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Electoral College Is Casting Votes for President; Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D-PA) Discusses Electoral College Votes For Biden-Harris & GOP Casting Their Own Ballots for Trump; Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) Discusses Electoral College Votes Biden- Harris & Violent Threats Against Electors; 1st Vaccines in U.S. Being Administered as Cases, Deaths Rise. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 14, 2020 - 13:30   ET



JOSH SHAPIRO (D-PA), ATTORNEY GENERAL: They have absolutely no authority to affect the outcome of the Electoral College. No legislator here in Pennsylvania has any authority. I have been stating that as a point of legal fact for months.

The 20 electoral votes that were cast today for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will stand and they'll be sworn in as the president and vice president January 20th, period, end of sentence.

If the enablers want to continue to suck up to the sitting president of the United States to score points, I suppose they can do it. But it will have absolutely no legal effect and no bearing on the outcome.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I agree with your prediction.

But Attorney General Shapiro, let me ask you this hypothetical.

A majority, 126 Republicans in the House of Representatives signed onto that baseless -- some would call garbage -- brief filed by the attorney general of Texas. It was found that they didn't have standing.

But beyond that, they were seeking to disenfranchise voters of four states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This fight might continue in the House. The House is controlled by Democrats. Speaker Pelosi will be speaker by then.

But if Kevin McCarthy were the speaker, if the Republicans controlled the House, do you think President Trump and the Republican Party would try to steal the election on the floor of the House?

Would that concern you?

SHAPIRO: Yes. It does concern me, Jake.

You're correct to point out that obviously the House of Representatives under Speaker Pelosi will not entertain this charade.

But you raise two broader questions.

Number one, the sickness that exists within the Republican Party today. And I think they have to do some serious soul searching about the direction they're going.

Are they going to continue to be Trump's enablers and sycophants or are they going to try to go back to the conservative principles they claim they espouse for many years?

Second, I think you raise an important point in your hypothetical, of course, about whether or not reform is needed in the Electoral College and we ought to move to a national popular vote.

I think that's something, once the dust settles here, once soon-to-be President Biden is inaugurated, we need to have an honest conversation in this country about whether it is time to reform the Electoral College process.

TAPPER: All right, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much.

We are watching all of this unfold. This is a historic moment here in the United States. It is about to become official by the Electoral College. No great surprise, Joe Biden the winner, Donald Trump the loser.

We'll continue special coverage after this.



BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN special event, the Electoral College votes. Following the Democratic process as electors in states across the country formally select the president.

Minutes ago, electors in Arizona cast their 11 electoral votes for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris.

Let's go to Dana Bash now. She has a special guest.


Joining me on the phone, Arizona secretary of state, Katie Hobbs.

Thank you so much for joining us.

First, you just heard Wolf say that Arizona cast its electoral votes for President-Elect Joe Biden.

Take us inside the room. What happened there?

KATIE HOBBS (D-AZ), SECRETARY OF STATE (via telephone): So we convened the 11 electors for Arizona, the Democratic electors.

We had a swearing in ceremony where they took an oath of office. Then they all signed all of the certificates that we have to get to the places they need to go.

It was so momentous to be part of that, no matter who the electors were. It was such a -- this is such a defining process in our American electoral system. And it was really amazing to be part of.

BASH: And a big deal politically because, aside from 1996, Arizona has not gone for a Democrat since 1948. This was a big pickup for the Democrats. I know that's your party.

I have to ask about the fact that electors in states across the country, including yours, apparently faced some threats against -- violent threats, I should say.

You held your vote in an undisclosed location. Is that why that was necessary?

HOBBS: Yes, absolutely. We have seen increasingly escalating rhetoric and threats throughout the last week. We decided to move this for everybody, the safety of everyone involved.

BASH: How did that come to pass? At what point did you say this really fundamental democratic process has become so dangerous we need to protect the electors who are casting votes today.


HOBBS: Yes, I mean, it is unfortunate. We have been working with the state's law enforcement, Department of Public Safety, and the governor's office and this was done as a collaborative recommendation in terms of making it as safe as possible.

BASH: President Trump has been attacking your Republican governor, trying to get him to overturn the state's results.

What does this mean for the process, generally speaking, as the secretary of state there?

HOBBS: Well, I've been saying since the election that the rhetoric, the unfounded accusations, the undermining of the integrity of the election are dangerous to our democracy.

I think the impact is going to be far reaching, much beyond this election in terms of the public faith in the institutions of our government and our democracy.

And unless we have leaders that are focused on, this is the Democratic process and how it works in our country and working on unifying and rebuilding, I think there's permanent damage that's been done to our election systems and our country. BASH: Hopefully, the faith can be restored.

And we're sorry you had to go to an undisclosed location to do something that, as I believe Alice Stewart said earlier, the electors should get a ticker-tape parade, not threats.

Thank you very much, Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state in Arizona.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Yeah, as I keep saying, it's hard to believe these threats are happening in the United States of America.

In Topeka, Kansas, electors allocated the state' six electoral votes just minutes ago. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After tallying the ballots by the Kanas Electoral College, President Donald J. Trump, the Republican, received all six electoral votes. We'll not commence voting for vice president.


BLITZER: South Dakota's electors, three of them, also just cast ballots.

Watch this voting in South Dakota.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have three votes for Mike Pence for vice president of the United States. And three votes for Donald Trump for president of the United States.

I think that's -- what remains is signing the certificates. We'll do that at this time.


BLITZER: In Maryland, members of the Electoral College just cast their 10 electoral votes for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President- Elect Kamala Harris.

All of this unfolding on this historic day.

Erin, back to you.


GLORIA LAWLAH, PRESIDENT, MARYLAND ELECTORAL COLLEGE ELECTORS: I, Gloria Lawlah, President of Maryland electors, proudly cast my vote for President-Elect Joe Biden.

Electors, please state your name and your vote for the record, beginning with our secretary. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, I want to point out, that was the 10 electoral votes in the state of Maryland going for Biden and Harris.

Now back to Erin Burnett.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Wolf, thank you.

Yes, we were watching the great state of Maryland, my home state.

Mark Preston, let me ask you, you heard Katie Hobbs tell Dana, from Arizona, she worries there's been permanent damage done to the system.

Today, you have another opportunity for many Republicans in Congress, right, who won't acknowledge the president-elect as the president- elect, who signed onto that bunk Texas lawsuit that the Supreme Court unanimously struck down last week.

They have a chance today to do the right thing, particularly leadership, right, McConnell, McCarthy. Are we going to see it?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. Certainly, not from some of Donald Trump's biggest supporters.

But I think this will become a much bigger problem for the Republican Party as we head into the next year.

If you look at the likes of Jeff Duncan, the lieutenant governor, or Brian Kemp, Brian Kemp, the governor from Georgia, these two gentlemen are very, very conservative lawmakers.

They are Trumpers. They have been supportive of him. They've done everything politically for him except break the law.

You look at those two, and you look at the likes of Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse here in Washington, you're going to see a civil war in the Republican Party next year.

You'll see people try to steal it back from those who have really altered it and distorted the Republican Party the last couple of years.

BURNETT: When you talk about people talking about stealing -- Kirsten, let me show you a tweet from Hillary Clinton, just talking about the reform she wants in the process. I'm wondering if now is the time.

She was an elector in state of New York. There she is after casting her vote.

And she tweets with that picture, "I believe we should abolish the Electoral College and select our president by winner of the popular vote, same as every other office. But while it still exists, I was proud to cast my vote in New York for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."

Kirsten, is now the time to say that? [13:45:00]

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, maybe not. But it is a position that a lot of Democrats hold, for obvious reasons, which is the Democrats keep winning elections with more votes and not always winning the Electoral College.

And we could have another time to talk through all of the reasons why it probably is a good idea to get rid of the Electoral College.

But right now, on the day that we are having this experience of actually seeing the votes being counted, I think that it is best to just focus on that.

And the real problem is that Donald Trump and his enablers in Congress have led a large segment of the population to believe that our elections are not trustworthy and that Democrats are out to steal elections.

And that's really the fundamental problem that we're going to be dealing with for quite some time.

BURNETT: Alice, what about the timing of it, the impact it may have on some of the Republicans who need to now step up and do the right thing and acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It should be a matter of time before certainly that happens.

I think it is important to remember one of the key purposes of having the Electoral College is to give smaller states equal voice in the process.

And also another fundamental part of that -- I was deputy secretary of state in Arkansas. One of the key points of the Electoral College is to allow each state to run their own election.

And no other state, no matter how big, how small, how red, how blue, can second guess how each state conducts their election.

I think it is important to do that for the voice of the smaller states. I don't see that changing.

I'm really proud of elected officials, Republican-elected officials who, like me, wanted President Trump to win but did not -- he did not win and have accepted that.

They certified the results, like in my home state of Georgia. They certified the results. They have let the voice be heard.

And they're looking to the next most important thing.

We talked a lot about the Electoral College. But it is important for Republicans to turn their efforts on, not overturning Joe Biden's presidency, but making sure the fire wall stays in place in the state of Georgia and making sure we get those two Senate candidates elected there.

The Electoral College process I think has a valid purpose and I don't see it going away.

BURNETT: All of you, thank you very much.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

More states will make the electoral votes official in just moments.

We're also following major coronavirus news here in the United States. Some of the very first vaccines in the United States are being administered. We'll update you on that.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Right now, the U.S. is nearing a very, very grim milestone. Almost 300,000 coronavirus deaths here in the United States. Right now the death toll is 299,737.

In the meantime, there's some hope. The University of Michigan Hospital is preparing to inject its first round of coronavirus vaccines.

That's where CNN's Sara Sidner is joining us right now.

Sara, walk us through exactly what is going on.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, at 8:45 this morning here at the University of Michigan Medical Center, otherwise known as Michigan Medicine, we saw the vials come in. We saw a package come in by UPS right on time.

Now what you are looking at, you are looking at Sara -- also a great name. She's going back and forth. She's going through what they call reconstitute the actual inoculation. You'll see it there.

She is taking very good care to make sure that everything is sanitized.

But basically, this comes in frozen. As you know, it's like negative seven degrees Celsius. They take it out of dry ice, put it in a super- cold refrigerator.

It has to warm up a big before it can be mixed in with a little saline. And then it will be put into the arms of those who are on the front lines.

As we understand it, the next five people to get this, the first people here, are people who have been taking care of COVID patients. There you see the needle there, going into the vial. She is going to

be mixing these two -- the saline and the actual vaccine together to make it easily goes into your arm. Not a big deal.

Look, for so long, we've been watching people suffer with coronavirus. And we've been watching these amazing heroes every single day making sure to take care of these patients.

They also have exhausted themselves, because they have to think about their own health and their family's health every single day, every time they come in contact with someone with COVID.

This is the beginning of the end. This is the Pfizer vaccine. And it made it her just this morning. It will be used in just a bit and put into the arms of those on the frontlines fighting this virus.

It's something folks were able to cheer about. It's been a long time since I've heard cheering -- Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly is. We're watching this very, very closely. Really, really important moment unfolding right now.

We're also standing by for another big hour of the Electoral College situation. Nine states and the District of Columbia will soon allocate their electoral votes. We'll have live coverage.


Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center.

Right now, American democracy is in action. And we're watching it unfold very, very dramatically.

Members of the Electoral College are gathering across the United States to formally select the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Today, President-Elect Joe Biden will reach the key threshold of 270 electoral votes.


President Donald Trump has been pressuring states to ignore the will of American voters.

Any moment now, new results will come in, and we'll bring it to you live.