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MI House & Senate Offices Closed Due To "Credible Threats Of Violence"; Electors Bill & Hillary Clinton Cast Their Votes For President; The Electoral College Is Casting Votes For President. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 14, 2020 - 12:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice over): You're looking at live pictures from Atlanta, Georgia, where that state's Electoral members are meeting.


We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer in the CNN election center. This is CNN's special event, "The Electoral College Votes". Today is the first.

We're bringing you inside the process as electors from every state and the District of Columbia formally select the winner of the 2020 presidential election. The Electoral College vote will affirm President-Elect Joe Biden's win in this constitutionally mandated process while President Donald Trump refuses to accept the results of the voters.

In moments, electors from eleven key states will cast their ballots Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Ohio. Georgia is a key state to watch this hour where President Trump has focused his efforts to try to overturn the election. It's a countdown to 270 electoral votes, the number needed to secure the White House.

The scoreboard as it stands right now, 36 electors for Joe Biden, 56 for Donald Trump. We are covering it all as it happens along with John King, the rest of our political team. So John, I want you to set the scene for us, what we can expect this hour.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Well, we can expect some very big states as a celebration of democracy, a reaffirmation of what the founders wrote in the constitution. And Wolf, forgive me, but proof that the only fraud in this election, the only major fraud in this election has been what you hear from the President of the United States and his team.

We know the results. It's going to end up 306 to 232. It's possible one or two electorals go faithless, that that math is not exactly at the end of the day, but the end result is already clear. So you mentioned in noon hour.

Let's just take a look as we go through. As the states go through this process in their time zones, we've had 13 states go so far, 11 states now going in this hour that will get us up to 24 by the end of the hour.

You mentioned some big ones, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona. We can look back and we will in a second on those also Ohio and North Carolina. If you're a Democrat, you're celebrating today. This is proof of Joe Biden's victory, a reaffirmation of it. Again he won the election back on November 8th. It took a few days to call it.

But look at this. Remember, he was going to compete in Ohio. Democrats thought maybe they could get the rust belt. Well, no, Ohio is going to vote for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. North Carolina, the Democrats thought well, can we get North Carolina. Well, no, North Carolina is going to vote for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

But Wolf, here's what fascinates me about this hour, the noon hour. Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona remember how hard fought this campaign was? Come over here, 306 to 232 20, 16 and 11, 47 electoral votes in those three states that Joe Biden flipped. They were Donald Trump states in 2016. They are blue on our map as the Electoral College votes today.

If Donald Trump gets those 47, he is reelected. 270 is the finish line. But no, those are three of the five, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania plus Michigan and Wisconsin, those are the states Joe Biden flipped. Donald Trump victory in 2016, they're going to be blue in 2020, their electoral votes are going to go, despite what the president has said, despite what the president's lawyers have tried by the end of the day, they'll go to Joe Biden.

And by the end of the hour, these states here, including those 47, which again, a testament to the Biden campaign, a testament to the big changes and celebration, a reaffirmation of democracy.

BLITZER: President-Elect Joe Biden, he has been president-elect for weeks now. But after today Republicans and others who refuse to call him president-elect, they really will have no excuse.

KING: The only excuse will be that the president will get mad at them, that the current president will get mad at them. That's really their only excuse. Again this is over. And the president has had every recourse, remember, every recourse in the state of Georgia, in the state of Arizona, in the state of Pennsylvania, in Michigan, and Wisconsin.

They have gone to court countless times. They have lost more than 40 times, one minor, technical identification victory in the State of Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court of the United States twice has said go away.

We see no evidence, we see no case, we see no standing, we see no proof of what was at issue. What does the president have to prove? Widespread fraud, not in one state, not in two states, he'd have to flip at least three states, not going to happen Wolf, the founders laid out this process. It was laid out for the days that upon you express. It was still useful in the days maybe of the trans- continental rail road.

But it's useful today to show that the system is strong enough to withstand what have been unprecedented attacks this year from the sitting President of the United States. We're going to get to the end of the day, we're going to have math that looks like that, and Joe Biden will officially be the President-Elect.

More Republicans will be willing to say that? I think that's one of the big questions today. There's no question what the outcome will be today. I think one legitimate question is will the rest of the Republicans, those who have stood behind the president saying keep suing, keep trying, keep challenging, will they finally say get over it.

BLITZER: We want to make sure that all our viewers here in the United States and around the world see democracy in action on this historic day. You and I are going to be spending a lot of time here at the magic wall. John thanks very much. Jake Tapper is also with us. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Wolf, we're standing by for electors across the country to officially cast their ballots as President Trump vows to continue to challenge the election results and democracy itself. Our correspondents are spread out across the nation.

In Michigan, there are new security protocols in place, because of concerns over protests and "Credible threats of violence." And CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Lansing, Michigan for us. Dianne, there are some protesters gathering already?


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have a small smattering of protesters who are already starting to show up here at the capitol. The electors don't actually meet until 2:00 pm here in Michigan. So they're several hours early. The snow flurries are already starting to fall.

But look, things have been ramping up here since really late last night when an email went out to state, House and Senate staff and members, letting them know that all of the office buildings are going to be closed today because of those, "Credible threats of violence."

Now the capitol building was already going to be closed to anyone not involved in the Electoral College in part due to COVID and in part due to these planned protest. Remember, Michigan is an open carry state and we have seen how tense some of these protests surrounding the election have already been in this state?

Now a little bit of go, the Michigan Speaker of the House and Speaker- Elect issued a statement, Jake, saying that they were stripping a Republican Representative, Gary Eisen, from his committee assignments for the rest of the term after an interview he did with a local radio station, saying that he could not assure there would not be violence today at protests that he was helping to coordinate.

Now he wouldn't give any details on those protests today aside from saying, "It's going to be violence and it's going to be protests." And when asked by that WPHM radio host, if he could assure that everybody would be safe, it would be OK, representative Eisen said no.

Now again, the Speaker-Elect, Jake, and the Speaker, both Republicans, as is Eisen, he's been stripped of his committee memberships for the remainder of the term which is just about two weeks. But there's a lot of tension here right now over something that is typically mundane and not much attention is paid to.

And those electors when they arrive, they have the option of being escorted by a police into the capitol building just because of all the concern and those threats.

TAPPER: Yes, that proclivity to encourage violence is a cancer that the Republican Party has within it that it's going to need to figure out what to do about. Thank you so much. CNN's Brian Todd is in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Brian, what are you seeing there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake, the session just began here in Harrisburg just a few feet away from where I am standing. I am outside, and they're inside in one of the buildings on capitol grounds here. The Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has just gaveled in the session, she is speaking now just giving some opening remarks.

They just did a prayer to open the meeting as well. Soon Nancy Patton Mills, the President of the Electoral College, the first Female President of the Electoral College in Pennsylvania's history is going to preside over the vote for president. And another State Representative Sharif Street (ph) from Philadelphia will preside over the vote for vice president.

Like you heard Dianne, Gallagher say in Michigan, these electors arrived by police escort under armed, security escort, no credible threats of this event, but they wanted just be careful, because there have been protests here, the session is under way, the votes are going to be counted in just a few minutes, that'll be placed in a ballot box.

And then five so-called tellers, not bank tellers, but these are vote tellers, they will count the votes, make sure that they're certified, and then those both will be mailed off, Jake. But they're very excited here, because this is the state that put Joe Biden over the top, Nancy Patton Mills, the President in Electoral College told me this is what makes it so exciting for her and the other democratic electors here.

They were the ones who enabled Joe Biden to cross that threshold on Saturday, November 7th when CNN called the vote. So they're very excited to be here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brian Todd thanks so much. Let's go to Atlanta, Georgia, where we find CNN's Nick Valencia. Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake, the process here for the electors to cast their votes has just gotten under way. In fact just a short time ago, we saw Former Gubernatorial Candidate, Stacey Abrams speak at the podium, all 16 democratic electors just swore an oath and things as I mentioned have gotten under way this hour.

This is an often overlooked process that is receiving a lot of attention, if only because President Trump and his allies have attempted to stop what happens here today. They tried that through litigation that was thrown out by a judge. Those electors are expected to certify the win for President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris.

And just to give you run down a little bit of what we expect to happen. Those 16 electors that I mentioned that process underway, they're going to cast their votes, one for president, one for vice president. From that, six certificates are generated and those certificates are then finalized, sent out to places like the Secretary of State here.

The U.S. Senate President Mike Pence as well as an archivist and a district judge that oversees this district. The who's who here of the electors, or who's who of the Democratic Party in the state? People like Stacey Abrams I mentioned who is credited with that strong mobilization effort getting out the vote, trying to mobilize democratic voters.

Turning this state blue for the first time since 1992, you also have U.S. Representative-Elect, Nikki Williams as well as U.S. State Representative Calvin Smyre (ph). Smyre is the only one of the 16 electors that cast his vote in 1992 for Bill Clinton who took the state here.


VALENCIA: He said today is an honor. I did speak as well to an alternate Jason Esteves who says that he is excited and says that, any of those speaking about fraud or saying that this election is stolen, they are clearly misguided. Today though he says it's a historic day. He says that they're going to let the Republicans focus on the circus surrounding them. Jake?

TAPPER: That's right, a lot of lies about what happened in Georgia coming from President Trump and his supporters. CNN's Evan McMorris- Santoro is in Albany, New York. Evan?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The process is under way in Albany. All 29 of New York's electors are inside the capitol building behind me and voting, which I had to say is lucky for them, which is extremely nasty out here.

But here when you talk about a state like New York, you talk about prominent Democrats meeting in a room, you're talking about some of the most powerful people on the state, you're talking about the Governor, talking about Mayors of prominent cities, members of the City Council of New York, union leaders, it' a very, very blue state.

So and other electors this year include President and Secretary Clinton who are electors for the first time together here this time so obviously will be bad for New York and they turn to a super spreader event. So officials here - a lot of precautions to make sure that didn't happen. One of the electors, Corey Johnson the Speaker of the New York City Council told me earlier today, that he was inside and he got a double PCR test in both nostrils, the result came back negative.

He was kept in an isolation room. It was a standard procedure for all of the electors before they filed into the massive assembly chamber, holds about thousand people or more but today, only 29 voting for president. All 29 of those votes will go to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and President-Elect Joe Biden. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Evan McMorris-Santoro in Albany, New York. Thank you so much. And one of the things I mean, John said it earlier, but the reason we are doing this, the reason we're watching the electors vote is because, we are watching our democratic institutions withstand the assault that they have been facing from President Trump and his minions.

Including 126 members of the House Republican Party that signed on to that deranged lawsuit from the Texas Attorney General we are watching democracy be stronger than this assault of lies.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. I mean, how long have we been covering presidential elections? And how many times have we sat on a set or been in a state and a key battleground state where they're voting as part of the Electoral College? The answer is never.

TAPPER: Never.

BASH: And because we've never had to, not that it's not important, not that it doesn't get interesting at times, but it's because it is a given when you have normal times. And this is not a normal time, unfortunately, because as you aptly put it of the assault on democracy that is continuing even this morning from the President of the United States publicly.

Never mind what he is privately, publicly on his Twitter feed and elsewhere saying that senior members of state government should just ignore what they're bound to do by law.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, all of this has just become pretty ridiculous. You heard Steven Miller this morning in an interview basically saying that they're going to come up with their own fairy tale land version of this and send it to congress which means absolutely nothing for the folks watching at home.

The process that we are showing you today is the official constitutionally mandated process. There is no other process, no matter what Steven Miller says or what President Trump says. And so, this is I think Jake to your point a great moment for our democracy, but it also is revealing a lot of the people who are not necessarily interested in holding on to some of these parts of our democracy that have kept the United States strong for hundreds of years.

I'm talking about people within the White House, those 126 members of the House who backed to that lawsuit that was going absolutely nowhere. This is about revealing I think where the rubber meets the road. We are seeing the best of America in some of these cases and in some cases the worst of America. We were just talking about that Michigan Representative threatening violence at protests. It's some of the worst things that we've seen.

TAPPER: And that's the thing. Sometimes it's been a real challenge of this year when people like Steven Miller go on the president's favorite channel and say things that are just shamelessly false or talk about this fantasy land alternate slight of electors.

We don't know if they're cynically lying or if they're intellectually unable to understand the facts or if there's some psychological issue but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter, because the lies are having effect.

BASH: Sure.

TAPPER: There is this thing called a sarcastic terrorism which is the idea of leaders putting out falsehoods and demonizing people, and then acts of violence happen and it can't be directly tied, but there is a responsibility there.


TAPPER: When President Trump and his minions put out these lies and then we see people in Michigan, afraid electors just doing their job as patriots. And if the state had gone the other way as it did four years ago, they would cast the electors for Donald Trump, but it didn't.

And we see these threats of violence. On one level it's silly and funny to look at how crazy this all is. But on another level, there are real fears here and it's tremendously irresponsible.

BASH: People, we said this every day that election week and the fact that we're still having to say this is pathetic and sad, but also very scary that people believe the president, they believe Steven Miller, and they're sitting there listening to the echo chamber of those leaders and people who know better, including them, but others you were talking about in congress and the media that they choose to listen to and that is the reality that becomes their world and it is very dangerous.

TAPPER: It is very dangerous. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, this - guys, the smooth transfer of power, that's what democracy is all about. David Chalian is with us, our CNN Political Director. So David, what are you looking for right now? What jumps out at you this hour?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, certainly those three critical states, Georgia, Arizona, we saw the Pennsylvania process getting under way there. All were in Donald Trump's column four years ago. They will formally this hour be in Joe Biden's column, Wolf. But I just want to take you back and remind you that back on November

3rd we saw 155 million people plus come out and vote in this presidential election, record turnout. It is that power of the American voters that is powering this constitutionally mandated day.

This is the actual vote that matters that elects the president and vice president, but it has that power of that record turnout behind it. So it is sort of a day to step back and celebrate democracy but it is also a day that has responsibility attached to it.

Our responsibility to show all of the viewers, to show the country and the world this process unfold, while Donald Trump and his allies want to suggest falsely without any realm of fact that the election was rigged or stolen or some way not what it is and now everyone can see for themselves the process that plays out. It is sort of the bookend to that record turnout that we saw across the country in November.

BLITZER: And the record turnout, David, resulted in Joe Biden in the national popular vote winning by more than 7 million votes. 7 million votes and having a decisive, impressive win, that we're going to see it made official today in the Electoral College.

CHALIAN: Yes, and you look at the percentage points between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in that national popular vote, he won by about 4.5 percentage points. You know that more than 7 million votes.

Now again, that's not how we actually elect presidents, but it's hugely important. It's sort of - it is what is fueling that 306 electoral vote count that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have at the end of the day today and you're going to get to see it unfold across these states.

But specifically, some of the states where Donald Trump has tried to challenge, Wolf, you've noted and it is quite interesting, Donald Trump only seems to think that an election was rigged or that it didn't go according to the law in states that he lost.

None of the states that he won. I mean, remember, we will see states that Donald Trump won. We've already seen. He is going to rack up electoral votes too, if he is just not going to get to 270 and that is what is critical to understand here. But of course, Donald Trump has had no complaints in the states he won; only in the states that Joe Biden won that determined the outcome.

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment. I want to go to New York State, Albany, New York right now. They're engaging. Here is the former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, two of the electors in New York state.

New York State, of course, has 29 electoral votes, and two of those electoral votes cast by the former President of the United States. Here's the Governor, the Governor Cuomo of New York.


BLITZER: So the process is continuing in New York State right now and albeit in New York, the capital of New York. We just saw the Governor, we saw the former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, the residents of New York.

They are two of the 29 electors in New York. So David Chalian, explain to our viewers what we're seeing right now. This is one state, a large state, New York but it's going to unfold in 49 other states and the District of Columbia.

CHALIAN: Yes. Remember, these electors are casting a ballot both for president and vice president. So you just saw Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo cast a ballot for Joe Biden, one electoral vote there of these 29 that New York has to offer and then another one for Kamala Harris for the Vice President-Elect.

They each tally up electoral voted separately for the president and the vice president. And then Wolf, as you know, what happens is that they have to sign some six certificates that get delivered to various officials, judges, secretaries of state, election officers.

But most importantly one of the sets of certificates that these votes will get delivered to is, Vice President Mike Pence who as President in the Senate in January will oversee the process of opening the envelopes that are being sent from all the state capitals today.

And in a joint session of congress will open up the envelopes and tally up these votes being cast today. So it will be Mike Pence's job, not unlike it was Al Gore's job 20 years ago, to preside over a vote count that he is going to come up on the losing end of.

BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be a little bit awkward for Mike Pence to have to do that on January 6th. John King, we are watching New York State, the 29 electors there cast their votes right now, making it official. All 29 will go of course to Joe Biden but give us a sense of how this is unfolding?

KING: From the president's constant reckless baseless attacks on our democracy, instead all of us and everybody watching whether in the United States around the world maybe take a few minutes to study our history, to go back and revisit, relearn the things we were all taught a long time ago. Let's just go through some of this, I'll bring this out for you here.

Number one is the certificates that were just being signed. Why is that? Well remember, the Electoral College goes way back, right? Electoral College goes back to the days of the pony express. Right. We didn't have live television; we didn't even have a telegraph when it began.

So you have to have these documents redundancy in the system if you will to certify the ritual, to make sure enough copies are out there in case something has lost so one comes to the President of the Senate, who is the Vice President of the United States.

So yes, Mike Pence, maybe that's irony, maybe it's karma, probably it depends on your political perspective will be in the chair when these are delivered to the United States Senate in January. Two sent to each state Secretary of State just to have copies on file locally.

And you're just watching the New York process unfold. They will go to the New York Secretary of State just to have the official record. The electors came in; they voted for president, they voted for vice president, you have the document. Two sent here to Washington to the National Archive is again kept for the historical record.

If you have to come to D.C., hopefully COVID is behind us in a few months. The National Archives is just a splendid display of great historical documents, including these parts of our reaffirmation of the strength of democracy in the constitution.

And one goes to each of the U.S. District Federal Court that's closest. So they're in Albany in New York casting those votes. They'll go to the Federal Court in Albany again just to have redundancy in the record keeping. It comes to the legislature in Washington, it comes to the archives for historical preservation, it goes to the district court as well to have the records as well.

And if you want to go even further back in history, let me get rid of this and flip it up. And coming here and look, just remember here, as we come through all this, Article II, Section I lays out these process. This is the original constitution. Each state shall appoint in such manner as the legislature they may direct a number of electors.

That's what you're seeing today. Yes, we have the vote, yes; states honor the results of their vote. But the constitution says actually these electors who officially send word to Washington who carries each state's presidential election. And for those, if you want to go away--

BLITZER: John, hold on for a moment, John.

KING: Sure.

BLITZER: Stacey Abrams is speaking in Atlanta, Georgia right now. She's one of the electors there.




ABRAMS: Steve Henson.


ABRAMS: Van Johnson.


ABRAMS: Pedro Marine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cast a vote for President Joe Biden.

ABRAMS: Tomika Miller.


ABRAMS: Ben Meyers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cast my vote for Joe Biden.


ABRAMS: Rachel Pauley.


ABRAMS: Calvin Smyre.


ABRAMS: Bob Trammell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cast my vote for President Joe Biden.

ABRAMS: Sachin Varghese (ph).


ABRAMS: Nikita Williams.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cast my vote for President Joe Biden.

ABRAMS: Kathy Willard.


ABRAMS: I am pleased to announce that Joseph R. Biden has received 16 votes for President of the United States.


BLITZER: First time in 28 years since 1992 that the State of Georgia has cast its electoral votes for a Democratic Presidential Candidate. You see Stacey Abrams, their Former Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate in Georgia, reading the roll call there all 16 electoral votes, all 16 electoral votes in the State of Georgia going to Joe Biden right now.

Jake, this is a historic moment that we just saw in Georgia. One of the states that you well know, the president and his supporters have really targeted, blasting the Republican Governor of Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia, the Republican Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and so many others who decided to do the right thing and let democracy work.

TAPPER: Yes, it's been quite decidable hold President Trump going after a whole bunch of very conservative Republicans who have been loyal to him, all because they have just followed the law, and allowed the votes of Georgians to count. But we should take a moment and acknowledge what we just saw with Stacey Abrams, the Former Leader of the State Legislature there, Democratic Leader I should say.

A Gubernatorial Candidate who lost in 2018 and there she named a bunch of victims of police violence and then talked about the electors and it's a rare moment Georgia doesn't cast its electors for Democrats very often.

PHILLIP: Yes, no, not at all. And I think that it is a linchpin for Joe Biden's electoral victory that Georgia is one of the earlier states on this day to cast their votes for him because this was something that for many Democrats was a little bit of a dream. They've always wanted to flip the state because of the demographics, because of the fundamentals of what's going on, there are younger people, more diverse people moving back into the state.

It has happened but also, this is the center of the political universe going forward. On January 5th, there will be two special elections and what just happened there, just punctured a giant myth that the president and his supporters have been trying to perpetuate in that state, which is that this is all fake, that the election results were rigged.

They were not rigged. The electors just voted, they went to Joe Biden and those are the facts of the situation. I think it's important to point out that a reality has prevailed here over fantasy infection.

BASH: In fact that Georgia is the place where the president has focused most of his ire, he's mad about all the states that he lost. But in particular Georgia, because of the fact that he is the guy, he is the Republican who will go down in history as losing Georgia for the first time in decades.

But it is ironic, not sure that that's the right word, but it is interesting that, that is where he is focused and that is a state where the election is not over and it will determine still the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

And that's a big reason that Republican leaders in the Senate are not stating the obvious which is that the President-Elect is Joe Biden because they're worried about how Donald Trump is going to act or react in Georgia and he is doing it anyway?

TAPPER: Yes, and two of the Republican Senators, two incumbents, the ones running for re-election in the run offs, Senator David Perdue and Kelly Loffler, are going so far as to throw in with President Trump and attack the conservative Republican Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State based on these deranged conspiracy theories.

BASH: And he is making threats about that--

TAPPER: Yes, and they are in the - and a bunch of the people election officials, again conservative Republicans doing their job are facing a whole bunch of threats. But now we look at Arizona and we go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Any moment now, Jake, more states will seal their electoral votes, rather Joe Biden or Donald Trump. We're going to have the results from Pennsylvania, New York, and Arizona right after a very quick break.