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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Wayne County, Michigan Canvassing Board Deadlocks On Certifying Election; GA Election Official: Recount To Affirm Biden Win Tomorrow; 87-Year-Old GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley Tests Positive For Covid-19. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 17, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And thanks very much to all of you. We appreciate your time being with us for all this breaking news this hour. AC 360 with Anderson starts right now.

[20:00:09]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening, we're going to continue with the breaking news. Two stories connected to the widening effort by President Trump to inflate baseless claims of voter fraud and overturn the presidential results in several key states.

Tonight, the President has fired one of the top cybersecurity officials in the administration days after his agency, along with other Federal, state and private election partners issued a statement directly contradicting the President's Election Day claims. It read in part, quote, "The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history."

Another breaking news in the Michigan County that includes Detroit where the Republican members of the Board of canvassers has prevented the certification of the presidential results for the entire county. The vote was two to two along partisan lines preventing certification.

President-elect Biden's win in the county helped him to win Michigan. If those votes aren't eventually certified, it could jeopardize Biden's claim to Michigan's electoral votes.

We start with the firing of Chris Krebs, who was Director of the Department Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. President Trump fired him by tweet, two actually. The first, we will not show you as it is baseless and wholly inaccurate.

In the second tweet, the President writes in part, " ... therefore effective immediately Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency." Our senior national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt joins us now.

So you've been reporting on Chris Krebs for days. What more are you learning about this?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you just named the agency that he comes from. It's a mouthful. But this is someone who most Americans are probably not aware of in terms of name recognition, but is someone who is probably more important to this election than anybody else.

This country does not have an election czar. We have elections in all these different states. And Krebs called himself the risk adviser for the election. It was his job to make sure that the U.S. election in 2020 went smoothly, safely, securely, and he did that.

And now we live in a country where the President has fired by tweet on a Tuesday night, one of the most senior officials involved with keeping our democracy and keeping our election safe.

We have seen Krebs in the days since the election pushing back against baseless allegations, unfounded claims, and straight up lies from the President and from his allies and his supporters about what they believe was a fraudulent election that in the words of the President was rigged.

We have, as you just read that the tweet from the President just moments ago, Chris Krebs has responded on what appears to be a new Twitter account that was flagged to me by a source who is close to Krebs.

Krebs writes that he was, "Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend today, secure tomorrow. #Protect2020." This was -- these phrases were ones that he used repeatedly when it came to securing the election.

This was not someone who was overtly political. He was a political appointee. He was named by President Trump to this position. But he went out of his way to be apolitical in this job.

I pressed him repeatedly in the months leading up to the election, on how he would face disinformation coming from the President, and this was not something that he would engage in. But it is something that in the days since the election, he has engaged in, if not directly, then certainly indirectly by pushing back on all of these various claims.

And just today, quoting a long list of very respected scientists, elections experts who put out an open letter saying that the claims, that allegations of voting machines that were manipulated, which is something that the President has said and his supporters have said, are either unsubstantiated or technically incoherent.

So we have seen Krebs in recent days going through these conspiracy theories. One notable one that he pushed back very forcefully against was that a C.I.A. supercomputer was changing votes from Trump to Joe Biden, which he called nonsense and a hoax.

And so what appears to have happened here is, this pushback simply got too much for the President. And now Chris Krebs finds himself as part of this National Security purge that Trump is carrying out in the final weeks of his presidency.

COOPER: Alex, you've reported that Krebs sort of expected this to happen and in the lead up to the election, he often quietly disputed the President's repeated false claims about mail-in ballots, but in the days that followed the election, he became, as you said, much more vocal.

[20:05:12]

MARQUARDT: Well, think about what we're hearing from the President in the weeks leading up to the election. We're hearing that it has been the most fraudulent in history. It is going to be rigged and that the mail-in ballots would provide an opening for foreign adversaries to manipulate the votes, to create fraudulent ballots that would then lead to this most rigged election.

So Krebs very quietly, not directly, not calling out the President, but very gingerly would make these comments whether it's to the press or in these panels, that in fact, it was very, very hard to manipulate these mail-in ballots at scale.

So he was doing what he could to walk that line between correcting the record that was being pushed by the President and putting out what was actually true. He focused on what he liked to call speed kills, and this was taking down these conspiracy theories, these lies, these rumors as quickly as he could and he put out this website called "Rumor Control" that would do that, and so in the days following the election, when the President was talking about Dominion Voting Systems, which is one of the biggest voting providers, technology companies that allows Americans to vote, he would push back saying that these claims that these votes were being changed or are simply untrue.

So he was doing it in his way, and he was in fact doing it in a way that was not as direct as another senior federal official who was named by Trump who simply called the President's claims, insulting, baffling and straight up lies.

So now, Krebs finds himself on the losing end of standing up for the truth -- Anderson.

COOPER: Alex Marquardt, appreciate it. For more on all of this, I want to go to Kaitlan Collins at the White House. So, what more can you tell us about President Trump firing Krebs? And again, by Twitter, I mean, which is just what he does.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the way the President does and often, no, there have been times where people have tried to resign or get fired in person and the President prefers to do it by tweet. We know that. That is what he has chosen to do tonight.

And Anderson, it's not a surprise, because I was told that the President basically erupted when that statement came out, saying that this was the most secure election in American history, and that these voting systems the President has been talking about did not change any votes, like the President had baselessly claimed.

And so we are seeing tonight in Chris Krebs what is the reason that you see a lot of officials in this White House not speak out against the President when he is wrong, and it is because the President will fire you. And that is what happened here tonight, even though the President is especially wrong here about the claims that he has been making.

Chris Krebs was fired because he basically was telling the President what he did not want to hear about the election.

COOPER: And to be honest, I mean, to be fired by the President at this stage is really a badge of honor, that I think Chris Krebs can probably wear proudly moving forward because, I mean, he is not -- you know, I mean, he is speaking the truth and he is fired for speaking the truth.

And, you know, the toadies around the President you know, maybe licking their lips in satisfaction tonight, but history will not judge them kindly.

COLLINS: Yes, they basically view this cyber arm agency part of D.H.S. that he ran as a Deep State type sense. But of course, it was specifically engineered to protect against election fraud, any kind of election interference.

And so, you know, for the President to do that, and to fire Chris Krebs in this way, is just very classically, how the President conducts his business and how he does things. It's not really a surprise, but also, it makes you view things of when people ask why is the G.S.A. administrator not said anything yet about the ascertainment of Joe Biden and his transition happening? This is an example of what you see there.

So I should remind people, Chris Krebs started out in the George W. Bush White House. He was in a Republican White House. He left when Obama was in office, worked for Microsoft, and then came back under the Donald Trump administration.

So you know, this implication that he is, you know, not a Republican or not served under a Republican President also goes to show, you know, the kind of people that are working in this White House, you get fired not for your political views, but for disputing the President.

COOPER: Yes. And you don't get fired to your face from the Commander- in-Chief, you get fired via Twitter, which is just the weakest, you know, thing possible for the President to do. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee joins us now. Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, I mean, not a surprise really. I mean, we know what happens to people in administration who tell the truth, stand up to the President, not even stand up to the President, and just tell the truth.

What do you think this says about how far President Trump is willing to go in his pursuit to convince the American people that he won the election even though he lost?

[20:10:05]

I am sorry we don't have your audio, Congresswoman. We will try to fix that as soon as we can. Talking to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee. Let's get perspective now from CNN political correspondent Abby

Phillip and CNN Senior political analyst David Gergen, who advised Presidents, a lot of Presidents, both Republican and Democratic, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, and former D.H.S. Chief of Staff in the Trump administration, Miles Taylor, who recently revealed that he was the anonymous author of a "New York Times" op-ed highly critical of President Trump.

So, Miles you worked in the Department of Homeland Security. You were hired, I understand on the same day as Mr. Krebs, worked closely together for the majority of your time there. Why does this matter? What is important about what the President has done here?

MILES TAYLOR, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Anderson, first of all, it's a couple things. I think this demonstrates how unhinged the President is becoming towards the end of his presidency. But the bigger takeaway here is, Chris Krebs is not a hyper political figure. He is not a super partisan. He is a civil servant in the government.

I mean, he was a political appointee of the President. That's important to note. But this is someone who has more integrity than almost anyone I know in the administration. Like you noted, Anderson, Chris and I started on the same day at the Department of Homeland Security and there's almost no one that I respected more than in the Federal government because he wasn't a partisan.

Chris was very focused on the mission and what mattered more to him than anything was making sure that our elections in 2020 were more secure than they were in 2016. In fact, on Chris's first day, it's one of the first things he said to me. He said, I want my mission to be to make sure that the bad guys, the Russia's and the China's in the world who are trying to interfere in our elections can't do it again. And he has singularly focused on that mission.

And if there's anyone in the entire Federal government that deserves credit for protecting the integrity of our elections this cycle, it is Christopher Krebs.

So, the fact that the President has singled him out as enemy number one when it comes to election integrity should tell you something because the President is very afraid to hear the truth and Chris Krebs knows more about the truth of the security of this election than anyone in the government.

COOPER: And Miles, as Alex Marquardt reported at the top of the program, apparently, Mr. Krebs, may have seen this coming. He is likely not surprised he has been fired by the President.

I mean, he knows that people who tell the truth around this President, truths he does not want to hear, you know, often pay a price for it.

TAYLOR: That's absolutely right. And look, but Chris was not one of those types of people who felt like he needed to be a showboat and leave this administration in a blaze of glory. Chris felt like his mission was very, very important. And right now,

it continues to be important after the election and Chris knew that. He knew that after this election, things would be disputed and it would be important for officials to give the American people confidence that number one, their votes were counted. And number two, their votes were counted correctly, and assure them of the integrity of this election.

But there's one other thing I want to emphasize, Anderson, and that's the recklessness of this decision, because even though the administration is close to ending, Christopher Krebs is in a very sensitive cybersecurity position in government.

He has read into sensitive, very sensitive programs that very, very few people in the government have read into. So right now, for the President to fire one of the top cyber security officials in the entire government at a time when our adversaries could potentially be targeting us is reckless and dangerous, and it puts the American people at risk.

COOPER: And Abby, Krebs has pushed back on a number of election related lies in the past week, including ones made by President Trump and his supporters.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, specifically, this completely invented idea that votes have been changed through the voting machines. He has been pushing back on the idea that foreign governments might have been interfering with the vote count, or that there was massive mail-in fraud.

And all of these things, I mean, are things that the President is stating without any shred of evidence. I think we should just be very clear about there. There is no evidence to support any of those claims on the scale that the President is claiming them.

And so yes, I think that this has been expected for some time, because we have known for a long time that any official who pushes back on the President's falsehoods like this are likely to be in his sights, and Chris Krebs is no exception to that.

The problem though now I think is for -- the question is really not so much for the President, but for the Republican Party that is propping him up in this late stage.

People like Ted Cruz and like Lindsey Graham who actually do know that what the President is saying has no basis in fact, and yet they still continue to back him up on these baseless claims, which at this point now seem to be a just an effort to undermine the entire electoral system in the United States so that he could hold on to power for as long as possible.

[20:15:16]

COOPER: I mean, David, Abby makes such an important point that, yes, of course, this is what President Trump does. This is what we should expect him to do and try to wreak as much havoc as he can before he is shown the door.

But the fact that all of these Republican senators are going along with it and playing along into it, you know, for fear of the base, for fear of, you know, the Georgia Senate races is, you know, it is shameful.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is shameful, Anderson. I do think there are some positive news out of this. But, you know, for decades, we have celebrated people who speak truth to power. You know, going all the way back to George Marshall, famously.

And here we have this young man, Krebs, someone who stepped forward, a Republican, who has now stood up to the President, when all of these senators and Republicans have been too cowardly to say anything. He is going to walk out with his honor and a hand and that's good.

But there's one other point here, Anderson and Natasha Bertrand of POLITICO points it out tonight and that is, and there was a ban on Chris Krebs talking to the Biden folks, talking to the transition folks. That band now falls away.

And we have Chris Krebs who is so inclined, it will be a major asset for him to sit down with the transition team of President-elect Biden and tell them -- help bring them up to speed. He doesn't have to anything to break classification. He has to help them understand sort of how to sort of this out which they so desperately need to know.

COOPER: Yes, David Gergen, interesting point. Miles Taylor, Abby Phillip as well. Thank you.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee is back with me. Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, not a surprise. I mean, look, we know what happens to people in this administration who tell the truth. But what does this tell you about what the next several weeks may hold before President Trump is shown the door?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (D-TX): Anderson, good evening. We're living in a surreal time now. I don't think, we, as Members of Congress, really Republicans and Democrats should in any way take this lightly.

I frankly believe that we are more vulnerable with the firing of Director Krebs, and the reason I say that having been on the Homeland Security Committee for more than two decades since 9/11, I can assure you that the concern is that the gaping hole that will be left after Director Krebs have left is very challenging.

Secondarily, what I would say is that we started looking at election security with Director Krebs as early as 2018. The committee had several hearings. Director Krebs was always open and forthright. The Committee happens to be a truly bipartisan committee in many instances and it was specifically on the question of election security that we came together and said, we did not want to happen in 2020 what had happened in 2016.

Director Krebs worked with us to ensure that by presenting us with the work of Cisco and apprising us of the constant firewalls that he was looking to ensure that we'd have a safe and secure elections.

One of the things I remember asking him is, was he interacting with the state election authorities in each state, and he indicated that his agency was an open book, ready for any of those agencies or state agencies to receive information.

I think we're in a crisis now with his firing. He is truly a patriot because all he wanted to do was to assure the American people that their votes were protected.

COOPER: And yet, I mean, you know, we are so divided that Republicans on Capitol Hill promote the President's lies and those who, you know, sure, and look, there are some Members of Congress and the Senate who are just, you know, such ideologues, that this is how they see something, or they've chosen how they want to see it.

But there are others who would know better and know that this is false and know what they are doing is just shameful and wrong.

JACKSON-LEE: Anderson, I think this is really a moment of conscience. We often hear the words that you don't speak ill of the United States or your President overseas. It's the phrase to the water's edge that you end any negative conversation regarding the Commander-in-Chief when you're overseas.

I'm going to use it in a different way. We're at the water's edge. We're at the water's edge. We don't know what the President is going to do next.

I'm appalled at the precipitous firing of the Secretary of Defense, not that I was a fan of his leadership, but the fact that stability is most important as we're dealing with national security.

This is domestic security, and we're at the water's edge. That means that we need patriots, Democrats and Republicans at this moment. Elections are over. For us to do what is right on behalf of the American people, to give them the right kind of guidance, to tell people who are out protesting on behalf of this President provoked by him that these are fraudulent elections, to really say that we can't go any further if we're going to unify and lead this country forward, we have so many mountainous issues.

[20:20:43]

JACKSON-LEE: So my point would be is that this is a time for Republicans as it would be for Democrats if it was the circumstances of the shoe on the other foot, to be able to say that we have had fair and non-fraudulent elections. A professional, non-political Director of CISA indicated, Director Krebs, that it was the most secure election in the history of the United States. Yes, I think it's time for our friends to stand up with us, as Democrats to affirm that.

And I also think it's time, Anderson, for the General Services Administrator, I think that is -- I've never -- it is unspeakable. A staff person telling the President-elect and of course, the Vice President that they cannot proceed. So I think there is a lot of need for courage, for morality, for

unity, and for standing for the American people.

COOPER: Congressman Sheila Jackson-Lee, appreciate your time. Thank you.

JACKSON-LEE: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: We're going to have more on the firing of Chris Krebs coming up. We'll also have the breaking news on the ballot standoff in Detroit, Michigan that could potentially jeopardize Joe Biden's lead there. More than that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A little more than an hour ago, President Trump fired one of the nation's top cybersecurity officials for stating that the recent election was quote, "The most secure in American history." As we reported earlier, Chris Krebs is now responding on Twitter. It reads as follows, quote, "Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend today, Secure tomorrow." It concludes with the hashtag, "#Protect2020."

We're joined now by Congressman Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Schiff, you released a statement shortly before air that read in part, "It's pathetic, but sadly predictable that upholding and protecting our democratic processes would be cause for firing." Does this surprise you at all?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You know, it doesn't surprise me. This has been the story of the Trump administration for four years. Anyone that had the audacity to speak truth to power, anybody that wouldn't carry the President false line would get fired and replaced by someone who would.

That was the early experience of the administration, and it will be the experience until the President is walked out of the Oval Office.

But it's a terrible tragedy and you know, for a good public servant, I have to tell you, Anderson, I sat through innumerable hearings with Intelligence Agency heads, with Department Heads on the subject of election security, election interference, and I was consistently impressed with Chris Krebs with his willingness to just speak it plainly, not pouch his words, not try to, you know color things to favor what the President's preferred narrative was, and his reward is to be unceremoniously kicked out.

But I have to tell you, everyone who gets fired by this President, it's only an enhancement to their reputation. And so, thank you, Chris Krebs for doing a good job securing our elections and I think you leave your office with your head held high, unlike many others who have served in this administration.

[20:25:34]

COOPER: Yes, I mean, we should point out, he was named by President Trump to this position, charged with providing support to safeguard the election. You know, to the President's followers who believe there's a Deep State in cahoots against the President. This is somebody the President appointed to this position.

SCHIFF: Well, that's exactly right. And you know, indeed, a lot of the people he complains about being Deep Staters are people that he put in the state. But, you know, this President is nothing, if not inconsistent.

The one true line of the presidency is he does whatever he thinks is in his personal interest and he is personally vindictive. And here you had Chris Krebs, in not so many words, saying that what the President has been saying about the elections being stolen or rigged or fraudulent is a bunch of bunk.

And that was just not something the President could tolerate, both because it was true and because he had the courage to say so.

You know, at this very moment while we're speaking, Rudy Giuliani is -- well, maybe not at this particular hour, but he is in court making all of these false allegations that Chris Krebs has been rebutting. But, you know, apparently, the President is chewing through any lawyer who is willing to essentially speak nonsense to the court and running out of them and has found Rudy Giuliani, his go-to when all else fails.

But this is the contrast we have between a person of principle like Chris Krebs and the Rudy Giuliani's, the last of the administration willing to still do the President's dirty work.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, the idea that Rudy Giuliani is in charge of the President's legal situation on this is -- it gives you a sense of how legitimate the charges that they are making really are that Giuliani is the one now who is in charge, because a lot of other lawyers have either dropped out or that, you know, their cases have just fallen apart, because there is no widespread voter fraud in this country.

What does this tell you, though, about the next -- what -- 64 plus days that the President is going to be in office before he has to leave? You know, it seems like, you know, Maggie Haberman, from "The New York Times" was on last week, just saying that the President views things as kind of like a show that he is watching and that he just thinks of things in increments of time that we're in this increment of time now, and then, you know, he wants to win this increment, and then the next increment, and he just kind of wanting to see how it all turns out, as almost as an observer. There's a lot of damage he could do in the next 60 something days.

SCHIFF: You know, I think there's a lot of truth to Maggie Haberman's assessment. He has always viewed his own job, the presidency, as if someone else was doing it. The way he talks about himself as a victim in the third person, you know, the way he criticizes the policies of the Federal government and its inability to do things when he is leading the Federal government.

You would think that he was some, you know, passive observer on the sideline, not empowered to do things. But in fact, the problem is that his interests, as you say, are very myopic. That is what helps Donald Trump in the next 24 hours. What helps him in the next news cycle? What's good for him in his future? What helps him with, you know, his money making down the line or his future political ambitions? That's all that drives him.

And he can't understand someone like Chris Krebs. This is the other thing about the President. He can't understand Chris Krebs who would do his duty any more than he can the men and women who serve in uniform and risk their lives for the country.

COOPER: Yes. Chairman Schiff, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Up next, we have breaking news from Detroit, Michigan, what Republican members of the Wayne County Board of canvassers have done tonight. I'll talk it over with election law expert Rick Hasen.

And how Republican Senator Lindsey Graham inserted himself in that recount of votes in the Georgia presidential election and got involved in other states.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:33:18]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: There's breaking election news from Michigan. Republican members of the Wayne County Board of canvassers temporarily prevented the certification of presidential results from Detroit, the state's largest county. The two Democrats on the panel voted to approve the certification. Two Republicans did not. Wayne County results showed President Biden won more than 587,000 votes compared to President Trump's approximately 264,000 votes.

Joining me now is Rick Hasen author of Election Meltdown, Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy. Sounds like it could have been written about what's going on right now. He's a CNN election law analyst. Rick, very prescient.

So, this move. I mean, you're talking about disenfranchising the votes of overwhelmingly African-Americans in Detroit by two Republican canvassers? I'm not even sure how they get that position. The Trump campaigns legal maneuvers seem to be failing in the courts, especially in Michigan. So how did this happen?

RICHARD HASEN, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: So, you know, this is just more of the same. Yes, we've had just one thing after another in terms of failed attempts, we had filings today in Nevada. We had Rudy Giuliani arguing in Pennsylvania, all of these lawsuits and all of these attempts seem to be failing. But there's a normal process that goes on, which is that after the votes are tabulated, you have some form of certification process. This is something that is unprecedented that these officials are trying to reject the vote. I don't think it's going to get anywhere. I think what's going to happen is it's going to work its way up the food chain to the State Board of Canvassers and the governor there would have the power to replace a canvasser who wouldn't vote to certify. [20:35:07]

So, I don't think this really calls the election into danger, but it does show you the lengths which people are willing to go to humor the President's argument that he potentially won the election.

COOPER: I mean, you said that unprecedented? I mean, have you seen this before as for, you know, I mean, it's, as far as questionable ballots or any anything that weren't the results not being certified?

HASEN: Well, we've had elections before where there have been issues. So we can go back to 2018, where the North Carolina State Board of Elections on a bipartisan basis said, you know, there was fraud going on in relation to absentee ballots connected to a Republican candidate running for Congress, and we need to redo the election. And that was done in a bipartisan basis, when they're actually problems, things happen. We have in North Carolina now, a state Supreme Court race, that's very close, there's going to be potentially a recount, provision, pass those things happen. But when someone is ahead by hundreds of thousands of votes to decide, well, I'm not going to certify it, because I don't want to include Detroit, because I don't trust the results there. I mean, besides this being racist, it's just not the way things normally go when it comes to a not a close election. These things are usually a formality.

COOPER: So I mean, obviously, it looks states not certifying results among the biggest fears of supporters of President-Elect Biden, you said in Michigan would work its way of the food chain. So it seems like it'll get resolved there. Is this possible in other states as well?

HASEN: Well, I should say, first of all, that one of the Senate leaders in Michigan has said that they're not going to be changing anything. They know that Joe Biden is the winner. If you look in Pennsylvania, that kind of the last attempt is this Rudy Giuliani lawsuit, and I spent the whole afternoon listening to that hearing. And it was an embarrassment. I was probably the worst lawyering I've heard from any lawyer argument it takes in my life.

COOPER: I mean, this does not surprise me, given what we have seen from Rudy Giuliani of late. But what was so terrible about it?

HASEN: Well, at one point, the judge was asking kind of a basic election question, which is, do I justice under strict scrutiny or rational basis, which is kind of a con law 101 question. And Giuliani didn't seem to know what those terms meant? You know, it was just, it was an embarrassment to listen to that. And so, you know, you look across the states, remember, Biden's ahead by 36 Electoral College votes. So even if you managed to mess up something in one state, there's still a comfortable margin in the Electoral College. So, you know, everybody's on edge. I understand it, because you have this president who has not conceded. When the writing's on the wall, you have Lindsey Graham, potentially interfering with the vote count in Georgia. These are really terrible, unprecedented things and speak terribly of our democracy. But in terms of trying to actually affect the outcome of the Electoral College vote that will happen in January, I just don't see any of this amounting to anything.

COOPER: Do you think all these legal maneuvers, these efforts will fail.

HASEN: So, every legal maneuver so far has failed, except for a very minor attempt that succeeded in Pennsylvania, none of the cases seem to involve the kinds of theories or the number of ballots that could make a reversal. So, I don't see any legal path right now based on what's been filed to overturn the results in even one state much less, at least the three states that you would need to try to somehow legally changed the results of the election.

COOPER: So if Rudy Giuliani was like, the only lawyer around and you weren't legal trouble, would you call him?

HASEN: I would argue the case myself, even if I were just a high school graduate.

COOPER: OK. Get to know I will keep that in mind. I will follow your advice. Richard Hasen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

There's more breaking election news that Richard just referenced, the top elections official in Georgia who will join us in a moment says the state should finish its hand recount tomorrow night. That so far in the vast majority of counties reporting results the recount is quote, spot on to the initial tallies. If true that would completely undermine President Trump's attempts to overturn the Presidential results in Georgia, which narrowly swung to Joe Biden.

Also, breaking in Georgia this hour controversy involving Senator Lindsey Graham as Mr. Hasen noted, when he has partly admitted to began with a stunning statement by Georgia Republican Secretary of State to The Washington Post, that Sarah Graham had asked whether there was a way to toss legally cast ballots in Georgia, one of the states where the Trump team is hoping to overturn a Biden victory. Is what Brad Raffensperger told CNN about what Graham said on that call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Graham has since admitted the conversation did occur as well as to having conversations with election officials in two other states. He says the Georgia Secretary of State is mischaracterizing the conversation.

Joining us now is Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's voting system implementation manager. He was not only in the room with the Secretary of State when the call with Senator Graham occurred, he made the announcement about the recount.

Gab, I hope you've gotten some sleep because I was able to catch up on some but I my sense is you have not been able to since this election. [20:40:04]

Manu Raju asked Senator Lindsey Graham about that call today. I want to play you what he said and let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): He thinks is implicit (INAUDIBLE).

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): (INAUDIBLE) categorically rejected. That wasn't mine. And that was the purpose of the conversation to Throw up, Alice. We're talking about a (INAUDIBLE) which is the Senate races. That was my focus. That's how you verify signatures. We got a new Senate race coming up. Is there anything we can do to make it better?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, does that explanation match up with what you recall hearing? He's saying he was talking about the upcoming race for two Republican senators.

GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: Frankly, it meets the Secretary's characterization is correct. But Senator Graham is not incorrect that he did focus on the on the upcoming race to make sure that legal ballots are being cast. There was a secondary conversation about what does this mean looking backwards if there is a percentage of potential envelopes? You realized the signatures and say, there should have been more rejected than then than not? And could that be a potential court challenge. And that was the implication we were having on the conversation, there was no way our office could do that. Then we said well, if you wanted to go the route, we have to be a court route. But we were also having conversations about the fact that people from other states were looking at coming to this state. And one of the ways they could do that was through registering it through paper, and then requesting absentee ballot paper and making sure those kind of things were also held in check.

So, there's a possibility that the Senator is focused on one thing, the Secretary is focused on one thing. Our job here is to follow the laws of state of Georgia and continue with our hand audit, which we plan on finishing tomorrow by midnight.

COOPER: And Senator Graham is not a member of the Senate Rules Committee, which has oversight over elections. He says he's well within his rights to ask questions to election officials about how voting is being conducted. Do you agree with that? Is there a precedent for what he's doing?

STERLING: And look, Senator Warren called and asked questions about our process. We would answer questions, Senator Warren, Senator Graham called we answered questions about process and how the rules work. So, I don't see anything being really far out of line on that with the senator calls, you generally pick up the phone and answer the questions to the best of your ability. COOPER: It was just announced that 2,755 early in post person votes are not included in initial results from Fayette County, which mistake that was uncovered during the ongoing audit. Are you still on track to find out? I mean, you said this, you are still on track to finish the recount tomorrow.

STERLING: Yes, we are. In fact, we had 778 net positive to the President at a Floyd County 449 (INAUDIBLE) and tonight we found a about through the audit process in Walton County, an additional 176 that go towards the President right now, that still puts the margin at 12,753. And we have no indication really, that there's anything broader than that. But this is why you do audits. This is to make sure that human beings, which are the most flawed part of our system, don't make errors. And that's why we have these guardrails in place to protect the integrity of the vote and the outcome of the vote.

COOPER: And just so I understand when you say you found these, what does that mean? Like how does it get misplaced?

STERLING: When they did the audit, they did a hand count. They said, hey, we have 248 more votes here than we thought. So, that by going back and looking at the poll (INAUDIBLE) and check ins and looking at the other things they should have reconciled before they uploaded the quote unquote, final certified results. Were able to say yes, you were missing a card. They went back and said yes, we were missing this card and they uploaded it. They looked into the election management system. So they loaded that up tonight and that's where that extra 176 votes came from. But that's why you do audits because human beings tend to make errors. It's very rarely an electronic problem. It's almost always a human error when it comes to these kind of situations in any election throughout American and world history.

COOPER: Yes. Gabriel Sterling I really appreciate all your efforts. Thank you very much.

STERLING: Thank you, Anderson. Have a great night.

COOPER: You too.

(voice-over): Coming up a senior member of the Senate test positive for the coronavirus, and an update on the state of play at the General Services Administration where an official named Emily Murphy is still refusing to trigger a formal transition to the incoming Biden administration. Who knew this person had so much power. But the Biden team said late today about the delay, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:47:20]

COOPER: With more breaking news this time regarding a new case of coronavirus on Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju was there tonight with the latest.

So, Manu unfortunately, yet another member of the Senate has tested positive for coronavirus. What do we know? RAJU: Yes, the Senate's most senior Republican 87-year-old Chuck Grassley was the senate pro tem. He tested positive for coronavirus today. He was exposed to someone who had COVID-19. He was in the Senate yesterday, he actually presided over the Senate as an open, he delivered a floor speech shortly thereafter. In fact, his first speech was about the importance of wearing masks and social distancing. Grassley himself at that time was not wearing mask his floor speech. Senators typically do not when they speak on the floor, nor was he when he was presiding over the Senate, but he was walking around the senate with a mask. He also attended a meeting with Senate Republican leaders last night in a room. I'm told they were wearing masks, the Senate Republican leaders that they were all spread apart. So no one else seems to be isolating.

But of course, this has come as a bit of a shock for someone who has started in the Senate as long as he has it certainly a senior member someone who could be affected disproportionately by this virus and someone also Anderson who has not missed a vote since 1993. And now he missed some today and of course, you'll miss him until he recovers here Anderson.

COOPER: And just yesterday, Senator Sherrod Brown asked one of his colleagues to wear a mask on the floor because he was concerned about the spread of the virus. Ted Cruz then took to Twitter saying this is idiotic at Sherrod Brown is being a complete ass, he wears a mask to speak when nobody is remotely near him as an ostentatious sign of fake virtue. Isn't Senator Grassley's case exactly what center Brown was worried about?

RAJU: Yes, because when there's someone who presides over the Senate, while they're not directly next to the person who's speaking, the senators speaking, there are aides or floor staff. And in the case of Senator Sullivan, who is presiding the time, who knew had his mask off and been shot back, it's sure Brown called on him to wear the mask. There was a Senate parliamentarian who was interacting with Senator Sullivan at the time. Now, not all Republicans who preside over the Senate Republicans are in the majority. They have that rule of sitting back and watching the Senate floor take play -- action take place.

Now all those Republicans were masked while they are presiding, but a number of them do. But it's inconsistent. The social distancing on the Senate floor is inconsistent. And while most members wear masks, while they walk around the Capitol, some of them act differently when they are interacting closed door spaces. So, now that Chuck Grassley has tested positive we'll see if there's any change here in the Senate.

COOPER: Yes. I know you talked to several Republican senators day about their changes on the Vice President-Elect Senator Harris, where we're watching some of the exchanges. We're going to show them on the screen. Do you know exactly what happened because obviously what they say behind the scenes is interesting compared to what they're saying publicly or not saying.

[20:50:13]

RAJU: Yes. And I was sitting in the Senate gallery, so I watched this whole thing take place, not all of it. OK. It's actually visible or audible from what you see on your screen there. But Lindsey Graham, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman of close, Trump ally came in and he gave senator Kamala Harris a fist bump. Then later in their interaction, Kamala Harris was approached by Senator Mike Rounds, Mike Rounds, said congratulations to Kamala Harris, as did Senator James Lankford and Senator Tim Scott. Interesting because those three senators have not yet said that she is the vice President-Elect of the United States or that Joe Biden has won the election. They are siding with the President's fight against the election results for now.

And when I caught up with Lindsey Graham, for instance, he said that he said that he was said he wished he if she wins, ultimately, which they believes he believes will be decided within a month or so then he'll be willing to work with her. He said that he made that point to her and James Lankford said he was just being polite when he said that but in his view, Lankford's view the election is still not settled.

COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks very much.

After briefing with his own national security advisors today, President-Elect Biden and his transition team took a swipe at the General Services Administration today for still refusing to unlock any formal arrangements for the handover to the incoming administration.

In a statement, the Biden team said that refusal means no current executive branch officials can meet or talk with their incoming counterparts. The center of the storm is a GSA official named Emily Murphy. CNN's Pete Muntean is at the GSA for us tonight.

So, Pete, you spent the day trying to get answers from this Emily Murphy, did you get any?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Anderson. You know what's so interesting here, though, is that we tried a bit of a different approach to get in touch with her, we came down here to the GSA headquarters, I dialed up Emily Murphy spokesperson and asked simply, would she come down to the sidewalk and speak to us on camera explain a bit of a rationale as to why she is not ascertain this transition officially signing off on it. You know, it was a bit of a last minute request, and our request was denied. But it's important to note here, that this is just the latest in dozens of requests made by CNN by our producers and reporters and correspondents, to just try and get to the bottom of this delay is something that President-Elect Joe Biden says is costing lives every day.

COOPER: She was appointed by President Trump. But I mean, she is there to serve the American people. It's sort of interesting how much power this until now obscure government official holds. Is there any indication when she might finally, I mean, is there anybody who can have power over her to get her to sign off on this because there's a report that she personally is already looking for a new job in a post- Trump world.

MUNTEAN: Any window Anderson in to the timing and motivation of all this right now is simply speculation because we can't hear from Emily Murphy directly. When I spoke to her spokesperson, she laid out a couple reasons why the GSA feels empowered to do this. One, the Presidential Transition act of 1963, which essentially gives the GSA administrator the final authority to sign off on the transition to the incoming administration. And two, the Bush versus Gore election back in 2000, which took about five weeks to call.

In this case, the race has already been called. You know, in the previous case, it was a few hundred votes and just one state, in this case, tens of thousands of votes separate a win in multiple states. So, perhaps the only explanation here even though we have not heard from Ms. Murphy directly is that she is simply waiting on President Donald Trump to concede.

COOPER: We shall see. Pete Muntean, appreciate it. Thanks.

Of course that coronavirus is priority number one for President-Elect Biden to date no formal contact between the White House Coronavirus Task Force and any member of the Biden advisory team has been reported.

Joining me now is a member of that team Rick Bright a former vaccine expert at Health and Human Services who earlier this year filed a whistleblower complaint alleging his early warning about the pandemic had been ignored.

Mr. Bright, appreciate you being with us. So, I want to talk about the transition a moment but first, your reaction to Pfizer announcing that its vaccine has hit its safety milestone and that they're preparing to file for emergency use authorization. How big a deal is that (INAUDIBLE).

RICK BRIGHT, FMR HHS SCIENTIST: Well, Anderson thanks for having me on. It's a really important milestone for Pfizer, and Moderna actually to be moving forward as quickly as they are to get the data that they need to submit for an application for review by the FDA. Pfizer is indicating then that they have collected enough data, enough safety data and enough efficacy data that the FDA is requiring for that submission. Now, the FDA will take the opportunity to review all those data, and they'll present those data to an external scientific advisory board. And that external scientific board will make a determination if that data is sufficient and adequate to make a recommendation for the FDA to issue that emergency use authorization. So, we're getting closer each day.

[20:54:59]

COOPER: The CEO of Pfizer also said today that they've kept both the Trump and Biden teams informed about vaccine developments. Is that accurate? Is the Biden-Harris COVID Advisory Board receiving information from Pfizer as well as other companies working on vaccine?

BRIGHT: To the best of my knowledge, since the election, we haven't had any communication with the administration, absolutely, with the current administration, on what's happening in vaccine development or anything with the pandemic response. And we've had very limited if any interaction with any of the companies that are working on the pandemic response as well. This delay in ascertaining the election is really causing significant delays and hampering our ability to transition the new leadership team from the old leadership team to be able to respond effectively to the pandemic.

COOPER: Just what -- what kind of specific -- specifically what is -- what can you not do that you would like to be doing right now? Because I mean, yesterday, you know, President-Elect Biden said, you know, lives could be lost because of these kind of delays.

BRIGHT: Anderson, we're in the middle of the worst pandemic crisis in over 100 years in our country, there are so many factors that are ongoing, that are critical to not only ending the pandemic, but getting America back to work and get America back in schools, and bringing our society back together. Once we get the pandemic under control. There are many moving parts, not only for vaccine development, which we just said, whereas some late stages of that, that development, and the FDA might authorize a vaccine in the next month or so.

And if so, we need to start rolling that out across America, we need to know what plans if any, are in place to distribute that vaccine, we need to be able to pick up that baton in the middle of the race and keep running with it.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIGHT: You know, we have to start from scratch.

COOPER: Sorry, the Biden-Harris administration will be overseeing the distribution of this. I mean, there may be some distribution by the Trump administration, but the Biden team will pick that up as when he is president. The idea that you're not already being looped in to how it's being distributed, you know, playing a role in those meetings. I mean, that's pretty extraordinary.

BRIGHT: That's extraordinary Anderson, as well as scaling up to making more of the vaccine. As you heard also, recently, you know, many fewer doses of that vaccine had been produced and what was projected by Operation Warp Speed, they thought they would have 300 million doses available by the end of the year. Now we have 25 or 30 million doses. So, there's a lot of work to do just to make more that vaccine. So, it is available to roll out whenever it's authorized.

And then the rollout is a very complicated process. We have to prioritize the most vulnerable people in an equitable way as President-Elect Biden has described, and make sure that the right people are getting the right vaccine and the right secondary dose. There's a lot of work that has to be done. Planning has to start right now for sets up a program.

COOPER: Once the transition occurs, what do you think is the first and most important step you'd like to see?

BRIGHT: Well, as President-Elect Biden has said, he has a transition team that is already laying out plans and strategies that will be ready to go on day one, post the inauguration. We have an advisory board that is working to transition and translate those plans into a blueprint for action. So, we'll be ready to scale up manufacturing of test, manufacturing of PPE, manufacturing and more vaccine and start distributing that vaccine in an equitable way.

And all of the other activities that we think are critical for getting control on this pandemic, because right now, we're not seeing that type of leadership. We're not seeing those plans happening. And we're seeing this virus spiral out of control. So, the plans that President- Elect Biden will put in place on day one, will lead our country with a coordinated plan and a strategy to end the pandemic as quickly as possible.

COOPER: Just briefly back in when testified before Congress, I remember in May you warned that, quote, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history. There's now more than 100,000 new COVID cases reported a day since November 4th. Are your fears being realized?

BRIGHT: Anderson they are. And if you listen carefully to what I testified to last May. I said, if we don't take action now, then we are in for the darkest winter in modern history. And the Trump administration did not take action. We still do not have a comprehensive testing plan to make sure we're getting the right test for the right people at the right time and they're available across our country. We still don't have a vaccine manufacturing and distribution administration plan. We still don't have all the PPE scale up, for the N95 respirator mask and gloves to protect our health care workers. None of that stuff happened.

COOPER: Yes.

BRIGHT: Therefore, the consequence of inaction is what we're seeing happen now which is really disturbing.

COOPER: Yes. Rick Bright, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

[21:00:04]

BRIGHT: Thank you.

COOPER: A reminder, don't miss Full Circle our digital new show. Gives a chance to dig into some important topics have in depth conversations. You can catch it streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern at cnn.com/fullcircle or watch it there on CNN app at any time On Demand.

The news continues. Let's handle over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris.