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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Presidential Race Still Too Close to Call; Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Has Electoral College Lead over President Trump; Vote Counting Continues in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona; Trump Campaign Filing Lawsuits Concerning Vote Counting in Battleground States; Razor-Thin Margins Separate Biden, Trump in Uncalled States; Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is Interviewed About the Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 5, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


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[08:00:27]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman here. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN's special live coverage of an American presidential election that is still undecided at this hour. It's 8:00 a.m. in the east, 5:00 in the west, and votes are still being counted in several key states. Razor thin margins in these four states that have been on the move all night long -- Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada. Either candidate could still win. One candidate is closer.

Former Vice President Joe Biden currently with 253 electoral votes, he is as little as one state away from victory. As of now the president has 213 electoral votes. He has an uphill climb, but still very much in it.

Now, despite the fact that there is no real evidence of any irregularity, none, the president is launching lawsuit after lawsuit to challenge vote counts in key states. But let's start with the real numbers that tell the real story. Stand by for a CNN key race alert.

This is where things stand in those states where things are very, very close. In Arizona, worth 11 electoral votes, Joe Biden with a 68,000 vote lead. This margin has been getting narrower by the hour there. The president banking some votes, we're watching it very closely. In Georgia with 16 electoral votes, Donald Trump ahead by 18,000. This, too, getting narrower by the minute. Still votes to be counted in urban population centers that have been skewing Democratic. Joe Biden has a chance there.

In Pennsylvania, Donald Trump with a 164,000 vote lead, 20 electoral votes up for grabs. We're not completely sure how much vote is left. Is it 400,000? Is it 700,000? Either way, the votes that have been coming in highly Democratic. Vote by mail, urban population centers, Joe Biden been banking votes and getting closer and closer as the night has gone on. Other states we're watching very closely this morning, North Carolina,

15 electoral votes, the president with a 76,000 vote lead. Both campaigns think the president is relatively safe there, not much has changed. Finally, Nevada, six electoral votes, Joe Biden with a 7,000 vote lead. This has been static. We haven't seen any new vote from Nevada for quite some time. We are expecting it later this morning. We will keep you posted as it comes in.

Let's give you a sense of what this means for the overall map. Joe Biden with 253 electoral votes at this point, Donald Trump 213. You can see Joe Biden potentially one state away from victory if that state is Pennsylvania, worth 20 electoral votes. So let's walk over to the magic wall. Phil Mattingly is there. And Phil, that's where I want to start, with Pennsylvania, where they've been tabulating all night. I want to start there because if Joe Biden manages to win, it puts him over the top.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a crucial point. Both candidates have pathways to 270 electoral votes. Joe Biden has more, and the cleanest one for Joe Biden right now is to come back and take control of the state of Pennsylvania. We start in Pennsylvania right now. Donald Trump, as John just noted, a margin of 164,000 plus votes. That is down from more than 700,000 votes over the course of the last 12 hours. Why is that happening? Think back to Michigan, think back to Wisconsin. Election Day vote is counted first. In all three of those states, the Election Day vote leaned heavily Republican. That is a testament to President Trump's turnout operation.

But once the vote by mail started getting counted, that happened after that fact, that is heavily Democratic. And we have seen just as we did in Wisconsin, just as we did in Michigan, both states called for Joe Biden, Vice President Biden chip away 10, 20, 30, hundreds of thousands of votes.

Here is the key question -- how much is outstanding, and where is it? It is hundreds of thousands of votes outstanding, and as John noted, it is Democratic strongholds. It is southeastern Pennsylvania. It is most notably Philadelphia County. I want to take a look at Philadelphia County real quick just to make a key point. Philadelphia County, right now this is a county where Hillary Clinton had more than 580,000 votes back in 2016. Right now Joe Biden is at 457,000 votes. The expectation turnout is better, it's bigger, and there's 30 percent outstanding just in this county.

You move out to the rest of southeastern Pennsylvania, there's a couple other counties with tens of thousands of votes that are expected to come in. Move out west as well, Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, Democratic stronghold as well. The reality right now for Democrats when you talk to them, when they are on the ground, when you talk to them in the campaign, they're looking at this map right now.

[08:05:02]

And even though they're down by 164,000 votes, they're saying not only is there a pathway, there's almost an expectation that they will be able to overtake Donald Trump at some point in this state, just like Michigan and Wisconsin. The question is when. This has been pretty static for the last couple of hours. And also, what else does Donald Trump have outstanding? Can he defend the lead or at least some form of the lead as the vote starts to come in?

BERMAN: Two points I want to make just so people understand the math here. If there are as few as 400,000 votes left, and we are not totally sure, if it breaks like it has been, Joe Biden would get 300,000, the president would get 100,000 that would be a difference of 200,000. You can see that's enough to win.

The other point I want to make is Pennsylvania, the automatic recount is 0.5 percent. We would be within that, there would be a recount, I'm not clear that would change anything, but that's the situation on the ground there.

Let's talk about Georgia, Phil, because Georgia, look at the margins in Georgia right now -- 18,000 votes.

MATTINGLY: Yes, this has been the live ball throughout the course of the night. Over the course of the night repeatedly, batches of eight, 10, 15,000 votes have rolled in. That was 31,000 votes for Donald Trump in the lead about six hours ago. Now it's down to 18,500.

And this is a crucial point I want to make. You made clear the outstanding vote for the most part right now is coming from population centers that are Democratic strongholds, parts of metro Atlanta, parts of Savannah over here, a little bit of vote coming out over here as well. The best example of what's going on in Georgia right now has been what we've watched happen in Fulton County. There is not a ton of vote outstanding in Fulton. There's some and the other counties surrounding it. But as Fulton County has come in over the course of the night, you have seen eight, 10, 15,000 vote batches come in. Those batches have been breaking towards vice president Biden 80 to 20, 80 to 20.

When that happens, pull it back out and show you, 18,540 votes starts to go away pretty quickly. So is there a pathway for Joe Biden to make up this margin right now? Yes, there is. What's the problem for President Trump? Joe Biden with the remaining vote outstanding in the state right now only needs to win about 60 percent to 62 percent of the remaining vote. Again, in Fulton County, 80 to 20. We'll see if he can replicate that going forward. That's going to be the big question. But is there a pathway in Georgia for Joe Biden? There is. There is. But, boy, is it close.

BERMAN: It is within a half a percent in Georgia, either campaign can request a recount. You have to believe that would probably happen. But, again, unclear whether it would change anything. A lot of the vote we're watching come in from Democratic areas, we're watching it come in throughout the morning, stay tuned.

The story in Georgia and Pennsylvania has been Joe Biden closing the gap. The story in Arizona is the opposite.

MATTINGLY: That's exactly right. If we were talking about the margins that were shrinking for President Trump in those past two states, this is a margin for Joe Biden that has shrunk by about 150,000 votes over the course of the last 12 or so hours. Why has that happened? Maricopa County, biggest county in the state, 60 percent of the population is here. You know this county very well. It has shifted away from Republicans over the course of the last couple of cycles. Right now, Joe Biden with a pretty sizable advantage there all things considered, 51 percent to 47 percent.

Here is the issue for Joe Biden that has occurred. As Maricopa County has dropped new batches of vote results, after counting those results, those batches have leaned towards President Trump. We talked about the margins that Joe Biden needs to win Georgia. President Trump needs to sit between 55 percent, 56 percent in every batch that comes out. The last two batches of votes that have come out he has hit 56 percent, 57 percent, and because of that he has chipped away. I want to pull it out a little bit more, he has been chipping away 10, 15, 20,000 votes per time.

We're not going to get a new batch of votes out of Maricopa until this evening, so we might be waiting a little bit here, but you want to talk about a state where the Trump campaign made very clear when they were down by 200,000 votes, we have a pathway. We have a pathway. Do not call this state. We still have an opportunity there. We know we have voters outstanding there, they're coming in. They have come in up to this point in what has been reported.

The big question -- the big question is with what's outstanding in Maricopa County, we believe it's around 400,000 votes right now, is will those voters do what President Trump was got in the last couple batches, or will they revert to somewhere a little more even, at which point Joe Biden still holds an advantage. If it sticks anywhere around there, maybe a little bit less, Joe Biden can win Arizona. But Donald Trump right now has a pathway. He's been hitting the margins he needs to hit.

BERMAN: Just hitting the margins. Democrats think there are more independent votes out there which lean his way. We don't know. We're going to be counting throughout the day in Arizona.

Phil, can we broaden out and talk about the path to 270? I emphasized Pennsylvania first because that's the whole ballgame. If Joe Biden wins it, it's over. President Trump needs to win it to stay in it.

MATTINGLY: Yes, look, I can do the easiest thing you can possibly do -- well, let's do this first. We'll say North Carolina right now -- so everything you see that's in red has been called for President Trump. Everything that you see that's in blue has been called for Joe Biden. Right now, we can go ahead and say North Carolina just for the sake of gaming things out, North Carolina goes red, goes to President Trump. We can say Alaska goes red, it goes to President Trump, 253 to 231.

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If you are Joe Biden what are you looking for first? Pennsylvania. You are over 273 electoral votes. But let's say President Trump holds on, let's say President Trump holds on and ends up winning the state of Pennsylvania. What are pathways from there on out? Right now, Joe Biden is leading in the state of Arizona. Joe Biden has a 7,000 vote lead in the state of Nevada. Guess what? That's 270 electoral votes.

But what if President Trump ends up overtaking in Arizona? We've seen the margin shift. What if President Trump figures out how to make up 7,000, 8,000 more votes in Nevada when the new Clark County batch comes in later this morning, where does that put things? Right on the verge. Right on the verge, and we're all looking here. We're all looking right there at the state of Georgia which is currently an 18,000 vote margin with votes still coming in right now.

So we'll wait and see what happens, how this plays out. The bottom line here is there are pathways for both. There are certainly pathways for both. There are more pathways for Joe Biden, there are clearer pathways for Joe Biden right now. We'll have to see how the vote comes in over the course of the day, but that's kind of the bottom line of where things stand with the math, with the reporting overnight, and what we're waiting for.

BERMAN: Phil Mattingly, stand by here at the wall, see if you can see more vote coming in, because we've been surprised sometimes by when these batches pop up on the screen here.

Georgia secretary of state says its largest county, which is Fulton County, that's Atlanta, is nearly done counting and that we could have a clearer idea of where the presidential contest stands soon. Volunteers have been tabulating votes at a rate of about 3,000 per hour. As of now, as we just showed you, President Trump still has the lead.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is in the county seat of Atlanta. Victor, what's the current status?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: So we just got an update from the officials here. Let me give you the numbers first, then I will walk through the schedule for the morning. They have 3,600 ballots left to process here at this center. Those will be part of the 10,000 to 11,000 left to count and report. We heard from the executive director of elections here, Rick Barron, not too long ago in which he says that he expects to report those by 11:00 this morning.

Now, let me show you what's happening here as these workers have been here all night. It's thinned out a bit, but we've been told that there will be some more people coming in to finish this job off. This is where they're opening and processing and preparing them to be scanned along the window, and then that memory card from the scanner is taken to another location to actually tabulate.

At 10:00 a.m. we're told the adjudication board will arrive, of course, adjudication is if a voter improperly fills out a ballot, they will determine the intent or decipher the intent of that voter so that that vote will count. They hope, again, to have all of this done by 11:00 this morning.

Now, Rick Barron knows that the country is watching Fulton County. They have been working all night, and as you said, 3,000 per hour, we are now at the top of 8:00, that should hopefully keep them on schedule so we can get these numbers out of Fulton County, John.

BERMAN: Victor Blackwell for us in Atlanta. Victor, if you can, thank the people who are there working. They're doing amazing things. They are democracy at work. I appreciate you being there. Very much appreciate them.

Let's get to Jim Sciutto at the voting desk. He has the latest on a lawsuits being filed by the Trump campaign in multiple battleground states. Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, I don't have to tell you this, and of course viewers will be familiar. The Trump campaign filed a lot of lawsuits before this election, primarily dealing with voter access, lost most of those. They're filing a lot of lawsuits since the election, and these deal mostly with the vote count, particularly in states that are close or that Trump is behind, believe they may be able to catch up.

So let's go state by state here. And I should note as I go through these that CNN has talked to legal experts on these cases, and in general they say unlikely to be wins for the Trump campaign. One, evidence is thin to this point. Two, most of them deal with cases where the number of votes is too small to sway the outcome. But they're happening.

Let's talk about Pennsylvania first. The lawsuits here focusing on, you may remember, just before the election, a law passed in Pennsylvania allowed votes that arrive up to three days after Election Day to be counted, mail-in votes. That was challenged before. The Supreme Court let that law stand, but conservative justices left the door open to the possibility of perhaps some of those, quote/unquote, late arriving ballots are enough to turn the election, could there be some questions here? A possibility. So big question in Pennsylvania on that is what is the margin? What is the number of those that arrive after Election Day? That's the lawsuit in Pennsylvania right now.

Let's look at Michigan. Here the Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit asking to halt the counting of votes statewide. Why? They are demanding what they're calling meaningful access to observe the processing in particular of mail-in ballots there. Of course, Michigan has been called by this network and others, but Trump campaign wants to halt the counting there.

[08:15:01]

Let's go on to Nevada, this state has not been called yet and we may be getting more data there later today. Keep in mind before I go down the details of this lawsuit that Republicans tried this path twice already and failed, but three times is the charm they hope they're going after it again.

The focus here is looking at signature matching software used in that state to match signatures on ballots that come in, it uses some artificial intelligence, that's the basis of their claim there, and what they're demanding is to stop counting as that issue is adjudicated. Finally, let's look at Georgia here, another state as you were just

saying, John, with Phil, extremely tight margins here, and that's why you're seeing a lawsuit top up. This one deals with an extremely small number of ballots, which Republicans say, these were ballots that were still being processed somehow ended up in a pile of ballots ready to be tabulated. That's their focus there. Like the other lawsuits, they deal with such a small number of votes, unlikely to turn things there, but they're pursuing.

Remember, this is a president who likes to file lawsuits on a whole host of things. They tried it before the election mostly on voter access, lost most of those cases, they're trying after the election, it's a close one and they're pushing these hard.

I should note just before I came on air, another lawsuit filed in the state of Pennsylvania by the Trump campaign, this one deals with two issues, the issue of poll watchers there and voter ID laws, the Trump campaign claiming in this lawsuit that there was an attempt here in their words to disenfranchise Republican voters. So add that to the bin of lawsuits in the state of Pennsylvania there.

Again, big picture we expected these lawsuits to happen, the legal experts CNN has opinion talking to say evidence thin, number of votes too small to affect the outcome, but there are lots of them here and as we've watched in the last several months, sometimes the courts can surprise.

John, we'll keep on top it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Sciutto, terrific work. One point you made, the margins matter here. If you're dealing with tens of thousands of votes in the margin, lawsuits almost never make any kind of difference. So that's what we're watching in several states.

Michigan, by the way, is 100,000-vote difference right now for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Joe Biden in the lead there so unlikely any lawsuit would make a difference there.

Jim, thank you.

Let's go over to Alisyn Camerota now here in New York.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, let's stay on the topic of those lawsuits and get some analysis from two CNN election law analysts and experts. We have Rick Pildes, professor of constitutional law at NYU School of Law, and Jonathan Diaz, who serves as legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.

Great to have both of you.

OK. Jonathan, you heard Jim Sciutto lay out all of those different lawsuits right now. President Trump's campaign has launched this slew of challenges in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin.

Are there any that you just heard Jim lay out that you think do have merit and will move forward? JONATHAN DIAZ, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Not really. I think Jim's

summary was, you know, pretty much on target. These lawsuits don't appear at least to me to have a particularly high chance of success and even if they did, they're not dealing with the kinds of numbers of ballots or the types of issues that are likely to be outcome determinative in any of these states.

The one possible exception is that Pennsylvania lawsuit that is already before the Supreme Court dealing with those late arriving ballots and that deadline extension, but, again, it's going to come down to what the ultimate margin is in Pennsylvania before those late arriving ballots are counted and if there are enough ballots that arrive between the end of the day on November 3rd and the deadline tomorrow for that to make a difference. And as of right now, we just don't know.

CAMEROTA: Right, we don't. We will be speaking to the governor there soon, though, and hopefully getting some information.

But, Rick, let's zero in on Pennsylvania, because even before all of that litany of legal challenges, you had some real concerns that Pennsylvania could be the center of chaos.

So what was it about Pennsylvania's voting process that caused you so much concern?

RICHARD PILDES, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, there are a bunch of things that come together here. I have said that Pennsylvania is sort of the worst combination of a potentially decisive state with not such great election law policies. Number one, the fact that they couldn't start processing these ballots until Election Day. Number two, not clear enough guidance provided in chance about certain key issues which should have been done. We knew if it came down to Pennsylvania, there would be messy issues here.

I do agree, though, that the litigation so far does not seem likely to, A, affect enough ballots, and B, be all that likely to succeed. The suit against Pennsylvania is the most serious one legally, the one about this three-day window.

But I expect the number of ballots that actually come in in that last three days is going to be a lot smaller than many people might think.

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CAMEROTA: We'll see.

PILDES: People got their votes in early.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, yeah, it looks like t but we will see and we will try to get those exact numbers.

But, Jonathan, whether or not you think that these have merit, do they slow down the counting and do they tie up somehow the results?

DIAZ: They can. You know, if election officials have to be the ones to respond to these lawsuits and to give the facts to, you know, state or county attorneys who have to rely to these complaints and these briefs. They shouldn't stop or slow down the counting as in some court order and so far we haven't seen anything like that, but they do put additional strain on election officials who are working very hard, as we've seen already this morning, to finish these counts so that we can get closer to a final resolution.

CAMEROTA: Rick, how about recounts? Are those automatically triggered pause the margins are so narrow in some places?

PILDES: So, that varies from state to state. In Wisconsin, the candidate can request a recount if the margin is under 1 percent. And the president's team has done that already.

In other states that are automatic recounts that are triggered if the margin is within, for example, 0.5 percent it's possible we will have automatic recounts in a couple of these states. Recounts rarely change votes by anything other than a very kind of tiny margin, a few hundred votes here and there. Recounts don't affect thousands of votes, let alone tens of thousands of votes.

CAMEROTA: OK. Rick Pildes, Jonathan Diaz, thank you very much.

Let's go back to how the map looks with John Berman.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Alisyn.

We are waiting and expecting more votes to come in from Pennsylvania and Georgia. The margins in Georgia razor thin at this moment.

We're also talking about the lawsuits, we're talking about the disruptions around the country. The governor of Michigan joins me next. Stay tuned.

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[08:25:37]

BERMAN: All right. These are the margins in four key states. You can see how close it is. In Pennsylvania, Donald Trump leads by 160,000 votes, but Joe Biden is closing in fast. Arizona, leads by 68,000 votes, but President Trump has been closing that gap. In Georgia, just 18,000 votes United States the two candidates and Joe Biden has been making big gains overnight. Nevada 7,000 vote margin that hasn't changed in a long time. We're waiting on Nevada to report some new votes, that could come very shortly.

Now, one state not on that list, which is interesting, is Michigan. Michigan is a microcosm of the entire election this morning. When the votes started coming in Tuesday night they were Election Day votes, they slanted pretty heavily toward President Donald Trump, but once they started counting the mail-in vote, once that was tabulated, it was clear Joe Biden had a clear edge. And now, as of this morning, he's ahead by more than 134,000 votes.

We have called the state of Michigan for Joe Biden. Joining us now is a Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.

She's also the national co-chair of the Biden campaign.

Good morning, Governor.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,000 votes, Joe Biden leads there by about 13 times that margin this morning.

Reflect on where things stand.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: Well, that's right. And, you know, I was really so pleased to see how well our election was executed. It was a pretty drama-free day, certainly there were some hiccups along the way but we were able to get these votes counted, 5.1 million votes, and with Joe Biden ending the day with about 13 times the margin that Donald Trump had just four years ago. It feels a lot more decisive than what we're seeing play out in other states potentially.

So, I'm really pleased that Michigan was able to do this and I give incredible credit to our Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and all the clerks and the 30,000 volunteers who worked this election all across the state.

BERMAN: There have been protests particularly in Detroit, which we'll show some video right now. People chanting "stop the count" outside of a ballot counting center. What's your message to the protesters? What's your message to these people who are upset? And what message do you think should be coming from the top right now?

WHITMER: I think every one of us with a platform should be encouraging and educating the public that we count our votes. Votes that are cast before the close of the polls get counted and we don't just stop because it's inconvenient or because one person has an agenda, we get the votes counted.

The most important thing in an American election is that we decide our differences at the polls and then we have a peaceful transfer of power and it is the will of the people that decides the outcome of our elections -- not a candidate, no at political party and not protests.

And we've had a full and free and pretty drama-free election and I think that's an important thing in this moment. There is a lot of heated -- there's a lot of heated political rhetoric.

And one of the things, as I talked to Joe Biden yesterday, he called me, he is focused on, how do we heal this nation? How do we bring people together? How do we build bridges and start the common ground that has been so severely lacking these last few years?

He, of course, has not won yet, he recognizes that. He is a humble person, but he's optimistic as am I, and I think I'm hopeful that we can start that next chapter in this country because it's so sorely needed.

BERMAN: What message do you think the American people sent in this election? If Joe Biden manages to win, that's unclear, Democrats still suffered losses in the House of Representatives and didn't do nearly as well in some areas as they thought.

So how do you juxtapose maybe the mixed messaging coming from the American people?

WHITMER: I think we're a deeply divided nation. I think that the divide has grown over the last four years and it is incumbent on all of us, people of goodwill on both sides of the aisle to stake out common ground, and to recognize we are stronger when we are fighting together. We have a common enemy and that enemy is COVID-19 and that enemy is getting the best of America right now.

We need to rise to this challenge and we need to rally to it together. This is a very serious moment in the nation where we hit over 100,000 new cases reported over the last day. These numbers continue to climb and so we need to rally together for the sake of our economy and frankly for the sake of the health of our fellow Americans.

BERMAN: A hundred -- 100,000 new cases reported overnight.