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Trump Campaign Calls for Wisconsin Recount; Trump May Only Have One Path to Victory; Interview with Wisconsin Elections Administrator Meagan Wolfe. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 4, 2020 - 14:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and this Election Day in America continued. We're inching closer and closer to learning who will be the next president of the United States. Hour by hour, ballot by ballot as millions of legally cast votes are being counted.

Right now, eight states remain undecided in this nail-biter election. The outcome? Hinging on the crucial battlegrounds of Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Former Vice President Joe Biden, holding an advantage right now with 227 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. That's compared to 213 for President Donald Trump.

But right now, we have a major projection. CNN projects that Joe Biden is the winner in the -- in Wisconsin. He will win 10 electoral votes in this key battleground state. Joe Biden is the winner in Wisconsin.

Now, let's take a look at the electoral college map right now. With that win, Biden has now gone up to 237 -- 237 -- electoral votes, 270 needed to win. Trump remains at 213, a major, major win for Joe Biden in the state of Wisconsin.

Let's go over to John King over at the magic wall, 237, 213? He's inching closer and closer to the 270 needed to win.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: That's a big 10, right? It's just 10 electoral votes. You think just 10, you've got to get to 270? But it's a takeaway from the Trump map in 2016, which makes it significant and it is a trendline as we get through this critical day of the states still counting votes.

Now that you shade Wisconsin blue, we're still waiting on Michigan, we're still waiting on Pennsylvania. President's leading, but we're still not done in North Carolina. The president's lead is shrinking in Georgia. And so we go out west. So let's just walk through what this tells us about the important day ahead.

Let me do it in reverse, let me do the president first. Let me bring this up. It is quite possible -- we haven't called this yet, but -- the president gets Maine's second congressional district, right? We know when Alaska's done counting the votes, we assume the president will get that.

Let's just say -- I know Democrats will be upset here, but for the sake of argument, the president's leading in Georgia. Might shrink, we'll see, they're still counting some votes there. The president's leading in North Carolina. Again, we're not done. But if you do that, give the president those, it would be more than fair to the president.

Now we come here. You take Wisconsin, you're leading in Arizona, you're leading in Nevada? That gets Joe Biden to 254, which means Michigan -- where he is leading right now, we can break down the numbers in a minute -- that alone -- that alone with Wisconsin -- if he holds the leads in Michigan, in Arizona and in Nevada, Joe Biden gets to 270 even without the hotly contested 20 here.

The president still leads in Pennsylvania, the Biden campaign thinks as they continue to count the votes they have the math to come back. But even without it, Joe Biden could win the presidency with Wisconsin -- now that we've projected that -- leads in Michigan, leads in Arizona, leads in Nevada. Took away that congressional district last night, that gets you to 270, that's the finish line.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at Wisconsin right now, see what we're seeing right now. Because the president has -- his campaign has already requested a recount in Wisconsin, but show us the vote now and the vote four years ago in Wisconsin.

KING: They have, and it's very significant that the former Republican governor, Scott Walker, who does not mind a good partisan fight, just tweeted that given this margin -- 20,500 votes -- he thinks it is highly unlikely that you would reverse it. He talked about two previous recounts in races where the vote total changed by 300 or 100- and-something votes. When you have 20,000 and they say they're done counting -- just about done counting -- in Wisconsin --

BLITZER: Four years ago, the numbers were pretty similar --

KING: Right, so --

BLITZER: -- but Hillary Clinton did not request a recount.

KING: She did not, and here's the look four years ago. You see Donald Trump with 1.4 million votes and change, he won by 22,748. Fast- forward to where we are now, that's a slightly smaller lead for Joe Biden, 20,000 votes.

And so where did it come from? When they kept counting -- Waukesha County in the suburbs here -- the president wins. But this was it, this is what we were waiting for. They're now up to 99 percent. As they counted the votes in Milwaukee, Joe Biden got a big chunk out of Milwaukee. Again, we go back four years ago and you look at the difference.

The big thing four years ago? Democrats were disappointed at turnout in Milwaukee. Look at that, 288,000 and change there. You come forward now, 317,000. In a higher turnout election, Joe Biden with a 20,000- vote lead. And again, the Trump campaign has every right to ask for a recount.

The state will do its canvassing now. You need another 10 days or so -- a little more than that -- before that is certified, and then they can ask for a recount. The question is, will they? They say they're going to, that's a different process, you legally have to do it.

And again, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, saying the odds of that are pretty steep. I've covered elections for a long time, changing a 20,000-vote lead is most unlikely but it's within the rules.

One of the things we're going to go through today is all this contention as we count in all the states that are still out. We're going to go through contention, it's within the rules, we'll watch it play out.

BLITZER: You know, Wisconsin though is a very, very significant move --

[14:05:00]

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- for the former vice president right now. And if you take a look at some of the states out west, we're talking about --

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- Nevada specifically right now, Arizona, that potentially could bring him over the top.

KING: Right. The key is takeaways, right? Donald Trump won with 306 electoral votes. Joe Biden had to take something away. You were hoping to take away Texas -- not happening. You thought you would take away Florida, not happening. Again, I just want to switch the map here.

We have the difference. You see the gray states, right? They're not called yet. If you see it gray on the map, we have not projected a winner. What you see when I take this off is the candidate who is leading right now. So that's a big takeaway there.

Michigan's not done yet but again, I just want to show you the lead in Michigan. Biden's lead in Michigan is 44,000, just shy of 45,000 votes. That is significant, especially because we know a lot of the outstanding vote is in Democratic areas like Detroit.

Then you move up here into the suburbs, a little bit left here. More importantly a decent amount left here, Flint, Michigan. And you move out to the west in Kalamazoo and you see this red in Kent County, that's Grand Rapids and the county around it but the outstanding vote is right in the city, which is a Democratic area. So we do expect Biden may actually expand from 44,000. Let's count the votes and see.

But if you -- we've now projected Wisconsin, Michigan is moving in Biden's direction, so then you move west. Number one, Biden's goal? Protect the Clinton states. He has done that so far. Nevada, we haven't called it yet, that's a pretty narrow lead.

And there's an intellectual inconsistency, if you will: the Trump campaign says stop counting in Pennsylvania, stop counting -- they won it overnight -- stop counting in Michigan and Wisconsin. They want to keep counting here. They have every right to keep counting, they should just want that everywhere.

If you look in Nevada right now, 84 percent. So you've got more votes to count. Clark County, is the largest area of the state, it's going to be 72, 73 percent of the vote statewide. Vegas and the big suburbs, crowded suburbs around it, Joe Biden's winning 53 percent of the vote. Again, we don't know until we count but common sense tells you as they keep counting votes there, it makes it hard for the president to come back.

And even up here in more of a swing county, Washoe, where Reno is and the more rural areas to the north of it, Joe Biden getting his share there, about 51 percent. Again, it's more swing but we've got about 10 percent of the vote still to be counted. The president could make up some votes there.

But if you look at this math, the trend line -- again, that's close, 7,600 votes, you want to count them. The trend line has the Biden campaign optimistic. And then you move here, this would be the takeaway. Arizona has not voted Democrat for president since Bill Clinton with a little help from Ross Perot back in the day, a generation ago.

And so what's happening here? Again, 93,000 votes, that's a decent chunk of votes. And The Trump campaign says we want to come back here? The issue is Maricopa County -- again, this is more than 60 percent of your statewide vote is going to come right out of here, Phoenix and the growing suburbs around it, one of the most fastest-growing parts of the country, 52 percent for Joe Biden, 46 percent for the president, about 14,15 percent of the vote still to be counted here.

You move south from there to Pima County, where Tucson is? The vice president's getting 60 percent of the vote there, about 10 percent more to be counted.

So if you look at this map, where you see the red -- yes, the president could pick up some votes? They're much smaller, less populous counties. So we want to do the math and get to the finish line, but if you're in the Biden campaign headquarters right now, you think, OK, we're on a path to hold Nevada, we can flip Arizona. Then it all comes down to Michigan, even without Pennsylvania.

If you're in the Trump campaign, you're calling out here and you're asking your people, you know, what's out, what are we missing. But the numbers at this moment just simply don't look good --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: A significant win for Biden in Wisconsin --

KING: Yes. BLITZER: -- right now. Let's go to -- that's really important, let's

go to Jake, Dana and Abby (ph).

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Wolf. So obviously, what's going on right now is what we said last night in the wee hours of the morning. People are counting the votes.

And the Biden team said -- as happened in Virginia -- you have to wait for the urban centers and the suburban centers to have their votes counted. Virginia looked like Trump was going to win, but then of course Richmond and Fairfax County voted and Biden won.

The Wisconsin awarding, the projection of that to Biden, is a big deal. It is a big deal. And as John said, anything could happen but it does not look good for Trump right now. Because right now, the votes are still coming in but it does look good for Biden.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Wisconsin in particular is a giant brick that Joe Biden is putting back in that blue wall that Donald Trump completely busted four years ago.

And we know how worried the Trump campaign is about Wisconsin, just based on what they're already doing, what their position is, how they're poised to say that they want a recount already.

We should note -- and I think John mentioned this earlier -- but that the only way that a recount can formally be asked for is when the canvassing is complete, meaning the vote counting is complete. That's November 17th. So they're signaling that they're going to do it, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen based on what else happens across these battleground states.

TAPPER: We should also say that it is completely within the Trump campaign's right --

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: -- to request a recount.

[14:10:00]

BASH: Absolutely.

TAPPER: I mean, if they want to do that, they can. And nobody should think that there's anything untoward going on. Campaigns can ask for recounts.

BASH: Especially when it's --

(CROSSTALK)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BASH: -- tight because let me just say, four years ago Wisconsin, like Michigan, were so close. I mean, a little more than 10,000 votes is all Donald Trump won by, so they understand how close these races are --

PHILLIP: Right.

BASH: -- and it's not -- I mean, we'll see again once the votes are counted, it may be not that different this time.

PHILLIP: I mean, that's such a great point. But we should remember that four years ago it was this close, like almost exactly 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, about 10,000 in Michigan? Hillary Clinton conceded to Donald Trump on the night of the election.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: And yes, Wisconsin did go to a recount because the Jill Stein campaign requested it, but only a few hundred votes -- maybe not even a few hundred votes -- changed in that process.

So they have every right to have a recount in Wisconsin, but it just shows that this is not a great situation for the Trump campaign to be in. Right now, the margin in Wisconsin is the tightest margin in that upper Midwestern region. The margin in Michigan is wider, about 40,000 votes. In Pennsylvania, President Trump is in the lead but there are over a million votes still outstanding that could heavily favor Joe Biden.

So it's a tough situation that they're in, but it also explains why they're emphasizing Arizona so much. If Arizona doesn't go their way, it really -- I mean, it makes the map almost impossible.

BASH: And the important thing to remember when looking back four years ago, one of the big reasons Hillary Clinton conceded is it wasn't just 10,000 votes in Michigan, 10,000-plus votes in Wisconsin. It was 44,000 votes that she was losing by and ended up losing by In Pennsylvania, and she wasn't in the hunt (ph) in Arizona or in Georgia or in other places.

TAPPER: Right. No, it's interesting but let's talk about the road to 270. Because right now, Joe Biden has 237 electoral votes that CNN has projected. President Trump has 213. How can Joe Biden get to 270 to become the president? Walk us through --

PHILLIP: Yes --

TAPPER: -- and then we'll do Trump after that.

PHILLIP: This will, I think, clarify a lot of things for people, because we can literally quantify. When we talk about paths to 270, we can quantify what that means.

And this map that you're seeing right now is the current map according to the projections that CNN has made in this race. As you can see, a lot of these states are still just undetermined, 237 for Joe Biden, 213 for Donald Trump. Dark red is Donald Trump, dark blue is Joe Biden.

Joe Biden right now is leading in the state of Arizona by about 93,000 votes .He's also leading in the state of Michigan by about 44,000 votes. If I give those two states to Joe Biden, if that holds, take a look at Joe Biden's paths to victory.

He can win -- all he needs to do is win just one of these --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: One of those four.

PHILLIP: -- that you see on the screen. He can win Pennsylvania, he can win the state of Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and so on.

But let me show you Donald Trump's paths to victory here.

He has one -- one path --

TAPPER: He has one path to victory?

PHILLIP: -- he has one single path to victory. If the state of Arizona and the state of Michigan remain in Joe Biden's hands, that one path to victory --

TAPPER: He has to run the table.

PHILLIP: -- is this. All of those states that you see colored in in yellow are states that Donald Trump must win to get to 270 electoral --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Abby, what if the president somehow pulls it out in Arizona and pulls it out in Michigan? Then what?

PHILLIP: So this is why, as you'll see, that this is also important. Because if you take -- if you give Donald Trump the state of Arizona --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Even though he's trailing now, right? Almost 100,000 votes -- yes.

PHILLIP: -- he -- yes, though he's trailing now, yes, just for the sake of the exercise --

TAPPER: Just for giggles.

PHILLIP: -- let's just give it to him. So now he's got two paths.

TAPPER: Yes -- OK.

PHILLIP: Not a whole lot easier, he still has to win Pennsylvania, he still has to win Georgia, which is a really tight race but he's leading there. He's got to hold onto North Carolina but he can do it.

So Arizona really preserves the paths to victory for President Trump at a really critical time. And that's why you see the Trump campaign fighting so hard to keep that undetermined at the very least right now.

TAPPER: OK, so let me -- let's go through and just give states according to where they are right now in terms of how they're leaning. So let's give Arizona --

PHILLIP: Back to Joe Biden, Nevada --

TAPPER: -- to Joe Biden, because he's ahead. Let's give Michigan -- OK, Nevada --

PHILLIP: So this is the -- this is the Joe Biden path to victory, right? So this is why --

TAPPER: -- we -- OK. That's -- these are the three states he's leading in right now, Biden.

PHILLIP: these are the three states that he's leading in. If he wins Arizona, if he wins Nevada, where he's leading by a very narrow margin I would say --

TAPPER: HE won't even need Pennsylvania.

[14:15:00]

PHILLIP: -- and he wins Michigan, he doesn't even need the state --

BASH: Right.

PHILLIP: -- of Pennsylvania (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: What about -- now first of all, what about Omaha? Because he won the first -- the second congressional district in Nebraska --

PHILLIP: And we've called --

TAPPER: -- you've already given --

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIP: -- you've called that race for him --

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: It's just not showing up on the map?

PHILLIP: -- so -- yes, it is there and you can see it right here in the corner, but it has been --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: So he already -- so Joe Biden, if he just wins the states that he is leading in right now -- Michigan, Arizona and Nevada -- that's it?

PHILLIP: That's it. And --

TAPPER: OK. So let's give Trump Georgia and North Carolina because I still think it's likely that he'll get Georgia and North Carolina.

PHILLIP: So let's give --

TAPPER: Give Trump Georgia and North Carolina.

PHILLIP: -- Georgia and North Carolina. And --

TAPPER: And let's give Biden Nevada and Arizona and Michigan. And -- OK, and Pennsylvania's still a question mark. Even with --

PHILLIP: But Joe Biden has already won --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: He's already won?

PHILLIP: Yes.

TAPPER: -- even with the lawsuits, because we know the Trump family is having a press conference in Philadelphia, and I'm sure they're going to besmirch Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the process. Even if they win it or even if we don't know who won Pennsylvania for the next year, President Biden is the reality?

PHILLIP: The Biden campaign has been saying for a long time that they -- that in their -- the way that they see the map right at this moment, even if Pennsylvania remains undecided, they do not think that they must win it. Because they think -- they are saying that they've already -- they feel confident in the state of Arizona --

BASH: Yes, about Arizona.

PHILLIP: -- which becomes a linchpin of a strategy to not even need the state of Pennsylvania.

BASH: Can you humor me with one other path?

TAPPER: Commonwealth.

PHILLIP: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Never heard you say that, Jake.

Nevada, because it is so close there, let's just -- for giggles, as Jake says -- let's give Nevada to Trump and see what happens.

TAPPER: Anything could happen, it's a --

(CROSSTALK) PHILLIP: Yes, right, I mean, the margin in Nevada right now is very, very narrow, right?

BASH: Yes. So --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: -- Trump --

BASH: -- so what is the path there for Joe Biden for example?

PHILLIP: Take a look at this. So now they each have -- we've given, for the sake of this argument that we're having here, we've given Joe Biden North Carolina, we've -- or I'm sorry, we've given Donald Trump North Carolina, we've given him the state of Georgia, both of them still undetermined tonight.

But we've given Joe Biden Nevada, where he's leading. We've given him Michigan, where he's -- or I'm sorry, Arizona where he's leading and Michigan where he's leading. So now their paths to victory are one each.

TAPPER: Run through the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

PHILLIP: Pennsylvania --

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: Yes, OK.

BASH: That's so fascinating.

TAPPER: That's interesting.

PHILLIP: So look, this is a very fluid map, but you see why both of these campaigns are maneuvering the way that they are. Because these states really matter. Where Nevada and Arizona end up will really matter at the end of the day in terms of how they get to 270.

TAPPER: We should also just note that the Trump campaign is attempting two completely opposite arguments depending on the state.

PHILLIP: Yes.

TAPPER: The Biden campaign is just saying count all the votes. The Trump campaign is saying count the votes here in Arizona and Nevada --

PHILLIP: But not there.

TAPPER: -- where we're behind, but don't count the votes in Pennsylvania. And we might even call for a recount in Wisconsin because they are literally and figuratively all over the map, just trying to desperately cling to power.

All right, let's go to the guest right now. We have joining us is the top election officials in Wisconsin, Meagan Wolfe. Ms. Wolfe, thanks so much for joining us.

So the Trump campaign says that they are going to, quote, "immediately ask for a recount." Have you formally heard anything from the Trump campaign and are you going to conduct a recount?

MEAGAN WOLFE, WISCONSIN ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR: Well, thank you so much for the question. And our law spells out exactly how a recount would be conducted. So we haven't received the official filing yet, but our law does allow for an aggrieved candidate -- one of the two top vote-getters -- if they're within one percent margin of one another, that the aggrieved candidate can file for a recount in our state.

They do have to do that by the third day after the counties in our state certify results and submit them to our office for certification. So right now we're in that certification process and so that timeline is a little fluid.

TAPPER: When you say aggrieved candidate, that's just a term of art. That could be any candidate, there doesn't actually have to be any evidence of malfeasance?

The Trump campaign, we should note, has alleged reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties, which in the view of the Trump campaign, raised serious doubts about the election and the validity of the results in their view.

First of all, do you know what they're talking about? And second of all, is that even necessary in order to ask for a recount?

WOLFE: So thank you for that as well. So no, there -- it just is a matter of whether or not the top two vote getters are within one percent of the margin of victory from one another. So it doesn't -- they don't have to make any specific claims. We're not aware of any processes that weren't followed at yesterday's election.

[14:20:01]

From my perspective as Wisconsin's chief election official and nonpartisan election official, yesterday's voting process and Election Night counting went very well in Wisconsin.

And despite the more absentees that our state received, the evening really proceeded in a very normal fashion. And I think that our election was conducted with precision and voters should feel really confident about the process that was followed, about the laws that were followed to make sure that every valid ballot was counted.

TAPPER: I've covered recounts before. I wrote a book about the Florida recount 20 years ago. I'm not aware of any recount in which the candidate who was trailing by more than 20,000 votes has been able to change the results of the election. Usually it's only a few dozen, maybe a few hundred.

Has there ever been a recount in Wisconsin where the -- a chasm, a margin of victory of that size, 20,000, has actually reversed itself in a recount? How likely do you think it is that a recount could change the result of this race?

WOLFE: We conducted a presidential recount in 2016. So the state of Wisconsin and our county election officials have experience with this process. And you know, every step of elections is carefully planned and executed and every document, you know, be it the paper ballots that every ballot cast in Wisconsin has, voter registrations, applications, the certificate envelopes, all of those things are maintained as part of the process and are available for public inspection.

And so I think that we'll find that our local election officials, as we've seen before, did a phenomenal job in running yesterday's election and making sure that every valid ballot counted.

TAPPER: OK, so you're not going to answer the question about how likely it is that 20,000 -- that's fine, I understand the position you're in.

Let me ask you just technically, how would it take place? So there's a certain date that they would have to ask for a recount. I assume it would be a machine recount, right? So would that just be done within 24 hours? When would it start and when would it likely end?

WOLFE: Right, so as we saw in 2016, there is a period of time established by law, and we're working with our local election officials right now just to make sure that we're prepared in the event that a recount is filed in our state.

That happens at the county level. So Wisconsin is very unique in that we administer elections at the municipal level. So each city, town and village. But a recount is conducted at the county level, and often those county election officials -- and we have 72 of them in Wisconsin -- will bring in local election officials to help conduct that election.

They do have some flexibility in terms of how they do that verification, but there are very specific things outlined in the law in terms of what materials they need to review to make sure that every voter was lawfully registered, that each ballot was requested lawfully and that voter participation is accurate as well.

And so those procedures are followed very carefully, but some things like whether or not they can do a hand-count of the paper materials versus using their voting equipment that has been retested and -- to make sure that it's accurate -- they do have some discretion in how that process is executed.

TAPPER: All right, so each of the election officials in each of the counties gets to decide whether it's a hand recount or a machine recount.

How long did the 2016 recount take?

WOLFE: You know, I don't have the exact timeline in front of me, but there certainly is a procedure in place to make sure that we meet all the other statutory deadlines include the process to start the presidential elector process as well.

TAPPER: All right.

WOLFE: So our deadline at the state to certify the election is December 1st.

TAPPER: All right, Meagan Wolfe, nonpartisan election official, top election official in Wisconsin, thank you so much. Good luck to you, we appreciate the job that you do.

Still ahead, when will more blank spaces on the electoral map fill in? We're standing by for more results.

[14:24:15]

We're also waiting to hear from Joe Biden after our major projection of his win in Wisconsin, he's planning to speak in Delaware soon. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: If you are just joining us, welcome. CNN has projected that Joe Biden will win the key battleground state of Wisconsin. That brings the former vice president closer to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the presidency. Joe Biden currently has 237 electoral votes, President Trump has 213 electoral votes.

This is a live picture right now from Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden is planning to speak to the American people. We will carry his remarks, live. But first, let's go to our correspondents covering the campaigns.

First to Jim Acosta, who is with President Trump. And, Jim, you're learning that the Trump team is not only calling for a recount in Wisconsin -- which we have projected Biden will win -- but they're fighting in Michigan as well?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. The Trump campaign has just said in a statement a short while ago that it is planning on filing a lawsuit. They say they're planning to file a lawsuit in Michigan.

They're claiming at this point that they have not been given what they're calling meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, and so they're asking in this lawsuit that the ballot counting be halted until they're provided with that kind of access.

And so, Jake, you set that up perfectly, they're wanting to continue to count the ballots and recount the ballots in Wisconsin while halting the counting of the ballots in Michigan.

[14:30:07]