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GOP Sen. Sasse: Trump "Mocks Evangelicals Behind Closed Doors" And "Flirts" With White Supremacists; Career Prosecutor Who Served 36 Years At DOJ Resigns; Says AG Barr Politicized Department; Trump and Biden Holding Dueling Town Halls As Covid Cases Spike And Millions Cast Their Votes Early; Trump Gives Wild Answers On QAnon, Retweeting Conspiracy Theories; C.D.C. Projects up to 23,000 More Deaths by November 7; WaPo Reports White House Warned Giuliani was Target of Russian Intel Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump; Obama Decries Long Waits to Vote. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 15, 2020 - 20:00   ET


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Are reminded of this. The key here is, are the voters who may not have turned out in 2016. That's where all those senior volunteers were out door knocking trying to get those voters engaged.

No question, the President has so many strong supporters here still. It is the question though, not winning the senior vote, but a narrower senior vote could be a Joe Biden win -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

And thanks to all of you. Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening, thanks for being with us. One of the President's staunchest supporters and closest campaign advisers, the man who prepped him for the debate in Cleveland and caught COVID soon after has broken with the President on it.

Though former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did not directly fault the President for his contracting the virus, he takes serious issue as you'll see with the President's conduct in the face of what was once again a rapidly growing pandemic.

"No one should be happy to get the virus," Governor Christie said in a statement obtained by CNN and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others.

Now, before we get to the rest of his remarks, take a look. There's the seven-day moving average of new coronavirus infections in the country about 50,000 a day now and climbing toward what will be a third peak since early April.

Unlike the one that began after Memorial Day, it starts from a much higher baseline. By tomorrow, at the present rate, cases will cross the eight million mark, and deaths will top 218,000.

Here's how it looks on the map. Cases climbing in 35 states, steady in 12, falling in just three. It's not how you want it to look going into the colder months.

Here's what that means on the ground. These are hospitalization figures for Wisconsin, which set a record today for new cases. And remember, hospitalization numbers tend to trail cases by a few weeks. So the trend you see here is likely sadly to get worse.

Ohio today also reported a record number of cases, and again, they are climbing in 35 out of 50 states.

Those are the facts. Here is the President of the United States today.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, I am fighting to eradicate the virus and we're doing really a good job. We're rounding the turn.

The vaccine will end the pandemic, but it's ending anyway. I mean, they go crazy when I say it. It's going to peter out and it's going to end, but we're going to help the end and we're going to make it a lot faster with the vaccine and with the therapeutics and frankly with the cures.

My plan is already crushing the virus. Look at our numbers look at our numbers.


COOPER: Crushing the virus. He said that today at a rally in North Carolina, his fourth straight mass gathering this week. And once again, anything about an advertisement for mask wearing, according to CNN fact checker, Daniel Dale, this was at least the 38th time he said the virus is going to just go away since late February. He has been singing this song for quite some time.

As you can see, by the numbers, it is certainly not going away in North Carolina where the President was. The number is back on the upswing sadly, paralleling the rest of the country, and as you know, perhaps the single biggest way of bending that curve back down involves simply covering your mouth and nose with a mask.

Nearly 39,000 lives in this country could be saved between now and the New Year. More than 39,000 according to the University of Washington's latest projection. If most of us would just adapt/adopt universal mask wearing, if 95 percent of us would just wear masks when they go outside.

If the leaders in this country got that message out; that would help a lot. Yet here is what the administration is showing us instead.

The President's entourage, that's earlier today, Hope Hicks, Dan Scavino, Mark Meadows and others not taking that one simple painless step: wearing a mask.

Here's what the President said when they landed.


TRUMP: Then they come out with things today, did you see C.D.C.? That 85 percent of the people wearing the mask catch it. Okay? Didn't you have my friend -- and he's a nice guy, Tony, Tony Fauci. He is a nice guy.

He said this is not a threat. This is not a problem. Don't worry about this. It is not a problem. It's the craziest thing.

Then he said, do not wear a mask. Do not wear a mask under any circumstances. Don't wear a mask. Don't, don't, don't, right?

So we don't wear a mask. Then they say, oh, wear a mask. I never saw it. Do you ever see any conflict? But he is a nice guy, so I keep them around. Right? We'll keep him around.

He's a Democrat. Everybody knows that. He is Cuomo's friend.


COOPER: Putting aside these small-minded and cowardly attack on Dr. Fauci who, by the way, has been serving this country at the N.I.H. for more than 40 years for both Republicans and Democratic administrations. What the President said there about wearing a mask is a lie.

It's dangerous as well. CNN asked the C.D.C. what study the President might have been referring to since he referenced it coming from the C.D.C. A spokesperson suggested it was one from last month, which was designed to quote, "assess possible situations for community exposure," not mask use.

The response continues and I'm quoting here, "Growing evidence increasingly shows that wearing masks in community settings reduces transmission among individuals in that community. There are laboratory studies, animal studies, community and epidemiological studies, as well as policy studies that show masking reduces transmission in communities by blocking exhaled respiratory droplets."

In other words, masks work.


COOPER: The President is wrong. That's the C.D.C. directly contradicting the President's lie.

They aren't the only ones breaking with the President. As we mentioned, Chris Christie spoke with "The New York Times" but directly and through a statement which CNN obtained, he was, you may remember hospitalized with COVID after prepping the President for the Cleveland debate, it was at that Rose Garden super spreader event. He tells the paper, "I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at

the Amy Coney Barrett announcement. I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the President and the rest of the team."

He goes on to say, "I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow C.D.C. guidelines in public no matter where you are, and wear a mask to protect yourself and others." He certainly didn't criticize the President by name at all. He says, quote, "I believe we have not treated Americans as adults who understand truth, sacrifice and responsibility that I know them to be."

Again, this is from a Republican, a conservative, a Trump supporter. It's pretty simple stuff in the middle of a pandemic, no matter where you stand in the political spectrum. Not only that, it might even be a fairly easy political lift for the President as our Gary Tuchman discovered at a Trump rally just on Monday.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you this, if President Trump at the rally said, everyone, put on their masks.



COOPER: Sure, if Trump asked, I'd do it. All he has to do is ask, she said. Imagine how different our world would be tonight, and how different it would be in the months ahead, if he would do just that.

Perspective now from bestselling author, "New York Times" columnist, global observer, Thomas Friedman. He has written so many bestselling books, including his classic and updated "From Beirut to Jerusalem."

Tom, the last time we spoke, President Trump had just been flown to Walter Reed to receive treatment. At the time, you said that you prayed he would get well, but also that he would reflect on this and say he is sorry. That obviously didn't happen.

But could you have ever imagined that he would still and so quickly be out there doing daily potential super spreader rallies bringing thousands of people together, not wearing masks or social distancing?

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's just such an abdication of leadership, Anderson as Chris Christie really implied. Trump never trusted people with the truth, so people don't trust him back, I think in many cases.

But the most important thing about the mask story, you know, Anderson, is that you don't just wear a mask when you wear a mask just to protect yourself. You actually wear it to protect your neighbor, your customer, your fellow citizen, your co-worker, and so to urge people not to wear masks, to impugn mask wearing is not only reckless, it's such a grotesque abdication of citizenship and community. COOPER: Well, also to get you know, a crowd to boo Tony Fauci is just

-- it's such -- it's just the strategy of a weak little man. I mean, this is a guy, Tony Fauci who is somebody who has dedicated his life, you know, he could have gotten a job at some pharmaceutical company and made a ton of money.

He has dedicated his life on HIV-AIDS, fighting viruses and saving people's lives, and to have him booed by you know, as if it's some sort of, you know, bread and circuses enjoyment for the President, and for the people in that rally. I don't know, it is just so small and cheap and pathetic.

FRIEDMAN: Such a small man and such a big time about all you could say, and, you know, the only other thing you can say, because we can sort of do this every night, every day, because there's another disturbing and aberrant act by the President every day, I just have one thing to say, vote for Joe Biden. That's the only thing to say.

Because this doesn't stop unless the majority of American people remove Donald Trump from office, otherwise, it doesn't stop. And we'll have four more years of just these kind of conversations.

COOPER: One of the things I think that we have learned, you know, over the last several years, but also in this, I mean, it shows the limits of our system. And I think to me, it shows the limits of our system that just in this case, the President is going to get away with hiding when he actually last tested negative before he was hospitalized.

He may have been knowingly positive on the stage with Joe Biden during that debate. He may have lied to the Debate Commission about having had a negative test. We don't know, they won't say, but they are covering that up. But we have a system of checks and balances, but it doesn't seem designed for a President who is shameless and a liar and actually wants to subvert all institutions and destroy the system of checks and balances.

FRIEDMAN: You know, one of the biggest things I've learned from this whole experience, Anderson, is that there are the words on paper, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the regulations of government, and then there are the norms. The norms that really, you know, inspire, enable and in most cases require us to live by those words.

But if you have someone who's a complete norm breaker, who does not respect those norms, who drives through every red light, then the words on paper really aren't going to protect you.


FRIEDMAN: When you have a President, I've said this so many times, but it is the fundamental truth, when you have a President without shame, who is backed by Republicans in the Senate, who have no spine, who are then amplified by a network which is utterly without integrity and behaves as a propaganda organ. Much like, you know, Chinese and Russian newspapers, that trifecta: a President without shame, party without spine, network without integrity. That is a trifecta that can bust through any rules and norms that we have.

And there's only three answers to that question. Vote for Joe Biden, vote for Joe Biden, and vote for Joe Biden.

We can talk about how bad they have been, how they have misbehaved, how they've prostituted themselves to a terrible man. We can talk about it all night. Ben Sasse, the Senator from Nebraska even talked about it privately to a group of his fundraisers. We can talk about it all we want. But it only changes if people vote the right way on November 3rd.

COOPER: Because you're saying I mean, if there is another four years, do you have any sense of what would what it would look like? I mean, nobody can predict what it would look like four years from now.

But you know, if we think things have been unchecked, up until now, it's not as if the Republican Party is sort of going to grow a spine all of a sudden in the next four years.

FRIEDMAN: Well, that's why I believe, Anderson, you know, over the past year or so, I've written things like Mother Nature is on the ballot, you know, because of climate change. And, you know, science is on the ballot.

I'll tell you what I feel now, Anderson, America is on the ballot on November 3rd. America, as we have known it, is on the ballot on November 3rd. Have no doubt about that.

And yet, so many of the people who support President Trump believe that they represent and that -- or that he represents the best of America, which I don't -- I find it a hard link to make. But I mean, that's -- it is just a -- is it a different vision of America?

FRIEDMAN: You know, I think there's so many reasons people vote for President Trump, some are his Republican tribal loyalty; Democrats can be tribally loyal to their tribe, too.

Some of it is because he has kept their taxes low. But in many cases, I think there many Trump voters who aren't paying attention to Trump at all, they actually hate the people who hate Trump, more than they care about Trump. So we in the media come to them with more information.

He only paid $750.00 in taxes. You know, he did this with women. He lied 20,000 times. They don't care. They're not short of information. They actually know who he is.

He is the stick they poke in the eye of elites, they think look down on them and humiliate them. And that's a real problem.

But I will say Joe Biden has really tried to attack that, and really tried to address that. He has basically been saying to them, you know, when a President says, "I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and get away with it," you know, what he is also saying, "My followers are so stupid. I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it." And Biden has actually been talking to that. He has been making it

clear that I respect you. I know people are hurting out there. I understand why they may have voted for Trump the first time. They thought we needed radical change.

I like the way Biden is addressing Trump's vote, that core that may feel humiliated who may see Trump as that stick they used to poke in the eye of elite liberals, that Biden is really, I think, been very effective at addressing those people talking to them, not through their ears, but through their stomachs.

COOPER: I you know, I'm amazed that anybody would think that, you know, President Trump has their back or respects them or really sees them. You look at even how is treating Bill Barr now. Barr who has completely, you know, prostituted himself, and just, you know, I didn't know him before.

Um, it's remarkable to me that people would have loyalty to somebody who is so clearly -- I mean, Lindsey Graham, for instance, you know, the President was saying racist things before. It's -- you know, I know he wants to get elected and stuff, but at a certain point -- yes.

FRIEDMAN: That is just so -- of all things that have shocked me over the last four years. It's really that what you're talking about. Senators, I believe, make about $175,000.00 a year and they get free parking at the National Airport in Washington, D.C.

The way people have allowed themselves to be debased the way they've abased themselves for $175,000.00 and free parking at the National Airport, I never thought I'd live to see that.

COOPER: Tom Friedman, I appreciate it. Thank you.

FRIEDMAN: You bet.


COOPER: Coming up next more breaking news. New reporting in "The Washington Post" on Rudy Giuliani, election misinformation and the Russians. Also former President Obama now speaking out against roadblocks to voting. We will speak to Colorado's Secretary of State as well about record early voting in her state. We'll take a look at how that's going.


COOPER: We have more breaking news tonight. There's new reporting in "The Washington Post." The headline: Whitehouse was warned Giuliani was target of Russian intelligence operation to feed misinformation to Trump.

Continuing from "The Washington Post" story, quote, "The warnings were based on multiple sources including intercepted communications that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter."

"The Post's" Shane Harris shares the byline. He joins us tonight. It's a fascinating article. Can you explain the crux of your reporting?

SHANE HARRIS, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the crux of it is that when Rudy Giuliani went to Ukraine in December, early December of last year, and remember this is as President Trump is facing down the barrel of impeachment. Rudy was over there talking to Ukrainians to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

These individuals that was known to U.S. Intelligence were actually Russian assets. These were people who were connected to the Russian government, and U.S. Intelligence determined that they were likely feeding disinformation, false information to Rudy Giuliani hoping he would take it back to the President and kind of inject it into the bloodstream of the debate back in United States.


HARRIS: This set off essentially a collective panic, our sources said, at the top reaches of the National Security community and the administration, when leaders realized that Rudy was coming back to essentially hand Kremlin propaganda to the President, and a decision was made to try and intervene and tell the President in more or less words, you can't listen to what Rudy Giuliani is telling you. He is feeding you disinformation and don't listen to what he says.

COOPER: And who had the task of actually doing that with the President and how did it go?

HARRIS: That fell to the National Security adviser, Robert O'Brien, we understand after some consultations with senior officials, which would be appropriate in this case for the National Security adviser to take this intelligence that had been collected and assessed to the President and speak truthfully to him.

It did not go well. We understand that the National Security adviser made his case and the President sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, well, that's just Rudy, and making light of it, dismissing the idea that this was some kind of Russian setup or disinformation coming in to the President.

And of course, we know that President Trump has frequently listened to the many kinds of lies and disinformation that Rudy Giuliani has told him and has said publicly and doesn't seem to keep him at arm's length.

He, in fact, repeats many of the things, particularly about the Biden's that come from Rudy Giuliani.

COOPER: I mean, it's obvious, you know, Rudy Giuliani is not the -- you know, the person he once was. He certainly feels like he is living his best life and feels very relevant. But is it really possible that Giuliani wouldn't know these people were Russian assets? I mean, in a prior life, he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

HARRIS: Right. I can't tell what's inside Rudy Giuliani's mind whether he knew or not. I think you could reasonably suspect that these people would be and of course, some of these individuals were known to have a long track record in some circles as being, if not Russian assets, they were known to be pro-Russian, Ukrainian lawmakers, a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker in one case.

You would imagine also that the former U.S. Attorney might suspect that when he is engaging with such people, his communications might be incidentally collected by U.S. Intelligence when they were up on those individuals.

There's a lot about Rudy Giuliani's behavior that is just very difficult to understand and explain particularly why he continues to peddle disinformation when he knows it's not true.

COOPER: It's a fascinating article in "The Washington Post." Shane Harris, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

HARRIS: You bet.

COOPER: More breaking news tonight, former President Obama weighing in on roadblocks to early voting as a record number of people have cast their ballots. He tweets, "Nobody should have to wait 11 hours to vote, but we're all grateful that you and all those in line with you stuck it out. Keep making your voices heard everybody, our democracy depends on it."

Officials in North Carolina tonight reporting a record number of voters so far in day one of early voting there. You can see one of the lines.

Colorado's Secretary of State Jena Griswold tweeted this news out today. "As of yesterday, over 300,000 Coloradans have voted, which is 24 times more than at this point in 2016." Secretary Griswold joins us now along with CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Secretary Griswold, we saw the lines in Georgia, disputes over drop boxes in Texas and California. How did those types of situations compare what's happening in your state? And I'm wondering how concerned are you about what's happening in other states?

JENA GRISWOLD, COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think overall, you know, despite the roadblocks that are being put up, Americans are showing up in record numbers. We are seeing record early voting and I think that's a great thing for our democracy.

You know, as a Secretary of State responsible for ensuring all communities have their voices heard, it's important to say that very often, voter suppression is systemic racism and we have to fight against that voter suppression. We have to fight against that racism.

And that's one of the reasons in Colorado, I've increased drop boxes by 50 percent. We've increased in-person voting centers, and for the first time, are guaranteeing polling center or drop box on all public universities and tribal lands.

If you provide access, people will vote and all Americans deserve the same rights as Coloradans.

COOPER: So that is obviously a different tact than they're taking in Texas, where, you know, one drop box per county. That was -- the reason given by Abbott for that was, you know, security concerns. You say you've increased them by 50 percent in the state. Have you seen any security issues so far?

GRISWOLD: Absolutely not. You know, Colorado has used drop boxes for many years now and we have security protocols including videotaping, 24-hour surveillance and we actually keep all the footage for 25 months, and we have a history of drop boxes working just great. Coloradans really use them.


GRISWOLD: And I will say at this point, in Colorado, we will have over 383 drop boxes across the state. That's approximately one drop box for every 9,100 people.

And what the Governor of Texas is doing, taking away access during a pandemic, during such an important election is voter suppression. Removing access during a pandemic is voter suppression. And that's why I believe we need a national law ensuring that all Americans have access to a mail ballot, hundreds of drop boxes, hundreds of voting centers, online voter registration.

We need to make our elections nationwide modern elections and really give American citizens the access they deserve.

COOPER: Dana, I mean, the long lines for voting, record numbers of mail-in ballot, which side gets more energized by that?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, what we are seeing reported from states across the country that are doing this early voting, and also states that are looking at absentee ballots and other means. It looks like Democrats are taking advantage much more than Republicans.

Now, that is, in large part because you can look at the energy that Democrats have. You can look at the message that you're hearing from the top of the ticket from Joe Biden and from Kamala Harris, and from every Democratic activist out there saying, "Go vote. Go vote. Go vote."

And I can tell you, Anderson, that Republicans and we have talked about this before, they are so frustrated with the guy at the top of their ticket because he is making their jobs very difficult. Republicans from inside the Trump campaign to the R.N.C., they worked for months and months and months to try to be on par with Democrats with regard to early voting, with regard to absentee voting.

And it's been very difficult to do when the President has been telling his own supporters, it is riddled with fraud. I'll just give you an example, Florida, which obviously is among the

most, if not the most important state for the President, 11.5 percent of Democrats who requested absentee ballots returned them; 8.7 percent of Republicans did. That's bad news for the President, even though they do expect most -- many Republicans to go and show up on Election Day.

COOPER: Yes, Secretary Griswold, I'm wondering in Colorado, what are you expecting on Election Day? Because the President, you know has talked about getting people to be poll watchers, and you know, they've talked about a Trump army deployed on Election Day monitoring polling. Are you concerned about what it's actually going to look like?

GRISWOLD: Well, I think we'll have great elections, just like every year. You know, it is illegal under Federal law and Colorado law to intimidate voters and we won't allow any of that to happen. But I do think voters should be confident in voting however they so choose, whether that's a mail ballot or going in person during early voting or on Election Day.

You know, there are -- there is a very important role for supporters of both presidential campaigns to sign up as election judges or poll watchers, but they just have to do that in accordance with state law. So we'll have folks from both sides of the aisle through the entire election process.

And the one takeaway, or the one message that I would send the viewers is, if you have the ability to vote early, it's just better to have your voice heard right away, make sure your voter registration is updated, and if you're in a state like Colorado, vote your mail ballot, you can do it right from home. It's so easy. And it's also safe and secure.

COOPER: You know, Dana, we had Tom Friedman on earlier who talked about the spinelessness we've seen in Republicans in the Senate over the last couple of years regarding standing up to the President. Now, you have Ben Sasse, you know, critiquing the President to his constituents, you know, not publicly, Chris Christie doing a mea culpa, which is, you know, kind of a rebuke of the President, although he didn't actually, you know, directly challenge him in any way.

Are those signs of them sort of seeing which way the wind they think maybe blowing and sort of shifting tack a little bit or, or is there nothing more to it than that?

BASH: No, I think there could be. They might be different cases.

Chris Christie, obviously, this is very personal. He was at the White House trying to get the President ready for a debate and clearly got the coronavirus there, and it was not very subtle in what he was saying, you know. I am from New Jersey, but I don't think you have to be from New Jersey to get what he was trying to get across, which is that the President -- he was told that the White House was a safe zone. Everybody was tested.

The President clearly, we don't know when he was tested last. It's unclear if he was and he also made clear that public officials wink- wink nod-nod, need to stop saying that it's okay to get it, you'll be fine because that's not the case.

With Ben Sasse, Anderson. Let's be clear. He went through primary season in his home state, and so he feels more safe to say this, but he was responding to a constituent asking why he criticizes the President and he went completely off.

I think what you are seeing there is preparing for a post-Trump Republican Party and that is going to be people like Ben Sasse thinking about where they fall in line there.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: (INAUDIBLE) appreciated, Dana Bash always thanks very much. We'll see Dana later on in the program.

Up next, I'll speak with a career prosecutor at the Department of Justice who's resigning. Sort of a scathing rebuke of Attorney General Barr, why he's stepping down now, when we continue.



COOPER: Michigan's attorney general has charged another man and that alleged plot to kidnap the state's governor Gretchen Whitmer. According to state authorities the man from neighboring Wisconsin is accused in material support of an act of terrorism. That brings a total 14 people facing federal and state charges in the case and still no comment remarkably on any of this directly from Attorney General William Barr.

On the west coast, one veteran prosecutor who says he's served 36 years in Justice Department is now saying he's had enough. Phillip Halpern is his name. He wrote a blistering op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune accusing Barr politicizing the department. In part he wrote, Barr overruled career prosecutors in order to assist the President's associates and/our friends who potentially harbor incriminating information. This career bureaucrat seemed determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy.

Phillip Halpern joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us. I mean, it is a scathing review of the attorney general. I wonder, was there a final straw for you in working under the Attorney General?

PHILLIP HALPERN, FMR ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, there were a number of straws that we can talk about. But before I do that, Anderson I think it's important that I let everybody know that I am somewhat of a reluctant spokesperson for this movement. And the people out there should know I love the Department of Justice. I spent my entire career there more than 36 years working for the people of the United States. And therefore, it's difficult for me to come this to this point where I have to criticize some aspect of the Department of Justice.

COOPER: This is not something you ever saw yourself doing. HALPERN: Oh, no, I'm very, very reluctant to come here. And I have to tell you, there's one straw I think you need to know. From John Kelly, to Jim Mattis to John Bolton, to Jeff Sessions, this President has made it crystal clear that there is simply no place in his department, in his administration, for anyone who places loyal service to their country, over service to him. And that's disturbing to me, because this is a dictator's demand. It's not a patriot's principle. And unfortunately, no one and I mean, no one has followed this unconscionable dictate more flagrantly and more often than William Barr. And it's because of that reason that I decided to go public and talk about the situation.

COOPER: Well, I mean, it is remarkable given this what he did to Jeff Sessions, now I mean, Bill Barr, for all his, you know, genuflecting before the President may suffer the same fate as Sessions. The President's already criticizing Barr publicly and, you know, unclear what kind of dangling what his future is. You cited the Attorney General's intervention in the criminal cases and President Trump's associates echoing of the President's baseless conspiracies around mail-in voting, his involvement in the scene in Lafayette Square to support, you know, this line from your piece you said, rather than representing the interests of the American public, Barr chooses to access Trump's lap dog. Is it clear to you what appeals to Barr about that sort of feel to the President? Is it just that he's relevant again? I mean, that he's now talked about and in the center of attention?

HALPERN: Well, again, you're asking me to play psychoanalyst here. It's hard for me to know, I mean, Barr was the Attorney General before he's conservative, but he served honorably, career people in the Department of Justice, including myself, it doesn't matter if the Attorney General is a Republican or a Democrat. All that matters to us is that he makes sure that he represents the people of the United States and not simply the dictates of an executive.

Now, when Barr previously served, would he have gone down this road? Well perhaps he would have, but he was never asked to. And the fact of the matter is, anybody who doesn't slavish lead follow Trump's demands is out of there.

COOPER: How does having an attorney general, like Barr, how does that filter down throughout the department? Or can you see it filtering down through the department?

HALPERN: There's no question ask. And I have to say, I speak for many, many employees. I have been touched by the outpouring I have received from people from all over the department, people who served in previous administrations, people who served in Bush's White House. And this has made me feel that what I'm doing is necessary, because it's so important for people to speak out. Silence really is the enemy of democracy. And when we have an attorney general, who is bent on serving the President's will, we really are slipping into tyranny. And that bothers me.

[20:39:58] COOPER: It is remarkable the silence given all the things that Attorney General Barr has weighed in on, that there's been silence from the Attorney General on this very big case of a number of extremists plotting -- allegedly plotting to kidnap sitting governor Gretchen Whitmer, also interest in the governor in Virginia. We know the President has continued to call Whitmer a dictator. But the silence from Barr is extraordinary given the high level nature of the charges.

HALPERN: There's no question about that. And it's important though, the Attorney General has to represent the interests of the American people and he has to be careful on what he decides to speak out on. But if he's only speaking out on things at the President's behest, then we have a problem, then we have a lap dog. And that's something that has to be avoided. You know, speaking, particularly to the problems in Michigan, you know, he pivoted quickly and to talk about the governor's health order, and he compared it to the greatest intrusion in civil liberty to since slavery.

In fact, he didn't compare it to it. He said it was the greatest intrusion. That's not doing a service to anybody, when he almost ignores what goes on in Michigan or attacks the governor, when at the same time, he supports the President's agenda when criticizing Black Lives Matters protesters in Portland, it's this uneven handed distribution of the law that really troubles me. And I think it troubles many of the people I know in the Department of Justice.

COOPER: Yes, Phillip Halperin, I appreciate you being on tonight and I appreciate your willingness to be here. Thank you.

HALPERN: Well, thank you. Anderson.

COOPER: Just ahead, a look at what was supposed to be a town hall debate between President Trump and Joe Biden tonight. Instead, opposing town halls, we'll have analysis and moments from both town halls, when we continue.



COOPER: Well, breaking news now. We're dealing Trump and Biden town halls going on was originally meant to be a second presidential debate. That is until President Trump balked at a format change from in-person to virtual decision that was made after President Trump tested positive for the virus. Instead, each candidate tonight is responding to voter questions in two different battleground states Biden in Pennsylvania, Trump in Florida. Moments ago President Trump was asked about his own testing for the coronavirus, something about which he has been covering up.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC HOST: When was your last negative test? When did you last remember having a negative test? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Well, I test quite a bit. And I can tell you that before the debate, which I thought it was a very good debate. And I felt fantastically I was -- I had no problem before.

GUTHRIE: Did you test day after the debate?

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't even remember. I test all the time. But I can tell you this. After the debate, like I guess a day or so. I think it was Thursday evening, maybe even late Thursday evening. I tested positive. That's when I first found out --

GUTHRIE: Well, that's at the debate, because the debate commissions rules that was the honor system --


GUTHRIE: -- that you would come with a negative test. You say you don't know if you got a test on the day of the debate.

TRUMP: I have no problem. Again, the doctors do it. I don't ask them like I test all the time. And --

GUTHRIE: Did you take a test so at the day of the debate?

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) the doctor, they give you a perfect answer. But they take a test and I leave and I go about my business.

GUTHRIE: So, did you take a test on the day the debate I guess is the bottom line.

TRUMP: I probably really did. And I took the test the day before and the day before and I was always in great shape. And I was in great shape for the debate. And it was only after the debate, like a period of time after the debate that I said that's interesting. And they took a test and it tested positive.

GUTHRIE: So just to button it up. Do you take a test every single day?

TRUMP: No, no. But I take a lot of tests.

GUTHRIE: OK. And you don't know if you took a test the day the debate.

TRUMP: Possibly I did, possibly I didn't.


COOPER: Joining us now, Van Jones, former special adviser to President Obama, a CNN political commentator, Rick Santorum former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, a CNN senior political commentator, and CNN's Dana Bash is back as well.

Dana, did President Trump do himself any favors tonight? I mean, he said, you know, you can ask the doctors, I'll give you a perfect answer. The doctors won't give any answer because he's told the doctors not to give an answer. BASH: Exactly. Look, the fact that he had to be asked multiple times whether or not he took a test the night of the debate and could not answer it is our answer. I mean, I'm sorry. But if the President took a test the night of the debate, he would have said I took a test the night of the debate. It's not something that that you forget. And I just, you know, maybe I'm making a leap here, but I don't think so. And that was the whole point of that exchange that went on way longer than I'm sure Savannah Guthrie had intended it to. But she was determined to get an answer. And again, his non-answer was an answer.

And why does this matter for so many reasons. It goes to what we were talking about earlier in the program, Chris Christie, who helped him for that debate in the statement he put out today, now that he's finally feeling better after being in the hospital for a week with COVID, which he believes he got at the White House, is that the leaders of this country, meaning the president, even though he didn't say I'd have to stop being so cavalier about this. And not getting a test, and putting in danger, the people who are in that room, including his opponent, for the presidency, is as cavalier and as careless as it can be.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, shouldn't the President just be transparent about when he last us to negative before he got sick?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The President should make his records available as to when he was tested and what the results of those tests are. I mean, I don't understand why he's not. Whether he maybe didn't get a test that day. That's possible. They'd say he's not tested every day, but I don't see any reason why not to release that information.

COOPER: Van, we don't have the sound bite cut from Vice President Biden's town hall yet but he was asked about taking an COVID-19 vaccine. He said of scientists say people should take it then he would. He also said quote, we should be talking about thinking about making it mandatory. What do you make of that?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, you know, when he was asked a bunch of questions in this area, I think he got a little bit rambley. And, you know, I think overall Biden did very well, you know, you kind of break your wrist going back and forth between things that I watch him at the same time.


But look, I think that what he was trying to say was that you're going to have to be take this seriously, make a serious effort. He talked even about having the bringing governors in bringing, he doesn't have the power to do but you bring the governors in he bring the mayors in, he brings city council people and he would do all these different things, trying to make the point that the president needs to lead I think that's more of what he was trying to say.

But listen, above these debates, these moderators are not giving these guys free passes. I mean, Savannah was on this dude from the word go. And, you know, and also the same the same thing on the other station. So you're actually seeing them --

SANTORUM: Not as much.

JONES: Well maybe not as much, but --

SANTORUM: Not as much.

JONES: But --

SANTORUM: But not nearly as much.

JONES: Biden is not dancing as much, Biden is answering too long giving these promises and stuff like that.

BASH: And Biden is not president.

JONES: But where and whereas on the other side, would you see Trump doing, you see Trump's got a disadvantage because Trump's got to defend all this stuff. And then also try to get his message across whereas Biden disabled, explain his plans and move forward. It's very, very interesting to watch these guys get grilled in front of a live audience.

COOPER: I want to play some more of from President Trump's town hall this listen.


GUTHRIE: You were asked point blank to denounce white supremacy. In the moment, you didn't, you ask some follow-up questions who specifically a couple of days later on a different show you denounce white supremacy.


TRUMP: You've done this to me and everybody --

GUTHRIE: Why does it seem like --

TRUMP: I denounce white supremacy. OK.

GUTHRIE: You did two days later.

TRUMP: I denounce white supremacy for years. But you always do -- you always start off with a question. You didn't ask Joe Biden, whether or not he denounces Antifa. I watched him on the same basic show with Lester Holt. And he was asking questions like Biden was a child?

GUTHRIE: Well and also, this is a little bit of a --


TRUMP: What -- are you listening? I denounce white supremacy.


TRUMP: What's your next question?

GUTHRIE: Do you feel -- it feels sometimes you're hesitant to do so like you wait a beat.

TRUMP: Yes, here we go again. Every time -- in fact, but people came, I'm sure they'll ask you the white supremacy question. I denounce white supremacy.


TRUMP: And frankly, you want to know something, I denounce the Antifa and I denounce these people on the left that are burning down our cities that are run by Democrats who don't know --

GUTHRIE: All right, while we're denouncing, let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior of that. Now, can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true. Disavow QAnon and its entirety?

TRUMP: I know nothing about QAnon.

GUTHRIE: I just told you.

TRUMP: I know (INAUDIBLE), you told me, but what you tell me doesn't necessarily make it fact I hate to say that. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they find it very hard. But I know nothing about it --

GUTHRIE: They believed it is a satanic called run by the demon states.

TRUMP: To study this subject. I'll tell you what I do know about. I know about Antifa and I know about the radical left. And I know how violent they are and how vicious they are. And I know how they are burning down cities run by Democrats not run by Republicans.

GUTHRIE: Republican Senator Ben Sasse said quote, QAnon is nuts and real leaders call conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theory.

TRUMP: He made why --

GUTHRIE: Why not just say it's crazy --

TRUMP: Can I be honest?

GUTHRIE: -- and not true.

TRUMP: He maybe right. I just don't know about QAnon.

GUTHRIE: You do know.

TRUMP: I don't know. No, I don't know. I don't know.

GUTHRIE: Let me ask you another thing.

TRUMP: You tell me all about it. Let's waste the whole show. You start off with white supremacy. I denounce it. You start off with something else. Let's go keep asking me these questions.

GUTHRIE: OK. I do have one more on this thing --

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia. And I agree with that. I mean, I do that and I agree with that --


TRUMP: -- and I agree (INAUDIBLE) --

GUTHRIE: But they're not a satanic pedophile --


GUTHRIE: You don't know that? OK.

TRUMP: No, I don't know that.



COOPER: I mean, obviously, you know, QAnon is based on anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic tropes that have been around for centuries, frankly. And, you know, it's a cabal -- they believe, followers believe it's a cabal of Democrats and celebrities who drink the blood of scared children because it has some hormone in it, and worship Satan and are pedophiles. And we're operating out of a pizza parlor in D.C. and someone was armed and went there to rescue children. Of course, there was just a pizza parlor.

I mean, Dana the idea that the President doesn't know anything about QAnon, I mean, he if you want to know about QAnon, he would know about QAnon and he absolutely knows about QAnon.

BASH: He is a voracious consumer of news. Now, even if he didn't get a briefing from his aides, he would see it on CNN on every other news outlet because it's been talked about, and his tweets and his tweets --

COOPER: Yes, yes he retweeted, it doesn't --

BASH: And he's retweeted a lot. OK. And I can also just, you're right, then. The other point is, is that, let me just say, as we're fact checking, QAnon is not against pedophilia. QAnon creates false stories that celebrities and others are part of pedophilia rings. That is what they do.


But also, this is dangerous for so many reasons, including the fact that there are people out there who are trying to decide whether to cast their ballots who are consuming information from the President and from QAnon conspiracies who believe it. And I talk often with a man named Richard Thaw, who does focus groups with Obama, Trump voters, swing voters all over the country and more and more in the past few months. He has heard from them. Conspiracy theories parroted back to him, it is absolutely going into the soil of this country.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, I mean, he doesn't do himself any favors by this. The only reason he would not condemn QAnon or even knowledge that he knows what it is? It is that they support him that in this imaginary world system that they have created. He is the secret savior secretly fighting Democratic pedophile rings and Satan worshipping celebrities.

SANTORUM: Yes, you know, I said the last time we went through this debate, which was -- so there's not a debate, but the last debate the actual debate that the President wasn't prepared, and he you know, his people, whether they're preparing or not, they need to. I mean, to not expect this question and not be able to answer it. He obviously expected the white supremacist question and he answered it straight up correctly and right away. Good. Hadn't been prepared two weeks ago, he could have done it. And we wouldn't be asking that question again. And my guess is we'll get that question again next week, because again, he didn't answer it, because he wasn't prepared.

I just have to, you know, say to the President, you can't go wandering into these forums without being prepared as to what the tough questions that you're going to get, and have a good response, one that's that needs to be made, which is condemning crazy things that are crazy.

COOPER: Van, Vice President Biden was asked about packing the Supreme Court, he wouldn't commit to a position, he said he'd let voters know where he stands before the election. I mean, that's a complete dodge.

JONES: D minus (INAUDIBLE). I don't know how many times we can say it. You got to be able to -- if people are voting for a future. And the guy know does the future have nine Supreme Court justices, or 12, or 15, if I go with you. And I think that I understand why they don't want to do it. They want to kind of use it as a bargaining chip or whatever they want they're trying to do, or they're trying to keep the left wing of the party from, you know, getting too mad at them. But I just think it goes against the Biden brand. He's a straight up guy. He's he tries to be a straight shooter. Some -- again, his only problem he had tonight was he was he was giving so many explanations and going on a little bit too long. But I thought that the authenticity buzzer goes -- the in authenticity but in authenticity buzzer goes off when he does stuff like that.

But I do want to say one thing. I was glad to hear the President say he denounces white supremacy. And I think that he should do it the way that Reagan did it. He Reagan didn't do it like he felt that it was a pain in his butt to have to do it. Reagan leaned into it, love talking about it. He thought it was key to the brand. When people thought Reagan was racially insensitive, and didn't like his policy. But whenever he got put in the crosshairs, he loved the opportunity to be passionate about it. And I think that Trump rather than being resentful about it, should be passionate about it. He feels that way. But I am glad that he actually said it. But this they didn't turn around and butcher the answer on QAnon. And QAnon is a dangerous lunatic conspiracy that's spreading like wildfire. It is very, very dangerous and President of United States just smack that stuff down, you know, before breakfast very easily. And he didn't do it.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, do you think there's going to be debate next week? One more debate?

SANTORUM: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I can't imagine why they wouldn't do it. I mean, look, I, as I said, the morning after the last, the vice presidents have -- what the debate commission here did was horrible, you know, to unilaterally go out there and change the bay without consulting the campaigns. I mean, you know, the Commission on Presidential Debates has to, you know, take the role that they're there, which is not the leader of the free world, but to actually facilitate information for the public so they can make good decisions. They're not doing that right now. They need to get their act together. They need to work with the campaigns and we need to have another debate that they campaigns can agree on. Not some group of people try to play God for the rest of the country.

COOPER: Rick Santorum, Van Jones, Dana Bash, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Programming note there -- as of now, still one presidential debate left as I mentioned, President Trump Joe Biden scheduled to face off for election day one final time and layer, CNN next Thursday night. Our special live coverage will start at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night.

News continues right now. Thanks for watching. Want to hand things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME", Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson, thank you very much. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Primetime".

President Trump didn't want to virtually do Biden in a safe way, and he wasn't willing or able to come up with a negative COVID test. So, the debate was delayed.