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The Situation Room

Interview with Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); Trump Continues Efforts to Overturn Election; U.S. Nears 252,000 COVID Deaths, 11.7 Million Cases; Giuliani, Trump Legal Team Ramp Up Bogus Claims of Conspiracy, Election Fraud; Inside Texas Hospitals Filled to Capacity with COVID- 19 Patients. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 19, 2020 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We are following breaking news.

President-elect Biden is denouncing President Trump's efforts to undermine the election results, saying his actions show incredible irresponsibility, are damaging, and send a horrible message to the world.

Just a short while ago, Biden's incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, told me Americans have learned to expect the worst from Trump, and that is what they are getting.

Right now, the president is growing even more brazen in his fight to try to overturn the election that he lost. He's invited Republican state lawmakers from Michigan to the White House in an apparent attempt to enlist them in his efforts to undo the will of the voters.

At the same time, Rudy Giuliani and the Trump legal team are ramping up bogus claims of election fraud, the current president spending his energy on attacking democracy, as more than a quarter-of-a-million Americans have now died of COVID-19.

Tonight, the CDC is urging all Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, as new cases are exploding across the country.

Let's go right to our political correspondent, Arlette Saenz. She's covering the Biden transition for us in Wilmington, Delaware.

Arlette, some very, very strong, very carefully chosen words as well from the president-elect tonight.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Wolf, president- electric Joe Biden was very frank as he talked about President Trump's refusal to concede, calling it irresponsible and saying that it sends a damaging message to the world.

And Biden also slammed the Trump administration for not coordinating on issues like the coronavirus pandemic, saying that their inability to work with and plan and coordinate with the transition team is going to cost American lives.


SAENZ (voice-over): President-elect Joe Biden offered a blunt assessment of President Trump's refusal to concede.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think they're witnessing incredible irresponsibility, incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.

SAENZ: From his home base in Delaware, Biden delivered some of his sharpest rebukes yet of the outgoing president.

BIDEN: It's going to be another incident where he will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.

I think most of the Republicans I have spoken to, including some of the governors, think this debilitating. It's not a -- it sends a horrible message about who we are as a country.

SAENZ: Biden's incoming White House chief of staff warned of the ramifications of Trump's stonewalling.

RON KLAIN, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think all Americans should be concerned about the way in which President Trump is behaving in his final days in office. Instead of doing what he should do under the law, facilitating an orderly transition, helping to save lives in the fight against COVID, the president's thrashing around with these P.R. stunts.

SAENZ: Biden also blasted the administration for not coordinating on key coronavirus planning, including the distribution of the vaccine.

BIDEN: There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan, because, on day one, it's going to take us time. If we don't have access to all this data, it's going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more. And that's lives.

SAENZ: Without federal coordination, the president-elect is turning to the states, holding a virtual meeting with some Democratic and Republican governors.

BIDEN: I don't see this as a red state issue or a blue state issue. I see this, we're all in this together.

SAENZ: Biden is eying masked mandates nationwide, but he has little authority to institute them himself and will need to convince governors and local officials to take on the task.

BIDEN: It is not a political statement. It's a patriotic duty.

SAENZ: Biden also said a national shutdown is not on the table.

BIDEN: No national shutdown, no national shutdown, because every region, every area, every community is -- can be different.

SAENZ: Behind the scenes, the president-elect is weighing his Cabinet picks and said he's made up his mind about Treasury secretary, with an announcement coming as soon as next week.

BIDEN: And you will find it is someone who I think is -- will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic Party, from the progressive to the moderate coalitions.

SAENZ: One of Biden's former rivals making no secret about his hopes for a top job.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I think something like secretary of labor would be a very attractive position.


SAENZ: And Biden's incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, said there could be some Cabinet announcements coming around the Thanksgiving holiday. And there we will be some White House official announcements coming tomorrow.


And also tomorrow, Joe Biden will be meeting for the first time in person since becoming president-elect with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The two Democratic leaders are traveling here to Wilmington, Delaware, to meet with Biden, as he is trying to show he is hard at work as president-elect.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz in Wilmington for us, thanks very much. Don't go too far away, because I'm going to have you back in just a moment.

Let's go to the White House right now. President Trump's escalating attempts to interfere with the election results, they're continuing.

Our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is joining us.

Kaitlan, now, we didn't see the president once again today, but his strategy to try to undermine the vote clearly is on display.


And now we are seeing people refuse to talk about it in this White House, Wolf, because today we did not see the president, but we did have the first Coronavirus Task Force briefing in four months. I remember because I was at the last one they held in July.

And so, just a few moments ago, they had officials come out into the White House Briefing Room. They talked about the latest numbers. They talked about the vaccine distribution plan. The vice president also spoke as well.

And then, Wolf, this is how it ended, with the vice president turning and refusing to take a single question from anybody in the room, even though we had plenty. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)



COLLINS: This is a broader pattern, Wolf, that we have seen play out over the last several days, where the federal government is refusing to answer questions.

That starts with the president, who hasn't taken questions from reporters since the day of the election. The press secretary is refusing to take questions from reporters, as she did three times yesterday.

Obviously, you see how the vice president there also refused to take questions, but, also, the Pentagon chief refused to take questions earlier this week after announcing that there's going to be a troop drawdown. The national security adviser didn't as well. No one in the federal government is taking questions, Wolf.

And you would have to think that the reason it likely is, is because the president is attempting to destabilize the election and overturn the results.


COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump's assault on the outcome of the election taking on a new intensity tonight, as deadlines for finalizing results in many states grow closer, while his attorneys are set on delaying it.


COLLINS: After suffering a string of court losses, Rudy Giuliani and the rest of Trump's legal team held a press conference today that went off the rails, as they made a series of baseless allegations and Giuliani's hair dye ran down his face.

GIULIANI: Did you all watch "My Cousin Vinny"? You know the movie? It's one of my favorite law movies, because he comes from Brooklyn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your question is fundamentally flawed when you're asking, where's the evidence?

COLLINS: The president wasn't at that briefing, but CNN has learned he's taken the brazen step of inviting Michigan GOP state legislators to the White House tomorrow as he tries to undermine the Electoral College process.

This week, he personally called a Republican election official in Michigan who tried to stop the certification of the results in the Democratic stronghold of Wayne County, but reversed her decision and voted yes after facing major backlash.


COLLINS: Now Monica Palmer wants to rescind her vote after getting a call from Trump, which she has no legal standing to do. The Trump campaign withdrew its lawsuit in Michigan today, claiming she could.

GIULIANI: Well, they did. They decertified.

COLLINS: Rudy Giuliani told a Pennsylvania judge in court earlier this week he was not alleging fraud in Pennsylvania, just a fraudulent process.

But when he was in front of cameras today, Giuliani changed his tune.

GIULIANI: The number of voter fraud cases in Philadelphia could fill a library.

COLLINS: In his last two months in office, the president appears set on doing lasting damage to the democracy that put him there. And instead of condemning him, Republicans are humoring him.

SEN. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): Vice President Biden is talking about unifying the country. I don't think that's possible until you overturn every stone out there.

COLLINS: Utah Senator Mitt Romney is one of few GOP voices expressing concern.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The consequences of what's happening during this lame-duck period, I think, are potentially more severe than the consequences associated with a late transition process.

COLLINS: With the pandemic raging in the U.S., the White House Coronavirus Task Force held its first press briefing in four months today.

Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have now surpassed a quarter-of-a- million, despite President Trump's April projection they wouldn't go above six figures.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're probably heading to 60,000, 70,000.

COLLINS: Many across the U.S. are left wondering, where is the federal government? But Trump wasn't at the briefing today, as sources say he's more consumed by his election loss than the pandemic.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump directed us to host this briefing.


COLLINS: And, Wolf, the president's absence from that briefing is even more notable, given he has basically had nothing on his public schedule since the day of the election. And, today, I believe is his 12 day where he's had no public events

scheduled since that Tuesday.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, stay with us. We have more to discuss.

But I want to -- and I also want to bring back our Arlette Saenz, who in Wilmington. Joining us right now, in addition, is our political correspondent, Abby Philip.

Abby, you just heard some really extraordinary steps the president is taking to try to fight the results of this presidential election. Should we brace for him to continue to attack American democracy until his final day in the White House? That would be January 20.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I really do think, Wolf, that you're right. We probably should just get used to the idea that the president is not going to accept the results of this election.

He views this as part of a crusade not to win reelection, because he knows that he has lost this one, but to weaken Joe Biden, to weaken the president that comes in after him.

And regardless of how -- whether or how or when he does or doesn't accept these election results, at some point, it's going to be clear that Joe Biden is the winner. That point actually may come much sooner then perhaps even the president expects, because just looking at the math, Georgia is very close to certifying their election results. Once that has happened, that's pretty much it for the president.

He can't really get to 270 without it. And, at some point, this is going to go to the Electoral College. He doesn't have to accept the results for any of that to happen. And Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20.

BLITZER: Yes, 306 Electoral College votes for Biden, 232 for the president right now, based on all of the projections out there.

And, very important, in the national popular vote, Biden is ahead by some six million votes over Trump.

Arlette, I spoke with the president-elect's chief -- incoming chief of staff, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, in the last hour. He insisted the Biden team is not concerned about the state of our democracy, despite the president's efforts, but he did admit that Mr. Trump's baseless claims are making Biden's job harder.

Are you hearing a similar sentiment from the rest of the transition team? And you speak to those sources all the time. What are they intend to do about this?

SAENZ: Well, Wolf, the longer that President Trump delays the inevitable acceptance that he lost the election, the longer that that delay goes on, it is complicating their day-to-day efforts, as you are seeing and you have heard Joe Biden talk about, that they don't have access to these coronavirus vaccine distribution plans, they don't have access to the key intelligence briefings that he should be receiving as president-elect.

And what you're seeing publicly from Joe Biden is him trying to project and show that he can be ready on day one in that job, receiving these briefings with experts, talking with the nation's governors, as a way to try to get the information that he needs.

But one of the big questions is whether they will eventually try to pursue any type of legal action. You have heard Biden say that they're not ruling it out, but that he also doesn't necessarily think that it could speed up this transition process. The legal battles can be quite long and tedious.

And so that is something that, for the time being, it seems like they are not going to pursue, as they are waiting for the president to accept the reality of the election result.

BLITZER: Yes, it was impressive today that the president-elect met with 10 governors, 10 sitting governors, to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, and there were five Republican governors and five Democratic governors in that virtual meeting with the president. That was very impressive.

Kaitlan, what are you hearing from your sources over there at the White House about the president's attempts to actually pressure various state officials around the country to overturn the will of the American people? Is anyone in the West Wing counseling the president against these truly extreme actions?

COLLINS: I'm told the president is mostly listening to three people. And it's the three attorneys that you saw come out earlier today at that briefing that went off the rails.

And that's Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and of course, Jenna Ellis. All of them have advised the president in some shape or manner or form over the last several months.

But what I'm told right now is that they're the ones telling the president what he wants to hear, that he can win this election, that they can overturn the results, that the voting was rigged, even though everything says the opposite of that, Wolf. And that's what the message has been from other people who realize this is a losing battle they are fighting.

And instead of just going from the president refusing to acknowledge the results, as we have been talking about for 10 days now, it is going into territory where the president is trying to subvert democracy. This is what it looks like when he is calling up GOP state officials who tried to not certify the results in Michigan, even though they were plainly obvious.


And Joe Biden won that state by 150,000 votes. This is why the president is taking this brazen step of inviting these lawmakers to the -- these state legislators to the White House tomorrow, though it's not clear what they're going to do or what the president is going to say to them.

But for him to do that is incredibly extraordinary and unusual. And it's important for people to remember that. So what the president is doing here is not normal. And the question is, who is letting the president do this? Who's humoring him in this and who is kind of turning a blind eye?

And that's obviously one of the things we would have asked the vice president of the United States about, but he didn't take our questions. And I'm assuming it's because every official who does take questions from reporters over the next few days until the president stops doing this, if he does do that, is going to be asked about this and whether or not they agree with what the president has been doing and whether or not they're tacitly agreeing by staying in their jobs and not saying anything about the president's unbelievable actions.

BLITZER: Yes, this is really, really dangerous stuff that's going on right now.

All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, I will ask the Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan -- there he is -- for his take on the bipartisan talks he took part in today with the president-elect earlier in the day. Is he concerned about the future of his Republican Party, as so many fellow Republicans are enabling President Trump's refusal to do the right thing and accept defeat graciously?



BLITZER: We're back with breaking news.

President-elect Biden is warning that President Trump will go down, in Biden's words, as one of the most irresponsible presidents in U.S. history for his -- quote -- "outrageous efforts" to try to interfere with the election he lost.

The president-elect spoke after holding a bipartisan meeting with members of the National Governors Association's Executive Committee.

The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, took part in that meeting. He's joining us now.

Governor Hogan, thank you so much for joining us.

Give us your impressions, first of all, of this meeting that just took place virtually with the president-elect, Joe Biden, and this bipartisan group, five Republican governors, five Democratic governors.

How did the Republican governors on your Executive Committee engage with the president-elect?

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, first of all, Wolf, I think it was a really smart move on the part of the vice -- the vice president, the president-elect and the vice president-elect, to reach out to the National Governors Association.

We have been working in a bipartisan way. And we have all been on the front lines of this crisis. It was a very cordial and I thought productive meeting. And we went through all the -- all the governors kind of just shared their thoughts with the vice president, with the president-elect.

And he talked about his desire to want to work together with us in a bipartisan way. I thought it was a good first start.

Look, we do have concerns about the fact that they haven't been involved with the transition and they're not getting up to speed. And I thought it was helpful for him to hear from the leaders on both sides of the aisle who have actually been out there fighting this virus.

BLITZER: You have accepted the fact that Biden is the president-elect of the United States, that he won the election, right?

HOGAN: I think I was the first Republican to do so.

I mean, there's no question about that. And I congratulated him the first night that the race was called. And I think more and more Republicans are finally getting to that point. And it's hopefully something that will get resolved here very shortly.

BLITZER: Did the other four -- I know -- I will ask you. Did the other four Republican governors in the meeting basically accept the fact and refer to him as president-elect?

HOGAN: Well, I don't want into get the details of the conversation. I don't remember exactly if everyone did, but I think most of them did acknowledge -- we were talking about the issues. Obviously, they got on the call with the president-elect and the vice president-elect for a reason.

And everybody was very cordial, and I think recognizes the fact that the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated on January 20.

BLITZER: I think so. You're absolutely right.

But, based on what you heard from president-elect Biden, Governor, do you expect a significant shift in the federal response to the coronavirus, which is getting worse and worse, once he takes office on January 20?

HOGAN: You know, he didn't share a lot of his thoughts about it yet.

I mean, it was more of a fact-finding mission on their part to try to get up to speed. I thought it was a good first step. We just had a conversation where we kind of let him know some of our priorities.

Look, I brought up a couple of things. So, number one, we want to make sure that they continue some of the things that are working and that we get some of the other things moving. We -- the vaccine development, Operation Warp Speed is a good thing. We're making progress. It's critically important to getting our states back to normal.

I brought up Title 32 funding, because some of us are going to -- once again, many states are going to be calling up the National Guard to help with vaccine distribution and transport and things like that. And Title 32 allows the federal government to pay for that.

And we talked about just a real need to get bipartisan cooperation and a compromise in Congress on the much-needed next stimulus bill. And we have called on the incoming team to work with both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate to try to get this done, although I don't think we can wait until the end of January.


I think this is something that the lame-duck Congress needs to act on right now.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. This is critical. There are people suffering right now by the millions out there. They're waiting in long food lines.

And I think he heard what you were saying. I took notes as he was speaking after your meeting with the president-elect. He said he wants to get new funding for state and local budgets, government -- federal government relief. He wants a stimulus package. He wants new work on making sure that, not only vaccines, but the vaccinations begin all around the country in various states.

He did support new money for the National Guard troops that you're going to need to help in the distribution of those vaccines.

HOGAN: Right.

BLITZER: National mask mandate, he wants.

HOGAN: Right.

BLITZER: And he wants a lot more testing.

That's what you guys proposed. And that's what he emerged from the meeting saying. So, I assume you were pleased.

HOGAN: Well, that's great. I didn't actually hear his remarks, because I went from that meeting into another -- immediately into another series of meetings.

So, I'm glad -- I'm very glad to hear. He seemed to be very receptive to the message. Those were all the points that we tried to make. And I think we're off to a good start.

BLITZER: All this is taking place, Governor, under the shadow, very disturbing shadow of President Trump's threats to try to subvert the election with totally baseless accusations of widespread fraud in various states that he lost, his outrageous scheme to pressure state officials to overturn the will of the voters.

Is there any way to describe this, other than -- and this is so painful to even say -- an assault on our democracy?

HOGAN: Well, I said something very similar, Wolf.

Look, my biggest concern right now is that we don't drop the ball on -- we're in the middle of a war right now against this virus. And we have got to get the current White House coronavirus team talking with the Biden team. We have got to get on with the transition, because we can't afford to be delaying while -- we did have a good meeting with Vice President Pence and the coronavirus team earlier this week, which was very productive.

I just want to see them all working.

But, yes, it is outrageous, Wolf, and it is an assault on our democracy. And, look, I think everybody wants every single vote to be counted fairly, but we haven't seen any evidence of widespread voter fraud.

And the numbers are the numbers. And several of these are Republican- led states. And he's -- look, I think it's bad for Donald Trump, it's bad for the Republican Party, and it's bad for the country and our standing in the world.

And this is the way our country works. We cast the votes, we count the votes, and we live with the results. And we have always had a peaceful transition of power. And I just think it's really sad, what's going on right now.

BLITZER: And how do you explain that some of -- some other Republicans are actually going along with this, because it is so outrageous?

HOGAN: Well, I can't really explain it, other than they're just maybe afraid of the president, or some of them may believe the conspiracy theories.

But some of them, I think, just are humoring him. And -- but I think an awful lot of Republican governors and folks in the Senate and some of his friends and people in the White House are advising him. He just doesn't seem to be listening to anybody.

BLITZER: You see, what's so worrisome, this poll. I don't know if you saw this. I think it was a Monmouth University poll that came out.

There it is right there. Do you believe Biden won fair and square or due to voter fraud? This is a Monmouth University poll. Fair and square, among Republicans, Governor, among Republicans, 18 percent say it was fair and square, but 70 percent among Republicans say it was due to voter fraud.

This is outrageous, when you think about it. And when Biden takes office on January 20, he's going to deal -- he's going to have to deal with such a divided country in the midst of such a deadly coronavirus pandemic. HOGAN: Well, I did an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" talking about

just those things, and saying that I was pleased with the president- elect's comments when he came out and talked about trying to bring the country together, trying to work towards a bipartisan compromise on getting things done and bringing him -- even if you didn't vote for him, if you're Republican or Democrat, he's going to be an American president.

I think that's the exact right tone for him to have. And if he continues along those lines, I said I look forward to working with him in a bipartisan way. And I hope that we don't continue this divisive, angry politics on both sides, or that the Democratic Party moves too far to the left or the Republican Party's is off to the right.

We really have to put the partisanship aside right now and come together to battle this virus and to turn our economy around, because we're in bad shape in this country right now.

BLITZER: I just want to thank you, Governor Hogan.

HOGAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to thank the four other Republican governors who were in this meeting with the president-elect today.

And I will just mention their names quickly, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Gary Herbert of Utah, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Kay Ivey of Alabama, five Republican governors, five Democratic governors, all working with the incoming administration with the president-elect for the good of the American people to try to deal with this pandemic.


I appreciate it very much, good luck to you.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Thank you.

BLITZER: And there's more breaking pandemic news we're following. The CDC just out with a new recommendation against traveling for thanksgiving as this coronavirus cases are surging across the country.

And California has just ordered a new curfew as parts of the state are seeing record numbers of new cases.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: There is breaking news this hour on the coronavirus crisis as the U.S. death toll climbs above the horrific level of a quarter of a million lives lost.

Let's go to our National Correspondent, Erica Hill. Erica, California now is taking new action to try to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. Update our viewers.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Governor Newsom just a short time ago announcing a new curfew that will take effect Saturday night, 10:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. for the next month, and this will impact some of the hardest hit areas in the state, all in all, impacting about 94 percent of the population in California.

Also, I want to let you know, Wolf, Texas just reported a new single- day high for new cases, more than 12,000. And both Texas and California, two states that have already passed more than a million coronavirus cases since this pandemic began.


HILL (voice over): As testing lines grow ahead of Thanksgiving, this stark new advisory --

DR. HENRY WALKE, COVID-19 INCIDENT MANAGER, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: CDC is recommending against travel during the thanksgiving period. What is at stake is basically the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying.

HILL: The White House coronavirus task force holding its first briefing in more than four months echoing the concern as the numbers get worse.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: Every American needs to be vigilant in this moment.

HILL: More than half a million new cases in just the last four days. Nearly 80,000 Americans now hospitalized, yet another record high.

DR. NATHAN HATTON, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH HOSPITAL PULMONARY SPECIALIST: We are on 250 days of having a COVID patient in our ICU right now.

HILL: Deaths are also climbing, mirroring daily numbers not seen since early May. Nationwide, more than 250,000 lives lost, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think we should all just pause at that extraordinary number. We need to grieve, we need to mourn, we need remember and then we need to double down and make sure that all those lives were not lost in vain.

HILL: Arkansas businesses that sell or allow alcohol consumption on site must now close by 11:00 P.M. Minnesota pausing in-person dining, sports and social activities for the next four weeks. A new curfew for non-essential businesses in Los Angeles County begins Friday. Wisconsin's public health emergency and mask mandate extended through January.

GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): Call it what you want, flattening the curve, stopping the spread, staying safer at home. I am going to call it what it is. It's about saving lives.

HILL: Public schools in Denver and all K-12 schools in the state of Kentucky shifting to fully remote learning. New York City has moved to do the same for each public schools prompting immediate backlash.

MARK LEVINE, NEY YORK CITY HEALTH COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: His priorities are totally backwards. Today in New York City, a kid cannot learn in their classroom but they can have a meal or indoor them.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): For everyone who honestly might feel somehow a little better if they knew that indoor dining was going to close, our gyms were going to close, it's just a matter of time.

HILL: There is some encouraging news. AstraZeneca says its vaccine appears to generate a strong and immune response in those over 70 as it does in young people. But while we wait, the fallout from coronavirus is getting worse. New jobless claims rising for the first time in a month and still no stimulus in site.

KARIN SMITH, WILL LOSE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DECEMBER 26: We wait until the election. I can't believe they're just not going to do anything again.

HILL: Food lineups s line growing. These families struggle to provide.

MELODY SAMUELS, THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUNGER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: 75 percent of those we are seeing are unemployed because of COVID-19.

HILL: Need and stress reaching dangerous levels and fears of a breaking point.


BLITZER: Erica Hill, reporting for us, thank you.

Joining us now, Dr. Richard Besser, the former Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Besser, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, more than a quarter of a million Americans now have died. CDC now projects nearly 300,000 Americans could die by December 12th, in just a few weeks. But the president, he is actually missing in action. Congress is on vacation all of a sudden.

So what does the government need to do right now to help to get us through these next few months before a vaccine, God willing, there will be a safe and effective vaccine is really available to most Americans?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, you know, these numbers are absolutely mind-numbing. And if we don't want to be talking about 300,000, 350,000, 400,000, it takes individual action of wearing masks, keeping apart and washing your hands but it takes a lot more than that. The Congress has to step up. They stepped up back in the spring. But if they step up again now and help get us through this winter to the time when we truly have enough vaccine to vaccinate Americans, we could see this turn around.

[18:40:08] You know, what needs to happen, people need money in their pockets. There are too many people in America who are forced every single day to go to work, to put food on the table or to pay the rent when they know they should be staying home. They may not be feeling well but they have to go to work, because they don't have unemployment insurance, they don't have sick leave.

Congress needs to put money in people's pockets. They need to put back in place the eviction moratorium and the mortgage foreclosure bans that were in place back in the spring. In January there are tens of millions of people who are at risk of being evicted. These are things they can do right now to help people do the right thing.

And if they don't give billions of dollars to states around this country, states are going to have to decide, well, do we fund Medicaid and health care, do we fund our housing programs, do we fund our schools so that our teachers and staff and students can be safe. These are not decisions that states in America should have to be making. We have to double down when we see these kinds of numbers and change the trajectory of this pandemic.

BLITZER: Yes, by not doing so these lawmakers are derelict in their responsibility to the American people.

As you know, Dr. Besser, the CDC is now warning Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving next week. Why is traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving potentially so dangerous?

BESSER: Well, when you think about the Thanksgiving table and who is sitting around the table, it's very frequently multi-generation. You've got grandparents there. You've got young people there. Young people -- we know from the summer, young people are one of the ways that it gets to old people. And so, that's part of it, the active travelling getting on airplanes, going through airports. You're exchanging air with other people. You're increasing the risk to yourself and others.

So every family has to think really hard about that. It's hard. Everyone is tired. People want to come together. They need that content. But think about it, can you do it over Zoom? Can you have a gathering -- if you're having a gathering, can you make sure it only includes people who at very low risk, include others over zoom or other ways. These things will make a big difference.

When you look at the map of this pandemic across the country, the heat map, it is bright red. It looks like they're having to come up with new colors to show how bad this is. This is the time for people to double down, take this seriously, change behavior and make sure that they're doing all they can personally and then hopefully Congress will do the right thing and give the support so that this pandemic doesn't continue like it is currently.

BLITZER: Dr. Besser, thank you so much for joining us, thanks for your really important advise as well. We are grateful to you.

Just ahead, we'll have more on the false and the truly outrageous claims being made by Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers about the presidential election as their legal challenges are falling apart all around the country. We'll break it down with the Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg. There you see him.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: President Trump is actually stepping up his attempts to overturn the will of the voters as he denies his election loss. His legal team led by Rudy Giuliani is making totally baseless claims pushing a litany of conspiracy theories all while failing to provide any credible evidence of fraud.

CNN's Pamela Brown is following all of this for us.

Pamela, help break down some of the claims for our viewers about what's going on.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: All right. So, let's tick through a few of them, Wolf, starting with one of the most wild conspiracy theories that came out of this press conference with Giuliani and another lawyer, Sidney Powell, claiming that Dominion Voting Systems featured software called Smartmatic created at the direction of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and has ties to the Clinton Foundation and George Soros, claiming it was used to change countless votes in favor of Biden.

Now, this is not true. Dominion was used in more than two dozen states but Dominion, a U.S. based company, says it has no relationship with Smartmatic and that no votes were ever changed by the system. In fact, Smartmatic was only used in Los Angeles County in this election, according to the company spokesperson. All of this is backed up by U.S. government officials who said the election was safe and secure and we still haven't been seen -- shown evidence to the contrary of that.

You also had Giuliani claiming 600,000 ballots weren't inspected in Pennsylvania and should be tossed out. This is false. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge said election officials followed the law and allowed observers to view the process. It is also worth noting, Wolf, Trump actually received more votes in Philadelphia and Detroit in 2020 than in 2016. Those were two cities Giuliani is really focused on.

But here's the thing -- Biden was able to bring in more votes to widen the margin. He turned out more voters. And in court, we should note Giuliani told the judge he was not alleging fraud in Pennsylvania. He also claimed there were overvotes in Michigan and that is why Wayne County wasn't certified and why they withdrew the lawsuit.

This is false, false, false. First off, the votes were certified in Wayne County. And the fact that two Republican board members tried to rescind their votes does not have bearing on that according to the secretary of state. The issue at the center of this is imbalances between poll books and ballots tabulated an ongoing issue in Michigan typically due to clerical error according to officials.


In fact, the secretary of state said more precincts had imbalances in 2016 than 2020 when Trump won in 2016 and all those votes were certified without issue, Wolf.

BLITZER: You also, Pam, have some new reporting on the back story. How did Giuliani end up leading President Trump's voting challenges?

BROWN: Well, Giuliani has pushed himself into the helm as these other lawyers have dropped out unwilling to continue being associated with this effort. In fact, I'm told by sources the day before this high profile Pennsylvania hearing this week Giuliani was going through the legal arguments with the lawyers and in the middle of it he just said to them you're out. And so, he fired them on the spot. He interjected himself. We heard him argue there for the first time in decades.

And part of his strategy is we heard these falsehoods come out of this press conference today and I'm told a lot of this is to sow chaos and doubt about the results. He has been telling allies when it comes to the election, the goal here is to pressure lawmakers and officials to block the certification so Republicans can pick their own electors who support Trump and keep battleground states where Biden won. We're now seeing the president inviting the Michigan Republican legislators to the White House. We are seeing this play out in wide view for all of us.

And, you know, you can laugh at some of these how crazy some of these claims are, Wolf. People are laughing about Rudy's hair dye dripping down his face. But the reality here at play is very serious. This is -- Rudy Giuliani is working on behalf of the president of the United States to subvert the election, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, totally, totally outrageous. You saw him sweating there and all of a sudden that hair dye was beginning to come down on his side, both sides of his face very, very awkward indeed.

All right. Pamela Brown, thank you very, very much. Excellent reporting.

Joining us now, Republican election lawyer and CNN contributor, Benjamin Ginsberg.

Ben, thanks so much for joining us.

Does today's outrageous, completely baseless performance from Giuliani suggest that the Trump campaign has actually given up on winning legal victories in court, has turned instead to lying to the American public?

BENJAMIN GINSBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it actually sounded like a disinformation campaign. But, Wolf, I think it is going to come crashing down because it's not a well thought out strategy.

Number one, if you allege there's nationwide fraud, that's not limited to just the presidential election. That would have to be true for all the down ballot races as well. And Republicans think they had a pretty good night on November 3rd. I can't imagine that there are Senate candidates, victorious Senate candidates, or House members, state legislators who want to run this election all over again because Rudy Giuliani says it's fraudulent.

Number two, Wolf --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

GINSBERG: Well, number two, they've got a problem with this idea of denying the certification of results. When you certify a state's results, it's not just the presidential election. It's all races on the ballot.

So there will be some states like Pennsylvania where there won't even be a state legislature to be able to do the president's bidding in this.

BLITZER: You know, the former top election security official in the Trump administration, Chris Krebs, he was fired by the president the other day. He had this to say. He said, that press conference by Giuliani today was the most dangerous one hour, 45 minutes of television in American history and possibly the craziest.

If you don't know what I'm talking about you're lucky.

So what do you think? Does he have a fair point if you watch that ridiculous news conference?

GINSBERG: Well, the problem is he is speaking on behalf of the president of the United States. And it is a sweeping, totally unsubstantiated attack on one of the basic foundations of the country, our free elections.

He is making it without proof and in increasingly loud tones and this complete absence of evidence for any of the allegations he is making is harmful to the country.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right. Ben Ginsberg, thank you very, very much.

All this happening as hospitalizations here in the United States are reaching record highs with ICU units across the country being pushed to capacity as the second wave of the pandemic rages out of control.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has this exclusive look at the crisis facing hospitals in Odessa, Texas, as they become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

Omar, you've been doing excellent reporting on this. Tell our viewers what you discovered.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we found is the difference between major COVID explosions in huge population centers versus places like here simply availability of health care and the pressure for the people here to keep up with the unprecedented pace of patients is higher than it's ever been.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): It's a reality this part of Texas has only seen in its nightmares.


The ICU at Odessa Regional Medical Center in Odessa, Texas, is at its capacity with COVID-19 patients.

Even with this hospital at maximum capacity, they're still trying to find places to put COVID-19 patients. All of the beds that you see in this section curtained off at the moment did not exist before the pandemic.

Now, it's filled to its absolute capacity while patients here literally are fighting for their lives.

DR. ROHITH SARAVANAN, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, ODESSA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: We lost about ten patients last week and one of them had been on a ventilator for about a month. The ones that are here now, on average, they've been on a vent for about a week or so.

JIMENEZ: Denise Mourning is an acute care practitioner.

DENISE MOURNING, ACUTE CARE NURSING PRACTITIONER, ODESSA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: There were only a few times in the summer where we were really pushed to the extreme, but now for the last few weeks, we're busting out of the seams.

JIMENEZ: But she and everyone else remain at war with the virus even as some patients begin to take a turn for the worse.

When you first have to make that declaration, what is the first thing that goes through your mind?

MOURNING: Please not another one. You know, it's a prayer. It's inevitable and we know what's going to happen but the probability of it being a good outcome is very, very low.

JIMENEZ: But most are able to fight it off. And turn the corner.

Ruben Romero is feeling better after two weeks in the hospital and says this isn't a game. I asked why.


JIMENEZ: Because this is really serious, he says. This virus is not for people to be playing with. It is very dangerous. It attacks your entire body. I'm living it, he says.

And it's become life for so many in this part of the state. Hospital officials in Odessa say anywhere from 35 percent to 40 percent of the people getting tested are testing positive for COVID-19. They fear becoming what El Paso has become, mobile morgues for the dead, hundreds in the ICU amid record hospitalizations, and roughly one in every 24 people actively with COVID-19.

It's required a regional coordination like never before.

WANDA HELGESEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BORDERRAC: In a relatively short period of time, our hospitals have added over 600 beds.


HELGESEN: Even with that, we have flown out about 84 ICU patients to other communities in Texas.

JIMENEZ: In smaller towns once thought to have escaped the virus's grip find themselves right in the crosshairs. Towns like Lamesa, Texas, near Odessa.

Shelly Barren was hospitalized twice with COVID-19, a diagnosis she is hearing more and more in her community.

SHELLEY BARRON, LAMESA, TEXAS RESIDENT, 70 YEARS OLD: The scary word is positive. I'm positive. You know, I tested positive.

We've got two more right now. We experienced a death in our church yesterday. This stuff is real. It's scary.

JIMENEZ: Medical arts hospital where she was mostly treated now has an entire wing dedicated to COVID-19 patients. Transformations that have become shared experiences.

SARAVANAN: We're actually sending home patients on home oxygen to recover at home. That is not something we'd normally do but there is no space.

JIMENEZ: All for a months long fight with no clear signs of an end.

MOURNING: People aren't taking the precautions they need. Yes we're front line in the hospital but the real front line is on the streets in the grocery stores. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Stay away.

I promise that in a little bit of time, a little bit of effort to take outside of here is worth, because once you're here. Wearing a mask is better than having a tube down your throat. I promise.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And Denise went on to say that in the beginning, she and her co-workers were cheered as front line workers. Now she says she is getting threats because people feel she is the reason they can't come see their loved ones. The hospital is working with city officials to request a mobile morgue even here in Odessa and all of this comes on a day that Texas has now set a new daily record for coronavirus cases in the state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, so heartbreaking. Omar Jimenez, a really terrific excellent reporting. We are grateful to you so much. Omar Jimenez reporting.

Finally, tonight, we honor some of the 251,000 Americans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrew Phillips of Pennsylvania was 53 years old. His daughter Grace says he was a talented businessman and devoted husband and father of four. He survived cancer 20 years ago and experience that taught him to live each day to the fullest and treat every person with kindness.

Valerie McFarland Walker of Connecticut was 61. She was a certified nursing assistant who loved her job caring for the elderly. Her daughter LaShonda (ph) says her faith kept her going along with her family, including four children, nine grandchildren, and a newborn great granddaughter.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.