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Coronavirus Infections Surging Across Nation as Voters Hit Polls; 12 Million Plus Americans Unemployed, No New Stimulus as Voters Head to Polls; Early Voting Shatters Records Ahead of Election; The World is Watching as American Votes. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Listen, everyone has their right to vote and that's priority. But before we go, just, can you paint a picture for people who are concerned when they hear these alarming predictions from a Dr. Birx or Dr. Fauci about exactly where this pandemic is headed? Describe it to us.

DR. ESTHER CHOO, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Yes, it is hard to overstate how grim things are going into the winter. I mean, here we are setting records almost every single day for case counts, and this is not testing, by the way, this is cases that are out pacing any increase in testing. And what we have seen every step of the way is when we see an increase in cases that's followed by hospitalizations and that is followed by deaths.

And already, as you mentioned, many of our hospitals across the country are being overwhelmed and that is an incredibly dangerous thing to see going into the winter. Because we're about to be hit with flu. And although we have been celebrating improvements in mortality, I want to be really clear, when hospitals are overwhelmed, we cannot provide the best and safest care and then hospital workers start getting sick too. And we still don't have enough personal protective equipment. So, all of this is coming together like the perfect storm. This is keeping us awake at night. This is very concerning, and I am not a dramatic person. But we're all worried.

SCIUTTO: Well, as you say, Dr. Birx said, too, cases are going up not because we're testing more -- contradicting the President -- but because sadly, the virus is spreading. Dr. Esther Choo, thanks so much.

CHOO: Thank you both.

HARLOW: Well, there is on top of all of this, no new stimulus deal in sight as millions of Americans continue to struggle and are desperate for help as I that face a grueling winter. We will be with the President's former senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett next to talk about what the implications of this are. Ahead.

[04:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: As the world anxiously awaits the results of the election, Wall Street is bracing as well. The "Wall Street journal" reports investors are heading into what could be the most volatile week for markets all year. We are also heading into what will be, we know, a volatile winter with coronavirus.

And as the final ballots are cast, "The Washington Post" reports that millions of Americans are at risk, we know, of having their power shut off, their water shut off because of unpaid utility bills largely for those out of work because Congress has failed to reach another stimulus agreement.

With me now is the former senior economic adviser to President Trump, Kevin Hassett. Kevin, it's really good to have you. Thanks for getting up very early for us. Good Morning.

KEVIN HASSETT, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: Thanks, good to be here, Poppy, yes, of course.

HARLOW: On October 6th, when we spoke that evening, this was just as the President cut off stimulus talks before restarting them, you said to me that it was unfortunate, and you said we remain closed to edge of an economic calamity. And that was weeks ago and look where we are now. I don't have to tell you 8 million more people are in poverty than were in May. The list goes on and on and on, whoever wins, Biden or Trump, what needs to be their number one priority on the economy to help these millions of Americans?

HASSETT: Right. Well, I think if you look at how well the economy is doing, you know, through the third quarter, the recovery is way above expectation because Democrats and Republicans worked together very well on three phases of stimulus bill back in the spring.

On the phase four deal, you know, I worked on that before I left the White House for a second time. There was an outline of a deal that was very similarly designed to the first that worked so well. And I thought we were about to have a deal. But then, you know, the House I think added some poison pills to it. They probably decided they didn't want a stimulus bill before the election. And the President wasn't able to move them off that mark. The point is just that after the election, I think everybody's going to go back to that mood they were in when we passed the phase 3 deal, and I would expect that the markets should start to price a deal right after the election, regardless of the outcome.

HARLOW: But you would agree that largely what drove that third quarter enormous rebound in economic growth was largely stimulus funding. Right, you cannot have anything close to that continue without more stimulus. Right?

HASSETT: Yes, I think that's a good way to say it. The way I like to think about it is just that we went down a lot, and like more than 30 percent, and we went up a lot. Again, more than 30 percent, but the issue is if you go from 100 to 70 and go up 30 percent, you only go up 21 percent relative to where you started, right. So, you're still down a lot.

HARLOW: Yes, we're still down.

HASSETT: And so, even though the numbers look about the same, we're down a lot.

HARLOW: OK.

HASSETT: And we're down so much that in a normal recession, we wouldn't have dropped as much as we did after this recovery. And so, everybody should have their recession cap on when doing their policy planning, and we should act aggressively to make sure this doesn't turn into a depression.

Especially, Poppy, and it's something you and I talked about all the way back in January, if I remember, that if the COVID virus continues to stick around and stick around that the economic consequences are going to be extreme the farther in we go. Because there are all these businesses that are treading water. They're just barely holding on. You know, if it's a restaurant, maybe they've got takeout but not dine-in and sooner or later they're going to start to fall like dominos, and it's really important to get aid to them.

HARLOW: Well, really soon. I mean, 40 percent of restaurant owners nationwide say they expect to go out of business by March without more stimulus. Two out of three hotels are not expected to last another six months without help.

And I just ask about the urgency because a guy that you hired to work for you at CEA, Casey Mulligan, told "The Washington Post" about the President post-election, quote, I don't think he's got much interest in stimulus. He doesn't like to give anything for free. I don't think he's going to start now. That's not his style.

Do you agree with him about the urgency from the President for a stimulus to their post-election?

HASSETT: Right, look, I respect Casey a lot, and on this one I would respectfully disagree. You know, I think that what we have all been hoping for, and it's something that is, you know, outside of our area of expertise is all of a sudden there's a vaccine, everybody can go back to normal. At that point, you'll need a little bit of stimulus but not anything like 3 or 4 trillion, right.

But if you're telling me right now the coronavirus sadly is going to continue to be going up in terms of case count, going at least horizontally to up in terms of mortality, then you're looking at a situation where most places are closed for a good long time, and you're going to need a much bigger stimulus than we have had, something along the lines of what the President and Secretary Mnuchin were working on right before the election, right up to the election with Nancy Pelosi.

[04:40:00]

HARLOW: OK, let me ask you about an economy ahead, once there is a vaccine and if the President wins another term because he made a ton of economic promises, as you know, Kevin. This is largely what we ran on, promised to grow the economy by 4 percent a year. That didn't even happen. I'm talking about before the pandemic. He promised to eliminate, his word, the national debt in 8 year. Instead it's ballooned over 27 trillion, and he promised to bring back U.S. manufacturing jobs. We're actually about 237,000 manufacturing jobs less than where we were, have been lost under the President.

My question is if the American people decide he deserves another term, should we expect those things to be fulfilled? Or are those pie in the sky, realistically?

HASSETT: No, you know, I think if you look at the U.S. economy as of January, before COVID really took off in the U.S. and forced us to shut things down, that it was the best economy that I have seen in my lifetime. It was the best economy since World War II.

HARLOW: We were adding to the debt, Kevin, and we only saw 2 1/2 percent growth. He made big promises and they didn't come true.

HASSETT: No, oh, that's not true at all, Poppy. So, as an example, in 2019, the median real wages grew by more than 4,000 which is really high in most of what he promised.

HARLOW: I agree with you on the wage point.

HASSETT: And African-American wages grew more than Caucasian Americans, the bottom deciles wage growth was about 3 percent. It was only about 1 1/2 percent for the top decile. And so, income inequality was declining. There was a lot of good new pieces of news, and I think that basically if you take the same policies, they should take you to the same place if we get past this COVID pandemic. And economies around the world have done a lot worse than us. I think in part because of, for me it's still the under covered story of this partisan season.

Republicans and Democrats worked together to design some really effective stimulus that passed with unanimous consent, and so on. And so, despite the fact that they're shooting arrows at each other all the time, they understood there is a national emergency, they worked together, they did the right thing. And that's why we're in a better spot despite the horrible health tragedy.

HARLOW: I don't disagree with you on the wage point. It's an important point. I bring it up with your liberal friends as well. I would just say these are big economic promises that were made on growth and on eliminating the national debt as well that the American people are banking on. We have to leave it there for time, but come back soon, Kevin.

HASSETT: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you. You got it.

HASSETT: Great to be here.

HARLOW: Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, what will this election mean for our relationships abroad? How our allies and our adversaries are viewing election day here in the U.S. we're going to discuss next.

[04:45:00]

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HARLOW: Well, the polls are opening in a number of states in just about an hour from now. But voters who cast their ballots before today shattered early voting records.

SCIUTTO: I mean, the figure nearly 100 million people voted early by mail or in person. That is more than 70 percent of the total number of people who voted all in all, in 2016. Here's Pamela Brown with a closer look at those amazing numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi there Jim and Poppy. We have seen record early voting turnout in states across the country. In fact, in several states, Arizona, you have Hawaii, you have Texas, you have Nevada, well, the voting in those states, the early voting surpassed all of the voting they had in 2016.

This all happening before polls open across the country, and Republicans, the Trump campaign, are banking on explosive turnout to outweigh all of the early votes coming from Democrats that leaned heavily Democratic, and all of this is coming as we're seeing these last minute, down to the wire lawsuits happening and appeals.

There are these Republican plaintiffs who are making this last minute push to get these ballots tossed out, more than 100,000 ballots tossed out that voters have made through a drive-through in Texas. They had lost in the Texas Supreme Court, It's conservative leaning. They lost with this George W. Bush appointed judge who basically rejected their argument and rejected it on technical grounds and said they waited too long to file this case. And yet they are still appealing this.

Of course, this was an accommodation that was put into place in Harris County, Texas. A large county in Texas, Democratic leaning the past few elections, in order to make voters feel safer to cast their ballots. So those Republican plaintiffs are continuing with that push. Just because they're making the appeal, though, doesn't mean it will be taken up. We should not that.

And then there was a Nevada judge who handed another loss to Republicans and another win to Democrats. These Republican plaintiffs in this case had challenged the signature matching machines that election officials were using in Clark County. That's the home to Vegas in Nevada. They were challenging that. They were challenging the fact that they didn't think they could get close enough to observe what was going on.

But of course, there have been distancing restrictions put into place because of the pandemic and the Nevada judge didn't buy their argument there, and they lost on that too.

Now, as we wait for polls to open, the big question is what litigation we are going to see on election day. That remains to be seen, and we'll be keeping a close eye on it. Back to you -- Jim and Poppy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Thank you so much, Pamela. Well, the world is watching this election today with great interest. The future of so many relationships with the U.S. hanging in the balance. Will it be four more years of a transactional America first foreign policy from a President who is still a businessman. Of course, four more years of America first or guided by a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, a Vice President with a more traditional mainstream view of America's standing in the world.

Here with me now to discuss, Bobby Ghosh, columnist and editorial board member for Bloomberg. And Leslie Vinjamuri, head of U.S. and Americas Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Thanks to both of you.

[04:50:00]

Bobby, I wonder if I could begin with you. If you look at the Pew global survey, for instance, great poll, international measuring America's standing, favorability it's really at historically low levels right now in the age of Trump. I wonder, do you see that changing based on this election? Of course, if he's reelected, perhaps not, but with a new president, what's behind it?

BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST AND EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, BLOOMBERG: I think if there's a change in the White House, there will be an immediate bump in those numbers. How far they will go is a little hard to predict, but we did see this when Barack Obama followed George Bush, another American President who was unpopular in large part in the world. Barack Obama, when he became President, got an immediate benefit of the doubt across the world, and there was a significant uptick in appreciation for the United States.

I think you'll see the same thing happen here. Trump has been such an outlier, such an unpredictable and for many people around the world, such a divisive and destructive force that America's standing has fallen quite dramatically as those numbers have shown us.

With Joe Biden, I'm not sure that people necessarily think he has the same charisma and same appeal as Barack Obama, but just the fact that he's not Donald Trump itself is quite important. And as you pointed out in your intro, this is not some stranger coming out of nowhere. This is a man with decades of foreign policy experience. There's a reassurance of a return to predictability in relations with America.

SCIUTTO: Leslie, it's not just President Trump's likability, right, I mean, he has departed from decades old American principles in terms of how it approaches the world. He's cozying up to dictators that American presidents used to stand up to, and his attacks on alliances that American presidents with both parties were devoted to. Whether it be NATO, relationships with Canada, Mexico. How easily is that turned around even if there is a new President?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, U.S. AND THE AMERICAS PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think it depends very much on what Vice President Biden does. It's certainly the case as we just heard that an election of Vice President Biden to the presidency would certainly, have a very positive -- very well received certainly across Europe, here the United Kingdom. 76 percent of those people polled would like to see the Vice President elected.

What does he do, there's some immediately obvious gains that would be popular certainly in Europe and far beyond. Whether it's recommitting the United States to the Paris Accords, recommitting the United States to the World Health Organization. Reaffirming that America takes NATO seriously.

But as you suggested, it's so important, I think, for so many people to be able to look to America as committing to the values of democracy, of liberalism, of human rights, being able to conduct a free and fair election. People are watching to see what it is that America does today, and how it's handled in the days ahead, and they are judging America based on what it does at home.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, listen, Bobby, that is no small thing, because as you watch some of the President's attacks on this election, you know, steps taken to try to restrict voting rather than expand voting. You know, it echoes steps that a previous American President of either party might have called out if he were to observe it, he or she were to observe it in another country.

I mean, I wonder how seriously folks overseas take that when they look at what's happening in the U.S. right now with this election. Do they look at it as a genuine threat to sort of the American principle of free and fair elections?

GHOSH: Yes, I think they absolutely do. A lot of the things that we're seeing now in the lead up to this election will be familiar to people in illiberal parts of the world, their governments and their dictators speak like this, say things like this. And so, they have long held America as different as something aspirational, and it will be distressing for them.

Of course, for America's enemies, this is all meat and potatoes. This is nothing but good news for someone like Xi Jinping, or Vladimir Putin, because it allows them directly or indirectly to say to their people, you think America is that big shining city on the hill. Look, it's not shining. It's just as bad as things are here, possibly worse.

It gives reassurance to America's enemies. It gives reassurance to those who have long railed against the American system. So, this election has been like none that I have ever covered before, and particularly now, seeing it from abroad, I have been living in Europe for the last couple of years.

[04:55:00]

It's quite astonishing to see how, even though who are deeply cynical about democracy or deeply cynical about what politicians in general say, are quite distressed by what they're seeing happen in the United States. It cuts through even the cynicism.

SCIUTTO: You know, personally, and nationally, right, reputations are difficult to build, easy to lose or to damage. I just wonder, Leslie, as you see this President pull the U.S. out of international agreements, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Accords, does one election restore -- and again, we don't know what's going to happen today in this election -- but does one political change, political cycle restore that kind of confidence or is there some lasting damage here?

VINJAMURI: Well, there are certainly a lot of people here in the United Kingdom and across Europe who think that even if Vice President Biden is reelected that there's no going back to the old transatlantic partnership, to the old form of America's internationalism that Donald Trump was at least in large part a symptom of a deeper, longer term change in the United States.

But I have to say I'm skeptical. I think that if Vice President Biden is elected, that if he recommits to science, to facts, to democracy, to clarity, to diplomacy, and that he actually takes America back into those international institutions and those partnerships, I think we will see quite a profound level of support. Remember that, whoever takes over on January 20th, will be taking over at the time of grave global crisis.

We, for American leadership, the desire for American leadership is very, very high, and people are hoping. What I'm seeing is that people are skeptical but they're hoping for America today, and they're very buoyed by the news of voter turnout, by the cases that are being won against voter suppression. So, a lot hangs in the balance. But I think we'll be surprised at how much things change if the election goes to Vice President Biden.

SCIUTTO: Leslie Vinjamuri, Bobby Ghosh, thank you so much to both of you.

HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for staying up half the night with us. We appreciate it. It is election day in America. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto, please go out and vote if you haven't already. It's a big day, and "NEW DAY" will start after a quick break.

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