Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

CDC Redefines Close Contact To Include Cumulative Exposure; U.S. Tops 221,000 Deaths And 8.3 Million Cases; Not One State Is Trending In The Right Direction; Soon: Obama's First Campaign Stump Speech For Biden; CNN Poll: Biden Has 10-Point Lead Over Trump In Pennsylvania; No Clear Leader In Florida; Steve Bannon Behind "Shoddy" Research Claiming Coronavirus Made In A Chinese Lab As A Bioweapon; Obama Campaigns At Drive-In Rally For Biden. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 21, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can join me for the final presidential debate tomorrow night CNN special coverage begins 7:00 Eastern. And then we'll cover after the debate as well. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @jaketapper. Tweet the show @theleadcnn. 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.

And we're following breaking news out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The director, Dr. Robert Redfield, saying only moments ago that the agency has now updated its definition of a close contact with a COVID-19 patient to include multiple brief exposures.

The United States now has surpassed 221,000 coronavirus deaths and tonight has confirmed more than 8.3 million cases.

And a stark sign of the worsening pandemic here in the United States, not a single state is trending in the right direction right now. If it was, we'd be showing that in green on this map. You don't see any green.

Also breaking this hour. Just moments from now we're going to be hearing directly from the former president of the United States, Barack Obama in his first campaign stump speech since the Democratic Convention. He'll be making the case for Joe Biden. When it happens, we'll bring it to you live.

This comes with just 13 days left until the election and more than 40 million votes already cast. We're tracking it all including the path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, with less than two weeks, 13 days to go until Election Day, President Trump appears to be growing more erratic. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is back to his old tricks of manufacturing bright, shiny objects. When he's in big political trouble. The President is on the attack against a slew of targets from the media to Dr. Anthony Fauci. But the President is defending his record on the coronavirus, saying there is, "not much he would change in how he handled the pandemic."


ACOSTA (voice-over): With the coronavirus surge blanketing the U.S. President Trump insists he has no regrets when it comes to his handling of the pandemic telling the Trump friendly program "America This Week" on Sinclair television, he wouldn't change much.

ERIC BOLLING, AMERICA THIS WEEK HOST: With COVID, is there anything that you think you could have done differently? If you had a mulligan or a do over on one aspect of the way he handled it, what would it be?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not much. Look, it's all over the world. You have a lot of great leaders. There's a lot of smart people, too all over the world

ACOSTA: Trying to switch subjects the President is raging out at a different T.V. show, "60 Minutes," tweeting out photos of his recent interview with Lesley Stahl who grilled Mr. Trump on his COVID-19 response and other matters before he stormed off.

The President this morning over Twitter, "I am pleased to inform you that for the sake of accuracy and reporting, I am considering posting my interview with Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" prior to airtime. This will be done so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a fake unbiased interview is all about."

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I've looked at every single minute of the interview and then some. We have tape of every single minute.

Listen when you have a "60 Minutes" reporter, they should be a reporter not an opinion journalist and she came across more like an opinion journalist than a real reporter.

Journalism should have standards. And we need to get to the bottom up. So I think the American people will be able to see it.

ACOSTA: For the President, the last two weeks of the campaign have become a journey into Mr. Trump's grievance filled psyche as he is making up accusations about upcoming debate moderator Kristen Welker, a well-respected NBC News journalist.

TRUMP: In fact that Kristen Welker is, you know, a dyed in the wool radical left Democrat or whatever she is.

ACOSTA: And alleging Dr. Anthony Fauci is a Democrat when he's not registered with a political party.

TRUMP: The only thing I say is, he's a little bit sometimes not a team player. But he is a Democrat, and I think that he's just fine.

ACOSTA: And calling Democrat Joe Biden all sorts of things without any proof.

TRUMP: Joe Biden is a criminal and he's been a criminal for a long time.

ACOSTA: Down in the polls, the President sounds like he's laying the groundwork for blaming the virus if he loses.

TRUMP: Because, you know, before the plague came in, I had it made. I wasn't coming to Erie. I mean, I have to be honest, there's no way I was coming. I didn't have to.

We had this thing won. We were so far up. We had the greatest economy ever, greatest jobs, greatest everything. And then we got hit with the plague.

ACOSTA: Away from the virus critical questions are emerging about the President's finances. As the New York Times reported, Mr. Trump has had a bank account in China where he's paid taxes in recent years.

MEADOWS: Most the time, those accounts whether they exist or not, I don't know. I haven't talked to the President about that. Normally, those are more operational for the region.

ACOSTA: Biden remains in debate prep (ph) allowing former President Barack Obama to get out to vote.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is really a tipping point. And that momentum only continues if we win this election.

In times as polarized as these, your vote doesn't just matter, it matters more than ever before.


ACOSTA: And I'm told by administration officials before Mr. Trump started trashing Dr. Anthony Fauci this week as a, "disaster." The two men did speak during the President's recovery from COVID-19.

Following that discussion between Mr. Trump and Dr. Fauci, a White House official was also in touch with the doctor about the President's condition prior to last week's town hall. Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Jim Acosta reporting for us.

We will have live coverage, of course, President Obama's speech in Philadelphia that's coming up very soon right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, more now on the breaking pandemic news CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, major news about the coronavirus coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The CDC just out with a new definition of what it is to have close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The previous definition was if you were within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or more, but now they say it can be shorter spurts of that if it's cumulative, meaning it can be less than 15 minutes at a time, if it adds up to 15 minutes within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, it's really local and state officials tonight who are left to be the ones making crucial decisions in fighting local outbreaks.


TODD (voice-over): A 24-hour diner in Chicago prepares to shut down indoor dining for at least a couple of weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I never thought something like this could happen, you know.

TODD: Illinois, one of several states experiencing rising cases and hospitalizations, and imposing new restrictions on gatherings in bars, restaurants and other businesses.

GOV. JB PRITZKER, (D) ILLINOIS: There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and on our public health. But we can and we will manage through this. We're Midwestern tough here in Illinois.

TODD: It comes as state and local officials scramble to contain spikes across the country. Washington State's governor says college students in his state are contributing to what he calls a raging spread of the virus. And he's imposing mask requirements and a limit of two students per dorm room.

GOV. JAY INSLEE, (D) WASHINGTON: Today we have seen fully 35 outbreaks at colleges and universities with more than 800 cases directly attributable to these congregate living and social gatherings associated with campuses.

TODD: At the University of Michigan, a stay in place order imposed due to heavy cases.

Tonight, more than half the states in the U.S. report a rise in new coronavirus cases, no states are trending downward. More than 60,000 new cases were reported in America yesterday alone with hospitalizations at around 40,00,0 the highest in two months.

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, PROVIDENCE HEALTH & SERVICES: It's going to be up to local states to different jurisdictions trying to create a patchwork of capacity to stop the virus. Because right now we simply don't have national leadership leaning in and helping us get past this.

TODD: Also new tonight, the CDC updating its definition of close contact with someone who has COVID, instead of just saying 15 minutes within six feet, they are now also warning of cumulative exposure. So several short contacts could also be considered exposure if it 15 minutes over 24 hours.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Been determined an individual who had a series of shorter contacts, but over time added up to more than 15 minutes became infected.

TODD: And there's new pushback to the idea of so-called herd immunity, letting the virus run unchecked through communities so more people would contract COVID-19. The thought being some could later develop resistance to the virus.

It's been promoted by some people in the Trump administration. But today the President's own Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams tweeted that herd immunity could lead to many deaths and, "there is no example of a large scale successful intentional infection-based herd immunity strategy."

As martyrs in the nation's capital push for a safe coronavirus vaccine, Brazilian health officials say a volunteer taking part in Brazil's trial of AstraZeneca experimental vaccine has died. But the International Committee reviewing vaccines recommends that the trial continue.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear, at least initially when you hear these sorts of reports of deaths exactly what happened or even if the person received the vaccine or received the placebo. When you're dealing with 10s of thousands of people in these trials, I think the point that they're making is that sometimes the deaths can occur even in placebo groups for reasons unrelated.


TODD: And we should note that AstraZeneca vaccine trial in the United States is on pause because of an unexplained illness of a volunteer in that trial. But there's no reason to believe at this time that that illness and that death of a volunteer in Brazil are in any way connected. Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha.

Dr. Shah, thanks so much for joining us. And I want your reaction to the breaking news. You just heard of the CDC now redefining what they consider to be a close contact with someone who has the coronavirus. Explain this new guidance for us.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Absolutely, Wolf. And thank you for having me on.

You know, what it says is that we used to think about close contact and exposure as a single 15 minute you spent time with somebody. What we're learning is that it can be cumulative over time. So five minutes at the water cooler, five minutes later on in the morning or later in the afternoon.

That overtime, if you're exposed to somebody and they're not wearing a mask, and they're infected, you can get infected. So, it reiterates the importance of everybody wearing masks, right, because the person who gave the infection wasn't wearing a mask. And second, it says you got to maintain some out of social distance more than six feet if you're in a situation where somebody could be infected.

BLITZER: It makes so much sense and it's so easy to do. Thousands of people would have survived if they would have just been doing that, had their friends, their associates, their colleagues.

Does the fact that we're now considering cumulative exposure rather than just continuous exposure mean that additional people who might have thought they weren't at risk based on the old CDC guidance should actually now quarantine?

JHA: Yes, I think so. And again, we haven't seen the update on quarantining from CDC. But based on this new definition, it stands to reason that the definition of who needs to quarantine is also needs to change, Wolf. And so I think that's going to be important.

The key point for people to remember is that there is no safe period of time to be with somebody who's not part of your bubble if both of you are not wearing masks. It's really critical that people wear masks if you're going to be with somebody for any extended period of time, even if it's less than 15 minutes.

BLITZER: I want you to take a look at this nationwide trend map of new coronavirus cases, Dr. Jha. Look at this, not a single state is reporting a decline. This is a very different situation than the outbreak in the early spring, which was mostly concentrated in just a handful of states.

Now the virus, look at it, it seems to be everywhere across the country. Could these coming next few months be the worst of the entire pandemic?

JHA: Yes, I mean, you know, we've certainly heard from other experts like Dr. Auster Home (ph), who's more into this is going to be the hardest two to three months of the entire pandemic.

I do think it's possible. We know so much more than we did three, six months ago, that we can stave off that kind of worst case scenario, Wolf. But there's a lot of pandemic fatigue setting in. We have no national leadership. We're really going to need governors to step up. And we'd have to have individuals just be much more careful if we don't want large scale outbreaks across the whole nation.

BLITZER: Yes, let's not forget 933 Americans died from the virus just yesterday, 933 Americans, they rest in peace. Our deepest, deepest condolences to their families.

Dr. Jha, thank you so much for joining us. JHA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're standing by to hear from the former President Barack Obama, as he makes this first campaign stump speech for Joe Biden since the convention. He's already talking to voters out there. We're going to talk about it with his former senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. She's standing by live.

Also coming up with just 13 days until Election Day, we're following both candidates in their path toward the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: CNN's breaking news in the race for the White House. The former president of the United States Barack Obama is about to make his first campaign stump speech for the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, with only 13 days to go before the election. President Obama has been holding several events in Philadelphia, leading up to Pennsylvania, of course, a key battleground state.

Our Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is on the scene for us in Philadelphia.

Jeff, so what made President Obama decide to actively campaign and specifically today?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question that time is indeed running out in this race. But Barack Obama, the former president is hitting the campaign trail focusing specifically on states that are already doing early voting. And that of course, is Pennsylvania.

This is a critical state. The 20 electoral votes here are so important. President Trump Of course in the state last night, but he's making his case here.

And Wolf, we saw something just a few minutes ago, we've not seen in a long time, Barack Obama on a street corner here in Philadelphia with a bullhorn. As you can see, they're making his case to voters.

He's been handing out some paraphernalia for the Biden and Harris campaign. And we are going to hear him deliver a speech at a drive in rally. You can hear the honking behind me here as other democratic speakers warm up this crowd.

But we just heard from President Obama a few moments ago, talking about the importance of this race and particularly coronavirus, take a listen.


OBAMA: The degree of incompetence and misinformation, the number of people who might not have died, had we just done the basics. The degree to which it has impacted low income communities, so disproportionately. That's something that -- I'm not just confident that it can be fixed. There's proof.


ZELENY: So that message there from the former president talking directly about the Trump administration's handling of coronavirus.


Wolf, if I'm told that Mr. Obama has three objectives in mind here, three key segments of the electorate of African American voters, Latino voters and younger voters in particular, they're trying to drive home the importance of this election and try and boost the enthusiasm for the Biden campaign somewhat. There is a bit of an enthusiasm gap among those three segments of the electorate, Wolf.

But we are going to see the former president campaigning a handful of times, at least I'm told, over the next two weeks, but he's starting tonight, right here in Philadelphia. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He will make sure the vote is turned -- that the turnout is huge for Biden. All right, thanks very much for that Jeff Zeleny in Philadelphia. We'll of course have live coverage of the former president speech.

As we stand by to hear from President Obama, we're joined now by his former senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. Her new book, by the way, is called "Finding My Voice; When the Perfect Plan Crumbles, The Adventure Begins. There you see it.

So Valerie, what are you hoping that President Obama can do for Joe Biden's campaign at today's event in this the final stretch?

VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, he's the closer and he is delighted to be back in a state that he and Vice President Biden won not once, but twice. You saw him out there with a bullhorn. You know how much he loves retail politics.

And this gives him a chance to speak directly to the people of Pennsylvania, but also the people around the country about why he thinks that Vice President Biden is uniquely qualified to lead our country right now. And you heard him talking about the total mishandling of the COVID-19 epidemic. And what is particularly painful I think about this is it didn't have to be this way. We hand it over to the Trump administration, really basically a rule book from what we had learned from H1N1, Zika, Ebola, the steps that they could take to avert this kind of disaster.

We did a tabletop exercise for them during the transition. Obviously, they weren't paying very much attention to that. And so I think drilling foam, how the disproportion impact that this has had on communities of color and low income communities, what's at stake in this election, and an affirmative message about the Biden-Harris presidency. And given the fact that he served with Vice President Biden for all eight years, it wasn't a decision he made without seeking Vice President Biden's counsel. And the vice president always looked at the decision making from the perspective of how is this going to help the American people.


JARRETT: And there's no one better suited to deliver that closing message than President Obama.

BLITZER: And President Obama picked the Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate.

For the most part, Valerie, President Obama, though has shied away from direct criticism of President Trump during these past four years.

So, you expect him in the speech that's coming up very soon, we'll have coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM, to address President Trump specifically?

JARRETT: Yes, I think he will provide a sharp contrast between the vision, the competency, the ability, the empathy, of Vice President Biden and Senator Harris in sharp contrast to what he's seen.

And yes, I think, initially, as he said, before he left office, he would reserve his comments judiciously for when he thought that the values of our country were challenged, whether it was the Affordable Care Act or the separation of families at the border. You heard his voice in the equation and several other instances.

And then you saw in the convention speech, a very sharp and pointed contrast, both by him and by his wife. And so I think tonight, as we enter into the final stretch of this election, it's important for him to raise the stakes dramatically, and to show the American people why he is so firmly behind Joe Biden.

And in contrast, the track record of President Trump who's now running on that record. This is not an aspirational candidacy. He has a record that he will have to justify. And I think President Obama will be very clear about how far short he has fallen in delivering for the American people.

BLITZER: You heard Jeff Zeleny's report, President Obama's goal, at least part of his goal tonight, reach out specifically to black men, Latinos, younger Americans. Is this about making the case for Biden over Trump? Or is this more about persuading a lot of folks who stayed home and didn't vote in 2016, to come out and vote this year?

JARRETT: I don't think it's either or I think it's both and we know 100 million Americans did not turn out to vote in 2016. And that's a travesty. And I think so he wants to call to the attention of everyone what's at stake, encourage people to vote safely during early vote.

We've seen a record number of folks turnout for early vote, as you know, Wolf, and that's terrific. And he will encourage that to continue to happen so that we don't see excessively long lines on Election Day. We're already seeing lines that are far too long and parts of the country.

So he will encourage people to get out. Participate, exercise that most important fundamental responsibility of citizenship. And he is all interviewed Joe Biden and Senator Harris and you'll hear that loud and clearly tonight.


BLITZER: I find it always so interesting that the former Democratic president is out there campaigning for the current Democratic presidential candidate. The former Republican President George W. Bush is silent. He's not out there campaigning for the Republican incumbent President of the United States right now. A major difference right there.

Valerie Jarrett, thanks so much for joining us.

JARRETT: You're welcome, Wolf. Good night.

BLITZER: Coming up an update on where the candidates stand in the all- important race to winning. The winning, you know, that margin that is necessary to become president, 270 electoral votes. We'll update you on that when we come back.



BLITZER: The breaking news, we're waiting former President Barack Obama's first campaign stump speech for Joe Biden. The former President is in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania right now, while President Trump will be campaigning in other key battleground state in a little while, North Carolina.

Let's go to our CNN Political Director, David Chalian. Both campaigns focusing in on getting that winning total, David, of 270 electoral votes. So, what's the latest on the state by state races?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We have two brand new exclusive CNN polls conducted by our polling partner SSRS. Florida and Pennsylvania, two critical states. And let me show you the state of play. In Pennsylvania, you see a 10-point lead here for Joe Biden. 53 percent for Biden, 43 percent for Trump, among likely voters in Pennsylvania, Wolf. You see why we have it as lean Democratic on our map, OK?

How about Florida? Take a look at Florida, no clear leader. 50 percent for Biden, 46 percent for Trump. Florida remains a real toss up battleground state the way that we have it on the map. So, let's go to the map, knowing that state of play. And let me show you Donald Trump's trend here, which is that in the Sunbelt states, he's in margin of error races with Joe Biden. It's in this upper Midwest region, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, where Joe Biden is showing some strength, getting beyond margin of error and have a lead and that complicates Donald Trump's path to re-election.

Because, again, Wolf, if we give him the Sunbelt region, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, let's say we give him Arizona, which right now we have leaving Biden, but let's give it for the purposes of this exercise to Donald Trump. And we give him Ohio and Iowa, OK? We'll give Joe Biden this congressional district up here in Maine for the purposes of this exercise. What do you have? You still don't have Donald Trump at 270.

He has to dig into one of these upper Midwest states, if that is the way that the puzzle pieces fall here. But let me show you one other point here. Sorry, let me just get back here. So, let's say our poll has 50 percent to 46 percent in Florida, Biden-Trump. What if Florida actually goes blue? What if Joe Biden wins that race?

I want you to see how that really blocks. Ohio, I'm giving everything to Trump. Now, I'm going to give him Arizona again. I'm even going to give him this congressional district up in Maine that he won in 2016. If Florida goes, Joe Biden's at 308 electoral votes.

Even if Donald Trump were to win, Pennsylvania, even if he were to win Michigan, he still wouldn't be there without Florida, he would have to win all three of those Midwest states. And, again, remember where our map currently stands? Those Midwestern Rust Belt states, they are Biden strength right now.

BLITZER: The Electoral College, that is key, of course. David Chalian, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more in all of these. Joining us, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip. Gloria, Pennsylvania is obviously so, so important on that path to 270. That's where the former President Barack Obama will be delivering his speech very, very soon. His first stop out there on the campaign trail for Joe Biden. So what's the significance of this appearance in this location?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The Biden campaign is on offense. They would, of course, love to win Pennsylvania, as David just pointed out, they have a lot of roads to get to 270. The President of the United States really needs to win Pennsylvania, and our poll shows that he's really far behind right now. So, Obama going there is really about getting out those voters, those younger voters, those African American voters, particularly young black men, and it is about voter enthusiasm.

In our poll that David was just talking about in Pennsylvania, there was a concerning number for the Biden campaign, which is when you ask voters whether they are in Pennsylvania, whether they're extremely enthusiastic about their presidential vote, 61 percent of Trump voters say they are and 56 percent of Biden voters say they are. Now, that's not a huge gap, but it is a gap.


And I think what Barack Obama is trying to do is narrow that gap, try to explain to these young voters to whom Joe Biden is kind of a foreign creature and say, yes, he can really do what you want a president to do. So, Obama becomes a big and important character witness.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly he does. You know, Abby, the Biden campaign knows, it needs that kind of support from younger voters, from people of color that they need to show up and vote. President Obama happens to resonate, obviously, particularly well with those voters. Is that who will be primarily speaking to in a little while in Philadelphia?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that's going to be a big part of the audience in Philadelphia. Four years ago, one of the last campaign rallies that Hillary Clinton had was also in Philadelphia, also featuring President Obama. So this has been actually a very long running project for him to prove that his resonance with younger voters and with black and Hispanic voters, but particularly black men, is not just a question of personality or charismatic politician.

He's struggled to convey that to other people. And now he's trying to convey it to his former Vice President. Look, the problems that the Biden campaign is having with younger minority voters are not necessarily specific to Biden, himself. It is about a broader problem with the Democratic Party proving to these voters that that the party is working for them.

And so, what Obama is trying to do is temporarily overcome that in this election by saying, you cannot sit this one out. And unlike four years ago, they've now had four years of a President Donald Trump. So in some ways, I think that argument is a little bit easier for the former President to make.

BLITZER: Yes, turn out, turn out, turn out, as they say, Abby Phillip, Gloria Borger, guys, thank you very much.

We're going to have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We're also learning now about the Democrats strategy for a crucial Senate committee vote on putting judge Amy Coney Barrett on the U.S. Supreme Court. And once again, we're standing by to hear directly from former President Barack Obama. His in-person campaign appearance for Joe Biden is getting ready to start. We're going live to Philadelphia as soon as it begins.



BLITZER: We're standing by to hear directly from former President Barack Obama, he's in Philadelphia. He'll be delivering his first stump speech for Joe Biden. We're going to have live coverage of that coming up, standby.

In the meantime, we have a CNN investigation new information coming in into a conspiracy theory about the origins of the coronavirus that's been eagerly promoted by allies of President Trump. Our Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin is joining us right now. Drew, you found what a direct link to former President Trump strategist Steve Bannon, is that what I'm hearing?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. A disinformation campaign, you might call it, all linked to a Chinese scientist in hiding who's just everywhere on conservative media, Wolf.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): It is a right wing fueled conspiracy theory pushed to millions of Americans.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a Chinese scientist in hiding but appearing everywhere on right-wing media and claiming her two research papers prove the virus that causes COVID-19 was created in a Chinese lab and is a Chinese bioweapon.

DR. LI-MENG YAN, VIROLOGIST, WHISTLEBLOWER: It is a modern bioweapon in an unrestricted way.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But a CNN investigation has found shoddy citations, questionable sourcing and so many scientists who say it's bunk. Yan's paper is not a credible scientific work, but it is directly linked to one of Donald Trump's former top strategists, Steve Bannon.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Do you believe that a super spreader or someone was actually sent and somehow is been focused on the White House or focused on President --


GRIFFIN (voice-over): That 100 percent comes from Chinese billionaire in exile Miles Guo, who's using his money and Brannon's media expertise to try to discredit the Chinese government. Bannon and Guo appear together on Bannon's podcast, fill the pages of a website called Gnews and began to nonprofits together.

The Rule of Law Society and Rule of Law Foundation. These are the groups who say they support Dr. Li-Meng Yan and appear on the top of her research reports. Columbia University Virologist Angela Rasmussen says the papers are scientific junk.

ANGELA RASMUSSEN, VIROLOGIST, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Anybody with an actual background in virology or molecular biology who reads this paper will realize that much of it is actually nonsense.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN spoke to a half dozen scientists who say Yan's papers are filled with half-truths, not scientifically tenable. One who even met with him and said her first study wasn't plausible. University of Michigan Professor Anna Mapp says the paper lacked a basic obligation to scientific practices.

ANNA MAPP, PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: But it's also really disturbed to see such a shoddy piece of work. GRIFFIN (voice-over): And CNN could find no trace of Yan's three co- authors in the U.S. or China. Yan didn't respond to tell us why, but a source tells us that those three co-authors are pseudonyms for U.S. based Chinese scientists who fear using their own names, but the source offered no proof.


Miles Guo thought (ph) Li Yan's work is Yan's work, independent of any editorial control by me, Steve Bannon offered no response. Yet there is more about Yan's work. Some of the sources of her research appear not to be credible. Amanda Peiffer, who's getting a PhD in Chemical Biology first alerted CNN to issues with the citations at the very end of Yan's paper,

AMANDA PEIFFER, CHEMICAL BIOLOGY PHD CANDIDATE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: People who aren't experts, people who aren't scientists, people who really haven't done anything, these are not coming from credible sources. I think that's really concerning.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): A CNN analysis finds Yan citations include a paper that appeared only as a post on LinkedIn. A report written by a person that CNN cannot locate, running a company that does not seem to exist. Three of the citations that link to posts on a website opposed to genetically modified food. Then there is Citation 23, which links to anonymous blog posts published back in March. Parts of Yan's papers appear to be pulled directly from these anonymous blogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to say copied and pasted, but it almost has that same effect.

PEIFFER: They took the exact same figures, the exact same phrasing and the exact same captions and put those into the report that was Yan's paper. And that does not happen in science.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And guess where one of those blogs first appeared months before Yan's paper, Gnews, the disinformation new site link to Steve Bannon and Miles Guo.

RASMUSSEN: And as much as I hate to think of the idea of competent scientists using their work for political propaganda, to me, that's what this seems to be.


GRIFFIN: There's just no information, Wolf. This is anything more than just made up disinformation. What's frightening is, millions of Americans may be being fed this disinformation and actually believing it. Wolf?

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Excellent reporting, Drew, thank you so much for that report.

And to our viewers, stay with us. So, we're about to go live to Philadelphia when the former President United States, Barack Obama begins his remarks at a drive-in rally for Joe Biden. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Looking at live pictures coming in from Philadelphia, getting ready to hear from the former President of the United States, Barack Obama. It's a drive-in rally that is going on with there. Folks driving their cars and socially distance. Of course, we'll have live coverage of the former President once he starts speaking.

In the meantime, there's some breaking news coming in from Capitol Hill on the fight over confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Let's quickly go to CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, tell us what you're hearing.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and pretty extraordinary move by Senate Democrats who sit on that committee. They announced that they plan to boycott tomorrow's key committee vote that would advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Senate floor there.

Ten Democrats on the committee, the 10 Democrats do not plan to attend. Instead they plan to put pictures of people affected by the Affordable Care Act in their seats instead. Of course, this all comes to the Democrats message has been that --

BLITZER: All right, Manu, I'm going to interrupt you, I'm going to interrupt you. We're going to get back to you. But we're -- here he comes the former President of the United States. He's got a mask that says vote. There he is, Barack Obama. This is his first stump speech for the Biden campaign since the Democratic Convention.

He got a nice crowd over there in Philadelphia, but they've driven their cars there. You'll see a wide shot fairly soon. The former President, let's listen in.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Philadelphia. Man, it is good to be back in Pennsylvania. What beautiful weather we got here. Little Indian summer. You know, I know the President spent some time in Erie last night and apparently complained about having to travel here. And then he cut the event short, poor guy. I don't feel that way. I love coming to Pennsylvania.

You guys delivered for me twice and I am back here tonight to ask you to deliver the White House for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

I want to thank Mr. Philadelphia, Charlie Mack, his daughter, India Marie. What an outstanding young lady she was. Those of you who are fathers and have daughters, you know how that feels when you see your daughters just shining. I know a little bit about that.


And it was great to see Representatives Brendan Boyle, Mary Gay Scanlon, Governor Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mayor Jim Kenney. Philadelphia, we got 13 days.


OBAMA: That's our lucky number right here. Thirteen days until the most important election of our lifetimes. And you don't have to wait for November 3rd to cast your ballot. You've got two ways to vote right now. Number one, you can vote early in-person through next Tuesday. How many people -- anybody here voted early already?

Just -- If you haven't, just go to and find out where you can vote early. Number two, you can vote from home with a mail-in ballot. Just go to to request your ballot right away. And before you send it back, Pennsylvania's got this thing where you've got to use both envelopes. So you've got to read the directions carefully to make sure your vote counts.

And if you've already voted, then you've got to help your friends and family make a plan to vote. Take them with you if you vote early, or if you vote in-person on Election Day, because this election requires every single one of us to do our part. And what we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come.

Now, last time I was in Philadelphia, I was at the constitution center. And I was delivering a speech for the Democratic National Convention this year. And I said, during that speech, I've sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for President. And they are very different people.

I explained that I never thought Donald Trump would embrace my vision or continue my policies. But I did hope, for the sake of the country, that he might show some interest in taking the job seriously. But it hasn't happened. He hasn't shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends or treating the presidency like a reality show that he can use to get attention. And by the way, even then his TV ratings are down. So you know that upsets him.

But the thing is, this is not a reality show, this is reality. And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him, proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously. At least 220,000 Americans have died. More than 100,000 small businesses have closed. Millions of jobs are gone.

Our proud reputation around the world is in tatters. Presidents up for re-election usually asked if the country is better off than it was four years ago. I'll tell you one thing, four years ago, you'd be tailgating here at the Lincoln instead of watching a speech from your cars. The only people truly better off than they were four years ago are the billionaires who got his tax cuts.

Right now, as we speak, Trump won't even extend relief to the millions of families who are having trouble paying the rent, or putting food on the table because of this pandemic. But he's been doing all right by himself. As it turns out, this was just reported in the last 48 hours. We know that he continues to do business with China because he's got a secret Chinese bank account. How is that possible? How is that possible? A secret Chinese bank account. Listen, can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for re-election? You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that?