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Trump Speaks After Refusing to Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power; Trump Claims He Could Override FDA on Stricter Vaccine Standards; No Police Officers Charged Directly in Killing of Breonna Taylor. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired September 24, 2020 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do not accept the results of the election under any circumstances. But you don't ask her that question. You only ask me the question. Yes, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn't answer my question. You didn't answer my question. Are you only legitimate if you win?
TRUMP: Say it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lagoa, do you plan to meet with Lagoa?
TRUMP: I don't want to make a comment on that, but we're going to make our decision on Saturday. But I won't comment on that. I will say this, I think Saturday afternoon, 5:00, it's going to be a very important day in the history of our country. I think it's going to be a very monumental, very good choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the family of Breonna Taylor, sir? What do you say to the family of Breonna Taylor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: I'm getting very close to a final choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One follow up. Governor Cuomo said the federal government can't be trusted on a vaccine. He said New York would have to approve any vaccine that the federal government approves before (INAUDIBLE).
TRUMP: Well, we have numerous companies. We have Johnson & Johnson. We have Pfizer. We have Moderna. We have others too. They're great companies, the best in the world.
So, I think you'd put the people of New York at great risk. And he's done that, if you look at the nursing homes. 11,000 people died needlessly. So, when you look at that, it's very sad. So, we'll see. You'll have to see.
But these are great companies. These are being done by, really, probably, some of the greatest companies in the world, when you think, with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, et cetera.
I think that they are getting very close. As you know, they're in final testing right now. Phase III, but final. They've given shots to everybody, to a lot, thousands and thousands of people. And so far, it looks very good and it looks like it could happen fairly quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the family of Breonna Taylor, sir?
TRUMP: I think it's a sad thing. And I give my regards to the family of Breonna. I also think it's so sad what's happening with everything about that case, including law enforcement. So many people suffering, so many people needlessly suffering. But with respect to Breonna, we give our regards to the family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what do you think the protesters are fighting for? Sir, what do you think the protesters are fighting for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Well, it was an honor to be a nominated for two Nobel Prizes. So that was an honor, and we'll see what's happening. I know that China now and India are having difficulty and very, very substantial difficulty. And hopefully, there'll be able to work that out. If we can help, we'd love to help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about some of the chanting that was going on outside the Supreme Court, vote you out, and fulfill, uphold her wish?
TRUMP: Well, I think that was just a political chant. We could hardly hear it from where we were. Somebody said there was some chanting, but they were right next to the media. But we really could hardly hear too much. We heard a sound, but it wasn't very strong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what do you think the peaceful protestors are fighting for? What do you think that peaceful protestors are fighting for?
TRUMP: Well, I think that peaceful protest is, number one, it's fine to do that in a peaceful manner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are they fighting for?
TRUMP: When it gets less than peaceful, as you see all over, then it's unacceptable and that's where law and order is necessary and that's where law enforcement is very important. Jennifer, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you didn't answer my question.
TRUMP: Jennifer, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what are they fighting for? You didn't answer my question though. But sir, you didn't answer my question. What are they fighting for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you endorsing Susan Collins in her race for U.S. Senate in Maine. Are you endorsing Republican Susan Collins?
TRUMP: Well, we're speaking with a lot of people about that. I'm doing very well in Maine. You've seen the numbers. What I've done for Maine is what nobody's done. I've freed up 5,000 square miles of ocean that was taken away by President Obama. And for the lobster, the people that go out and get us those great lobsters that we all like so much, I freed that whole business up and the fishermen too. We freed it up.
So, I think I've done more for Maine than just about anybody, certainly, in many, many years. So, I'm doing very well in Maine. I don't know. I haven't seen polls on Susan. But I hope she does well. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, Dr. Redfield said 90 percent of Americans were susceptible. Do you believe that number?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: All right. President Trump right there. Let me bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who was listening along with us.
Kaitlan, just on the breaking news and top news of the day, the President did not, again, take an opportunity to answer the question of the peaceful transfer of power. He seems to be continuing to try to sow doubt in this election.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was asked if it's only a legitimate election, if he wins that election. And the President's response was not an answer, yes or no. Instead he talked about being careful with ballots and referenced an unusual statement from the Justice Department earlier today talking how there were nine ballots voting for President Trump that were discarded in Pennsylvania.
Of course, a state where over six million people voted in 2016. The President was referencing that as he has repeatedly tried to make this case that there is going to widespread voter fraud come November and has tried to use that as a defense for those comments, he made last night. A very stunning comment that we have not heard from any other U.S. President in modern history. Saying that he would not commit to there being a peaceful of transition of power.
Something that has caused a ton of backlash today and even led the Senate just a few moments ago to pass a resolution reaffirming their support for a peaceful transition of power should he lose to Joe Biden in November. As you've seen lawmakers, Kate, really have to go back and forth all day long about whether or not they want to condemn the President's comments. Most Republicans doing so without naming the President himself.
So not answering directly that question there, instead trying to turn it around from what he said last night. Though, of course, you know, this is what the President said. And the question for the White House all day has been what do they define as a free and fair election?
Because we've seen how the President repeatedly tried to say that if Joe Biden wins, it means the election was rigged. And today his FBI Director Chris Wray was testifying on Capitol Hill was asked about these allegations that you've heard from the President and he said, Kate, he has seen no evidence of any coordinated attempts to have widespread voter fraud happen in November.
So that is from the FBI Director, who's of course job to look into all of this. It still, you know, remains to be seen how much longer the President is going to push them and whether it will hurt him politically.
But it does come, Kate, as I want to mention, he is going to North Carolina where he's supposed to unveil what they claim his replacement health care plan. Really, it's just several executive orders. It's not any kind of legislation that they'd like to see Capitol Hill bringing to a vote anytime soon.
It's just going to be executive orders, and, of course, the big thing they've said is that the President is committed to protecting pre- existing conditions, even as they are going to court right now to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act which by law protects pre- existing conditions.
And they just had a call with the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar a few moments ago. He was actually on Air Force One waiting for the President to get there, and when he was asked, how, you know, is this really going to carry as much weight as something passed into law is going to? How can an executive order really compare to that?
And, Kate, he said it would be an underlining of their policy that they want to protect pre-existing conditions. Of course that is not going to be comforting to people who know that if he does gets a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, if they do overturn the Affordable Care Act and if they are left without pre-existing conditions being protected by the law, there are so many questions for those people who are going to be affected by that -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
OK, let me get back to Dr. Paul Offit. Doctor, I'm sorry. I cut you off for a second. But the President, it seems to always happen, doctor, whenever you're coming on.
The President also asked about the process of getting a vaccine for COVID. He said a vaccine should be here soon. I just wanted to get back to you on kind of the topic at hand. Looks like it could happen very quickly is how he said it, but the President continues to, yesterday, was accusing the FDA of injecting politics into this process by putting -- talking about putting in place this more stricter standards, stricter rules, if you will, to get approval for any vaccine.
I just want you to speak to that. As there are so many people are out that are concerned about, as you have been, about the injection of politics into vaccine approval.
DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: It's ironic. Isn't it? Nobody's done more to inject politics into science based federal agencies than President Trump.
I mean he's done it with the Environmental Protection Agency. He did it with the National Weather Service. He's now done it with the FDA twice with regard to hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, and now trying to do it with vaccines.
But I'm telling you, I just don't think that's going to happen. It can happen. I mean when you talk about hydroxychloroquine or convalescent plasma, you giving that to people who are sick. Most of the people who are going to be getting these vaccines are healthy, young people and eventually children.
We can't mess around with this. I mean we have two ways out of this pandemic. One is hygienic measures, you know, wearing masks, social distancing. He's already shown disdain for that which is we have more trouble frankly than almost any other country in the word because we're so bad at that.
And the second is vaccines. And if he messes around with that and takes an already skittish and skeptical American public and makes them even more skeptical, because frankly they don't trust him on the science, then we've lost another opportunity to end this pandemic.
This is really hard to watch but I think there are lot of people are out there, I mean I'm on the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, I've gotten to know those people over the last couple years. And they're exactly who you want them to be. They're hard-working, great public health officials who try and stand between pharmaceutical companies and the American public to make sure we don't get products that are unsafe or ineffective.
And the fact he sort of damns them is heartbreaking to me and that he side slides is heartbreaking to me. We need a safe and effective vaccine. The FDA is the group that can give it to us.
I mean, if he states saying things like, look, we're going to make our own decisions on this, it tells you that they don't trust the FDA. And we've gotten to that point in this country where we don't trust the FDA, we have a problem.
BOLDUAN: Yes, well, Dr. Offit, thankfully, you were also around to offer your advice and there's trust in you. So, thank you so much for sticking around. I really appreciate it, Dr. Paul Offit.
BOLDUAN: Getting back to our top story also I want to bring in right now Laurence Tribe, he's a Constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, of course. Professor, thank you for being here. You heard the President yesterday and being asked a question that should be very easy to answer about the peaceful transition of power, and the President given the opportunity again today just now on the south lawn of the White House did not go there.
He continued to sow doubt in the election that is under way right now. About this you wrote, and really it struck me, that those are not the words of an American President. Those are the words of the first American dictator. What's your reaction this?
LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: I'm afraid that's right. When you listen to exactly what he said, he said, get rid of the ballots, and there won't be a transfer of power. Frankly, there will be a continuation.
Now, your viewers need to think about that. There won't be a transfer. We have had a peaceful transfer of power ever since George Washington. Even in the Civil War. Even in World War II.
For the first time we have a President who basically says, heads, I win, tails, you lose. It's all rigged unless I am the winner. And the way I will prove that is I will call a halt to the counting of ballots, if I'm ahead in the evening and I will say I'm the next President. I'll have the military to back me up.
We are watching the destruction of our democracy. This is not just an election between the Democrats and the Republicans anymore. It's not just between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. It's an election between democracy and dictatorship. And that has concrete consequences.
He is setting it up so that he will have a majority on the court. He is rushing an appointment. He's going to name someone on Saturday, and he's got a guarantee already from the Senate sight unseen. You bring her before us and we'll give her a thumbs up, and he has said the reason he needs to do it before the election is so he's got a court that will back him up if he wants to steal the election.
We are watching in realtime the destruction of something precious. Something that we've had from 1787. It's been flawed. We've had slavery. We've had Jim Crow, but we've moved towards a more and more inclusive democracy, until now. And now we have someone who says, get rid of the ballots. People have died for the right to vote and this guy says, get rid of the ballots. I've never heard anything like it.
BOLDUAN: Professor, are there, are there no safeguards in place?
TRIBE: Well, there are some safeguards. If he tries to get rid of the ballots, we'll see him in court. If he tries to get state legislatures simply circumvent their state election, we'll see him in court.
There are safeguards, but he's trying to stack the deck in the courts as well. So, we're going to have to turn out in massive numbers. The biggest and best safeguard is to vote. To get everyone you know to vote, to vote early. To vote by mail if possible, but if not, if you'd rather vote in person, it's going to be perfectly safe. If you just do it right.
Wear a mask, distance, but don't let this dictator scare you away from voting. It is by having an overwhelming victory, even on election day, that we can get rid of all of these shenanigans. But if it's not overwhelming enough, the courts might just support the law, despite the fact that some of them have been appointed by this guy.
I'm not ready to give up on the courts. We still have a legal system, and I've devoted my career to using it when possible, and it's there. We've got to use it, but the main thing we have to use is our ballot, our votes.
BOLDUAN: You know, I've seen some people today brushing this off, Republicans chalking this up to Trump being Trump and just talking in extreme terms, but not seriously.
TRIBE: I'm afraid he is serious. We've got to take him seriously. That's one thing you learn in the history of autocracy and authoritarians. When they tell you what they're going to do, believe them. And when this guy has said what he would do, that he would exclude Muslims, we should have believed him. He imposed a travel ban that was essentially a Muslim ban.
When he said we're going to separate kids at the border in order to inflict maximum pain and deter people from coming, some people didn't believe him. They didn't believe he would dare rip families apart, but he did. This guy has to be believed. We have to believe what he says. We cannot afford just because he may be a moron and a joker, we can't afford to treat him that way. He is the President of the United States, what he says matters, and we cannot turn away.
BOLDUAN: And it's not just the possibility of rejecting the results outright. I was talking to Trevor Potter about this at the top of the show. It is the possibility of using the levers of power like state legislatures to swing the results.
This gets to something most people don't know anything about. The rules of the road when it comes to electors and what's, and how and what is and what isn't spelled out in the Constitution, professor.
TRIBE: Right. Well, I've been trying in my Twitter feed to spell things out in 280-word verse. The laws are not entirely clear, but what is clear is that the President does not have the right to simply circumvent the popular election. He can try to get state legislatures to do it.
But if you look at the rules of the road, they can't simply change the rules in the middle of the election, and certainly they can't suddenly go rogue and say, well, you know, we're Republicans and our Democratic governor can't veto what we're doing. We're just going to show up and in a rump session and name Trump.
That's perhaps what they'll try to do, but that is not legal, and I've been working on developing the legal arguments that even a conservative court should buy, and ultimate there's nothing conservative about ripping up the voting system, ripping up democracy. That's radical. That's not conservative. That's what fascists do. It's what the Kremlin would like him to do. That's the way Putin got re- elected. Putin may well be calling the shots. Trump is following the Putin playbook. And when Nancy Pelosi said, confronting the President, Mr. President,
all roads lead to Moscow whether it's through Moscow Mitch or something else. She knew what she was talking about. This guy is a Putin asset, at a very minimum, we don't know what Putin has on him, but he does exactly what Putin wants.
And what Putin wants now is to have a lackey in office for another four years so that he can rip up NATO, rip up our alliances, weaken the United States, turn us against one another, fundamentally destroy democracy. That's what Putin wants. It's not what I want and it's not what even Trump followers ought to want.
BOLDUAN: Well, I will say, the way you laid it out, Professor Tribe, I'm quite nervous of what we're going to see in the next six weeks and what then can come after that. But what the Constitution says and adherence to it is going to be of utmost importance. Thank you for coming on.
TRIBE: Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.
Still ahead for us -- two officers shot in Louisville overnight after protests break out and now the push for more information in the Breonna Taylor case.
BOLDUAN: Outrage, heartbreak, and violence spilling out onto the streets of Louisville overnight. After the grand jury's decision not charging anyone with the killing of Breonna Taylor.
One officer was charged in the case but only charged with wanton endangerment for firing indiscriminately and risking the lives of Taylor's neighbors during the police raid Back in March.
Some of the protests in Louisville turned violent, two police officers were shot. They're recovering today and a suspect is in custody. But where do things go from here?
CNN's Brynn Gingras, she's on the ground in Louisville for us, Brynn, what are you hearing?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, well first, that 26-year-old Lorenzo Johnson, he is the person in custody right now charged with two counts of assault for those two police officers and 14 counts of wanton endangerment.
Those two police officers still recovering, one released from the hospital. And Johnson is expected to go before a judge for the first time tomorrow.
[15:55:00] But what we're hearing here on the streets which primarily these protests so far have been peaceful, and they have been for months really ever since the killing of Breonna Taylor inside of her home. They want answers.
And especially you can imagine how that's multiplied for the family of Breonna Taylor. They haven't gotten answers and they feel like they've also just been robbed of justice.
I want you to listen to Taylor's family's attorney and what they are now calling for as we move forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, BREONNA TAYLOR FAMILY ATTORNEY: The family is demanding that Daniel Cameron release the transcript of the grand jury proceedings so the family and the community can see if there was any evidence presented on behalf of Breonna Taylor or if her life didn't even matter in those proceedings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRAS: And that's something also Kentucky's governor has called for, to release that information so people can understand what evidence exactly the grand jury considered before coming down with that indictment against the one officer in this case.
Of course, there's other investigations still ongoing at this point, Kate, and tonight we're fully expecting another night of protests. The mayor of this city saying, please, let it be peaceful. Breonna Taylor's family saying, please let it be peaceful. We're seeing people start to gather here at her memorial. Curfew again, 9:00 tonight and hopefully it is a peaceful as they continue to say her name in the streets Louisville -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes, Brynn, thank you so much for being there. You can see the memorial right behind Brynn, in memory of Breonna Taylor, an innocent life lost in this. Thank you so much.
All right, please continue to stay with us, we're covering breaking news. President Trump from the south lawn of the White House continuing to sow doubt -- to try to sow doubt in the election.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD, I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper today.
And we begin with breaking news. Moments ago, President Trump sowing more doubt about the election after he made an alarming statement that has set off a wave of anxiety about the election.