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Trump Suggests Voting Twice By Mail and In Person; Barr Denies Police Shooting of Blacks Due to Racism; Barr Calls Mail-In Voting Reckless and Dangerous; CDC Tells States to Prepare for COVID Vaccine Distribution By Late October; Pandemic Ranks No. 1 Among Top Voter Concern; Republican Iowa Senator Suggest Doctors Falsifying Cases; Attorney General Barr: China is Most Aggressive in Election Meddling;. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 3, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, 60 days from election day and the President is suggesting his supporters break the law. Why Donald Trump says people should consider trying to vote twice.

The U.S. CDC says states should prepare for a possible coronavirus vaccine as soon as October. But is there real hope of a safe and effective vaccine by then?

And in a CNN exclusive, Attorney General William Barr confirms Russia is trying to medal in the election again, but he says China is the worst offender.

Good to have you with us. Well, with 60 days to go until the U.S. election and a new wave of polls showing a tightening race, the U.S. President, Donald Trump, is suggesting it would be OK if voters tried to vote twice, a potential criminal act. He made the remark on Wednesday in North Carolina as he explained it. A voter could submit a ballot by mail and then try to vote again in person in case their mail-in ballot had not yet been counted. In North Carolina that might be a felony. Here's how he framed it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're going to have to go check their vote by go to the poll and voting that way. Because if it tabulates, then they won't be able to do that. So, let them send it in and let them go vote and if their system's as good as they say it is, then obviously, they won't be able to vote. The absentees are fine, we have to work to get them. You know, be something and you send them in, but you go to vote. And if they haven't counted it, you can vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: President Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are taking widely divergent approaches to several issues, including the ongoing protests over racial injustice. The President is now threatening to withhold federal funds to some cities claiming the Democratic leaders there are allowing anarchy, violence and destruction. By contrast, Biden will travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, today to hold a community meeting after the controversial police shooting of a black man there and the protests it ignited. Biden explained what he would do differently if he were President.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'd be bringing people together in the White House right now. I'd be having that police commission set up. I'd have law enforcement at the table. I'd have the community at the table. I'd have people and saying, how do we get through this? What do we do to deal with this? Because I believe the vast majority of the community at large, as well as law enforcement, want to straighten things out. Not inflame things. But this President keeps throwing gasoline on the fire every place he goes.


CHURCH: And while many Americans regard the recent police shootings of black men and women of evidence of systemic racism, the country's top law enforcement official does not share that view. Here's what U.S. Attorney General William Barr told our wolf blitzer in an exclusive interview.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Do you think black people are treated differently by law enforcement than white people?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think there are some situations where statistics would suggest that they are treated differently, but I don't think that that's necessarily racism. To me the word systemic means that it's built into the institution, and I don't think that's true. I think our institutions have been reformed in the past 60 years. And if anything has been built in, it's a bias to non- discrimination.

But I do think that there appears to be a phenomenon in the country where African-Americans feel that they're treated when they're stopped by police frequently as suspects before they are treated as citizens. I don't think that that reflects some deep seeded racism in police departments or in most police officers. I'm not going to talk about Blake, the Blake case.

BLITZER: Why not?

BARR: Because I think it's different than the Floyd case.

BLITZER: What's different? BARR: Floyd was already subdued, incapacitated, in handcuffs and was

not armed. In the Jacob case he was in the midst of committing a felony and he was armed.


It's very easy to maintain peace into these settings. In any city where the mayor backs the police, the police chief is doing his job and the governor's willing to provide backup support, there will be peace on the streets and there has been peace.


CHURCH: Barr also railed against mail-in ballots in the upcoming elections even though it's been widely used for years. Take a listen.


BLITZER: So far, we haven't seen widespread fraud.

BARR: But so far, we haven't tried it.

BLITZER: But a lot of us do. There are several states that only have mail-in voting, including a Republican --

BARR: Wolf, this is playing with fire. This is playing with fire. We're a very closely divided country here and if people have to have confidence in the results of the election and the legitimacy of the government. And people trying to change the rules to this methodology, which as a matter of logic is very open to fraud and coercion is reckless and dangerous and people are playing with fire.

BLITZER: I will point out there are five states that only have mail-in voting including Utah and Colorado and Washington state, Oregon, Hawaii, and they -- they've reported over the years they've had virtually no problems. But who's trying to change the rules now?

BARR: I would say people who want to go to mass mail-in ballots.

BLITZER: But you understand why. There is a coronavirus pandemic and that a lot of people potentially if they wait in long lines when they go to the polls, they could get sick, especially older people or people with underlying conditions. As a result, a lot of people want to change the rules, so they don't have to wait in long lines, they don't have touch all this equipment.

BARR: The appropriate way to deal with that is, number one, arrangements at the polls that protect people, which can be done. And number two, people who have pre-existing conditions and particularly vulnerable can get an absentee ballot. I have no problem with people -- I voted by absentee ballot. Not by mail. I actually went to the office to cast my vote. But absentee ballots are fine.

BLITZER: During your ten years as Attorney General of the United States, how many indictments have you brought against people committing voter fraud? BARR: I couldn't tell you off the top of my head, but several.

BLITZER: Like a handful?

BARR: I can't. I don't know.

BLITZER: But several doesn't sound like too many.

BARR: But I don't know. I don't know how many we have.

BLITZER: Do you accept that Russia is once again interfering in the U.S. Presidential election?

BARR: I accept that there's some preliminary activity that suggests that they might try again.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Harry Enten, an senior political writer and analyst for CNN Politics and an expert on poll numbers and electoral trends. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, a new CNN polling done right after the DNC and RNC came out Wednesday afternoon showing nationally Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden still ahead by 8 points, 51-43, but of course it's the electoral college that determines the winner so how do you interpret these numbers and the state breakdowns?

ENTEN: Yes, sure. So, you know, look, this is essentially where we were right before the convention so the idea that the conventions would be a game changer, not actually true. We see that as a CNN poll and across the polling. But of course, as you point out, it's the electoral college that ultimately determines who becomes president. We learned that last time, of course, in 2016 when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But it was in fact Donald Trump who won the presidency.

In our own CNN poll, we did break it down. The 15 closest states back from 2016 and what we do see is that Biden's lead is a little bit slimmer there but he's still up by 5 points. And more than that though is a bunch swing state polling that came out on Wednesday which showed that Joe Biden had a lead in the swing states that he needed to be ahead in. So, at this point I would say, look, the race is probably a little closer in the swing states than it is nationally, but Joe Biden is still clearly ahead.

CHURCH: Interesting. And the latest CNN poll also asks what issues worry Americans most and found this, coronavirus 60 percent. The economy 58 percent. Racism 52 percent and crime 37 percent. Interesting numbers there given President Trump has desperately tried to make law and order the main election issue when, in fact, it's the coronavirus, surprise, surprise.

He's trying to divert attention away from the pandemic which clearly concerns Americans more than anything else. How could the President make such a miss calculation? I mean, presumably he has his own numbers on these issues and why doesn't he try to fix the pandemic like other world leaders have done?

ENTEN: Well you know, the fact that I'm doing this on cisco perhaps tells you all you need to know about what is most important at this particular point. The fact that we all have to go out wearing masks or should be going out wearing masks tells you everything that you need to know.

But look, this is what the President does, right? He tries to distract. We've seen this consistently whether this be through Twitter or his own statements. He sees an issue in which the American public is viewing and is failing and then tries to change it.


But here's the problem with that. Just because you say something doesn't make it true. And I think this poll number along with the slew of poll numbers that I've seen consistently through the last few months indicates that the coronavirus and who is best to handle that pandemic is probably going to win the election and our own poll does show that Joe Biden leads on the coronavirus.

CHURCH: And Harry, Axios did a piece on the red mirage scenario. Essentially showing that on election night it looked like Trump has won but as mail-in votes come in and get counted it will start looking like a Biden win. Because of course, as these numbers show, more Democrats choose mail-in voting than in-person voting. What's your response to that? Do you buy into that theory?

ENTEN: Well I mean, first off, it's not necessarily a surprise that more Democrats say they're going to vote by mail then Republicans, given all the statements that President Trump has made about mail voting. Right? Even though the fact is he votes by mail. I buy it to some degree but not necessarily the degree that perhaps Axios tries to sell it.

Look, it is true that in some states the mail-in votes will be counted later. So, you know, I would expect that Biden lead, if he does have one after election day, grows. But the fact is that I'm not necessarily convinced that it will be the type of situation where we go to bed on election night thinking one candidate has won and then another candidate ends up winning. But I would suggest to the audience if you are going to keep your eye on one state to get an understanding of how this election may turn out, it might be the state of Florida, where the absentee ballots or the mail balance have to be in with a few exceptions by election day and they know how to count those ballots fast. If Joe Biden wins in the state of Florida, he is almost certainly going to win this election. If he loses, Trump may have a step up though it's not necessarily as clear that he would necessarily come out on top.

CHURCH: Great to chat with you. Harry Enten, thanks as always.

ENTEN: My pleasure. CHURCH: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says

states should prepare to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as soon as late October, but the director of the National Institutes for Health warns it's unlikely a vaccine will be ready by then. He spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: This is like the boy scout motto, be prepared. Even if it's very low likelihood, if everything happened to come together really beautifully, and we had an answer by then and we knew we had a vaccine that was safe and effective, wouldn't you want people to be ready to figure out how to do the distribution? That's all the CDC is saying.


CHURCH: With the three day Labor Day weekend coming up, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases is pleading with Americans to follow health guidelines. Coronavirus cases soared after Memorial Day and the fourth of July and Dr. Anthony Fauci wants to avoid another holiday spike. CNN's Nick Watt has our report.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: for You want to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's the message for all you holiday weekenders out there, mask up. Here's why. That's the national new case count going into Memorial Day weekend, and watch. Within a month case counts soared. A summer surge sparked in part by carefree holiday hoards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No mask. Why you got a mask on?

WATT: Nationwide, average case counts have been falling recently but are they now plateauing somewhere around 40,000 new cases every single day? That's roughly twice as many cases as suffered by South Korea throughout the entire pandemic.

FAUCI: We are right around 40,000 new cases. That's an unacceptably high baseline. We've got to get it down. I'd like to see it 10,000 or less.

WATT: By the way, the President has a new coronavirus advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, a senior fellow of the conservative Hoover Institution. But some experts now questioning his qualifications.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Dr. Atlas is a neuroradiologist. Unless they're looking to have a lot of brain MRIs read as part of the coronavirus task force work, he is completely unqualified for the advice that he's giving right now.

WATT: Meanwhile, Iowa is now our epicenter. 22 percent of COVID tests coming back positive.

WILLIAM HASELTINE, FORMER PROFESSOR, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: I see a tragedy unfolding for the people of Iowa.

WATT: Iowa Senator Joni Ernst suggesting doctors might be inflating the coronavirus death toll. She spoke with the "Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier."

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I can't actually look at that information, but I have heard it from health care providers, that they do get reimbursed higher amounts if it's a COVID-related illness or death.

DR. GLENN HURST, FAMILY MEDICINE DOCTOR IN RURAL IOWA: I find it to be incredibly offensive. It's an offensive attack on some of the best Iowans out there on the front lines.


WATT: At least 260 cases now confirmed stemming from that masks optional rally in Sturgis, South Dakota last month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're ready to ride. Everybody is cooped up from the coronavirus.

WATT: They rode free. Many now sick and today one biker confirmed dead.

(on camera): Now Dr. Deborah Birx who is on the White House coronavirus task force has been touring the country and she just said, if you need evidence that masks and distancing work, look at the southern states of the U.S. They implemented masks and distancing. People are still going to stores, going on vacation, eating out but they're wearing masks and the numbers have fallen. She said that this is no longer theoretical, this is a fact. Masks and distancing work.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. Murtaza Akhter, an emergency physician at Valley Wise Health Medical Center. Thank you so much, doctor, for being with us and for everything you do.

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, VALLEY WISE MEDICAL CENTER, PHOENIX: Thank you for having me, Rosemary. Thank you for what you do.

CHURCH: Thank you. Well, we learned Wednesday that the CDC is now telling public health officials in states to prepare to distribute potential COVID vaccines as soon as late October just before the November 3rd election. Now this doesn't mean there will definitely be a vaccine, but clearly something is going on. What do you make of this?

AKHTER: Yes, I mean this vaccine progress is already at a lightning speed, warp speed if you will. It usually takes many years to get a drug developed and approved, and I guess for legitimate reasons, they are trying to move faster on this vaccine. But we don't want to move so fast that is potentially dangerous.

And so, I don't know if that data, they just haven't told everybody else about, but I do know that the President, just a week or so ago was saying that I think the people are delaying it because of the election, which is a ridiculous statement. It's very dangerous.

And if they are mentioning that you should be prepping October for November 1st for political reasons, I would be very concerned. Again, there is already at groundbreaking speed. And one of the things we need to be careful about is that we roll it out the right way. Remember, if we roll it out the wrong way, a lot of anti-vaxer are going to rear their heads. And that'll be very dangerous.

So, it needs to be rolled out the right way. I get, preparation is good if they want people to prepare. That's excellent, but if they are just doing it just for election purposes and making it political, I would be very, very concerned.

CHURCH: Would you advise people to take a vaccine if it were made available just before the election?

AKHTER: Hey, listen, I am a pro-vaxer. I am shocked that I have to say that. That anybody is an anti-vaxer in this day in age. But the reason I am a pro-vaxer is because so many vaccines had been proven to be so effective.

If the vaccine is proven to be effective, yes, I would recommend it. If it is just somebody puts the word vaccine on a script, on a piece of medication, that's not good enough. You need evidence to show that the benefits outweigh the harms. And it takes a long time to show that. And if they are able to show that, then great, but as far as I know they haven't shown that yet.

CHURCH: And Doctor, I want to ask you this, because Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst is accusing doctors in her state of falsifying COVID cases and deaths for their own financial benefit. That's how she is explaining her state surge in cases. She does not provide any evidence and says this is just what she is hearing.

And this of course adds to the conspiracy theories about COVID death toll not being reliable, but there are ways to determine this, aren't there? Comparing total deaths now to the historical baseline. And I think we find an additional 200,000 deaths once you do that math, and that means we are probably underestimating the death toll, right?

AKHTER: You nailed it. And I'm sure Joni Ernst would be upset if you're using data. Because clearly, she doesn't care about data. For one, doctors are not falsifying records. There is no evidence to suggest that. The OIG monitors this very carefully and very closely. In fact, they are so on top of it they even have a whistleblower clause where people can get compensated for whistleblowing.

So, this is no joking matter. If a doctor falsifies records, it's not just a civil issue but it's a criminal issue. I don't know of any doctor who would falsify records. I don't know of anybody who is making money off of it. In fact, a lot of people are losing money because of COVID. For her to say that is extremely reckless, especially without evidence.

And you are totally right, all the evidence suggests we are under counting.

CHURCH: Dr. Murtaza Akhter, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

AKHTER: Thanks for having me, Rosemary. Stay safe.

CHURCH: With the U.S. presidential election just two months away, the intelligence community is again warning of foreign interference. The U.S. Attorney General tells CNN who he believes poses the biggest threat to the U.S. election. Back with that in a moment.



CHURCH: U.S. intelligence has identified three countries trying to interfere in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, Russia, China and Iran. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the U.S. Attorney General which country he thinks is most aggressive in that effort.


BLITZER: The intelligence community says Russia, China and Iran are seeking to interfere in the U.S. presidential election for various reasons. But mostly they want to sow dissent in our country, exacerbate racial tensions, et cetera, like that. Of those three countries that the intelligence community has pointed to Russia, China and Iran, which is the most assertive, the most aggressive in this area?

BARR: I believe it's China.

BLITZER: Which one?

BARR: China.

BLITZER: China more than Russia right now?

BARR: Yes.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

BARR: Because I've seen the intelligence. That's what I've concluded.

BLITZER: What are they trying to do?

BARR: Well, I'm not going to discuss that.

BLITZER: But they're trying to help who?

BARR: I'm not going to get into that.

BLITZER: More aggressive than Russia? BARR: Yes.


CHURCH: Well, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us from now Hong Kong with more. So, Kristie, any reaction yet from China to what Bill Barr had to say? And you fact checked the Attorney General, what did you find?


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well first off, Rosemary, the daily Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing just wrapped in Beijing and so far, no official response yet to that explosive claim made by the U.S. Attorney General. Claiming that China is a greater election threat than Russia as we heard in that exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Attorney General Barr said that the intelligence exists, that he has seen the intelligence, but he did not present any evidence of it. And if the intelligence exists, the U.S. intelligence community has yet to present it.

Now according to a U.S. intelligence report on election security that was released in the first week of August, it said that China prefers to see U.S. President Donald Trump not win reelection. But that report did not offer any evidence indicating that China is actively interfering to undermine the Trump campaign.

Whereas, according to the report, Russia is actively interfering to undermine the Joe Biden campaign using state sponsored agents to employ social media as well as Russian state TV to boost the standing of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Now this is an allegation that China has heard many times before and China has responded to in the past. It's responded to the allegations of election interference in April, most recently in August. And China says what it usually says that the U.S. election is an internal issue, that China doesn't have any interest in interfering in it. And also, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson back in August, quote, we urge certain U.S. politicians to refrain from dragging China into election campaigns in pursuit of self-serving interests -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Christie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well, Russia is pushing back against accusations it poisoned a top opposition leader, but the German government says it has proof. Coming up, what Berlin is now demanding from Moscow.