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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Americans Heading to Polls in High-Stakes Presidential Election; Judge Rejects GOP Efforts to Halt Early Vote Counting in Las Vegas; Twitter Flags, Restricts Trump Tweet about Mail-in Voting in Pennsylvania; Path to 270; Dr. Deborah Birx Calls for More Aggressive Action on U.S. Virus Response. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good early Tuesday morning to you.

Have you voted yet, America?

I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And we're so glad you're with us. Hi, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow and it finally is here, Election Day is upon us, a day millions of Americans will make their voices heard, if you have not already.

Joining the nearly 100 million people who have already cast their ballots, the race is like no other, at a time like no other. A worsening pandemic is shaping how we are all voting and impacting who many are voting for. Both candidates wrapping up their final and starkly different closing arguments, just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to win (INAUDIBLE). Don't do that to our country. Our country has too much unbelievable potential, actually. Massively increasing your regulations, shutting down your economy, they're going to close down your factories, send your jobs overseas to China and other places. I don't think so. Destroy the suburbs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tomorrow, we can put an end to a presidency that's divided this nation and fanned the flames of hate. Tomorrow, we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, the good news -- and there is good news, tens of millions of you have voted already safely. But the nation is on edge, as the president deliberately casts doubt on the integrity of this election, even promising a court fight in Pennsylvania over legal mail-in ballots there.

We are following all these headlines on this very important day and, of course, this. A tradition, some of the very first ballots already cast in this election, just minutes after midnight. Joe Biden taking all five votes in the tiny New Hampshire town of Dixville Notch.

But let's begin with the bigger picture and a key swing state in this election with CNN's Sara Murray in Pennsylvania.

Sara, what are you finding there?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy, it is a big test for a key battleground today. For the first time, Pennsylvania let anyone vote by mail. You didn't need an excuse to do it. And more than 2.4 million people have already handed in those ballots.

But it is not until 7:00 am, on Election Day, when these counties can start opening these ballots, taking out the outer envelope, taking out the secrecy envelope, flattening these ballots, putting them through the scanner and, hopefully, tonight, delivering a count.

This all takes time. The big counties in Pennsylvania are going to be working 24/7 to get this done but there are at least nine counties CNN knows of that are not going to start going through these ballots until the day after Election Day.

Officials in the state have said over and over again, you need to be patient. We may not know tonight who won on Election Night, who won the state of Pennsylvania and that is OK. Officials are going to keep counting until there is an accurate result -- back to you guys.

HARLOW: That's the important thing, an accurate result. Sara, thanks for that reporting.

Let's head to Nevada and a victory for voters there after a judge rejected Republican efforts to halt early vote counting.

SCIUTTO: It's been interesting to follow all these court decisions here with real impact. More than 1.1 million ballots have already been cast in that key state. Mail-in ballots postmarked by today will be counted if they arrive by Tuesday of next week. CNN's Erica Hill is in Las Vegas.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy, the number of ballots cast in the state of Nevada has already surpassed the total turnout for 2016. Now remember, this is a state where every active voter, some 1.8 million of them, was sent a mail-in ballot because of the pandemic.

And of the ballots returned, thus far, just over half of those are mail-in ballots. The other come from early in-person voting. Two weeks of in-person voting wrapped here on Friday. If we break down the numbers a little bit, more Democrats returning those mail-in ballots; where Republicans, though, voting early in person.

Ballots can still be dropped off on Tuesday at polling locations. As long as they are postmarked by Election Day, those ballots will still be counted, as long as they arrive by November 10th.

There is a big focus on Clark County. That's where I am. It is the most populous county in the state. It also accounts for nearly 70 percent of active voters in Nevada and it leans heavily Democratic.

It's also been the focus of two lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and the Nevada Republican Party in recent days. Now the first, to halt early vote counting, claiming some issues with signature matching and just how closely observers could watch ballot processing.

But a judge, on Monday, denied the request. The campaign and the state GOP didn't even have the standing to make those challenges. The chair of the state Republican Party said they may appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Meantime, a partial victory for the GOP in a second suit, which claimed Clark County officials had failed to turn over detailed records about those involved in ballot processing, including the names and schedules of the drivers transporting ballots.

[02:05:00]

HILL: After a hearing on Monday afternoon, the judge giving the county until November 20th to fulfill some of the requested information. But noted, the GOP is not entitled to the personal information of employees or contractors, in this situation -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Erica Hill, thanks so much.

Now to Michigan, where President Trump just wrapped up with a late- night rally in Grand Rapids; 2.9 million votes have already been cast there; 16 electoral votes at stake. Poppy, Michigan, key battleground in this election.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, is in Detroit for us at the convention center, where they're going to be counting the absentee ballots -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Poppy, here we go, I want to show you where we are here. This is the convention center in Detroit. It is now the place where all the absentee ballots are being counted in the city of Detroit.

It is an absolutely massive, cavernous location. Hundreds of employees have been working here all day as well as challengers. Two challengers were actually removed from the room today because they were -- one wasn't wearing their mask properly. Another was wearing a Halloween mask.

This is the important bit. So what they are doing today is they are sorting the ballots, getting them ready to be counted tomorrow. They can only process them right now. Those machines, right there, in the center. There's 25 of them. They are high-speed tabulating machines.

Those will be loaded up with ballots, starting 7:00 am, and they will start counting the many ballots here. They were able to get through about 80,000, process 80,000 ballots, just today. So they'll be ready to be counted there.

That's important because the entire vote for the city of Detroit is about 250,000 people. They expect there is about 150,000 absentee ballots. If that is correct and they believe that they'll be able to report those when polls close tomorrow or very close to, if cities like Detroit and -- and -- and other big cities around Michigan can get that vote total in very early, Michigan will look very blue early on.

And it may be later that it may go more red. So if the president had hoped that it would be red early on and could sort of call the race in Michigan early, he may be surprised, because it seems like, right now, officials in Michigan are really getting through many, many of those ballots -- Poppy. Jim.

HARLOW: That's fascinating. Miguel, thank you very much for that.

All right. Let's discuss. Sabrina Siddiqui, national politics reporter for "The Wall Street Journal," and Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast," you are saints in our eyes, ladies for staying to hang with us.

SCIUTTO: We owe you coffee. Coffee's coming your way.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 'Tis the season.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no place we'd rather be.

HARLOW: Maybe something a little stronger as well, after this week, to thank you guys for this.

But Jackie, on a serious note, when we -- when we look at what is ahead, obviously, the presidential race is key, especially in those key states we just went to, but the Senate, I mean, that is particularly important to getting anything done. And you are preparing for some stunners.

Where?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So where the stunners are, that, you know, we'll see, by virtue of the name stunner. However, I do think we might have some answers early on in the night or tonight.

Places like North Carolina, we're expected to get the vote. Places, like in Colorado, perhaps Maine, they have ranked voting there so it might be a little bit more complicated. Georgia, in particular, we could see two runoffs, though some of the -- the pollsters there are saying that there might be an outright win for someone like Jon Ossoff, who is challenging David Perdue. So really, the Senate is hanging in the balance here. And we could get

some concrete answers, in a lot of these important states, today, which is actually saying something -- or early, tomorrow morning.

SCIUTTO: Sabrina, there's a reason, folks, the candidates included, are so focused on Pennsylvania, right?

That could be decisive, particularly for Trump and losing that really takes away a lot of his path -- potential paths to victory.

But isn't it also true that folks should pay attention, speaking of stunners, right, to other states that, in the last cycle, were easy wins for Trump?

An Ohio, a North Carolina, for instance, Georgia, that are at least in play -- and God knows, we don't know where it's going to be by the end of today or later this week. But then another potential headline from this election?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You're absolutely right, Jim. And it's no surprise that President Trump, on his final day of campaigning, traveled to those three industrial battlegrounds that helped propel him to the White House four years ago, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

After all, he won by a margin of roughly 77,000 votes across all three states.

[02:10:00]

SIDDIQUI: But he also did go to North Carolina where he is unexpectedly on defense. Joe Biden chose to go to Ohio on his final day of campaigning. That's a state that President Trump carried by 8 points, in 2016. Now the two candidates are in a statistical tie.

Iowa is another state that President Trump carried by 9 points four years ago but where we are seeing a much more competitive race, this time around.

It's also of course, important to remember that, for President Trump, if he loses North Carolina or Georgia or Florida, three states that are seen as a must-win for him, then his path to the presidency or to re-election, I should say, becomes a lot more narrow.

So if we get an early result from one of these states where the Trump campaign was not necessarily expecting it to be competitive, that could tell us a lot about where the night may be headed.

HARLOW: Speaking of competitive states and critical states, especially for Republican candidates for the presidency, Ohio, Jackie. And I thought it was interesting that Biden's campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dylan, was asked just a few hours ago, you know, why did you guys go to Ohio to make your closing case on Election Eve?

She called it, quote, "an expansion state," saying, like Iowa, like Texas, that it is in play. I just think it's -- I wonder what your thoughts are for them going there near the end, not to mention the trip to Georgia just a few days ago, et cetera. Them, being so confident that these expansion states are also in play for them.

KUCINICH: Well, it's one of those things like, if they're successful, they look brilliant. If they are not, we'll look at it and say, wait, why did they go there?

But where in Ohio is important. They went to the northern part of the state. A lot of Democrats live there. It's very vote rich. And it's somewhere they wanted to try to juice turnout, particularly with the African American community in Cleveland.

So that -- there is a method to the madness, when you see where they are going. Now Ohio really is in the balance. Talking to Democrats there, they're super nervous, as to whether they're going to be able to pull it out.

Georgia also, Biden seems to be favored there by a very slight margin and Democrats are feeling cautiously optimistic. But I think there is a lot of knocking on wood that's going to echo throughout both of these states until the results are known.

SCIUTTO: So Sabrina, forgive me, again, for playing contrarian here, looking at the legal side of this, right, I mean, from the very beginning, there have been so many legal fights here. Republicans fighting measures in a number of states to expand the vote, et cetera.

What's happened, though, interestingly, in most of those cases, they've lost, right?

I mean, they've lost these cases. And -- and -- and I just wonder if that's another one of those stories of this election, right?

I mean, a hopeful one, you can say, right?

If you agree, that expanding the vote is a good thing, in that, despite concerns leading up to it, there would be a lot of legal obstacles put up in the way of people voting, expanding the vote that, by and large, those cases have gone the other way.

SIDDIQUI: For the most part, they have. And I think it says a lot about the Republican Party's standing, that one of the last tactics has been to try and mount these legal challenges to the tallying of legitimate ballots.

And you have, so far, seen the courts rule in a way that has favored Democrats and really, will ensure that votes that were cast, either, you know, you have a case in Texas where it was through a drive- through drop-off or, of course, a lot of the questions around mail-in ballots, that they will be counted.

And perhaps, that may take an extra set of days. But ultimately, the point is that the election will be decided, once all of the votes are tallied and not by any one party trying to suppress the vote, not by the president trying to prematurely claim victory, as he has indicated that he will. Now it is also worth pointing out, though, both sides are preparing

for possible, postelection challenges. It's pretty extraordinary that they have dispatched hundreds of lawyers across the country in the event that happens. But we'll wait and see.

I think, again, it just bears repeating that the election is declared when the votes are counted and not by any other metric.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's an important point.

Listen. Sabrina, Jackie, coffee on us until the end of the 5 o'clock hour. And then, whatever else you choose after that on us as well. We appreciate you staying up.

HARLOW: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour. Republican attempts to block Election Day drive-through voting in the largest county in Texas are denied.

So why, though, is the county clerk who fought for these options closing down all but one of those locations, anyway?

And the magic number, 270.

How does each candidate snag those crucial electoral votes?

[02:15:00]

SCIUTTO: John King, at the magic wall, lays it out.

HARLOW: Also, another member of the president's Coronavirus Task Force is, this morning, contradicting the White House's message on the pandemic. Hear what Dr. Deborah Birx now says is the most deadly phase in this battle.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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SCIUTTO: Welcome back this Election Day.

Twitter is flagging a tweet from President Trump, labeling it disputed and restricting its sharing after he criticized a Supreme Court decision that allows legal mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted up to three days after Election Day, as the law there states.

HARLOW: That's right. And in last night's tweet, the president makes the baseless claim that the court's decision will, quote, "allow rampant and unchecked cheating."

Not true. He is also making reference to the ruling inciting violence and that is what prompted Facebook to place a similar label on the same post on its platform. Brian Stelter is with us, our chief media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

It's amazing that this is happening.

[02:20:00]

HARLOW: But it is, what it is. It -- it is happening and it's coming from the president and it's being flagged and taken down by these huge platforms.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right. One of the subtexts of this entire election is the war on truth, a rhetorical war, led by the president, waged by the president.

He is trying to twist reality to fit his agenda. And these social media platforms have gradually had to start to take actions against some of this really dangerous, misleading information the president spreads.

As you mentioned, Twitter flagging this; Facebook also putting a more moderate, mild label on the president's words about Pennsylvania. Neither site saying he is inciting violence but both saying he is counter to the facts about voting.

Look, these platforms are going to be under pressure, all day long, in the coming hours, to keep an eye on the president's account, also, on the accounts of his allies as they may spread disinformation about voting.

Both platforms, Facebook and Twitter, have said that, in the event of a premature victory claim from the president, for example, or from a candidate lower down on the ballot in some state, they will take action.

They will label those posts as well. But let's keep in mind, all this disinformation that rages on social media, it also rages on television. The president's at rallies live on FOX News, making some of these same claims and they're not labeled on right-wing TV. So this is a problem bigger than Twitter and Facebook.

But these platforms are trying to do something in this -- in this misinformation age.

SCIUTTO: Brian, can I ask, do we know what a difference these labels make to these tweets?

You'll see when this happens, you'll see a little notice there but it's still up and I know that, in this case, they restrict retweeting, which would then, I guess, limit the number of eyeballs that see it.

But do we know if it really makes a difference, these labels?

STELTER: Honestly, I don't think we will know until the next election. These platforms are figuring this out as they go along. They are trying to rebuild the car as it's careening down the road. Researchers will come in later and tell us if this is effective or if it draws more attention to the claims. Right now, it's too early to say.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: Brian, stay with us. don't go very far. We're going to talk with you, in a little bit, about more.

But we do have breaking news out of Texas. The Harris County clerk has reversed his position and now says he will close nine out of 10 drive- through voting locations in the country. These are voting locations he had pushed for.

This comes, even though a federal judge rejected a Republican request to invalidate 127,000 ballots that were dropped off at those drive- through sites because those locations were at tents and not permanent structures.

SCIUTTO: But the dismissal was on a technicality and Republicans are still trying to stop all drive-through voting today.

Chris Hollands, the county clerk, said in a tweet, quote, "I cannot, in good faith, encourage voters to cast their votes in tents, if that puts their votes at risk."

Let's bring in now, Franita Tolson, a CNN election law analyst and professor at the USC Gould School of Law.

We spoke to Collins yesterday, in the midst of this battle, got the decision to go his way, Democrats' way there.

Are you surprised by his backing off, at this point, given the fight?

FRANITA TOLSON, CNN ELECTION ANALYST: I'm not. First, let me say thank you so much for having me on.

I do think that the decision still creates a certain level of voter confusion that I think he is probably worried about. So even though he won in federal court today, the plaintiff has appealed to the 5th Circuit. So it's entirely possible a decision could come out of the 5th Circuit and the court could rule drive-through voting is unconstitutional and cannot be used on Election Day.

So because of that concern, I think he feels compelled to warn voters away from using the drive-through voting mechanism.

HARLOW: If that happens, Franita, does -- is there a chance that those 127,000 votes, that had previously been cast at these drive- through tents, that a Republican-appointed judge on the appellate court said to the Republican argument to get rid of them, I ain't buying it, someone appointed by president George W. Bush, is there still a chance those could get thrown out, ultimately?

TOLSON: No, I think that ship has sailed. So the plaintiffs are requesting that the 5th Circuit bar the use of drive-through voting on Election Day. So I do think those votes will count.

But you know, keep in mind, Poppy, if this relief is granted, it does make it difficult for voters with disabilities, voters who have, you know, pre-existing conditions that may make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

It makes it more difficult for them to vote so it is a very consequential decision if the 5th Circuit decides to prevent Harris County from using this.

SCIUTTO: Let's look at another state that's going to -- clearly, central in the election, regardless. That is, Pennsylvania. But also, potentially, legal challenges around this. The president publicly, his lawyers making the case repeatedly in court, though they've lost a lot of these cases, about mail-in ballots.

[02:25:00]

SCIUTTO: Ones that don't arrive by Election Day but are postmarked by Election Day, which Pennsylvania allows.

What is the legal argument not to count those ballots that state law says are valid?

What's the argument the president, his campaign, hope to make?

TOLSON: So part of this has to do with the fact that four Supreme Court justices have indicated a willingness to read the Constitution in a way where state legislatures have a pretty much unencumbered authority to set the rules of elections.

So when you have state and federal courts trying to make voting easier for individuals, especially in light of the pandemic, the argument is this goes too far in the authority of the state legislature.

So in many states, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, for example, you have state and federal courts who have weighed in and said, look, as long as ballots are postmarked by a certain day, then receipt of these ballots is OK a few days after Election Day.

The argument is this goes too far into the authority of the state legislature. And so, the Trump campaign is seeking to stop the counting and limit it effectively to Election Day, which is not how we've generally run our elections.

HARLOW: You bring up Minnesota, which is a very much a battleground state this year. The Trump campaign thinks they can flip it and take the state for the first time since 1972 for a Republican presidential candidate.

But they're segregating all the ballots that arrive after today. They were going to allow them to count for seven days. But this seems like the secretary of state of Minnesota's all but indicating they know this is going to be fought out in a higher court after the election.

Is that pretty much a guarantee for Minnesota and Pennsylvania?

TOLSON: I think so, right? A lot of this will come down to turnout. You know, if the margins are significant, that decreases the chance that there will be litigation. But I think it's inevitable. I think Minnesota and Pennsylvania are preparing themselves for the inevitable litigation.

HARLOW: Yes. We appreciate you staying up late. I know you're on the West Coast. But still. Thank you.

TOLSON: Way past my bedtime.

HARLOW: Way past mine. Thank you very, very much.

You can find all of this super helpful information for you.

Where do you vote today?

What are your voting options?

Locations?

Times?

Et cetera. cnn.com/vote. Go there.

The road to 270 could take a lot of twists and turns. John King lays it out next.

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[02:30:00]

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HARLOW: OK. The countdown to Election Day is officially over. We are here. It may be 2:31 in the morning but it is Election Day. And the campaigns are starting to count up to 270.

SCIUTTO: So how can President Trump or Joe Biden reach that 270 number, the electoral votes needed to clinch the presidency?

And when might we get the first clues as to how this ends?

CNN's John King is at the magic wall, where he always is, to walk us through some scenarios.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The tumultuous pandemic campaign of 2020 is drawing to a close. On Tuesday night, we fill in the map. We count America's votes. Some states red. Some states blue. And we determine who is the next President of the United States.

Let's use the 2016 map for little pointers on what to watch for on Election Night. Number one, patience is required in this pandemic election because of a good thing. Overwhelming, early and mail-in voting have many states thinking they will be overwhelmed in the count. And it could take some time.

Three states in particular, that made Donald Trump president, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, once the Democratic blue wall. Flipped in 2016. All three say it could take them into Wednesday, perhaps even longer, to count all those mail-in ballots and to know who the winner is, especially if it's close.

Pennsylvania, in fact, says it could go to Thursday or Friday if it's very close and they count those ballots. So we need patience, number one.

But we will get some clues. Some states that are good at counting mail-in ballots are Florida and North Carolina, both red in 2016. Both, absolutely critical. If the president is going to pull off another Election Day surprise, overcome the polls and win reelection, he has to win Florida and he has to win North Carolina.

So as we get into late Tuesday night and those states are reporting more and more vote totals, we should get a clue. If Joe Biden can carry either Florida or North Carolina or both, that would be a statement. We may not get to 270 if we're waiting on these guys but that would be a statement, something to watch.

Another state that expects to finish early, Arizona. Not as big in the Electoral College. But again, reliably red state for a long time. Back to the Bill Clinton days, not since then, has a Democrat won it. If that one flipped it would give us a sign on Election Night.

The battle, of course, we all remember 2016. We pick presidents not by the popular vote. Joe Biden is expected to win the popular vote and some think by even a bigger margin than Hillary Clinton four years ago. We pick presidents state by state.

Donald Trump is president because of the Electoral College. So again, Joe Biden, a comfortable lead here, a modest lead here and a modest lead here, just flipping the so-called blue wall, rebuilding it for the Democrats, that would make Joe Biden President of the United States.

He does see an opportunity, again, to do Florida, North Carolina, maybe Arizona. Some Democrats have dreams. They're close in Texas. They're close in traditionally Republican Iowa, in traditionally Republican Ohio. It is possible if the election breaks for Joe Biden late they could make an election statement.

But they can't plan on that in the Biden campaign. So the assumption is maybe Trump is strong in these traditionally Republican areas. Protect up here. If you are the president of the United States, you have a steeper hill now than you did in the dramatic comeback, dramatic, Election Day surge in 2016.

The president of the United States needs to keep Florida, needs to keep North Carolina. Then, perhaps, if he loses Arizona, if he can get Pennsylvania back, that puts him right back in the game. That's a tie, 269-269. There is a congressional district here. A congressional district here. Those two states, Nebraska and Maine, divide their electoral votes that way, by congressional district.

So that would make it -- or if the president could get Wisconsin back, that would do it, which why, in the end, we may have to wait for the votes.

[02:35:00]

KING: The blue wall states absolutely critical to the Democrats. Advantage, Joe Biden, going in. Here's how we ended 2016. Pretty soon, we find out how we end 2020.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: We will, indeed. He is so good at the wall. John King, thanks very much.

HARLOW: He really is.

SCIUTTO: Boils it down.

HARLOW: For sure.

SCIUTTO: I learn something new every time he runs through there. Like magic.

Well, President Trump is expected to be inside the White House, tonight. Watching the results come in from across the country.

HARLOW: And we have heard, obviously, that he wants to have all of the votes counted, by Election Night. That's not how it's all going to work.

So how will you know what the results are when we know them?

Joining us now, CNN chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, and our presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.

Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you for being here.

Brian, thanks for sticking around.

Can you explain to people, what to expect, in terms of when a race is called and -- and the media does it because I'm just sort of protecting against either candidate prematurely declaring victory, what should people watch for?

And also, how are the networks and the big social media platforms planning to handle it if a candidate does get up there and say, I won before we have actually called it?

STELTER: Right. America's unique in many ways, that our voting system is decentralized. This is actually a series of state and local elections. And the numbers trickle up to the national level. And there are actually two systems in the United States, used by the media, to assemble votes counted by local officials.

CNN are members of one group called a national election pool. And then, there is the Associated Press and FOX News. And both groups, independently, are tallying votes and coming up with the results and making projections.

And that should give viewers more confidence, that there are multiple institutions doing this, at the same time. And eventually, getting to the same result. All the networks make projections, independently. Only when they are absolutely confident in the results, the AP declares victory and shares them around the world.

So there is a system that goes back many, many decades and there's a lot of reasons to be confident in it. If President Trump comes out and prematurely declares victory, he will probably be broadcast live.

But he will be wrapped in context. You will see John King, right away, at the wall, showing why the president is not actually being projected the winner. You will see all that context in real time. And that's not just on CNN.

Even FOX News has an ethical, righteous decision desk. I know they have got propagandists in prime time but their decision desk is actually quite reliable. So people can have confidence in that process.

SCIUTTO: Douglas Brinkley, imagine this scenario that the president claims, without basis or backing, that he's won and the networks don't call it and, you know, the other bodies that matter, Congress, et cetera, don't agree, don't accept it.

Well, what happens then?

I mean, do we just -- it's possible the country ignores that claim, right?

Or at least, a large portion does?

DOUG BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, I mean, the good news is that this is a historic voting. So many people are registered. So many people have already pre-voted.

The bad news is history may see this as entanglement of legal suits. Meaning, Donald Trump may simply refuse to say I lost. He's marketed himself, his whole life, as the winner, the guy who never loses.

And this idea, all of a sudden, he's going to give a concession speech or come on and say, well, I came close but we'll get them next time and be gracious toward Joe Biden seems highly unlikely. He has a deep authoritarian bent. In personality he is more like Joe McCarthy or Aaron Burr than he is a typical American president.

So if it gets down to the wire, he's going to just hope, put his final hope, being that the Supreme Court might decide and he thinks that they might decide in his favor. HARLOW: Brian, you talked about television and having fact-checking

around any candidate prematurely declaring victory. That fact-checking does not live, often, on social media.

Do -- do you have clarity, from Facebook, from Twitter, from YouTube, this morning, on what their plan is, if a candidate gets up and delivers a, you know, an "I won" address, without news anchors fact- checking it in real-time?

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Are they going to allow it to be posted?

STELTER: That's right. Facebook, Twitter, will take their cues from the networks. And if there's not been a projection yet by two different networks or news outlets, there will be labels attached to premature claims of victory.

But to be honest, these labels are sometimes rather mild, not entirely clear or not entirely assertive in the statements. So these platforms are something we're going to have to keep an eye on, in those hours. I think in the event, as Brinkley was describing.

[02:40:00]

STELTER: If there is this situation where the president refuses to acknowledge that he has lost, for example, if the numbers are clear, we don't know what's going to happen but if the numbers are clear and the president has lost and refuses to acknowledge it, we are going to see this further polarization and radicalization of the electorate.

Most Americans see through his lies. It's not a 50-50 country when it comes down to these questions of whether the president's honest and trustworthy and believable. It's more like two-thirds of the country that sees him untrustworthy.

But I think what would happen, in this situation, is one-third of the country that's with the president, his most loyal base, they might go ahead and believe him. And a majority, a strong majority, of the American people would not believe him. I think, in that way, trust has been polarized. It's not 50-50 in this country.

SCIUTTO: Douglas, I wonder what the lasting damage is, right, regardless of what the results are today because this wouldn't be the first election the president attacked. Look back four years, he claimed he only lost the popular vote because there were 2 million false votes there, right?

Even set up a commission that went nowhere. So it's been -- it's been a years-long attack by this president on the institution of the election.

What is the lasting damage to that?

And -- and -- and what is required to, if not turn that around to, help stem the hemorrhage, right, of confidence? BRINKLEY: We may have to get a constitutional amendment adopted, down the line, to prevent this kind of tyranny, a president who simply lies, misleads the American people, puts himself above country. We will have to see.

But it has been a very rocky four years with the president, who has done everything unprecedented, has tried to smash institutions, whether it's the State Department or CIA or EPA.

If Joe Biden wins, I'd imagine you'd be looking at a third Obama term. And a lot of that energy will be kind of reengaging the American public with our civic traditions.

I think about Jimmy Carter; when he left office, he wrote his memoir, called "Keeping Faith." And Gerald Ford's was "Time to Heal." The Biden administration, at least a first term, might be just trying to repair a lot of damage that Trump did to our democracy.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen. It's good to see so many Americans voting and that is a sign of the strength of our democracy. Let's hope we find the way forward. Douglas, Brian, gratitude from both of us for joining us and staying up late on this Election Day. We appreciate it.

STELTER: Thanks.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Please, do join us for our special-election coverage, this afternoon, 4:00, Eastern time, right here on CNN.

HARLOW: Meantime, a top adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force is breaking with the administration, now saying the U.S. needs more aggressive action to slow the spread. Hear what Dr. Deborah Birx said. Next.

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HARLOW: Well, listen to this reporting out of "The Washington Post" because it's really significant. They're reporting that task force lead Dr. Deborah Birx sent an internal memo to top White House officials, yesterday, essentially pleading for more aggressive action against coronavirus.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The sense of urgency here is clear.

In part, she wrote, quote, "We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic, leading to increasing mortality."

In fact, she predicts we will see, as a country, more than 100,000 new infections a day, this week. Joining us now is Dr. Seema Yasmin. She is a former CDC disease detective and CNN medical analyst.

Doctor, so good to have you on. Naturally, the thing is, regardless of what happens today and in the days following, this country is heading into dark days, by accounts of all the experts, in terms of this pandemic.

What can be done now to hem that in, to save lives?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Jim, my concern is that Dr. Birx is now ringing the alarm, really calling for urgent action, warning against the kinds of crowded, maskless rallies that the president's been holding across the country, saying we're going to be seeing more than 100,000 new cases every day in the next week.

And also, contradicting the president and saying that cases aren't going up because we're doing more testing. In fact, from her report from November 2nd, she is pointing out that testing is either flat or declining. All of that needs to be reversed.

The frustration is, though, she's now ringing the alarm when things are really bad for many months. Epidemiologists, myself included, were frustrated that she was inaccurately passing the data and presenting a really overly optimistic picture to the president and other officials.

The worry is that he listens to whoever gives him the messaging that he likes. And that's why he has spoken favorably of Dr. Birx in the past. Now she tells sources in "The Washington Post" reports, that she feels like she is being ignored.

And I think she is because we are hearing reports that the president plans to hold a Tuesday evening gathering in the White House of an estimated 300 to 400 people. And he's not listening to Dr. Birx. He is not listening to Dr. Fauci. He is listening to Dr. Atlas, who is spreading misinformation.

HARLOW: Here is the rest of what she said that was -- was striking, Doctor.

Quote, "This is not about lockdowns. It has -- it hasn't been about lockdown since March or April. It's about an aggressive, balanced approach that's not being implemented. And on testing" -- and this may be even more important, she said, testing is, quote, "flat or declining in many areas where cases are rising."

That is the complete opposite of what the president keeps saying, which is, well, the only reason, you know, case numbers are going up is because there's more testing.

YASMIN: Poppy, it's been that bad, for months. You know, we actually set a pretty low bar for the kind of national testing numbers that we should have seen.

[02:50:00]

YASMIN: We've not met that, nationally. Some states have done OK. But less than a dozen, sometimes less than half a dozen. So while I'm glad that she's bringing the sense of urgency, as I said, I'm worried that it's too little, too late. And I'm also worried that, because of this administration's kind of concerted effort to attack science and to not look at the evidence, that now that she is ringing the alarm, will anyone listen?

Or will we just be on track to continue this awful trajectory that we've been seeing over the last few weeks, that is set to get worse over the next months because nothing is changing?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Doctor, I imagine some folks watching tonight have a similar reaction to me, which is, if there isn't national leadership on this, right?

That the experts and the president's own Coronavirus Task Force are recommending, what do I do?

Right?

To protect myself and my family and the people I care about?

What steps can individuals take if the nation is not taking those steps?

YASMIN: So Jim, COVID fatigue is very real. I think I have it because I'm always saying these same things. But it does come back to this overwhelming need for personal responsibility in the absence of good and effective leadership.

So it's really on us to make sure that we are wearing masks, we are doing physical distancing, we are limiting gatherings as much as possible, which is so hard when you're at this point in the year.

More holidays are coming up. And we're just so fed up about there not having been a robust national response. The leadership has really failed Americans. We're 4 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of the COVID-19 cases.

So it comes down to people trying to kind of not be so muddled about the mixed messaging that's coming out. There's some officials saying one thing, some officials saying another. And really heeding that good public health advice, that wearing a mask is not political, it's a really good public health meshes.

Make sure you're avoiding gatherings and physical distancing because those things will protect you both from the new coronavirus but also from the flu. And we are really worried about that in the next months.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen up, folks, the science has been consistent on all this.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, thanks so much.

YASMIN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, Americans, of course, watching this election very closely. So are people all over the world. We're going to be live in the U.K. and China for their view.

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HARLOW: Obviously, the outcome of the U.S. election has broad global implications and, around the world, few will be watching it as closely as the United Kingdom. Whoever becomes the next U.S. president will need to play a major role in trying to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.

That is just one of the big issues at stake.

SCIUTTO: That's right, the special relationship. CNN's Nic Robertson is in London.

So Nic, what are people saying there?

How closely are they following all this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Oh, they're following it closely. I mean, you have the sort of general public, who are watching this. They're watching it play out on the news media. They're getting two or three reports every night.

The main British news media are promoting the fact they'll be anchoring their shows out of Washington. And what they're being told is how close the race is, how every important contested state has seen visits by the vice president and the president.

So yes, people are watching. There are several things at stake. One is I think that you get real concern and confusion here in the U.K. about how can this democratic process go off the rails afterwards if it's contested?

People are seeing the reports about stores being boarded up. So there's a worry here that democracy, the United States, a beacon of democracy, is not going to handle this election very well.

And that's not a good sign for other democracies like the United Kingdom. There's a real hope here that the United States can come out of this and set a clear course on COVID, that it restores its position as global leader on that as well and sets a very positive trend for bringing the numbers down.

That relates to the U.S. economy, which relates to everyone's concerns about how each country's going to come out of the coronavirus pandemic.

And then I think, you know, you have the leadership level here. Boris Johnson is sort of cast by some people as a mini-me Donald Trump. He's very much put his hand in that of President Trump for looking for a good post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.

Vice President Biden could shake all that up. He's told Boris Johnson, don't renege on deals you've made with the E.U. If what you do hurts the Northern Ireland peace agreement that the U.S. was part of then there will be repercussions for that. So yes, people are watching it really closely here.

SCIUTTO: Well, future of the NATO alliance, too. A second term Trump might pull the U.S. out of it. Nic Robertson, great to have you here in London.

China also paying close attention to Election Day here in the U.S. This president, of course, one who began a major trade war with China.

HARLOW: That's right. Let's go to our David Culver. He joins us live in Beijing this morning.

Good morning, David. So much of this on the foreign policy front, this election has been about who would be or who has been tougher on China.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy and Jim, good morning to both of you. Yes, we heard China several times mentioned. And it's that one external target that both parties and both candidates really have been going after.

Here's what's interesting, when you talk about how they're looking at the election from the official standpoint. They don't go into any preference or endorsement obviously.

And they like to profess, from the officials, that they don't want to go into other countries' domestic politics. It's their way of saying don't get into our politics, stay out essentially.

But when you look at state media here, they're coming out with some of the editorials that essentially they're portraying China as really not going to be fazed by the outcome of this election. They like to say that China's forging its own path and it will continue to do so, no matter who's leading the U.S.

The general population, I would say they're looking at this for the most part as a reality show. I mean, they're seemingly unaffected by the outcome.

But the reality is, guys, we know they will be impacted by the outcome because U.S.-China relations are at an all-time low. So whoever's going to be leading the U.S. in the next four years is going to have to confront this.

And if you look at who China prefers going forward, I've had that question asked to me.

[03:00:00]