad -- some increased in increasing community spread. We are surging principally testing and tracing assets to those hotspots. We're monitoring it, as you can imagine, minute to minute.

My guess is that we're going to be -- if we take further actions, it'll be a scalpel as opposed to a blunt instrument. But colder weather is not our friend here. It's clearly impacting younger people than it was in the spring. So, we're monitoring all of this, and we're doing everything we can to keep a lid on it. The one silver lining is we probably have the highest per capita testing capacity in the country. So the number of tests are up significantly, but as is our testing capacity, so our positivity rates are still relatively low, but they're still higher than we'd like.

BLITZER: Could you see a return, Governor, to the heavy restrictions, like the measures you imposed in New Jersey back in March and April? Could you see a return anytime soon?

MURPHY: I hope not, Wolf. I hope not. As I said, I think it's more likely. I mean, everything has to be on the table clearly. But I think it's more likely a scalpel, whether it's a particular community or a particular step.

We've opened up the states slowly but surely, beginning first way back when with outside activity. We've now gone to more indoor activity. Could we reassess our capacity limits perhaps? But, again, I think we're trying to get in with precision tools here with testing, tracing, and perhaps specific community steps.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts, Governor, President Trump's decision to continue holding these political campaign rallies, even as he himself is recovering from his own coronavirus infection. Take a look at these pictures. These are live pictures coming in from his rally in Pennsylvania later tonight. Very few mask, no real social distancing. What's your reaction to what we're seeing unfold in Johnstown, Pennsylvania right now?

MURPHY: Listen, first and foremost, I wish the President, the First Lady, everybody else who's been impacted by this virus, nothing but the best of health.


I think you got to do this stuff responsibly, Wolf. I mean, the data is overwhelmingly clear on this. Social distancing, face coverings, washing your hands with soap and water, take yourself off the field for 14 days if, in a minimum, if you're positive or you're been around somebody who's positive, get tested after a number of days, when you know the virus has had a chance to incubate. I think it's clear -- crystal clear what should be done.

So, I'm not I'm not hell no against rallies, but you got to do it the right way. You got to have everybody masked up, away from each other. And again, I hope the President -- I wish him nothing but the best in terms of his own health. But the rules of the road here could not be clearer.

BLITZER: You know, the President did that event in Bedminster, New Jersey not that long ago. Did you see an uptick in cases as a result of that?

MURPHY: I can't say that we have seen any evidence of that. But we were quite concerned when the facts unfolded. You know, knowingly traveling to New Jersey, when there was known exposure to folks who were COVID positive is not part of that rulebook that I just went through a minute ago. You got to take yourself off the field. And that was extremely disappointing.

BLITZER: The Governor of New Jersey, good luck over there. Governor Murphy, we really appreciate you joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: These are difficult times indeed. There's more breaking news we're following. More than 10.5 million early votes have now been cast for the general election. But some voters are facing lines, get this, that are hours long. We'll update you on that when we come back.



BLITZER: We have three weeks ago until the election. We have breaking news about how many Americans already have voted early. Let's get the latest from CNN's Pamela Brown. So Pamela, what are you seeing?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing records broken here, Wolf. We have learned in more than 10.5 million Americans have already voted in the general election according to analysis from CNN, Catalist and Edison Research. But with the surge in early voting comes with it long lines, long wait lines in some parts of the country.


BROWN (voice-over): Another state, another day of hours in long lines and some mishaps as voters go to the polls. This time, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody's come out to vote here. Lines around the corner. BROWN (voice-over): Across the Lone Star State, Houston, Fort Hood, South Austin, all with long lines as voters take advantage of the start of early voting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just came out, so I would say about 2.5 hours.

BROWN (voice-over): In Harris County, early voters hoping to use drive-thru voting are facing similar delays. In Travis County where a whopping 97 percent of the county's 850,000 eligible voters are registered to vote. Some voting machines weren't working after waking up to news of a late night ruling upholding Republican Governor Greg Abbott's directive for one ballot drop box per county in the state. A major issue for densely populated counties where voters could spend more than an hour driving just to cast their vote.

CHRIS HOLLINS, HARRIS COUNTY CLERK: More than 50 miles, in some cases, to drop off their mail ballot. It's unfair, it's prejudicial, and it's dangerous.

BROWN (voice-over): It comes a day after a similar start in Georgia where voters waited for hours to vote. In Gwinnett County, some voters waiting in line for up to eight hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be out here and be able to share my voice.

BROWN (voice-over): Georgia setting an early voting record with nearly 127,000 ballots cast. Today, no different, more voters, more long lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But many people have sacrificed before us, so it's almost a spin they face if we don't take the time to throw our kids that they have this right and is best used as early as possible.

BROWN (voice-over): But voting rights advocates say it's not OK to make people wait like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been problems with pole pads, with ballot access cards, with obviously social distancing, and just taking a lot longer to process through lines.

BROWN (voice-over): In Virginia, the last day of voter registration saw the state's online registration system was down for several hours due to an I.T. cable that was accidentally severed, prompting calls from some state leaders to extend the registration deadline. Meanwhile, in California, unofficial ballot drop box is potentially illegal in the state, as the state's Democratic Secretary of State and the Department of Justice are sending a cease and desist order to the California Republican Party to remove unofficial ballot boxes in at least three counties.

ALEX PADILLA, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: This is wrong no matters who is doing it. And it's not just the security of the ballot that's in question here. It is, you know, the transparency voter confidence.

BROWN (voice-over): The state Republican Party spokesman telling CNN he believes the boxes are similar to giving the ballot to a family member to drop off which is legal in California.


BROWN: And we should note, giving a ballot to a family member is different from dropping it off in an unofficial drop box like the ones Republicans put in California. First of all, you don't know how it will be collected or counted. Also, some people may be deceived, Wolf, into thinking these unofficial drop boxes are official and run by election authorities when, in fact, they are not.

BLITZER: Yes, very important point indeed. Pamela Brown, good report. Thank you very much.


There's more breaking news we're following, President Trump back out there on the campaign trail once again tonight despite serious concerns his rallies could fuel the current surge in coronavirus cases.


BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're tracking new evidence that the fall resurgence of the coronavirus that we've been repeatedly warned about is becoming a very dangerous reality.

Tonight, much of the country has been plunged into the red zone. The rate of new infections rising right now in 33 states as U.S. deaths hit 215,000 and total cases climbed above 7.8 million. And yet for the second night in a row, the President is heading to a campaign rally with no social distancing and few masks.

His supporters in Pennsylvania flouting safety guidelines despite a 63 percent spike in COVID-19 cases in that state during the past month alone. Also breaking, new setbacks and safety concerns for coronavirus therapies.